Here’s an easy recipe for Cassoulet that I’ve adapted from Weight Watchers… and included wine. This was our dinner last night and it got rave reviews from my favorite taste testers (my family). Since I use The Force when I cook (do I sound like a broken record, warning everyone about this?), the amounts are approximate and will vary depending on the foods you prefer and what you have on hand.
Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees. You’ll start this recipe on the stove top and then allow it to cook for about 30 minutes or so in the oven, so go ahead and get this ready. If you’re doing the first part early in the day and planning to cook it in the oven just before eating, the only thing I would change would be to add an extra 15 minutes to the baking time before you serve it. Mine baked a little too long, so it’s pretty dry, but that’s the way my guys like it.
In a Dutch oven (or large skillet with a lid), brown 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs. The original recipe calls for bone-in thighs, but my family prefers to not deal with bones whenever possible. I do this in two stages and remove them to a plate as they brown.
Add diced Canadian bacon and saute until browned and crispy. Add sliced baby carrots (I used about 2 cups), sliced celery stalks (I had some celery sticks that needed to be used, so I went a little overboard on this one, but I don’t believe it hurt the dish at all), and a diced onion (the recipe actually calls for leeks, but I forgot to get this at the store and I always have onion on hand), and cook until the veggies are soft and a little toasty, stirring frequently to distribute the small amount of fat left from the bacon. Add 2 cans of cannellini (white kidney) beans (drained slightly), a half bottle of James River Cellars Pinot Gris (I had this on hand… next time I’ll use James River Cellars Reserve Chardonnay), a packet of chicken broth seasoning, water (I used a coffee cup’s worth), 3 bay leaves, and some lemon thyme (from my friend’s garden). I then allowed all the flavors to combine and brought the dish to a slow simmer. Return the chicken thighs (and collected juices) to the pan and nestle the meat among the vegetables.
Baking your dish: Here’s where you can take a break, if needed. I actually put the lid on the Dutch oven and let it rest on the stove top for about an hour at this point. M wasn’t due home for a bit and I knew dinner wasn’t going to need to be ready for a few hours. If you’re making this immediately, pop the Dutch oven (with lid on) into your hot oven and allow to cook for an hour. Since you’re not using bone-in chicken, you can decrease the baking time a little. Do realize that if you’re making this using bone-in chicken, you should bake it for 1 hour and 30 minutes. If you’ve taken a break and are bringing it back from “cool”, I would bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, but this part isn’t exact. Check your dinner and decide for yourself when the meal is cooked… the meat will be falling apart and the sauce will be thickened to your liking.
Remove the pan from the oven and discard the bay leaves. If you so desire, take a coffee cup’s worth of sauce (without meat) and process it in a blender until smooth, then return to the dish and stir. I totally skipped this part because my guys were “starving”, but this is a nice touch. You can also use a stick blender and just pulse it a few times near the bottom of the pan, staying away from any of the chicken.
Remember to always use a wine that you would drink… there are tons out there that don’t cost a small fortune and are worthy of cooking. I always have James River Cellars wines on hand, so I tend to lean toward using those. This is one of my favorite cold-weather dishes and I hope it will become one of yours as well.