Jacques Pépin doesn't want your water
April 12, 2017 8:39 AM   Subscribe

Jacques Pépin talks about the importance of cooking with wine and Julia Child's surprise calls for beer and Crisco.

"People tell me, 'I don’t cook. I would like to, but…' Well, do you have any friends who cook? 'Yeah, I have a friend.' Well, fine. Next time you go to his house or her house, say, 'Can I cook with you? I’ll come a bit earlier, I’ll bring a bottle of wine, I want to look at you cooking.' So you come, you open your bottle of wine, you have a glass, two glasses, you put a chicken in the oven. After the third glass, who cares anyway? [laughs] Even if the chicken is a bit burned, who cares? You’re having fun, a good time! So you have to learn how to relax."
posted by veggieboy (34 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite
 
Even now, in an age where there is more legitimately great television programming available than I will ever be able to find time to watch, there isn't much that I find as entertaining as watching Jacques Pepin. He is just enormously charming. And his food looks phenomenal. Even when he's preparing a dish I don't care for, I generally end up wishing I could try he version.

I walked in on the middle of an episode once where he was making pizza. When I make pizza, I generally use one of those "Boboli" crusts, but when I saw Pepin taking his pizza out of the oven, I thought to myself, "Boy, I really want to know his recipe for pizza crust dough. I'm gonna go look this episode up online and find the recipe."

First item on the ingredient list: one Boboli pizza crust.

I've been a lot more smug about my pizza ever since.
posted by Ipsifendus at 9:13 AM on April 12, 2017 [25 favorites]


I think Jaques Pépin is a national treasure who has probably done more to promote good cooking and home food culture than any other single person in the last 30 years. He is like the Mr. Rogers of America's home kitchens, gently soothing and coaxing uncertain cook towards--if not mastery--then at least a fair measure of culinary competence and comfort. Merci, Jaques!
posted by Chrischris at 9:16 AM on April 12, 2017 [8 favorites]


Chateau Faucette. You cook with water, you don't drink it.
posted by otio at 9:21 AM on April 12, 2017


He's someone that's fun to watch because he exudes such joy in what he's doing.
posted by k5.user at 9:22 AM on April 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


yeah, add me to the list of people who thought this was a memorial post and nearly shat themselves.

watching jaques cook on Saturdays was a tradition I shared with my chef dad growing up, and a much beloved one at that. caught some newer episodes recently and its like nothing ever changed, except for some reason Claudine is now much more tolerable than I found her to be long ago.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 9:51 AM on April 12, 2017


Pepin fans who haven't should read his memoir, The Apprentice, which is just unbearably charming.
posted by praemunire at 9:56 AM on April 12, 2017 [4 favorites]


Yes! Please start all Pepin posts with "Jacques Pepin, WHO IS VERY MUCH STILL ALIVE......."

If you cook, and you don't already own Complete Technique, go buy it! You'll be a better chef.
posted by Frayed Knot at 9:58 AM on April 12, 2017 [7 favorites]


I feel so close to Jacques. I grew up with him. Then his daughter as a child. Then she's an adult. Then Jacques and his grandchildren. We've been together for a long time. What a wonderful man.
posted by Splunge at 10:12 AM on April 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


J'adore Jacques!

I've been deboning chickens to roast since someone here linked to Jacques deboning a chicken. The video takes 10 minutes. It still takes me half an hour to get the chicken in the oven. Every time I watch it, I'm just amazed at what he does in the flick of a wrist.
posted by Dashy at 10:14 AM on April 12, 2017 [4 favorites]


The video takes 10 minutes

And he can apparently do it in, like, two. I'm still pleased with myself if I can do it in fifteen.
posted by kenko at 10:28 AM on April 12, 2017


> First item on the ingredient list: one Boboli pizza crust.

Beautiful illustration of the good and bad of American food snobbery these days.

Because seriously, there are few pleasures like the texture and flavor of a pizza with a tart, fruity tomato sauce, light pillowy dollops of fresh mozzarella, made with properly developed dough that's been caught in a blast of incredibly high parching heat and about the only way to make that at home is to build a brick oven in the back yard and keep a rick of hickory lumber on hand for the occasion.

But most of the time, what I really want is not the ur-pizza, I just want a damn pizza. And sometimes I specifically want a just-a-damn-pizza because the doughiness of the crust, and grease-covered thready glop of too much cheese compels me like a biological imperative. The quickest path to that is a bagged crust, preshredded cheese, and a can of sauce.

They look similar but they're different food. Judge them on their merits based on their intentions.
posted by ardgedee at 10:30 AM on April 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


I think Jaques Pépin is a national treasure who has probably done more to promote good cooking and home food culture than any other single person in the last 30 years. He is like the Mr. Rogers of America's home kitchens, gently soothing and coaxing uncertain cook towards--if not mastery--then at least a fair measure of culinary competence and comfort. Merci, Jaques!

From all accounts, he'a genuinely nice person. He took steps to bring better food to the masses (Howard Johnson's) long before anyone else much cared. Oh, and he's a really good chef. Here's his take on 'celebrity chef shows' like Gordon Ramsay's:

"In these reality shows, the confrontation and the bitter drama are not conducive to producing good food. There is disarray and pandemonium in these kitchens, as well as in the dining rooms. No one seems to agree on anything, and there are ongoing clashes between the employees, without much evidence of what makes a kitchen work. For the good of his or her restaurant, the chef should be a role model, an educator who probes and advises his cooks, rather than embarrasses them publicly. A good kitchen is quiet most of the time. It is disciplined, well structured, and clean. People who cook there are dedicated and work together. Teamwork is extremely important, as all parts of the kitchen have to work on many of the same dishes. This requires them to work as one unit, like in a symphony when all the parts come together at the end. It is not exciting or dramatic enough for TV.

The so-called “reality” cooking shows are, if anything, totally unreal. A real, well-run professional kitchen has dignity and order. If cameras went into Thomas Keller’s Per Se in New York, Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse in Berkeley, or Grant Achatz’s Alinea in Chicago, they would see a kitchen that is well organized, with a contented, dedicated, hard-working staff. The cruel rivalry and conflict depicted in Hell’s Kitchen may be good for ratings, but it is unjust to dedicated cooks and unfair to the trade. In my opinion, nothing good enough to eat can be concocted under such conditions. I’m going back to my mother’s leek and potato soup and apple galette.
posted by leotrotsky at 10:43 AM on April 12, 2017 [23 favorites]


His un-fussy-ness is indeed delightful. There's an episode in one of his series where he makes a Provencal flatbread called Fougasse using store-bought pizza dough. You spread it out on a sheet pan, cut a few openings in it, spread it with olive oil and maybe some herbs, and bake it.

Though at the same time he can demonstrate how to do fancy frippery like making flowers out of butter. He's a great example of, there's a time for fancy food and there's a time for simple food.

Another moment of his I love, I think it's in this recording of him being interviewed by Anthony Bourdain, he confesses that he's not into these multi-course tasting menus that all the big star chefs are doing nowadays. "I just want a taco and a beer."
posted by dnash at 10:49 AM on April 12, 2017 [7 favorites]


I once met a cameraman who'd worked on one of Pepin's shows. Apparently he's just as nice and genuine as he seems onscreen.
posted by Lexica at 11:26 AM on April 12, 2017


If you watch the PBS series - I think there's a couple of them currently on right now, Heart & Soul and More Fast Food My Way - you might not notice at first how skillfully the videos are edited. He's doing all the prep work, and the important parts are shown, but the time-consuming or repetitive parts are elided over with such artistry that you barely notice unless you're watching for it. His production team is really amazing. Probably been with him forever, I know if I got to go to work every day and eat Jacques' cooking, you wouldn't be able to blow me out of that job with dynamite.

Also: every time he mentions Julia, you can tell how much he misses her.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 11:29 AM on April 12, 2017 [6 favorites]


He's someone that's fun to watch because he exudes such joy in what he's doing.

I feel this way about Martin Yan. I always smile watching him cook. Thanks for sharing this. Oddly enough, not too familiar with this particular Chef.
posted by Fizz at 11:31 AM on April 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


Yeah, Jaques Pepin boning a chicken is my go-to example of making a difficult task look easy through the magical power of a lifetime's experience.

I've probably watched it like 50 times and, while reflecting on my own sordid history of botching up chicken carcasses, am still amazed at how perfectly simple he makes it look.
posted by Chrischris at 11:42 AM on April 12, 2017 [4 favorites]


My favorite thing about his shows is when he just tosses out some offhanded comment in 30 seconds about a simple dessert or side dish -- not even a focus of the show just a little tip that popped into his head. My favorite dessert is one of those. He literally said take any fresh berries, toss them in a ramekin, top with crushed crackers or cookies, maybe a sprinkle of sugar and a pat of butter and bake it until bubbly. Took him 20 seconds to explain, we rewound it a few times, thought it can't be that simple and tried it. It's our go-to dessert all throughout berry season.
posted by Lame_username at 11:48 AM on April 12, 2017 [17 favorites]


I just wanted to highlight this article--which is linked in the OP article. Halfway through it, I remembered having read it some years ago, but had forgotten the details. And I can't quite forgive myself for having forgotten them, because it's as lovely a tribute to Pepin as anything I've ever read:

How Jacques Pepin Saved My Life
posted by pykrete jungle at 12:30 PM on April 12, 2017 [18 favorites]


Metafilter: Beer and Crisco
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:55 PM on April 12, 2017


How Jacques Pepin Saved My Life

Um. Wow. I need a glass of wine and a baguette now.
posted by dnash at 1:17 PM on April 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


... beer and Crisco.

Sounds like a typical Saturday night at our house.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:26 PM on April 12, 2017 [4 favorites]


pykrete jungle, that was such a lovely story, thank you for calling attention to it. It was so tender and sweet!

I have to admit, I often have a hard time giving men like Pepin credit when men so often get all the credit. I tend to wonder, who were the women who were just as talented but held back by society's expectations, can we talk them them now? (other than Julia Child, obviously), but Pepin is worth talking about and it would be foolish of me to act like he got to where he is by virtue of his gender. Which is honestly a relief, it's so nice to just appreciate someone for their talent and grace.

He's a great antidote to so much of what grates on me about food culture: the food lab type experiments that suck all the joy out of simple pleasures; the Only Recipe You Need style article when, as Pepin says, there's a time for a fluffy omelet and there's a time for the American style hard omelet; the Diet as Religion that is really about class and not about ethical eating. He is so thoughtful about food but not overly obsessed with it, he understands the science behind it but understands that there's a difference between professional chefs and home cooks and allows both the opportunity to learn and appreciate good food.

This is what I needed today, on a day when I savaged half an solid chocolate Easter bunny post-lunch while fuming about a friend I had dinner with last night [for her own damn birthday], who can't eat anything in public without saying how stuffed she is and what a pig she is and "oh my god I can't believe I ate that much" while eating an entirely unremarkable amount of food.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 1:57 PM on April 12, 2017 [5 favorites]


How Jacques Pepin Saved My Life

This could have been maudlin or full of ego. Instead it was sublime. Thanks.
posted by Splunge at 2:03 PM on April 12, 2017


How Jacques Pepin Saved My Life

Thanks, pykrete jungle, that's a wonderful essay! Made my day...
posted by Agave at 2:41 PM on April 12, 2017


one of the best things in life is seeing a person who is masterful at what they do and who encourages others to give it a shot because it's all just practice and we can make it easy so let's have fun anyway. that's why pepin is so lovely.

(conversely, one of the worst things in life is when a person tries to make something that should be straightforward seem more complicated than it really is just to try to make themselves look like an expert at something for the sake of their ego. that is a major bummer, but so common.)
posted by wibari at 3:22 PM on April 12, 2017 [5 favorites]


much love Thanks for posting this.
posted by shockingbluamp at 4:27 PM on April 12, 2017


Like drying your hands? Yeah.
posted by Dashy at 4:27 PM on April 12, 2017


I've really enjoyed the links and this thread. He's inspiring me in multiple ways: to cook better and more interesting things and to get my kid involved in the food prep. That chicken deboning video is amazing and I want to try it - he does make it look so easy.
posted by mogget at 6:33 PM on April 12, 2017


A single thing I learned from Jacques changed my chicken cooking forever. He said to cut the skin between the thigh and the rest of the chicken. This would allow hot air from the oven to cook the thigh meat more quickly. Thus the dark meat of the thigh would cook as fast as the breast meat. So simple, yet so game changing.
posted by Splunge at 6:56 PM on April 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


I'm still not convinced that his chicken deboning technique isn't actually voodoo.

May the universe bless him.
posted by drewbage1847 at 10:31 PM on April 12, 2017


Its funny, yesterday, I was watching masterchef, and Ramsay did his schtick about breaking down a chicken, and one of the kids were like "and we have the BEST CHEF IN THE WORLD showing us how to cut up a chicken!", and i said "wait, ol' Jaques isn't in there!". And then today, this thread. My wife is trying out that Galantine recipe tonight.
posted by lkc at 8:09 PM on April 15, 2017


> He literally said take any fresh berries, toss them in a ramekin, top with crushed crackers or cookies, maybe a sprinkle of sugar and a pat of butter and bake it until bubbly.

Also trying this tonight with blackberries. I'll let y'all know how it goes.
posted by lkc at 8:53 PM on April 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


Also trying this tonight with blackberries. I'll let y'all know how it goes.
I've been known to guild the lily by adding butterscotch chips, but crumbled graham crackers or chocolate chip cookies are more than enough to keep me happy too. Hope you enjoy.
posted by Lame_username at 11:28 AM on April 16, 2017


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