My mother’s cassoulet recipe (originally published in these pages 2017) is a delight, and a revelation. Lots of beans and meat. Rich and warming. Fatty and delicious. Creamy on the bottom; melt-in-your mouth crispy on top. The perfect Sunday dinner for family, and a holiday table centerpiece.
It is also (if you’re a stickler for tradition) a travesty of epic proportions. There is no one official cassoulet, but authentic recipes are generally elaborate preparations staged over 3 or 4 days, culminating in a 4-hour bake, in an earthenware vessel called a cassole. And they involve 5 or 6 kinds of meat, including specially prepared duck.
My mother’s recipe uses canned beans, regular chicken, and isn’t too picky about the sausage. And while it is far from vegetarian, it uses less meat than most. It also uses a shallow baking vessel like a lasagna tray. More surface area = faster reduction = richer flavors and more crust.
I’ve modified my mother’s by a) doubling it; b) adding some aromatics; c) cutting the tomato.
Serves 8-12 hungry people!
|8 cups (4 15-oz cans) cooked white beans, |
ideally great northern beans
|½ extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling|
|2 medium red onions||2 Tbsp dry thyme|
|8 cloves garlic, or less if using garlicky sausage||2 pounds good sausage (see below)|
|4 stalks celery||1 ½ pounds whole chicken thighs|
|2 carrots||salt and pepper|
|1 28-oz can crushed or chopped tomatoes||parsley to garnish, if you’ve got it|
- Pick some fun sausage, roughly compatible with French cuisine. I used a mix of merguez, andouille, and a red wine & garlic pork sausage from VT. Pastured, free range, organic.
- Drain the beans, reserving liquid. Chop the vegetables into pieces the size of the beans.
- Throw everything except the meats and the garnish together into the biggest shallow pan you’ve got. A lasagna tray works. So does a paella pan. Taste for salt. Depending on the beans and tomatoes you use, you could want a little or a lot. Add half the bean water. Mix.
- At this point, your dish should look like soppy beans in ketchup sauce. Don’t worry, it gets better. Bake at 425 for about 45 minutes, until the vegetables have softened, and most of the moisture is on. Add a little more bean liquid if it gets too dry.
- Place the chicken thighs on top of the beans, skin side up. Rub with salt and pepper, and whatever spices you want. Drizzle with oil.
- Cut the sausage into 2- to 3-inch chunks, and nestle between the chicken.
- Bake another 45 minutes until everything is crusty and perfect.