Monday, November 23, 2015

Simple Jacques

Jacques Pepin was born in France in 1935. Pepin's love of cooking began at his parents' restaurant, Le Pelican, where he worked in the kitchen after school. At age 17, he moved to Paris and began working in some of the best restaurants at the time. In 1956, he worked as a chef for the French Navy, and then became personal chef to three heads of state, including Charles de Gaulle. In 1959, Pepin came to the United States, where he began working at Le Pavillon in New York City. After a few years, he was hired as director of research and new development for the Howard Johnson's restaurant chain, while simultaneously earning his Bachelor and Master of Arts degree in French literature at Columbia University. In 1970, after leaving Howard Johnson's, he opened a soup restaurant called La Potagerie, and later was in charge of food operations at the World Trade Center. Jacques has since published over 20 books, numerous articles for The New York Times and Food&Wine magazine, and hosted 9 acclaimed public television cooking programs. Busy man!

I read an article a few years ago, where Jacques was discussing how his food philosophy is simplification, inspiring his Fast Food My Way series of books. To his surprise, they have become his most popular cookbook series out of all his books! His belief that good food does not have to always be complicated has really resonated with people around the globe. A great example of this is his recipe for "Butternut Squash Velvet." This elegant soup takes less than 30 minutes to prepare, can be made ahead, and even freezes well! Although this chic velvety soup is effortless, it truly elevates any occasion, and would be a thoughtful beginning to any Thanksgiving feast!


Butternut Squash Velvet

Makes 5-6 cups.

Ingredients:
For the Soup
1 butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled, seeded, cut into 2-inch pieces
3/4 cup dices (1-inch) onion
1 cup sliced, leek, including some of the lighter green inner leaves
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups chicken stock, low-sodium if store-bought
1 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
For the Garnish
1/4 cup crushed pistachio nuts
A few sprigs of fresh chervil, dill, chopped fresh tarragon, or chives

Directions:
For the Soup
Put the squash, onion, leek, olive oil, salt, pepper, stock, and water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover partially, reduce the heat to low, and boil (I think he means simmer) gently for 20 minutes.


Emulsify with an immersion blender (See Gadgets) until smooth. You can use a regular blender or a food processor, but an immersion blender is more convenient. (The soup can be prepared to this point a day ahead, covered, and refrigerated or frozen.)

At Serving Time
Add the cream and bring the soup to a boil. Serve garnished with a sprinkling of crushed pistachios and a sprig of fresh chervil or dill or a sprinkling of tarragon or chives.

Recipe from More Fast Food My Way, by Jacques Pepin.

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