I just got a new Jacques Pépin cook book yesterday – Essential Pépin: More Than 700 All-Time Favorites from My Life in Food. With very little time to really look through it, I already know it’s my new favorite go-to book.

Reading the introduction sealed it for me. Right off the bat he talked about how his cooking has evolved from a young man to a mature man to an older man. How he has changed and evolved from elaborate French to fast food his way. How he has changed and learned.

I can relate. I have run the gamut of complex and complicated to open a can to just about everything in between. And the older I get, the more simplistic I’m liking things. It’s pretty much why I’ve gravitated to rustic Italian foods – a few good ingredients can give you a lot of bang for the buck. In his latest book, I think I’m going to be gravitating towards the rustic French a bit more. Or, rather, Jacques’ version of it.

I’ve always liked his style, have loved his various shows on PBS, and really enjoy his approach to food. He stresses technique – not following a recipe verbatim. If you like something, add it – if you don’t leave it out. If you learn how to do a few simple things, you can put a meal together with what you have. You learn how to improvise – and how to make simple into elegant with not much more than the right attitude.

My kinda cook.

Tonight’s potato dish from the new book is a classic example. Paillasson Potatoes is, essentially, a big shredded potato pancake – a latke without the egg. It’s cooked in a covered skillet, flipped, and cooked on the other side. My first flip resulted in a folded omelette. I unfolded, cooked the bottom a bit more for crispiness and structure, and flipped it like I knew what I was doing. Fearless.

Paillasson Potatoes

adapted from Essential Pépin

  • 3 russet potatoes – about 8 ounces each
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup green onion, minced
  • S& P, to taste

Peel potatoes and shred on large holes of a box grater. Place in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze out most of the liquid.

Heat the oil and butter in a 10″ non-stick skillet. Add the potatoes, onions, and S&P and mix and cook about 2 minutes.

Press the potatoes with a spoon to compact them into the pan. Cover, reduce the heat, and cook about 12 minutes.

Flip the potato mixture over and continue cooking for about 10 more minutes.

Slide onto a serving plate, slice, and serve.

A simple potato, elevated.

It worked really well with the sausages and eggplant. Victor harvested a couple more eggplants yesterday and made another batch of Little Gram’s Eggplant. It is one of the best all-purpose eggplant recipes out there. I just heated it up and added some grilled sausages from Martin’s at Reading Terminal.

So… off I go to peruse the rest of the book. I feel some more fun meals a’comin’.