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January Cookbook of the Month 2012: Essential Pepin by Jacques Pepin

Welcome to our January 2012 Cookbook of the Month, ESSENTIAL PEPIN by Jacques Pepin.

Just been lurking up until now? We’d love to have you join us. This link explains how it all works: http://www.chow.com/cookbook_of_the_m...

This thread will be used for general discussion, menu planning, linking to recipes from the books available elsewhere on the web, and for discussing the sections at the front and back of the books covering general techniques, ingredients, sources, etc.

The threads linked below will be used to discuss recipes in the chapters listed directly below each link.

ESSENTIAL PEPIN: Soups and Salads http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/825937

ESSENTIAL PEPIN: Pasta, Rice, Grains and Potatoes http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/825938

ESSENTIAL PEPIN: Eggs and Cheese http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/825939

ESSENTIAL PEPIN: Breads, Sandwiches and Pizzas http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/825940

ESSENTIAL PEPIN: Shellfish and Fish http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/825941

ESSENTIAL PEPIN: Poultry and Game http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/825942

ESSENTIAL PEPIN: Meat; Charcuterie and Offal http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/825943

ESSENTIAL PEPIN: Vegetables and Side Dishes http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/825944

ESSENTIAL PEPIN: Fruit Desserts; Frozen Desserts http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/825945

ESSENTIAL PEPIN: Puddings, Sweet Souffles and Crepes; Cakes, Cookies and Candies; Tarts, Pies and Pastries http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/825946

ESSENTIAL PEPIN: Basics http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/825947

The Chowhound Team has asked me to remind you that verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is a violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

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  1. Companion thread for recipes from other Pepin works: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/825929

    1. First time participating in COTM- hurray! I made the tomato and zucchini gratin as a side to rack of lamb for new year's eve. What I loved about this as opposed to other more traditional gratins was the lack of butter, cheese or a ton of cheese. I used two tablespoons of parm instead of three. I really liked that he uses wheat toast for the bread crumbs. I also appreciate the flexibility of the dish in that you absolutely could add in things like yellow peppers, shallots, etc. and I'm sure it would be delicious.

      Can't wait to dive into this book and participate in COTM!

      1 Reply
      1. re: Mr Bigglesworth

        Welcome to you, Mr. Bigglesworth. There are several Greater Boston CHs who are habitual COTMers. That's fun because we can advise each other about where to find certain hard-to-find ingredients. But the best fun is the friendly exchange of ideas and techniques with all those who like to cook along with this fabulous group of home cooks.

        Just post your reports/reviews in the threads provided by the coordinator so all the reports of the same recipes appear in the same place. The links are in the OP. I love the sound of that gratin you mentioned. I haven't read all the recipes yet but that one is right up my alley.

      2. On January 28, PBS Create's Saturday marathon is Essential Pepin. That would be 12 episodes, repeated in 6-hr blocks from Saturday 6 a.m. until Sunday 6 a.m.

        1 Reply
        1. re: greygarious

          Thank you for the heads-up, Grey. Another lost week-end, I guess.

        2. I'm just dropping by here to say how helpful the DVD is. We did the Chicken Ballottine last night, and prepared ourselves by watching the segment on the DVD. It is great that there are chapters that you can search, and just watch the exact demonstration that you need. He explains things very clearly, and those explanations are also written out in the book. Very easy to follow, even for a somewhat challenging dish.

          1. I'm liking but not loving this book. Happy to have a little more time on my hands for cooking this weekend, I was disappointed at the (lack of) variety of recipes I found for the ingredients I had on hand. Don't get me wrong, I love Jacques who I find totally charming however, somehow I was expecting more from this book. I still recall the fun I had a year ago w the Grace Young COTM and perhaps its just that I'm not feeling the same way about this book. Nonetheless, most of what I've tried thus far has been good and, I'll continue cooking w the hope that the enthusiasm will build!!

            I also prepared 2 make-ahead dishes today as well (Lentil Barley Soup & Sweet & Spicy Curried Chicken) - loved the convenience and haven't sampled them yet so I'll review when we do so.

            6 Replies
            1. re: Breadcrumbs

              I'm with you on this. I just got a copy from the library last week. So far, I haven't found anything I want to make. This tends to be a problem I have with really large books, so that is part of it. Also perhaps it just isn't the kind of food I want to eat right now. After the holidays, I think I'd rather have less traditional food. Whatever it is, I'm just not getting into this one.

              1. re: Breadcrumbs

                When I first received the book and was looking for recipes to flag, I found little that interested me. But I'll be leaving the country for two plus months in about six weeks and am in clean-out-the-fridge-and-freezer mode. Starting with an ingredient or two, I search EYB to find something appropriate. And I always have; at least so far. That has led me to recipes I'd never have even glanced at if I were just perusing the book. I've made six recipes so far (two more on tap for tonight) and I've given three or more stars (out of five) to four of the dishes.

                I'm beginning to think that his recipes are deceptively simple and fare better in the execution than in the reading. An extra touch of vinegar here, and unexpected ingredient there, and it puts a new and delicious spin on something I would have thought old hat.

                Anyway, I'm enjoying the results of this book far more than I expected to. Certainly enough to continue using it. Happily, I might add.

                1. re: JoanN

                  I'm really glad to read this report, because I bought the book, curled up with it, and while I loved his family stories about the food, didn't find anything I wanted to make, or that sounded better than what I'm already cooking.

                  1. re: mcf

                    I have to say that while it has been hard to get inspired by the book, I've really liked almost all of the recipes I have tried, mostly taking my cues from other posters--and not actively disliked any.

                    1. re: nomadchowwoman

                      Thanks for more encouraging words... I love Pepin and I really wanted to love the book. Now I feel determined to take a stab at it.

                2. re: Breadcrumbs

                  I'm feeling sort of the same way. I've usually loved Pepin recipes, but I too have found few in this book that cry out to me. But reading Hounds' reports is helping me take a closer look, and I'm going to try a few more.

                3. For lack of other place to post, just wanted to mention that I recall Jacques mentioning two techniques/hints so long ago I know not what program.

                  1) His wife told him to take the core part inside the garlic OUT.

                  2) He peeled his green bell pepper, in one instance, and said that it cuts out the bitterness, which I have done ever since. I am not fond of green bell pepper and seldom buy it, but I found two beautiful-looking organic green bell peppers which I added to a dish tonight, I'm glad I peeled it. It didn't have a bitter taste.

                  It's these little things that I appreciate Jacques for, as well.

                  1. Is there a link up to the voting for February?

                    1 Reply
                    1. I have to admit, I haven't even taken the shrink wrap off my copy of this book (I keep meaning to!), but I keep reading side comments in various threads here and there from various COTM hounds saying they just can't get into the book this month. Is it that people are finding the recipes uninspiring or they aren't having any luck with the recipes they try? I'm suddenly feeling less and less inclined to rip off the plastic...


                      9 Replies
                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        As I've said before, I was quite disappointed when I first flipped through the book and found nothing the least inspiring. Then I started to cook from it. I've made only seven recipes so far, and five of them got three-and-a-half or more stars out of five. (And I'm a hard marker!) The recipes may not read like much, but many of them are very (very!) easy and pack a lot of flavor. Especially for someone looking for quick and satisfying weeknight meals, I think there are some real treasures in there. As I've also mentioned, I'm in clean-out-the-fridge mode and have been very impressed not only by recipes I'd never have looked at twice, but by how pantry and staple friendly so many of them are. Take a look at some of the recipe reviews rather than the side comments. They may change your mind.

                        1. re: JoanN

                          OK, whew, thank you. Some books are harder to get into than others, and I guess this might just be one of those.


                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                            This is the first Pepin book that I bought and I was very excited to cook from it until I opened it and nothing, absolutely nothing inspired me to go to the kitchen and start cooking. Part of it is the layout that I do not like but that never stopped me from cooking from a book in the past. I found his too frequent inclusion of Tabasco in the recipes less than appealing. But honestly, I do not know why this book left me so cold.

                            1. re: herby

                              Tabasco? That's interesting. I haven't reached for my bottle once.

                              1. re: JoanN

                                Oh yes, Joan... I have more than once.

                                1. re: Gio

                                  I can't remember which recipe it was that called for Tabasco - I can't recall what I substituted. I used to keep it around, but haven't for years. Thinking about this -- perhaps those recipes that call for Tabasco are the older recipes when more people used it? OTOH, maybe people still do buy it, but there are sooo many good-looking Tabasco-type products.

                        2. re: The Dairy Queen

                          I have to admit, reading through this book doesn't inspire me much. But the two things I've tried, I've enjoyed very much. My to-try list is a lot, lot shorter than on most books, which is kind of a shame considering how big this book is.

                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                            When my copy showed up from the library a week into January, my first read was "boring", but on closer inspection (prodded on by various posts of positive results) there really are some love worthy things about this book. For starters, for the type of cooking, there's relatively (emphasis on relatively) little call for cream/butter/animal fat, excellent technique and clear instructions, the pages look dull but read well, and it is a good "I have ingredient x what can I do with it?" book.

                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                              I wanted to weigh in here in this general discussion of the book ("weigh in"--ha! talk about your Freudian slips!)

                              Like others have posted here, I initially felt underwhelmed. The plainness of the book's format (am I indeed such a sucker for lush photos?) combined with the sheer volume of the collection made me tired before I began! So many recipes; so little time, I thought, and the lack of photos made it hard to fall for any particular recipe as I initially went through the book. But when I did buckle down and choose some recipes for winter family meals, based on what was readily available and/or in my pantry already, I was pleasantly surprised by how good everything tasted. The two fish and two poultry dishes that I tried were standouts that I will definitely make again, and the vegetable section rewarded my attention with simple, flavorful ways to treat old standbys like broccoli, haricots verts and cauliflower.

                              The techniques were well-described and I learned some new ones. I also like the way each section's recipes were presented at the beginning of the chapter. Made it easier to choose. I'm now planning on giving this as wedding/shower presents to folks starting out cooking.

                              And boy, you can sure tell this was a "January-keeping those resolutions" COTM--so far, only three dessert recipes reviewed! ;-)

                            2. In all fairness I must admit I have found his techniques, hints, tips and tricks have been great to read and use. We cooked some splendid meals but as usual we've made mostly simple recipes. We have been pleasantly surprised (or not), though, with the outcome. If I've counted correctly this man has written 25 cookbooks. How does he do it? Not to mention TV shows, appearances, etc. ad infinitum.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Gio

                                Jacques has always been one of my favorites and I've learned many cooking techniques from him, especially knife skills. This book is a treasure trove of his life in cooking and when I was reading through it the first time I kept that in mind and loved it from the start. If you believe in his skill and his ability to respect the ingredient he is using then I think you will try more and more recipes form the book and be pleasantly rewarded, as most of the replies have suggested. "Happy Cooking"!

                              2. I'm surprised so many people are finding it boring. But maybe it just wasn't what some of you were in the mood for this month? I ended up buying the ebook of the cookbook last week because I couldn't pass up the price tag of 9.99 and I love that it has little videos imbedded. Create had a marathon of his shows from this cookbook yesterday and I watched a few episodes and got inspired. Loved what he did with artichokes, and the pate and those lovely fruit tarts.

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: rasputina

                                  Rasputina, I haven't yet jumped on the bandwagon for e-book cookbooks, though I read other books avidly on my Kindle. But your report about the embedded videos in this book is interesting--wonder if they are taken from the DVD of techniques that came with my print copy of Essential Pepin? I have the DVD, but don't get it out to coordinate with my print cookbook. It would be very nice to have them easily available as I peruse the e-book version.
                                  So you are enjoying the e-book version? What e-book reader do you use?
                                  I do really like the book itself, despite being one of those who wasn't overly impressed at first. But everything I've made has been really good.

                                  1. re: Goblin

                                    You know, I bet they are the videos from the DVD. The videos include ones on clarifying stock, making an omelet, forming and marking breads like épi, cutting up chickens and rabbits and making chocolate balloons among others.

                                    I have a lot of ebook cookbooks, I am using the kindle app on my iPad, but I also have a few in ibooks. It's convienent since I cook from iPad all the time and keep my recipes on the macgourmet app.

                                    1. re: rasputina

                                      I've been thinking about buying 1,000 Italian Recipes by Michele Scicolone http://www.amazon.com/000-Italian-Rec... Somehow I just can't bring myself to buy into the green print presented in this book; i.e., Look Inside & Sample previews.. I've been going back and forth on this purchase.

                                      I use Kindle for PC, and download to either my netbook, Laptop or PC, but I can download to my the android phone, but it is too small for comfort. I always prefer the PC or laptop for downloading books, even though I have a Nook Color. What is the most 'complicated' cookbook you have bought - I'm not sure what I mean by that - except perhaps Essential Pepin perhaps, since it's large and has a multitude of recipes.

                                      1. re: Rella

                                        Rella I'm a big fan of Michele Scicolone and this book in particular. This was likely the most-used Italian book on my shelves last year. I have reviewed some of the recipes in EYB if you are interested. I'd highly recommend this book for it's diversity, authenticity and highly reliable results. Here's a link to some of the dishes I've tried and reviewed in EYB:


                                        1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                          Thanks. Yes, I've seen your recommendations and I know from reading your postings about this book that you really like it. I probably would not be as set on owning it had I not read them. Have you mentioned the print (green) being difficult. As for EP, I find that not so difficult print to read, but mostly annoying for a number of reasons. I have another book, "1,000 Indian Recipes" by Neelam Batra which is a large book in which the print is actually a dark maroon, but the font size and layout poses no problem. In the 1,000 Indian book, I love the way she puts the recipe ingredients in 'bold' font and a different font than the instructions. Looking back, I do recall looking at MS's book, but I was not ready to add another cookbook at that time. Now, I'm thinking of trying a kindle cookbook, and it will probably be hers, if I can make up my mind to buy it in kindle.

                                          1. re: Rella

                                            Neelam Batra's book is probably my favorite Indian cookbook.

                                        2. re: Rella

                                          I have Michele Scicolone's slow cooker cookbooks, but I only got them recently and I haven't cooked from them. I have a Rice Cooker cookbook that has that horrible green print and it is so hard to read, one benefit of the ebooks is choosing the font color.

                                          As far as "complicated" or large size e cookbooks, probably Essential Pepin and On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee that one is 900 pages, but it's not really a cookbook per se. Most of my other e cookbooks are in the 200-300 page range.

                                          I'm seriously considering getting The Professional Chef iPad app. That book is 1200 pages and the app includes videos.

                                          1. re: rasputina

                                            Well, you have helped me, Rasputina. I will probably take a first step now with an e cookbook. I'm a nervous nellie. I have the book Professional Chef which I've really never opened, but bought it some time ago for $17-$18, knowing it was a bargain - and it sits on a shelf.

                                            I just now opened it to see how many pages it has -- 1200+ and opened it to a page "chicken tagine" and preserved lemons, which I've made this past month - my lemons are waiting. I've never had good luck with preserved lemons, but I'm trying a new technique. Also opened "1,000 Indian Recipes" to p. 86, "Other Vegetable Pickles." It has a nice Cucumber Pickle I'll probably make. I'm getting a bit tired of the same recipe I've been making (American type) again and again. Looks as if you are really enjoying the iPad. Maybe I should think about doing more with my Nook Color - but not today :-))