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A convenient cassoulet

The Baltimore Sun

A traditional French cassoulet could never be misconstrued as diet fare.

The white-bean stew made from sausages, pork and preserved duck or goose is undeniably tasty but rarely recommended for light eating.

Cassoulet is also a bit of a chore to prepare, requiring the duck confit be made at least a week in advance. But this version of Winter Chicken and White-Bean Cassoulet is as easy on the waistline as it is convenient to prepare.

Substituting chicken breast is a lean option, especially when the skin is removed. But we recommend starting with bone-in breast with skin halves rather than boneless skinless breasts because anything cooked with bone and skin will render a richer flavor. Great Northern beans add flavor and fiber to the dish.

The flavoring ingredients have been tweaked to heighten the dish's nutrition profile: Fennel is rich in vitamin A and a good source of potassium, calcium and phosphorus; sun-dried tomatoes provide a tart tang and plenty of the antioxidant lycopene; and a splash of orange juice adds flavor with a dose of vitamin C.

Tempted to substitute canned beans for the dry? Convenience comes at a cost - in this case, excess sodium. While the fiber content is the same, canned beans that have been rinsed still contain more sodium than dry.

Winter Chicken and White-Bean Cassoulet

Makes 6 servings

1 cup dry Great Northern beans

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 medium fennel bulbs (about the size of a lemon), each cut into 8 narrow wedges

1 large red onion, cut into 8 narrow wedges

2 bone-in chicken breast halves, about 1 1/2 pounds total

1 cup julienne sun-dried tomatoes (dry-pack)

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/8 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes

1 tablespoon grated orange zest

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 (14 1/2 ounce) can reduced-sodium chicken broth

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Rinse beans and pick over; place in large nonreactive bowl and cover with cold water. Allow to stand overnight. Drain and place in large saucepan. Add cold water to cover beans; heat to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer 30 to 40 minutes or until just tender. Drain and set aside.

Heat olive oil in an ovenproof Dutch oven with tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Add fennel and red onion and cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Remove vegetables from pan and set aside. Add chicken to pan, skin side down and cook until browned, about 6 minutes. Turn and brown on second side, about 4 minutes. Remove chicken and drain.

In Dutch oven, combine beans, vegetables, tomatoes and garlic. Place chicken on top. Add remaining ingredients, except orange juice and parsley.

Cover and bake at 350 degrees 30 to 45 minutes or until chicken reaches 180 degrees on meat thermometer and beans are tender. Remove chicken and discard skin; slice meat from bone and return to beans. Stir in orange juice and parsley.

Per serving: 395 calories, 5 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 53 milligrams cholesterol, 52 grams carbohydrate, 38 grams protein, 753 milligrams sodium, 14 grams fiber

Recipe and analysis provided by The Kansas City Star.

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