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Today’s Special: Jacques Pépin's Chicken Jardinière

Culinary legend Jacques Pépin demonstrates the deep comfort of rustic French cooking.

For master chef Jacques Pépin—who celebrates his 80th birthday later this year—the classic French stew Chicken Jardinière recalls fond memories of his mother's home cooking. "It's a dish I've loved for as far as I can remember," Pépin says.

His mother's approach to the dish was slightly different. She'd use chicken gizzards to boost flavor, rather than pancetta, which Pépin uses. She'd also sauté with butter and leave the chicken skin on. Pépin's take is a little lighter but every bit as simple, and that's where much of its charm lies. "You don't have to torture yourself analyzing what's in the dish. All the flavors are right there."

Pépin's mother didn't have chicken stock on hand to make this stew, and he finds it's not even necessary: He deglazes with a little white wine and water after browning the chicken, and the liquid gains body and full flavor after a long simmer with the meat and vegetables. "You're not going to see this dish in haute cuisine," Pépin says. "But it's the kind of thing you can cook for a friend and you know they're going to like it."

Chefs, culinary organizations, and food media have feted Pépin this year to honor the legendary chef's crucial role in teaching America to cook. Find this dish and nearly 200 others in Pépin's new cookbook, Jacques Pépin: Heart and Soul in the Kitchen, out this month from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt ($35).

Chicken Jardinière Hands-on: 30 min. Total: 1 hr. 15 min.

Pancetta lardons lend rich flavor to this simple French stew. For convenience you can prepare the stew ahead, leaving out the green peas; then add the peas for the last 2 minutes of reheating to preserve their texture and color.

1 tablespoon peanut or canola oil 2½ ounces pancetta, cut into 1-inch-long, ½-inch-thick strips 4 chicken leg quarters, skin removed (about 2 pounds) 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper ½ teaspoon kosher salt ¾ cup dry white wine (such as sauvignon blanc) ¾ cup water 1¼ cups (1-inch-thick) slices carrot 1½ tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic 12 small red potatoes (about 8 ounces) 8 cremini mushrooms (about 5 ounces) 12 small pearl onions (about 4 ounces) 1 fresh thyme sprig 1 cup frozen petite green peas 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1. Heat a large Dutch oven over high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add pancetta; sauté 2 minutes. Add chicken; cook 8 minutes, turning once. Sprinkle flour, pepper, and salt evenly over chicken mixture, turning chicken to coat; cook 30 seconds. Stir in wine and ¾ cup water. Add carrot and next 5 ingredients (through thyme); stir well. Bring mixture to a boil; cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 45 minutes. Add peas. Bring mixture to a boil; cook 2 minutes. Place 1 chicken leg quarter and 1 cup vegetable mixture in each of 4 bowls; sprinkle each serving with 1½ teaspoons parsley.

SERVES 4 CALORIES 365; FAT 12.8g (sat 3.9g, mono 5.5g, poly 2.6g); PROTEIN 31g; CARB 28g; FIBER 4g; CHOL 123mg; IRON 3mg; SODIUM 545mg; CALC 58mg