Jacques Pépin
Jacques Pépin

Jacques Pépin

F&W Star Chef » See All F&W Chef Superstars Cooking legend Jacques Pépin offers a fun and thrifty homemade holiday gift to give, his favorite places to visit on a holiday trip to Connecticut and a surprising strategy for cooking for a crowd. What are your favorite holiday food gifts? I like to give candied citrus peel: orange, lemon, lime, sometimes grapefruit, which we put in little jars to give to friends. Sometimes we dip the peels halfway in chocolate, sometimes we don’t. You dip them after the peels have been candied, pressed in dry sugar and completely air-dried. You can use white chocolate for lime peel, dark chocolate for orange. We’ve done that for many years. What’s your favorite holiday cocktail? Champagne, without question. But we do a few drinks here and there. I do one inspired by Julia Child’s husband, Paul Child, who did something similar with gin. I call mine a Reverse Manhattan, with bourbon and vermouth in the opposite ratios as in a real Manhattan: several ounces of sweet vermouth, a lot of ice and a wedge of lime, with only 1 or 2 tablespoons of bourbon. I like a regular Manhattan, too, but this one’s easier to drink. For many years I’ve used an American vermouth from California called Gambarelli & Davitto. It’s got a slight bitterness and a nice sweetness, and I’ve used it for so long now, I guess I’m used to it, but you can use any French or Italian sweet vermouth. Can you give one great entertaining tip? Plan your menu, and you can do a lot ahead, if you plan correctly. I read somewhere that it’s impossible to cook well for more than 10 people. And it’s true in many ways. On the other hand, if you ask me if I can do something for 1,500 people, I’ll say yes, but what am I going to do? I’m going to buy 10 prosciutto legs and smoked salmon and the best possible cheeses and nuts I can find for a big buffet. Am I going to cook anything? No. If it’s for 300 people, maybe I’ll cook something. By the time it gets to 30 or 40 people, I may do three-fourths of the meal, and so forth. It’s a question of what you can do and what you cannot. I’ll do a class on raspberry soufflé, and a student will come back and say how she hosted a party for eight people and the soufflé was fantastic. But then she throws a party for 25 people, and the soufflé is a disaster! Then you need four soufflés, to juggle the oven, the timing. What are 4 don’t-miss places on a holiday trip to Connecticut? There’s a lovely, typical French bistro here in Madison called Bar Bouchée. It’s very cute, and they have the classic fare from pike quenelles to snail to steak tartare. You know exactly what to expect, the food is good, and they have a great wine list. The same people own Union League Café in New Haven, it’s much larger and fancier, but it’s a beautiful place with great food. That’s where we usually do New Year’s Eve. The town of Chester, Connecticut, is very picturesque, and there are a lot of decorations, people put up lights and flowers, so that’s a good place to visit in the wintertime. The Bee and Thistle in Lyme, Connecticut, looks like an old British inn, full of antiques, and the food is quite good. What is a typical menu for a holiday feast at the Pépin house? For the holidays, we always do poultry of one kind or another, like capon, or goose if I can find a good goose, then braised chestnuts, and as long as we can find them, we have oysters or some kind of pâté or terrine, which sometimes I make, sometimes I buy. For dessert we have a bûche de Noël, the classic Christmas log. What’s your signature dish? Maybe hard-cooked eggs. When I was a kid, my mother made a dish that I call Eggs Jeanette: a hard-cooked egg cut in half, the yolk taken out and mashed with a lot of garlic and parsley with salt, pepper and a tablespoon or so of milk. Then the eggs are restuffed and sautéed, stuffed side down, in a skillet with olive oil. They brown very fast. Then you have a little bit of the stuffing leftover, which we make into a mustard sauce to serve with it. I’ve never seen that dish anywhere, so it’s kind of a signature dish, if you want. Do you have a favorite cookbook of all time? If I need to look at certain things in French, I probably would look at Larousse Gastronomique; for American cooking, Joy of Cooking. But in general it’s hard for me to cook out of a cookbook. I have to write recipes because that’s what I do for a living, but the pleasure for me is to cook without one, to go to the market and cook what I find there. What’s one technique everyone should know? I suppose it should be how to sharpen your knife properly. But technique in general is very important for me. Two of my books, La Technique and La Méthode, are being reprinted this winter with new color photographs, in Jacques Pépin’s New Complete Techniques I first published them 40 years ago. I don’t cook the way I did 40 years ago, but the techniques—how to bone a chicken, how to cook an omelet—haven’t changed. With knife sharpening as with anything, it’s a question of repeat, repeat, repeat, so that they become part of yourself, so you don’t have to worry about it anymore.
Crème Pâtissière
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Crème pâtissière is rich pastry cream used as a base or filling for countless French desserts. This version goes along with Jacques Pépin's Grand Marnier Soufflé, which was originally published in Food & Wine in 1978.
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Grand Marnier Soufflé
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In 2018, Food & Wine named this recipe one of our 40 best: In the inaugural issue of Food & Wine, legendary chef Jacques Pépin shared his recipe for the perfect soufflé. The accompanying text asked, "why their awesome mystique? Popular mythology has banished them to the thin-aired Olympus of personal valets and private jets. Why does the idea of making one turn fearless kitchen lions into cowering lambs?" Pépin, who had recently published his tome of French cooking, La Technique, and would go on to become one of Food & Wine's greatest contributing editors, was the perfect candidate to teach readers about "towering, golden-roofed, steamily fragrant" soufflés, giving detailed directions on everything from preparing the mold and the collar to beating the eggs properly. This ethereal recipe is as good today as it was in 1978, showing that some dishes are simply timeless. The recipe for the Crème Pâtissière can be found here.
Camembert in Pistachio Crust
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"I have always enjoyed a good Camembert, especially the raw milk varieties from France. To make this version a bit more elegant, I moisten the cheese with honey, cover it with chopped pistachios and serve it garnished with dried cranberries."—Jacques Pépin.
Instant Orange Cake
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"I made this dessert when friends came by for drinks and didn’t leave. I found a pound cake in the freezer and a couple of oranges and some leftover mascarpone in the refrigerator, although crème fraîche or sour cream would also work. These impromptu dishes often work out best."—Jacques Pépin
This super-fast weeknight dish from French Master Jacques Pépin is a riff on a classic preparation of frog legs. Pépin dusts the chicken with Wondra, a super-fine flour, before cooking to give the chicken a crispy crust. Slideshow:  More Fast Weeknight Dinners 
Fines Herbes Omelet
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Cooking legend Jacques Pépin whisks his eggs with a fork as they cook to lighten them and form small curds for a soft, creamy omelet. Slideshow: More Omelet Recipes 
Leeks with Tomato Vinaigrette
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In this delicious take on leeks vinaigrette from Jacques Pépin, fresh tomato and a little Worcestershire sauce punch up the classic dressing. Slideshow: More Leek Recipes 
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Legendary chef Jacques Pépin sears pork shoulder to make a terrific crust, then braises it slowly with stock, wine, chestnuts and sweet potatoes until it’s meltingly tender. Slideshow:  More Pork Recipes 
Summer Fruit Soup
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Jacques Pépin cleverly uses strawberry jam and black currant liqueur to sweeten this dessert. He stirs them into white wine, then adds plums, cherries, grapes and berries and quickly poaches them. Basil adds a light, savory note. Plus: More Beautiful Dessert Recipes 
Leeks with Tomato Vinaigrette
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In this delicious take on leeks vinaigrette from Jacques Pépin, fresh tomato and a little Worcestershire sauce punch up the classic dressing. Slideshow: More Leek Recipes 
Legendary chef Jacques Pépin sears pork shoulder to make a terrific crust, then braises it slowly with stock, wine, chestnuts and sweet potatoes until it’s meltingly tender. Slideshow:  More Pork Recipes 
Summer Fruit Soup
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Jacques Pépin cleverly uses strawberry jam and black currant liqueur to sweeten this dessert. He stirs them into white wine, then adds plums, cherries, grapes and berries and quickly poaches them. Basil adds a light, savory note. Plus: More Beautiful Dessert Recipes 
A recipe from Jacques Pépin, from the 2007 Classic in Aspen. Jacques Pépin: MerguezNearly 50 years ago, when I left France, I was already familiar with merguez, the traditional lamb sausage of North Africa. That part of the world, called the Maghreb, encompasses Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, all of which were part of the French colonial empire for many years. After these countries gained their independence in the 1960s, many of the Arabs settled in France, where they have lived for several generations. Along with other North African dishes, merguez is very popular in France. That little lamb sausage is a classic at any backyard barbecue or picnic there, as popular as the hot dog is in the U.S.Merguez are sometimes made only of lamb and often are a mixture of beef and lamb. I make my merguez with lamb and pork, which many Arabs would object to on religious grounds, but I feel that this combination works best. I make my merguez without casings, forming the meat mixture into small patties.
Maman's Cheese Soufflé
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When Jacques Pépin's mother got married, she was 17 and his father was 22. She did not know how to cook, except for a few simple dishes that she had learned from her mother. Yet, she liked to cook and was willing and fearless.Pépin's father liked cheese soufflé, so his mother graciously obliged. She had never made a soufflé before, but a friend told her that it consisted of a white sauce (béchamel), grated cheese and eggs...a cinch! Everyone knew how to make a béchamel, that staple of the French home cook. To this sauce she added her grated Swiss cheese and then cracked and added one egg after another to the mixture, stirred it well, poured it into a gratin dish and baked it in the oven. Voila! No one had told her that the eggs should be separated, with the yolks added to the base sauce and the whites whipped to a firm consistency and then gently folded into the mixture. As Poe said, "ignorance is bliss," and in this case it worked: the soufflé rose to a golden height and became a family favorite.This is a great recipe; it can be assembled hours, even a day ahead. Although it is slightly less airy than a standard soufflé, it is delicious. It works on the same principle as cream-puff dough. Great Comfort Food Recipes
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White-Bean-and-Ham Stew
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This hearty stew called garbure, from southwestern France, is loaded with vegetables, beans and meat, the exact ingredients depending on availability. Jacques Pépin's version includes ham hocks and cabbage and is topped with toasted bread smothered in melted Gruyère cheese. Traditionally, anyone eating the stew would add some red wine to the last few spoonfuls of broth and sip it straight from the bowl.Recipes from Essential Pépin by Jacques Pépin. Copyright © 2011 by Jacques Pépin. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. More Hearty Stews
This easy summer watermelon salad is perfect to make for eating under the warm sun. Watermelon and mint add plenty of refreshing flavor, while briny olives and feta offer the perfect counterpoint. Although Jacques Pépin cuts a small, seedless watermelon into rounds with a melon baller (adding the trimmings to the salad, too, so as not to waste them), you can also chop the watermelon into cubes. Related: More Watermelon Salad Recipes
Vegetables à la Grecque
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In France, vegetables prepared à la Grecque ("in the Greek style") are cooked with vinegar or lemon, olive oil and coriander and other seasonings, then allowed to marinate in the refrigerator and served cool. The vegetables can be served as a first course, maybe with a slice of pâté, or as a piquant accompaniment to cold roasted meats or poultry. More Vegetable Dishes
Tomato Soup with Basil Oil
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There's no better moment to make tomato soup than when tomatoes are perfectly ripe and plentiful. Even in the summer, Jacques Pépin likes this creamless soup best when it's served hot, with a drizzle of Basil Oil on top. It's also excellent served chilled and lean, without the butter enrichment. To transform the soup into a fresh tomato sauce, reduce the water that's added in the beginning to 1/2 cup. Cold Soup Recipes
Tartare is the name given to a dish of ground raw beef served with seasonings and herbs. Jacques Pépin's tomato tartare has the look of the original and is delightfully refreshing for a first course. For the sauce, he emulsifies the tomato water (the clear liquid is squeezed from the tomato halves) with olive oil and garnish the dish with herbs. If you don't have enough tomato water for the sauce, add some tomato juice, Bloody Mary mix or V-8 juice.Plus: More Appetizer Recipes and Tips
Toasted Bread and Onion Soup
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This soup is an ideal vehicle for leftover sourdough bread, which is cut up into cubes, then browned in the oven to enhance its taste. Grated cheese, one of Jacques Pépin's mother's favorite additions to the soup, provides even more flavor. Warming Soup Recipes
Three Tortilla Pizzas
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A recipe from Jacques Pépin, from the 2007 Classic in Aspen. Jacques Pépin: Margarita Pizza
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Catherine Alexandrou and Michel Bourdeaux's galettes resemble crisp-fried polenta, but they have a creamier texture and a lovely sweet potato flavor. Delicious, Quick Side Dishes
Here's an excellent example of convenience cooking that produces superb results. Slow-baked tuna steaks are served with a relish of tomatoes, sweet onion and hot salsa. This slow-baking technique works with other fish steaks too, such as halibut.Plus: More Seafood Recipes and Tips
Rock Shandy
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A holdover from colonial times, this refreshing drink is the sparkling cooler of choice at many African safari camps.Plus: Ultimate Cocktail Guide
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.Recipes from Essential Pépin by Jacques Pépin. Copyright © 2011 by Jacques Pépin. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. More Recipes from Jacques Pépin
Plum Galette
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This tart is a favorite dessert at Jacques Pépin's house. You can make it with any seasonal fruit, such as rhubarb, peaches, cherries, apricots or apples. The dough is buttery, flaky and very forgiving. And it comes together in 10 seconds in a food processor. 
Pili Pili Ha Ha
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This fiery homemade condiment is simple to make but it does require patience—it needs to stand for over 6 months before it's ready to use. The hot sauce is a staple at the dinner table of Ralph Bausfield, an owner of a camp in Botswana. His family sprinkles it on everything from soups and salads to main dishes. Pili pili is a generic term for hot sauce. The ha ha refers to the sauce's hot kick which sneaks up on you. Delicious, Quick Side Dishes