Jacques Pepin slow but still steady

Jacques Pepin on the set./Photo courtesty of Jacques Pepin

Jacques Pepin is shown on the set. Photo courtesy of Jacques Pepin

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.

Julia Child and Pepin at a the Food and Wine Classic in Aspen. Year unknown. / Photo courtesy of Jacques Pepin.

Julia Child and Pepin at a the Food and Wine Classic in Aspen. Year unknown. / Photo courtesy of Jacques Pepin.

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.

Makes 6 servings

Eggs Jeanette

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.)

Ingredients

  • 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

  • Dressing
  • 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

Instructions

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.

Dressing

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.

Makes 4 servings

AFR Tested

Lamb shanks with white beans

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).

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

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.

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13 Responses to Jacques Pepin slow but still steady

  1. Annie Nielsen September 18, 2014 at 5:48 pm #

    Met him many years ago at a party for his PBS series with Claudine. What a nice and gracious person he was and still is.

    • Profile photo of Michele Kayal
      Michele Kayal September 18, 2014 at 5:58 pm #

      Yes, he is a true gentleman. Thanks for reading, Annie.

  2. Carol Guensburg September 20, 2014 at 7:58 am #

    He truly is an inspiring presence. In his honor, it’s Eggs Jeanette for lunch. Lovely story!

  3. Lucas H. September 29, 2014 at 11:28 am #

    Great article, but come on, spell the name correctly, it’s Pépin, not Pepin.

  4. Rina R. September 29, 2014 at 12:16 pm #

    His Eggs Jeanette recipe is AMAZING. One of my all-time favorites! Great man, great story.

  5. Mike K. September 29, 2014 at 1:04 pm #

    It makes me terribly sad that some of his excellent series are not available on home video. “Jacques Pépin’s Cooking Techniques” is superb, and taught me so much. It was released on VHS, but has never seen a proper DVD release. (There is an incomplete set.)

    Also, his two series with Claudine had some great recipes that I still make today from the books, but I would love to have the video to go with them.

    I always learn something from watching Chef Pépin, and many times, it seems to come from the casual asides that he shares as he is doing something else. Such a master.

  6. jean watts September 29, 2014 at 1:57 pm #

    can’t hardly wait to get hart and soul on cd, still learning to cook from Jaques. Tahnk you for your life time of sharing.

  7. Silvia Carvalho September 29, 2014 at 3:07 pm #

    Jacques Pepin is my favorite chef, by far. Non-pretentious, right to the point, a culinary expert like no other. I tell my friends that I learn more about cooking with Jacques in his 30 minute show, than with others in a whole season. Sad to see him say goodbye to his PBS shows, but thankful for his legacy that will stay with me through my cooking for a lifetime. Thank you, Jacques, for being an inspiration.

    • Anne Ryan September 29, 2014 at 3:36 pm #

      Agree with your statement that you have learned more from him than others in a whole season. I think it is because he is innately generous.

  8. Anne Ryan September 29, 2014 at 3:34 pm #

    I am so happy to see this. We love Jaques Pepin an he is a favorite among favorites. I applaud him for having the wisdom to wind down slowly so that he will be here for a long time for his little grand daughter. I am happy he will still grace our evenings occasionally.

  9. Jeff Bizzarro September 29, 2014 at 4:59 pm #

    I recently had the honor of attending a techniques lecture with Chef Pepin and Claudine. Followed by a 6 course dinner in Anchorage Alaska.As a French Culinary Institute graduate I have admired Jacques since 1990. Jacques is a “real” Chef and a true gentleman. Claudine was very kind, gracious and humorous when she banters back and forth with Papa. I feel truly blessed by the experience and will have lasting memories for a long time. “Oui Chef!” 🙂

  10. Allan Mahnke September 30, 2014 at 2:00 pm #

    Many thanks! If there will not be more full length series, may there be many shorter ones!

  11. laura October 22, 2014 at 9:28 pm #

    He taught me so much!!! And Claudine as well!! A true chef, and kind person!