The newest cook book to come into the house is Essential Pepin. To say that I am enamoured of Jacques Pepin would be an understatement. I love his cooking, his take on food – and his take on life. The book is something like 6 years old, now, but it’s new to me – and something that’s never going to go out of style.

I especially like how he has evolved and how all of his various cooking positions have had an impact on what he does, today. We catch his show on PBS and after seeing a few of the things he was making, I knew I needed to get the book.

Recipes run from basic and simple to more complex -but with a bit of practice, there’s nothing that can’t be made by anyone who really wants to make it. As in all things, you get out of it what you put in.

Today, I decided to put in chocolate.

Victor is making dinner, tonight, so I needed something to do to dirty up the kitchen while he was trying to get dinner together – using up counter space, equipment, the oven, sink… We work well in the kitchen together…

Since it’s raining outside, Blanche was in there, as well – laying right in the middle of the floor – moving only to get in the way somewhere else. Meanwhile, Nonna was in looking for a fresh water bottle and  half-dozen coconut cookies.

The kitchen is the heart of the home, right?!? There are times when I think ours is having a coronary.

But here we go. I’m copying the recipe here because I found it on numerous sites on the web. I made the recipe as written, but I used walnuts in place of pecans and pistachios in place of the pine nuts. It’s what I had in the house and cooking is more about using what you have than buying more things.

Individual Chocolate Nut Pies

Jacques Pepin

Serves 4


  • 5 graham crackers (3 1/2 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons sugar


  • 1/2 cup mixed nuts (pecans, almonds) – I used walnuts and almonds
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts – I used pistachios
  • 3 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Process the graham crackers, butter, canola oil, and sugar in a food processor for 1 minute, until the mixture is finely chopped, mealy, and starting to come together.

Divide the mixture among four 1-cup ramekins or aluminum muffin cups and press it evenly over the bottom and up the sides of each ramekin.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.


Process the pecans and almonds in the food processor for a few seconds to coarsely chop them. Mix with the pine nuts and divide among the lined ramekins.

Melt the chocolate with the butter in a bowl in a microwave oven or in a double boiler. Add the cornstarch and mix well, then add the corn syrup and mix well. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well.

Divide the mixture among the ramekins.

Arrange the ramekins on a cookie sheet, and bake in the middle of the oven for about 20 minutes, until the filling is set but still somewhat soft in the middle. Let cool to lukewarm or room temperature on a rack.

At serving time, invert each of the pies onto a dessert plate. Carefully turn the pies right side up and serve.

Copyright © 2011 by Jacques Pépin. 


Okay… these are ridiculously good. As in ridiculously good. The combination of the rich, fudgy chocolate and the crunchy nuts, held together with the graham crackers is unbelievably good. And it was ridiculously easy to put together!

This could be made with ingredients already found in many kitchens. While I get the mixed nuts – and I want to use pine nuts next time because I really like their taste and texture – 3/4 cup of any nuts at all would work.

So… make this one soon. You’ll be glad you did!