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Cassoulet - but not cassoulet....

I've been wanting to attempt a dish that mimics cassoulet technique and feel, but using different ingredients. Basically, I'm looking for a dish that is based on baked white beans, but instead of using duck confit and Toulouse sausages, using some chicken legs and a ham hock (un-smoked).

Let me explain.

I really like cassoulet. And while I love the taste of it, I'm not going to make it because A) it's incredibly rich and I just can't eat that much of it, B) I'm cooking for just 2 people, so a dish full of cassoulet would be overkill, and C) it's expensive to make, and in this post Christmas season, it's just not doable. But that said, I'm willing to cut back on the unctuousness of the dish somewhat by substituting chicken (non-confit) for the duck, thus lowering the cost significantly. I also happen to have a non-smoked hock in the freezer, and it seems that this type of preparation would be ideal for it.

Before anyone jumps all over me for equating this to cassoulet, I fully understand the vast gulf between what I'm describing and what cassoulet is. I just figured it would be easier to explain if I used cassoulet as an analogy. At minimum, they are baked white-bean based dishes incorporating a couple different types of meat.

A) Does anyone have a ready recipe they would be willing to share that uses these three main ingredients: cannelini beans, chicken parts, and an unsmoked ham hock?

B) Short of that, would it be doable in a crock pot if I first browned the chicken and hock, then threw those in with about a pound of beans and an unknown quantity of water into a crock pot set on low for 8 hours, along with some garlic, rosemary, thyme, and maybe a tablespoon of tomato paste?

Thoughts? Thanks!

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  1. Here ya go:

    Slow cooker (and other methods) turkey cassoulet...
    http://www.google.com/search?sourceid...

    Slow cooker chicken cassoulet:
    http://www.google.com/search?sourceid...

    ETA: You can certainly use a slow cooker to make your version of cassoulet. A I posted in another thread... yesterday I made black beans in the SC:

    1 lb dry beans,
    a rough chopped onion,
    3 smoked ham hocks,
    2 bay leaves,
    6 cups water,
    8 hours on Low.
    Perfect.

    You could easily add either chicken legs or turkey legs as well. You'd need a SC larger than my 6 qt, though. The cooker works most efficiently when only 3/4 full.

    1. You might try a Brunswick stew recipe. Some folks jokingly call it redneck cassoulet. I use leftover barbecue or barbecue chicken for mine. The primary ingredients are the meat, butterbeans, corn, a large can of tomatoes, a country ham hock, and cayenne and black pepper to taste. It's dead simple- I just add about a cup each of beans and corn, a 28oz. can of tomatoes, the ham hock, and cover with water. Cook on medium heat for a couple of hours, then add your meat and cook for another 1-2 hours. This feeds 6-8 people. Since you're using an unsmoked hock, more dry spices would probably be advisable. I really do prefer a country ham hock, and at least where I live, you can pick one up at the grocery store for a couple of bucks. But the lack of one is no deal breaker, and most any type of bean should work, for that matter.

      Definitely brown your chicken first, but just throw the hock in there. You want as much stewing time for the hock as you can get. My main concern about using a slow cooker would be that you may not get the full benefit of the ham hock due to the low heat. The way I check my Brunswick stew for doneness is by checking the hock- once all the meat has fallen off the bone, it's done. This takes about 4 hours in a cast iron pot set to medium-medium high. I don't know that you'll get there in 8 hours on low in a slow cooker.

      1. just use a cassolet recipe you like, and work from there.

        and B) would work just fine

        6 Replies
        1. re: thew

          Excellent thought.

          Here's my plan:
          1) Brown the chicken parts and ham hocks the day before.

          2) Use Stephane Reynaud's cassoulet recipe from his "French Feasts".

          3) Still not sure if I'm going to Creuset it or crock-pot it. Crock pot makes for more ease, but traditional stove method allows for forming the crust. Game day decision.

          4) Following chowser's recommendation below, I'm planning on pulling the chicken out at some point, pulling out the bones, and adding the meat back in as large, undisturbed pieces as possible, so the bones don't become too brittle and splinter. I also have some leftover chicken/turkey stock from some turkey/tortellini soup I made this week. Perfect use for the couple cups of leftover soup stock.

          5) I'll likely soak the beans overnight. I'd like this dish to be on the creamier side, so I'd like to slightly overcook the beans. Some cassoulet presentations I've seen have the beans as perfectly whole, and the dish is a bit on the drier side. That's fine, I just prefer cassoulet with beans a tad on the mushy side.

          1. re: foreverhungry

            I've seen a caution about cooking beans in crock pot. Beans need a period of boiling, and crock pots, especially the older ones, might not get that hot. But if you've already had experience cooking beans in the crock pot, you can ignore that issue.

            1. re: paulj

              I've been wondering about that. I don't think I've ever done beans in a crock pot myself. Interesting. Thanks for the note. This is skewing me towards the stove version....which given that it's going to be single digits on Saturday in MN, having the oven going for the afternoon doesn't seem like a bad proposition....

              1. re: foreverhungry

                I need to search. I think Gio did beans in a slow cooker recently and didn't even soak first. I'll see if I can find it.

                ETA: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7562...

                1. re: c oliver

                  I regularly cook beans in the crockpot without soaking. I also add salt at the beginning. I have an older model crockpot - I find that a pound of dry beans is done in about 3-4 hours on high.

                2. re: foreverhungry

                  I soak first, but I've cooked hundreds of pounds of beans in a slow cooker with no issues.

                  Do be careful to not add tomato or lemon until they're already tender -- acid keeps the beans from softening.

          2. Long before I made any actual by-Wolfert's-book cassoulet, I used my crockpot to make a batch of something hot for people dropping by on a cold day by first cooking a few lamb shanks, then using some of the broth, all of the meat and (as I recall) a can or two of Ro-Tel tomatoes/chiles, all stirred into as many canned beans as would fit. It was delicious, it was a big hit, and (with the addition of some rosemary) became a standard winter dish around our house. Now, I'm not offering this as a recommendation, just as an example of how easy it is to make something good out of your favorite ingredients.

            1. This '30 minute casoulet' from Jacques Pepin may give you ideas:

              http://www.kqed.org/w/jpfastfood/reci...

              1. For A), I'd use the ham hocks and chicken parts to make a stock, but remove the chicken when the meat is just cooked through. Remove the meat for the stew, add the bones back in and continue simmering. When stock is done, remove any ham hock meat and add to chicken meat. Make stew a/ cannellini beans (rehydrated overnight or w/ one hour quick method).

                For B), I'd keep an eye out on the chicken. If cooked too long, the bones can break apart which is fine if you're straining but not in this case. I wouldn't use dry beans but cooked ones, or at least soaked. Rather than using water, I like using chicken stock.

                1. I have many of the same thoughts as do you. I have successfuy used this recipe:
                  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/me...

                  I have never watched her TV show, but this recipe works. After the first time I used kielbasa or andoulle instead of the bacon.

                  1. Isn't it sort of sad that OP had to go into such a long explanation on her background knowledge JUST to get the anklebiting authetinazi's off her scent?

                    We should ALL take heed of that and try to just answer questions without preaching like I am doing here in this post! It is the anti preach preach.

                    1. So how'd it turn out? What did you end up doing? I'm curious because you inspired me to put together my own no confit/toulouse sausage cassoulet. It's cooking in the oven now. If it turns out to my liking I'll definitely use the crock pot (with uncooked presoaked beans). I used the recipe below but added some bockwurst and a seared lamb shoulder chop.

                      http://cookingfortwo.about.com/od/pas...

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                        It turned out pretty good. I goofed and used too small a pot to fit everything, so ended up cooking the hocks and beans in one pot, and the chicken pieces in another, and then laying the de-boned chicken thighs and legs on top of the beans. Good flavor, beans turned out the exact consistency that I wanted. The unsmoked hocks were really nice - a great porky flavor, but without the smoke. The combination of roasted chicken legs and the hocks was very nice.

                        I might make some tweaks in the future - use a bigger pot or cut down the recipe size; add a couple tablespoons of tomato paste; and include something that adds an element of smoke, like a bacon or pancetta, without having a cut of a smoked meat in the dish.

                        1. re: foreverhungry

                          Glad your dish worked out well. Sounds like you did the right thing and it reduced your fuss. There is no right way of cooking a dish of pork and beans and chicken has a much shorter cooking time than a pot of beans - fussing to remove the chicken before it overcooked would have been less desirable.

                          I just made a Paula Wolfert recipe last night with 2 cups of dried kidney beans to which only 1 lb of sauteed pork shoulder is added. The beans are soaked overnight and then cooked low and slow in water and 1 cup of red wine with the pork, which has been browned with onions and carrots and added to the casserole alongg with a cinnamon stick and a paste made of ground up garlic, pancetta,thyme and bay leaf. It smells divine. At the end after the beans are fully cooked it is cooked uncovered til the sauce is thickened, glazed carrots are added and it is put in the oven till it glazes/gets a bit crusty.

                          Not a cassoulet, but some of the same techniques - very slow cooking with richly flavored ingredients - really brings out the flavor of the dish.

                          1. re: jen kalb

                            I'll have to check out Wolfert's recipe. The cassoulet basic techniques are really versatile, even if the finished dish isn't a proper cassoulet, the melding of bean and meat can be very nice.

                            1. re: foreverhungry

                              Wofert has a whole range of recipes of this general sort

                              classic baked american style baked beans certainly fall into this category - beans slow cooked with pork to a luscious texture with deep flavor.and an unctuous sauce..

                              1. re: foreverhungry

                                I've used both bacon and keilbasa when making quick cassoulet in the past with good success.

                            2. re: foreverhungry

                              Pancetta won't add that element of smoke.

                              1. re: paulj

                                Yes, I realized that after I hit enter. Thanks for the correct.

                          2. No worries-- the original cassoulets were put together by a busy housewife with what she had on hand. There are a number of regional variations on cassoulet that don't have confit de canard, and even more that use different types of sausage.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: sunshine842

                              Thanks.

                              The first time I ever had it was in Carcassonne in a castle. I figured if they had an entire castle devoted to making the stuff, than this probably wasn't going to be something to replicate on a busy Tuesday night.