Cassoulet-Inspired Stew

For some reason a few years ago, I got obsessed with cassoulet.  Not sure why; occasionally, I just fixate on a dish.  I read about eight recipes and then seared some sausage and chicken in the same pot and made a soup.  

Authentic, non?

Over time, this cassoulet-inspired stew has taken on an ultra-flavorful life of its own.  There are so many flavor notes in this thing I barely know where to start.  As an added bonus, I will also tell you that if you’ve roasted a chicken lately, the two thighs and other remaining meat on your carcass will be a perfect amount of meat for this stew—and since you’re already cleaning off that carcass, throw it in a pot and get yourself some stock base too.

This stew is also chock-full of protein, which is important to me as I lift weights and muscle growth means lots of protein intake.  It’s also on the rich side—the sausage fat gets folded back into the sweating veggies but you can skim it easily when cold and the reheated portions get better and better.  Or, if you're really kicking it in the gym, enjoy your slick of savory yum.

Cassoulet-Inspired Stew

2 sausages, sliced in to ¼ inch rounds*
½ onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 ½ cups chicken stock
1/3 cup white wine
Bouquet garni  (several springs fresh parsley, 5-6 sprigs fresh thyme, 2 bay leaves)**
½ tsp celery seed
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 (19 oz) can white kidney beans***
1 ½ cups chopped, cooked chicken
Parmesan rind, optional
2 cups (loosely packed) rough chopped kale
Extra chopped parsley, for serving

Cook sausages in large soup pot on medium-low heat.  I didn’t specify because almost any type of sausage would work here—I prefer bratwurst as that sage-y stuff is my favourite.  Allow some fat to melt before the meat really gets its sear on.  When cooked, remove sausage rounds from the pot and set aside; retain rendered fat.  

Place onion, garlic and carrots into the pot and sweat for 8-10 minutes, or until they’re golden, soft, and their juices have cleaned up most of the brown scrummies on the bottom of the pot.

Return the sausage to the pot (and any accumulated plate juices); add the next six ingredients.  Bring the pot to a gentle simmer, uncovered, and cook for another 30 minutes, skimming occasionally.  Allowing it to stay uncovered means it will reduce just a little and thicken up.

In the last five minutes of cooking, grab your kale and stir it into the stew.  When it’s cooked down and wilted, pull the bouquet garni but if you’ve used parmesan rinds, leave them in until the soup’s done.  It’ll just ooze salty cheese taste into the soup indefinitely.

For serving, sprinkle on the extra parsley.  A crusty, seedy loaf goes really well with this broth.

*Tip: To make this easier and keep your knife less goopy, freeze sausage for approximately half an hour before slicing.

**Bouquet garni are just a bundle of herbs.  I place mine in a tea bag rather than tying them up as it’s neater.  I didn't chop the herbs into the soup to keep it a little clearer but that's definitely a fine alternative.

***You could substitute nearly any bean here but I prefer a light-colored variety for aesthetics.  In the version pictured above, I'd used canned chickpeas as they were what I had on hand.