A cassoulet is a variety of stew that originated in the south of France and contains a mixture or meat and beans. Due to its long prep time and extensive ingredient list, it's probably not a dish you would want to make every night, but when the proper occasion arises it can be a real showstopper.
The name "cassoulet" is derived from the word "cassole," which is the vessel it is traditionally cooked in. While for the sake of authenticity it is still often made in a cassole, any ceramic baking dish that is large enough will do the trick.
Ingredients You Will Need:
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs thyme
10 black peppercorns
1 pound dried white beans, soaked in cool water overnight
1 chicken cut into 8 pieces
4 cups beef stock
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds sausage (kielbasa works well), cut into 1 inch slices
1 large onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup white wine
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
½ bunch parsley, leaves picked and roughly chopped
1 cup bread crumbs
Wrap the cloves, bay leaves, thyme and black peppercorns in cheesecloth, and tie into a tight bundle. Drain the white beans, and put them in a large pot with the chicken and beef stock. If it is not completely covered, add water until it is. Toss in the spice and herb bundle, and bring to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Let simmer for about an hour, and then remove the chicken to a bowl. Let the beans continue to simmer for another half hour while you prepare the rest of the dish. When they are finished, drain them, but reserve the cooking liquid.
Heat two tablespoons of the olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Brown the sausage and remove to a bowl. Put the chicken pieces in, skin side down, and sauté until the skin is brown and crispy. Once the skin is brown, remove them to a bowl, and add the onion. Sauté the onion for a few minutes until it begins to brown. Add the garlic, and sauté for a few minutes longer.
Pour off the extra fat and add the wine, tomato sauce and two cups of the bean cooking liquid. Stir and scrape the bottom of the pan to dissolve all the brown bits.
Heat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, and mix the beans and sausage with the contents of the pan. Pour them into a large ceramic baking dish, and arrange the chicken skin side up on top. Bake covered for about an hour, checking occasionally to see if it becomes too dry. If so, add a little bit more of the cooking liquid. After an hour, mix the parsley with the bread crumbs, and sprinkle on top of the dish. Drizzle with the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil and bake for another 20 minutes, or until the bread crumbs are golden and crispy. When the breadcrumbs are done, remove from the oven, and serve.
French food doesn't have to be fussy, complicated, or full of creamy rich sauces that require hours of time and attention. The core of the French cooking philosophy is to simply accent fresh, quality ingredients so that their essential flavors and textures stand out.