'essential Pepin'

By DiAnne Crown

October 7, 2011 6 min read

"In my sixty years as a cook -- as a professional chef, a husband, a father, a grandfather, an author of many cookbooks, and a cooking teacher -- I have created thousands of recipes, each memorable and worthy in its own way. Now, for the first time, I have taken stock, reflected back over my life in the kitchen, and assembled the best in one place: the recipes I love the most."

And with that, a wonderful new book of Jacques Pepin's recipes, techniques and original illustrations opens to serve the beginning cook and experienced chef alike. "Essential Pepin: More Than 700 All-Time Favorites from My Life in Food" is a cookbook full of classics and reconstructed recipes, homey country French, haute cuisine, fast food and fresh contemporary American dishes from the chef known as the champion of simplicity.

The collection includes soups, salads, eggs and cheese, breads, sandwiches, pizzas, pasta, rice, grains, potatoes, shellfish, poultry, beef, charcuterie, vegetables and side dishes, fruit desserts, puddings, sweet souffl?s and crepes, cakes, cookies, tarts, pies, pastries, frozen desserts and a chapter called "Basics."

The cookbook also comes with a three-hour DVD that demonstrates Pepin's techniques, which he acquired during his "arduous years as an apprentice." They are "meant to stimulate you and get you involved in the basics, and they will help you not only with this book but with any cookbook you have in your home," Pepin says.

He emphasizes seasonal foods. The fall and winter holidays are no exception. A delicious evening dinner for family and friends at home might include garlic soup, turkey cutlets and a pear brown betty or even a beautiful yule log. Below are three recipes that would work well for a weekend brunch.

According to Pepin, "most important is the planning of the food so you know that you can do it. Break the recipes down to determine the number of individual servings you will need for the number of guests attending; what you can prepare comfortably for a small party might not work for a large one. Do what you know how to do; don't experiment. Consider the availability of the food you will need, and select food based on the season."

He concludes his introduction with this encouragement for his readers: "One thing that will never change: the greatest meals are the ones shared and enjoyed with loved ones."

CRUSTY SALMON ON THE SKIN

Servings: 4

1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil

2 slices bread, cut into 1/2-inch croutons (1 cup)

4 skin-on salmon fillets, 6 to 7 ounces each

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup diced (1/2-inch) tomato

8 caper berries

2 teaspoons minced fresh chives

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet until it is hot but not smoking. Add the croutons, and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally until nicely browned on all sides. Transfer to a bowl, and set aside.

Sprinkle the salmon on both sides with the salt and pepper, and place skin side down in the hot skillet. (No additional fat is required.) Cook, uncovered, for 3 minutes over medium-high heat, and then cover and cook for another 2 minutes. (Covering will create enough steam to cook the fish on top.) Place the steaks skin side up on a warm platter, and sprinkle them with the croutons, tomato pieces, caper berries and chives.

With a paper towel, wipe away any fat that accumulated in the skillet. Add the butter to the pan, and cook over medium heat until it is lightly browned. Add the vinegar, and shake the pan to mix it in. Then pour the mixture over the fish. Serve.

CORN CHOWDER

Servings: 6

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup grated onion

1/2 cup sliced scallions, including some green

4 cups milk

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 cups corn kernels (from about 5 ears)

Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the onion and scallions, and saute over medium heat for about 2 minutes, until soft and sizzling. Add the milk, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Add the corn, and stir. As soon as the soup boils again, remove it from the heat. Serve.

(Pepin includes a recipe for baguette toasts, which can be served either in the soup or on the side.)

"GOOD LADY" APPLES (APPLES BONNE FEMME)

Servings: 6

6 large apples (2 pounds)

1/3 cup apricot jam

1/3 cup light maple syrup

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces

Heat the oven to 375 F.

With a corer or knife, core apples, being sure to remove all core and seeds. With the point of the knife, make an incision in the skin about a third of the way down each apple, and cut through the skin 1/8 to 1/4 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 this scoring, the apple could burst.

Arrange the apples in a gratin dish or another baking dish 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.

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