Family Dinners, Grown Up Dinners
I love cassoulet. It’s probably one of my favourite winter dinners, but boy is it filling. Way too heavy for this time of year anyway. So here’s a fabulous recipe for an altogether much lighter and healthier take on a cassoulet using chicken instead of duck and adding lovely in season asparagus to replace some of the beans.
I wish I could say I devised this recipe myself, but alas no it’s from my beloved Leon book by the inspirational Allegra McEvedy. Ever since I’ve had the book I’ve been excited about trying this particular recipe and have rather impatiently been waiting for the asparagus season to commence. And now we’re in it, I’ve made cassoulet three times already and always a success. Equally great for a family supper, a lunch or dinner party. Everyone seems to love it and it’s surprisingly quick and easy to assemble.
The original recipe calls for chicken supremes but I’ve successfully replaced with cheaper whole chicken legs but feel free to go with the original if you prefer breast meat. When I made the cassoulet for a dinner party I cut down on the asparagus (as 3 bundles was just a tad too expensive at E4.50 a pop!) and used half asparagus, half sliced courgettes and this worked marvellously. I’d also say that you could omit the chicken altogether and replace the chicken stock with veggie to make a really interesting vegetarian dinner.
Try to start this dish the day before and leave the chicken to marinade in the fridge overnight, or at least for a whole day.
By the way that’s Dotty in the background. She’s the newest member of the Foti clan, a gorgeous little fluff ball of a Collie pup. And no she didn’t get to eat any!.
Enough for 4:
2 unwaxed lemons, zested and juiced
6 tablespoons of olive oil
8 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
6 sprigs of fresh thyme
4 bay leaves
black pepper & salt
4 whole free range chicken leg pieces, skin removed
2 bunches of asparagus, or 1 bunch and 1 large courgette
2 medium onions, diced
2 x 400g tins of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
a large glass of white wine
400ml of chicken stock
8 tablespoons of breadcrumbs plus a little extra olive oil for drizzling
4 lemon wedges to serve
Place the lemon zest and juice, two thirds of the olive oil, half the garlic, the thyme and bay leaves, a generous grinding of black pepper and a pinch of salt into a large bowl. Add the chicken and rub the marinade thoroughly in. Cover with cling film and leave to marinade for the day or ideally overnight.
The next day preheat your oven to 200ºC/Gas Mark 6.
Heat the remainder of the olive oil in a large frying pan on a medium heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade, set aside the marinade. Fry the chicken on all sides until a little golden. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Add the onion to the pan for a couple of minutes, stirring regularly. Now add the remainder of the garlic and the marinade and fry for a couple more minutes. Tip in the beans and the white wine. Give everything a good stir and leave to bubble away for a few minutes until the liquid has reduced by half.
Meanwhile prepare your asparagus. Remove and discard the woody ends and cut the stems into roughly one inch lengths ensuring the heads remain whole. Retain four whole asparagus stems for the top. If using a courgette slice in half lengthways then slice across in roughly 0.5cm slices.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the asparagus (and courgette if using). Have a taste check and season really well. Place the beans in an appropriately sized ovenproof dish then tuck the chicken legs in.
Pour over the chicken stock until you can just see the liquid level below the beans.
Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top and place the four whole asparagus spears on the crumbs. Drizzle a little olive oil over everything.
Place in the preheated oven for 45 minutes to an hour. The crumbs should be golden and edges bubbling.
Great served with a light salad and lemon wedges on the side.