Jacques Pépin has a new sous-chef. His 13-year-old granddaughter joins him in the kitchen for his latest cookbook, A Grandfather’s Lessons: In the Kitchen with Shorey—which, according to his own count, puts Pépin at more than 30 published tomes. The renowned French chef drops by Copley Place’s Sur La Table on Oct. 8 and then Harvard Book Store hosts him at the Brattle Theatre on Oct. 9, but not before Pépin dishes on proper etiquette and tons of hot dogs.
What’s it like putting together a cookbook with a teenager? I’m faster than she is with knives, but she’s much faster with her hands than I am with her iPhone. It’s another world. In a sense, it gives us a chance to communicate on a level that she’s comfortable with and I’m comfortable with so that’s a great thing, not only the cooking, especially the sitting around the table and eating. It’s spending time together, and one conversation leads to another conversation.
One of the recipes involves curly dogs. What other inventive preparations of hot dogs were you working on while at Howard Johnson’s as the head of research and development? I remember putting them in lentil soup. I remember cooking them with sauerkraut, as we do in France. I remember roasting them with potatoes and onions, with all the sausage mixed together—different types of things that people are not conventionally used to. I was there for 10 years trying new equipment and trying new recipes, so we produced like, I don’t know, three tons of hot dogs a day.
Other recipes involve Jell-O and English muffin pizzas—maybe not dishes readers would expect. People may think of me as the quintessential French chef, and then you take any of my books. The last one I did, you open to page 22, you have a black bean soup with banana, because [I’m] married to a woman born in New York but from a Cuban father and Puerto Rican mother. Then the next page you have a salad with fried chicken and you have a New England lobster roll. So after over half a century in America, I’m probably the quintessential American chef. In that context, I’ve loved Jell-O from the first moment I was here.
Were there any foods you didn’t like eating as a child that you enjoy now? Yes, I mean, olives were too strong, which I love olives now. Even mushrooms, I thought mushrooms were very strong, which now I enjoy.
What sorts of traditions do you share as a family? We have a lot of traditions that my daughter Claudine has continued with Shorey. Just like when Claudine was small, to get her involved in the cooking and being in the kitchen after school. Doing your own work there is probably the best place to be. To smell what’s going on there, to hear the voice of your mother and father, the noise of the equipment—those stay with you for the rest of your life and it starts at that age. When Claudine was maybe a year and a half, 2 years old, I held her in my arms and she stirred the pot if I was cooking something. She certainly was going to taste it because she “made” it with her dad. You have to get kids involved like that, going to the garden, picking the herbs.
You also touch on etiquette tips. Do you find that there’s one rule that’s most often broken? It’s probably sitting down before everyone else and starting to eat before anyone starts. It’s not like we are very formal at home, but I think it’s nice to have a little bit of custom and traditions and habits. Every night—today’s my anniversary actually—for 51 years we’ve been sitting down at the table, my wife and I, and it’s not like it’s very formal. But I wait for her to start and we sit down and share a bottle of wine and we enjoy our dinner.
Shorey and I have been making chocolate desserts together since she was four years old. She likes chocolate in any form, from chocolate mousse to chocolate cookies, cakes, or truffles. These treats are great to make for the holidays, birthdays, and other special occasions. The recipe can be varied; for example, although we use dark chocolate, you could try it with white or milk chocolate. Or, instead of pistachios, almonds, and hazel- nuts, you might want walnuts, pecans, macadamias, and/or peanuts. Rather than strawberries and raspberries, you can use blueberries or blackberries, as well as dried apricots, cranberries, or cherries.
We make our treats in very small paper baking cups with a 2½-tablespoon capacity; the bottom is 1 inch in diameter and the top is 2 inches. Of course, they can be made in larger paper or aluminum cups, but I find the small ones are quite enough for desserts, snacks, or treats.
Melting the chocolate in the microwave oven is foolproof and easy. Break the chocolate into ½-inch pieces and microwave it for 1 minute, then wait a few minutes before processing it further. Microwaving it for more than a minute to start will scorch the chocolate.
• 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken or cut into ½-inch pieces
• 8 raspberries
• 3 ripe strawberries, cut into wedges
• About 1 tablespoon unsalted pistachio nuts
• 12 almonds
• 12 hazelnuts
• 1 or 2 sprigs mint
Put the chocolate in a microwavable bowl, place it in the microwave, and microwave for 1 minute. Let rest for 30 seconds, then microwave for another minute. The chocolate should be melted by then, but if it isn’t, process it in 30-second increments, stirring after each increment, until it is totally melted and smooth.
Arrange twelve tiny frilled paper cups (see headnote) on a plate and pour about a good tablespoon of the chocolate into each cup. While the chocolate is still melted, arrange the berries, nuts, and mint on top of it in whatever manner you prefer—berries only or nuts only in some of the cups—and push down on them lightly to embed them in the chocolate. Refrigerate the cups for 45 minutes to 1 hour to set.
Peel the paper cups off the hardened chocolate and arrange the treats on a dessert plate. Keep refrigerated until serving time.
To see how it’s done, go to www.surlatable.com/jacquespepin.