The first time I had cassoulet, the hearty meat and bean stew from southwest France, was in 2018 when I visited my friends in Toulouse.
The cassoulet we had was made by the experts, La Maison Escudier, whose secret recipe has stayed the same since they opened in 1920. (By the way, if you live in Europe, they can ship jars of cassoulet to you, with or without the cassole, the clay pot that cassoulet is traditionally cooked in.)
There is much debate about the origins of the beloved “peasant” stew. Most people agree that it started in Castelnaudary in the Occitanie region of France. Other popular versions come from Carcassonne and Toulouse. There is also a slight difference in each city’s style of cassoulet.
While the traditional cassoulet is made with duck, other versions use lamb or goose. Some recipes call for breadcrumbs, smoked sausage, or tomatoes, which traditionalists would probably frown upon!
I’m in California and, unfortunately, I can’t get traditional cassoulet shipped to me. Not a problem! I love to eat, so I see it as an opportunity to get creative.
With all due respect to cassoulet purists out there, I decided to use creative license in making cassoulet.
For example, instead of duck, I used chicken. To save time, I used canned white beans. (Normally, the recipe calls for dry beans to be soaked overnight.) I didn’t use tomatoes, nor did I top it with breadcrumbs and bake it. In place of traditional pork Toulouse sausage, I used smoked chicken sausage made with roasted garlic and gruyère cheese.
Here’s my interpretation of cassoulet:
Ingredients (Serves 4)
- 1 cup of baby carrots
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 2 stalks of celery, chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 2 T butter
- 1 can (15 oz) of low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 cans (15 oz each) of white beans, drained and rinsed
- 4 skinless and boneless chicken thighs
- 5 strips of hickory smoked bacon, sliced
- 4 smoked chicken sausages with roasted garlic and gruyère cheese, sliced
- 1 T of Herbes de Provence
- parsley, for optional garnish
In a Dutch/French oven or similar large pot, melt the butter and sauté the garlic, until brown:
Brown the chicken on both sides, then remove, slice into cubes, and set aside. Don’t worry, the chicken will finish cooking in the final step:
Brown the sausage on both sides, then remove and set aside:
Brown the bacon bits, then remove and set aside:
Add the chicken broth to the pot and bring to a boil. Add carrots, onions, celery, beans, and return the browned meats to the pot:
Add the Herbes de Provence. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally:
Et voilà ! Serve with a warm, crusty baguette and your favorite beer or wine!
Overall, I liked how my cassoulet turned out. The fragrant dish brought back pleasant memories of my visit with friends in Toulouse, not to mention the beautiful pink Toulousain sunset…
Let me know if you try this recipe. Enjoy your meal. Bon appétit. Or, as they say in Occitan, « Bon apétis! »