BACK TO BASICS: Jacques Pepin In Action
Today, we’ll revisit Jacques Pepin. One of the pioneers of the modern culinary movement, along with his friends Julia Child, James Beard, and so many others, Jacques Pepin’s cooking is earthy and his technique is effortless. He could single-handedly show up most if not all of the “chefs” current food television has given us. Whether it is Jacques’s spontaneous, wine-filled cooking extravaganzas with Julia Child, or his quick, elegant recipes in his later series, Fast Food My Way and More Fast Food My Way, Jacques never fails to impress with his surefire chopping skills, simple desserts, and his fun, light-hearted approach to cooking. Old episodes of these shows, most of which are available on YouTube, are breaths of fresh air when compared to the presentation-obsessed, style-over-substance food programming which seems to pervade TV nowadays.
In our humble opinion, Jacques is at his best at his simplest (check out his video on how to chop garlic, for example, here). For someone like me, who still struggles to chop an onion, Jacques’s unwavering knife skills are an inspiration. Jacques’s simple, down-to-earth style and his constant stories sprinkled throughout each episode are always a joy to watch. He is unafraid to make mistakes, and, living up to his good friend Julia’s goals–to bring the art of French cooking into American homes. Today, we take you down culinary memory lane with some of Jacques Pepin’s best creations.
Jacques Makes an Omelette
Perhaps what we like most about this is that it highlights what Jacques is best known for –classic interpretations of culinary staples. He does little to the omelette, letting each ingredient stand out and speak for itself. This video has everything that we love Jacques for. Effortless preparation, impeccable technique, and the heart-stopping suspense that is built as you await the flip. As always, Jacques performs it with excellence–a perfect landing for a perfect omelette.
Jacques Hard Boils an Egg
Once again, Jacques takes a seemingly simple task–hard boiling an egg–and manages to blow our minds. Everyone who may or may not have spent a large part of their winter break watching Jacques Pepin’s show has memorized his most important tip–crack eggs on flat surfaces to prevent bacteria from entering. Here, Jacques makes the perfect hard boiled egg–no green around the yolk, bright yellow centers, no burning fingers as you desperately try to shell the egg. And the best part is that you can do it too–no fancy Williams-Sonoma appliances needed. (Although we wouldn’t say no to a 3-in-1 Egg slicer.) And watching Jacques say that he doesn’t like his potatoes nouvelle cuisine makes this episode an instant classic. We don’t either, Jacques, we don’t either.
Jacques on Chicken, Brussels Sprouts, and Parenting
In just 26 minutes, Jacques teaches you how to make perfect chicken thighs, brussels sprouts, and teaches you how to get your kids to eat their spinach. Everyone and their brother has probably given you their foolproof, perfect brussels sprouts recipe. Besides the implication that your brussels sprouts with brown butter and sage were anything but sublime, they are probably not giving you anything to write home about. Jacques’s elegant fricassee of brussels sprouts with bacon, however, is perhaps the much-needed revamp that brussels sprouts needed. Jacques’s take is elegant and easy to make any night of the week, and it brings a new dimension to your Thanksgiving brussels sprout, giving them the needed extra dimension. Daniel Boulud also offers a similar take here.
Next time you find yourself falling back into the black hole that is the Real Housewives of New Jersey, stop yourself before it’s too late and head over to YouTube, where a master is waiting to reveal all his culinary secrets. Even if you never try any of his recipes at home, you’ll at least have learned that you’ve been cracking your eggs wrong all your life.
What is your favorite Jacques recipe? Write in below!
– Damanpreet Pelia