439 pages; Color photography
Albert A. Knoff, New York 2001
Reviewed by Christina Grace for Good Cooking
Jacques Pepin Celebrates
Master Chef Jacques Pepin 's latest cookbook and companion to the
KQED series, Jacques Pepin Celebrates, is for those of us who enjoy
bringing family and friends together over good food. Written for the
novice, expert, and all cooks in between, Jacques Pepin
Celebrates is more than a cookbook. It is a compilation of detailed
recipes, basic cooking techniques, sample menus, and excuses (if needed)
to cook and eat in good company.
The first section of the book is a list of helpful if not ambitious
sample menus for holidays, annual celebrations, and just because. The
menus include wine pairings from Jacques's sidekick and daughter,
Claudine Pepin. Recommended wines are easily accessible, delicious, and
The book contains creative preparations for typical holiday recipes
such as Roast Turkey with Bread-and-Mushroom Stuffing, Ham Georgia with
Peach Garnish, Chocolate Yule Log with Mint Leaves and Chocolate Bark,
Lamb Loins in Ambush with Fava Beans Neyron and Pecan Pie in Puff
Pastry. But Jacques Pepin Celebrates s true focus is on
the French classics such as Onion Soup Gratin Lyonnaise, the Fines-Herbes
Omelet, Salmon Tartare, Bouillabaisse, Cassoulet with
Pumpkin Seed Sausage, and Pate a Choux. Pepin provides all the required
steps and techniques to make potentially intimidating French cuisine
manageable. His techniques for mastering the most frustrating of cooking
tasks are especially helpful, i.e. how to:
make and roll the perfect puff pastry dough
peel and seed tomatoes
fillet a salmon
julienne a leek
stuff and truss a chicken
chop an onion
assemble a make-shift bread dough proofing box
The level of recipe difficulty ranges from the simple and delicious
Farmer's-Style Soup (recipe follows) to the more complex artistic
Stuffed Salmon in Flaky Dough. Most recipes do take time to prepare and
require planning. Many of us have become accustomed to living at a 100
mph pace, eating meals on the fly, and losing touch with friends and
family due to busy schedules. This book is a reminder that wonderful
food requires effort, cooking together is fun, and there are few things
more enjoyable than sharing great cuisine and conversation across the
Jacques Pepin leaves little to chance. Recipe and technique
instructions are clear and accompanied by many photographs. With a few
exceptions, ingredients are readily available in most supermarkets. The
book includes substitutes for harder to find items.
In Jacques P pin Celebrates, the author has compiled his favorite recipes, the most fundamental cooking tips from his famous La Technique, wine pairings, and beautiful visuals. If you only own one Jacques P pin cookbook, this should be the one.
We found this recipe for Farmer's-Style Soup easy to follow resulting
in a very satisfying dish. It even cross-references instructions for
cleaning and julienning a leek. It is hard to go wrong on flavor with a
soup that includes salt pork. The last minute addition of the parsley
and basil add a wonderful fresh balance to the salt and starch of this
For the classic version of this soup, use the five vegetables listed below, but otherwise make substitutions as you wish, using whatever vegetables you have on hand. The soup doesn't require a long time to cook and can be made ahead, then reheated and served with the croutons. Any leftover soup can be pureed in a food processor, giving it another look, texture, and taste.
6 ounces lean salt port, or pancetta
3 medium carrots (about 8 ounces)
1 large rib celery
1 medium turnip (6 ounces)
2 medium potatoes (12 ounces)
1 medium leek (about 8 ounces), trimmed, split lengthwise, washed, and cut into 1/4-inch slices
7 cups of water
1/2 teaspoon salt or more, depending on the saltiness of the salt pork
1 clove garlic, peeled
About 1/4 cup (loose) parsley leaves
About 1/3 cup (loose) basil leaves
Cut the salt pork into 1/4-inch-thick slices, then pile the slices together, and cut them crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick strips, or lardons.
Peel the carrots, and cut them into length-wise slices and then into a 1/4-inch dice. Peel the celery, turnip, and potatoes, and cut them into a 1/2-inch dice.
Place the lardons in a Dutch oven or large heavy pot, add enough cold
water to cover them, and bring to a boil. Boil for about 1 minute. Drain
through a sieve, and wash the lardons under cold running water. Rinse
the pot, and return the lardons to it. Cook the lardons over medium to
high heat for 3 to 5 minutes, or until they are lightly browned. Add the
leek, celery, and carrots to the pot, and saute them gently over medium
heat for 1 minute. Add the water, and bring to a boil. Let boil for
about 5 minutes, then add the turnip and potatoes. Return to the boil,
cover, and boil gently for about 20 minutes. Taste for saltiness, and
add a little salt if necessary, depending on the saltiness of the salt
At serving time, chop the garlic, parsley, and basil together. Stir
into the soup, and bring to a strong boil. Boil for 1 to 2 minutes, and
The Stuffed Salmon in Flaky Dough (Jacques does warn) is an undertaking. The most complex step is making the ideal pastry dough. If you are comfortable with this, it is a fairly simple dish. If not, the instructions are very detailed and with care you will roll a successful crust. To save time the day of serving, the recipe suggests preparing the pastry, stuffing, and boning the salmon the day head. The dish can be assembled ahead and refrigerated until you are ready to bake it. One tip we would add to the recipe is to use a thinner, 1/2 to 3/4 inch-thick salmon fillet. Ours was closer to an inch in many parts. The resulting dish tasted quite good, but our presentation resembled a chubby goldfish more than a salmon. Although the stuffing is very flavorful, the lemon sauce makes this dish. The salmon does not absorb the flavors from the stuffing and requires the sauce to give it life.
Stuffed Salmon in Flaky Dough
1 small salmon (about 5 pounds with head on), yielding about 2 1/2
pounds of boneless, skinless salmon flesh.
Flaky Butter Dough:
2 cups all-purpose flour (about 10 ounces), placed in freezer for 2 hours to cool, plus 1/4 cup cold flour for rolling the dough
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch slices and kept very cold in the refrigerator
1/2 to 2/3 cup ice-cold water (amount depending on the moisture in flour)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/3 cup sliced shallots
1/2 pound wild or cultivated mushrooms (chanterelles, oyster, cremini, shiitake, or a mixture), sliced (about 3 cups)
4 ounces shrimp, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons chopped chives
1 large egg
For the flaky butter dough: Put the cold flour in a mixing bowl. Add the salt and butter, then pour in a little less than 1/2 cup of the cold water, and mix briefly with a wooden spoon. Dump the dough out onto a floured work surface, and, using a dough scraper, coarsely mix the ingredients together, adding a little more ice water (no more than 2/3 cup total) if needed to make the dough hold together. Try to work quickly to prevent the butter from softening.
Place the dough on a lightly floured cold surface, preferably marble
or granite. Press lightly at first with your hands, then roll the dough
to extend it into a rectangle about 16 inches long and 10 inches wide.
Fold the length of the dough in on itself into thirds, like a letter.
Then, with one of the folds facing you, roll the dough again into
another rectangle, this one measuring about 18 inches long by 11 inches
wide. By this time, the dough will be starting to get elastic and
rubbery. Fold the long sides once again into thirds, and wrap in plastic
wrap. Refrigerate for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Then repeat the two rolling
and folding procedures described above, flouring the marble lightly as
needed to prevent the dough from sticking. You will notice that when you
are first rolling the dough the pieces of butter are quite visible, but
by the fourth turn the pieces of butter will have practically
disappeared from sight. Wrap the dough and refrigerate it until ready to
finish the dish.
For the mushroom-shrimp stuffing: Heat the tablespoon of butter in a
skillet. When it is hot but not smoking, add the shallots. saute for
about 1 minute, until the shallots have softened, then add the
mushrooms, and cook over medium to high heat until they have released
their juice. When that juice has evaporated and the mixture starts
sizzling again, add the shrimp, and cook for about 1 minute, just long
enough for the shrimp pieces to change color. Season with the pepper,
salt, and chives. Cool.
When ready to assemble the dish, line a large cookie sheet with
parchment paper. Roll the dough into a 16-inch square. Cut a
16-inch-long strip from the dough measuring 5-6 inches wide, and place
it on the diagonal on the parchment paper. Place one of the salmon
fillets on top, and sprinkle it lightly with salt and pepper. Spread the
cooled mushroom-shrimp stuffing evenly on top, then cover the stuffing
with the remaining salmon fillet.
Take care to arrange the fillets so that the thinner part of the
fillet on the bottom corresponds to the larger, thicker part of the
fillet on top (tail to head and head to tail), and the shape and
thickness are the same throughout. This way the salmon will cook evenly.
Roll the remaining, wider strip of dough up onto your rolling pin, then unroll it on top of the second fillet. Brush off any flour from the surface of the dough, and press it all around the edges, so it conforms to the fish shape underneath. The larger top layer of the dough will stick around the edge to the layer of dough underneath. Press the two layers of dough gently around the edge so they adhere well together, then place in the freezer for about 10 minutes to firm up the dough. This will make trimming and decorating the "fish" easier. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
After 10 minutes, remove the "fish" from the freezer, and
trim the excess dough all around the edge to create a fish outline with
dorsal fins as well as a tail from the extra dough around the salmon.
Make a gill with a strip of the trimmed dough, and cut and position a
round piece of dough for the eye. Continue decorating as you fancy.
Break the whole egg into a small bowl, and remove about half the
white. Beat the remaining egg in the bowl with a fork to make a wash for
coating the "fish." Brush the salmon with the egg. Holding the
tip from a pastry bag (large end down) at an angle, press it lightly
into the "fish" to simulate scales. Bake in the 375 degree
oven for 35-40 minutes. Remove and set aside, uncovered, in a warm place
while you make the sauce.
Foamy Lemon Sauce:
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon potato starch
3 yolks from large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
dash cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Whisk together 1 cup of the chicken stock and the potato starch in a
saucepan, and bring to a boil. Whisk the egg yolks and the remaining
chicken stock in a bowl, then pour into the hot stock, and whisk
constantly over medium heat for about 2 minutes, or until the sauce
thickens and foams, but don't let it boil. It'should reach a temperature
of 180 degrees, the temperature needed to cook the eggs and the starch
and to thicken the sauce. Whisk in the salt and cayenne, then remove the
saucepan from the heat, stir in the lemon juice, and set aside. The
sauce should have doubled in volume.
To serve: Using two long hamburger spatulas, transfer the "fish" to a serving platter. To serve, cut into 1-to-1 1/2 inch slices and arrange on warm individual plates. Spoon some sauce around the slices, and serve immediately.
Jacques is a lovely person. Good Cooking has had the opportunity to work with
him and chat about cooking. Our paths have crossed at Boston University and many
years ago at the Boston Ritz-Carlton when he was on a tour de-emphasizing the
importance of roux in thickening sauces.
To Peel & Seed a Tomato
Here is Jacques' method!
There are several ways to peel a tomato. Holding it over the flame of a gas stove not only chars the skin, which then will peel off but also gives the tomato a mildly smoky taste. If the tomato is a hit firm, you can peel it with a good vegetable peeler or a knife. If, however, you have a lot of tomatoes to peel, the easiest way is first to remove their stems with the point of a knife, and then to drop the tomatoes into boiling water to cover. Leave them in the water from 10 to 30 seconds, depending on their ripeness, with the ripest ones needing the least time. Remove with a skimmer, and cool for a few minutes at room temperature.
To peel a tomato: When cool enough to handle, remove the skin with the point of a knife; it will came off easily. Conventionally the tomatoes are cooled in ice water, but in my opinion that "washing" takes away from their taste.
To seed a tomato: Cut the tomato crosswise not through the stem into halves, which will expose all the little pockets of seeds. Holding a tomato half upside down over a bowl, squeeze it gently to extrude some of the seeds, then turn it 45 degrees in your hand, and press it again in the same way to remove any remaining seeds. Repeat with the other tomato half. You now have pure tomato flesh; the seeds and skin can be used in stock, and the flesh can be diced, julienned, or chopped for sauteeing or for use in a fresh tomato sauce, salad, or or as a garnish.