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Essential Pépin: More Than 700 All-Time Favorites from My Life in Food Hardcover – October 18, 2011

4.7 out of 5 stars 415 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Fall into Cooking Featured Recipe from Jacques Pepin’s Essential Pepin

When the weather gets cooler in the fall, I make soup. I generally cook up a big batch and freeze some for whenever I need it. This one, with sausage, potatoes, and cabbage, is hearty and good for cold weather. It’s terrific served with thick slices of country bread, and if you have a salad as well, you’ve got a complete dinner.

Sausage, Potato, and Cabbage Soup

Serves 8


8 ounces mild Italian sausage meat
2 small onions, cut into 1-inch-thick slices (1 ½ cups)
6 scallions, trimmed (leaving some green) and cut into ½-inch pieces (1¼ cups)
6 cups water
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch-thick slices
8 ounces savoy cabbage, cut into 1 ½-inch pieces (4 cups)
1¼ teaspoons salt
Crusty French bread

Break the sausage meat into 1-inch pieces and place it in a saucepan over high heat. Sauté, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to keep the meat from sticking, for 10 minutes, or until the sausage is well browned.

Add the onions and scallions and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the water, potatoes, cabbage, and salt and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 45 minutes.

Serve the soup in bowls with chunks of crusty French bread.

Baker’s Wife Potatoes

This classic potato gratin is made in France in many places, as is the famous dauphinois gratin, which is made with cream, milk, and garlic. The dauphinois has many more calories than this one, which is flavorful and ideal with any type of roast, from a roast chicken to a leg of lamb.

The potatoes are sliced but not washed, which would cause them to lose the starch that binds the dish. A good chicken stock and a little white wine are added for acidity, and the gratin is flavored with thyme and bay leaves. It can be prepared ahead and even frozen.

Serves 8


2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
1 tablespoon peanut oil
4 cups thinly sliced onions (about 14 ounces)
6 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced (3 tablespoons)
3 cups homemade chicken stock (page 612) or low-salt canned chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup dry white wine
3 bay leaves
2 fresh thyme sprigs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Peel the potatoes and cut them into ⅛-inch-thick slices.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. When it is hot, add the onions and sauté them for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, including the potatoes, mixing gently, and bring to a boil. Transfer the mixture to an 8-cup gratin dish.

Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until most of the moisture is absorbed and the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork. Serve.

Chicken Legs with Wine and Yams

I love both yams and sweet potatoes and use them in different ways, sometimes in soup, sometimes simply split in half and roasted in the oven. You can use either sweet potatoes or yams in this casserole, which also includes mushrooms, chicken, and wine. This is a great dish for company. It can be prepared ahead and reheated--which makes it even better.

Serves 4


2 tablespoons olive oil
4 whole chicken legs (about 3 pounds total), skin removed, drumsticks and thighs separated
¼ cup chopped onion
4 large shallots (about 6 ounces), sliced (about 1½cups)
8 medium mushrooms (about 5 ounces), cleaned and halved
4 small yams or sweet potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled and halved lengthwise
1 cup dry white wine
8 large garlic cloves, crushed and chopped (2 tablespoons)
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the chicken pieces in batches and sauté over medium-high heat until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes.

Add the onion and cook for 1 minute. Add the shallots, mushrooms, yams or sweet potatoes, wine, garlic, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat, and boil very gently for 20 minutes.

Garnish with the parsley and serve.


"A must-have for any cookbook fan."
--Edward Ash Millby for USA Today

"...simple without being dumbed down; approachable yet still adventurous... Whether he's explaining how to make Escoffier quenelles with mushroom sauce, black sea bass gravlax...or tarte tatin, [Pepin] makes it seem doable and shares tidbits of wisdom to boost confidence and kitchen knowledge... For serious cooks and beginners alike, this is an instant classic that would enhance almost any collection."
-Publishers Weekly, starred

"Jacques Pépin has been a constant inspiration to me. This book is a distillation of the very best of his creations, showing both the remarkable breadth of his cooking and the beautiful continuity of his dishes over the past sixty years. He makes food the way it should be made: Simple, seasonally ripe, pure, and impossible to resist."
—Alice Waters

"Jacques Pepin is The Master. The undisputed authority on . . . well, just about everything relating to food. If Jacques Pepin tells you this is the way to make an omelet — or to roast a chicken, then for me, the matter is settled. As with all his works, this is a vital, essential volume that should live in your kitchen forever. Nobody knows more or does it better."
—Anthony Bourdain

"If there's a 'best of the best' in cookbooks, this is it--a lifetime of greatest hits from our favorite ambassador of French cuisine. These recipes are more than just mouthwatering; they are as lively, unpretentious, and appealing as the man behind them, reminding us (as if we needed reminding) why we fell in love with French food, and with Jacques Pépin, in the first place. An essential collection from an essential chef."
—Dan Barber

"Jacques Pepin is a true artist and a masterful one at that. His commitment to excellence and dedication to quality education are evident throughout his storied career. Essential Pepin reflects his incredible body of work in what feels like an important literary achievement, and we, his pupils, are ever so fortunate to benefit from the breadth of knowledge within its pages. I often find that with Jacques Pepin, whether in print or on television, I walk away from my time with him having learned a little something more, and I feel a bit richer for that."
—Lidia Bastianich

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Har/DVD edition (October 18, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547232799
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547232799
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 1.9 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (415 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,952 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I am amazed to see how many people had the nerve to review this book on advance copy without even using the book or viewing the DVD! It is making me very suspicious of the Amazon Vine program and now all reviews on Amazon. I received this book as a gift, I did not intend to buy it. I didn't intend to buy it because I have Pepin's Complete Techniques, Fast Food My Way, Sweet Simplicity, his memoir and I don't know what else in my collection of over 450 cookbooks. I mean, do I need another one? I didn't think so. Well, I was wrong, wrong, wrong!

For starters, the book is made to be abused. A thick plastic cover that isn't destroyed when you wipe it clean. And every page is solidly stocked with recipes interspersed with sweet watercolor/drawings like cookbooks used to have. The complaints here over the lack of photos just don't apply as these dishes are so simple that any way they look when you finish them is probably exactly what they look like for everyone else. What happened to the time when people liked good food to look like it was made in an auberge and not a 5-star restaurant? What happened to the time when Julia's Mastering the Art of French Cooking was just fine with no photos?

As for the DVD, it is PURE GOLD even if you never use a recipe. You want to know what it looks like to do basic things right, like truss a chicken with or without a needle, shuck an oyster or clam with minimal trouble, use up artichokes that are spoiling, make a caramel cage or angel hair nest for a dessert? Just watch the magnificent videos of a chef with rare confidence in every technique he demonstrates, as if it were as easy as folding a napkin.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Cookbooks are a hard sell these days. If you want a recipe, you can get 20 versions on Epicurious, or use google and get thousands. If you want to see a technique demonstrated, youtube probably has it. So what would impel anybody to actually pay for a cookbook? In one word - Wisdom.

This tome (and it is, a tome) is a collection gleaned from Pepin's lifetime as a chef, (somewhat) updated to accommodate modern sensibilities. It has a remarkable range, from dorm food (pita pizza? really?) to roast goose with all the trimmings, to home-cured ham (cooking time - 8 months). It also has notable breadth, including not only things we Americans expect from a French cook (frogs legs, croissants, cassoulet), but also Asian soups, Indian relishes, and other dishes that have found their way into the US diet. (I was tickled to find my grandmother's schav recipe on the first page. Using chicken stock and sweet cream instead of scallion broth and sour, but still). Most of the recipes rely entirely on fresh ingredients (Tabasco sauce and such being the exceptions), but there are notes about potential substitutions (using canned stock for fresh, for example).

What makes this all worth it, however, is is the tidbits of knowledge larded throughout: "Moisten your hands before rolling out the meatballs," "You can double the dressing recipe - it will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks," "Don't worry if some of the stuffing is visible - it will not leak out," "You can make this ahead and reheat it, but add the peas at the last minute so they won't lose their color." And so on. This, coupled with the advice on techniques, brings the recipes out of the realm of "scarey French food" and into the realm of "totally doable.
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13 Comments 211 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
Okay, ok. Let's first taxi these children of the Food Network "foodies" safely off the runway.

Readers who want colorful photographs and step-by-step instructions: You want either "Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home" Or "Jacques Pepin Celebrates."

Readers who want the dvd to contain visual instructions on how to prepare many of the dishes in the book, buy the 3 dvd set of the same name (Essential Pepin) OR go sample some full length episodes on KQED. The single dvd included with this book is a condensed, updated version of Pepin's The Complete Techniques DVD, where he shows you how to perform essential techniques (knife sharpening, trussing a chicken, making a baguette, proper way of cutting, etc). I assure you, this is nothing like the current crop of tv cooks. He gets to the point and shows you the correct way. There is no flashiness, no reality tv conflict.

Readers who want to read about Pepin's long successful career, there is his autobiography: The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen.

Readers who don't know who Jacques Pepin is, and ask why they should buy this book when they can get the free recipes from the internet? Just read some of the conflicting comments from internet recipes. Internet recipes are not written with decades of teaching and cooking experience from a master chef who personally retested each recipe before putting it in this book.

The rest, either enjoy Essential Pepin, or go sign up with the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan where he is the Dean of Special Programs or go visit Jacques himself and ask him to show you how to cook.
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