It Is Not A Casserole – It’s Chicken Cassoulet! Baked in a Cocotte!

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.

Chicken cubed.

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. 


It's Not a Casserole - It's Chicken Cassoulet!

Yields 6-8

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Ingredients

  • 1/3 pound dried small white beans (see notes and options)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 pound chicken, boneless & skinless, cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 pound cooked Italian sausage crumbled into small pieces
  • 1 cup white onion, chopped small
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped small
  • 3/4 cup celery including green leafy part, chopped small
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup white wine (sweet or dry)
  • 1 (14 ounce) can Italian stewed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped fine
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • TOPPING:
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese grated
  • 2 ounces Italian or French bread, cut into very small cubes or shredded into coarse crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped fine

Instructions

  1. PREP: Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Bean Prep: Place dry beans in the dutch oven adding enough water to cover beans by at least 2 inches. Drop in bay leaves. Bring to a boil, cover and let sit for 1 hour. Then return to high heat (do not drain) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until beans are tender (about 30 minutes). Drain beans.
  3. Option: Use 2 cans white beans and skip bean prep.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a dutch oven or frypan at medium-high. Add chicken and sausage and cook until browned (6-8 minutes). Set aside.
  5. Heat the remaining tablespoon of the olive oil and saute onion, carrots, and celery for a few minutes and then add thyme, tomato paste, and garlic. Continue cooking for 2 more minutes.
  6. Pour wine into pan and cook another minute before adding tomatoes, chicken stock, salt, pepper beans, chicken and sausage to the pan. Stir to combine.
  7. Cover and bake for one hour.
  8. Remove pot from the oven Increase temperature to 425 degrees.
  9. Topping: chop bread into small cubes or shred. Mix with cheese, parsley, and oil. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over cassoulet.
  10. Bake for 20-25 minutes - topping should be crusty and golden.

Notes

Substitute 1 to 2 cans of white beans for dry beans if you prefer.

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2 thoughts on “It Is Not A Casserole – It’s Chicken Cassoulet! Baked in a Cocotte!”

    1. Sally, The beans do need to be pre-cooked if using dry beans or use a can of cooked beans. Bean Prep: Place dry beans in the dutch oven adding enough water to cover beans by at least 2 inches. Drop in bay leaves. Bring to a boil, cover and let sit for 1 hour. Then return to high heat (do not drain) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until beans are tender (about 30 minutes). Drain beans. Option: Use 2 cans white beans and skip bean prep.

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