Recipe: Chardonnay Cassoulet

It was snowing yesterday and I wanted to make a stew that would make me feel warm.  Thinking about what always makes me think of roaring fires and home-cooked meals, I decided to make a chicken cassoulet.  For those who think that a cassoulet is something beyond their abilities, I would strongly suggest trying this recipe, then sit back and bask in the compliments.  This is a simple, stove-top casserole that has all the elements of a meal that would normally take all day to cook.  Thankfully, with a few simple substitutions, this dinner can come together fairly easily and be just as tasty (in my opinion).  I’ve adapted a recipe that I originally found through a weight-loss program cookbook, so it’s not quite as trim as it might be, but it IS pretty yummy.

Ingredients:ChardonnayCassoulet

  • 1 package (8 total) boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 package diced prosciutto (my grocery store sells this, pre-packaged, in the deli area)
  • 2 cups baby carrots, sliced
  • 2 cups celery, diced
  • 1 large leek, cleaned and sliced
  • garlic, chopped (I typically use 2-3 cloves)
  • 2 cans cannellini (white kidney) beans  (I use them with their liquid and smash one can for thickness)
  • 2 cups chicken stock/broth
  • 1 cup Chardonnay (I like to use James River Cellars Reserve Chardonnay – use your favorite)
  • 1T dried lemon thyme (I have a jar of this from a friend – use regular thyme if you prefer)
  • 1T dried poultry seasoning (the leafy stuff, not the ground variety)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Using a stock pot sprayed with Pam, brown chicken thighs on both sides  and then transfer to a plate.  Set aside for a bit.
  3. In same large pot, saute prosciutto until lightly crispy.  Add veggies (carrots, celery, leek, and garlic) and saute until vegetables begin to wilt.
  4. Add remaining ingredients and bring everything to a simmer.  The meal will now look like a soup, even with the mashed can of beans.  (*First photo on the top left of the collage)
  5. Add the chicken and collected liquids to the mixture, push the meat deep into the broth, and put the lid on the pot.  (*Middle photo on top of the collage)
  6. Pop the stock pot into the oven and bake until the meat is falling apart and the broth has thickened, about 1 1/2 hours.  Remove the two bay leaves and discard.
  7. Using an immersion blender, blend 3-4 times in very short bursts to thicken the vegetables but not destroy the chicken.  You can also spoon a cup of the vegetables into a blender, pulse until smooth, and return to the dish.  This will also thicken the meal without destroying the meat. (*Right side photo on top of the collage)

I love the addition of a hearty sourdough bread with this meal (as shown in the bottom photo of the collage).   While this meal takes some time to make, it’s really the baking that takes the most time.  Skill-wise, it’s not much more difficult than making soup, so it’s definitely worth a trip to the store for a few special ingredients to make this for dinner.

I mean, really… how many times do you get to use a special french word to describe something so homey and comforting?  I could have easily called this dinner a “Chardonnay Casserole”, but it sounds so much more unique and mysterious when I get to use the word cassoulet.  Heck, even my computer wanted to change that word to casserole.

Silly computer…

I hope you’ll try making this dinner… and feel free to tell me all about your own trials and tribulations… sharing is what makes cooking so much darn fun to me!

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