The French call pound cake quatre-quarts ("four-fourths") because it is made with equal parts flour, sugar, eggs and butter. Jacques Pépin's mother, aunt and cousin all have their versions. He likes to fold in candied citrus peels to make a French fruit cake; he also loves plain slices dipped in espresso.
Because a single duck rarely has enough meat to feed more than two or three people, Jacques Pépin prepares two ducks side by side when serving this classic dish to guests. And because he's roasting whole ducks, he cooks them until they're well done, which results in the crispiest skin and best flavor.
Brandade de Morue au Gratin (Whipped Salt Cod Gratin)
TThe Provençal dish known as brandade de morue is a great example of how to elevate modest ingredients like salt cod and potatoes—in this case, by whipping them with milk, olive oil and garlic until luxuriously silky. Jacques Pépin's extra step of serving the dish au gratin (browned, with cheese on top) makes it that much more delicious.
You can serve the boulettes ("small balls") on their own with a salad, or brush them with barbecue sauce and serve with mashed potatoes. Here, they're topped with a quick-cooking tomato sauce dotted with tangy green olives.
While restaurants traditionally make the buttery, orange-flavored sauce for this famous dessert tableside from start to finish, Pépin finds it easier to prepare largely in advance when entertaining. He flambés the liquor in front of his dinner guests and pours it over the platter of crêpes while still flaming.
Jacques Pépin loves to serve this delicate apple tart as a buffet dessert, since it's beautiful, easy to slice and simple to eat, pizza-style, while standing. The miraculously easy and versatile pastry dough comes together in a food processor in less than 20 seconds and can be filled with all sorts of fruits or vegetables. Because the tart is free-form, the pastry can be rolled into either a round or a rectangle.
Capons are very large, neutered roosters that often have an intense chicken flavor. In this recipe, Jacques Pépin roasts the bird simply, then makes a mushroom-Armagnac sauce enriched with cream, vermouth and the pan juices from the capon.
Families in Alsace generally eat choucroute garnie during the wintertime, because it's such a hearty, filling dish.; Jacques Pépin has adapted the recipe to make it quicker and easier—calling for store-bought sauerkraut instead of the homemade kind, for instance, and suggesting peanut oil as a substitute for duck or goose fat, which may be less accessible. He always serves two or three types of mustard with the choucroute—a hot Dijon, a grainy Pommery and often a tarragon-flavored mustard as well.
Fromage fort is the ultimate way of using leftover cheese. Jacques Pépin's father used to combine pieces of Camembert, Brie, Swiss, blue cheese and goat cheese together with his mother's leek broth, some white wine and crushed garlic. These ingredients marinated in a cold cellar for a week to a week-and-a-half (he liked it really strong). Now Pépin's wife, Gloria, makes a milder version in a food processor that takes only seconds. It is delicious with crackers or melted onto toasts. It also freezes well.
Orange is the classic choice with chocolate, but candied grapefruit peel has a little bitterness that is also enjoyable. Jacques Pépin prefers using a deep, strong, dark chocolate with about 70 percent cocoa—the richer the better.
This is the quintessential beef stew. Jacques Pépin’s mother served it at her restaurant, Le Pélican, where she made it with tougher cuts of meat. Jacques likes the flatiron—a long, narrow cut that’s extremely lean but becomes tender and stays moist. He doesn’t use stock, demiglace or even water in his stew, relying on robust red wine for the deep-flavored sauce.
This classic Belgian beef stew is known for its sweet-sour combination of caramelized onions and beer. Any dark Belgian-style ale would be a good choice here. As with most stews, the dish will taste even better a day or two after it's made.
According to Jacques Pépin, "Pâtes de fruits, or fruit jellies, are very popular around the holidays—and usually expensive." In France, pâtes de fruits are sold in high-end pâtisseries or pastry shops. The French roll them in sanding sugar, which has large crystals that cling to the candy without melting. Table sugar also works, as long as the jellies are rolled in it just before serving.
This dish was inspired by the delicious local grouper Jacques Pépin picks up at the beach when the fishermen return with their catch. Here, the skinned fillets are steamed over a bed of simmering local vegetables, including a dice of juicy jicama, which Jacques usually adds raw to salads for a cool crunch.
Grapefruit Granité with Mangoes and White Rum Mojito
Unlike traditional granita, which is stirred frequently as it freezes so that light ice flakes form, Jacques Pépin freezes his granité in a block until it is completely firm, then softens it in the fridge until it's slightly slushy before scooping it into bowls. The sauce for his light, tropical dessert is a riff on the mojito, the minty cocktail.