The very first time we made this recipe at home, my husband peeked into the slow cooker as I was shredding the chicken to add back into the pot and asked, “did we invite anyone to dinner tonight?” One hasty phone call later and we had some impromptu guests…and still enough leftovers for a full meal later.
Cassoulet is an awesome stew, if you ask me: three kinds of meat that my carnivorous niece gets a charge out of, beans for either a nice source of fiber or a dramatic reenactment of a memorable scene from Blazing Saddles, and the density of the broth that feels like a grandmother just tucked an afghan around your freezing feet and planted a kiss on top of your head.
So when it came to imagining the sort of foods that we’d love to find in a freezer while in a sleep-deprived state, this one sprang immediately to mind. I also liked the fact that I’d work on this a bit in the morning to get the crock pot set up, and could go about my day until it needed the final touches and prep for the freezer.
(From America’s Test Kitchen’s Slow Cooker Revolution)
- 2 onions, minced
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 pound dried great Northern beans, picked over and salt-soaked and rinsed
- 8 ounces kielbasa sausage, sliced 1 inch thick
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 pounds bone-in country-style pork ribs, trimmed
- 2 pounds bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed and trimmed
- 2 slices high-quality white sandwich bread, torn into pieces
- 2 tablespoons unsalted, butter
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
Cover and cook until beans are tender, 6 to 8 hours on low.
[If I was making this to eat right away, I would proceed to this step. As we’re freezing, though, I’ve skipped it.] Meanwhile, pulse bread, butter, 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in food processor until coarsely ground, about 8 pulses. Transfer crumbs to 12-inch skillet and toast over medium-high heat, stirring often, until golden brown and dry, about 5 minutes; set aside.
Transfer foil packet to plate, open it carefully (watch for steam) and transfer chicken to cutting board. Let chicken cool slightly, then shred into bite-size pieces, discarding bones. Let braising liquid settle for 5 minutes, then remove fat from surface using a large spoon. Discard bay leaves. Stir in shredded chicken and parsley, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve with bread crumbs.
It was at this point that I simply switched off the crock pot and let the cassoulet cool while we made the dinner we’d eat that night instead. After dinner, I set up three pouches for the FoodSaver, divided up the stew among the three and sealed them up.
To reheat, it’s a matter of letting a pouch thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating either in the microwave or on the stovetop. The toasted breadcrumbs are easy enough to pull together the day we serve and bring that nice little crunch that’s always a pleasant surprise.
So, we’re off! Three meals down, 27 to go.