I’ll go ahead and get the confession part of this post out of the way – I almost let this one burn under the broiler to the point of being inedible. I swear to all the kitchen gods, I’ve never had to yell for my husband to come and rescue food from the oven, but, as they say, there’s a first time for everything. So the moral of the story comes at the beginning this time – never ever ever ever ever leave something cooking under your oven’s broiler. Always always always keep a close eye on it. Because this recipe is delish, especially when not burned. Go figure!
Cassoulet is a traditional French casserole of sorts, usually using duck meat. Duck is an acquired taste, though, and chicken worked very well in this much easier (and quicker) version. Instead of taking hours to make, the recipe boasts about twenty or so minutes, but I went ahead and baked ours for closer to forty or forty-five. An extra twenty or so minutes is still much quicker than the normal several hours for “real” cassoulet. This would make a pretty easy and quick dinner for a work week night, if you have a little over an hour to spare.
The original recipe calls for the chopped onion and sliced smoked sausage to be cooked together, but it’s not the best way if you want the sausage to brown better and impart more flavor for the entire dish. Brown the sausage first, then the onion. This also added a little time onto the recipe, but I preferred the added flavor over an eight minute quicker cooking time.
The browning is the work horse of this recipe – once that’s done, do the time-honored Dumping of the Rest of the Ingredients into the pot.
For another shot at adding flavor, I popped a couple of thyme sprigs into the pot as well. The better option would have been to strip the leaves and mince them before adding to the pot, but I’m not a fan of stripping thyme leaves. This part is optional, but I had some on hand and love to use thyme whenever I can and it makes sense flavor-wise.
And here’s our cassoulet after it had been cooking for about 40 to 45 minutes. I had the lid on for the first initial twenty minutes (a mistaken reading of the instructions, actually, but I preferred how it turned out), then off for the remainder. This gave the cassoulet a less liquid texture. There was enough moisture left that it wasn’t dry, but it wasn’t running wild with tomato juices either.
The final step is to crush about two cups of croutons for a topping. If you prefer to use bread crumbs, panko works really well, too. If you go that route, just mix the panko with the melted butter and season with a little salt and pepper if you prefer.
I have a taste for very well-done things sometimes. Steak I prefer medium rare, but grilled sausage? If it’s a little blackened, no big! But I think I got way too careless this time when the crouton-topped cassoulet went back in the oven. I have always watched things closely under the broiler, but I was really tired the day we made this. It took less than a minute and it suddenly went to a slightly way-to-dark color and it was smoking badly, too. Hence the yelling for hubby. I was choking and my eyes were watering when I opened the oven back up. So, lesson learned – respect thy broiler! And scoop off the burned parts and enjoy the rest. Wink.
This is yet another scrumptious comfort food option, and this is the perfect time of year to make it. I’d caution against using too much added salt, especially if the sausage and chicken broth you use already has a noticeable amount. The flavors were very rich and it’s a very filling meal. The crusty topping gives the otherwise soft and tender textures some great added crunch. Having made this twice now, both the croutons and panko worked equally well for this. Even with some of my added steps to the timing, this is still a relatively quick meal to get on the table. And it’s already gone into my pile of recipe repeats!
Chicken & Sausage Cassoulet
Adapted slightly from 2014 Christmas with Southern Living
- 1 (14 oz.) package smoked sausage
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups cooked and shredded chicken (deli rotisserie or home-cooked)
- 1 (15.5 oz.) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes with garlic, basil and oregano, undrained
- 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme, optional
- 2 cups seasoned croutons, crushed (or use panko crumbs)
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Cook sausage in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until deeply browned, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from pan and reserve, leaving any drippings in the pot. Cook the chopped onion over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for one minute more. Remove pot from heat and add the chicken, beans, tomatoes, broth, salt and pepper to taste and thyme, if using. Stir well to combine.
Bake in oven for 20 minutes with a tight-fitting lid on the pot. Remove the lid and continue cooking for an additional 20 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the croutons or panko with the melted butter, seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary. Remove the pot from the oven and sprinkle the crumb mixture over the chicken and sausage mixture. Switch the oven to broil and broil for one to two minutes, until the topping is browned. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 10 to 15 minutes and serve.
The original recipe suggests using deli-cooked rotisserie chicken as a time saver, but I already had 2-3 chicken breasts on hand and simply cooked them in the oven prior to this recipe before shredding them. You can also cook the chicken in the microwave if you’re pressed for time, shredding it when done and still warm. This also allows you to control things like salt amounts better.