Archive for the ‘cookbooks’ Tag

Jacques Pepin’s Many Kitchens   Leave a comment

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Jacques Pepin practically grew up in kitchens, which he chronicles in The Apprentice – a memoir with recipes. Born in southern France, he was a child during World War II when the scarcity of food was at its height. He learned to scavenge and worked on a farm before his mother opened a village restaurant when the war ended. This led to several apprenticeships, essentially trial and error experiences, before moving to Paris as a young adult.

Pepin’s writing voice is strong and vivid; the only thing missing is his French accent. His narrative reveals his work ethic, determination and a sense of fun. He goes from a lowly kitchen boy whose first assignment was nothing more than a prank to becoming the personal chef of President Charles de Gaulle – all before making a name for himself in the United States.

His move the New York City was both an adventure (meant to last a year or two at the most) and a leap of faith. Pepin spoke no English. Still, he becomes friends with fellow foodies – long before the term was conceived. Accounts of his friendships with Craig Claiborne, Julia Child and James Beard, among others, are peppered throughout like perfect seasonings to enhance but not overwhelm. Descriptions of meals add further appeal.

It’s fascinating to see his career evolve from cooking to teaching cooking techniques (and more) to authoring cookbooks and hosting television programs. Pepin shares his emotions, his appreciation of well-prepared food and the value he places on family and friends.

The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen
A Memoir with Recipes
Four Bookmarks
A Rux Martin Book, 2003
318 pages with index

Chicken Worth its Wait   2 comments

bouchonplate

Bouchon Bistro used to only offer fried chicken dinners once a month. Reservations filled within minutes; sometimes it felt like having one wrong lottery number. Now the odds are a little better: the crispy fried chicken in Thomas Keller’s restaurant is served twice monthly.

Although, the regular menu is available, I have to wonder why anyone would consider it. The sides, aren’t always the same, but by all accounts the chicken has a consistently high wow factor. Recently, the meal included fork-crushed potatoes, pole bean salad and Parker House rolls. The chicken is the star of the night. Plump from soaking in a lemon/herb brine for more than 12 hours, it’s deep-fried for a coating that shatters as soon as it meets your lips.bouchonchix

(Keller has numerous dining establishments. He’s authored several cookbooks, including Ad Hoc at Home featuring the fried chicken recipe. The description of the process and lengthy list of ingredients intrigued me, so last winter I tried it. It was good to know that, with fortitude and lots of time, the chicken can be made at home very close to what Bouchon serves. Keller also edits Finesse, a beautifully-designed magazine with articles celebrating the beauty of kitchens: design, cooking, gadgets and techniques.)

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Back to that chicken, it’s juicy on the inside and crunchy on the outside for the perfect combination of texture and taste: buttermilk, rosemary and thyme. The bean salad in bacon vinaigrette, although flavorful, wasn’t as stellar as the creamy potatoes and rolls; even with a chicken-only meal I’d feel like a winner.

Bouchon Bistro
Five Plates
235 North Canon Dr.
Beverly Hills, Calif.