Time Vs. Money: How to Save Money and Create a Flavorful, Rich Dish

In a recent article, If You've Got an Afternoon to Spare, the tasty results of an afternoon making cassoulet were outlined for the cook on the run. Warm, unctuous, a cassoulet can be pricey if you use the traditional duck confit - but in our recipe, we skip this for organic chicken thighs and saved a little time using canned beans - but we get all of the flavor.

A cassoulet, a traditional and hearty French dish that is enjoyed throughout the French countryside during fall and winter months, is essentially a hearty oven braised bean stew. The poultry and meat that is added to the cassoulet varies by regions of the country and can include a variety of pork, duck, lamb or chicken.

In this recipe, cooking time is reduced from two days to two to three hours by utilizing canned white beans and our meat selection is pared down to fresh sausage links and chicken legs or thighs creating a lighter, yet still hearty dish that you’ll be sure to enjoy.

2 tsp olive oil
2-4 fresh pork and garlic sausages, like garlic bratwursts
1 ½ to 2 lbs of chicken legs or thighs – skin on and bone in
Optional: 2-3 slices of bacon or fresh side or 2 tbs rendered duck fat
Mirepoix - 2 small white onions- 1 carrot – 1 celery stalk - chopped fine
2 tbs tomato paste
5-6 cloves of garlic, smashed
½ cup white wine or chicken stock
28-30 oz. canned, crushed tomatoes
2-3 dried bay leaves
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
Small onion, studded around the center with whole cloves
2, 15 oz. cans of canellinni beans, drained and rinsed
Salt and pepper to taste
4-6 oz of crusty French bread
1-2 tbs olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prick the garlic sausages slightly with a fork. On medium-high heat, in a deep, ovenproof stockpot, brown the sausages in the a little bit of olive oil (so they don’t stick). Remove them once they are browned (they won’t be fully cooked). Then add the optional pork fat or duck fat and the chicken, skin side down and brown, removing from the pan once the chicken skin is brown and crispy and the pork is just starting to brown.

Add the mirepoix and sauté until onions are translucent. Then stir in the tomato paste until it is melted and mixed throughout the vegetables. Add the smashed garlic cloves. Then, add the white wine (or chicken stock), scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan (called fond). Then add the canned tomatoes, bay, parsley, thyme and clove-studded onion. Stir and bring to a simmer.

Next, add the drained and rinsed beans and then submerge the browned meats into the stew mixture. Add water to the stew, enough to cover the meats by ¼ to ½ inch. Bring to a simmer, cover and place in the preheated oven.

After 45 minutes, pull the cassoulet from the oven, stir and taste adding salt and pepper to taste. Return to the oven uncovered and bake for another 1 to 1 ½ hours as the broth reduces and concentrates making a thick stew.

Meanwhile, tear apart the French bread and pulse in a food processor to form fresh breadcrumbs. Toss the crumbs with olive oil. Once the cassoulet is cooked to the thickness you prefer – remove the clove-studded onion and the thyme stems, top with the crumbs and bake or broil until they form a brown crispy crust.

Serves 6. For more great recipes like our cassoulet, visit andshecookstoo.com.

-GE, 2/12/09

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