Jacques Pepin is a culinary legend, prolific cookbook author, and well-seasoned star of more than a dozen cooking series on PBS. Obviously, he’s completely comfortable in front of the camera. I’m an Allrecipes editor, my days spent tapping on a keyboard, so, naturally I was nervous about doing a Facebook Live event during which the beloved chef created his Quick Coq au Vin and Fricassee of Brussels Sprouts. I battled through the butterflies, and, along with the more than 165,000 viewers, learned some cool new tricks (scroll to the end of the post to watch the entire event). Here are 7 of my favorites tips — some might surprise you!
1. Wash Chicken ASAP
As soon as you bring home the bird, remove it from the package and wash it, then wrap in fresh plastic. Makes for better tasting chicken. How long does it last in the fridge? A couple of days, max.
2. Whole Chicken is Not Necessarily Best
Flying in the face of traditional chef wisdom, Jacques Pepin is not a stickler about breaking down a whole chicken. “You can buy parts, and it’s even quicker,” he says. Chicken thighs are his favorite.
3. Don’t Toss the Chicken Skin
“I make cracklings with it — it’s better than bacon,” he says. Oui, oui! Sprinkle a little salt on the skin and bake it in the oven until crispy.
4. Sprinkle a Little Sugar in the Pan When Cooking Pearl Onions
Start cooking raw, prepped pearl onions in a little water with 1/2 teaspoon sugar and a drizzle of oil. When those onions become tender, in 3 to 4 minutes, remove the lid from the pan and the onions will become perfectly caramelized. After removing pearl onions and sauteed mushrooms from the pan, add a little water and stir. That mixture adds a deep color and complex flavor when added to the sauce.
5. If Chicken Sticks to the Pan, Don’t Panic
When using a stainless pan, and cook over medium high heat, there might be some pieces that stick to the pan. Those bits will become part of the sauce when gently scraped from the bottom.
6. Potato Starch Makes a Velvety Sauce
Skip cornstarch and try using potato starch mixed with a little red wine to thicken the Easy Coq au Vin and other sauces.
7. Cheap Wine’s OK to Use
Many cooks and recipes recommend using the same wine you’re going to serve at dinner when cooking, but Jacques Pepin says it’s just fine to use a cheaper wine. A $10 bottle of wine from France or Italy is better than a big, bold splurge wine. Save that for your glass.
Here’s the whole demonstration — just over 30 minutes. Watch it and be inspired by this wonderful chef!