Cooking with Jacques…

Thanks once again to Cook the Books for introducing me to another great biography of a food legend.


Specifically thanks to Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for recommending this book and hosting this month.  What is said book, you ask?  The Apprentice:  My Life in the Kitchen by Jacques Pépin.

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This book was a quick summer read and I couldn’t put it down.   I finished it in record time.

On my last post (for FnF), I wrote about quirkiness.   Forgive this rambling post today but The Apprentice struck me as a testament to how Pépin figures into the cultural literacy of the United States, his adopted home.   Read on for my quirky popular culture connections to Jacques.

Pépin’s cast of characters from his life reads like a who’s who of the culinary world—James Beard, Craig Claiborne, Julia Child, etc.  He is honest and sincere about these friends.  Even when disagreements or un-pleasantries arise in the relationships (personal or professional), he is sympathetic to everyone’s situation.   There is no back-biting here.   This is not an exposé.   Pépin is not out to shock or amuse by weaving tales of bad behavior.   He simply states the facts about his famous acquaintances (and many times in a sympathetic tone).


Dan as Julia (from SNL fame)

What struck me the most about The Apprentice is Pépin’s humor (much of it self-deprecating).   He isn’t above describing his humorous misadventures and foibles.   Yes, it was Pépin who was with Julia when she “cut an artery” on live TV, the scene that was perhaps made more famous by Dan Ackroyd on SNL But, seriously folks, I remember watching Julia and Jacque on lazy weekends, enjoying their casual and easy ribbing and interplay.  What a duo.  I found their show so relaxing to watch.

Julia and Jacque

Jacques and the real Juila from their PBS show

I was also really amazed that he worked for HoJo’s.   By the time my sister and I came of age, there were few Howard Johnson’s left, especially in our part of the country.   That didn’t stop us though, from hounding our parents when we traveled by pleading, “Please, please, please, PLEASE can we stop there?!”  I think we were enamored by the giant orange roof.

ho jo

Ptomaine Palace? C’mon, Mom….

My mom would always reply with the same comment:   “No, way.   Those are ptomaine palaces.”

We never did stop and I have no idea where she got this stance against HoJo’s.

Needless to say that I wanted to call her up and read to her the accounts of Pépin’s time working with Howard Johnson’s to elevate the food and make gourmet eating available in a mass market.

I was also surprised to read that Pépin owned a soup restaurant in NYC, one that became very successful.   So you know what images came to mind there, right?

souip nazi

Soup Nazi….No resemblance to Pepin except for the making of soup….

So, I may be stretching it a bit with the connections here, but nonetheless, this was my immediate thought after reading about his soup restaurant(s).   (I am sure that with Pépin’s  character and personality, he was no where near ever being confused with the Soup Nazi of Seinfeld fame.)

I could go on and on….how he cooked for two of the most powerful and famous world leaders—de Gualle and JFK, how Pépin was a forerunner in the trend to gourmet cooking at home (with his classes), how he was a locavore before it was trendy, and how his cuisine morphed from being French-centric to being truly original American dishes incorporating all of his influences.


De Gaulle and JFK….two men that were able to enjoy Pepin’s food.

So enough about my bizarre connections between Pépin and American  popular culture and on with my inspired-by dish.

What’s more American than apple pie so I decided on Pépin’s  recipe of his mother’s apple tart.   (Besides, The Hubs loves apple pie.)

Apple Tart
based on Maman’s Apple Tart from The Apprentice by Jacques Pépin

For Pastry:
1 1/4 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 farm fresh egg, slightly beaten with a fork
3 T. unsalted butter, softened
3 T. shortening
pinch of fine sea salt
1 T. sugar
1 t. baking powder
2 T. hot milk

For Filling:
4 large Golden Delicious Apples (about 2 lbs.)
3 T. sugar
1 t. cinnamon
2 T. cold butter, cut into small cubes

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.   Make the dough by putting all the ingredients (except the hot milk) into a food processor.   Process just until the ingredients start to combine.   Add the hot milk and pulse a few more times.  Don’t over work this very soft dough.   Place the dough in a 9-inch pie plat or a fluted tart pan.   Use your fingers (dusted with flour) and press the dough into the pan until it covers the bottom and sides.   Set aside.

Make the filling.  Peel, core and halve the apples.   Cut each half into 1 1/2-inch wedges.   Arrange the wedges on the dough like the spokes of a wheel.   Combine the cinnamon and sugar.   Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the top of the apples and top with the butter cubes.

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I don’t know that this really resembles a wagon wheel!

Bake tart for about 1 hour or until the crust is golden.

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Cooling on the cabinet with other apples, tomatoes and cucumbers (the latter two from our gardent).


Thank you for bearing with me during this quirky ramble through the life of Jacques Pépin.

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Even better with ice cream at dusk.

Thanks, CTB Club (and Deb)  for another great read.   For all my CTB posts, click here.



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Please join Cook the Books for the August/September selection, A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena de Blasi.  Pick up a copy and plan a recipe by  September 30.  (Check the CTB website in a couple of days for an announcement post.)

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