Cassoulet

Hiver 2016
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food and drink

BY: Marilyn Bentz-Crowley

This casserole always emphasizes pork in the form of sausage, ham, pancetta or bacon and also variously includes duck, goose, chicken, lamb or mutton. The crust of bread crumbs on top adds crispy texture and flavour.

1 lb (500 g) Great Northern white beans
8 Confit Chicken Thighs (recipe follows)
1 lb (500 g) fresh pork shoulder or thick loin chops
1 lb (500 g) fresh or cured garlic sausage
2 tbsp (30 mL) olive oil, preferably oil from confit chicken
1½ cups (375 mL) small-diced yellow cooking onions, about 2 medium
1½ cups (375 mL) small-diced celery, about 2 large stalks
1½ cups (375 mL) small-diced carrots, about 2 medium
1 tbsp (15 mL) minced garlic, about 2 to 3 large cloves
1 cup (250 mL) dry white wine
3½ cups (875 mL) combination of confit chicken juices and chicken broth
½ cup (125 mL) tomato sauce or 2 tbsp (30 mL) tomato paste
1 tbsp (15 mL) finely chopped fresh thyme or 1½ tsp (7 mL) dried
1 large bay leaf

BREAD CRUMBS
4 cups (1 L) coarse fresh crumbs (see TIP this page)
¼ to ⅓ cup (60 to 80 mL) melted butter

 

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.


TIP 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.

 

Makes 10 to 12 servings

CONFIT CHICKEN THIGHS

Long slow cooking produces very tender and flavourful results. Here, chicken thighs bake covered in fat for hours at a very low temperature. The result is incredibly moist and savoury chicken that can be chunked and tucked into a cassoulet or made into pulled shreds to stir into a risotto or pasta.


8 chicken thighs, skin-on and bone-in only
1 tsp (5 mL) fine sea salt
1 tbsp (15 mL) minced garlic, about 2 to 3 large cloves
1 tbsp (15 mL) finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
½ tsp (2 mL) freshly ground black pepper
2 cups (500 mL) olive oil

 

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.

 

Makes 8 thighs

What to Serve