He doesn’t swallow insects or tell anyone they’ve been “chopped,” and as far as we know, he’s never yelled “Bam!” But Jacques Pepin has been a force on American food television for longer than many viewers have been alive.
Pepin, who turns 80 next year, steps down from his longtime perch on public television with a series that begins taping next month. “Jacques Pepin: Heart and Soul” will offer a look back at his six decades in the kitchen, the chef says, and will bring together friends and family who have helped him on the way.
“We do a little bit of a sentimental journey,” he said in a recent telephone interview from his home in Madison, Conn.
Pepin arrived in the United States from France in 1959 and quickly became part of a cadre of American chefs who changed the way we cook and eat. His 1970s’ breakthrough book “La Technique” and its companion volume “La Methode” remain standards for professional chefs and serious home cooks. His longtime friendship with Julia Child and the many shows they did together remain classic food television in the way “I Love Lucy” is classic TV comedy. One of Pepin’s greatest memories of coming to America is making the acquaintance of the sandwich.
Though he says “Heart and Soul” is meant to be his last 26-episode series with companion cookbook, Pepin does not rule out smaller, more manageable television projects. “I don’t think I won’t do any television at all anymore, but not like this series,” he says. “Maybe a shorter series, or technique, or something I don’t have to write so much material with.”
“Heart and Soul,” to be taped at Pepin’s longtime television home KQED in San Francisco, will air in the fall of 2015 on PBS stations.
Jacques Pepin learned to cook at the bistro owned by his mother, Jeanette. He often talks about her efforts to feed her family during World War II in France, when she would ride her bike through the countryside gathering eggs, butter and milk. This dish is easy, economical and makes a wonderful first course or light supper with a salad and fresh baked bread. This recipe is adapted from The Essential Pepin, by Jacques Pepin (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2011.)
- 6 large, hard-cooked eggs, peeled
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped (1 tablespoon)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 ½ tablespoons peanut oil
- 2 tablespoons reserved egg yolk mixture (from above)
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon water
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup olive oil
Cut the eggs in half as you would for deviled eggs. Remove the yolks and push them through a fine strainer or mash them with a fork. Mix the egg yolks with the milk, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper. The mixture should be moist and hold together. Stuff the whites with the yolk mixture, reserving approximately 2 tablespoons for the dressing (the egg yolk mixture adds texture to the dressing.)
Heat the oil in a large skillet, preferably non-stick. When the oil is hot, add the egg halves, stuffed side down, and fry over medium heat for 2 minutes until browned.
Remove the eggs from the skillet and arrange on a platter.
Put all the ingredients except the oil in a food processor. With the motor running, slowly add the oil.
Pour the dressing on top of and around the eggs and serve.
I love this recipe because a) it is delicious and b) it captures Pepin's seamless integration of French and American concepts. Classically French with lamb and white beans, he finishes it off with -- get this -- Tabasco. Pepin told me that he was first introduced to this quintessential American ingredient by legendary New York Times food writer Craig Claiborne, who used it in a Bloody Mary. This recipe is adapted from "The Essential Pepin" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011).
- 8 ounces (1 ½ cups) dried small white beans or Great Northern beans, picked over and rinsed
- 5 cups water
- 4 bone-in lamb shanks (about 14 ounces each)
- 1 carrot (4 ounces) peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces (3/4 cup)
- 1 large onion, cut into 1-inch pieces (1 ½ cups)
- 5 to 6 garlic cloves, crushed and coarsely chopped (1 ½ tablespoons)
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- Tabasco sauce
Put the beans in a bowl and soak in the water while you brown the lamb shanks.
Remove most of the visible fat from the shanks. Put them in one layer in a large heavy pot, preferably cast iron, and brown them, uncovered, over medium-high heat for about 30 minutes, turning occasionally until browned on all sides. Transfer to a plate and discard any fat rendered by the meat, leaving only a glaze in the pot.
Add the beans and water to the pot, along with the meat and all the remaining ingredients except the Tabasco. Bring to a boil, skim off the foam, then reduce the heat to low, cover and boil gently for 2 hours. The meat should be moist and tender and there should be just enough liquid remaining in the pot for a moist, thick stew. If there is substantially more liquid than this, boil the stew, uncovered for a few minutes to reduce it. Conversely, if there is too little liquid remaining, add a few tablespoons of water.
Serve 1 lamb shank per person with a few generous spoonfuls of stew. Pass the Tabasco sauce.