Jacques Pépin's new cookbook reflects time in the kitchen with his granddaughter
Talking about the collaboration with his 13-year-old granddaughter on his latest cookbook, world renowned chef Jacques Pépin called attention to the 68-year difference in their ages.
“I’m past 80 years old, so how do you speak to a teenager now?” he asked. “At least this is a common denominator, a way of meeting. We can talk about what we are doing, and that leads to talking about other things.”
The book, “A Grandfather’s Lessons: In the Kitchen with Shorey,” is filled with recipes from hors d’oeuvres to desserts, as well as instructions on setting the table, table manners, and decorating food for fun. There are also links to videos of the two demonstrating what they write about in the book.
The 81-year-old Pépin, who lives in Madison, will be with granddaughter Shorey at the La Grua Center Saturday evening to sign copies of the book and talk about it.
The discussion will be led by Jennifer Rothman, the education director at Stonington’s Stone Acres Farm. Pépin said he’s a big fan of Stone Acres and the culinary and farming program that is being established there.
Spending time in the kitchen with Shorey was important to Pépin, who also had his daughter and Shorey’s mother, Claudine, work beside him when she was a little girl.
The interaction of elder and youngster, he said, is not only a form of communicating, but it also allows for learning, not only about ingredients and preparing them, but about geography, math, and other lessons.
“The dishes we did were simple in a way so she would be able to do it, but they are sophisticated dishes, too,” he said. “The idea was to have fun and do it together.”
They focused on recipes they could make with ingredients from their own gardens or the local market, and foods that Shorey favors. There’s instructions for things like “Garlic Spinach with Croutons,” “Curly Dogs with Pickle Relish,” and “Chocolate, Nut, and Fruit Tarts.”
When Pépin was 13, he was serving a grueling apprenticeship in his native France, working and learning from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week, with only a few days off at the end of each month to visit his family and have his pants, jacket, apron and towels laundered, before heading back to school again.
“It seemed like slave labor at the time, but it was like that for other apprentices,” he said. “But to compare to my granddaughter, that’s impossible.”
Shorey is growing up very differently, he said.
“I’m still faster than she with a knife, but with an iPhone and iPad, she’s much faster,” he said.
Shorey’s father is also a chef and her mother a good cook, and she is precocious in her food tastes, her grandfather said, because, since she was a baby, she ate whatever the adults were eating.
“I think it is a mistake to feed children something other than what is on the family menu or to reward them for eating spinach or Brussels sprouts,” Pépin writes in his book introduction.
The collaboration with Shorey was easy and natural, said Pépin, who believes the kitchen is a very good place for families to convene.
“The smell of food cooking, your mother’s or your father’s voice, the clang of utensils, and the taste of food: These memories will stay with you for the rest of your life,” he wrote.
Shorey taught him to have more patience and the joy of spending time with a grandchild, he said. In the video on etiquette, she good-naturedly instructs him on table manners, reminding him to eat with his mouth closed, to keep his elbows off the table, and to bring food to his mouth and not his face to the plate.
He describes the book as simple and admits the intent was to spend more time with his granddaughter and build on their relationship.
But while the preparation might not be so difficult, some of the dishes are elegant and will appeal to all generations, like the “Shushi Salmon Cubes” and “Cottage Cheese Pancakes with Blueberries.”
Over the years, Pépin has published about 30 books, some of them compilations, and has been featured on 14 public television cooking series. He has been a dean of the International Culinary Center since 1988, and before coming to the U.S., was the personal chef to Charles de Gaulle. He was the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the James Beard Foundation in 2005, as well as numerous other accolades and honors.
The book, “A Grandfather’s Lessons: In the Kitchen with Shorey,” was released Sept. 12 and is available from Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflan Harcourt, for $30.
Recipes from "A Grandfather's Lessons: In the Kitchen with Shorey"
Cottage Cheese Pancakes with Blueberries
Makes 8 pancakes
This is one of Gloria’s recipes that she often makes for Shorey’s breakfast when she stays at our house. Shorey always eats fruit for breakfast, and she is very fond of blueberries, so we mix the berries with apricot preserves to serve with the pancakes. (I heat the preserves in a microwave oven for a few seconds, so they liquefy and combine well with the blueberries.) You can use honey or sour cream instead or substitute other berries for the blueberries.
I mix the ingredients in a small food processor and add the cottage cheese at the end, pulsing it for only a few seconds so it keeps a bit of its texture.
2 large eggs, preferably organic
¼ cup sour cream
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon sugar
⅛ teaspoon salt
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup cottage cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons peanut, grapeseed, or safflower oil
¼ cup apricot preserves
1 cup blueberries
Put the eggs, sour cream, vanilla, sugar, salt, and flour in a small food processor in this order and process for about 15 seconds, until smooth. Add the cottage cheese and process for a few seconds, just enough to mix it in.
Heat 1 tablespoon each of the butter and oil in a 10- to 12-inch nonstick skillet. Add about 3 tablespoons of batter for each pancake, making 4 pancakes at a time, and cook for about 3 minutes on the first side. Flip and cook for 1½ to 2 minutes on the other side. Transfer the pancakes to a plate and repeat, heating the remaining butter and oil and making a second batch of pancakes with the rest of the batter.
Meanwhile, heat the apricot preserves in a microwave oven for about 30 seconds to liquefy them, then mix with the blueberries.
Serve the warm pancakes with the blueberries.
To see how it’s done, go to www.surlatable.com/jacquespepin.
Roast Chicken on Garlicky Salad
Serves 4 to 6
One of my favorite combinations is roast chicken cut into pieces and served on a Boston lettuce salad topped with a bit of sautéed chopped onion and parsley and the juices from the chicken. I usually roast my own chicken, but when I am in a bind, I buy a freshly roasted rotisserie chicken. Dark brown, shiny, and juicy, the cooked chicken is perfect with my salad.
I wanted to show Shorey how to use the supermarket in the best possible way, and how you can transform an ordinary chicken, making it your own, with a bit of imagination and know-how. I demonstrated how to carve the bird into eight or ten pieces with kitchen shears and arrange these pieces on young, tender Boston lettuce leaves spread out on a large platter. Sautéing a mixture of garlic, scallions, and shallots in olive oil and sprinkling that on top gives the dish a personal delicious touch. This dish should be served lukewarm or at room temperature, not ice-cold.
1 head Boston lettuce (5 to 6 ounces), preferably hydroponic
1 rotisserie chicken (about 2 pounds), plus ¼ to cup of the cooking juices
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
⅔ cup sliced scallions
½ cup coarsely chopped shallots
1½ tablespoons chopped garlic (4 or 5 cloves)
Separate the lettuce into leaves and arrange them on a large platter. Using kitchen shears or a knife, cut the chicken into 8 to 10 pieces (that includes the backbones, neck, wings, etc.) and arrange them on top of the lettuce. Sprinkle the chicken and salad with the salt and pepper.
At serving time, make the garnish: Heat the olive oil in a saucepan. Add the scallions, shallots, and garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until softened. Add the chicken cooking juices and stir well.
Sprinkle the garnish on top of the chicken and salad. Serve immediately.
To see how it’s done, go to www.surlatable.com/jacquespepin.
If you go
What: Renowned chef and Madison resident Jacques Pépin and his granddaughter Shorey will discuss Pépin's new book, "A Grandfather's Lessons: In the Kitchen with Shorey."
When: 5 p.m. Saturday
Where: La Grua Center, 32 Water St., Stonington.
Cost: $50, includes a copy of the new book
How: Visit the La Grua Center website for advance ticket purchase. Event was almost sold out at press time. On Saturday afternoon, at the door, people can buy partial view balcony seats at a reduced price of $40, which also includes a copy of the book.
What else: A Q&A and book signing will follow the discussion.