Cookbook #2: Jacques Pépin's Table

Adapted from Cookbook #2: Jacques Pépin's Table: The Complete Today's Gourmet (1995)

Recipe: Chicken Legs with Wine and Yams

Jacques Pépin: one of the first celebrity chefs. His name is synonymous with French cooking made light, French cooking with a health-conscious bent. I know that Pépin was not always like this. His earlier--and more traditionally French--cookbooks used as much butter as Julia Child's did, and often he did so with the heroic Ms. Child on public television. But Pépin began to champion those now-hackneyed-but-then-revolutionary health-conscious aphorisms of cooking in the 80s and 90s: if you eat mindfully with good and fresh ingredients and if you master technique before all else, you don't have to cook "low-fat" or "healthy" meals--they will just be so. (Alice Waters, don't worry, I have plenty of your cookbooks, too.  Just you wait.).

This is all preamble to say, we had yams.

Sweet potatoes, yams, tubers: call them what you will*. We had plenty of leftover sweet potatoes from when my husband made sweet potato pie. There they were, sitting in the veggie bowl on the kitchen table--sort of exiled to the Land of Unwanted Tubers. And, let's face it, they had been there awhile. So, we needed to do something with them. Sweet Pépin came to my kitchen on the wings of page 210. Behold, an Alsatian-style faux coq au vin with yams. Hallelujah!

Dinner was fine: fast, one pot, weeknight meal.  The whole cloves of garlic and shallots were pretty divine.  The sweet potatoes were really fantastic all sauced up with the wine reduction, and the chicken was darned tasty.  Week two:  success.  And we will see more of you again, Mr. Pépin. This is not the sole cookbook by you that I own.

*The jury has actually reached a verdict on the yam/sweet potato debate, and we have The Food Lover's Companion to stand as foreman at this trial:  "Although sweet potatoes and yams are similar in many ways and therefore often confused with one another, they are from different plant species. In the southern United States, sweet potatoes are often called yams and to add to the confusion, canned sweet potatoes are frequently labeled yams. True yams, however, are not widely marketed and are seldom grown in the United States."   As for the sweet potato, they reach this judgment: "There are many varieties of sweet potato but the two that are widely grown commercially are a pale sweet potato and the darker-skinned variety Americans erroneously call 'yam.'"    Fine. We had sweet potatoes. Nonetheless, we had leftover, large, edible roots belonging to the morning glory family and I needed to find something to do with them.

4 Servings

4 chicken legs
2 tablespoons virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
4 large shallots, peeled
8 medium mushrooms
4 yams, peeled and halved lengthwise
1 cup dry white wine
8 large garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1. Remove the skin from the legs. Cut the legs into thighs and drumsticks.

2. Heat the oil in one large skillet and brown the chicken pieces on all sides for about 10 minutes.

3. Add the onion, and cook for 1 minute. Then add the shallots, mushrooms, yams, wine, garlic, salt, and pepper.

4. Bring to a boil, cover, and boil very gently for 20 minutes. Garnish with parsley and serve.


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