Full disclosure friends: this recipe is absolutely NOT 30 minutes or less. But, as the old adage goes, good things come to those who wait.
Is your iron low? Are you looking to bulk up – either in muscle or fat? This is the recipe for you. There are three different kinds of meat in this dish: confit chicken thighs, pork shoulder and garlic sausage. In addition, there are a mountain of white beans, a touch of tomato sauce, white wine, herbs and mirepoix.
While this dish might take a day and a half to pull together from start to finish, this recipe yields enough for twelve people, so let’s just call it #mealprep without the flavourless chicken breast and steamed broccoli.
This is classic southern French cooking at its heartiest, and it’s damn tasty. I did manage to pull this off for a weeknight dinner party, and you can do the same if you manage your time and plan accordingly. That being said, this meal practically screams, “SUNDAY DINNER!”
After 10 hours of low, slow braising in a pool of olive oil and herbs, the chicken thighs fall right off the bone and take on a melty richness that can only be achieved with patience.
In order to whip this up for a Tuesday night dinner, I marinated the chicken overnight on Sunday to pop it into the oven before heading to work on Monday and pulled it out after I got home. At that point, I brought together the rest of the meal and simply reheated on Tuesday night before guests arrived. This might seem a bit déclassé, but cassoulet is one of those things that keeps well when refrigerated prompts and sometimes even improves with age (keep a bit of extra stock on hand to return the stewy texture to the dish upon reheating, as needed).
Also, full confession, food bloggers are like celebrities in that we’re just like the rest of you. We also forget vital steps in a recipe like soaking the white beans overnight so they’re not hockey pucks to chip your teeth on in the finished product. Luckily, Google came through in the clutch and saved me from my own gross oversight. I just typed in, “What to do if you forgot to soak beans overnight” and discovered this lifesaving tip from The Kitchn.
At any rate, I do hope you choose to take on this rather ambitious recipe at some point in the near future – you won’t regret it.
- 1 lb Great Northern white beans
- 8 Confit Chicken Thighs recipe follows
- 1 lb fresh pork shoulder or thick loin chops
- 1 lb fresh or cured garlic sausage
- 2 tbsp olive oil, preferably oil from confit chicken
- 1½ cups small-diced yellow cooking onions, about 2 medium
- 1½ cups small-diced celery, about 2 large stalks
- 1½ cups small-diced carrots, about 2 medium
- 1 tbsp minced garlic, about 2 to 3 large cloves
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 3½ cups combination of confit chicken juices and chicken broth
- ½ cup tomato sauce or 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh thyme or 1½ tsp (7 mL) dried
- 1 large bay leaf
- 4 cups coarse fresh crumbs see Notes
- ¼ to ⅓ cup melted butter
- 8 chicken thighs skin-on and bone-in only
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 1 tbsp minced garlic, about 2 to 3 large cloves
- 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups olive oil
1 Place beans in a large bowl; generously cover with water. Let soak overnight; drain and discard soaking water just before using.
2 Remove and discard skin, bones and clinging chicken fat from confit thighs; keep meat in large chunks.
3 Preheat oven to 325°F (160°C).
4 Cut pork into 1-inch (2.5-cm) cubes. Cut sausage into 1-inch (2.5-cm) lengths.
5 In a large Dutch oven that can go into the oven, heat oil until hot, over medium heat. Add pork cubes all at once; sauté 8 to 10 minutes or until nicely browned. Remove; set aside.
6 To fat already in pan, add sausage all at once; sauté 8 to 10 minutes or until nicely browned. Remove; set aside.
7 To fat already in pan, add onion, celery and carrots all at once; sauté 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly cooked. Stir in garlic; cook 1 minute or until fragrant. Add wine; increase heat to medium-high and briskly boil until wine is reduced by half.
8 Add broth and tomato sauce to pot. Stir in drained beans plus pork, sausage and thyme. Gently fold in confit chicken pieces; tuck in bay leaf. Heat until mixture is just beginning to bubble; do not boil.
9 Cover and place in oven for 1½ hours. Stir bread crumbs with melted butter. Uncover and scatter buttered bread crumbs overtop. Bake another ½ hour.
10 Serve in pasta bowls or shallow soup dishes. Accompany with fresh baguette slices for sopping up delicious sauce and a tossed salad lightly dressed with vinaigrette.
11 Covered, cassoulet keeps well when promptly refrigerated, for 3 or 4 days, however loses some quality when frozen. A splash of hot broth in the serving bowl bottom restores slightly soupy texture to reheated cassoulet.
1 Place thighs, skin-side down, snugly in a single layer in an 8 x 8-inch (20 x 20-cm) or 7 x 11-inch (18 x 28-cm) glass baking dish. Tuck excess skin to thigh sides, exposing flesh.
2 Mix salt with garlic, thyme and black pepper. Distribute evenly over chicken; rub in slightly. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate overnight.
3 Preheat oven to 200°F (100°C).
4 Discard plastic wrap. Leaving chicken in dish, pour oil over thighs so they are submerged. Cover dish tightly with foil.
5 Bake in centre of oven for 10 to 12 hours. Gently using tongs, remove chicken to another dish; cover and chill. Cool cooking liquid slightly; strain. Separate fat and juice; refrigerate juice to use in cassoulet.
6 Refrigerate fat separately; it keeps well for a week or 2 in the refrigerator, or portion into small containers and freeze. Use this savoury oil in other recipes (including Cassoulet) from sautéed meat and potatoes to stir-fries and soups.
7 To use chicken, scrape off skin and visible fat; discard. Gently remove thigh meat from bones, keeping it in large chunks. Confit chicken has a rosy colour, but is fully cooked. Cover and refrigerate to use in cassoulet. Use within 3 days or freeze.
Coarse fresh bread crumbs: Cut a day-old baguette or ciabatta into chunks, leaving crust attached. Whirl in batches, pulsing in food processor until broken up and large crumbs have formed. Any extra crumbs can be frozen for use in another recipe.
Recipe from: Bentz-Crowley, Marilyn. "Cassoulet." Food and Drink. Winter 2016.