It is no wonder that the legendary chef, author, cooking teacher, and television personality Jacques Pépin inspired our Cook the Books group to make some amazing dishes through his foodie memoir, The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen, our June/July book pick. It seemed that Pépin's book and the man himself were universally loved by everyone participating--whether they were a Pépin fan to begin with, or newly introduced to him through his words.
Pépin wasn't on the radar for Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla until she read the book, but she plans to seek him out, especially now that she's tried his Fromage Fort. Camilla says, "It
means 'strong cheese' in French and it's the ultimate way of
repurposing leftover cheese. I love revamping leftovers into something
completely different. Pépin's father used to combine pieces of
Camembert, Brie, Swiss, bleu cheese and goat cheese together with his
mother's leek broth, some white wine
and crushed garlic. These ingredients marinated in a cold cellar for a
a week-and-a-half. Pépin's wife, Gloria, makes
a milder version in a food processor that takes only seconds. It's that
version I decided to make."
Welcome Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm, joining out CTB group for the first time! Wendy says she was "flabbergasted by how much I enjoyed reading the story of Jacques Pepin
and his life learning how to be a chef. What a down to earth, kind man
he is and what a wonderful family he has." She says, "There were a lot of recipes included in this autobiography but the one I
decided to make as a side dish for our dinner tonight was the Semi Dry Tomatoes and Mozzarella Salad. I make Caprese Salads quite often but
this salad has a couple of twists so I wanted to see how it compares to
others that I have enjoyed."
Cathy of Delaware Girl Eats was lucky enough to get to meet Pépin saying, "When
I attended a chef’s roundtable, he spoke genuinely about his life
working in French kitchens and amiably signed cookbooks afterward. I
brought my copy of “Jacques and Julia Cooking Together” and that
autographed book holds a special place on my cookbook shelf." Cathy made this gorgeous Bastille Day Red White and Blue Dessert and said, "It
features blueberries, which have just come into season in nearby New
Jersey. They are a delight dressed with nothing more than a little
sugar and whipped cream in this dish which perfect to serve on a sultry
My fellow Hawaii food blogger Claudia of Honey From Rock says, "...what an entertaining writer he is! I have to think when I've so much enjoyed a memoir." It inspired a lovely dinner of Potato Turnip Galette with Roast Chicken. Claudia says, "What came most powerfully to mind for me was the lovely smell of
roasting chicken, I don't know why. Especially when
liberally covered with chopped garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper, inside
and out. ... In another place he writes of a galette (a flat cake) made of potatoes
and mushrooms, so I decided to do a combination galette/gratin, one
layer of grated potatoes and turnips, with a bit of onion, and milk,
topped with Gruyere cheese, to go with the roast chicken."
CTB co-host Rachel, The Crispy Cook, was inspired to make Jacques' Venison Revenge Ragout, saying "...I decided to create something with venison, in reference to the most
harrowing incident related in the book: Pepin's nighttime car accident
with a deer that left him with a broken back, two broken hips, a broken
leg, cracked pelvis and a left arm that was so badly fractured that his
surgeon considered amputating it. What an ordeal! But Pepin doesn't
dwell on that incident, and segues into his subsequent experiences in
teaching cooking classes, working with corporate clients and writing
cookbooks. But I feel Jacques should have his revenge against that
kamikaze deer with a venison dish, so I pulled some venison stew meat
that we had in the freezer care of Dan's hunting cousin and put together
a delicately seasoned venison stew."
Tina of Squirrel Head Manor says, "I didn’t know anything about Jacques Pepin’s personal life, his
childhood or training in the culinary industry. After reading this book
I know so much about him and enjoyed each and every chapter." The simple but flavorful Semi-Dry Tomatoes and Mozzarella Salad called to her, she says, "Recipes follow each chapter so there are many to select and drool over.
French cooking doesn’t have to be complicated. Any of the French
cookbooks have call for absolute simplicity and this is what Pepin
CTB co-host Simona of briciole just caught a brief glimpse of Pépin and Julia Child on television years ago but found his memoir "quite a pleasant read, seasoned with a nice dose of recipes." Simona made the unique Tapenade with Figs and Mint, saying, "Pépin's version has two unusual ingredients: dried figs (fichi secchi) and mint leaves (foglioline di menta).
When blended with the traditional components of tapenade, the two
newcomers create a multi-layered flavor in which the sweetness of figs,
the saltiness of preserved olives, the tanginess of capers and
anchovies, the fresh aroma of mint (with a light citrusy note in my
case) and the richness of olives and olive oil create a combination that
surprises at every bite."
The book led to many pop culture connections to Jacques for CTB co-host Debra of Eliot's Eats. (Check out her very humorous post to see!) She says, "What struck me the most about The Apprentice is Pépin’s humor (much of it self-deprecating). He isn’t above describing his humorous misadventures and foibles." For her dish, Debra chose to make a French and American classic inspired by Pépin's maman saying, "What’s more American than apple pie so I decided on Pépin’s recipe of his mother’s Apple Tart. (Besides, The Hubs loves apple pie.)"
Finally, it will come as no surprise to most of you that over at Kahakai Kitchen, I took inspiration in a bowl of soup--Pépin's recipe for Tomato Chowder with Mollet Eggs. I just cannot resist a dish with runny egg yolk or a soup with toppings and it was a chance to try a new technique. Jacques says, "...mollet
(moll-ay) eggs are similar to poached eggs in texture, with runny yolks
and soft whites. The eggs are cooked in their shells in barely boiling
water for about 6 minutes, then thoroughly cooled and carefully shelled." My shelling technique needs work but the resulting soup was one of the best soups I have made/eaten in quite a while. Thank you Jacques!
If it is possible to gain weight from putting together a roundup I am sure I just put on more than a few pounds from the descriptions of all of these incredible dishes. I think Pépin would be proud of all of us! Thanks to everyone who joined in this round of Cook the Books.
Please join us for August/September when we will be journeying to Italy for A Thousand Days in Venice, by Marlena De Blasi hosted by Debra of Eliot's Eats.