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Jacques Pépin's Heart & Soul Holiday Sides – Country Bread & Pureed Squash Gratin

JACQUES PEPIN HEART AND SOUL IN THE KITCHEN, © 2015 by Jacques Pepin. Reproduced by permission of Tom Hopkins. All rights reserved. 

Jacques Pépin's Heart & Soul in the Kitchen cookbook accompanies his last namesake cooking series on public television. The name says it all — Heart & Soul celebrates how Pépin cooks and entertains with his friends and family. The book is full of simple recipes and practical cooking techniques that everyday cooks can use at home.
Pépin is one of my own cooking inspirations, as he is for many others around the world, and I will sorely miss watching him cook on TV. Thank you PBS, KQED and KCTS 9 for helping us get to know and learn from this legend.
I have selected two recipes from Heart & Soul in the Kitchen cookbook that make welcoming holiday side dishes, or sides to any autumn or winter dinner. In fact, I could enjoy this squash gratin on a slice of country bread any time!
First is my adaption of a Pépin recipe called Puréed Zucchini Gratin, using a seasonal delicata squash, which is simple and quick to prepare. The original recipe is similar to what Pépin's mother used to serve at her restaurant. I followed his technique of pre-cooking the squash in the microwave and it's a real time saver. You can simply scale this soufflé-like recipe up if you're serving more than four, and the gratin mixture can be made ahead of time – just bake it half an hour before serving.
Second is Pépin's Country Bread. It's a simple and satisfying, no-knead rustic loaf. You can make it a day in advance and you'll wow your guests. It’s so much better than any store-bought bread.
Pureed Squash Gratin
Serves four
1 lb delicata squash or your favorite seasonal squash
1 tablespoon softened, unsalted butter
3/4 cup half-and-half
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon herbes de provence
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup grated Gruyère cheese
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
2. Cut the delicata squash in quarters and scoop out the seeds. Put it in a bowl, cover and microwave till soft enough for knife to pierce. Once cool to the touch, scoop out the flesh and discard the skins. 
3. Microwave a clove of garlic covered for a minute or less to soften it up. It will cook the garlic and soften the flavor.
4. Put squash pulp and garlic in food processor and pulse till smooth.
5. Add half-and-half, flour, eggs, herbes de provence, salt and pepper and process till well mixed.
6. Add the Gruyère cheese and mix it in.
7. Butter the gratin dish well and pour the squash mixture into it.
8. Sprinkle Parmesan on top.
9. Bake for 30 minutes or until the gratin is set and brown on the top.
10. Serve right away.
Country Bread
Excerpted from JACQUES PEPIN HEART AND SOUL IN THE KITCHEN, © 2015 by Jacques Pepin. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Rux Martin Books. All rights reserved.
Makes one large loaf
3 cups + 1 tablespoon unbleached bread flour, preferably organic
1 cup unbleached whole wheat flour, preferably organic 
1 envelope active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups tepid water (100 F)
1. Put all flour (except the 1 tablespoon), yeast and salt in food processor and pulse.
2. While processor is still on, add water and process until dough is combined and soft.
3. Transfer it to a large, oiled bowl, cover and let it rise till doubled in size. It can take up to 3 hours, but less if you put it in a nice, warm place in your home.
4. Push the dough down, bringing edges toward the center to create a compact ball.
5. Place the ball, seam-side down on a lined baking sheet, and cover with a large bowl.
6. Let it rise again until it doubles in size.
7. Preheat the oven to 425 F.
8. When the dough has risen, sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of flour to cover the top.
9. Cut a few parallel slashes, about 1/4 inch deep with a serrated knife.
10. Place the dough in the preheated oven and mist it with water from a spray bottle. After 5 minutes, spray the loaf again with water and let it bake for about 50 minutes, until brown and puffy. (My tip: The best way to test if it's ready is to take the internal temperature of bread – a kitchen thermometer, inserted in the center of the loaf, should read between 205 F and 210 F.)
11. Let the loaf cool on a rack completely before slicing.
KCTS 9 aired Jacques Pépin's 80th Birthday Celebration on Sunday, December 20 during which chefs Lidia Bastianich, Rick Bayless, and Ming Tsai joined the culinary legend. They prepared a celebratory feast for Pépin as well as sharing memories, anecdotes from their kitchen experiences, and lots of laughs.


Mohini Patel Glanz

Mohini Patel Glanz is a freelance photographer and creator of where she shares stories of food and culture. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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