“It is important to have a child spend time in the kitchen — the most secure, comfortable, loving place in the house. The smell of food cooking, your mother’s or father’s voice, the clang of the utensils, and the taste of the food: These memories will stay with you for the rest of your life.” ~ Jacques Pépin
Jacques Pépin once asked his then two-year-old granddaughter Shorey Wesen whether she liked blueberries. She said she loved them, adding that they contained antioxidants. This early precociousness regarding food wasn’t especially surprising, since both her father and grandfather are professional chefs, and her mother Claudine cooks for the family every day, using fresh ingredients either from their home garden or nearby organic markets.
From about the age of five, whenever Shorey visited her grandparents, she’d stand on a wooden box next to Jacques so she could “help” him cook. Simple tasks like washing the lettuce, helping to gather herbs from the garden, or passing tools or ingredients, made Shorey comfortable in the kitchen and more enthusiastic about eating the food she helped prepare.
For both Shorey and her mom, there was no such thing as “kid’s food.” They learned to eat what the grown-ups were eating, subsequently developing a gourmand’s palate. This, along with Jacques’s longstanding philosophy that “great meals are always the ones that are shared with family and friends,” form the basis for A Grandfather’s Lessons: In the Kitchen with Shorey (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017).
Just as he taught Claudine how to cook in one of his PBS cooking series, Jacques shares cooking basics with 13-year-old Shorey in this accessible collection of 75 recipes, 36 of which have companion 10-minute videos hosted at Sur La Table.
This is less a “children’s” cookbook than a primer for novice cooks of any age, with simple and elegant recipes presented via clear, step-by-step instructions, beautiful color photographs, Jacques’s winsome line art, engaging headnotes full of tips and family stories, and occasional quotes from Shorey. Recipes were chosen in line with Shorey’s favorites and what she would have the most fun making.
The book opens with lessons on setting the table and good table manners, followed by sections featuring Hors d’Oeuvres, Soups and Salads; Eggs, Sandwiches, Pizza, and Breads; Fish and Shellfish; Poultry and Meat; Pasta and Quinoa; Vegetables; Desserts and Confections; and Decorating for Fun.
Shorey is a curious and attentive pupil for the 82-year-old world renowned, award-winning chef, who hasn’t lost a whit of his charm or relevance in an age of rabid cooking competitions and super ego celebrity chefs.
I could listen to his calming voice and French accent all day. 🙂
I highly recommend watching some of the companion videos, which were filmed in Jacques’s home kitchen in Connecticut. The interaction between the two is endearing and Jacques is a patient and thorough teacher. Lots of practical knowledge is conveyed without fuss and a nice dash of humor. Ever wonder what to do with leftover bread? How do you trim an artichoke or pipe meringue?
I especially enjoyed watching Shorey and Jacques make Chicken Grits Soup and Chicken Salad (an efficient way to make soup while poaching chicken breasts for the salad), Creamy Tomato Soup (beautiful heirloom tomatoes from Jacques’s garden), Potato Salad with Mayogrette Dressing (J&S invented mayogrette together), and Salmon for Grandma (Gloria Pépin makes a rare on-camera appearance).
Budding chefs will be anxious to try making Curly Dogs with Pickle Relish — looks like such fun! There are enough “kid friendly” dishes to attract the kitchen shy (Spaghetti à la Bolognese, English Muffin Pizza, Strawberry Shortcake, Grilled Cheese Sandwiches), along with delectable recipes to expand culinary horizons (Rice Paper Vegetable Rolls, Roast Chicken on Garlic Salad, Sausage, Potatoes, Onions and Mushrooms en Papillote). Some may sound fancy but they are surprisingly easy to make (Jacques has never been a food snob, and happily incorporates store-bought puff pastry, pound cake, and Jell-O in his offerings). Key consideration is food that tastes good. 🙂
With this book, Jacques found a delicious way to bond with his teenage granddaughter. As he said in an interview, he may have enviable knife skills, but Shorey is miles ahead of him when it comes to cell phones and tablets. Cooking afforded them common ground and enhanced their relationship in surprising ways. These recipes and videos will likely inspire other families to spend more time together in the kitchen. Happy Cooking!
🍓CHOCOLATE, NUT, AND FRUIT TREATS
Like all of us in the Alphabet Soup kitchen, Shorey loves chocolate and enjoys making desserts best of all.
The dessert recipes in the book include Meringues, Caramel Flan, Shorey’s Raspberry Cake, and three chocolate recipes: Chocolate “Rocks” with Hazelnuts, Croutons, and Cornflakes; Chocolate Goblets; and Chocolate, Nut, and Fruit Treats.
The chocolate treats are a perfect example of what Jacques means by “simple and elegant.” They are a snap to make, but look pretty and festive especially for the holidays or other special celebrations. As he says in the video, one could pay a pretty penny for chocolate truffles, so why not make your own confections?
You simply melt bittersweet chocolate, divide it among a dozen mini paper baking cups, then arrange whatever fruit and nuts you prefer on top. We used blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, walnuts, almonds, pistachio nuts, sunflower seeds, golden raisins and a few mint leaves for color. These are then chilled for about an hour before you peel off the paper cups before serving. You can use dark chocolate, as we did here, but milk or even white chocolate is fine too. The small paper baking cups are about 1″ in diameter on the bottom, and 2″ across the top.
Aren’t they lovely? Mr Cornelius and Le Lapin Rotund, who proudly informed us that she had once apprenticed with Chef Pépin, couldn’t stop raving about them. Make a batch soon and impress your friends. Even the littlest munchkins in your house can get in on the action when making these. 🙂
Chocolate, Nut, and Fruit Treats
- 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken or cut into 1/2-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 on a plate and pour about 2 teaspoons 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.
~ from A Grandfather’s Lessons: In the Kitchen with Shorey, by Jacques Pépin (HmH, 2017), as posted at Jama’s Alphabet Soup.
Enjoy the companion video for this recipe. Shorey and Jacques are adorable together. As I said before, I love his accent — he makes ordinary words sound quite romantic. 🙂
A GRANDFATHER’S LESSONS: In the Kitchen With Shorey
written by Jacques Pépin
photographed by Tom Hopkins
published by Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, September 2017
Family Cookbook, 208 pp.
♥️ Visit Sur La Table to see all 36 companion videos for this book!
♥️ FYI, Sur La Table sells a line of Jacques Pépin cookware, tableware and accessories, some of which can be seen in the videos. It’s inspired by Jacques’s own whimsical artwork.
♥️ A few years ago, I reviewed Claudine Pépin’s bilingual cookbook, Let’s Cook French (formerly Kids Cook French). It also features recipes families can make together.
♥️ Check out this video on Table Etiquette. Near the end, Shorey corrects Jacques’s manners. Cute!
Copyright © 2018 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.