This Fancy French Cassoulet Is Ready in Under an Hour
And we feel no shame.
Sometimes in life, we have to make a choice: Idealized fantasy or achievable reality. We all have an image in our minds of the kind of cook we want to be, and there's often a gulf between that aspirational fantasy and the reality of Monday night at 8 p.m., with nothing cookable in the fridge, no energy, and zero ideas. But there is a middle ground between, say, Paula Wolfert's famously long-cooking Toulouse-Style Cassoulet and a panicked Seamless order. And it's recipes like Molly Stevens' new one for F&W Cooks: Lazy Chicken-and-Sausage Cassoulet.
Unlike Wolfert's recipe, which is ideal for weekend project-based cooking, Stevens' dish is solidly weeknight. Canned white beans get swapped in for dried Tarbais beans, and instead of having to source pork skin and salt pork along with the fresh pork sausages called saucisses de Toulouse, pork shoulder, duck confit, duck fat, pancetta, and prosciutto (I get winded just typing that), you just need to score a pack of smoked sausage, like kielbasa, and some chicken thighs (although you could certainly also use some pre-made duck confit you found in a fancy shop instead). I could go on and on about all the ways that Stevens' recipe is kinder and gentler to home cooks who don't have the larder of Toulouse at their fingertips, but who has time for that? If you're feeling the need for smoky meat, tender beans, and a crunchy crumb crust, here's how to do make an easy cassoulet:
Start By Searing Bone-In, Skin-On Chicken Thighs
After seasoning the chicken with salt and pepper, brown them skin-side down in a large skillet with a bit of olive oil until beautifully browned and cooked through. Transfer the chicken from the pan to a plate, but heaven forbid you should rinse out the skillet. Keep that delicious fond right where it is.
Saute the Sausages and Aromatics
To the chicken fat in the pan, you'll add those already delicious pieces of kielbasa, sliced both lengthwise and widthwise so their smoky flavor releases into the beans more easily, along with some chopped onion. Cook until that onion turns light gold, and then add a range of seasonings that evoke Toulouse: garlic, thyme, and allspice. A few stirs, and then in goes the white wine and tomato paste to evoke the depth of the old-school cassoulet.
Add Beans, Broth, Chicken, and Breadcrumbs—Then Bake
Now it's time to bring everything together. Shred the cooked chicken and add it to the skillet, along with canned beans, broth, and a bit of vegetable oil. Bring it all to a simmer, then transfer to a baking dish and top with breadcrumbs that you've tossed with oil. Bake until browned and bubbly, about 20 minutes (or refrigerate the casserole until you're ready to bake, sprinkle the breadcrumbs just before it goes into the oven, and add 5-10 minutes to the baking time).
Now, I'm not one to suggest that these two cassoulets taste the same, but the good news is, they don't have to. Save Wolfert's recipe for a rainy weekend, and enjoy this lazy cassoulet any time you damn well please.
Get the Recipe: Lazy Chicken-and-Sausage Cassoulet