I’ve been obsessed with All Things French since I was about 8 years old. The language. Parisian cafes. Tying a scarf just-so. Writing paper with squares instead of lines. Oh, and the food. Yogurts in little ceramic pots. Butter with crunchy little crystals of sea salt. And especially the wonderful French habit to treat mealtime like a precious ritual to be prolonged and savored. (OK, that does get a bit annoying in restaurants when you want the bill and are blatantly ignored by waiters … but just have another glass of wine!)
This recipe for Cassoulet is something that my French grandmother would have made. Of course, I’m not French, and I don’t have a French grandmother … but if I did, this is the type of comfort food she would have served on chilly winter evenings. Traditional cassoulet is a thick bean stew from the south of France, originally made with duck confit and sausage. Mmmm I love love LOVE duck confit. But unfortunately it’s not something I typically have on hand to whip up a cozy winter dinner.
This is my bastardized American version made with chicken and sausage, and cooked in the slow-cooker! If you don’t have a slow cooker, you could also just simmer this slowly on the stove for a couple of hours. But I love the convenience of throwing things in the slow-cooker in the morning … and then arriving home in the evening to lovely smells of dinner wafting through the house. Just like grandmere was there!
Smoky Chicken & Sausage Cassoulet
At least 4 big servings (also freezes well as individual containers for late-night dinners!)
2 TB butter
2-3 slices bacon
2 small onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans white beans, drained (I use cannelini)
1/4 c. vermouth or white wine
2 cans diced tomatoes (or 1 can + 2-3 tomatoes chopped)
3 good quality sausages, cut into chunks
2 chicken breasts, cut into 1-2″ chunks
1 TB herbs de provence (or thyme/rosemary/oregano)
2 tsp. smoked paprika
Parmesan cheese for serving
Cut bacon into ‘lardon’ shapes (little strips… very french!)
Put butter and bacon in frying pan, cook until almost crisp. (All you people judging just a teensy bit for using both butter and bacon, just keep those thoughts to yourself.)
Then add onion and garlic, and cook until soft and starting to brown. Add chicken and sausage, and brown in pan.
Remove meat & onion mixture, and place in slow cooker. Deglaze the frying pan with the vermouth/white wine. (That means, pour the vermouth into the empty pan, it will sizzle, then stir to scrape all the yummy brown bits up from the pan, till they’re dissolved in the liquid.)
Add the beans to the pan. Smash some of the beans with your spoon, if you can. Add the tomatoes, herbs de provence and smoked paprika. Add some salt and pepper (just a bit). Bring to a simmer.
Add the tomato/bean mix to the slow cooker as well. Stir everything together in the slow cooker.
Cook on High for 1 hour, then set to Low and cook at least 4 hours. The beans should be really soft, and the chicken should be fork-tender, able to be shredded. I like to find the pieces of chicken and shred them with a fork before serving.
Serve in a bowl with parmesan cheese on the top, and a slice of crusty bread with good salted butter. Bon appetit!