I've been a fan of Chef Pepin for 20+ years. I remember first learning to cook watching his show, "Cooking with Claudine" (his daughter) on PBS. I've owned a few of his cookbooks, and have always had great success with his recipes. I honestly wasn't sure how to rate this book. The recipes are excellent, 5 stars in breadth and content, but the lack of pictures is a serious flaw. The DVD is great for learning basic techniques--but does it make up for not one single picture in the actual book?? I don't know. Without the DVD, three stars. The lack of pictures is a serious problem. I added another star for the inclusion of the DVD, because even though these are basic techniques--it's a great tool. Plus there are more videos on the publisher's website.
This is a massive cookbook. Recipes on everything one could imagine--even offal (brains, tripe, etc. But what's glaringly absent are pictures. There's not one picture of one completed dish in the book. Why? Many people choose recipes with their eyes. I'm not such a good cook that I could judge whether or not I want to make something just by reading the ingredients. I can't understand this glaring omission as the other cookbooks I've owned of his had all had great food photography. This is all the more a glaring omission as when I bought this book, I also bought The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adria which not only features pictures of each and every dish--but also pictures of each and every step in cooking the dish! Still, I love Chef Pepin's introductory blurbs with each recipe. They do, on some level, make up for the lack of pictures as they draw you in... make you want to try it, experience this recipe.
The full line up of contents are (as there was no preview when I bought it):
Eggs and Cheese
Pasta, Rice, Grains, and Potatoes
Breads, Sandwiches and Pizzas
Shellfish and Fish
Poultry and Game
Charcuterie and Offal
Vegetables and Side Dishes
Puddings, Sweet Souffles and Crepes
Cakes, Cookies, and Candies
Tarts, Pies, and Pastries
Basics (Seasonings, Stocks, Sauces, Butters, and Oils, Relishes and Pickles, and Drinks)
One of the best chapters (IMHO)is on fruit desserts. I've never seen such great variety. Our family loves to have fruit based desserts (lessens the guilt;)), so this has been a godsend. From a simple baked apple, to apple and banana fritters, banana bread pudding, and one of our simple favorites favorites... fruit (blueberries although we've used bananas too), greek yogurt, and brown sugar. That's the beauty of so many of Chef Pepin's recipes...they're simple and delicious. One thing to point out is that some people may assume French food=expensive food...based on what restaurants charge. In reality, this cookbook is frugal cooking at its best. Chef Pepin often gives you options on how to change a dish around (turning a white bean/chicken dish into a cassoulet, for example), freeze things, or use a cheaper/more economical ingredient. Many of us recipes are quick and easy--such as a few recipes for great pita pizzas--no need to make pizza dough--or sandwiches. The variety is just amazing.
The DVD comes in this weird envelop thing that you have to rip out of the book to open. Once you tear open the plastic on the back, you can get into it--but you're going to want to put it in a good case. You can see more video demonstrations at the publisher's website. There are basic techniques given for each of the major categories of recipes, along with some more advanced techniques:
Basics: how to tie an apron (really), sharpening a knife, knife skills, sauteing like a chef, grinding and crushing peppercorns, opening wine and champagne, making butter roses, cutting parchment paper
Vegetables: peeling, crushing, chopping garlic; peeling a carrot; washing leeks; peeling and trimming asparagus; shelling peas and fava beans; trimming corn; peeling broccoli; cleaning spinach; prepping artichokes; peeling peppers; peeling tomatoes, making tomato roses; cutting potatoes
Fruit: peeling, coring, and slicing apples; removing the seeds from a pomegranate; peeling and julienning orange skin, segmenting an orange; cutting lemons
Eggs: separating eggs; making mayonnaise; cooked eggs; cooking and unmolding an egg cocotte; deep frying an egg; a classic omelet
Fish and Shellfish: shucking oysters and clams; cleaning calimari; peeling and cleaning shrimp; killing a live lobster, removing the meat from a cooked lobster; scaling a fish; boning, cutting, and serving salmon; boning monkfish and black bass; cleaning sole and boning a cooked sole
Poultry and Meat: trussing a chicken; cutting up a chicken for stew, boned wings, lollipops, boned legs; cutting and boning a chicken for galatine; carving a roasted chicken; cleaning and cutting a beef filet; cutting & grilling NY strip steak; preparing sausage and cooking in a circulator; cleaning, boning & dividing a leg of lamb; skinning and skewering lamb kidneys; and cleaning and cutting a rabbit.
Stock and Consomme: skimming chicken stock, clarifying stock: consomme
Breads: Forming and making breads: baguette, gros pain, and epi; making melba toast
Desserts: making crepes; making, forming, and rolling pie dough; making, rolling, and forming sweet dough; making and working with puff pastry; making and piping meringue; cutting a genoise; chocolate-covered leaves; chocolate balloons; working with sugar: making cages, making angel hair.
This is where Chef Pepin SHINES! He is an incredible teacher. I'm looking forward to the PBS series--but I have no idea how they're going to even approach such a great breadth of recipes. Should be interesting!
Merci Bien Chef Pepin for such a great cookbook. Please, though, next time could you include some pics?