Friday, January 14, 2011


Old recipes can and should be adapted to suit today’s lifestyle. Here is a new and healthier version: Thirty-Minute Cassoulet, adapted from Jacques Pépin's Fast Food My Way

I draw the line when it comes to making a traditional cassoulet, no matter how "gourmet" the endeavour. For one thing, the traditional version takes something like three days to prepare, and for another, a cassoulet includes a liberal amount of duck fat plus the rind of almost a whole pig ... Whoops no, not for me! 

Duck fat and pork rind were used in kitchens of centuries past. Caloric intake during those times was high, but people burned calories faster than we do because they were highly mobile and engaged in arduous labour. The country folk who prepared cassoulet were careful to use all parts of the animal they slaughtered (a necessary and laudable practice). 

Today’s lifestyle is much different ... much more sedentary, and we are all of us aware of the health risks associated when eating foods high in fat content. There's just no need to cook like that anymore. 

Jaques Pépin, gentleman chef extraordinaire, offers us a recipe for a cassoulet that can be cooked in less than one hour. Convenient, tasty and healthier. Thank you, Chef Pépin.


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound rolled shoulder ham (also called a daisy ham or Boston Butt), tough outer skin removed, cut into four pieces
3/4 pound Italian sausages, cut into 3-inch pieces
4 skinless chicken thighs
1 cup sliced button mushrooms
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup diced onion
1 (14.5 ounces/400 grams) whole peeled tomatoes, chopped
4 cloves garlic crushed
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
2 (15½ ounces/450 grams each) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed 
black pepper
coarsely chopped fresh parsley


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit /180 degrees Celsius.   
  • Heat the oil in a large skillet and add the ham, chicken and Italian sausage.
  • Cover and cook over high heat for 10 minutes, turning occasionally.
  • Add the mushrooms, carrots, onion, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf. Mix well and cook for another 10 minutes.
  • Add the beans, tomatoes and pepper 
  • Bring back to the boil, cover, and cook in the oven for 30 minutes.
  • At serving time, discard the bay leaf, cut the ham into slices and the sausage pieces in half, and arrange the meat on a platter with the beans.
  • Sprinkle the parsley on top.


  1. I loved your write up, love how you just said it how it was, and loved that you used the word odious :) Jacques cassoulet is definitely awesome, hence why we offered that too, so much flavor for 30 minutes! yours turned out phenomenal! I'm dying to try the garlic confit! Thanks for cooking with us this month!!

  2. Nice. Very gracious, and well written opinion. Great choice of French chefs. Keep giving us your great recipes. Thank you for the fun you are sharing.

  3. Greek Girl from QueensJanuary 19, 2011 at 7:51 PM

    I used to love watching Chef Pepin on one of his many brilliant PBS cooking shows back in the mid and late 80's, when I was living in the US. I still refer back to his wonderful 'Simple and Healthy Cooking' cookbook (complete with border illustrations on each page, done by Jacques himself!) - he's a wonderful chef, a wonderful food writer and presenter, and I wholeheartedly agree with you - I'd take him any day of the week over Bourdain. I can only put up with so much 'punk rock chef' attitude for only so long, and in very miniscule doses at best.

    Yeah, we all know all the same expletives as he does, but the difference is that most of us choose not to pepper every sentence with those words to make us appear 'street cred cool.' I feel the same way about Gordon Ramsey. He may well be a good chef and restauranteur, but his foul-mouthed tough guy image gets quite tedious, not to mention quite obnoxious, quite quickly.

    Fair play to you, Ana, for speaking your mind, and calling it as you see it.

  4. Very nice post and thank you. Funny thing is, the science is rapidly coming around on fat -- fat is good, it is actually carbohydrates that are bad. So the fatty traditional French recipe might actually be better for you than Thomas Keller's fat-skimmed version -- and would taste a lot better to boot. As for Pepin, the all-day versions (and I'm sure Jacques has one) are SO Much better because you can use real raw pork, or lamb or duck confit because you have enough time for the meat to completely soften and for the complex flavors to develop. Pepin's version is great if you really only have 30 minutes, but if that's the case, there really are probably better meals out there than quickie cassoulet.