This cassoulet pie is the best of winter. Tender chicken, sausage and smoked meat are cooked with cannellini beans, tomato, bay leaves and thyme to produce a wonderful French stew. Traditionally it is topped with breadcrumbs or croutons but in this case, it's a layer of chives and buttery puff pastry!
Cassoulet is a dish from the South of France in Languedoc that is mixture of slow cooked duck confit legs, smoked meats, pork skin and white beans and duck or goose fat and it is hearty and rich. It may or may not be topped with breadcrumbs. And from that description you can probably gather that it is usually a really rich dish. Sometimes traditional cassoulet is too rich for me. The word cassoulet comes from the distinct earthenware pot called cassolle or cassolo made by local potters in Issel that has a narrow base and wide mouth.
This is a lighter version although no less delicious and I'm not making any claims to authenticity here. Normally, cassoulet cooks for hours and this cooks for 30 minutes on the stovetop and then 20 minutes as a pie in the oven. And everyone I know prefers this version (although admittedly nobody that has tried it is French). I just think this lightened up version is ideal for Australians that don't want things too heavy. And well you know me right Dear Reader? Because I will use any excuse to add pastry to a dish.
I caught up with a friend recently who was visiting from Melbourne. She's a food writer and she met another lovely travel writer I travelled to Dubai with. They made the mutual connection with me and they both said that I was a person who absolutely knew what they wanted and was determined to get it. It's true, I know what I want and don't stand in my way if I want it. It's the Taurean in me. I am stubborn AF.
Apart from pastry I love potato chips. Like I have a serious addiction to crunchy things and potato chips top that list (followed by French fries or triple cooked chips). And when I was in Thailand recently I went a bit crazy at the 7/11 and bought half a dozen bags of chips. You see I knew I was going on a weekend away to Albury with my sometime vegetarian friend Laura and we both have a history of "chip degustations". The last one we had was in the business class cabin of a flight and all the businessmen around us looked at us like we were crazy.
We had so much food on our weekend away that we didn't need any chips or snacks. But then we got to Albury airport for the return flight home to Sydney and I said, "I've still got those chips!" Our flight was around dinner time so we sat down at a large table and popped open all of the bags and tried them. Some were great, amazing even (the ham and cheese chips were my favourite) but with six bags of chips open and stomachs full we had to concede defeat. I couldn't look at another chip again.
Then the young guy that checked us into the flight walked past. "You guys look like you're having fun!" he remarked. "Would you like a chip?" we asked him. "Sure!" he said smiling and then added that whenever he went overseas to Japan he always bought lots of snack foods. He looked like a clean scrubbed country boy to us but underneath it all was a well travelled chip lover and you know somehow the chip lovers always find each other. We gave him the rest of the bags of chips which he gladly accepted and said would share with the other check-in staff and he waved us onto our flight home!
So tell me Dear Reader, do you know what you want and what you don't want? Which foods are you addicted to? And do you like cassoulet?
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An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour
- oil for frying
- 3 chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
- 2 large onions, peeled and diced
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
- 4 pork or toulouse style sausages (I couldn't find them so I used truffle and provolone pork sausages), cut into bite sized pieces
- 1 smokey sausage, sliced (eg a kransky)
- 400g/14ozs. tin diced tomatoes
- 600g/21oz. tin haricot or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 sprig thyme
- 1/2 cup chicken stock or white wine
- 1/4 cup finely chopped chives
- 1 sheet butter puff pastry
- 1 egg yolk mixed with 2 teaspoons water
Step 1 - Add oil to a large cast iron pot on medium heat. Brown the chicken thigh pieces and then remove from the pan. Add the onions and saute until soft and then add the garlic and saute for a minute. Add the fresh pork sausage and fry for a couple of minutes. Then add the kransky and fry for a minute and then add the chicken thigh pieces back in.
Step 2 - Add the tomatoes, stock, bay leaves and thyme and place the lid on and bring to a boil. Simmer with the lid on for 15 minutes and then remove the lid and add the cannellini beans and cook for another 15 minutes until reduced. Note: I like it when the beans turn quite soft and melt into the sauce to make the sauce thick but if you like them to keep their shape like a traditional cassoulet (and no doubt they'd be horrified by my version), add then 7 minutes before finishing. Cool the filling and then place in a oven proof pie dish and sprinkle with most of the chives (I reserve a tablespoon to sprinkle over the baked pastry).
Step 3 - Preheat oven to 225C/437F and cover the pie dish with the sheet of puff pastry and trim edges. Poke a few holes in the pastry. Brush egg yolk over the pastry and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.