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Jacques Pépin Recipes and White Wines for the Holidays

Two recipes from the legend's new book, plus a list of recommended aromatic whites

Laurie Woolever
Posted: December 9, 2011

As another year winds down, the entertaining season ramps way, way up, and no matter what you're celebrating, or where, nothing beats the classics. With that in mind, we consulted chef, educator, author and television host Jacques Pépin, a true culinary legend who has recently completed a project of great generosity: Essential Pépin: More Than 700 All-Time Favorites from My Life in Food, a massive, best-of-the-best collection of recipes, from soup and salad to every manner of dessert, featuring the chef's own charming illustrations, and accompanied by a DVD in which he demonstrates a useful range of basic kitchen techniques.

Below you'll find two delicious side dish recipes from the book, both of which are inspired, as befits the holiday season, by Pépin's own mother. There's also a list of recommended aromatic white wines, priced at $25 or less, whose fruit flavors, minerality and gentle acidity make them good matches for the food below. These wines, a mix of Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer, will also complement Roast Capon with Armagnac-Mushroom Sauce, another recipe from the book, which we'll share next week, along with a list of recommended reds.

Note: All recipes from Essential Pépin: More Than 700 All-Time Favorites from My Life in Food by Jacques Pépin (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011)

Boston Lettuce Salad with Cream Dressing

The heavy cream in the dressing helps to temper the bite of the red wine vinegar, making this a salad that plays well with wine. Pépin says, "This dressing, a specialty of my mother's and her own invention, is particularly good with tender salad greens such as bibb, oak leaf and Boston lettuce. The dressing can be prepared ahead, but it should not be tossed with the salad until serving time, or the greens will wilt."

• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
• 4 teaspoons red wine vinegar
• 6 tablespoons heavy cream
• 2 tablespoons canola oil
• 2 heads Boston lettuce, leaves gently torn into bite-size pieces (8 - 10 cups), washed and dried

1. Combine the salt, white pepper, vinegar and cream in a large bowl. Beat with a whisk for about 20 seconds. The mixture should be foamy and creamy in consistency; it will thicken as you beat it. Add the oil and mix with a spoon to blend it.

2. At serving time, toss the lettuce gently in the dressing. Serves 6.

Gratin Dauphinois

"This dish is my version of a classic from my youth," says Pépin. "My mother always made her gratin exclusively with milk and tops the potatoes with grated gruyère cheese before baking. It is important not to rinse or soak the potatoes after slicing them. Rinsing would remove most of the starch, which is needed to thicken the mixture as it comes to a boil on top of the stove."

• 1 3/4 pounds potatoes, preferably Yukon gold
• 2 1/2 cups milk
• 2-3 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped (1 1/2 teaspoons)
• 3/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1 cup heavy cream

1. Preheat the oven to 375° F.

2. Peel the potatoes and slice them 1/4 inch thick, by hand, with a vegetable slicer or with the slicing blade of a food processor. Do not rinse the slices.

3. Combine the potato slices, milk, garlic, salt and pepper in a large saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring gently to separate the slices and prevent the mixture from scorching. It will thicken as it reaches a boil.

4. Pour the potato mixture into a 6-cup gratin dish and pour the cream on top. Place the dish on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, or until half the liquid is absorbed and the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork. Let the potatoes rest for 20 to 30 minutes before serving. Serves 6 to 8.

Recommended Aromatic Whites

Note: The following list is a selection of outstanding and very good wines from recently rated releases. More aromatic whites can be found in our Wine Ratings Search.

TRIMBACH Pinot Gris Alsace Réserve 2008 Score: 92 | $25
This lithe white is framed by snappy acidity and a streak of minerality, focusing the subtle weave of green pear, apple, white peach and fleur de sel flavors, with quiet hints of wax and nut. Shows fine balance throughout, with a pleasant face-off on the finish between the salty mineral character and juicy fruit notes. Drink now through 2028. 7,000 cases made.—A.N

ZIND-HUMBRECHT Gewürztraminer Alsace L170 2009 Score: 92 | $23
Crackling acidity sets up this dry, aromatic version, with layered flavors of lychee, fleur de sel, orange peel and smoke, joined by a hint of cantaloupe. Finely meshed, building in intensity toward the minerally finish, with lots of lingering white pepper notes. The L170 in small print in the lower left corner of the label distinguishes this from the otherwise identical label of the L17M. Drink now through 2024. 3,000 cases made.—A.N.

PAUL BLANCK Pinot Gris Alsace 2009 Score: 91 | $18
A streak of minerality runs through this white, setting up flavors of cantaloupe, smoke, star fruit, lemon curd and wax, with a tangy finish. A finely layered wine in a light-bodied, fresh and accessible package. Drink now through 2020. 3,000 cases made.—A.N.

CHATEAU STE. MICHELLE Riesling Columbia Valley Cold Creek Vineyard 2010 Score: 90 | $15
Silky, with a light sweetness to the pear and apple flavors, hinting at talcum as the deft, tangy finish lingers. Drink now through 2016. 7,464 cases made.—H.S.

WOLFBERGER Pinot Gris Alsace Cuvée du Schlossherr 2009 Score: 90 | $16
This peachy Pinot Gris is just off-dry, and shows notes of kumquat, honeyed apricot, candied grapefruit peel, smoke and spice. Mouthwatering acidity balances this, and enlivens the smoky, fruitcake- and caramel-tinged finish. Drink now through 2024. 6,000 cases made.—A.N.

ACROBAT Pinot Gris Oregon 2010 Score: 89 | $12
Light and refreshing, offering flavors of melon and apricot on an open frame. Drink now. 51,000 cases made.—H.S.

COLUMBIA CREST Pinot Gris Columbia Valley Grand Estates 2009 Score: 89 | $12
Crisp and lively, with grapefruit and spice flavors that zing neatly. Drink now. 14,000 cases made.—H.S.

A TO Z WINEWORKS Pinot Gris Oregon 2010 Score: 88 | $12
A fragrant white, with pretty pear, peach and tobacco flavors, echoing nicely on the finish. Drink now. 30,860 cases made.—H.S.

CHATEAU STE. MICHELLE Gewürztraminer Columbia Valley 2010 Score: 88 | $9
Fresh and vibrant, this is tangy with pear and tangerine flavors, persisting nicely on the lively finish. There's a light sweetness for balance. Drink now. 100,000 cases made.—H.S.

GIESEN Riesling Marlborough 2010 Score: 88 | $11
This is nicely juicy, with peach, fennel and green apple flavors that are terrifically ripe, very refreshing and round. This shows plenty of floral overtones. Drink now. 35,000 cases made.—M.W.

HOGUE Riesling Columbia Valley 2009 Score: 88 | $11
Fresh and tangy, with lively acidity to balance the sweetness of the orange, orange blossom and pear flavors. Lingers nicely. Drink now through 2015. 55,000 cases made.—H.S.

SNOQUALMIE Riesling Columbia Valley Winemaker's Select 2010 Score: 88 | $8
This white is taut, focused, juicy and aromatic, with pear, apple, honey and mayflower character, balancing its light sweetness with zingy, lime-centered acidity. Drink now through 2016. 43,500 cases made.—H.S.

ALSACE WILLM Riesling Alsace Réserve 2010 Score: 88 | $14
A light-bodied, floral Riesling, with crisp, tangy acidity and pretty flavors of peach, apricot, Fuji apple and anise. A well-balanced crowd-pleaser, with a lingering note of lemon zest. Drink now through 2018. 20,000 cases made.—A.N.

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