UnFoodie’s Secret Crush on Jacques Pepin

By Karen

Before Anthony Bourdain’s new cookbook, Appetites, comes out on October 25, I must confess une affaire du tube with Jacques Pépin. Ironically, Bourdain introduced us with a No Reservations segment where Jacques demonstrated proper egg-cracking technique. At the time, I thought he was cracked.

Then everything changed.

PBS has been rerunning three Pépin series: Essential Pepin, More Fast Food My Way, and Heart & Soul. After just a few episodes, I became obsessed and bought the DVDs and companion cookbooks for the latter two series, and all summer I’ve been studying Jacques like a culinary school groupie.

(Essential Pépin is good, but uses more mis en place and time-skipping, which minimize all that’s really involved. In the other two series, Jacques’ cooking is more down-to-earth. Heart & Soul is my favorite. Alas, it’s said to be his last for PBS.)

On weekends, my mother becomes my sous chef. I send her the recipe so she can shop, then I go over and we watch Jacques make it on DVD before we try it.

So far, every dish has turned out well and my parents enjoyed them.

Every time I see Jacques chop an onion, “poetry in motion” pops into my head. I even bought a good chef’s knife and keep it sharp, but I’ll never come close to his dexterity.

Also thanks to Jacques, I now use herbs de Provence.

Unfortunately, no photos, but here are a few dishes I’ve done. Many recipes are available online.

Poulet à la Crème (chicken thighs elevated)

Gloria’s Linguine with Clam Sauce (loved it!)

Corn Soufflé (practicing for a Thanksgiving side)

Asparagus Fans with Mustard Sauce (finally, green sticks get some personality)

Soda Bread (so quick and easy, I’ve made it perfectly twice)

Not only does Jacques explain what he’s doing, but tells how he economizes, appreciates ordinary ingredients (white button mushrooms, for example), and even uses canned goods without getting snarky about it.

Years ago I learned Chinese cooking from Wok with Yan with Stephen Yan (no, not Martin). I also liked Emeril, but can’t say I soaked up any technique or made his dishes.

And then there’s Bourdain. He was never a celebrity chef, though they keep calling him one. He wasn’t famous at Les Halles, and he quit that job when Kitchen Confidential took off. I’ve seen him cook only a handful of times.

That said, he remains my biggest culinary influence. Just watching what he eats and says about food has opened new worlds. I know what mis en place means. I cook more creatively. I ate squid with ink in Lisbon. And now I appreciate top-tier chefs like Eric Ripert and Jacques Pépin and learn technique from them.

I’ve pre-ordered Bourdain’s book Appetites with expectations it’s more user-friendly than his Les Halles Cookbook and will join my two Pépin cookbooks as favorites.

So, thank you, Tony, for putting Jacques Pépin on my radar. And thank you, Jacques, for enriching home cooks by sharing your amazing knowledge with such charm and generosity.

Pepin

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5 Responses to UnFoodie’s Secret Crush on Jacques Pepin

  1. Bacardi1 says:

    I completely agree with you!! While I only have one of the dvd’s (I think it came with the “Essentials” cookbook), I do have Pepin’s other cookbooks & enjoy watching “most” of his PBS shows. (I have to admit that, for some reason, I find his daughter a bit grating when she’s on the show cooking with him. Maybe I just want him all to myself? Lol!) Pepin’s recipes, for the most part, are very user-friendly, especially when one compares him to my other cooking idol, the late great Julia Child. While she did break things down & sometimes even simplify in her later cookbooks, she never came close to the friendly “every day” demeanor in most of Pepin’s cooking.

    I also agree with you re: Anthony Bourdain’s cooking. While a diehard Bourdain fan & also a cookbook collector, the “Les Halles” cookbook has to be one of the least favorite of my collection. I just can’t warm up to the recipes. I’m not sure Tony’s food expertise really coincides with the usual cookbook recipe format.

  2. Randi says:

    I haven’t read that many cookbooks, but I need some inspiration, since I tend to make the same dishes over and over. So I will definitely try some of these recipes… think I’ll start with the Corn Souffle, but the Poulet a la Creme sounds really yummy, too, and is not too difficult. 🙂

    Has Anthony Bourdain opened his Restaurant in New York, yet? I wonder how that’s going.

    Your comment about proper egg-cracking technique reminds me of a thread we had on “Pet Talk” years ago… who would have thunk that a question about boiling eggs could generate so much response and so much laughter at the same time. 😀 Here it is – not sure if you can view it:
    http://PetoftheDay.com/talk/showthread.php?97778-How-do-you-boil-eggs&highlight=how+boil+egg

  3. Bacardi1 says:

    Randi – if you mean Bourdain’s huge international “Food Market” (containing food products & vendors from all over the world), the last I heard via a snippet in the news a few months ago was that it had hit a few snags re: the importation of the authentic food vendors Bourdain wanted to bring in, & that in actuality Bourdain & co. hadn’t even yet permanently secured the Pier 57 location by signing an actual lease. If it does come to fruition, it most likely won’t be for some time yet, & may end up in a different spot.

  4. catsworking says:

    Bacardi, a line I deleted for brevity was how Jacques seems at his best when he’s cooking with his friend Jean-Claude, his daughter Claudine, or his granddaughter Shorey. I know what you mean about Claudine. She’s the most “in his face,” but I like her. Shorey was best when she was little, because she got more reserved as she grew, but you can see how much he adores her, and how much she favors her mother Claudine.

    Randi, Bourdain isn’t just opening a restaurant, it’s a huge international food market. Last I read, the location may change, and the opening date has been pushed off, possibly to 2018 or 2019. I can’t remember which. He wants to do it right, but I guess bringing in his international cast of characters to man the stalls doesn’t happen overnight.

    I’ve made the corn souffle twice, and it came out great both times. It doesn’t have to puff. If you watch a lot of his shows, you’ll see that he makes it several times with slight variations. I follow along in the cookbook and add notes. The wording in the books is almost identical to what he says on the show, but sometimes he throws in extra tips on TV.

    Every time he cracks an egg, he says to do it on a flat surface to keep bacteria from entering the shell. And every time he uses mushrooms, he says to wash lightly just before using them. Watch him enough, and this stuff becomes second nature. 🙂

  5. Randi says:

    Of course, I did mean the food market. What was I thinking! Well, I had the news of a Danish chef, Claus Meyer (who opened a restaurant in New York, recently) in my head.
    I’m sure there are quite a few things to organise, so it will probably take some time before he gets it all together, but I’m sure it will be a great market! When he does open, It will surely be in the news. 😀
    I’m glad to hear your souffle came out well – can’t wait to try it!

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