I think Jacques Pépin is a pretty amazing chef. I watched his PBS videos (and Julia Child’s) a lot in Argentina. He makes me think of the French grandfather I never had (and never could have). If Hogwarts had a cooking teacher, it’d probably be Jacques Pépin.
The real allure of Essential Pépin, like all of those cooking shows, is that the host makes it look so easy. And so good. Maybe there should be a disclaimer of “don’t try this at home,” because when I do try to cook and keep my hair in place, I often make a hot (and hairy) mess. Conclusion: food television is better as a spectator sport.
My wings are made of wax though, and that’s why Pépin’s eggs mollet (a spinach and egg casserole) seemed like a good idea. It’s a little more ambitious, very French, and easy to put together, according to him.
And my, that looks good.
Eggs mollet takes sauteed spinach, soft-cooked eggs (more on these buggers), and tops it with mornay sauce (basically a buttery cream) and swiss cheese. I put all of these together in a gratin dish and put it under the broiler. Here’s my write-up, with Jacques illustrations included:
Soft-cooked eggs: “pinprick the bottom of the egg- Cook 6 min, shake to crack, stick in cold water peel.” Again, it looked so easy watching Jacques shake the pot of eggs under water. It made sense to pinprick them-because it forms a MAGICAL pocket of air that comes from blablabla crack better blablabla TELEVISION. Not the case. Hard-boiled eggs peel easily because the membrane and shell are separate; in the case of soft-cooked eggs, the white is still very attached to the shell of it. I made four eggs; I scrapped three that became pulpy masses of egg white and shell.
Another important thing: adjust ALL ingredients in proportion to serving size, unlike you’re like me and want to end up with everything tasting saltier than a margarita rim.
I’ve made these successfully less salty since then, but I’ll remember my afternoon test of Chez Jacques’ dish for a long time. There’s no hard feelings-I’d still take Essential Pépin above other charming cooking programs. It needs my attention, just like following directions.
- Dear Mr. Pépin (foodquarterly.com)