So many dishes have rich histories with fascinating stories of how they were made, and why they came to be popular. From the French, the legend is that the cassoulet, a classic dish of South-West France, was invented to fortify soldiers fighting off English invaders.
“According to popular legend, the first cassoulet was made in Castelnaudary, in Occitanie, which was under siege from the English during the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453). The story goes that the townspeople gathered up all the ingredients they could find and made a large stew to fortify their defenders, who won the battle and saved the city from occupation.” [Connexion France]
Back in the day a cassoulet was considered a hearty peasant dish of white beans, mixed with different types of meat according to the region where it is made. So that leaves a lot of room for flexibility for the rest of the ingredients to be included in this recipe. Typically a cassoulet includes white beans and a portion of meat (duck, lamb or pork). I chose to use chicken in place of a heavy meat or pork.
You might wonder, why this recipe is a cassoulet instead of a casserole or stew? Well, I wanted an opportunity to use a new Staub pot I recently ordered. I have lusted over this pot for well over a year and was waiting for it to go on sale. As a gift to myself for enduring this pandemic (at least to this point – 8 months) I finally bought it. The name of the pot? Cocotte, which is simply a French term for what most Americans know as a Dutch oven.
So I was all set to make my cassoulet in my new Staub pot until… my brain had a malfunction. You see, I was thinking I’ll use a pound of dry white beans and a pound of chicken. BUT do you know how much volume a pound of white beans makes once hydrated and cooked? OMG! I had cups and cups and cups of beans. I’ll admit in my head I was thinking that cans of beans are 15.5 ounces so if I cook up 16 ounces of dried beans that should make a little more than a can of beans. What was I thinking??? I know better!! And I wasn’t even drinking wine at the time. Maybe that was the problem??
The sheer volume of the beans and other ingredients prevented me from using my new pot darn it, and I didn’t even use all the beans I cooked up in this recipe. There were a lot of leftover beans after making this recipe, enough to make 4 buddha bowls with them. Are you overwhelmed by the beans yet? I am!
Back to the drawing board. I must adjust the amount of beans in the recipe ASAP! The recipe below shows the smaller amount of beans and alternative use of canned beans for dried beans.
Started with the usual vegetables: carrots, celery, onions, garlic, and parsley and thyme.
Vegetables sweating it out.
Everything is in the pot simmering away before it goes into the oven to bake.
After an hour of baking the chicken cassoulet is ready for the finishing touches.
Add breadcrumb mixture and put the pot back in the oven.
Golden brown topping, done!
Plated and ready to eat. Photo is of the “too many beans” version of the recipe.