Jacques Pépin: The Art of Craft - Chef Jacques Pépin cooking at home: 10 easy recipes

In a new series recorded for American Masters filmed in his home in the spring of 2020, Chef Jacques Pépin teaches us many of his favorite family dishes. This intimate setting is his platform for simple and instructive cooking, using inexpensive, readily available ingredients, and whatever he may have on hand.

Watch as Pépin makes variations of his favorite ingredient – eggs – and makes them all disarmingly easy. He creates pancakes with leftovers and a cream cheese soufflé that will impress anyone.

While many of us are staying at home and cooking more, Pépin’s unpretentious approach is just the comfort we need. “Happy Cooking!”

Photos: Tom Hopkins

Cocotte Eggs

“A nice way to serve eggs is to cook them in a little container we call a “cocotte”, a little soufflé mold or ramekin. You butter your mold, put the eggs in it, and place them in a skillet surrounded with water and cook them covered until done to your liking. You can eat them with a little spoon right out of the cocotte, usually the yolks will still be runny, or you can unmold them—usually onto a round crouton or a toast—for a bit more of a presentation.”

2 teaspoons butter
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons chopped chives
2 extra large eggs, preferably organic
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 round crouton, toasted

Generously butter two small “cocottes” or ramekins, soufflé or Pyrex molds of about ¾ cup capacity. Add a dash of salt and pepper to each mold and place 1 tablespoon of chives in the bottom of one of the containers. Break one egg in each container.

Bring ½ inch of water to a boil in a saucepan or high-sided skillet. Place the cocottes in the water, cover and cook, boiling, until the whites are set but the yolks are still soft, about 3-5 minutes,.

Remove from heat. The egg can be served in the container, with a dash of cream and some herbs on top. Or you can un-mold the egg onto the round crouton, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of cream, and serve.

Country Omelet

Serves 2

“This is kind of a rough omelet, a bit in the style of a Spanish tortilla or an Italian frittata. I sauté potato and onion, and with that I add the eggs and cheese, I like Gruyère in this case, and some chives, and I add a layer of tomato on top and that goes under the broiler for a couple of minutes to be served slid out of the skillet or unmolded on the plate. A great lunch.”

1 potato (8 oz)
½ onion (3 oz)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
4 eggs
1/3 cup grated Gruyère
2 tablespoons chopped chives or parsley
1 medium tomato sliced into 6 slices

Peel and slice the potato and the onion. Heat the butter and oil in a 7-inch, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, add the potato and onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook, covered, turning occasionally until lightly browned and cooked through, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat the eggs, season with salt and pepper, add the cheese and chives and mix well.

Pour the egg mixture into the pan with the potatoes and onion mixing well.  Cook, stirring, until most of the egg is just set, it will still be moist in parts. Cover the surface with slices of tomato, sprinkle with salt and drizzle with oil. Place under the broiler, not too close, about 8 inches from the flame, for about 2 minutes.

Slide the omelet onto a plate or invert it. Cut and serve immediately.

Fried Eggs

“I showed my granddaughter, how to make a fried egg my way—that is cooking it at a low temperature so that the white stays very tender and the yolk is running lightly, and the top is glazed. It’s one way of doing it, and I hope you enjoy it, too.”

1 tablespoon butter
2 eggs
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon water
2 teaspoons chopped chives

Melt butter in small (5-inch) skillet. When foaming, add eggs, a dash of salt, and a teaspoon of water. Lower the heat, cover and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the tops glaze over.

Slide the eggs onto a plate and add a few grindings of pepper and garnish with the chopped chives. Serve immediately.

Classic Scrambled Eggs

Serves 2-3

“The way I scramble eggs is to put them into a heavier saucepan over moderate heat, and to use a whisk to constantly move the eggs, ensuring that they get the creamiest texture without large curds. This is usually finished with a little bit of cream. It’s a sophisticated way of enjoying eggs, one I often serve as a first course for an elegant dinner.”

3 tablespoons butter
2 mushrooms, coarsely chopped
½ cup diced tomato
salt and pepper
6 eggs
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1 – 2 tablespoons heavy cream

Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter in a skillet; add the mushrooms and sauté for 1 minute. Add the tomato and season with salt and pepper; cook an additional 30 seconds. Set aside.

Beat the eggs and add salt, pepper, and chives, set aside 2-3 tablespoons of the raw egg mixture. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan.  Add the egg mixture to the skillet and cook on medium heat, stirring constantly to create the smallest possible curds, a whisk works well for this. When the mixture is setting and you can see the bottom of the saucepan as you stir it, remove the pan from heat; add the reserved egg mixture and 1 or 2 tablespoons of cream, and mix well to stop the egg from continuing to cook.

Serve with mushroom-tomato garnish on top.

Eggs Jeannette

Serves 4

“Eggs Jeannette is an essential recipe for me, as it is something my mother used to make. Hard cooked eggs, yolks removed and mixed with garlic and parsley, then returned to the whites and sautéed stuffed side down. Finally they’re served with a mustard vinaigrette. A very easy-to-do, delicious, and unusual way to enjoy eggs.”

4 large eggs (hard cooked and peeled, see technique below)
1 large clove garlic
3 tablespoon chopped parsley
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon olive oil to sauté

Dressing:
About 2 tablespoons reserved egg yolk mixture, from above
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoons water
1/4 cup olive oil

Hard-cooked eggs: Use a pushpin or thumbtack to make a hole in the rounder end of each egg. Plunge the eggs into boiling water, reduce the heat, and cook at a very low boil for 10 minutes. (When an egg is lowered into boiling water, the sulfur in the white moves toward the center of the egg to escape the intense heat. The iron in the yolk then reacts with the sulfur and can turn the outside of the yolk green and sulfur-smelling. To prevent this, do not overcook the eggs.)  As soon as they are ready, pour out the hot water and shake the pan to crack the eggshells, which makes the eggs easier to peel. Add cold water and ice to the pan and keep the eggs in the ice water until thoroughly chilled.

Cut the eggs in half lengthwise. Remove yolks and mash with garlic, parsley, salt, pepper, and milk. Fill the eggs with the mixture, reserving about 2 tablespoons for the dressing.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in skillet. Add the eggs, stuffed side down and cook until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes.

For the Dressing:
Add the mustard, vinegar and water to the leftover mixture. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking to emulsify the dressing.

Pour the dressing onto a platter and arrange the eggs on top to serve.

Seafood Omelet

Serves 2

“I like omelets in any form, but the seafood omelet that I’m doing here is a bit more rich and sophisticated than most. I sauté some shrimp and scallops, (you could also use some fish), a bit of scallion, mushroom all together, which takes only a couple of minutes. While that’s cooking you can mix your eggs and some herbs, add that to the pan until it’s basically barely holding together, fold it and serve it with the shellfish slightly undercooked and the omelet very moist inside. It’s a very elegant dish for a light supper.”

2 tablespoons butter
5 medium shrimp, peeled and cut into thirds
3 medium scallops, cut into thirds
2 scallions, minced
1/4 cup chopped mushrooms
salt and pepper to taste
5 eggs
3 tablespoon chopped chives
2 – 3 tablespoon heavy cream
1 teaspoon olive oil

Heat butter in 10-inch non-stick pan and add the shrimp, scallops, scallions, and mushrooms. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, tossing occasionally.

Meanwhile, crack the eggs into a bowl, add the chives, cream and season with salt and pepper. Whip with a fork until smooth. Add egg mixture to the shellfish and cook, bringing the sides in to create large curds. Continue to cook, mixing until the egg is set but still moist in center. Roll the omelet into thirds. Add a dash of oil to the pan and brown for 30 seconds then invert onto a plate. Serve immediately.

Rice Cakes with Eggs

Serves 2

“I often have leftover rice—from going to a Chinese restaurant, or just leftover from something I cooked at home, sometimes plain, sometimes seasoned in one way or another—and when I do I like to put it in a skillet to make a kind of rice pancake, which is crusty on the bottom. On top I usually put a couple of eggs at the last minute, to make a great lunch dish.”

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 ½ cups leftover cooked rice
¼ cup water
salt and pepper
2 extra large eggs, preferably organic
1 tablespoon chives, for garnish

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in 7 or 9-inch non-stick skillet. Add the rice and water and cook, pressing the rice down with a spoon. Add salt and pepper if needed. Lower the heat to medium and cook until a thick crust forms, about 7 minutes. Flip the rice over and cook an additional minute.

Using the back of a spoon, make two indentations in the rice and crack an eggs into each, grind pepper over the top and cover and cook, until eggs are done, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Slide onto a plate, sprinkle with chives, and serve immediately.

Buttermilk Pancakes

“Very often, especially during the holidays, I buy cream—and very often I have cream left over. After a week or so I put that cream in the food processor and make butter—we can always use butter. And of course, with the butter you also get buttermilk. Occasionally I will use the buttermilk to make pancakes, which is easy to do. I serve them with whatever fruit I happen to have around.”

Makes 6 pancakes

1/2 cup flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ cup buttermilk
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon sugar
pinch salt
1 large egg
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon butter

To serve:
1/3 cup maple syrup
8-10 grapes, halved
powdered sugar, for dusting

Combine the flour, baking powder, buttermilk, vanilla and sugar and whisk into a smooth batter.

Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Pour batter, about 3-4 tablespoons per pancake, into the skillet and cook, about 1 ½ minutes on each side.

While the pancakes are cooking, cut the grapes in half and drizzle with maple syrup.

To serve: arrange pancakes on a plate, spoon over the grapes and drizzle with maple syrup.

Crêpes “Confiture”

Makes 6 crêpes

“I always had crêpes as a child, and made them countless times for my daughter and granddaughter. There is nothing easier than making crêpes. I put a piece of butter to melt in a skillet, and by the time that butter is melted I have mixed enough milk, flour, and an egg to make half a dozen crêpes. You can serve them with jam inside or something savory, like ham or cheese. Easy and delicious.”

1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons water, if needed
1 tablespoon butter
Apricot or other jam
Sugar, for sprinkling

Melt butter in 7-inch non-stick pan over medium-high heat.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, half of the milk, egg, salt, and sugar in a bowl and mix until smooth. Add the rest of the milk, two tablespoons of water, if needed, and the melted butter from the pan to make a thin batter.

Pour about 3-4 tablespoons of batter into one side of the pan and immediately tilt the pan, shaking it at the same time to make it run all over the bottom. Cook for 1 to 1 ½ minutes on the first side, then flip and cook the second side for 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining batter.

Spread 1 tablespoon of jam (apricot, raspberry, or peach) inside each crêpe, fold or roll and enjoy!

Cream Cheese Soufflé

Serves 2

“For an elegant first course for a nice dinner you can make these cream cheese soufflés, which are extremely easy to do. A mixture of whipped cream cheese and an egg is placed into some little containers, or you can make one larger one. They can be served just out of the oven after they have risen up above the sides of the containers, or, if you let them cool they will shrink a bit, (but they never get lower than the amount you originally put in), and you can un-mold them and serve them alone on a plate, or with a salad.”

1 teaspoon butter
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1 container (8 oz) whipped cream cheese
1 large egg
2 tablespoons chopped chives
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400° F. Generously butter two ¾ cup soufflé molds and coat the insides with Parmesan cheese.

In a medium bowl, mix together the cream cheese and egg, stir in the chives and season with salt and pepper. Divide the mixture between the two molds.

Set the molds on a baking sheet and cook at 400° F until risen and golden, about 18 to 20 minutes. You can serve them immediately in the molds, or let them cool for 15 minutes (they will shrink) before un-molding. Serve alone or on a salad.