"In cooking as in love, you have to try new things to keep it interesting." So says chef Michel Richard in his cookbook Happy in the Kitchen, a collection of 150-plus recipes that more than make his point. Whether reinventing traditional recipes, often whimsically, as he does with dishes like Tomato Tartare, Cuttlefish Schnitzel, and Turkey "Steak" au Poivre, or presenting otherwise novel treats like Tuna Medallions with Passion Fruit Salsa; Chicken with Preserved Lemon and Honeydew Melon; and Lamb-Loin with Basil Crust and Fennel, Richard delights readers with creativity that can thrill. Vegetable dishes, including his spuds-for-rice Potato Risotto and Lo-Carb Carbonara, in which sliced onions sub for pasta, are particularly ingenious. Equally novel--and tempting--are sweets like Upside-Down Chocolate Orange Sponge Cake, Lemon-Lime Madeleine Muffins, and Raspberry Meringues with Raspberry Tuiles.
To pull off his particular sleight-of-hand, Richard has devised novel techniques--like using plastic film to shape and poach food, and gelatin to bind fatlessly--that all cooks should know about. Whether readers will tackle the often-exacting recipes will depend on their willingness to engage in kitchen workouts that also regularly require special equipment like a Japanese mandoline and electric meat slicer. Though there are a number of simpler, homier recipes like Tomato Soup with Fresh Mozzarella and Thyme-Glazed Baby Back Ribs--and the formulas themselves couldn't be more lucid--this handsome book will probably be best appreciated as an artful record of a great and wonderfully playful cooking intelligence. Replete with stunning photos, used generously to illustrate techniques, it's hard to imagine any serious cook who wouldn't want to join Richard, dig in, and learn. --Arthur Boehm
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In this hefty follow-up to his 1993 debut (Home Cooking with a French Accent), Richard imparts culinary wisdom of the highest order in cheerful nursery tones. Humpty Dumpty, Captain Crunch and a vegetable called Mr. Beet are a few of the merry characters who populate his kitchen. Goofiness apart, the book is filled with clever, innovative techniques and little-known time-savers (microwave béchamel, anybody? food processor sorbet?). Most of the recipes hinge on Richard's unconventional methods, and their successful execution does require a certain level of skill. Attention-grabbers like Asparagus Salmon (in which asparagus spears are slipped inside the pocket of a salmon fillet which is then sliced like a terrine), and Red Snapper in a Spinach Coating are elegant enough to serve to a Michelin inspector, yet are corralled and fenced within the range of ability of a competent home cook. Other dishes are more demanding—the superlative Lamb Loin with White Bean Sauce, for example. In any case, professional cooks and serious amateurs will find this volume an essential resource. (Oct. 31)
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