Roasted Chicken Cassoulet

Cassoulet is for serious people.  Make no mistake, when you put 5 kinds of meat (traditionally pork sausage, pork shoulder, goose, duck and pork skin) into a single dish, you are not messing around.  I, on the other hand, am not a serious person and tend to take things as lightly as I can.  Life just feels better that way.  Don't get me wrong, I can certainly get agro about work, traffic and the occasional family meltdown but other than that, I try to let things flow.  However, cassoulet is not a flowing kind of a dish.  In fact it's down right anti-flow as after a single bowl of rich, meaty goodness, you aren't going any where for a while.  And yet, this traditional casserole from the south of France has always piqued my interest.  Even as a card carrying vegetarian/vegan I often thought how I could possibly make a cassoulet Jamie-friendly.

First a definition: Cassoulet is a slow-cooked meat and white bean stew that receives its name from the ceramic vessel cassole in which it is cooked.  Though cassoulet means a very specific thing in France, in the good ole' U.S. of A. it is often used as a fancy term for any combination of meat and beans.  As a vegetarian, my first cassoulet experiment came in the form of this roasted garlic and butternut squash recipe.  I left out the meat (of course), yet since I was serving it to a bunch of other vegetarians, no one cared that I called it a cassoulet.  (At the time I didn't have any French friends either, so that was helpful.)   It was an awesome dish and one that I whipped out every fall when squash season came around.  And then I started eating meat.  Oh meat how I do love thee.  Particularly paired with beautiful beans.  And yet I'm still not serious enough to make a real cassoulet.

roasted chicken cassoulet

Honestly, I'm intimidated by all that meat.  It just seems excessive, no?  I'm also not a big super fatty, crazy-rich dish fan.  It's not that I'm a food prude, my palate just doesn't swing that way.  So here is my first meat attempt at cassoulet.   Serious traditionalists please turn away as I can tell you right now this will cause you pain.   However if you want an extremely tasty chicken and bean stew, this dish will make you very happy!

And for those of you who are curious, here is a recipe that is the real deal...

Roasted Chicken Cassoulet

I made this recipe gluten free however if you are gluten full, before adding the parsley, top the dish with homemade breadcrumbs and throw it in the oven for a few minutes to crisp up.  Quite delicious!

Serves 4

4 ounces organic pancetta, chopped (optional though highly recommend)

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

2 onions, thinly sliced

1 garlic clove, minced

½ cup white wine (you can also use 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar)

2 tablespoons tomato paste

3 cups chicken broth

2 15-ounce cans of great Northern or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (Go for the Eden brand as they are BPA-free)

2 carrots, peeled and cut into ½ inch rounds

3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed from the stem

1 sprig fresh oregano, leaves removed from the stem and chopped

1 bay leaf

Salt and pepper taste

3 cups leftover roasted chicken thighs, cut into chunks **

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Heat a heavy bottomed pot or Dutch oven and add the pancetta.  Sauté until crisp and remove with a slotted spoon, leaving the drippings in the pot.   Add the olive oil, onions and a pinch of salt to the pot and cook until golden brown, about 12 minutes. Add the garlic and wine and simmer for about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and broth.

Add the beans, carrots, thyme, oregano, bay leaf, salt, pepper and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes or until the carrots are tender.  Add the chicken and cook for another 3-5 minutes.  If the stew is thin, let it cook, uncovered for a few minutes.  If it is too thick, add a bit more broth.  Taste to adjust the seasoning and top with chopped parsley and an extra drizzle of olive oil.

**If you are using fresh chicken, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and sear 4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs in a single layer. Cook, turning once, until browned on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Season with salt and pepper.  Transfer to a plate and when cool, cut into chunks.  Add the cooked chicken at step 4.

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