Fabulous French Cassoulet

Fabulous French Cassoulet

Serves 6 to 8

4 whole chicken leg quarters (or 6-8 drumsticks/thighs)
1 pound garlic sausage
1 quart low-sodium chicken stock (homemade or store-bought)
8 ounces salt pork (cut into ¾ inch cubes)
¾ ounces unflavored gelatin – optional (approx. 3 packets)
6 cloves
6 “finely chopped” and peeled garlic cloves
4 parsley sprigs
2 bay leaves
2 celery stalks (cut into 2-3 inch sections)
1 whole head of garlic
1 “unpeeled” carrot (cut into 2-3 inch sections)
1 large “finely chopped” onion (approx. 1 cup)
2 cans (15 oz.) cannellini beans
Kosher salt to taste (Fleur de Sel preferred)
Fresh ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 300°F

The oven rack should be placed in the middle position. Pour the chicken stock into a medium bowl. Sprinkle the top with gelatin unless the homemade stock is being used. Additional gelatin is unnecessary because homemade stock already has plenty. Set the bowl aside.

Rinse and drain the beans in a colander. Set them aside.

On a plate, pepper the chicken on both sides. Set the plate aside.

Cook the Pork: Cook the pork in a large Dutch oven over medium to high heat until it is shimmering. The goal is to lightly brown the pork on all sides. Stir occasionally while cooking for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the pork and set aside in a large bowl.

Cook the Chicken: Place the chicken skin down in the Dutch oven. Allow the chicken to cook (without stirring) for 6 to 8 minutes until brown. Flip the chicken and lightly brown for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the chicken to the bowl with pork.

Cook the Sausages: Add the sausages to the Dutch oven and cook (stir occasionally) until well brown on all sides. Transfer the sausages to the bowl with the pork and chicken.

Remove excess fat from the Dutch oven, but leave 2 to 3 tablespoons. Stir in the onions and mix with the scraps at the pot’s bottom. The onions should cook until translucent (do not brown them); approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the stock, bay leaves, cloves, beans, celery, garlic, carrot, parsley, and the whole head of garlic. Over high heat, bring to a simmer, and then cover and reduce the heat to low. Continue cooking for 25 to 30 minutes.

Use cooking tongs to remove and discard the bay leaves, cloves, celery, carrots, and parsley. Stir in all the meat, and salt and pepper to taste. Once it is all mixed, move the chicken (skin up), so it sits on top of the beans. Try to have all the beans submerged as much as possible.

Place the “uncovered” pot in the oven for cooking until a crust forms on top; approximately 2 to 2½ hours. At all times, the beans must be kept covered with fluid. If necessary, add water to the side of the pot to keep them covered.

When the crust forms, remove the pot from the oven and break it up with a spoon. Stir and mix the crust into the stew. Return the pot to the oven and continue cooking for another 2 to 2½ hours. Every 30 minutes repeat this step until the total cooking time reaches 5½ to 6½ hours.

Watch carefully during the last hour of cooking. When a thick deep brown crust is formed, remove the pot from the oven. The stew is ready to be served immediately with the beautiful crust unbroken.

Diva Tip:

• If preferred, use soaked dried cannellini beans for this dish. They should soak overnight in salted water, which will keep them tender while cooking. Rinse and drain the beans in a colander before adding them to the Dutch oven. Watch the beans while cooking; allow them to cook until they are tender with a little bite (not soft) – approximately 45 minutes.

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