My “easy” version of Cassoulet bears no resemblance to real French cassoulet. I know this now, because I’ve had real cassoulet recently in the beautiful village of Castelnaudary, in the Languedoc-Rouissillon region of southern France.
The restaurant where we enjoyed cassoulet, is called Au Petit Gazouillis, and was chosen by my friend and favorite French guide Stéphane Gabart of My French Heaven when my husband and I were traveling with him this fall.
The cassoulet at this restaurant was the highest rated and we had lunch reservations. Stéphane takes this sort of thing very seriously!
What I loved about the restaurant was that it was a typical little bistro packed with tables, owned and run by a family, and filled with locals. And they only served cassoulet, at least for lunch. However, you could choose sausage, pork, and/or duck.
It’s not all about the meat, however, because traditional cassoulet includes a large, white bean called lingots du Laugarais. They’re pictured below with the traditional cassoulet serving vessel, called une cassole.
Many ancient peasant dishes like cassoulet originated from utilizing whatever was leftover on the farm and fields, so it’s not surprising that there are so many variations of cassoulet.
Some use duck or confit, some use mutton, some use goose, some are topped with bread crumbs, and so forth. But one thing that’s always present in cassoulet are white beans. And that’s probably why I like it so much.
So here’s my version of cassoulet, that really isn’t like “real” cassoulet. It takes a little time make, much like a good stew, but it’s all worth it.
2 chicken breasts, about 1 pound total
Olive oil or bacon grease, as needed
14 ounces Polska kielbasa, cut into 3″ pieces
12 ounce package baby carrots
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup Marsala or wine
1 – 15 ounce can strained, crushed or diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cans white beans, rinsed and drained, or 3 if you prefer
Chopped parsley, optional
Cut the chicken breasts into 4 “uniform” pieces, and season them with salt and pepper. Heat some olive oil or bacon grease in a pot on the stove over high heat. Brown the chicken pieces, about 4 at a time, until well browned, about 2 minutes.
Then turn them over and repeat. Place them In a medium-sized bowl, then repeat with the remaining pieces of chicken.
Cut the sausages into 3″ pieces, and slash one side of the sausages three times, in parallel slices, going only about 1/4″ deep. Add a little more olive oil to the skillet if necessary. Brown the sausage pieces on both sides, which will take about as much time as with the chicken.
When the first batch has browned, add them to the bowl with the chicken, then continue with the remaining sausages.
Cook the carrots in boiling water until thoroughly cooked, about 8 minutes. Drain well and add to the chicken and sausages.
In the same pot, sauté the onions over medium heat for about five minutes, adding more oil if necessary. Add the garlic and stir for about 30 seconds.
Add the Marsala and de-glaze the bottom of the pot, stirring well until all of the good parts have mixed in with the onions. Let the Marsala reduce almost completely.
Pour in the tomatoes and add the chicken, sausages, and carrots. Make sure to include all of the juices from the meat. Add the thyme and pepper and stir gently.
Cook for about 5-10 minutes, or until some of the liquid has evaporated. Then place a tight fitting lid over the pot and simmer gently for about 15 minutes.
Remove the lid and add the beans.
Give everything a good but gentle stir, then heat through. Alternatively, cover and refrigerate, then serve the next day.
I purchased this Mimi en Provence rosé a while back and this was the perfect opportunity to use it! (I don’t typically buy wine for the labels, but I couldn’t resist!)
I like cassoulet with chopped fresh parsley, but this is not mandatory. Mine had just frozen the night before.
Cassoulet reheats very easily – just make sure not to overcook the chicken breast pieces.
note: If you want to read a hysterical take on cassoulet, check this out!