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|Barefoot in Paris: Easy French Food You Can Make at Home
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Author: Ina Garten
Brand: Random House
Hearty boeuf Bourguignon served in deep bowls over a garlic-rubbed slice of baguette toast; decadently rich croque monsieur, eggy and oozing with cheese; gossamer crème brulee, its sweetness offset by a brittle burnt-sugar topping. Whether shared in a cozy French bistro or in your own home, the romance and enduring appeal of French country cooking is irrefutable. Here is the book that helps you bring that spirit, those evocative dishes, into your own home.
What Ina Garten is known for—on her Food Network show and in her three previous bestselling books—is adding a special twist to familiar dishes, while also streamlining the recipes so you spend less time in the kitchen but still emerge with perfection. And that’s exactly what she offers in Barefoot in Paris. Ina’s kir royale includes the unique addition of raspberry liqueur—a refreshing alternative to the traditional crème de cassis. Her vichyssoise is brightened with the addition of zucchini, and her chocolate mousse is deeply flavored with the essence of orange. All of these dishes are true to their Parisian roots, but all offer something special—and are thoroughly delicious, completely accessible, and the perfect fare for friends and family.
Barefoot in Paris is suffused with Ina’s love of the city, of the bustling outdoor markets and alluring little shops, of the bakeries and fromageries and charcuteries—of the wonderful celebration of food that you find on every street corner, in every neighborhood. So take a trip to Paris with the perfect guide—the Barefoot Contessa herself—in her most personal book yet.
Ina Garten's much loved cookbooks, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, Barefoot Contessa Parties!, and Barefoot Contessa Family Style, offer relaxed yet stylish dishes that don't tax the cook. Her food works wonderfully for entertaining but shouldn't be limited to such times. Barefoot in Paris finds Garten (almost inevitably) in France, "translating" native dishes for the American home cook. The result is rewarding, and should get those reluctant to "cook French" to do just that. Covered are classics like Celery Root Rémoulade, Boeuf Bourguignon, and Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic, but also "newer" dishes like Zucchini Vichyssoise and Avocado and Grapefruit Salad. If Garten ranges wide from typical Parisian fare--in, for example, recipes like Rosemary Cashews, Tomato Rice Pilaf, and a distinctly American Brownie Tart--these nonetheless embody the French approach. Her sweets, including the likes of Peaches in Sauternes, Plum Cake "Tatin," and an exemplary Crème Brûlée, are particularly tempting. Included also are asides like "About French Table Settings," and "If You're Going," a resource guide, that, practicality apart, give readers a sense of French culinary life. With color photos, this is winning addition to the Barefoot collection. --Arthur Boehm
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|The Art of French Pastry
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Author: Jacquy Pfeiffer
What does it take to perfect a flawless éclair? A delicate yet buttery croissant? To pipe dozens of macarons? The answer is: an intimate knowledge of the fundamentals of pastry. In The Art of French Pastry award-winning pastry chef Jacquy Pfeiffer, cofounder of the renowned French Pastry School in Chicago, gives you just that.
By teaching you how to make everything from pâte à choux to pastry cream, Pfeiffer builds on the basics until you have an understanding of the science behind the ingredients used, how they interact with one another, and what your hands have to do to transform them into pastry. This yields glorious results! Expect to master these techniques and then indulge in exquisite recipes, such as:
· napoléons / Mille-Feuilles
· cream puffs
· Alsatian cinnamon rolls / chinois
· lemon cream tart with meringue teardrops
· elephant ears / palmiers
· black forest cake
as well as some traditional Alsatian savory treats, including:
· Tarte Flambée
· Warm Alsatian Meat Pie
Pastry is all about precision, so Pfeiffer presents us with an amazing wealth of information—lists of necessary equipment, charts on how ingredients react in different environments, and the precise weight of ingredients in grams, with a look at their equivalent in U.S. units—which will help you in all aspects of your cooking.
But in order to properly enjoy your “just desserts,” so to speak; you will also learn where these delicacies originated. Jacquy Pfeiffer comes from a long line of pastry chefs and has been making these recipes since he was a child working in his father’s bakery in Alsace. Sprinkled with funny, charming memories from a lifetime in pastry, this book will have you fully appreciating the hundreds of years of tradition that shaped these recipes into the classics that we know and love, and can now serve to our friends and families over and over again.
The Art of French Pastry, full of gorgeous photography and Pfeiffer’s accompanying illustrations, is a master class in pastry from a master teacher.
Featured Recipes from The Art of French Pastry
Download the recipe for Christmas Sables
Download the recipe for Ganache
|Les Petits Macarons: Colorful French Confections to Make at Home
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Author: Kathryn Gordon
Macarons, the stuff of bakers’ candy-coated dreams, have taken the world by storm and are demystified here for the home baker, With dozens of flavor combinations, recipes are structured with three basic shell methods—French, Swiss, and Italian—plus one never-before-seen Easiest French Macaron Method. Pick one that works for you, and go on to create French-inspired pastry magic with nothing more than a mixer, an oven, and a piping bag.
Try shells flavored with pistachio, blackberry, coconut, and red velvet, filled with the likes of sesame buttercream, strawberry guava pâte de fruit, crunchy dark chocolate ganache, and lemon curd. Or go savory with shells like saffron, parsley, and ancho chile paired with fillings like hummus, foie gras with black currant, and duck confit with port and fig. The options for customization are endless, and the careful, detailed instruction is like a private baking class in your very own kitchen! All recipes have been tested by students and teachers alike and are guaranteed to bring the flavors of France right to your door.
|The French Laundry Cookbook
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Author: Thomas Keller
Thomas Keller, chef/proprieter of the French Laundry in the Napa Valley—"the most exciting place to eat in the United States," wrote Ruth Reichl in The New York Times—is a wizard, a purist, a man obsessed with getting it right. And this, his first cookbook, is every bit as satisfying as a French Laundry meal itself: a series of small, impeccable, highly refined, intensely focused courses.
Most dazzling is how simple Keller's methods are: squeegeeing the moisture from the skin on fish so it sautées beautifully; poaching eggs in a deep pot of water for perfect shape; the initial steeping in the shell that makes cooking raw lobster out of the shell a cinch; using vinegar as a flavor enhancer; the repeated washing of bones for stock for the cleanest, clearest tastes.
From innovative soup techniques, to the proper way to cook green vegetables, to secrets of great fish cookery, to the creation of breathtaking desserts; from beurre monté to foie gras au torchon, to a wild and thoroughly unexpected take on coffee and doughnuts, The French Laundry Cookbook captures, through recipes, essays, profiles, and extraordinary photography, one of America's great restaurants, its great chef, and the food that makes both unique.
One hundred and fifty superlative recipes are exact recipes from the French Laundry kitchen—no shortcuts have been taken, no critical steps ignored, all have been thoroughly tested in home kitchens. If you can't get to the French Laundry, you can now re-create at home the very experience the Wine Spectator described as "as close to dining perfection as it gets."
To eat at Thomas Keller's Napa Valley restaurant, The French Laundry, is to experience a peak culinary experience. In The French Laundry Cookbook, Keller articulates his passions and offers home cooks a means to duplicate the level of perfection that makes him one of the best chefs in the U.S. and, arguably, the world.
This cookbook provides 150 recipes exactly as they are used at Keller's restaurant. It is also his culinary manifesto, in which he shares the unique creative processes that led him to invent Peas and Carrots--a succulent pillow of a lobster paired with pea shoots and creamy ginger-carrot sauce--and other high-wire culinary acts. It offers unimagined experiences, from extracting chlorophyll to use in coloring sauces to a recipe for chocolate cake accompanied by red beet ice cream and a walnut sauce. You are urged to follow Keller's recipes precisely and also to view them as blueprints. To keep them alive, they must be infused with your own commitment to perfection and pleasure, as you define those terms.
Keller's story, shared through the writing of Michael Ruhlman, shows how this chef was both born and made. After winning rave reviews when he was still in his 20s, it took a more experienced chef throwing a knife at him because he did not know how to truss a chicken to open his eyes to the importance of the discipline and techniques of classical French cooking. To acquire these fundamental skills, he apprenticed at eight of the finest restaurants in France.
Grounded in classic technique, Keller's cooking is characterized by traditional marriages of ingredients, assembled in breathtakingly daring new ways, such as Pearls and Oyster, glistening caviar and oysters served on a bed of creamy pearl tapioca. Continually piquing the palate, his meals are a procession of 5 to 10 dishes, all small portions vibrantly composed. For example, Pan Roasted Breast of Squab with Swiss Chard, Seared Foie Gras, and Oven-Dried Black Figs require just three birds to serve six. The result: you are never sated, always stimulated.
The 200 photographs by Deborah Jones include more than just beauty shots: they show how to prepare various dishes; how Keller, shown stroking a whole salmon, respects his ingredients; and how the perfection of baby fava beans still nestled in the downy lining of their succulent pod, or the seduction of an abundance of fresh caviar, calls out the best from the chef. --Dana Jacobi
|Frenchie: New Bistro Cooking
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Author: Greg Marchand
Brand: Workman Press
On a quiet cobblestoned side street north of Les Halles in Paris, a veritable food revolution is happening thanks to chef Greg Marchand’s game-changing restaurant, Frenchie. Here are some of his most inspired and deeply original recipes, dishes that are radiant not just in color but in flavor, and filled with alluring hints of international influences. Chutneys, pestos, and flavored vinaigrettes take the place of heavier and more traditional French fare, and the juxtaposition of ingredients (watermelon with ricotta salata; roasted carrots with oranges and avocado; raw baby turnips and juicy pears) adds energy to a once hidebound bistro tradition. To the question “Is there anything new under the sun?” Frenchie answers, unequivocally, “Yes!”
|French Grammar (Quickstudy: Academic)
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Author: Inc. BarCharts
Quick-reference summary to French grammar.
|Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours
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Author: Dorie Greenspan
Brand: Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
When Julia Child told Dorie Greenspan, “You write recipes just the way I do,” she paid her the ultimate compliment. Julia’s praise was echoed by the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, which referred to Dorie’s “wonderfully encouraging voice” and “the sense of a real person who is there to help should you stumble.”
Now in a big, personal, and personable book, Dorie captures all the excitement of French home cooking, sharing disarmingly simple dishes she has gathered over years of living in France.
Around My French Table includes many superb renditions of the great classics: a glorious cheese-domed onion soup, a spoon-tender beef daube, and the “top-secret” chocolate mousse recipe that every good Parisian cook knows—but won’t reveal.
Hundreds of other recipes are remarkably easy: a cheese and olive quick bread, a three-star chef’s Basque potato tortilla made with a surprise ingredient (potato chips), and an utterly satisfying roast chicken for “lazy people.”
Packed with lively stories, memories, and insider tips on French culinary customs, Around My French Table will make cooks fall in love with France all over again, or for the first time.
Fall into Cooking Featured Recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table: Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good
I've got a slideshow of random snapshots that runs as a screensaver on my computer, and every time the picture of pumpkins for sale at Scott’s Farm Stand in Essex, Connecticut, comes up, I smile. In the picture, it’s a sunny day and the pumpkins, scattered higgledy-piggledy across a big field, look like so many roly-poly playthings. Some people might squint and imagine the jack-o-lanterns that many of these pumpkins are destined to become. Me? I see them sitting in the middle of my dining table, their skins burnished from the heat of the oven and their tops mounded with bubbly cheese and cream. Ever since Catherine, a friend of mine in Lyon, France, told me about how she and her family stuff pumpkins with bread and cheese and bacon and garlic and herbs and cream, I can’t look at a pumpkin on either side of the Atlantic without thinking, "Dinner!"
Of course, pumpkins are a New World vegetable, but I’m seeing them more and more in the Paris markets, which means I’m making this dish more and more wherever I am. It’s less a recipe than an arts and crafts project; less a formula than a template to play with and make your own.
Basically—and it’s really very basic— you hollow out a small pumpkin, just as you would for a jack-o-lantern, salt and pepper the inside, and then start filling it up. My standard recipe, the one Catherine sent to me, involves seasoning chunks of stale bread, tossing them with bacon and garlic, cubes of cheese (when I’m in France, I use Gruyere or Emmenthal; when I’m in the States, I opt for cheddar) and some herbs, packing the pumpkin with this mix and then pouring in enough cream to moisten it all.
But there’s nothing to stop you from using leftover cooked rice instead of bread--I did that one night and it was risotto-like and fabulous--or from adding dried fruit and chopped nuts, cooked spinach or Swiss chard, or apples or pears, fall’s favored fruits. And I was crazy about the dish when I stirred some cooked hot sausage meat into the mix.
The possibilities for improvisation don’t end with the filling: You’ve got a choice about the way to serve this beauty. I think you should always bring it to the table whole--you wouldn’t want to deprive your guests of the chance to ooh and aah--but whether you should slice or scoop is up to you. If you serve it in slices, you get a wedge of pumpkin piled high with the filling, and that’s pretty dramatic (if something this rustic can be called 'dramatic'). The wedge serving is best eaten with a knife and fork (or knife and spoon). If you scoop, what you do is reach into the pumpkin with a big spoon, scrape the cooked pumpkin meat from the sides of the pumpkin into the center, and stir everything around. Do this and you’ll have a kind of mash--not so pretty, but so delicious.
Catherine serves it scooped. I serve it sliced sometimes and scooped others. Either way, I can’t imagine this won’t become an instant fall favorite chez you. --Dorie Greenspan
Makes 2 very generous servings or 4 more genteel servings
You might consider serving this alongside the Thanksgiving turkey or even instead of it--omit the bacon and you’ve got a great vegetarian main course.
Ingredients 1 pumpkin, about 3 pounds
Salt and freshly ground pepper
¼ pound stale bread, thinly sliced and cut into ½-inch chunks
¼ pound cheese, such as Gruyère, Emmenthal, cheddar, or a combination, cut into ½-inch chunks
2–4 garlic cloves (to taste), split, germ removed, and coarsely chopped
4 strips bacon, cooked until crisp, drained, and chopped
About ¼ cup snipped fresh chives or sliced scallions
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
About 1/3 cup heavy cream
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment, or find a Dutch oven with a diameter that’s just a tiny bit larger than your pumpkin. If you bake the pumpkin in a casserole, it will keep its shape, but it might stick to the casserole, so you’ll have to serve it from the pot — which is an appealingly homey way to serve it. If you bake it on a baking sheet, you can present it freestanding, but maneuvering a heavy stuffed pumpkin with a softened shell isn’t so easy. However, since I love the way the unencumbered pumpkin looks in the center of the table, I’ve always taken my chances with the baked-on-a-sheet method, and so far, I’ve been lucky.
Using a very sturdy knife--and caution--cut a cap out of the top of the pumpkin (think Halloween jack-o’-lantern). It’s easiest to work your knife around the top of the pumpkin at a 45-degree angle. You want to cut off enough of the top to make it easy for you to work inside the pumpkin. Clear away the seeds and strings from the cap and from inside the pumpkin. Season the inside of the pumpkin generously with salt and pepper, and put it on the baking sheet or in the pot.
Toss the bread, cheese, garlic, bacon, and herbs together in a bowl. Season with pepper--you probably have enough salt from the bacon and cheese, but taste to be sure--and pack the mix into the pumpkin. The pumpkin should be well filled--you might have a little too much filling, or you might need to add to it. Stir the cream with the nutmeg and some salt and pepper and pour it into the pumpkin. Again, you might have too much or too little--you don’t want the ingredients to swim in cream, but you do want them nicely moistened. (But it’s hard to go wrong here.)
Put the cap in place and bake the pumpkin for about 2 hours--check after 90 minutes--or until everything inside the pumpkin is bubbling and the flesh of the pumpkin is tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife. Because the pumpkin will have exuded liquid, I like to remove the cap during the last 20 minutes or so, so that the liquid can bake away and the top of the stuffing can brown a little.
When the pumpkin is ready, carefully, very carefully--it’s heavy, hot, and wobbly--bring it to the table or transfer it to a platter that you’ll bring to the table.
Storing Fall into Cooking Featured Recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table: Marie-Helene's Apple Cake
It’s really best to eat this as soon as it’s ready. However, if you’ve got leftovers, you can scoop them out of the pumpkin, mix them up, cover, and chill them; reheat them the next day.
I remember once trying to teach a French friend of mine the expression, "as American as apple pie." After I’d explained what pie was, I thought the rest would be easy..but not exactly.
"I don’t understand," she said, "we have apples, too, and we make delicious desserts with them. Why couldn’t we say, 'As French as tarte Tatin?'"
I certainly wasn’t going to argue with her, especially when she was right about all the delicious desserts the French make with apples.
One of my favorites is one that’s not anywhere near as well known as the upside-down tarte Tatin. Actually, I don’t think it has a formal name of any kind. I dubbed it Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake because it was my Parisian friend, Marie-Hélène Brunet-Lhoste, who first made it for me. Marie-Hélène spends her weekends in Normandy, the land of cream, butter, Brie, and apples, and the cake she made had apples she’d picked from her backyard that afternoon.
I call this dessert a cake, mostly because I don’t know what else to call it. The rum-and-vanilla-scented batter is less cakey than custardy. And there’s only enough of it to surround the apples. It’s a very homey, almost rustic cake and it’s good no matter what kinds of apples you use. In fact, when I asked Marie-Hélène which apples she used, she said she didn’t know--she just used whatever she had.
The cake is extremely easy to make (foolproof, really, you just whisk the ingredients together in a bowl), satisfying, fragrant (I love the way the house smells when it’s in the oven) and appealing in an autumn-in-the-country kind of way.
It may be as French as can be, but it’s become this American’s favorite. I hope you’ll like it too. Now’s certainly the time for it. --Dorie Greenspan
Makes 8 servings
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
4 large apples (if you can, choose 4 different kinds)
2 large eggs
¾ cup sugar
3 tablespoons dark rum
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter an 8-inch springform pan and put it on a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in small bowl.
Peel the apples, cut them in half and remove the cores. Cut the apples into 1- to 2-inch chunks.
In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk until they’re foamy. Pour in the sugar and whisk for a minute or so to blend. Whisk in the rum and vanilla. Whisk in half the flour and when it is incorporated, add half the melted butter, followed by the rest of the flour and the remaining butter, mixing gently after each addition so that you have a smooth, rather thick batter. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in the apples, turning the fruit so that it’s coated with batter. Scrape the mix into the pan and poke it around a little with the spatula so that it’s evenish.
Slide the pan into the oven and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean; the cake may pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for 5 minutes.
Carefully run a blunt knife around the edges of the cake and remove the sides of the springform pan. (Open the springform slowly, and before it’s fully opened, make sure there aren’t any apples stuck to it.) Allow the cake to cool until it is just slightly warm or at room temperature. If you want to remove the cake from the bottom of the springform pan, wait until the cake is almost cooled, then run a long spatula between the cake and the pan, cover the top of the cake with a piece of parchment or wax paper, and invert it onto a rack. Carefully remove the bottom of the pan and turn the cake over onto a serving dish.
The cake can be served warm or at room temperature, with or without a little softly whipped, barely sweetened heavy cream or a spoonful of ice cream. Marie-Hélène served her cake with cinnamon ice cream and it was a terrific combination.
The cake will keep for about 2 days at room temperature and, according to my husband, gets more comforting with each passing day. However long you keep the cake, it’s best not to cover it — it’s too moist. Leave the cake on its plate and just press a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper against the cut surfaces.
- Dorie Greenspan
- Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home
|A Kitchen in France: A Year of Cooking in My Farmhouse
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Author: Mimi Thorisson
With beguiling recipes and sumptuous photography, A Kitchen in France transports readers to the French countryside and marks the debut of a captivating new voice in cooking.
When Mimi Thorisson and her family moved from Paris to a small town in out-of-the-way Médoc, she did not quite know what was in store for them. She found wonderful ingredients—from local farmers and the neighboring woods—and, most important, time to cook. Her cookbook chronicles the family’s seasonal meals and life in an old farmhouse, all photographed by her husband, Oddur. Mimi’s convivial recipes—such as Roast Chicken with Herbs and Crème Fraîche, Cèpe and Parsley Tartlets, Winter Vegetable Cocotte, Apple Tart with Orange Flower Water, and Salted Butter Crème Caramel—will bring the warmth of rural France into your home.
|Provence, 1970: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste
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Author: Luke Barr
Brand: Brand: Clarkson Potter
Provence, 1970 is about a singular historic moment. In the winter of that year, more or less coincidentally, the iconic culinary figures James Beard, M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, Richard Olney, Simone Beck, and Judith Jones found themselves together in the South of France. They cooked and ate, talked and argued, about the future of food in America, the meaning of taste, and the limits of snobbery. Without quite realizing it, they were shaping today’s tastes and culture, the way we eat now. The conversations among this group were chronicled by M.F.K. Fisher in journals and letters—some of which were later discovered by Luke Barr, her great-nephew. In Provence, 1970, he captures this seminal season, set against a stunning backdrop in cinematic scope—complete with gossip, drama, and contemporary relevance.
An Amazon Best Book of the Month, October 2013: Over the long last weeks of 1970, the era’s true tastemakers--Julia Child, M.F.K. Fisher, James Beard, Simone Beck, and Judith Jones, among others--serendipitously found themselves gathered in Southern France. Decades later, Luke Barr, M.F.K. Fisher’s grand-nephew, discovered her journals and letters and set about recreating this time of improbably wonderful convergence, when they cooked, feasted, and talked deep into the night, arguing about technique and taste until loyalties were redrawn and opinions reinvented. Beard, Childs, and Fisher each came away with new visions for a new American food culture, distinctly different from their culinary heartland of France. With Fisher’s instinct for elegantly simple and sensuous detail, Barr immerse us in this sea change, when our collective culinary ambition started its shift from Mastering the Art of French Cooking to The Art of Simple Food. --Mari Malcolm
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Author: Thomas Keller
Thomas Keller, chef/proprieter of Napa Valley's French Laundry, is passionate about bistro cooking. He believes fervently that the real art of cooking lies in elevating to excellence the simplest ingredients; that bistro cooking embodies at once a culinary ethos of generosity, economy, and simplicity; that the techniques at its foundation are profound, and the recipes at its heart have a powerful ability to nourish and please.
So enamored is he of this older, more casual type of cooking that he opened the restaurant Bouchon, right next door to the French Laundry, so he could satisfy a craving for a perfectly made quiche, or a gratinéed onion soup, or a simple but irresistible roasted chicken. Now Bouchon, the cookbook, embodies this cuisine in all its sublime simplicity.
But let's begin at the real beginning. For Keller, great cooking is all about the virtue of process and attention to detail. Even in the humblest dish, the extra thought is evident, which is why this food tastes so amazing: The onions for the onion soup are caramelized for five hours; lamb cheeks are used for the navarin; basic but essential refinements every step of the way make for the cleanest flavors, the brightest vegetables, the perfect balance—whether of fat to acid for a vinaigrette, of egg to liquid for a custard, of salt to meat for a duck confit.
Because versatility as a cook is achieved through learning foundations, Keller and Bouchon executive chef Jeff Cerciello illuminate all the key points of technique along the way: how a two-inch ring makes for a perfect quiche; how to recognize the right hazelnut brown for a brown butter sauce; how far to caramelize sugar for different uses.
But learning and refinement aside—oh those recipes! Steamed mussels with saffron, bourride, trout grenobloise with its parsley, lemon, and croutons; steak frites, beef bourguignon, chicken in the pot—all exquisitely crafted. And those immortal desserts: the tarte Tatin, the chocolate mousse, the lemon tart, the profiteroles with chocolate sauce. In Bouchon, you get to experience them in impeccably realized form.
This is a book to cherish, with its alluring mix of recipes and the author's knowledge, warmth, and wit: "I find this a hopeful time for the pig," says Keller about our yearning for the flavor that has been bred out of pork. So let your imagination transport you back to the burnished warmth of an old-fashioned French bistro, pull up a stool to the zinc bar or slide into a banquette, and treat yourself to truly great preparations that have not just withstood the vagaries of fashion, but have improved with time. Welcome to Bouchon.
Bouchon, chef Thomas Keller's bistro cookbook, offers 180-plus recipes from his eponymous restaurants--there are two. Readers perusing the near-prosciutto-size book will be dazzled, first, by its great looks (there are many beautiful photos), then, perhaps, wonder why so many of its typically homey bistro dishes are so fussy to prepare. Why, for example, must the onions for onion soup be caramelized for five hours, or the muscles of a leg of lamb separated so that each can be cooked to an exact, presumably optimal, temperature.
They should, however, trust this justly celebrated chef, whose sometimes-painstaking refinements reflect a better way. Apart from the excellence of the dishes, the reason to own Bouchon is to discover the richness of Keller's technical understanding. Readers learn, for example, not to baste chicken while it roasts, which creates skin-softening moisture, and to allow the base for crème caramel to sit before baking, thus permitting its flavors to deepen. Keller's sensitivity to ingredients and their composition is profound; and he and his collaborators have presented it so deftly that one finds oneself engrossed again and again. Whether Keller is talking about vinaigrettes (in their balance of fat, acid, and saltines, the perfect sauce) vegetable glazing, or the creation of brown butter, his insights are fascinating.
The dishes cover a wide range of courses, and include the traditional--poule au pot, veal roast, pommes frites, and so on--and the "new," such as Gnocchi with Summer Vegetables, Skate with Fennel-Onion Confit and Tapenade Sauce, and Grandma Sheila's Cheesecake Tart with Huckleberries. All are, as the French might say, impeccable--and can be accomplished by anyone willing to take the time to do so. Like his cooking, Bouchon is a sui generis treat. --Arthur Boehm
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