Chef Jacques Pépin’s Family Lessons

The French culinary icon and his granddaughter share holiday recipes for chicken sûpremes and meringues
Chef Jacques Pépin’s Family Lessons
Chef Jacques Pépin makes meringue with his granddaughter, Shorey Wesen. (Tom Hopkins)
Dec 8, 2017

“I have always cooked for my family,” writes chef Jacques Pépin in his latest cookbook. “The smell of food cooking, your mother’s or father’s voice, the clang of the utensils, and the taste of the food: These memories will stay with you for the rest of your life.”

The quintessential French chef has created a guide to create and remember these memories in his latest book, A Grandfather’s Lessons: In the Kitchen with Shorey, which he recently wrote and recipe-tested with his 13-year-old granddaughter, Shorey Wesen.

The book is filled with healthy recipes that are approachable for novice chefs, as well as notes on simple dining etiquette that can be increasingly hard to come by, including napkin-folding techniques and table manners. Illustrations of animals and produce, a trademark styling of Pépin's, are sprinkled through the pages.

Writing the book was a learning experience for both of them. “Honestly, I like to say that I was an inspiration for this book, but almost all of these recipes were new to me,” says Wesen. “My grandfather picked them as something that we could make together, as something that he could teach me and that I would enjoy learning.”

Pépin takes a more artistic approach. “For us, cooking together was like a canvas upon which we could speak. I am over 80 years old and Shorey’s 13, so, you know, it’s a work of communicating for us,” he said.

Tom Hopkins
“I’ve been cooking in the kitchen with my granddaughter, Shorey, since she was about six years old … answering questions she asked about cooking, life and school.”—Jacques Pépin

At one point, Wesen noted that the legs of a chicken or turkey often have more taste and moisture than the breast. To show her that white meat can be flavorful too, Pépin prepared Chicken Suprêmes in Persillade, which is sautéed on high heat for no more than six minutes, then dressed in persillade, a provincial mix of garlic, parsley and scallions that Pépin's mother, Jeannette, often used when cooking fish or fowl. (In French, “persil” means parsley, and “ail” means garlic.)

The book’s recipe calls for peanut oil, though other types will do. “I don’t like to use what people call vegetable oil; I don’t really know what it is,” says Pépin. “So I use peanut oil or canola oil or an oil that I know where it comes from.”

The mix of butter, oil and the chicken’s natural juices, combined with the brief cooking time, present an easy dish that is moist and tasty. To take the dish further with a wine pairing, Pépin recommends an easy-drinking Beaujolais or Côtes du Rhône blend.

His granddaughter, on the other hand, has strong opinions about dessert.

“If we had gone Shorey’s way, we probably would have dessert right away,” Pépin chuckles. She has a soft spot for chocolate, but around Christmastime, Pépin's recipes for Meringues, which also come from his mother, are a holiday staple loved by all generations of the Pépin family.

“I love the meringues. I think they’re really good and I love the texture and everything,” says Wesen. The light dessert is a good way to use up leftover egg whites and can be spruced up with melted chocolate or apricot jam. Pépin recommends using cold egg whites and favors a less-is-more when beating the mixture, as overdoing it can result in a chewy, elastic texture in the final product. After the work is done, the meringues can be sealed in Tupperware and last for months.

For this year’s Christmas celebration, Jacques and his wife, Gloria, are headed to their daughter Claudine's family home in Rhode Island—“so I can dirty someone else’s kitchen,” Pépin quips—and they’re planning a family feast that includes foie gras, oysters, bûche de Noël and more. Shorey will surely help out with the meringues.

The following recipes are excerpted from A Grandfather’s Lessons: In the Kitchen with Shorey, by Jacques Pépin (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017).

Chicken Suprêmes in Persillade

Tom Hopkins

  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (5 to 6 ounces each), preferably organic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 scallions, minced (1/3 cup)
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons water

1. Heat the peanut oil in a saucepan. Sprinkle the chicken breasts with the salt and pepper, add to the hot pan and sauté for about 3 minutes over high heat. Turn the breasts over, reduce the heat to medium, cover, and cook for about 3 minutes; chicken should be nicely browned on both sides and cooked through but still moist. Place the chicken breasts on warm plates.

2. Add the scallions, garlic, and butter to the saucepan and cook for about 1 minute. Add the parsley and water and mix well, then pour the sauce over the chicken. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Christmastime Meringues

Tom Hopkins

  • 5 large egg whites, chilled
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • Whipped cream, jam, melted chocolate, or ice cream, for serving (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 225° F. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat at medium to high speed until foamy. With the machine still on medium-high, quickly but steadily add the sugar (should take no more than 10 seconds) and keep beating for about 15 seconds longer to combine well.

2. Using a large spoon, scoop out some of the meringue to create 4 large oval shapes on the lined cookie sheet. Then, for a different look, fit a pastry bag with a star tip or plain tip, fill the bag with the remaining meringue mixture and pipe out another 8 large meringues.

3. Bake the meringues for about 3 hours until firm and light beige in color. Cool completely, then place in a container with a tight-fitting lid and store at room temperature until ready to use. Serve plain or with whipped cream, jam, chocolate or ice cream. Makes 12 meringues.

15 Recommended Beaujolais and Côtes du Rhône Red Wines

CHÂTEAU DE BEAUCASTEL Côtes du Rhône Coudoulet de Beaucastel 2015 Score: 91 | $32
Alluring, with warm raspberry and boysenberry confiture notes gliding along, carried by a well-embedded graphite edge and backed by warm fruitcake and dark tea accents on the finish. Drink now through 2025. 8,000 cases imported.—James Molesworth

BOUTINOT Côtes du Rhône-Villages Séguret Les Coteaux Schisteux 2014 Score: 91 | $24
This is alluring, with mulled spice and black tea aromas leading the way for a silky core of raspberry and plum sauce flavors. The long, anise-edged finish lingers nicely. Drink now through 2020. 2,200 cases imported.—J.M.

GEORGES DUBOEUF Moulin-à-Vent Domaine de Roche Noire 2015 Score: 91 | $25
Raspberry, cherry and strawberry fruit are ripe and elegantly displayed in this concentrated, supple red. Details of licorice and violet are backed by tangy acidity that lingers into the juicy finish. Drink now through 2021. 2,000 cases made.—Gillian Sciaretta

HENRY FESSY Moulin-à-Vent Domaine de la Pierre 2015 Score: 91 | $22
This red is well-crafted, with ample cherry, violet and cassis notes meshed together with licorice snap and granite accents. A pure, focused acidity melds into the clean, smoke-tinged finish. Drink now through 2022. 1,500 cases made.—G.S.

DOMAINES DOMINIQUE PIRON Morgon La Chanaise 2015 Score: 91 | $20
This ripe, light- to medium-bodied red sports layers of pure blackberry, cassis and damson plum, edged with licorice, floral and apricot details. Tangy, mouthwatering acidity highlights the mineral and spice details on the long, lightly grippy finish. Drink now through 2020. 1,000 cases imported.—G.S.

JEAN-LOUIS CHAVE SÉLECTION Côtes du Rhône Mon Coeur 2015 Score: 90 | $20
This unfurls a pure beam of crushed plum and black cherry fruit, inlaid gently with singed bay leaf, pepper and anise notes. A light smoky edge runs through the finish. Drink now. 4,500 cases imported.—J.M.

LE CLOS DU CAILLOU Côtes du Rhône Cuvée Unique Vieilles Vignes 2015 Score: 90 | $27
Fleshy and inviting, with cherry paste and melted red licorice notes lined with lively tobacco and iron hints. A light mesquite element pervades the finish, adding length and range. Drink now. 1,200 cases imported.—J.M.

CLOS DU MONT-OLIVET Côtes du Rhône Vieilles Vignes 2015 Score: 90 | $21
This sports a solid core of warmed plum and blackberry fruit, melding into singed alder, smoldering tobacco and dried lavender notes through the finish. Has grip and length. Drink now through 2020. 2,500 cases made.—J.M.

PIERRE-HENRI MOREL Côtes du Rhône-Villages Signargues 2015 Score: 90 | $17
Juicy, with a mix of dark cherry, raspberry and blackberry notes underscored by anise and light brambly structure. Keeps good energy through the finish. Drink now through 2018. 2,000 cases imported.—J.M.

DOMAINE DE MOURCHON Côtes du Rhône-Villages Séguret Tradition 2014 Score: 90 | $20
A good bolt of graphite drives underneath while lightly mulled plum and blackberry fruit form the core. Singed mesquite and tobacco fill in on the finish. Grenache, Syrah and Carignan. Drink now through 2020. 2,000 cases imported.—J.M.

BIELER PÈRE & FILS Côtes du Rhône-Villages La Jassine 2015 Score: 89 | $15
Silky and pure, featuring crushed plum fruit gilded with violet and lavender hints. The fruit sails through the finish. Grenache and Syrah. Drink now. 7,300 cases imported.—J.M.

BOUTINOT Côtes du Rhône-Villages Les Coteaux 2014 Score: 89 | $15
Shows a hint of maturity, with an alder edge leading the way, while the core of silky black cherry and dark plum fruit follows close behind. Pretty tea and incense accents emerge on the finish. Drink now through 2018. 3,125 cases imported.—J.M.

BROTTE Côtes du Rhône-Villages Cairanne Création Grosset 2016 Score: 89 | $15
Ripe and focused, offering a racy feel to the mix of raspberry and cherry coulis flavors. Shows a light pastis hint on the finish, with a solid graphite edge. Drink now through 2020. 5,960 cases imported.—J.M.

DOMAINE DE L'ECHEVIN Côtes du Rhône-Villages St.-Maurice 2015 Score: 89 | $19
Fresh and pure, with good drive to the mix of raspberry and blackberry coulis flavors. Light floral and dried anise notes fill in through the racy finish. Syrah and Grenache. Drink now through 2018. 1,700 cases made.—J.M.

CHÂTEAU MONT-REDON Côtes du Rhône Réserve 2015 Score: 89 | $15
Ripe and racy, with a delicious beam of red currant and raspberry pâte de fruit laced with light anise and singed apple wood notes. A light mineral edge adds length and cut. Drink now through 2019. 5,000 cases imported.—J.M.

Cooking Pairings Holidays / Celebrations Christmas and Hanukkah Recipes

You Might Also Like

8 & $20: Chickpea and Root Vegetable Fritters with Dill Yogurt

8 & $20: Chickpea and Root Vegetable Fritters with Dill Yogurt

Put sweet potatoes, carrots or beets to creative use in a hearty meal that pairs well with …

Nov 29, 2022
8 & $20: Crispy Tofu with Peanut Sauce and Riesling

8 & $20: Crispy Tofu with Peanut Sauce and Riesling

Even those who turn their nose up at tofu will crave this crispy, spicy, sweet combination, …

Nov 22, 2022
8 & $20: Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Preserved Lemon Dressing

8 & $20: Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Preserved Lemon Dressing

Give the classic holiday side dish extra flair with a flavorful topping and a festive …

Nov 15, 2022
Roasted Heirloom Beets and Burrata with Winter Citrus and Toasted Pumpernickel

Roasted Heirloom Beets and Burrata with Winter Citrus and Toasted Pumpernickel

Chef Benjamin Martinek of Studio at Montage in Laguna Beach, Calif., shares his seasonal …

Jun 15, 2019
A Star Chef’s Cheesy Soup

A Star Chef’s Cheesy Soup

Melissa King’s Potato-Toma Velouté recipe

Oct 31, 2022
Tipsy Ginger

Tipsy Ginger

Use our gift guide recommendations to mix up this festive Irish whiskey cocktail

Dec 15, 2022