Jacques Cooks at Cathy’s

Celebrity Interviews By Jul 25, 2010

OK, the technology was struggling to improve the quality of Web videos when I taped this segment with Jacques Pepin. Later I figured out that I looked better in a black coat that was tailored. But look at my mug; I look like a love-sick puppy.

For decades I have admired culinary icon Jacques Pepin. I greatly respect his culinary talents, both as a renowned chef (he once was Charles de Gaulle’s personal chef), and as a teacher via his cookbooks and TV shows.  What a thrill it was for me to cook with him in my home kitchen. We shot a cooking video together and I did my best to remain calm.

His cookbooks, “Jacques Pepin Fast Food My Way” (Houghton Mifflin, $30) and “Jacques Pepin More Food My Way” (Houghton Mifflin, $32), reveal quick-to-prepare dishes that the busy PBS television star makes at home when time is tight, or when unexpected guests drop by. Fast, but fresh.

Quick cooking is nothing new,” he told me. “My mother did it, and I remember my sister-in-law, who lived in the suburbs of Paris, did it. She’d come out of the train, pick up a baguette, veal roast and a piece of cheese (on her way home). She would put the veal in the pressure cooker before she took her jacket off. After browning it for five to six minutes and putting an onion around it, she would cover it, then take her coat off. In 35 minutes she would have a beautiful roast.”

When I asked him about quick salads, he praised the changes in the kinds of products many supermarkets now carry. “I go to the deli counter and find four kinds of olives,” he says, his dark eyes dancing with joy, like a pirate rejoicing over newly discovered booty. “Everything costs the same (per pound), so to the olives I add small balls of mozzarella (bocconcini) and marinated mushrooms in the same plastic container. When I get home, I dump the mixture into a salad bowl and add a little extra-virgin olive oil, cracked pepper and a dash of vinegar. Then put some fresh basil on top.”

Jacques and I made warm Raspberry Gratins served topped with a dollop of sour cream. Incredible! Crumbled store-bought shortbread cookies or chocolate chip cookies are tossed with sugar, then sprinkled over frozen raspberries. Butter is dotted on top and the gratins bake about 16 minutes. The dessert sparkles with flavor, the tart perkiness of the bubbling berries sweetened to perfection with crunchy cookie crumbles.

Here the dish is themed to holiday time, but using frozen raspberries the dish is delicious any time of year.

If you have a chance, read Jacques’ autobiography. It is fascinating. In the meantime, whip up these irresistible gratins.

This gratin of raspberries is a cinch to make. You can use IQF (Individually Quick Frozen) berries from the freezer if you like.


Yield: 4 servings

 2 cups IQF or fresh raspberries

1 1/2 cups coarsely crumbled shortbread cookies

1/4 cup granulated sugar 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups coarsely crumbled shortbread cookies

 1 1/2 cups coarsely crumbled shortbread cookies

 1/4 cup sugar

 Optional: 1/2 cup Scharffen Berger bittersweet chocolate morsels (about 1/2-inch size)

 2 tablespoons unsalted butter Garnish: 1/2 cup sour cream 

  1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Spread the frozen berries in a 4-cup gratin dish (or 4 individual 1-cup gratin dishes) and distribute the crumbled cookies on top. Sprinkle on the sugar and (if using) Scharffen Berger chocolate morsels, dot with the butter, and bake in the 375-degree oven for about 20 minutes, until lightly browned on top. Serve lukewarm with the sour cream.

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