Pépin: Fast Food My Way - Cookbook Review
Fast Food Will Never Look The Same
(Houghton Mifflin, September 2004)
twenty-one cookbooks and a best-selling memoir (The
Apprentice), Pépin is not content to rest
on his reputation. We now get a cookbook for the times,
a sophisticated book on how to cook great meals with a minimum
amount of time and effort. It’s about Thirty-Minute
Cassoulet (more on that in a minute) and a divine Beef Short
Rib, Mushroom, and Potato Stew that can be on the table
in about an hour. Desserts like Mock Tiramisu, and Pear
Brown Betty are rich stand-ins for versions that require
much more time and effort.
himself says, "More often than not, I prefer simple,
straightforward food that can be prepared quickly."
The wonderful part is that we also get lots of flavor, too.
the Thirty-Minute Cassoulet. You won’t find duck and
roast pork, nor days of work, steaming in that heavy pot.
Instead, Pépin provides a truly acceptable workaround.
His foundation is ham, Italian sausages, bratwurst and canned
cannellini beans. The result doesn’t try to fool you,
but you do get the same lusty effect with lots of flavor
and hearty satisfaction. It’s delicious. Pépin
uses a pressure cooker to extract the same level of flavor
and body from the Beef Short Rib, Mushroom and Potato Stew
that would normally have you cooking it all day. The pressure
cooker is an all-too-often overlooked convenience that sacrifices
nothing except time.
made a classic Suprême of Chicken with Balsamic Vinegar
and Shallot Sauce and followed the recipe exactly as written.
Maybe our chicken breasts were too big, but the 180-degree
oven (after a three minute sauté on each side) for
ten minutes left the meat not fully cooked. Ten more minutes
didn’t help. The bottom line, however, is that when
our dinner was eventually finished, it was impressive—
the balsamic reduction adds expert depth to pan roasted
chicken breasts and a bed of corn and pea succotash. If
we had gotten the chicken right the first time around, this
would have been a thirty-minute triumph.
than soaking time for the fish, Codfish Brandade is a thirty
minute affair, or less than one hour as a gratin. What about
Bean Purée with Anchovies or Smoked Oysters? It’s
an impressive appetizer, ready in minutes. We were skeptical
about the Pumpkin Soup with Toasted Walnuts, even if the
canned pumpkin was dressed up and then foiled with sour
cream and chives. So, we learned a good lesson here. Canned
items, given the appropriate treatment and context, can
be given a new life. The soup was a delight.
soup experience muted our skepticism about Pépin’s
shortcuts, but it would be unfair to characterize Fast
Food My Way as reliant on processed foods. It’s
not at all. Scrambled Eggs with Mushrooms and Truffles is
the real thing. He says one of his favorite dishes to eat
at home is Bow-Tie Pasta with Fried Eggs and Cheese. Now,
it’s ours as well.
and vegetables are as diverse as Mushroom and Walnut Salad
with Sour Cream Dressing and Asian Eggplant Salad. They’re
as showy as Asparagus Custard and as humble as Sautéed
Plantains. Things get really exciting with Fish and Shellfish.
Halibut on Fresh Polenta with Pepper Oil is not what you
think. It’s poached halibut on a purée of fresh
corn. Pepper oil is a microwaved puree of red bell pepper
and olive oil. Rigatoni and Mussels with Saffron is a must-try,
and we’re about to pursue Little Shrimp Casseroles—individual
gratin dishes filled with shrimp, garlic, scallions and
mushrooms, then topped with bread crumbs and baked. Sounds
like just the right thing for tomorrow’s dinner.
desserts to contemplate are an Apple Skillet Cake ready
in minutes, an "unbaked" Chestnut and Chocolate
Cake, and how about just Raspberries with Balsamic Vinegar?
What’s great with strawberries is irresistible with
raspberries. Just make sure you use a top-quality aged balsamic.
recipe is put in context with interesting headnotes. Tips
and variations are there when you need them. We loved the
five pages of menus and Pépin’s "more
ideas for quick dishes." They may not be groundbreaking
suggestions, but his culinary sense is right on the mark—sometimes
you just want someone else to do the thinking.
Pépin speaks the truth when he says, "Great
food—easier than going out for conventional fast food
and certainly better for you—takes only minimal planning."
you see what’s in store for you in Fast Food My
Way, when you experience how quickly you can turn out
over 100 reliable dishes, and when you taste these creations,
you may just discover a world where you’d rather eat
by Kevin Schoeler
The Apprentice: My Life in The Kitchen
Kitchen Confidential and A Cook's Tour
Les Halles Cookbook