38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
True to the French culinary tradition, Pepin is a master of technique; but even more, he is a wonderful teacher. This comes through in his latest offering, Jacques Pepin Celebrates. The book is being published in conjunction with a 26-part PBS series (hurray!) and begins with the 26 menus which will make up the shows. These include thirteen half-hour shows, among them: Country Luncheon, Dinner Party al Fresco, A Festive New Year's Eve, and Cold Snap Comfort; seven theme shows, such as: Puff Pastry Showcase, Bridal Shower Confections, and Tea for Ten; and six one-hour specials devoted to Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Easter, Graduation and Independence/Bastille Day. Menus include suggested wines.
The recipes are organized traditionally into chapters on: stocks and soups; eggs; fish; poultry; meat; appetizers and salads; breads; pastries; and desserts. These are not recipes for beginners, but the techniques used are explained clearly and many recipes include informative step-by-step color photographs and pictures of the finished dish.
In addition to the index, there is a separate list of the techniques which are illustrated throughout the book.
Monsieur Pepin seems to be a talented and genuinely nice man. The book is adorned with his lovely sketches, and the only thing that could improve it would be having the author as a dinner companion.
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2001
Lucky owners of Pepin's "The Art of Cooking, vol. 1, 2", La Technique" and "La Methode" (the latter two now in "Complete Techniques") will recognize many of the recipes and techniqes in "Jacques Pepin Celebrates". This is not a replacement for those (or other) books. It is, however, his most general book to date in terms of mixing techniques and recipes. An avid reader of Pepin will also recognize how some techniques and recipes have evolved and improved since the early 70s.
Many techniques are illustrated with step-by-step photographs, while recipes are mostly made up of illustrative descriptions accompanied by a photo of the dish. Not only does Pepin tell you what to do and how to do it, he also tells you _why_ to do it from a rational and scientific perspective. This is something that is hard to find in most cookbooks. Some recipes also have different techniques or ingredients listed, or even several versions depending on what you want to do and how much time you have on your hands. For example, there are three different versions of how to make puff-pastry.
Each recipe (appetizers, main courses and deserts) is included in a suggested menu, accompanied by suggested wines. Most of the wines are readily available anywhere in the US. There are also enjoyable tidbits of information and thoughts in between recipes by Jacques and his daughter, Claudine.
"Jacques Pepin Celebrates" is a carefully planned and beautifully designed book. You will greatly enjoy it even if you own most of Pepin's previous books. If you only own one or two of them, this is almost a must!
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Jaques Pepin may be unique among American culinary figures, as he is both a widely recognized master chef who is also a leading culinary educator to both professionals at the French Culinary Institute and to laymen through many books and PBS series. He is also closely connected to American culinary aristocracy by association with Julia Child, Craig Claiborne, and Pierre Franey, with whom he worked for many years. One small sign of his renown is that when he happened to appear on the Rocco DiSpirito reality show, `The Restaurant', both Rocco and the executive chef of the restaurant literally fell over one another to show Jaques their regard for his work.
This volume, `Jaques Pepin Celebrates' is, in many ways, the album of a live show of his greatest hits, where recipes and techniques from many earlier books are reprised, with new arrangements. This means the value of the book to you will directly depend on how many other of Pepin's books you already have and how much you specifically like his take on cooking. In other words, how big a Jaques Pepin fan are you?
The 26 episodes in the PBS series on which this book is based are based on menus for major holidays and other special occasions. The material in the book, however, is very wisely organized around the traditional French cuisine headings of `Stocks and Soups', `Eggs', `Shellfish and Fish', `Poultry and Game', `Meat', `Appetizers, Salads, Side Dishes', `Breads', `Pastries', and `Cakes and Desserts'.
There are simple recipes in this book, especially some of the famous French egg and salad recipes, but a large number of the recipes here are relatively complicated. That is not the same as being difficult. As Jaques very honestly states, the bread recipes in the book are relatively straightforward, but achieving a superior result is very difficult, because so much depends on subtleties in your flour, environmental conditions, and oven. Jaques is a better than average source of knowledge on bread baking and pastries, but I would suggest you read what he has to say on the matter and get books by baking specialists such as Nick Malgieri, Flo Braker, Sherry Yard, or Rose Levy Beranbaum to guide you through these subtleties.
Unlike books by other major chefs such as Daniel Boulud on cooking for entertaining, Pepin's dishes are almost all standards of the French cuisine. There is very little here which was not cooked in France fifty or more years ago. This is entirely in keeping with this being a `greatest hits' book. A consequence of this selection is that the book offers superior recipes for dishes such as cassolet, leg of lamb, pastry encrusted baked fish, roasted chicken, blinis with caviar, and galantines, mousses, and pates which are very familiar to a large number of people, especially to the foodies among your friends and acquaintances.
Like other very good culinary writers such as James Beard, Julia Child, Shirley Corriher, and Tom Colicchio, you must weigh every word, as there is no telling when the next sentence will contain an important tip on culinary technique, such as the little device of rolling hard boiled eggs around in the pot after cooking to crack the shells then cover with cool water to improve ease of peeling the eggs when they cool down. This attention to detail that is so thrilling to find is also so disappointing when you find obvious little mistakes in well respected writers work. There are no disappointments here.
With a list price of $40, this is Jaques' coffee table book that you can get to join your other big volumes from Eric Rippert, Thomas Keller, and Jeremiah Tower. In keeping with the celebratory theme, the menus include many wine recommendations, many of which are somewhat fussy, but for all of which Jaques freely allows any reasonable substitution of a wine with similar affinities. Not being a major wine fan, I found the wine suggestions very easy to overlook.
Pepin is the gold standard for active American culinary writers. There is practically no room for arguing with his technique and recipes. So, the issue with this book comes down to how well you like French recipes and how many Pepin books do you already own.
My personal opinion is that this is not his most valuable volume. For pure technique, I think the `Complete Techniques' volume offers a lot more culinary wisdom for the money. And, I think the `Julia and Jaques Cook at Home' volume offers much more entertainment for the money. So, I would rate this third after these volumes. This is no reflection on the PBS TV series, it is only an evaluation of the book. If you loved the series and wish to preserve these memories, get the book. It will not disappoint you. The book is certainly a lot better than his quick cooking, economic cooking, and healthy cooking titles, as these smack of being titles prepared to ride current trends in cookbooks. Although, Pepin does have special credentials for fast cooking recipes, as his partner, Pierre Franey was a long time expert on the subject.
Highly recommended if you are a big Pepin fan, like to cook to entertain, or have no other books by Pepin.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
As a budding foodie, I have watched this excellent PBS series many times. This last run through I noticed something that completely freed my perfectionist cooking tendencies. It's just amazing watching Pepin at work. He's excellent but certainly not always precise or perfectionist. A little of this, a bit of that, or a pan a little too hot has all shown me that good cooking is like what a great artist told me once. "Being a good artist has nothing to do with perfection. It's just a long series of covering up your mistakes." Having the companion book to the series has helped me tremendously to lighten up and have fun. This book is filled with great recipes, many of which can be customized to your personal tastes. The photos are an excellent teaching tool and reference. Start with good quality ingredients, have everything prepared and ready to go, follow along in the book and have great time. This book has been worth every penny.