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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Chicken Cassoulet

Et voila, the second anniversary of my blog!

To commemorate the event, once again I made cassoulet, in order to fondly remember the first evening I ever wrote about on Evenings With Peter. And just get a gander at the marvelous set of cassoulet bowls that Baby and I snagged from a rock bottom sale at Williams-Sonoma, cassoulet baking dish included! Forsaking duck confit, I made this version with bone-in chicken thighs, not with the suggested chicken leg quarters. Here they are about to be browned in the cassoulet baking dish with a little olive oil.

As I had overbooked myself, I made the cassoulet on Thursday and let it cool before refrigerating so all the ingredients could get to know one another for the dinner on Saturday. We subbed Polish boczek and krayana for the the bacon and sausages, respectively. Into the oven you go, dear!

At our dinner party, we first sampled cold foie gras and then seared foie gras au Perigord with a drizzle of blood orange olive oil, which worked out quite well--spread over thinly sliced baguettes naturally. Baby and I served the cassoulet with a salad of shredded Boston lettuce and a warm bacon vinaigrette (a version of Michael Lomonaco's Shallot and Champagne Vinaigrette--1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 1 tb Dijon mustard, 1 tb sugar, 4 peeled shallots, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 ground black pepper--all thrown into a blender and then slowly incorporated with 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup bacon grease).

Once bringing the cassoulet back to room temperature on the day of the dinner and then adding the bread crumbs, reheating for the additional 30 minutes was a snap. As my guest observed, the resulting cassoulet was like the classic, but also like a fricassee; in fact, the best of both!

We had lemon sorbet with a sprinkling of thyme for a gentle refresher afterward.

Thanks to folks for reading Evenings With Peter!

Chicken Cassoulet
Adapted from Le Creuset

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped smoked bacon strips
1 lb herb flavored pork or beef sausages
2 medium red onions, sliced thickly
3 medium carrots, sliced thickly
2 garlic cloves, crushed
8 leg quarters of chicken, divided into 2 pieces and skinned
2 14.5 oz. cans of diced tomatoes and their juice
1 14.5 oz. can of cannellini beans, drained
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 rounded teaspoon dried thyme
3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
2 cups coarse white breadcrumbs
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in the cassoulet dish, add the bacon and sausages and fry both until they are lightly browned. Add the onions, carrots and garlic and continue frying for 2-3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer these ingredients to a plate.

Add the chicken pieces to the hot oil and brown evenly. Return the other ingredients together with the chopped tomatoes, beans, tomato paste, thyme, 1 tablespoon of the parsley and some seasoning. Stir well. Cover and transfer to the oven for 1 1/2 hours or until the chicken is tender. Remove the lid.

Mix together the breadcrumbs, remaining parsley and plenty of seasoning. When the chicken is tender, scatter this evenly over the top and return the open pot to the oven for 30 minutes, or until the top is pale golden brown.

By all means, add flowers to welcome any new season such as the burgeoning spring!

Soundtrack: Esperanza Spalding, Chamber Music Society; Peggy Lee, Classics; Sarah Vaughan, Personal Collection; Rumer, Seasons Of My Soul; Marilyn Maye, The Lamp Is Low

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