cover image The Short-Cut Cook

The Short-Cut Cook

Jacques Pepin. William Morrow & Company, $19.95 (283pp) ISBN 978-0-688-09448-5

Master chef Pepin ( La Technique ), multiple IACP/Tastemaker Award recipient, has built a considerable reputation on his teaching of classic culinary skills. Forthwith he takes a new approach. Billed as a celebration of ``a cuisine that is rewarding without being demanding,'' this book may shock his fans. Staples here come from cans, bottles, freezer cases and packages; some recipes are eerily reminiscent of back-of-the-box concoctions--borscht made with canned beets; a split pita bread butttered and sprinkled with Parmesan before a run into the toaster oven. Regardless, Pepin achieves his aim: to cook with minimal effort while providing zesty meals. Some recipes call for costly fresh ingredients (lobster, veal chops). More affordable yet still adventurous are black bean hummus with smoked oysters and sour cream, a salad of sardines augmented with ripe tomatoes, and Bartlett pears baked in puff pastry shells. ``If something tastes good, it doesn't matter whether it is `authentic' or prepared `correctly'--what works, works,'' Pepin declares. All the same, the audience of working parents who most need fast meals may balk at paying $20 for a cookbook when equally simple-to-fix recipes can indeed be found on the backs of bottles, cans and jars for a song. Author tour. (Nov.)