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?
Here ya go:
Slow cooker (and other methods) turkey cassoulet...
Slow cooker chicken cassoulet:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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....
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.