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Jacques Pepin's Complete Techniques Hardcover – July 31, 2001
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From the Inside Flap
From one of the world's best-known and most highly respected chefs comes a true publishing event: a fully up-to-date, one-volume edition of La Technique and La Methode, featuring step-by-step photographs of Pepin's hands on every page - along with his inimitably clear and concise instruction on each technique.
Jacques Pepin's Complete Techniques features everything the home cook needs to perfect: poach an egg, whisk a perfect hollandaise, knead a crispy baguette, or bake an exquisite meringue with the perfection and efficiency of a professional chef. Featured throughout the book, Pepin's classic recipes offer budding masters the opportunity to put lessons into practice with extraordinary results.
Moving from the basics (holding and sharpening knives, peeling vegetables, separating and poaching eggs, making stocks and sauces, carving meats, even folding napkins) through each food category (fish and shellfish, vegetables, poultry and meat, breads, pastry, and dessert), Jacques Pepin's Complete Techniques is the most comprehensive study of French cooking methods ever collected in one volume. It is sure to become an indispensable part of every home cook's library for many years to come.
When professionals work with ease and rapidity, it is a result of long years of practice and discipline. There are no secrets or tricks; only feats of skill (tours de main) acquired with prolonged effort. Through endless repetition, these techniques will become so much a part of you that you'll never forget them.
"People often tell me that what surprises them most is watching me cook and talk at the same time. This is because my hands are trained to the point where I do not have to think about the processes I use as I make a recipe-it's automatic. Instead of fighting the mechanics of cooking. I can concentrate on thinking about the combination of ingredients, about taste, and about texture. You may be very creative and imaginative in the kitchen, but you cannot take advantage of those qualities if you don't know the basics. A solid background must precede inventiveness." (Jacques Pepin, from the Introduction)
Jacques Pepin is one of America's best-known cookbook authors and cooking teachers, and has appeared regularly on PBS-TV for more than a decade, hosting or co-hosting with Julia Child or his daughter Claudine, more than 300 cooking shows. A former New York Times columnist, he is a contributing editor to Food & Wine magazine and has published nineteen cookbooks. He serves as Dean of Special Programs at The French Culinary Institute in New York City and teaches at Boston University. Born in Borg-en-Bresse, France, he was the personal chef to three French heads of state before moving to the United States in 1959. He now lives in Connecticut.
From the Back Cover
The publication of Jacques Pepin's Complete Techniques is sure to be celebrated by expert cooks and beginners alike. Here, the man Julia Child has called "not only a renowned chef, a foremost authority on French cuisine, a great teacher and. truly a master technician" provides easy-to-follow instructions for hundreds of culinary procedures and preparations, including:
Braising Beef - Breading Veal Scallopine - Carving Poached Salmon - Stuffing Sausage - Making Chocolate Cigarettes - Cleaning and Boning Trout - Cooking and Presenting Lobsters - Filling Cream Puffs - Filleting Fish - Folding Napkins - Topping Fruit Tarts - Making Green Noodles - Grilling Poultry - Holding the Knife - Using Ladyfingers - Lining Cake Pans - Making Pepper Steak - Rolling Pie Dough - Poaching Eggs - Preparing Mussels - Peeling Onions - Using Fish Stock - Creating Apple Swans - Separating Eggs - Making Sole Meuniere - Stuffing Mushrooms - Trimming and Cooking Meat - Braising Chicken Livers - Frying Parsley - Poaching Salmon - Carving Rib Roast - Baking Country Bread and Baguettes - Making Fruit Cake - Flaming Bananas - Glazing Cake with Fondant - Seeding a Cucumber - Cleaning Salad - Fluting Mushrooms - Coating a Cookie Sheet - Folding in Butter - Icing a Vodka Bottle - Shucking Oysters - Peeling and Preparing Green Peppers - Braising Lettuce - Trussing Poultry . and much more.
"This is the book that every aspiring cook should read before picking up a French knife. Concise, informative, indispensable." (Anthony Bourdain, author of Kitchen Confidential and A Cook's Tour)
"A through-going study of the skills of the kitchen as interpreted by an extraordinarily talented and skilled French chef. An invaluable book for anyone seriously interested in cooking with class." (Helen McCully, former food editor, House Beautiful)
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This Summer, my daughter will be cooking with "Grandpere" Jacques, and throwing luncheons and teas for her friends in the garden, in Hawaii. She will be assisted by "Aunt Martha" with decor ideas and perhaps some colorful appetizer presentations. For those who read other reviewers' comments calling some of Jacques' presentations "dated", perhaps they might be dated in the sense of the famous Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice, which is still enjoyed by millions of people. We think that Jacques' presentations add a charming dimension to the culinary endeavors.
My daughter is currently selecting recipes for her Alice in Wonderland tea party in the garden. Jacques has so many fun techniques and presentations! We, however, will be substituting asian Kanten (agar, a seaweed product often sold in sticks) for gelatin, and cutting (or where possible eliminating) sugar with KAL brand Organic Stevia Extract powder. (Sometimes, one needs the sugar for reasons other than sweetness, so complete elimination of sugar in recipes may cause issues.)
On advice of other reviewers we also got the Anne Willan books, but we think that Jacques Pepin's Complete Techniques is just the right text for my daughter, after all. One reason is that, as delightful as Anne and her books are, her books are more complicated and therefore more daunting. Jacques makes everything seem simple and achievable in a few easy steps following the pictures. (For those who want to revel in atmosphere, this might not be the book for you. This book's presentation style is more like that of instructions for installing the battery in your new gadget. It seems to be written from a French perspective, which is to matter of factly, using excellent techniques, efficiently prepare something divine, so that one can get on to reveling in the pleasure of eating the thing.) Another reason, which may not be applicable to other readers, is that my teen and her teen friends are likely pore over the book with their floury hands, as they learn how to cook, and can feel free to do so with Jacques' paperback book. Merci beaucoup, M. Pepin!
The book in English that is most similar to this is James Peterson's `Essentials of Cooking'. This newer volume is an excellent book with color photographs and coverage of subjects which is probably pretty complete for the average culinary amateur. Pepin's work is in an entirely different class, aimed at the professional and, by extension, the foodie wannabe professional.
In Peterson's book, the first chapter, `Basics', covers twenty-four (24) topics. In his first chapter of the same name, Pepin covers seventy (70) subjects. Even allowing for the fact that Pepin includes nine (9) egg topics in Basics that Peterson puts in a later chapter, this is an impressive margin of coverage from Pepin. Pepin's topics tend to be somewhat more basic and focus heavily on knife skills, even including a section on how to sharpen knives. Even though these topics are simple, Pepin gives each technique all the attention it needs. One of the clearest examples of Pepin's great attention to detail is in his treatment of my favorite subject for evaluating one's culinary writing. This is how to make a classic French omelet. As I noted in my review of Peterson's book, Chef James is just a bit short on some important details. Pepin not only covers all the bases, but also adds a few tips to omelet making technique that I have not seen elsewhere. The only warning I give about his technique is that since it was written before non-stick surfaces on saute pans were perfected and available on high-end cookware, the author does not recommend them. All recent descriptions of omelet making strongly recommend non-stick pans for all egg cookery.
The chapter on Fish and Shellfish continues Pepin's emphasis on basics, including several topics for which the average amateur chef may never have a use, such as methods for handling sea urchins, frogs legs, salmon in aspic, and pate of fish. Conversely, I am surprised to find no section on the `en papillote' cooking method that Peterson covers in detail. Other Peterson topics on which Pepin passes are methods for squid and preparing salmon steaks. The differences in coverage in this chapter alone make it worth one's while to own both books.
The chapter on vegetables is a real wealth of techniques for making really cheap ingredients into impressive presentations. You can dream about poaching or smoking whole Scottish line-caught salmon, but you can easily afford to do one of the eleven (11) different techniques Pepin describes for potatoes. In fact, this is probably some of the most dramatic evidence of the French obsession with food preparation. When I think of Irish potato preparations, I think of boiled potatoes, champ, and colcannon. In this chapter, the French have eight (8) different ways of just cutting potatoes, let alone all the methods used to fry, gratin, roast, boil, and saute potatoes in the French lexicon.
Pepin uncharacteristically combines poultry and meat into one chapter, but this is incidental. Pepin and Peterson cover a roughly equal number of chicken subjects, with Pepin covering some more typically French subjects such as glazing and sausage making. On cutting up a chicken, I give extra points to Peterson for the efficacy of his color pictures detailing his technique. Pepin very usefully separates all his carving techniques into a separate chapter that covers fish, birds, and beasts.
In the next chapter on `Breads', Pepin covers a topic that Peterson simply does not even touch. Pepin points out that bread making is one of those activities which involves a few simple ingredients, but a highly sophisticated technique. Like making a good omelet, it's all in knowing how. Having made a fairly wide variety of loaves of bread in my time, I would not recommend Pepin's book as the best introduction to breadmaking. His book is all about technique. It gives practically no understanding of why you do each of the steps in a particular way. And, his basic breadmaking technique is a little different from any other I have seen. On the positive side, I would strongly recommend anyone attempting to make baguettes to check out Pepin's description, as it is the only place I have seen pictures of classic baguette making equipment in use.
The real jewel in this book is the last chapter on `Pastry and Dessert'. This is the first indication I had of Pepin's skill as a pastry chef in addition to his great reputation as a savory chef. This by far the longest chapter in the book and has the greatest potential to adding a bit of `wow' to one's entertaining. One of the more important gems hidden in this chapter is Pepin's technique for making crepes in the section on Crepes Suzettes. I have successfully made crepes using Julia Child's recipe for years, yet Pepin's pictures and comments succeed in adding to my knowledge of the technique. For the supreme `wow' effect, check out the technique for the Christmas Yule Log (Buche de Noel). Another major topic absent from Peterson's book you will find here is the method for soufflé. In spite of all these flash dishes, the chapter still concentrates on a lot of very basic building block techniques such as recipes for custards, creams, meringues, toasts, galettes, caramel, brittle, and chocolate leaves.
If you are an aspiring professional or serious foodie, Pepin's book is probably the most important book you can have in your kitchen. It covers twice the material of Peterson's book with greater authority and fewer lapses. If you are an amateur who enjoys cooking, get both. Highly recommended.
How does one otherwise get a grasp of these things outside of a first class cooking school? Not even the proliferation of foodie shows really explain these things. They seem to devote fully a third of their shows to tasting how wonderful their food is. Their taste has no real value to the viewer.
In contrast, Mr Pépin's unpretentious explanations and cautions and suggestions can open a world of understanding that will increase any cooks repertoire well beyond mere adherence to the recipe.