The Fantastic Mr. Feedbag

A website celebrating and enumerating Juneau, Alaska's food culture

Archive for the ‘Jacques Pepin’ Category

Baked Asparagus with Greek Oregano & Basil Infused Olive Oil

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The French are really great at making simple things delicious. Think about French bread for example: it’s hard to find a bad loaf of it in Paris.

Wait, why am I trying to compare asparagus to bread? Feedbaggers, I’m fantasizing about bread so hard. This spring cleanse I’m doing has me digging up my best food memories to try to tempt me off track. I may or may not have had a dream where I was eating an entire bowl of my mom’s potato salad.

The simplest way I’ve found to keep my mind off delicious food I can’t eat is to make delicious food that I can eat. So how does French bread have anything to do with asparagus in my detox stream of conscious blogging? I was thinking of my favorite Chef Jacques Pépin when I made this dish.

On one of the old PBS episodes of his show, More Fast Food, My Way, Pépin talks about being a chef in a well-known New York City hotel. Pépin talked about helping peel the bottoms of hundreds of spears of asparagus for a fancy brunch. Many Americans would rather just eat the tip of the asparagus and not bother with the bottom: truth.

I found that taking the time to peel a bunch of asparagus I bought early last week made my baked asparagus, at times an unexciting dish, better than normal.

peeling spears

I trimmed the very bottom part of the asparagus, peeled the bottom quarter with a vegetable peeler, and put these little green friends in my large Pyrex baking dish.

– 1 bunch of asparagus
– 2 tablespoons of basil infused olive oil (if you want to make your own here’s a recipe.
– 1 tablespoon of Greek oregano
– 1 large clove of garlic, minced
– sea salt & fresh ground pepper to taste

– Pre-heat oven to broil
– Wash and peel your asparagus
– Pat your asparagus dry and place in Pyrex pan
– Pour herb infused olive oil over asparagus and use your hands to make sure each spear is finely coated
– Add minced garlic, Greek oregano, and sea salt & freshly ground pepper, again using your hands to toss well
– Bake in the oven (not under the broiler) for around 10 minutes, until cooked

Happy Eating!

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Jacques Pépin’s Bread

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baguette & round

The simple things in life that we take for granted can be the most tricky to make. The ingredients and concept are easy enough, but bread baking can be a difficult task. The recent popularity of no-knead bread recipes, like this one from the NY Times, have achieved almost a cult like following. I’ll admit that I drank the grape kool-aid and it was simple and delicious. I’ll even drink the grape kool-aid again, no-knead bread is amazing. There are times though, when it feels good to put a little extra work and craft into a loaf of bread. I honestly believe that tried and true kneading can really pay off. This is apparent in a Jacques Pépin recipe, from his celebrated book La Technique, an illustrated culinary masterwork.

A standing mixer does the bulk of the work for you in Pépin’s recipe, leaving only about 8-11 minutes of intensive kneading. A small price to pay for 3 incredible baguettes or rounds, or any combination of the two. I started this process Sunday morning, by the evening had finished the process, and will be enjoying home-baked bread all week-long. I built a simple baguette rising contraption based on a photograph from Pépin’s book, which consists of: a small square piece of plywood, 3 1*1″ pieces of wood, and a lightly floured kitchen towel. This MacGyvered device was essential for the second rise and molding of my precious baguettes. A large bowl with a splash of olive oil worked sufficiently for both rises of my rounded loaf.

baguette device

Makes 3 loaves, baguettes or rounds.

– 9 cups of all-purpose flour
– 6 Tbsp & 3/4 tsp yeast
– 3 1/2 cups of water (about 80 degrees)
– 1 Tbsp salt

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Instructions :

Written by Patrice Helmar

January 17, 2011 at 8:33 am

Tall Greek Salad

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I’m on a Jacques Pépin bender. I’ve been watching his PBS show online and reading his biography The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen. I already gushed on about my true undying allegiance for the Frenchman in my last blog entry so I’ll try to keep it at a minimum. Pépin is one of those people who love their craft so much that it’s infectious. It helps that he tells little stories while preparing food and has a happy sparkle in his eyes.

I promise my next entry will be something more original. But with food like Pépin’s, I hardly feel the need to apologize for overdoing it.

This recipe, from Pépin’s KQED website provides for 4 servings:

Lemon–Olive Oil Dressing
– 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
– 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Greek Salad

Tomato Salad
– 4 tomatoes (each about 6 ounces), with stems attached
– 1 cucumber, unpeeled, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
– 8 slices red onion, each about 1/8 inch thick and about the same diameter as the tomato
– About 4 ounces feta cheese, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices about the same diameter as the tomato
– About 24 olives (a mixture of black oil-cured and kalamata)
– 2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves, for garnish

For the dressing: Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together.

For the salad: Cut around the stems of the tomatoes with a paring knife and reserve the stem “caps” to place back on the tomatoes. Cut a small slice from the base of the tomatoes so they will sit flat after stuffing. Cut each tomato horizontally into 5 slices, each about 1/3 inch thick. (They should be cut and arranged so that the slices can be reassembled later.)

Place a bottom slice from each tomato in the center of each of four salad plates. Cover each slice with some of the cucumber slices and a slice of onion and sprinkle with table salt and a little dressing. Place the second consecutive slice from each tomato on top of the first. Cover with some of the feta slices and spoon about 1/2 teaspoon of dressing over the cheese. Add the third slice of tomato and cover with cucumber slices, onion, and a little more dressing. Add the fourth tomato slice and cover with feta cheese and a dash of dressing. Finish by adding the last tomato slice, with the hole from the missing stem. Reinsert the stems for a nice presentation.

Divide the olives and any remaining cheese or cucumber among the plates, scattering them around the tomatoes. Sprinkle the tomatoes with some fleur de sel and any extra dressing, garnish with oregano leaves, and serve cool but not cold.

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Written by Patrice Helmar

July 13, 2010 at 7:02 pm

Jacques Pépin’s Roasted Split Chicken with Mustard Crust

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Jaques Pépin

Watching Jacques Pépin butterfly a chicken with a pair of kitchen shears was a revelation to me. Coming from a master of technique the shear method of butchering is indeed technically awesome. This is a recipe that eases cooking time and the processing of butchering the bird. The result is a beautifully browned and juicy pan roasted chicken that will knock your socks and shoes off.

butterflied chicken

I battled a chicken last night with a pair of kitchen shears last night and won. Think of this process as simply de-turding the chicken, cutting the backbone out of the bird, and then making small cuts under the joints of the drumsticks and wings. I used a Foster Farm’s natural chicken weighing about 5 pounds for this recipe.


– Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Mustard Crust

Mustard Crust:
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (I used Louisiana hot sauce)
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
1/2 teaspoon salt

-Combine ingredients in a small metal bowl and whisk together.

– Using kitchen shears or a sharp knife, cut alongside the backbone of the chicken to split it open. Spread and press on the chicken with your hands to flatten it. Using a sharp paring knife, cut halfway through both sides of the joints connecting the thighs and drumsticks and cut through the joints of the shoulder under the wings as well. (This will help the heat penetrate these joints and accelerate the cooking process.)

– Put the chicken skin side down on a cutting board and spread it with about half the mustard mixture. Place the chicken flat in a large skillet, mustard side down.

split chicken in iron skillet

– Spread the remaining mustard on the skin side of the chicken. Cook over high heat for about 5 minutes, then place the skillet in the oven and cook the chicken for about 35 – 40 minutes. It should be well browned and dark on top.

chicken and potatoes

I added small rounded red potatoes to my iron skillet when I put my bird in the oven putting a little olive oil and salt on top. They cooked beautifully in the chicken fat and drippings of the mustard crust and were a perfect side. Don’t be afraid to use the drippings from the roast to make a delicious pan sauce for your dish.

Make sure you let the chicken rest in the skillet at room temperature for a few minutes before cutting it into pieces with your kitchen shears or a carving knife. I served my roasted chicken with the little awesome pan roasted red potatoes and a green side salad with a nice shallot balsamic vinaigrette. Happy cooking!

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Written by Patrice Helmar

July 11, 2010 at 3:52 pm

Oeufs en Cocotte

with 2 comments

oeufs en cocotte
I’ve been watching my old friend Jacques Pepin lately on youtube. If you’ve never had the good fortune of watching him operate I highly recommend that you check him out. Pepin is a master of French cooking and technique and honestly incredible to watch. At the young age of 74 he can cook circles around pretty much any chef you might see on cable television and captivate you with his down-to-earth style in the kitchen.

This traditional dish is simple to make and may change the way you think about eggs for dinner. I made Jacques’ cheesy breadsticks to accompany this dish. I didn’t have an cognac at home for my oeufs en cocotte so I substituted balsamic vinegar for my shallot and mushroom sauce. It was still incredibly good.

Shallots & Mushrooms

-Begin by thinly dicing half of a shallot and 4 cremini mushrooms
– start a sautée with a tablespoon or so of olive oil
– introduce the shallots to the sautée first and let them cook down a bit before adding the mushrooms
– cook mushrooms and shallots until just browned
– if you’re going to add cognac be wary of the flame
– flambé the mushrooms and shallots by adding a dash of cognac
– if you don’t have cognac add a dash of balsamic vinegar (you don’t have to worry of a flare up)
– add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of half & half or heavy cream
– bring the sauce to a boil and turn down heat adding a bit more cream or half & half

Reserve sauce for ramekins

This is a good time to heat your oven to 400 degrees for the cheesy breadsticks

Cheesy Breadsticks

-Grate about 1/4 cup of parmesan reggianno
– teaspoon of cumin
– teaspoon of sumac
– trim the crust off 2/3 pieces of sourdough or country style bread and cut strips
– reserve crust in a paper bag for later croutons
– on a baking sheet cover the strips of bread in olive oil and spice and cheese mixture
– cook for 7 – 10 minutes until crisp and brown


Now back to the oeufs en cocotte
– in a large sauce pan that you can comfortably fit the ramekins and some boiling water into with a cover heat enough water to come up a quarter to half way up the side of your ramekins.
– spoon in shallot and mushroom sauce into ramekins
– break two eggs into ramekins
– bring water in sauce pan to boil
– gently place ramekins in boiling sauce pans, cover, and cook for 5 – 7 minutes as desired.
– remove ramekins from sauce pan using tongs, plate, serve with breadsticks.

Thank you to Monsieur Jacques Pepin for another delicious recipe! Happy cooking!

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Written by Patrice Helmar

July 7, 2010 at 8:15 pm