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Quick and easy cassoulet with chicken and sausage

Dear Jeanne,
This is a recipe that I have made several times, but I would like you to make it easier and lighter. Can you do that? Thank you for whatever help you can offer. — Kathy, Riverside, Calif.

CASSOULET WITH CHICKEN AND SAUSAGE
4 slices bacon, diced
1 pound chicken, cut into chunks
4 sausages (1 pound), cut into chunks
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 carrots, chopped
1 cup white wine
1 can (15 ounces) tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon thyme
3 cups white beans, cooked

Cook the bacon in a large, heavy Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp. Remove the bacon, then add the chicken and sausage to the Dutch oven. Cook on medium-high heat until browned. Add the onions, garlic and carrots. Cook over medium heat until the onions are soft, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the wine, tomatoes, salt, pepper, bay leaf, thyme and white beans. Cover and bake at 375 F for 45 minutes. Top with the cooked bacon.
Makes 6 servings.

Dear Kathy,
Even though this is a pretty easy version of cassoulet, which always contains some kind of meat and white beans, I have made it even easier. It’s the same idea, if not the same lengthy-baked flavor.
Much of the sodium comes from the sausage, so to reduce it, you must either find a low-sodium, low-fat sausage, or make a version of your own by adding the spices that you like in the sausage. I often add fennel and garlic if I’m trying to omit Italian sausage but still want to have the flavor. Using canned beans also adds sodium, but it makes it very quick and easy.

QUICK-AND-LIGHT CASSOULET WITH CHICKEN AND SAUSAGE
4 slices reduced-sodium bacon, chopped
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small chunks
1/2 pound reduced-fat Italian sausage, or reduced-fat smoked sausage, cut into small chunks
2 whole onions, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup white wine, or 1 cup nonfat chicken broth, plus 1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar
1 can (15 ounces) tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme or several sprigs fresh thyme
3 cups cooked white beans (cannellini)
1. In a large, preferably heavy soup pot or Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove and pat with paper towels to remove the excess fat. Crumble when cool. Drain the fat out of the pan.
2. Add the chicken and sausage to the pan, and raise the heat to medium-high. Cook until lightly browned. Add the onions, carrots and celery, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the garlic, then the white wine or chicken broth and vinegar, and scrape the bottom of the pan. Add the tomatoes, black pepper, bay leaf, thyme and beans.
Cover with more wine or broth if needed. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pot. Cook for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with the bacon crumbles to serve.
Makes 6 servings.
Each serving contains approximately: Original Recipe: 1,007 calories; 65 gm fat; 290 mg cholesterol; 1,599 mg sodium; 33 gm carbohydrates; 62 gm protein; 8 gm fiber. Revised Recipe: 418 calories; 7 gm fat; 93 mg cholesterol; 622 mg sodium; 38 gm carbohydrates; 44 gm protein; 9 gm fiber.

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