Cook Your Cupboard: Chowchow Down With Jacques Pepin

Jul 16, 2013
Originally published on July 16, 2013 5:22 am

This is an installment of NPR's Cook Your Cupboard, an ongoing food series about working with what you have on hand. Have a food that has you stumped? Share a photo and we'll ask chefs about our favorites. The current submission category: Booze!

Celebrity French chef Jacques Pepin suggests how to use chowchow, pickled onions and currants — foods submitted by Samantha Lunn in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Spice up your barbecue with some chowchow:

Chowchow is a Southern American pickled relish made from a combination of vegetables like green and red tomatoes, cabbage, beans, asparagus, cauliflower and peas. All of these vegetables are kept in a jar and served cold.

Lunn received some as a gift from her mother-in-law and has been using it in egg salad for a while.

Pepin recommends using it as a savory topping for hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled cheese sandwiches and as a glaze for ham.

For a glaze, just puree it, put it on top of ham, and bake it in the oven.

It can also be used as a side relish for any kind of meat stew with a spicy touch to it.

Pickled onions for more than just martinis:

Lunn also received a jar of pickled onions as a gift, but hasn't found much use for them aside from decorating martinis.

Pepin's advice: Serve them with any kind of pate or cold meat.

You can also make a sophisticated glaze that goes well with pork chops: Add a bit of sugar to the pickles, cook in a skillet with a dash of butter, and cook until it caramelizes. Serve with pork chops or other types of meat.

Everything currants:

Currants, or tiny dried raisins, are mostly used in baked goods, but Pepin mixes them into rice, in any pork glaze or stuffing for turkey.

"They're terrific on ice cream," he adds, if mixed with any apricot jam or honey.

The chef even suggested adding them to chowchow for a spicy-sweet taste.

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Okay. Anyone feeling hungry?



It's time for Cook Your Cupboard. That's the part of the program where you submit photos of weird ingredients to Then we choose one of you to come on the air for some expert advice from a chef or food writer. And today we're joined by a legendary French chef, Jacques Pepin. He worked in elite French restaurants, has been the personal chef to heads of state, including Charles de Gaulle. And for decades he brought his culinary expertise into American living rooms on cooking shows. He joins us from WNPR in New Haven. And Jacques Pepin, welcome.

JACQUES PEPIN: Thank you for having me.

MONTAGNE: It's a pleasure to have you. And our Cook Your Cupboard listener is Samantha Lunn. She's on a telephone line from Chattanooga, Tennessee. Good morning to you.

SAMANTHA LUNN: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Samantha, I gather that your work schedule does give you some time to cook.

LUNN: Yeah, we have a two-and-a-half-year-old at home. And I get to stay home with my daughter. We've really enjoyed cooking together and it's something I did growing up with my mother and my grandmother. And I try my best to cook three meals a day at our house.

PEPIN: I also cook with my granddaughter, you know, so...

LUNN: It's the best, it's the best way to spend time with them.

MONTAGNE: Let's get to the food that you're trying to use up. There are three items that you're a little perplexed about.

LUNN: Sure. The first one is, we got a jar of pickled onions as part of a Christmas basket. And nothing came to mind except martinis, which is not something that I regularly have. The other ingredient is hot chowchow relish. We use it in egg salad, but only a tablespoon. So I often have a large jar left over. And then my other thing is currants. I would love to know some different ways to use those.

MONTAGNE: Why don't we start with the chowchow, the spicy southern relish. Jacques Pepin, do you know about chowchow?

PEPIN: Yes, I heard about it. I mean I don't think it should be any problem using it. I would use it on hotdog, certainly hamburger, even on ham. You know, you can puree it further and put it on top of a ham to glaze in the oven. I know that I would use it in like grilled cheese sandwich, any kind of stew. You would serve that kind of relish on the side. Yes, it would go well with it.

MONTAGNE: What about those pickled onions? Now, I kind of agree with you, the idea of a pickled onion strikes me as something to put into a martini. And I would be just as stumped.

PEPIN: Well, my wife, to start with, every summer makes cornichons, what we call cornichons, and the cornichons, of course, and the pickled onion, are terrific to serve with any kind of pate, cold meat. And as well, glazing it, for example. You know, you put a bit of sugar in it, you cook it in a skillet to the dash of butter. And it turn out and glazed and caramelized and you serve that with pork chop or any type of meat. And that would be terrific. But generally with cold meat.

LUNN: I love that idea of pairing it with pate. My mom has been working hard on mastering pate at her home. So that's a great...

PEPIN: Good, good. And a glass of white wine with that.

LUNN: Absolutely.

MONTAGNE: Currants. Now those, of course, are the tiny sweet raisins. I would think there would be a lot of uses for currants.

PEPIN: Certainly the first thing that I would use it like in rice, you cook rice with raisins or currants in there. That would go very well. Anything with pork, and then don't forget to put it in stuffing, when stuffing of your turkey or anything like this. You would also put your currant in your chowchow, you know, so that would go well with it.

MONTAGNE: Jacques Pepin, you have brought us full circle in this conversation from the original ingredients to the final ingredient, mixing them up. Did you expect to do that?

PEPIN: No. I mean, you know, food is fun and you should try things out. And I don't know; if you have a nice glass of wine with it, it's fine. It works.

MONTAGNE: Well, Samantha, it sounds like starting with the hotdogs and down to the chutneys, it sounds a bit like you have an American picnic going here.

LUNN: Yeah, absolutely. I'm looking forward to that. I think that will be great.

PEPIN: Well, good luck with it.

LUNN: Thank you so much. I really appreciate your ideas.

PEPIN: Am I invited?

LUNN: Absolutely. You are welcome at my house any time.


MONTAGNE: Thank you both for joining us. Celebrity French chef Jacques Pepin and our listener Samantha Lunn, joining us from Chattanooga, Tennessee. It was a pleasure talking to both of you.

LUNN: Thanks, Renee.

PEPIN: Nice talking to you.


MONTAGNE: And if you want the chance to come on air for advice from a star chef, we'd love to have you. Submit things in your cupboard, things that have you perplexed. Go to Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.