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This week, we’re celebrating French cuisine. Jacques Pépin offers a masterclass in deboning chicken and recalls his early days tending the coal stove at the Plaza Athénée. Plus, Aleksandra Crapanzano provides tips for effortlessly Parisian cakes; Alex Aïnouz puts a very French spin on the classic American burger; and we learn how to make Chickpea Flour Flatbread.
Questions in this episode:
"I have a question about making a gluten free baguette at a high altitude."
"I used to love making green peppercorn sauce with beef demi glace, but I lost my old recipe. Help!"
"I have trouble judging the doneness of cakes and breads. Why don’t people just use thermometers?"
"I bought a spice mix while on vacation in the south of France, but I can't figure out what it is or how to use it. Can you help me identify it?"
Christopher Kimball: This is Milk Street Radio from PRX. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. Today we're mastering the art of French cooking. Alexis Ainouz, for example, puts a French spin on a very American concept.
Alexis Ainouz: Well, I feel very French today. And I thought I should share something with you a recipe that performs particularly well on French people. You'd be maybe surprised to learn that it's based around the burger. (What?) Yes, French people love their burger, but I made sure not to make enemies to include some French flavors.
CK: We also chat with Jacque Pepin who recalls his first impressions of the American supermarket.
Jacques Pepin: There was only one salad that was iceberg. There was no leek, no shallot. I remember asking for mushroom. And they said Aisle Five. And that was the canned mushroom. I mean, you didn't have any fresh mushrooms.
CK: But first dessert with us today is food writer and dessert columnist for The Wall Street Journal, Aleksandra Crapanzano. She's also the author of Gateau Surprising Simplicity of French Cakes. Aleksandra, welcome to Milk Street.
Aleksandra Crapanzano: Thank you. Absolutely my pleasure.
CK: I love your book. I just love this kind of baking. But there's so many things in this book I'm not familiar with. So, it's lovely when you find a book that sort of opens up a new vista into something you thought you knew. First of all, you moved to Paris. You were how old were you, you were 10 or 11 or something?
AC: I was 10 yes.
CK: And you move into apartment that was occupied at one time by George Sand. (Yes) Could you just say a word about that. Like, who was she? And how did you manage to end up in that apartment?
AC: Absolutely. So, I was just starting middle school. My father is a professor and he had gone to teach in Paris. My mother Jane Kramer was the New Yorker correspondent in Europe and had wanted to spend a couple of years there. And I remember the first day I arrived, I of course was incredibly nervous and starting school and learning French and everybody had told me this incredible apartment belong to George Sands and I was no idea who she was but a fantastic, fantastic writer. And in fact, her office was my bedroom. And it remains a kind of seminar room for me. Not just because of that kind of classic Paris architecture and the tall windows and but it did it did have a spirit. It was also right down the block from the bakery Poilâne.
CK: So, you were in the in the sixth,
AC: I was in the sixth on the Rue du Cherche-Midi. So right there. And it was an absolute great neighborhood for food, great restaurants, great bakeries. I loved loved shopping in that neighborhood for food.
CK: So let's just talk about the French cakes in general. And their whole approach. You write a French cake will by and large have less sugar, as nuance prized over sweetness. A bit of salt will bloom the flavors which I agree with. And of course, a cup of yogurt might add a moist backstage tang. In fact, they have a yogurt cake that's based on an actual container of yogurt, right?
AC: Yes. And actually, I learned to bake that cake when I was 10. But generally, kids learn by the time they're in kindergarten, how to take one little yogurt jar and you use that to measure all of the ingredients. And so, it's it's as simple as can be. I mean, most of the recipes in this but particularly in the beginning of the book are literally as simple as having a bowl and one measuring cup.
CK: And they also the flavors are much more interesting. I mean, pistachio cake is common, for example, or rosewater coconut or whatever, but but it's not just the usual suspects. I mean, I love American layer cakes too. But there's more diversity in the flavorings, I think right
AC: Entirely and I'm always surprised to realize that you know that they have been way ahead in certain things I feel like we're coming to now. So, rosewater, a lot of orange blossom water, which I love, definitely a lot of pistachio, a lot of hazelnuts. And one of the things that people laugh at me about it because I do have an entire cupboard of liquor in my kitchen. And it's just because the French really do turn to a bottle of something just to add depth and it's so easy. And you know, as soon as you start doing it, it just becomes the norm but if you're making an apple cake, they'll reach for a bottle of Calvados, and apple brandy as opposed to kind of adding more sugar or more vanilla or they'll add rum and raisins or they will add some cognac to something if they're let's say they've made a yogurt cake in the morning and their kids have had it and then by evening they realized their friends come over they might just quickly whip up a little glaze with a little bit of cognac and a little bit of powdered sugar and suddenly this childhood cake turns into a very adult cake.
CK: Well, that gets to something else you said, you talked about savoir faire, you say that distinctly Parisian know how the blends style and functionality including popping a gateau in the oven without anyone even noticing. But it's the idea of improvising and I think the book really makes the cake makes the case you have a pound cake and I counted 52 variations. So, let's take the pound cake and just take me through a few of the variations. So just just so I understand how you think about baking.
AC: Absolutely. So, you know the French really do stick to the classics, they stick to the tried and true. So, some of these recipes go back to the Middle Ages, many of them are at least 100 years old. And once mastered, then you can do anything you want with them right so you can add seasonal fruit you can change spices, you can change glazes you can add nuts and you know once you actually have the baking part down, then the rest is fun. So, it's you know, it's different zests or it's adding some almond extract or they add a lot of the Italian liqueur Limoncello for lemon or they'll add prunes soaked and a little bit of Armagnac or maybe some slivered basil will go into a strawberry cake. I noticed also the butter is often browned for that just that extra depth.
CK: Beurre patisserie, this blew my mind a fat content of no less than 99.8% Isn't American butter, like 83 to 84% or something.
AC: It is I think it's actually even only 81%. Now it's I love so, so weekends when I was growing up, we used to rent a house in Normandy. And I think that's where my love of all the apple cakes came in. And Calvados. But we would, we would go out there. And you know, Normandy and Brittany obviously are the are the places where dairy is at its absolute finest. And we would go to the cheese shop and the shopkeeper would scoop up these giant spoonfuls of different kinds of butter. Whether you wanted butter that was a little bit salted for a sandwich, or whether you were baking something that required the very kind of flaky, buttery crust, and everything was very, very much curated to exactly what you were cooking.
CK: So, we talked about different kinds of butter about adding liquor. Are there other common things the French do in baking that we don't tend to do here and that we should know about.
AC: Well, one of the things the French do in cakes all the time is they will instead of, you know adding yogurt or sour cream as we might they will add an entire pint of creme fraiche, and basically guarantee that the cake will be exceedingly rich and lasts really well and be beautifully moist. But they do tend to take a cake and instead of conceiving of a cake as a layer cake, they will simply just make a cake and cut it into layers. And I think it is again, it's that confidence of knowing well maybe the cake hasn't turned out absolutely perfectly but if you cut it into thin layers, and you add a little bit of soaking syrup, and you add a little bit of whipped cream and you add a little bit of fruit, nobody's going to know you can hide all the flaws. So, I think there's a you know, it's a very, very relaxed way of cooking. I mean, I would really go back to you know, because none of these cakes are expensive to make. So, if there's going to be something just splurge on, splurge on the chocolate and splurge on the butter, those two things are absolutely essential. And then just keeping a bottle of crème di cassis and a bottle of rum around and sometimes instead of adding vanilla, just try adding the rum or try adding another liquor.
CK: And there's a big emphasis on seasonal cakes, much more so than here in the States, don't you think?
AC: Absolutely. So, what is still true very much in Paris is that when you go to the market, you will still only really find seasonal produce. And I think also the French have this wonderful sense that things are appreciated when they're rare. Like you would never make a Christmas buche de Noel on another season, because part of the joy is actually having to wait the whole year to have it right but with seasonality I think that's true also is that there is a French belief that this is the moment to eat this because they're at the peak and I see that particularly I mean definitely all of the citrus fruits are obviously the oranges and the blood oranges are all winter but one’s I love in the late spring kind of early summer is when the fraises de bois the little tiny very, very intensely flavored and perfumed strawberries arrive. The entire city you see people carrying around as they're they're carrying Faberge eggs, these perfect little boxes with tissue paper and these like impeccable tiny strawberries inside. So there really is kind of this this idea because France essentially is farm to table still and never really left that. So, the seasonality is really much more geared towards we need to celebrate this produce because we're not going to have it again for another year.
CK: Aleksandra, thank you so much. It's been a real pleasure,
AC: Chris, it's been absolutely my pleasure to be on thank you.
CK: That was Aleksandra Crapanzano her latest book is Gateau Surprising Simplicity of French Cakes. Next up, it's time to take your calls with my co-host Sara Moulton. She's the star of Sara's Weeknight Meals on public television, also author of Home Cooking One on One. So, Sara, you, I think at the advice of Julia, you trained in, in France for a while, right (right) you trained at a French, obviously, French trust
Sara Moulton: I did at two-star restaurant in Chartres France called Henri Kasper. And not at her suggestion. She signed me up without asking me because she just thought it was so important. And how do I say no to Julia? So, she set up a situation it was called a petite stodge a little apprenticeship. And so, I got room and board and exchange, I worked at the restaurant. And it was pretty phenomenal. I told you about it before. It's a little rough because the chef was (amorous) Yeah. But I was insulted because I was a serious chef here in in Cambridge in Boston. But I have to say, I learned a ton. And what I really learned, the chef didn't throw anything out nothing. To the point where when I came back, my food cost when I went back to the chef, a chef at the restaurant was phenomenal. The Europeans just don't waste food.
CK: Whereas at the height of the restaurant, boom, a few years ago, you might buy 10 pounds of raspberries and use two pounds of them to get the perfect ones, right?
SM: Right. Right. So there, I learned that among other things. Now let's take a call.
SM: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: This is Roberta Steiner calling from Schenectady, New York with an altitude question,
SM: Schenectady isn't that high altitude is it or did something happen when I wasn't looking?
Caller: No, it's not. And that is the question because the recipe I'm looking at, was developed and tested at altitude in Colorado, 5000 feet above sea level. So, I need to know how I can do this recipe without messing it up
SM: Well, what is the recipe?
Caller: The recipe is for gluten free bread for two loaves of baguette.
CK: I had a bad experience with gluten free baguettes. There not going to be anything like real baguettes, just so you know that?
Caller: Well. No gluten free bread is ever as good as the real stuff. But someone has made this for me and it really is pretty good.
CK: Really? Okay
Caller: Yes. Very tasty, nice texture.
SM: But here's the thing, Roberta, I just think you're asking too much of yourself to try to make a gluten free baguette. And then adjust it from a high-altitude recipe. There are too many variables, Chris?
CK: I mean, you have. I mean, I'm glad you like the recipe. The problem with baguette is a real baguette is thin and crisp on the outside, and fluffy and light on the inside. And secondly, with high altitude you have issues of hydration level in the dough, you have issues of how much yeast to use, you have issues of rising time, you have issues of oven temperature. So, the baguette is at the __ and puff pastry are at the pinnacle of difficulty in the bread pastry world. And now you're adding on a layer of complexity. So, here's what I think you should do. Just make the recipe and lower the oven temperature a little bit. Is this a cold ferment or what is this?
Caller: This calls for one and a half tablespoons yeast. And it rises after everything has been mixed together, dumped into a parchment lined baguette pan (right) and then left to rise for 30 minutes.
CK: Is this a teaspoon and a half a yeast or tablespoon and a half?
CK: Just go make it reduce the oven, maybe 25 degrees and just make it and see what happens because like you like the recipe. You might want to take the liquid down a little bit but just try it. See what happens. (Okay) it may be that when you're not dealing with gluten, right, that all the advice about high altitude versus you know, Schenectady doesn't matter as much. It's just a whole different animal. So, I don't know. Right? Just do it.
Caller: I tell you what, I will try it. Yeah. And if I am successful, I will email you and say it worked out great. Or I'll say you're right.
SM: Or if you tweak it, tell us how you tweaked it
CK: I want to know because I think you know what, we would love to try this in our kitchen too. Could you send us the recipe because we can have somebody in the kitchen, make it here and then we'll call you back.
Caller: Okay, fantastic. Thank you, guys.
SM: Thanks Roberta
CK: Take care. Bye bye.
SM: Welcome to Milk Street. Who's calling?
Caller: This is Jean.
SM: Hi Jean. Where are you calling from?
Caller: Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts.
SM: Pretty close to us, how can we help you?
Caller: So, about 20 years ago, friends of mine purchased some beef demi-glace sauce that came in a nice box with a recipe for a green peppercorn sauce. And we made that recipe two, three, maybe even four times and then lost the recipe and are still able to buy that sauce but cannot find a comparable recipe. And so, we've been struggling with this for a while, and hoping you can come up with a better solution.
SM: Well actually, this is a pretty common recipe steak au poivre, so I'm sure you've looked it up. First of all, let's just say what demi-glace and this is like been pounded into my brain at cooking school. It's half browned stock and half sauce Espanyol. But in essence it's sort of a reduced intense should be gelatinous sort of stock
Caller: Yeah, stock Yeah, extraordinarily thick.
SM: Right. So yeah, what I here's what I would do, I'll just take you through it. Okay, I would season my steak actually, I usually season mine it really an hour ahead of time, you know, pat it dry, sear it, cook it to your desired doneness, park it on a plate, you know, let it rest. And then to the pan, I would probably add some red wine, maybe some shallots, the green peppercorns, you can buy them either in brine or dried. I tend to like them in brine, I think they're better drainage. Add a couple tablespoons, sort of cooked that down a bit. Add some heavy cream, a little bit of Dijon mustard. And then put in the demi-glace and you don't need any flour because the demi-glace is got some gelatin in it's you know it's thick. And the free will if you reduce cream, it just naturally gets thick. And then I'd finish it with a little bit of cognac, salt and pepper. And then very, very important, the resting juices from the steak. And I think you'll end up with a sauce that you'd like now I didn't give you proportions. So that may be a problem. (Right) But those are all the elements that I would think should go in there for a proper sauce.
Caller: Okay, okay. Yeah, that's what I ran into trouble with. I found a recipe, but it didn't have you use the juices from the pan.
SM: Oh, you always
Caller: That’s probably what threw me
SM: They (a) wanted a glaze and (b) you want to add the resting juices from the steak is as Madeline Cameron used to say she was a famous cooking teacher in the Boston area. Maybe you've heard of her. She used to say you have to marry the sauce with the protein. And this is how you marry but anyway, Chris, okay, is glaring at me. Let's see what he has to say
CK: no, I have nothing to add except I wish Sara would cook this for me. Because I haven't had steak au poivre 1978.
SM: It’s so good.
CK: But it's you know, it's one of those. It's funny. there’re some recipes that are delicious, that have passed out of like, passed out of the repertoire now (they belong back) but it's steak and peppercorns. Why? Yeah, why is this not? Maybe it's good. It's got a creamy sauce. But it's so good. It's so good. Yeah, old school. I love it. It was so good. Sometimes the old ways are best as they say, Jean, thanks for calling.
SM: Thank you.
Caller: Thank you.
CK: Take care.
SM: Bye bye.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. If you're stumped in the kitchen, give us a call anytime. Our number is 855-426-9843 one more time 855-426-9843. Or you can simply email us at questions at Milk Street Radio.com
SM: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: Hello, this is Rebecca from Montgomery, New Jersey.
SM: Hi, Rebecca. How can we help you today?
Caller: So, I've traveled perfectly cooking my baked goods like cakes and breads. And I was wondering why recipes don't use internal temperature as an indicator for doneness. Is it possible to use temperature or do you have any other tips and tricks to help?
SM: No, I think it's absolutely possible. And I think it's just because it's relatively new technology for people to be using thermometers. So sure. What are you looking to take the temperature of just like a regular chocolate cake?
Caller: Yeah, I was like for chocolate cake, especially because I can't tell if it's golden brown.
SM: Roughly, you're looking for 200 to 205. And you put the instant read into the center of the cake not touching the bottom, you know, right?
Caller: Yeah. And how about like a sourdough loaf?
CK: Yeah, sourdough. Typical white bread like an enriched bread is like 192 195 and I say 195 I used to make sourdough all the time. It was about 205 I found that if it was under 205 the bread was a little sticky inside. You know I wanted to look good. So, to have five the two away with a rustic bread and 195 with a typical and Rich like white bread is what I use. And by the way, it's a great question. And I've asked the same question for years, like, why not use internal temps and you can cheesecake, for example, which everybody over bakes like 145 right to145 to 150 instead of the sweet spot, but that's a great cake to use with it inserted thermometer because you can't press the top to see if it's done. Right
Caller: No. All right
SM: Okay, great.
Caller: Thank you so much. =
SM: All right Rebecca, we're glad we were able to help you so quickly.
Caller: Yes, thank you have a good day.
SM: Take care.
CK: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: This is Sue Wild
CK: How can we help you?
Caller: I had a question about a spice mix that I bought when we were on vacation in France. It was in the south of France Nice and Antibes. And I love the markets they have in Antibes. And they had a spice merchant selling a whole bunch of spices. One of the ones I picked up, I don't recognize what it was. And I'm curious what is in it and how to use it
CK: What does it look like, smell like, tastes like?
Caller: The name of it is orange plant oryflam and it's a powder. And it is a very deep rust pumpkin color.
CK: Does it have a strong aroma?
Caller: No, it doesn't have a strong aroma.
CK: I have no idea. I mean, there are things like achiote powder, like right from Central America or Mexico. They probably don't have a strong smell but are used in cooking. Did you Google oryflam Did you google it
c Nothing came up.
CK: Okay, I'm going to Google it as Sara's talking.
SM: Okay, so let me ask the question. Did they suggest what recipes you should use this in what kind of things?
Caller: I'll be honest with you speaking English and French, at the market was difficult,
SM: So, you didn't understand what they were recommending?
Caller: I didn't
SM: Okay, I'm going to go by the color, then the trouble is because you haven't tasted we don't really have a point of reference. But I was going to also recommend annatto seeds ground up. I
CK: That’s an interesting idea
SM: Because they're used for example, orange cheddar cheese gets its color from annatto seeds,
CK: That could be, that's a good one
SM: and so, I could see in the south of France, this vendor trying to sell a spice that's nowhere near as expensive as saffron, but yet will give the color that you might want in one of those Provolone saw kind of dishes. So, I don't know. Chris, are you having any luck googling?
CK: There's a beauty cream called oryflam. It’s a beauty spice
Caller: That’s what I hit too
CK: Well, no, I think the answer is this is something that is there for color. And if it has no aroma, it's probably doesn't have a lot of flavor
Caller: You know what I think you're onto something, I think my guess is that if you put it in a dish gives it a really nice, like a paella type coloring,
CK: Can I just add something though? Sometimes people sell things that are used as topical applications for beauty products. So, you know, this could be like a soap of some kind. I mean, or something you add to an emollient or a hand cream. It doesn't necessarily mean it is edible because it was sold with spices that are I think whatever it is, it's there for color.
Caller: Yeah, there's no strong aroma to it
CK: I'm going to find out the answer to this.
SM: Okay. Yeah, well, then would you please share it with all of us
CK: I will. I'm fascinated. Anyway, thank you so much for calling us and giving us a clue and we have to solve it.
Caller: Okay. Thank you.
CK: Yeah, take care.
SM: All right.
Caller: Bye now.
SM: Bye bye.
CK: You're listening to Milk Street Radio. Up next, we discuss all things chicken with Jacques Pepin. That's right after the break. This is Milk Street Radio. I'm your host, Christopher Kimball. Perhaps no one knows their way around a chicken quite like Jacques Pepin. Just listen to Julia Child in 1999. admiring his work on their show, Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home.
Julia Child: That's a beautiful color Jacques in the skin looks crisp, but not too much so
Jacques Pepin: Yes. And it's real good just out of the oven.
JC: And I noticed as you're carving the white meat, that it all stays together.
JP: Yes, yes. You know when the chicken has been frozen sometimes it tends to break apart. This was a nice fresh chicken.
JC: Ooh. The smell is so delicious.
JP: I agree with you.
JC: Tender and perfect.
JP: Yes, I can't wait to eat it.
CK: Jacques Pepin is of course the world-famous French chef with more than 30 cookbooks to his name. He has also starred in countless episodes of television and can paint as well as he can cook. His latest book is Jacques Pepin the Art of Chicken, a master chef painting stories and recipes of the humble bird. Jacques, welcome to Milk Street.
JP: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
CK: So, let's talk about your early days to begin with. You were an apprentice at a restaurant beginning at the age of 13. So even by the time you were 15, you felt you had some seniority in the restaurant kitchen, right?
JP: Oh, absolutely. Because as an apprentice at that time, there were a great deal of manual labor, a lot of plucking of chicken, scaling fish, all of that type of work. We did I mean, the meat did not come like it does now, you know, all cut up and all separated and so forth. So, an apprentice, they start you doing that type of manual labor and through countless repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat. I mean, it'd become part of your DNA. You know, you don't even have to think about it. When you're 13,14, 15 you know, the chef said do this. You would never say why if you say why he would upset you, because I just told you. That's the end of the explanation.
CK: I think when you started you were cooking on coal stoves right?
CK: I once cooked on a coal stove I had in Boston for a while I actually fell in love with it. But but still, could you just talk I mean, other than the polishing and the heat. What was it like to cook on a coal stone?
JP: Well, when I woke at the president in Paris, we were foliate chef who were for big stove like this, the guy was in charge of the stove. Better nobody is doing because you know, there was no thermostat on the oven. And on one side, the guy was cooking efficient, the other side may have been a souffle, you know, so you open the door, you move the dish closer to the door, you move it back, you work with the food itself. But if you screw up, and at 12 o'clock, when people sit down that stove is not really hot, whether that push all of the dishes back for like 10 - 15 20 minutes, and the chef gets totally crazy. And in the afternoon, of course, before the people come back at five o'clock could take some of those ashes and start the stove again. So, the whole process of working with the stove this way where the whole apprenticeship in itself, something doesn't exist anymore. And it was very important because if you screw up, I mean the whole kitchen. You would hear it I mean, oh boy,
CK: Was the relationship between you and the chef, when you started out? Was that relationship very different than you think it is in today's restaurants? I mean, it was it was a tough love, you know that on one hand, they were very supportive and other hand they were very tough. Is, are the things you miss about that relationship between apprentice and chef?
JP: No, this is what our team is all about, you know? And certainly, for me, there is so many shows now where there is so much yelling at people and terrorizing people. I mean, there is no way you can learn how to cook this way. Because you have to have discipline structure in the kitchen. And the chef in the kitchen is like the captain at the helm of the boat. If he said goes this way, it goes this way you don't ask any question. They said the chef and that's how we do it here. Each time I tell the young chef, certainly the best thing for you is to work with a good chef. But try to see the food, the taste of it as well as the look of it through the eye of that chef. Whether your sense of aesthetic, or your sense of taste is different is totally immaterial. You will learn by looking through the eye of that chef or you do that for a couple of years. Then you move to another chef, then you move to another one. And that's a three or four chef like that. You know you absorb an enormous amount of not only point of view, but technique as well. Ultimately If you're going to do your own thing, on a chef, you cannot escape yourself. But at the beginning, it's very good to have so many points of view work with so many different chefs and look at it through their eyes. That's how you learn, I think.
CK: So, you come to New York, and you said, vegetables were revered in Paris, they were grilled over a live fire while in New York, the job of vegetables was given to the lowest rank chef and guests could only order them ala carte. So, what other differences did you see between France and New York?
JP: I live on 50th and Fifth Avenue and that point, I went to see my first supermarket. It was no supermarket in France. And I thought it was a fantastic idea to have everything under one roof makes much more sense, almost like a mini market. But there was only one salad that what I learned. You know, there was no leek, no shallot. I remember asking for mushroom and they say Aisle five and that was the canned mushroom. I mean, you didn't have any fresh mushrooms. So, look at the supermarket market today in America have never been as beautiful as they are today. I went to the market this morning. It was like 8 different types of mushrooms. I have to say most of them have no taste but
CK: Yeah, I was going to say they look, they look good. But what you know, I, I started going to New York in the 60s. And there were all the great French restaurants there. I missed that experience. I just miss everything about it. Is that something you miss, or you think it's time to move on?
JP: No to a certain extent its true but the world has changed. I mean, when I came here in 1958, all the great restaurants were called French or continental restaurants with a lot of menus in French totally misspelled most of the time. There was no great Chinese restaurant, no great Japanese restaurant, no great Italian restaurant. Italian restaurants were more meatball, that good stuff, but nothing fancy. So, the amount of ethnicity that we have here and the explosion that we've had in the last three or four century is absolutely amazing. So now, France doesn't have probably the prestige and the unique place that it used to have at that point, you know, in the minds of people.
CK: So, you did Art of the Chicken, and your illustrations are. I mean, they're just phenomenal. (Thank you) And you're also known for hand painting your dinner menus is just absolutely delightful work.
JP: Thank you. You know, we started when I was married 54 years. So, for more than 50 years in fact I did two menu’s this morning we have people coming next week. So, this is my 13th or 14th book of menu. We have those menus where people sign on the other page for other after surgery where I have my mother, my wife many many people who are gone in my family and I realized that the illustration that I was using a fair amount of chickens so I decided to extrapolate the chickens.
CK: You have an ultimate meal in the book, and I thought it was interesting that it's a roast chicken with salad and boiled potatoes could you just talk about that I found that charming
JP: Yeah, I used to do that at BU you know at Boston University for the students. So, you know it was a roast chicken with the natural juice of the chicken and then that boiled potato and a salad. And then you have 15 students usually we are the 15 chicken they are the same ingredient, and they have to go to the stove, and do it and I used to say please please don't try to blow my mind I know you're going to try to blow my mind and do this and that to be different than the guy next to you. There is 15 people here I will have like 15 different chickens two or three practically perfect, a couple undercooked but they will be different because that's the way things are you know so you don't have to torture yourself to be different.
CK: Well as you say you can't escape yourself which I love. So okay let's let's talk about cooking a chicken. Number one stuffing, herbs half a lemon in a cavity. My experience which is a fraction of yours is that really doesn't do anything like that. You can't taste it in the meat but but you I think I think you should stuff something in the cavity so why do you do it?
JP: When you do a sample roast chicken as we do and people put herbs in it or lemon peel, I agree with you doesn't really do anything at all but to stuff the chicken under the skin, like a trough or whatever like that will give a different taste to the chicken. But if you do a regular dressing that you do for a turkey whether it's for Christmas or Thanksgiving or whatever, either I bone out a chicken and do again out in all then I cook the stuffing separate.
CK: You are famous for your knife skills with a chicken. How do you bone out a chicken, I mean, I know it's hard to describe in words. But most people would find that an impossible task
JP: it's certainly not easy to bone out a chicken. The biggest problem is that people don't realize the joint of the shoulder and the joint of the hip. You have to cut the two joints of the hip and the two of the shoulder the rest of it, you pull, because there is nothing he thought attached to, it's only attached to those places. So, if I cut there, grab it, pull it out the whole thing come out of the caucus in the well usually, like a minute or so. The big caucus is out.
CK: How do you do the leg? You essentially pull the bone out from the meat.
JP: Yeah, you you cut the hip bone, you cut around so that you can hold it with your hand and then you scrape with it scrape scrape it, until you get to the knee. And at that point, you don't cut it at the articulation because you have nothing to hold it, you cut around the articulation itself. And when you have cut around and you scrape the lower part. And at that point, I usually cut the bone inside leaving the end of the drumstick attached to it because if you cut it there with a knife and the skin shrink back to here, I break it too. And then they trim it after it's cooked. So, the skin doesn't shrink back this way.
CK: I'm not bad with a knife, but so far above my skill. Okay, so let's talk about a few recipes in the book. The vinegar, chicken. I love could you just talk about that. I think that's just a great recipe.
JP: Yeah, that's specialty of Lyon and I use the thigh usually. And the way I cook the chicken very often is I start them in a nonstick pan. Since I throw a bit of salt on top that said, I cook it probably 25 minutes without moving it. I cook it four - five minutes on relatively high heat and he starts frying and I put a lid on top on very low heat so that I can cook it only skin side down for 25 minutes. Of course, the glaze with a bit of red wine vinegar, garlic and fresh tomato and often tarragon at the end. So, it's extremely simple, extremely sophisticated in some way.
CK: You also right I thought this, this is just wonderfully said despite all our squabbles, Julia and I agreed on the important things. Recipe should be simple. Taste trump's presentation, cooking together should be fun, use the highest quality ingredients, share food, drink wine, plenty of wine. So eventually, it all comes down to the simple things, right?
JP: Yeah, you'd be absolutely amazed in the three-star restaurant that I worked. The guy worked the whole night, the whole kitchen. And everyone sits down after get the cheese out gets ___ the bread butter, if any of the stuff that you do, and frankly, I've eaten some of the greatest restaurant in the world by far, but if I think of great meals that I've had I usually come to think of by parents or my wife or my kid and certain friends eating together on a special occasion that what you remember are the great thing of your life, in my opinion, at least more than the great pain of restaurant, you know.
CK: Yeah, that's I could not agree more. Jacques thank you. Thank you so much for your time. It's been a great pleasure and it's been too long.
JP: Thank you very much for having me and happy cooking. Okay.
CK: That was Jacques Pepin. His latest book is Jacques Pepin, Art of the Chicken, a Master Chefs Paintings, Stories and Recipes of the Humble Bird. You can find Jacque’s recipes for his ultimate meal on our website at Milk Street radio.com. A few of us achieve complete mastery of a craft. Jerry Garcia and Eyes of the World. Aretha Franklin singing Amazing Grace or Fred Astaire tap dancing. They make it look really easy. Watching Jacques Pepin cooking is the same thing. Watching him bone a chicken on YouTube is like listening to Miles Davis a Kind of Blue. He works by feel not memory. Malcolm Gladwell claimed that to be an artist you need 10,000 hours of practice. But great food requires more than practice. It lives in the sweet spot between the right and left brains between emotion and knowledge between art and craft. Or as Jerry Garcia once sang, once in a while you get shone the light in the strangest of places if you look at it, right. This is mostly radio coming up Alex Ainouz offers a very French take on the very American hamburger that's coming up in just a moment. This is Milk Street Radio. Now it's time to chat with Lynn Clark about this week's recipe chickpea flour flatbread. Lynn, how are you?
Lynn Clark: I'm doing great, Chris, how are you?
CK: I'm pretty good. You know people messing around with pizza sort of my thing today like cauliflower crust. I don't get it's one of the things I don't get but I like flat breads a lot. I just made a bunch this weekend. It's just one of those great mysteries why America that is United States really doesn't have much tradition in flatbreads, but it's one of those things you find in almost every country, right?
LC: That's absolutely right. These chickpea flour flatbreads we're going to talk about today are called socca in France. They also make them in Italy. They even make them in India. And they're super, super simple to put together. And not only are they great as, you know, sort of a flatbread on its own, but they're really great if you add some toppings to them a la cauliflower crust, but these have so much more flavor because I've got that great chickpea flavor.
CK: What's the deal with chickpea flour you know, why not just use regular flour is it just because it adds so much flavor to it or does it do something to the texture too
LC: No, it adds flavor but it's also a great gluten free alternative to wheat flour. And it's super simple to do these flatbreads, so you're just taking chickpea flour and warm water and warm water is kind of important here because we want the batter to be a little bit thicker and warmer water will make a thicker batter, salt and pepper. Whisk that together equal parts of chickpea flour and water which is great because that means it's super simple to scale up or down. Then we add a little bit of olive oil to that, that's going to add a little bit of that richness, a little fat in there.
CK: So, there's no yeast in this.
LC: There's no yeast, there's no baking powder. It's a true flat bread.
CK: It's a crepe.
LC: I mean, it can be similar to a crepe depending on how thick you pour your batter in the pan and how much oil you add to the pan can make it crispier or or softer. We like them kind of crispy. So we use a nonstick skillet because as you said it's more of a batter than it is a dough so it can stick and then a decent amount of oil so that it gets really crispy and almost fries and that oil, couple minutes on each side and it's literally finished, pull it off, and then top it sort of to your heart's content but you do have to be kind of minimalist. This is a thin flatbread crust, it's not a big fluffy pizza crust so you can pile a bunch of stuff on really going minimalist here is kind of essential.
CK: You know, just to make a side comment, people don't use enough oil in skillets right because if you use enough oil, you can really cover the bottom of the pan things don't stick. It's almost it's not shallow frying but it's
LC: No but it does help get kind of crispy and more sturdy so that you can top it with some really delicious things. We have a couple of really great recipes on the website. One is an olive and roasted red pepper relish. The other is spinach, grape and feta salad, I think like arugula and prosciutto.
CK: So, if I have a choice between cauliflower crust and crispy chickpea flour I think I'm definitely going with the chickpea flour and what I love is there's no yeast is just cooking the skillet in a few minutes. It really is almost a last-minute recipe, right?
LC: It's amazing and you can make a ton of them in a really short amount of time it's really great
CK: Lynn thank you. Crispy chickpea flour flatbread even a Tuesday night supper.
LC: You're welcome. You can get the recipe for chickpea flour flatbread at Milk Street Radio.com
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. Next up let's check in with our Paris correspondent, Alex Ainouz. Hey, Alex, what's going on in Paris?
Alex Ainouz: Well, I feel very French today and I'm throwing a party later on today. And I thought I should share something with you a recipe that performs particularly well on French people. You'd be maybe surprised to learn that it's based around the burger.
AA: Yes, plenty people love their burger, but I made sure not to make enemies to include some French flavors. So basically, what I did I made a French bourguignon burger. I am sure you must be familiar with beef bourguignon. That slow cooked you know
CK: I spent most of the 1970s cooking beef bourguignon. Yeah, yeah. But but I've retired now that I have enough time to make it anymore
AA: Yeah, it's a very time-consuming recipe, but I made sure to make it a little shorter, but also a little more modern in some ways. So usually, I start obviously with the right cut of beef. In my case, there are only two cuts of beef, which I accept for beef bourguignon. The first one is beef cheek, ox cheek, and the second one is oxtail. My favorite is obviously oxtail. But it's a little messy to eat. So, I'm going to focus on ox cheek, which is going to be easier for me to build the burger on afterwards.
CK: Can I just point out that in typical French fashion the first ingredient you mentioned is something nobody can get here. So isn't me just like you've already started out being difficult.
AA: So, let me provide you with a few alternatives. So chuck would be a good one shank or brisket. Brisket could be amazing.
CK: How about boneless beef ribs?
AA: It would be brilliant. Probably even better, to be honest. So, this you want to marinate. Okay. You want to marinate this with onions with carrots with a bouquet garni. So, thyme, a few other herbs and a lot of red wine. (Okay) so basically what what's the beef has been marinated? You just see it in a big pot, or in a pressure cooker, which is usually my go to because it's just much faster. You sear it first. Then you add all that liquid from the marinade. You had a bit of flour, just for thickening purposes. And then you basically cook this for a few hours. There is no trick in beef bourguignon. It really is mostly a good cut of beef. I mean, I mean a cheap cut, which for some could be considered a bad cut. But in fact, for me, it's a good cut, and loads of wine and loads of thyme. At the end of this, you're left with more or less a beef bourguignon already,
CK: but how about all those annoying little pearl onions and the mushrooms?
AA: I discard them, because their …
CK: Thank you. Thank you.
AA: That's because I'm lazy.
CK: They're annoying. Okay.
AA: But if Jacques Pepin were to be in the room, he would be offended,
CK: I don't think so. I think he's a pretty practical guy actually
AA: He wouldn't be offended by this. He's a very cool guy.
CK: He's a cool guy.
AA But, you know, in all my laziness, I just discard the pearl onions because you have to caramelize them and you have to roll them and just a pain however, I tend to include a bit of ___so bacon bits in my beef bourguignon because I feel like it's adding another layer of flavor. Now, to get back to the burger. Basically, you've got a base, which is pretty rich at the moment. So, what you want to do is to brighten that thing. In this case, I'm going carrots, but I'm pickling carrots in you know, pickling juice. So, this is going to be my acid. Then I'm going to have super thin almost like mandolin, thin slices of raw mushroom. Okay, so just to sum up the blasphemy that I just did, because I think it's blasphemy to some extent. I said, I've got raw mushrooms. I've got pickled carrots. I've got some fried bacon, and the main piece is just a slab a round slab of ox cheek, which is super tender. So, it's going to be almost like ground beef, but it's not ground beef. It's just a slab.
CK: Here's what's going to happen. You're going to get a knock at your door, and it's going to be Auguste Escoffier and he’s just going after you for doing this, you know, that's what's going to happen.
AA: If it's not Escoffier it's maybe just an American guy, just saying this is not a burger. This is this. What do you think? Is this just a steak sandwich or is it a burger?
CK: Well, this is like arguing about whether a hot dog is a sandwich or not, you know?
AA: I think hot dog is a sandwich for sure.
CK: Yeah, I think so too. Look I like I think if it's between, you know, a top and bottom burger bun. It's a burger. I’m with you
AA: Yeah, I like the idea of, you know, classic brioche bun. And I'm going to make sure to use as much sauce as possible because I feel like beef bourguignon you more than all the flavors I've mentioned before, is about the sauce. A deep, dark, red shiny, glistening sauce, which is often you know, finished you must know this with a few pieces of chocolate.
AA: Yeah, that's it. That's a very classic thing. You're not aware of this.
CK: No, I'd never heard of that before. That's cool.
AA: That’s impossible. That's like the classic grandma move like 30 minutes before serving, they would add like two three pieces of chocolate to beef bourguignon with, just to make it darker, richer and a touch sweeter.
CK: That's, that's a new one. I mean, well, I mean, let me say two things. It takes a French cook to take a simple concept, which is called burger on the grill and turn it into a two to four hour, you know, culinary experience. But I have to say you have upgraded it so a couple years from now, Alex, when you have your food empire, you're going have the Bourguignon Burger hut.
AA: That could work. I can see this on the menu it would be like, it's a bit of a nonsense in terms of burger is supposed to be easy and down to earth and but I wouldn't say no to a beef bourguignon burger.
CK: No, it sounds great. And by the way, you could make it fast food.
AA: I could have it fast food. Exactly.
CK: Just big old 50-gallon pressure cooker.
AA: Exactly. Exactly.
CK: Alex, you've, you've changed my mind. I love a burger. But this sounds like a better burger. I just have to come to Paris to get it because I'm not doing it. You're going to have to do it for me
AA: It would be a pleasure for me to cook it for you next time you're in Paris.
CK: I'm coming right over. Alex, thank you so much.
AA: Thank you so much.
CK: That was YouTube host Alex Ainouz. He's also the author of Just a French Guy Cooking. That's it for today. You know, over the last few years, we produced more than 200 episodes of Milk Street Radio. You can find each and every one of them on Apple podcast, Spotify, Milk Street Radio.com or wherever you find your podcasts. To explore milk straight and everything we have to offer please go to 177 Milk Street.com. There you can download our recipes, watch our TV show and learn about our magazine and our latest cookbook Cook What you Have. You can also find us on Facebook and Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street on Instagram and Twitter at 177 Milk Street. We'll be back next week with more food stories and kitchen questions and thanks as always, for listening.
Christopher Kimball's Milk Street video is produced by Milk Street in association with GBH. Co-founder Melissa Baldino, executive producer Annie Sensabaugh, senior editor Melissa Allison. Producer Sarah Clapp, assistant producer Caroline Davis with production help from Debby Paddock. Additional editing by Sidney Lewis audio mixing by Jay Allison at Atlantic Public Media and Woods Hole Massachusetts. The music by Toubab Krewe additional music by George Brandl Egloff. Christopher Kimball's Milk Street radio is distributed by PRX