Why Soup Is The Ultimate Comfort Food, According To Jacques Pépin - Exclusive

Jacques Pépin has published over 30 cookbooks and led 13 television series, the latter of which earned him an Emmy, a James Beard Foundation award, and the American Public Television's Lifetime Achievement Award. Originally from Bourg-en-Bresse, France, near Lyon, Pépin has lived in Connecticut since 1975 where he has continued to make tremendous contributions to the culinary world through his teaching, his television programs, and his celebrated cookbooks. 

In an exclusive interview with Tasting Table, Jacques Pépin discusses his favorite dishes to prepare at home, best practices for cooking economically, and his ultimate comfort meal. While Pépin enjoys dining at acclaimed restaurants, he also believes there are some dishes that taste better when prepared in your home kitchen. "[At home] you can do a dish sometimes, which is difficult to duplicate in restaurants when you do it in larger quantities." His rationale is that if you're cooking for hundreds of guests, dishes are often prepared one at a time, which limits what you can make. According to Pépin, the best meal to enjoy at home, which is also the most comforting, is soup.

The nourishing power of soup

Soup is a winter staple that begins appearing in greater frequency on restaurant menus as the weather cools, but you don't have to wait until below-freezing temperatures to savor the beauty of soup as there are also excellent cold soups like gazpacho that can be enjoyed year-round. Two of the wonders of making soup at home are the ease at which you can customize the batch based on the ingredients you already have in your kitchen and the variety of ways you can add nutrients to the nourishing pot on your stove. For Jacques Pépin, soup has become a favorite comfort meal as he's gotten older. But comfort doesn't mean abandoning culinary creativity or kitchen resourcefulness. Pépin's strategy for preparing homemade soup is all about using what he has on hand to make something delicious.

"This summer I had an enormous amount of zucchini, so what do I do with it? I put them in a pot and I put an onion with them and see what I have," he explained to us. "Then I make a soup and emulsify it — put it into a container, put it in the freezer, and have it. I did the same thing with cucumbers — I had so many cucumbers. So, I peel them, take the seeds out of them, cut them into two pieces, then I put them in the blender. Usually — like I did last week, I put some V8 in, some spicy V8, directly on the cucumber. I had gazpacho in one second, it was very good. I did another one the week before where I did the cucumber the same way with a bit of garlic and I did yogurt with it and mint in it afterward to do another cold cucumber soup."

Check out Jacques Pépin's newest cookbook, Cooking My Way, which is now available for purchase here. To stay up-to-date with all things Jacques Pépin and the Jacques Pépin Foundation visit Instagram.