Pepin does `Fast Food' his way


October 13, 2004|By Molly Knight | Molly Knight,SUN STAFF

The mere mention of the phrase fast food is enough to send most serious chefs running for their slow cookers. But for celebrity chef Jacques Pepin, fast food is nothing to sneer at - if, that is, it's done Pepin-style.

With the publication of Fast Food My Way (Houghton Mifflin, 2004, $32) - a companion to Pepin's new television series of the same title - the prolific French cook shares the best of his easy, quick recipes.

Fast food, as Pepin defines it in the introduction to this lively, brightly illustrated cookbook, is not processed. Nor does it come in a Styrofoam box with a side of fries. Instead, fast food is simple, fresh and creative.

Take Pepin's Silky Tomato Soup With Spinach Coulis. Made from just a few ripe tomatoes, an onion, spinach leaves, spices and a splash of Tabasco, the soup is tasty enough to serve to even the most discerning dinner guest.

Pepin also proves that artful presentation is easy. The result of his tomato mozzarella salad recipe - made by inserting slices of the cheese into slits in the tomato - is a spectacular fan of red and white.

The appeal of this cookbook is not only its simplicity. It is also Pepin's insistence that a remarkable meal does not always require elaborate preparation. Although some of the book's recipes (such as Pressure-Cooker Lamb and White Bean Stew or Crab Cakes in Red Sauce) require more sophisticated techniques and more than 30 minutes of prep time, the majority - as Pepin promises - are fast and delicious.

Supreme of Chicken With Balsamic Vinegar and Shallot Sauce

Serves 4

2 tablespoons butter (divided use)

1 tablespoon good olive oil

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (each about 6 ounces)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup chopped shallots

1 cup diced (1-inch) white button mushrooms

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon ketchup

1/2 cup water


2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon good olive oil

about 2 cups corn kernels (from 3 to 4 ears of corn)

1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen peas

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

Heat the oven to 180 degrees.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter and the oil over high heat in a heavy saucepan or skillet large enough to hold the chicken breasts in one layer. When hot, add the chicken and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Saute, uncovered, for about 3 minutes on each side. Transfer the breasts to an ovenproof plate, reserving the drippings in the pan, and place them in the oven and continue cooking for at least 10 minutes but no more than 30.

Add the shallots and mushrooms to the drippings in the pan, and cook for about 1 minute over high heat. Add the vinegar and ketchup and continue cooking for another minute. Add the water, and cook until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and stir until it is incorporated.

Meanwhile, for the corn and peas: Heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the corn, peas, salt and pepper. Saute for 3 to 4 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked through.

To serve, arrange a ring of vegetables on each of 4 plates. Cut each breast in half crosswise on a slant and place the breast pieces in the center of the vegetables. Coat the chicken with the sauce, sprinkle with the chives, and serve.

Per serving: 501 calories; 41 grams protein; 23 grams fat; 9 grams saturated fat; 34 grams carbohydrate; 5 grams fiber; 124 milligrams cholesterol; 536 milligrams sodium

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