Last Christmas my sister-in-law gave me a beautiful cookbook “Peace Meals” by the junior league of Houston where she is a member… the idea behind this book is all about cooking and connecting and “cultivating those all too rare moments of human connection.” I like to turn to this book for those wonderful Sunday suppers when my husband, daughter, and I can sit down and truly enjoy the meal. One of which I can’t get enough of is the Cassoulet with butternut squash, chicken, & turkey sausage. This country casserole made with beans and meat is enhanced with the sweet heartiness of butternut squash.
The history of cassoulet is a history of Languedoc. One legend places the birth of cassoulet during the siege of Castelnaudary by the Black Prince, Edward the Prince of Wales, in 1355. The besieged townspeople gathered their remaining food to create a big stew cooked in a cauldron. The word cassoulet derives from the earthenware casserole it is cooked in, the cassolle or cassolo, a special vessel made by the local potteries from the terre d’Issel, Issel being a village in the vicinity of Castelnaudary. Therefore a dutch oven is best for this dish to be authentic; however, you can cook it on a stove top and pour into an oven proof casserole dish to finish (the taste will be just as fantastic). I have made a few modifications to this recipe simply to save time (notice the time saver tips at the bottom). I hope you enjoy this peace meal and have a chance to cook & connect with the ones you love.
Cassoulet with Chicken, Butternut Squash, & Turkey Sausage
- 1/2 tbsp of butter
- 2 cups chopped onions, (divided into 2 bowls- they will be used at different times)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup apple cider
- 2 tbsp Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 1/4 tsp dried thyme divided (I used fresh thyme when called for, 2-3 sprigs each)
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt, divided (I use salt & pepper when I think it needs more)
- 3/4 tsp ground pepper, divided (season to your taste)
- 1/2 tsp dried basil
- 14 1/2 ounces canned diced tomatoes
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups, peeled, seeded & chopped butternut squash (1 squash is plenty)
- 1 cup chopped carrots (3-4 medium carrots)
- 30 ounces canned Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 slices thick bacon (I used 3 who doesn’t like a little bacon?!)
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1/2 pound smoked turkey sausage, sliced (my store didn’t have smoked so I substituted with Italian turkey sausage)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine (totally optional, I just forgot to add it in the first time I made this dish and it was still delish!)
Melt the butter in a large ovenproof pot or Dutch oven, (don’t have one, don’t sweat it, just use a large soup pot). Add 1 cup of the onions & garlic, and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the apple cider, parsley, thyme, salt, pepper, basil, & tomatoes, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, & cover & simmer for 10 minutes. The recipe at this point calls for you to remove the onion mixture to a bowl & set aside then add 1/4 tsp of salt, the water, squash, & carrots to the pot and bring to a boil then reduce and let simmer until the vegetables are tender (30 min). Add the beans and the onion mixture, partially mashing the beans with the back of a spoon. Cook over low heat until thickened. (30 min)
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Cook the bacon in a skillet until crisp & remove, reserve the bacon drippings. (I love when people use this fancy term for grease) Crumble the bacon & set aside. Rub the chicken with the remaining thyme & pepper. Reheat the bacon drippings (grease) in the skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken & cook until browned, about 4 minutes on each side. Remove the chiken from the skillet & cut into 1-inch cubes; set aside. Add the remaining cup of onions & the turkey sausage to the skillet; saute until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken bacon. and sausage to the thickened bean/onion mixture. Add the wine and stir gently to combine. Return the mixture to a low simmer until slightly thickened about 2-3 minutes. Cover and bake in the oven for 1 hour. Uncover the cassoulet & continue baking for 30 minutes.
Time saver Tip: So according to this recipe it should take about 2 1/2 —3 hours until your meal is ready. Some peace huh? Slaving in the kitchen for 3 hours I’m sure doesn’t sit well with very many of you. So I have some time saver tips that will take have this meal ready in half the time. Start your recipe with a small sauce pan; put the water, squash & carrots in & season with salt, bring to a boil, reduce heat & simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes. Then in the dutch oven or large stock pot melt the butter on medium heat & saute the onion & garlic until soft. Then add the apple cider, parsley, thyme, salt, pepper, basil, & tomatoes, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, & cover & simmer for 10 minutes. While the tomato onion mixture is coming to a boil, your squash & carrots should be nearly ready. Simply add in the squash & beans and continue to simmer on low for another 30 minutes. Make sure the oven is preheated to 325 degrees, while the bean mixture is thickening start cooking the bacon, once finished, remove & set aside to cool, reserve the bacon grease &, season the chicken as directed and cook in about 1-2 tbsp of the bacon “drippings”. Cook the onions & turkey sausage in the remaining bacon drippings about 4 minutes. While the sausage is cooking, cut the chicken into cubes. Add the chicken & sausage mixture into the thickened bean mixture and stir gently. Add the white wine & let simmer for about 2-3 minutes. Now bake the cassoulet in the oven for about an 45-1 hour. Remove the lid and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Everything is fully cooked after the first 45 minutes, so if dinner can’t wait, just pull it early. It will still be more than delicious.