Food editor Russ Parsons hearts Monsieur Technique
Take a survey of random food pros and ask them who has the best cooking technique they've ever seen, and I'll bet the majority of them single out not some big-name chef or modernist cuisine auteur, but old-line cooking teacher Jacques Pépin. The guy is simply amazing. I've seen him bone a chicken in what seemed like less than a minute -- it happened so quickly and so smoothly it looked like the bird was shrugging off a robe (YouTube has a slowed-down teaching version here).
Now in his mid-70s, Pépin has a new cookbook coming out this fall, "Essential Pépin," the cover of which boasts "more than 700 all-time favorites from [his] life in food." The recipes are about what you'd expect -- fairly traditional French-influenced food that quite honestly might not be enough to make you run out and buy the book if they weren't by Pépin.
But what's got me really excited is that the book is supposed to be coming with a searchable DVD that will demonstrate every technique you'll need to cook every dish in the book. There will also be a PBS series accompanying.
This is big news. Back in the 1970s, every cook had to have "La Technique" and "La Methode," basically compendiums of black-and-white step-by-step photos laying out French technique, both basic and advanced (don't have these? They're a bit dated but still well worth searching for at used-book stores; also, a one-volume paperback edition is still in print).
Well, imagine having all of that in color and on video. I'm in line already.
"Essential Pépin," by Jacques Pépin, $40 (to be published Oct. 10)
-- Russ Parsons