In Paris last month, young American friends, who live and work in the country’s capital, remarked to my spouse and me that they had had a very “hygge” weekend. Confused, we asked what that meant. Oh, “hygge” is the Danish word for cozy, they replied, but it means more than that. They explained that the term denotes being snug and comfortable, and often includes friends, family, and food. Apparently this simple, life-style concept has spread throughout Europe, and the French are swooning over it.
An article in the New York Times shed more light on this Nordic phenomenon. Penelope Green writes that “Hygge (pronounced HOO-gah, like a football cheer in a Scandinavian accent) is the Danish word for cozy. It is also a national manifesto, nay, an obsession expressed in the constant pursuit of homespun pleasures involving candlelight, fires, fuzzy knitted socks, porridge, coffee, cake and other people.”
It didn’t take long for me to realize that the recipe I planned to post this week could definitely star in a hygge setting. “Southern” Cassoulet—a dish of braised chicken thighs, white beans, and andouille sausage, finished with a verdant garnish of julienned collards– is the epitome of hominess, a warming, rustic entrée to share with others on cold winter nights. It is redolent of traditional cassoulet, a specialty of southwestern France, with its mélange of poultry, sausages, and white beans, but the collards are a nod to my Southern upbringing.
Share it with friends along with a country loaf of bread, a salad, and a bottle of hearty red to create your own “hygge” evening.
Print This Recipe
“Southern Cassoulet” with Chicken, Beans, and Collards
3 lbs skinless, bone-in chicken thighs (about 8 large thighs)
2 tsp dried thyme
1 1/2 tsp dried sage leaves
1 tsp kosher salt plus more if needed
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper plus more if needed
3 tbsp olive oil
6 to 9 oz andouille sausage cut into 1/4-inch dice (Turkey andouille works fine.)
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup finely diced carrots (1/4-inch cubes)
2 tsp minced garlic
4 cups chicken stock plus 1 to 2 cups more if needed
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
3 tbsp tomato paste
3 bay leaves broken in half
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
Two 15-oz cans cannellini beans, rinsed well and drained
10 oz collards, rinsed and patted dry
1. Pat the chicken pieces dry with paper towels. Combine thyme, sage, salt, and black pepper in a small bowl and season the chicken on both sides with this mixture.
2. Heat olive oil in a large (11- to 12-inch) skillet with a lid set over medium high heat. When hot, add the andouille and sauté, stirring often, until browned lightly, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to drain on paper towels.
3. Add the chicken to the skillet and sauté, turning several times, until browned on both sides, about 8 minutes . Add the onions, carrots, and garlic to the pan, and cook, stirring 2 to 3 minutes.
4. Return the andouille to the pan. Add the stock, wine, tomato paste, bay leaves, and cayenne pepper, and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a brisk simmer. Then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until chicken is tender, 30 to 40 minutes.
5. While the chicken is cooking, prepare the collards. Remove and discard the tough center stems from the leaves. Then stack 3 to 4 leaves and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch wide julienned strips. Repeat with remaining leaves until you have 7 loosely packed cups.
6. When chicken is tender, remove the lid from the skillet, and stir in the beans. Cook 10 minutes more. The sauce should have thickened slightly. If not, continue to cook until thickened, several more minutes.. If liquid has cooked down too much, add 1 to 2 cups extra stock. (Dish can be prepared 2 days ahead to this stage. Cool, cover, and refrigerate. Reheat over medium heat, stirring occasionally.)
7. Stir in the collards and cook until wilted and just tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if needed. Remove and discard bay leaves.
8. Serve from the skillet or transfer to shallow serving bowls. Serves 6 to 8.
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2017