Jacques Pépin’s story is a tale even his legions of devoted fans may not be familiar with. Today he is known as a kitchen supernova, but in telling his own story in this documentary profile, titled “Jacques Pépin: The Art of Craft,” he acknowledges that the very notion of being a “celebrity chef” was not only unplanned — it was virtually unthinkable in the profession and world in which he grew up.
Here are 10 recipes to whip up while learning more about the artful chef and his journey into pop culture.
“I had a dish similar to this in a small restaurant in Mexico, and at Gloria’s request, I created my own version at home. I use medium-size raw shrimp and puree the tails in a food processor, then combine the puree with pieces of the shrimp to form thick burgers.” – Jacques Pépin
“I like to grill thick fillets of snapper cut from the back, as opposed to the belly. Adjust the grilling time if your fillets are thinner or thicker, or if you like your fish well-cooked instead of medium-rare, as we prefer it. The topping is made with an array of pitted olives that I get at my supermarket — kalamata, green, oil-cured black, spicy green — the more the better.” –Jacques Pépin
“Chicken in a cream sauce is a specialty of the town where I was born, Bourg-en-Bresse. My mother’s simple recipe included a whole cut-up chicken with water, a dash of flour, and a bit of cream to finish. I have added white wine and mushrooms to make the dish a bit more sophisticated, and used chicken thighs, which are the best part of the chicken (1 1/2 thighs per person should be a generous serving for a main course). A sprinkling of chopped tarragon at the end makes it more special, but it is optional. I am not sure my mother would approve of my changes, but this is easy, fast, and good. Most of the time, my mother served hers with rice pilaf.” – Jacques Pépin
“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
“I like apple tarts, apple galettes, or apple pies in any form. I recently found a new way of making the crust for apple galette using pizza dough that I buy at my market.” – Jacques Pépin
From “Essential Pépin“
Fluffy and delicate, this light cake contains fewer egg yolks and less butter than is customary. Serve at room temperature, with or without the sauce.
Delicate to handle, elegant and refined in taste, these crab cakes have just enough bread in them to hold together, with some mayonnaise added for moisture and flavor. Although nothing can replace real crabmeat, you can substitute surimi, the imitation crab meat made of crab shells and fish such as pollack and cod. Surimi is widely available in markets.
The parmesan cheese and bread crumb crust and topping of this soufflé will be browner and crunchier when prepared in a gratin dish, making it easier to serve at the table. It can also be made in a conventional soufflé dish. Leftover soufflé will reinflate when reheated in a 350-degree oven.
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A navarin is a classic lamb stew, and there are many variations. For a tasty peasant-like dish, I make mine the way my mother used to, with an unboned lamb breast. You can make the navarin ahead of time, up to the point of adding the peas, which should be stirred in at the last moment when the dish is reheated so they don’t lose their bright color.
Easy and delicious, this duck is cooked in much the same way as Southern fried chicken — fried in its own fat in a covered pot so steam develops, making the meat very moist and tender and the skin crisp. Be sure to use a very large skillet or a saucepan with a lid. Some of the rendered duck fat, a bonus from this recipe, is used in the salad dressing, and the rest is delicious for sautéing potatoes or flavoring soup.
Top Image: Jacques Pépin from American Masters' “Jacques Pépin: The Art of Craft."