Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Everyday Cooking

Everyday Cooking with Jacques Pépin
by Jacques Pépin
Harper & Row, 1982

I remember looking at cookbooks before this one--a 70's Betty Crocker, several for children, maybe Julia Child & Company. And I had used cookbooks and recipes, but this was perhaps the first cookbook I really read. 

Note the authentic cooking stains!
Everyday Cooking comes in under 200 pages, but it is packed with information. It was also, for me, a glimpse into another world--one of sophisticated pâtés and soufflés but also of French farmhouses and comforting stews. An attainable world to anyone who could follow a recipe.

That is one of the great things about cookbooks--they can take you places. While France is not exactly an exotic destination, to the teenaged me it seemed far away. Pépin's care with food was (is?) in direct contrast to the speed and convenience mentality of this country.

Much of the book focuses on thrift and practicalities. Sprinkled throughout are injunctions to save meat and veg trimmings for other dishes. And this book may be the source of my love of using leftovers. Several times he shows a dish and then reincarnates the leftovers in a new way. I've always taken great satisfaction in doing the same thing.

None of the ingredients are particularly hard to obtain, and the flavor profile is simple French--lots of herbs, wine, garlic. But the techniques are surprisingly demanding when compared to the short-cut cooking of today. He has no problem suggesting you bone out a whole chicken, create aspic, or stuff a lamb breast. But his very matter-of-factness is what makes it all seem completely do-able. There is no hand-wringing or apologizing for the work--just clear instruction and the assumption that these things are worth doing.

I've made many things from this book over the years and perusing it for this post made me note a few more things to try. May I suggest the following:

Vegetable Soup with Corn Dumplings
I don't think I've ever actually made this soup, but from it I got the idea to stir in some pesto or pistou into vegetable soups. This is a good trick if your soup is flat and needs a little something.

Eggs Jeanette
A hot dish made of deviled eggs. Sounds weird and rich right? It is, but also kind of wonderful as evidenced by Lynne Rossetto Kasper's Pan-Crisped Deviled Eggs on French Lettuces. Kasper's recipe, a glass of white wine, and screened-in porch are a fine way to mark a summer evening.

Chicken Liver Pâté
My mother and I have made this for years. It is completely reliable, easy and delicious. And it freezes! We never bother with the aspic.

Chicken in Mustard Sauce
I can't count how many times I made this in college. It's ugly but good, and it has basically three ingredients: chicken, mustard and onions.

My grandmother loved Jacques Pépin and bought me copies of nearly all of his books as they came out, so expect to see him again on these pages. She was not alone in her admiration. Shanna Compton has a great poem "To Jaques Pépin." I saw it in Gastronomica, but it is also anthologized in Best American Poetry 2005.

It doesn’t seem right to duplicate it here without permission, but the theKitchn posted it for poetry month one April. It doesn't duplicate the line breaks, however, so I urge you to seek out the original.

1 comment:

  1. I am expecting Eggs Jeanette this upcoming summer. American lettuces will be fine.