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What is fast food Jacques Pépin's way? It's certainly not meals that you order by number, in super-size if you want. It's not le big mac. To culinary icon Jacques Pépin, the classically trained French chef, television personality, and cookbook author, fast food means nothing less than elegant, straightforward fare that can be prepared easily. Salmon seasoned with fresh herbs and nutty bread crumbs that you bake right on the serving platter in a low oven that's the epitome of fast food Jacques's way.
Jacques Pépin Fast Food My Way (Houghton Mifflin Company, September 2004) is a beautiful, practical cookbook that will prove indispensable to cooks in a hurry everywhere. Filled with exquisitely simple recipes and timesaving tips, this book ensures delicious meals that are quick enough to fit into busy lifestyles but also special enough for company. Using readily available ingredients, Jacques shows us how to create such mouthwatering dishes as Instant Beef Tenderloin Stew, Pumpkin Soup with Toasted Walnuts, Chicken Breasts with Balsamic and Shallot Sauce, and Apple Skillet Cake.
Little Shrimp Casseroles couldn't be more of a cinch and are perfect for company. Just toss the shrimp with garlic, scallions, mushrooms, and bread crumbs, and voilà! Ham Steaks with an Apricot-Mustard Glaze are a quick, delicious dish that, like all the recipes in this book, is good for company.
Jacques reveals his love of unpretentious food with dishes that can be rustled together from ingredients found in every kitchen: homey appetizers (Toasted Bread and Mozzarella), impromptu lunches (bow-tie pasta with fried eggs, seasoned with Gruyère and fresh chives), and a decidedly untraditional but extremely satisfying 30-Minute Cassoulet (made with Italian sausage and bratwurst).
A master of technique, Jacques teaches us how to make flavorful vegetable soup in a trice (his wife calls it "fridge soup") just by grating a mix of vegetables (including salad greens!) into plain water, then thickening it with instant grits (or angel-hair pasta, semolina, or oatmeal whatever's on hand). He makes his Instant Beef Tenderloin Stew not with tough stewing meat but with slices of tender steak, flash-sautéing them and combining them with colorful vegetables that he prepares separately. And who but the guy who was once chef to Charles de Gaulle, then passed up the chance to cook for JFK in favor of a job at HoJos, would have the audacity to make caramelized peaches from canned peaches? (And, yes, the coleslaw he perfected at HoJos is here.)
Jacques is no food snob. He never hesitates to take advantage of convenience products, transforming canned white beans into a rich puree for an appetizer or combining store-bought cookies and fresh strawberries in a quick strawberry parfait.
But most of the food in this book turns on fresh ingredients well prepared: Asian Eggplant Salad, Asparagus with Shallots, Halibut on Fresh Polenta (made of fresh corn puree), Pear Brown Betty. It's all as easy as un, deux, trois.
With no tricks, no gimmicks, and no compromises in flavor or appearance, just honest techniques and the lessons of a lifetime of experience, Jacques Pépin Fast Food My Way proves that the best food is the simplest food.