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)
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.
This classic gratin makes a fine pairing with roasted poultry or meat.
"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.
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.