The Best Chicken Cassoulet

Readers who know me as a purist may be surprised to see my version of the famous gut-buster, cassoulet. This bean and meat casserole from southwestern France is brimming with flavor (thanks to loads of fatty pork and duck confit), but it also takes a good amount of time to make.  In my catering days, I made mountains of cassoulet, and I learned how to reduce its heft while keeping every drop of flavor.  My chicken version has become one of my most reliable dishes for a holiday buffet–all you need is a green salad and some crusty bread, and you are in business.  For a completely French Christmas menu with an outstanding Francophile dessert, finish with bûche de Noël.  This was one of my most reliable catering menus, and it still never fails to please.

Print Recipe
The Best Chicken Cassoulet
The famous French dish, full of flavor, but made with chicken and turkey sausage instead of duck or goose confit and red meats.
Course Main Dish
Servings
12 to 16 servings
Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, as needed
  • 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes (see Note)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 teaspoon dried savory or oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup dry vermouth or white wine
  • One 28-ounce whole tomatoes in juice, juices reserved, chopped
  • Two 13 3/4-ounce cans reduced-sodium canned broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 pounds pork or turkey sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and cut int 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • Six 15- to 19-ounce cans cannellini (white kidney) beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Course Main Dish
Servings
12 to 16 servings
Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, as needed
  • 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes (see Note)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 teaspoon dried savory or oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup dry vermouth or white wine
  • One 28-ounce whole tomatoes in juice, juices reserved, chopped
  • Two 13 3/4-ounce cans reduced-sodium canned broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 pounds pork or turkey sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and cut int 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • Six 15- to 19-ounce cans cannellini (white kidney) beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Instructions
  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F.
  2. In a very large (7- to 8-quart, see Note) Dutch oven, preferably enameled cast iron, heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium-high heat. In batches without crowding, cook the chicken thighs, turning occasionally, until browned lightly on all sides, about 10 minutes, adding more oil as needed. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the browned chicken to a platter.
  3. Return the browned chicken to the Dutch oven. Season with the thyme, rosemary, sage, savory , salt, and pepper, and mix well. Add the vermouth and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add the tomatoes with their juices, the broth, and the bay leaf. Bring to a simmer.
  4. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up with the side of a large spoon into bite-sized pieces, until it loses its pink color, about 8 minutes. Add the onions, red pepper, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened, about 6 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of water and bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Stir into the chicken mixture. Add the beans and stir well. (The cassoulet can be prepared up to this point up to 1 day ahead, cooled, covered, and refrigerated. Stir 2 additional cups of chicken stock or water into the cassoulet before proceeding.)
  5. In a small bowl, mix the bread crumbs. parsley, and remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Sprinkle over the top of the cassoulet. Bake for 30 minutes. Using a large spoon, gently press the thin crust that has formed on the cassoulet just under the surface. Continue baking until the cassoulet is simmering and a second thin crust has formed, about 30 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes. Serve hot.
Recipe Notes

Note: Instead of paying a premium for boneless and skinless chicken thighs, purchase 5 pounds chicken thighs with the skin and bones, and remove the skin and bones yourself. It’s a quick and easy procedure.

The cassoulet looks especially enticing when baked and served from a very large 7- to 8-quart Le Creuset. My trusty enameled cast-iron cooker has been with me for decades, as it is one of my most used cooking utensils. Otherwise, divide the the cassoulet between two standard 4-to 5-quart casseroles.

Comment (1)

  • Marc

    February 18, 2024 9:30 pm
    Delicious. I used 2 sweet italian & 2 hot italian sausages plus a teaspoon or so of bacon fat and in lieu of cannellinibeans i used a few cans of northern beans, kidney beans and black beans. I also included some chopped fennel with the onions and bell pepper. Only thing that simply disappeared into the stew was the breadcrumb mixture rather than forming a top crust. I personally didnt mind and figure it thickened the stew a bit. Regardless, this made a big tub worth so that i put some in the freezer to enjoy again at a later date. Will make again!

    Reply


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