In his more than sixty years as a chef, Jacques Pépin has earned a reputation as a champion of simplicity. His recipes are classics. They find the shortest, surest route to flavor, avoiding complicated techniques.
Now, in a book that celebrates his life in food, the world’s most famous cooking teacher winnows his favorite recipes from the thousands he has created, streamlining them even further. They include Onion Soup Lyonnaise-Style, which Jacques enjoyed as a young chef while bar-crawling in Paris; Linguine with Clam Sauce and Vegetables, a frequent dinner chez Jacques; Grilled Chicken with Tarragon Butter, which he makes indoors in winter and outdoors in summer; Five-Peppercorn Steak, his spin on a bistro classic; Mémé’s Apple Tart, which his mother made every day in her Lyon restaurant; and Warm Chocolate Fondue Soufflé, part cake, part pudding, part soufflé, and pure bliss.
Essential Pépin spans the many styles of Jacques’s cooking: homey country French, haute cuisine, fast food Jacques-style, and fresh contemporary American dishes. Many of the recipes are globally inspired, from Mexico, across Europe, or the Far East.
In the accompanying searchable DVD, Jacques shines as a teacher, as he demonstrates all the techniques a cook needs to know. This truly is the essential Pépin.
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with Mollet Eggs and Croutons
A French favorite, mollet (moll-ay) eggs are similar to poached eggs in texture, with runny yolks and soft whites. The eggs are cooked in their shells in barely boiling water for about 6 minutes, then thoroughly cooled and carefully shelled. This basic tomato soup, topped with the eggs and large croutons made from country-style bread, can be made vegetarian by replacing the chicken stock with vegetable stock or water.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
(1 1/4 cups)
6 scallions, trimmed (leaving some green) and chopped (3/4 cup)
1 carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups homemade chicken stock
(page 612) or low-salt canned
12 ounces cherry tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried sage
1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes
4 slices country-style bread, preferably stale, for croutons
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small garlic clove
4 large eggs
1/4 cup grated Gruyère or Emmenthaler cheese
Heat the olive oil in a large stainless steel saucepan. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the onion, scallions, carrot, and garlic and cook over high heat, stirring constantly, for 4 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour on top of the mixture, stir thoroughly, and cook for 1 minute longer, stirring. Mix in the stock.
Add the cherry tomatoes to the soup, along with the salt, pepper, thyme, and sage. Process the can of plum tomatoes for 5 seconds, and add to the soup. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, then cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 20 minutes.
Using a hand blender, blend the soup for 15 to 20 seconds (or process in a food processor and return to the pan).
MEANWHILE, PREPARE THE GARNISHES: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Brush the bread slices with the olive oil and arrange them in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until nicely browned. Rub one side of the croutons with the garlic clove, and set them aside.
Using a thumbtack or pushpin, make a hole in the rounded end of each egg. Gently lower the eggs into a pan containing enough boiling water to cover them and cook for about 6 minutes in barely boiling water. Drain the hot water from the pan and shake the pan to crack the shells of the eggs on all sides. Fill the pan with ice and water and set the eggs aside to cool completely.
When the eggs are cool, peel them carefully (so as not to damage the yolks, which are still runny) under cool running water. Keep the eggs in cold water until just before serving. (The eggs can be cooked up to a few hours ahead and refrigerated in the cold water.)
At serving time, drain the cold water from the eggs and replace it with hot tap water. Let stand for 5 minutes, so the eggs are lukewarm inside.
Bring the soup to a strong boil, and ladle it into four bowls. Place an egg in the center of each bowl, and wait for a couple of minutes for the eggs to warm in the center. Place a crouton in each bowl and serve, sprinkled with the cheese.
Grilled Veal Chops
with Caper and Sage Sauce
This is a good summer recipe. I sear the chops briefly on a very hot grill and then transfer them to a warm oven, where they continue to cook slowly in their own residual heat. The sauce, a simple mixture of onion, capers, lemon juice, and olive oil, is made separately and the chops are coated with it before they are served.
Be sure you don’t overcook the chops. Although veal is not served rare, as beef is, it should be slightly pink inside and juicy throughout.
Chicken or even a piece of fish also goes well with the caper and sage sauce.
4 veal rib chops trimmed of excess fat (about 10 ounces each), and 1 inch thick
1 teaspoon canola oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup diced (1/4-inch) red onion
2 tablespoons drained capers
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
2 teaspoons julienned lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 tablespoons homemade chicken
stock (page 612) or low-salt canned chicken broth
Heat a grill until it is very hot. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees.
Rub the chops with the oil and sprinkle them with the salt and pepper. Put the chops on the clean grill rack and cook for about 2 1/2 minutes on each side. Transfer them to the oven and let them rest and finish cooking for at least 10 minutes (the chops can be kept in the oven for up to 30 minutes).
MEANWHILE FOR THE SAUCE: Mix all the ingredients in a bowl.
At serving time, place a chop on each of four plates and coat with the sauce.
Iced Grand Marnier Soufflé
Serves 6 to 8
Iced soufflés are not real soufflés that cook and inflate in the oven, but look-alike frozen desserts. A collar of aluminum foil or parchment paper 3 to 4 inches higher than the rim of the soufflé dish is attached to the dish, so the mixture can be molded higher than the sides. When the collar is removed, the soufflé looks as though it has just emerged from the oven. It’s a perfect dessert for a party, and it must be made ahead. After the soufflé is prepared and its collar secured, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil so it doesn’t pick up tastes from the freezer.
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon grated orange rind
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup Grand Marnier or Cointreau
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
6-8 ladyfingers or the same amount of sliced génoise or pound cake
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
Combine the sugar, water, and orange rind in a saucepan, bring to a boil, and boil for 3 to 4 minutes, until it turns into a light syrup.
Meanwhile, put the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer.
While beating at high speed, pour the hot syrup in a steady stream over the yolks and continue beating for 12 to 15 minutes. The mixture should be thick, smooth, and pale yellow. Add 1/4 cup of the Grand Marnier or Cointreau and beat for another 30 seconds on high speed.
Whip the cream in a large bowl to a soft peak. With a rubber spatula, fold the whipped cream into the soufflé mixture. Cover the bottom of a 1-quart soufflé dish with a thick layer of the mixture (about 2 inches thick). Arrange the ladyfingers or cake slices on top. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Grand Marnier. Fill the mold right to the top with the cream mixture; refrigerate the remainder.
Using a doubled long sheet of aluminum foil or parchment paper, make a collar around the mold, extending 2 to 3 inches above the rim, and tie securely with a string. Place the mold in the freezer for 1 hour, or until it is firm.
When the frozen soufflé mixture is firm, add the remainder of the mixture, which should bring the soufflé to at least 2 inches above the rim of the mold. Return to the freezer until frozen.
Transfer the soufflé to the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving.
Just before serving, sprinkle the top with the cocoa. Remove the collar and serve.
Table of ContentsIntroduction xi
Eggs and Cheese 63
Pasta, Rice, Grains, and Potatoes 87
Breads, Sandwiches, and Pizzas 125
Shellfish and Fish 149
Poultry and Game 245
Charcuterie and Offal 371
Vegetables and Side Dishes 401
Fruit Desserts 469
Puddings, Sweet Soufflés, and Crepes 513
Cakes, Cookies, and Candies 539
Tarts, Pies, and Pastries 571
Frozen Desserts 601
Producer's Acknowledgments 627
Serves 6 to 8
There are almost endless possibilities for variation here. Potatoes are my favorite thickening agent for garlic soup, but it can also be thickened with a roux of flour and butter or with bread, the traditional choice in the South of France, where this dish is a specialty. Onions or scallions can be used instead of leeks, although the soup won't have the same subtle taste. If you use the leeks, include most of the green leaves.
¼ cup olive oil
2 cups sliced leeks, including some green
12-15 garlic cloves
7 cups homemade chicken stock or low-salt canned chicken broth
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 cups cubed (½-inch) firm white bread
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a heavy pot. When it is hot, add the leeks and garlic and cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the stock, potatoes, and salt and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat, and boil gently for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet. When it is hot, add the bread cubes and sauté, stirring almost continuously, until they are evenly browned on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
When the soup is cooked, use a hand blender to puree it, or push it through a food mill. Stir the butter into the hot soup and serve with the croutons.
Chicken in Tarragon Sauce
If you buy skinless, boneless chicken breasts, you can make this dish quickly and easily. I enrich the chicken juices with cream at the end of cooking and garnish the dish with fresh tarragon.
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 7 ounces each)
1 medium onion, chopped (¾ cup)
¾ cup homemade chicken stock or low-salt canned chicken broth
½ cup dry white vermouth
2 bay leaves
1 fresh thyme sprig
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon potato starch, dissolved in 2 tablespoons vermouth
¼ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon
Combine the chicken breasts, onion, stock, vermouth, bay leaves, thyme sprig, salt, and pepper in a large stainless steel saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and boil gently for about 10 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.
Transfer the chicken to a dish and set aside in a warm place.
Measure the cooking liquid: there should be about 1 cup. Return it to the saucepan and, if necessary, boil to reduce it to 1 cup. Stir in the dissolved potato starch and bring to a boil. Add the cream and return to a boil. Return the chicken pieces to the pan and heat through.
Transfer to a platter, sprinkle with the tarragon, and serve.
"Good Lady" Apples (Apples Bonne Femme)
For these baked apples, ubiquitous in home cooking as well as in country inns and restaurants, only a few ingredients are needed. Inexpensive and quickly prepared, the dish can be made year round. Use an apple that will keep its shape during cooking, such as Golden or Red Delicious, russet, Granny Smith, or Pippin.
The apples look best when they have just emerged from the oven, puffed from the heat and glossy with rich color. But it's best to serve them barely lukewarm, even though they will shrivel a bit as they cool.
The mixture of apricot jam, maple syrup, and butter makes a flavorful sauce. If you don't have maple syrup, substitute granulated sugar. You could also add lemon juice and cinnamon, mace, nutmeg, or any other spice that you like.
6 large apples (2 pounds)
1/3 cup apricot jam
1/3 cup light maple syrup
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Using a corer or a knife, core the apples. Be sure to plunge the corer or knife straight down so that it doesn't miss the core (if this happens, remove any remaining seeds).
With the point of a knife, make an incision in the skin about a third of the way down each apple and cut through the skin 1/8 to ¼ inch deep all around. As the apple cooks, the flesh expands, and the part of the apple above this cut will lift up like a lid. Without scoring, the apple could burst.
Arrange the apples in a gratin dish or other baking dish that is attractive enough to be brought to the table. Coat the apples with the apricot jam and maple syrup and dot with the butter. Bake for 30 minutes.
Baste the apples with the juice and cook for another 30 minutes. The apples should be cooked throughout plump, brown, and soft to the touch. Let cool to lukewarm before serving.