Jul 15 2017

Alone In The Kitchen With An Old Frenchman

Recently French chef Jacques Pépin turned 80 and retired. Over the years, he educated viewers of Public Television on how to cook and, something that no other cooking show host has done, techniques in the kitchen with wisdom, humor and a smattering of French lessons. As Gilad Edelman wrote in a Slate article, this man will teach you how to cook

Chef in Training

A basket of fresh bread is a staple on Jacques’ dining table, so he begins the show with an easy Fast Fougasse. Then using seafood for a unique twist, he makes Salmon Rillettes to top the fougasse with a tasty bite. While working at the Russian Tea Room in New York, Jacques recalls serving a spice-rubbed Poussins (or Cornish Hens) à la Russe, now a favorite dish of his granddaughter Shorey. He prepares it today as the main course, accompanied by Broiled Maple Sweet Potatoes coated with sugary goodness. To close, Shorey arrives for a tutorial from her grandfather on how to make her favorite breakfast food, Crepes with Nutella, lemon or jam.

Salmon Rillettes

“Salmon rillettes makes a great hors d’oeuvre or first course, and it will keep for a couple of weeks refrigerated. Here I combine fresh salmon poached in butter with chopped smoked salmon and add a dash of bottled horseradish to the mixture. It is important that the butter used to poach the salmon doesn’t get too hot, so the onions in it don’t fry. I first heat the butter in a microwave oven until it clarifies— meaning the clear part of the butter separates from the milky part. Then some of the clear butter is reserved to coat and seal the little crocks of rillettes, and the rest of the butter, including the milky solids, is used to cook the fresh salmon.

“Be sure you let the chilled rillettes temper for about an hour at room temperature before serving, or the mixture will be too hard. Serve with rice crackers or toast and a dry white wine.” —Jacques Pépin

Poussins (or Cornish Hens) à la Russe

“Poussins, baby chickens weighing about 1 1/2 pounds each, are very similar to Cornish hens. Juicy and tender, they can be roasted whole, stewed, or grilled. If poussins are not available, use Cornish hens of about the same weight. I prepare the birds à la Russe, or in the Russian style: The poussins are halved and cooked mostly skin side down in a skillet with a weight on top to make them very crusty outside while remaining juicy inside. I use two bricks wrapped in aluminum foil as weights; you can place a skillet with a weight inside it on top of the birds to get the same result.” —Jacques Pépin