In Glorious French Food
, James Peterson argues that once you understand a recipe's "logic and context," and the techniques required to follow it, you actually have something much more valuable than the recipe itself--you have the knowledge to create variations, make simplifications, and cook with spontaneity. Although French cuisine is often accused of being fussy and time-consuming, Peterson's clear instructions demystify many traditionally finicky recipes, and in the process, teach us how to cook anything.
The hundreds of recipes presented here are a pleasure to peruse; kitchen novices can work their way through this hefty volume and come out the other end accomplished cooks. Peterson details necessary equipment, techniques, and ingredients for each recipe so that by the time you start making it, you're fearless. Some of his dishes are remarkably simple, like the beautifully fresh, ready-in-minutes Shaved Fennel Salad, or the richly aromatic French Onion Soup. Others are more complicated, but all teach a lesson: In the Roast Chicken chapter, learn to roast without a thermometer, truss without a needle, make gravy, and then succeed at Roast Chicken Stuffed Under the Skin with Spinach and Ricotta. Learn to make pasta dough, and then re-present leftover Provençal Lamb Stew (if there's any of this heavenly, melt-in-your-mouth tender, orange-scented stew left) as Meat-Filled Ravioli. Perfect for fans of French cuisine, this is also a remarkably handy reference guide for any kitchen. --Leora Y. Bloom
From Library Journal
Cooking teacher Peterson is the author of several other big cookbook/reference works, including Fish & Shellfish and Splendid Soups. The recipes in those books reflected influences from cuisines all over the world, but here Peterson, who worked in France and had his own French restaurant in New York's Greenwich Village, turns to his first culinary love. He has chosen 50 classic recipes as the starting point for his wide-ranging exploration of French food and techniques; each recipe serves both to demonstrate a variety of techniques and as the inspiration for a diverse collection of other recipes related to it in one way or another. Thus, the bouillabaisse chapter, for example, shows how to thicken a sauce with a beurre manie, intensify flavor with herbs, and work with eel and octopus; the spin-off recipes include French-style fish and shellfish chowder and pureed fish soup from Marseille, among others. One of Peterson's aims is to inspire his readers to use his recipes as a starting point for their own creations, so each chapter includes boxes and charts on improvising with different ingredients and flavors. The suggested variations for individual recipes, often mini-essays in themselves, open up dozens of other possibilities. Peterson is both passionate and knowledgeable about his subject, and his new book is an essential purchase. [Good Cook Book Club main selection.]
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