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'Essential Pepin: More Than 600 All-Time Favorites From My Life In Food'

Fromage Fort

Makes 2 cups (enough for about 50 toasts)

A specialty of my father, the fromage fort ("strong cheese") is best eaten on bread or toast. It is made of leftover pieces of cheese -- any kind -- that are pureed in a food processor and seasoned with garlic and white wine. As a child, I especially loved it toasted. I would spread the cheese mixture on a thick slab of country bread, impale the bread on a fork, and then hold it in the fireplace, with the cheese side as close as possible to the fire. When the cheese bubbled and a nice glaze formed, I would rub the crusty cheese with a piece of butter and eat it piping hot. Although I have a strong attachment to the preparations surrounding that early memory, I find that the toasts glaze just as well when placed under the broiler for a few minutes. Refrigerated, this original and economical cheese combination will keep for a week or two.

3-4 garlic cloves

1 pound leftover cheese -- a combination of as many hard and soft varieties as you like (such as Brie, cheddar, Swiss, blue, mozzarella, and/or goat), pieces trimmed if necessary to remove dried-out places and mold

1/2 cup dry white wine, leek broth, or vegetable broth, or a mixture of these

Salt if needed (see Note)

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bread or toast, for serving

With the motor running, drop the garlic into a food processor and process for a few seconds, until coarsely chopped. Add the cheese, white wine and/or broth, salt and pepper if needed, and process for 30 to 45 seconds, until the mixture is soft and creamy. Transfer to a crock, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to use.

To serve, spread generously on bread or toast and eat cold; or arrange on a tray and broil for a few minutes to melt the cheese before serving.

Note: If you use only unsalted cheeses, or a large amount of unsalted farmer's cheese, for example, you may want to add a little salt. Usually, however, cheese itself is salty enough so that additional salt is not needed.

Roast Capon With Cognac-Mushroom Sauce

Serves 10

Capons are available during the holiday season in many markets. The flesh of these birds is moist, tender, and succulent, making them well worth their extra cost.

1 pound mushrooms (domestic, wild, or a mixture), cleaned and sliced thin (about 7 cups)

1 1/2 cups dry white wine

1 capon with neck, gizzard, and liver removed (about 8 pounds)

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1 1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon herbes de Provence

1 tablespoon cognac

1 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

1 teaspoon potato starch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Put the mushrooms in a saucepan with the wine. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to low, and boil gently for 10 minutes. Set the pan aside off the heat.

Season the capon with 1 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper and the herbes de Provence, and place the bird on its back in a roasting pan. Roast it breast side up for 30 minutes, then turn it over and roast it breast side down for 60 minutes. Finally, turn the capon onto its back again, and roast it for 10 additional minutes, for a total roasting time of 1 hour and 40 minutes. (Note: A thermometer inserted into the joint connecting a thigh and drumstick should register at least 160 degrees.) Transfer the capon to an ovenproof platter, and keep it warm in a 160-degree oven.

Remove as much fat as possible from the drippings in the roasting pan, and add the juice from the mushrooms to the pan. Heat the mixture over high heat for a few seconds, stirring constantly to melt any solidified juices in the pan, then pour the resulting glaze through a strainer set over the mushrooms. Add the cream and cognac to the mushroom mixture, bring it to a boil, and stir in the dissolved potato starch. Mix in the remaining 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and the tarragon.

Carve the capon and serve it, with or without bones, with some of the sauce.

Recipes from Essential Pepin: More than 600 All-Time Favorites from a Life of Cooking by Jacques Pepin. Copyright 2011 by Jacques Pepin. To be published in October 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Reprinted by permission.

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Jacques Pepin