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on September 12, 2007
This work was split by the publisher into two separately bound parts, due to size:

Volume I: Stocks, soups, eggs, shellfish and fish, poultry, game and meat.
Volume II: Charcuterie and salads, breads, pastries, cakes, and other desserts.

The combined work is widely considered to be Jacques Pepin's culinary masterwork. This is a rock solid instructional book (published in 2 parts due to size) that's lavishly photographed with full color procedural photos demonstrating a wide assortment of classical culinary techniques. There's something in these books for cooks of every level of experience ... both for elite professional chefs for whom classic sauces and dramatic garnishes are vital pips to have on one's lapel, as well as for rustic home-cooks like me who wish to expand their repertoire of skills.

That aside, let me jump right into the book's strengths, along with a few mixed marks and personal nits.

Strengths:
¨ Encyclopedic Scope: There's a broad wealth of expert techniques in just about every category of the culinary arts ... meat, fish, poultry, charcuterie, vegetables, baking, basic butchery, even infused sprits, and cleaning game birds and rabbits. The core culinary ethnicity of this work is primarily Classic French, followed in descending order of focus, by American, British, and Italian.

¨ Procedural photos: The principal focus of this book was instructional, and the author's commitment to that shines though, as both volumes together include roughly 1,300 helpful color photos. I'd have liked to see some better proportional sizing of some of the photos covering more visually complicated steps (which aren't done adequate justice in small photos), but overall this book is a substantial leap beyond nearly all comparable books. I've seen too many books relying on clueless hand models & food photographers, and having a book in which a master chef does ALL the procedural photo work is a welcome change.

¨ Section indices: I'm glad to see that the author included recipe indexes at the front of each chapter. Minor Nit: Their right margin is pulled in too far, causing many of the titles to wrap around ... which makes it harder to read at a glance.

¨ Rear index: Each column of the index in the back has top-level continuations up top (ex: "Oysters {cont'd}"), so that you don't have to waste time scrolling back and forth to figure out what sub-item you opened to.

Mixed Marks:
¨ Cooking Time/Temp: I am very grateful that the author shares my disdain for the dreadfully overprotective USDA doneness charts for red meat, and I am in awe of how consistently all the meat in his photos is always perfectly rosy rare and perfectly rested for maximum juiciness. However, the author is very inconsistent in mentioning what the correct target doneness temperatures actually are - he clearly knows them, but his books often neglect to mention them. All too often, his recipes only mention how long to cook something, and at what temperature, and how long to rest it, at what temperature, and you just have to take it on faith that it'll turn out right, because the target temperature is often omitted mentioned. The reality of the matter is that roasts very in diameter naturally, plus people routinely upsize/downsize roasts based on the number of people they cook for, ovens vary in their heat, and different people rest meat at room temperature for different lengths of time before roasting it, and all four combine to render time-only based cooking to be extremely error prone. I would really love to see the book updated, to be more consistent in providing recommended doneness temperatures for roasted/grilled meat, and not just cooking time

Nits: (in no particular order)
¨ Named recipes: The author often includes first names (presumably of friends, relatives, or acquaintances from whom he adapted the recipe from) at the end of various recipes names. I'm glad he put them at the end, because too often, authors put them at the front, which throws alphabetical recipe sorting out the window. In any case, my nit here (and it's a small one) is that he's inconsistent when it comes to explaining who the name refers to, in the head notes for a given recipe. Take for example "Squab Danny K." in Vol 1 - it's only because I read Pepin's and Ruth Reichl's autobiographies, and that I recognized the preparation style, that I was able to figure out that the "Danny K." referred to "Danny Kaye", the famous actor, who was a gifted chef hobbyist. In another place, he lists yet another recipe that appears to be from the same source, but he doesn't even include the last initial. Personally, I prefer to omit attribution names altogether from recipe titles, and include the information instead in the recipe's head notes. I love reading about recipe origins in the head notes, and what about a particular spin makes a dish unique ... but name attributions just add clutter when it comes to the recipe title itself.

¨ Pot sizes: The author frequently says "in a pot just big enough to ..." and then neglects to mention the approximate size of the pot. The recipe has specific quantities, and a specific le crusset pot is used in the photos, so why not mention a recommended pot size if the size of the pot is important ?

¨ Recipe Order within Sections: I'm at a complete loss as to why so many authors do this, but the recipes are not listed in any discernable order within their respective sections. An alphabetical sorting, by principle ingredient (or at least by name), would have been far better.

¨ Religious Taboos: The author repeats the commonplace culinary sin of including versions of ethnic recipes that have been adapted to include ingredients that are considered taboo in the tradition of origin, without alerting the reader. For example: the "Veal Curry" in Vol 1 p.283 neglects to mention that it's an British-ized adaptation of a Northern Indian dish. However, Beef (and especially Veal) are taboo in India, and among Hindi in particular. It's perfectly fine to include such recipes in a western book ... but it's also incumbent on the author to inform the reader of such things, so that the reader is aware of the faux pas potential.

¨ Garnishing: Jacques Pepin has a strong predilection towards classic French "banquet-style" presentation and plating art. The kind of over-the-top aspic-glazed creations you serve to the idle rich, heads of state, and crazed food paparazzi. Practical-minded home cooks like me (who have a decidedly rustic slant) tend to find such things find such things to be an overly pretentious waste of time ... but there are people who love (and earn a very good living at) that sort of thing. To each their own. I have a personal request for my culinary friends and fellow homecooks reading this: if you ever catch me polluting a perfectly clarified consommé with things like hand-cut carrot-flowers, and fish-shaped mousse-quenelles sporting peppercorn eyeballs and leek fins, please shoot me on sight, because it'll be sure sign that my brain's been invaded by burrowing French-speaking alien gastropods from the planet Provence-IV. Make sure you burn my corpse too, so that I don't rise from the dead and go on a horrific watermelon and radish carving spree.

¨ Infused Spirits: I found one and only one section in this work that was decidedly weak, and it was the section on infused spirits in Vol II. From memory, the techniques he documented appear to be a faithful regurgitation of very dated old (and decidedly amateurish) farmhouse techniques, which are designed mostly for seasonal preservation of surplus fruit rather than being oriented towards optimum flavor and taking advantage of nearly year-round availability. It is not, for instance, necessary to sterlize the jars, because the spirits of the strength he uses are already proof against bacteria and common flors. It is also unnecessary to use high proof vodka, and then water it ... normal strength vodka will do, and will yeild a result in the 50-55 proof range, if I recall. Also, for his cherry infusion, the optimum steeping time is 3-5 days, not multiple weeks/months ... after more than 4-5 days, most red cherries begin to turn an unappetizing brown, and phenols from the pips begin to alter the flavor of the liquor. Pepin also uses vodka exclusively, and neglects to mention other types of spirits that work well ... such as brandy or rum. I also prefer to sweeten with homemade simple syrup, and to adjust acidity to taste (when finished) with a little winemaker's tartaric acid. Last, after steeping, the fruit is discolored and tastes mushy, washed out, and alcoholic ... my personal preference is to discard the spent fruit, filter and re-bottle the finished sprits, and then garnish or accompany a serving of the liquor with fresh fruit of the same type.

All in all, this series would be a SOLID addition to the culinary library of any serious home cook, or professional chef. Granted that most home cooks will never make even a fraction of the more pretentiously garnished and elaborate dishes, but there's something to be learned in just about every recipe that's included.

Highly recommended.
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on March 31, 2000
This book covers the following ares:1-Cold Charcuterie,Salads,& Condiments; 2-Breads; 3-Pastries[Sweet and Savor]; 4-Cakes,Souffles,& Other Desserts. The wonderful recipes come with pictured step by step instructions so that you know exactly what to do next and how it should look. The end of the book has full menus beautifully illustrated by Jacques himself.
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on October 9, 2007
Note: this book is only part 1 of a 2 volume set. You should purchase both at the same time, so I will review both together as if they were one big book.

Are you a prospective culinary professional who wants to learn the necessary skills, or who wants to know if you have what it takes? Are you a home cook who wishes to advance to the ranks of amateur chef to dazzle that next dinner party? Then this book is for you. The emphasis in this book is learning and teaching.

Despite the popularity of the Food Network and the number of people who want to become cooks and chefs, there are precious few books that will teach you how, and even this book is copyright 1987. There are no other cookbooks I can think of that will teach you how to cook in such detail and with such patience. Note that this book is not for absolute beginners; you should already know your way around a chef's knife and sauté pan.

The format of this book is rigid and consistent throughout. Each recipe is complete unto itself. That is, they always include accompaniments, side dishes, decoration, and plating presentation. All steps and components are explained in detail; it is not unusual for a recipe to occupy 3 pages with lots of color plates and complete steps and explanations at each and every step. Here, nothing is left to chance or assumption.

To quote the dust jacket: `The recipes in this book have been designed to demonstrate important cooking techniques', and the author has succeeded in spades. This 2 volume set is an entire cooking course all by itself. It is hard to imagine the dedicated reader not learning how to become a good cook after cooking his way through these 2 books.

Even if you are a professional with some culinary experience, working through some of the less common recipes will be a learning experience for you. Some of the more enlightening things I found: cleaning fresh eel, clam seviche, curing salami and ham, truffles, caviar, deep fried eggs, the authoritative guide to omelets, cleaning a ray, skinning and eviscerating a freshly killed rabbit, cleaning an entire saddle of lamb, what to do with an entire baby lamb, blood sausage.

It is divided up into the usual chapters. Volume 1 has stock, eggs, seafood, poultry, and meat; volume 2 encompasses garde manger, bread, pastry, and desserts.
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on April 22, 2010
As we try to cook clean food and move away from adulterated processed food, Jacques Pepin's secrets come in handy! He tells you how to easily make better for cheaper, and all of it as clean as you wish.

I recently started trying my hand at sausage-making, which turns out to be incredibly simple. I got tired of all the nitrates, nitrites, and mystery meat. So, now, I use Boston Butt, chunk it, toss it in my food processor in one pound increments, mince it in seconds, stir in the seasonings, and do not case it. I saw where people are now using parchment paper to form casings, then steaming the sausage log. But, many of my recipes need case-less crumbled sausage. So, I just bagged the raw sausage in handy portions and tossed it in the refrigerator for use.

After my family's absolute delight at the scrumptious Sweet Italian Fennel sausage I made, I wanted to make Saucisson, the famous sausage of France. Bless, Jacques! I have several of Jacques' books and they have various Saucisson recipes. This book has the pistachio Saucisson baked in brioche, just like is served in Lyon restaurants !!! I have to say that I have been tempted to make the Saucisson smaller than the 1.5" Jacques calls for, and put less brioche around it, to make it more like a hotdog. But, in Jacques' version, the calorie count is much lighter.

Recently, my little girl was pining for Eggs Benedict. For some reason, there are only a few restaurants in our city which make Benedicts with a decent Hollandaise Sauce. On one hand, it can be had. On the other hand, it costs $20 per serving. In my mind, that is a ridiculously exorbitant amount to pay for a Benedict, just to eat the Hollandaise. So, after finding the Lyon Saucisson baked in brioche, I found Jacques' recipe for Poached Eggs Clamant which is served with Hollandaise Sauce. What I loved about Jacques' recipe was that he included lots of tips. Do add vinegar to the poaching water, and why. Don't add salt to the water, and why. What kind of eggs will yield the best results and why. The variations in the Hollandaise Sauce (lemon juice or water; clarified butter or unclarified; fresh butter or clarified; variations in the egg yolk ratio, why, and what you can expect, plus a listing of other variations like Bearnaise (vinegar, shallots, tarragon); Choron (Bernaise with tomato); Valois (meat glaze added); Mousseline (whipped cream folded in); lemon and orange added (Maltaise); fish sauce or other sauces added, etc. Also, what to do to salvage the Hollandaise if the Sabayon breaks down, and what to do with the leftover Hollandaise--add it to Bechamel or other cream sauces or soups.

Jacques has detailed instructions and step-by-step photos to ensure success! (In the above Hollandaise recipe, Jacques' photos show not only the successful Sabayon, but also the "ruined" one being salvaged.) Nothing is left to chance. I love Jacques' cookbooks!
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on June 27, 2014
This is some of his best work and it has really held up well over the years. If you had to choose a single cooking writer or chef to learn from Pepin would be that one chef.
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on March 9, 2015
Book in excellent condition
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