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27
Happy in the Kitchen
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58 of 60 people found the following review helpful
on January 13, 2007
This is one cookbook to cook with, ahead of your other cookbooks, and then just let your friends or guests rave..over your cookery skills.

This is as if a master chef, genie like, comes to your home and dispensed countless pearls of cookery knowledge..elevating a simple recipe to one that has you say "Oh my Gawd, why didn't I think of that...it's SO good".

He tells how to get certain foods "crunchy" to excite the experiences of taste..making vegetables and meats alike crunchy with flavor, yet not overdoing it. At the same time, he tells how to heat vegetables so they are soft and tasty, without overdoing it and giving that overcooked taste to them. Try his All-Crust Potato Gratin to see.

He "works" a vegetable to bring out it's best...with carrots, he braises whole carrots in chicken stock and orange juice, to give body, brightness and intense flavor, then finished off with touches of unusual spice combinations, and sprinkles the end product with orange zest. Heck, outside of glazing carrots, or eating baby ones raw, I didn't realize the fun I could have with the crispy critters. And onions..what magic he conjures up with cooked onions, as their soft sweetness, sometimes heightened with caramelization, are used as stuffed shells, a pasta-less pasta, a tart, and as a delicious component of a burger!

Have you read about trendy sous-vide cooking and the $2000 thermal circulator set-ups? Get a Foodsaver* to vacuum pack your food in plastic bags, or just wrap it in Saran-wrap* or other cellophane to keep in the flavors while cooking it at ~ 160 F. A steady burner/range, thermometer and some ice cubes will get you through most any sous-vide recipe in your home.

Want to WOW your guests, try his pureed sea scallops, and cook on low temperature as he describes, or make Chicken Faux Gras, Corn Nugget Crab Cakes, or various desserts even.

Try even his version of a lobster roll as a burger, for a fun appearance, and all the luscious taste of lobster.

I cook "higher end" meals for 8-24 people at a time, and often wonder how to serve something new and stunning...well, here's my source of ideas for the next few years! It's easy to see his recipe, and dream up another use for his technique with a different food or other variation. This is the measure of a great teacher..you are not bound to one recipe...he opens your eyes to all sorts of riffs, or variations you can do, and it's not too involved at all.

By the way, this is his second book, the first, Michel Richard's Home Cooking with a French Accent (1993), is a wonderful collection of fairly easy to make recipes with excellent general advice on preparation. Back then, he "tweaked" foods to reveal their best, i.e. adding a little mushroom to enhance a curry sauce, and possibly adding a little cayenne, for a different variation. These hints are even better in Happy in the Kitchen.

There are stunning photographs, and each recipe is well written.

BUY this book and start cooking and eating, and find yourself also Happy in the Kitchen.
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64 of 69 people found the following review helpful
`Happy in the Kitchen' by the outstanding French / American chef, Michel Richard is a book all foodies should immediately buy and read from cover to cover, twice. If you are a card-carrying cooking amateur or professional, stop wasting your time reading this review, go to the top of the page, and click yourself an order for this volume. Now! At the very worst, put this book on the top of your Christmas wish list and give it to your best, or best-heeled friend.

Mentioning Christmas reminds us that Monsieur Richard looks remarkably like old St. Nick himself, and this book is simply chocked full of goodies for the adventuresome chef. I immediately place this among the few exceptional books by leading American restaurant chefs, such as Thomas Keller's `The French Laundry Cookbook', Judy Rodgers' `The Zuni Café Cookbook', Eric Ripert's `A Return to Cooking' and Paul Bertolli's `Cooking by Hand'. I've read several `good' restaurant books, all with their fair share of useful recipes for the home kitchen. But, I've also read many restaurant cookbooks which have very little value for the average home cook, even for the serious amateur cook, since they teach relatively little which adds to our basic understanding of cooking and less to our arsenal of useful techniques. Monsieur Richard does all of these things, and he does them well.

I may even go so far as to say that Michel Richard may be America's answer to Spain's inventive Ferran Adria, if it were not for the equally inventive Thomas Keller. The thing is, however, that Richard has done better than Keller of communicating his techniques to us mere mortals in the kitchen. At the very least, he has done a much better job (witness the title of the book) of communicating the joy of inventive cooking in the kitchen. And, this is a level of inventiveness which goes far beyond the ability to cook without a recipe and come up with good dishes from a selection of ingredients found in the refrigerator on any given day.

For starters, Michel makes us aware of the value of many old, but uncommon or new but formerly expensive kitchen tools. The most surprising on this list is the home version of a deli food slicer, Michel is pointing out that there are now small, inexpensive home models which will work very well, thank you. My favorite is the old food mill which has clearly NOT been replaced by the food processor, and which does several important tasks in Richard's techniques.

The book's main section of recipes is organized very much like a graduate level text on cooking ingredients and techniques. The first main section, `Vegetables' is organized around eight (8) very important vegetables (one, the tomato, is actually a fruit), techniques used with these vegetables, and a few very interesting dishes to illustrate what you can do with these foods.

What is so immediately great about some of the techniques in this book is that they are sound, easy solutions to major cooking problems. My favorite example is the problem of poaching chicken or any other dryish low fat meat such as `the new pork'. I commonly use a venerable James Beard method for poaching chicken breasts when I need chicken meat for a salad. The paradox is that if you leave the chicken in the poaching liquid for too long or at too high a heat, it will literally dry out while surrounded with a water-based liquid. So, it will become too tough and stringy when you cut it up and mix it with the usual mayonnaise, onions, and celery. Richard's solution in retrospect is so simple and obvious, one may be ashamed that they didn't think of it themselves. The trick, used in several different recipes, is to wrap the raw meat in plastic wrap (be sure to avoid plastic which includes PVC) and poach the chicken breast `sausage' at a moderate temperature, somewhere around 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

One of Richard's other major techniques is in the use of packaged gelatin as an intermediate ingredient in forming ingredients before or during cooking, and in maintaining moisture. But wait, haven't French chefs been using gelatin for centuries in creating aspics and the like. Of course they have. What we have here is Michel Richard's putting old wine in very new, and delightfully friendly bottles, and making it all feel like great fun.

In spite of the fact that most of this book is best suited for the advanced amateur or professional (if only because there is nothing here which is quick or easy on the first few tries), it still has some remarkably well illustrated presentations of some really basic techniques. As always, I pay close attention to an author's treatment of lamb. And, lo and behold, Richard has a superbly illustrated technique for preparing my favorite lamb shoulder for braising, following a superior recipe for braised lamb shoulder or `melon'.

A third seemingly novel technique is Richard's use of `waters', the natural juices retrieved from some vegetables, most notably tomatoes. The fact is that this is not new with Richard. Paul Bertolli discusses this material at great length, but I have seen practically no mention of it in even the most complete and authoritative Italian cookbooks. What I have seen is Deborah Madison's excellent advice to use similar resources in general in stock making to make the stock match the main ingredient in a dish.

With the great quality of this book, one wonders why Richard took so long to bring it to us. But now we have it and I for one am enormously grateful. Look for a discount, but it is truly worth every penny to someone who is serious about having fun in the kitchen!
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2006
This book actually had me excited about cooking again. The recipes are

interesting and not so complicated, that just reading them makes you want to run right out and get the ingrediants to try them. You can tell from reading the book that Chef Michel Richard loves cooking and his enthusiasm

is infectious! His anecdotes and stories are very funny and you can see he has a great sense of humor which come out in his recipes. I have over 700 cookbooks, but this is one I actually use, especially for inspiration and some new techniques that the chef teaches in this fab cookbook.

The photos are stunning also.
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38 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on September 27, 2006
After having this book for less than 24 hours I have already learned so much. From something as simple as pureeing red beets with potatos.. why havnt I thought of doing that... to using plastic wrap as sausage casings..

I have attended culinary school, and am starting my first restaurant job on Monday... so while I am not a home cook per se... this book is very inspirational and very doable for the earnest and experienced home cook.

A word about the photograpy: Gorgeous.

Buy this cookbook, as it is definately one of the years, if not past five years best. You will treasure it.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon July 11, 2007
This book is enormous fun. Michel Richard is an incredibly talented chef and the kitchen is his playpen. His passion is contagious and his innovations are ingenious. From using a meat slicer to cut cookie dough to cooking with Saran wrap, he encourages the reader to improvise and enjoy. The book is beautifully photographed and the recipes, though involved, are doable. (I had great success with the salmon dishes including the salmon with asparagus and the lamb. The recipes and presentation are restaurant quality and may be a bit complex for a beginner.) The food is gourmet with a dash of humor--check out the Chicken Faux Gras and the use of cocoa puffs in one of the desserts.

Start this book from the beginning --I jumped to the recipes before reading through the book and was quickly overwhelmed. A few days later, I started at page one and was quickly enchanted by the author and his philosophy. Food at its best is a sensual pleasure--an aromatic merger of taste, texture, temperature and appearance. When fully engaged, the craft of cooking raises eating to an art.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 17, 2007
This book is such a delight. Like the other reviewers mentioned, the photos are gorgeous, the tone and ideas are inventive and appealing.

I'll add my thoughts specifically about the recipes, since no one else has mentioned actually cooking from this book. Not every recipe is as fussy as it looks, and even the fussy ones aren't so fussy as they look (the publishers know when and where to put an illustrative photo). I'm a young cook, but not afraid to challenge myself.

I've tried 4 recipes from this book, and 4 of them were excellent. All 4 were quite doable, even for those who haven't put in a lot of hours in the kitchen. The fussiest one (the crab cake) was the one I liked the least. The taste was good, but the conceit wasn't impressive in the end.

The ribs are outstanding, and priceless insofar as they are easily made ahead of time and without any backyard fire/smoke apparatus. Fall off the bone tender and delicious, really, really delicious. The chicken mousse was also pretty straightforward in execution and impressive in taste. It's my new favorite pate-type recipe. I've also tried the carrot salad, which went over well.

Overall, the tastes here are great, and the main trick of the book is taking fairly familiar ingredients and doing something a little different with them. Is it earth shattering for a trained chef? Probably not. Is it a great addition for home cooks who like to try something new? Absolutely.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2008
Fun in the kitchen? With Richard's novel perspective on presenting "old foods" in new ways, I am definitely having fun in my kitchen these days. His experience as a pastry chef helps Richard bring a fresh perspective to cuisine. He walks the line between tradition and the (in my perspective mostly inedible) world of "scientific gastronomy" with sometimes surprising, but always enjoyable, results. My cautious pre-teen nieces ate carrots made using his recipe featuring a sauce made with carrot greens - and they loved the sauce most of all! I can't recommend this book more enthusiastically, especially for adventurous home cooks with experience with traditional techniques looking for new, fun perspectives and technique.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 17, 2009
If you love to cook, watch cooking shows, or collect cookbooks, this book is a must have. I really wish I could give this book more than five stars because it deserves to be distinguished from many other five star cookbooks. I have a huge cookbook collection that ranges widely, and this is one of my five all-time favorites. The adjectives that first come to mind for this book are fun, precise, creative, delicious, and more fun. Michel Richard is a very affable and creative cook. His playfulness and unique style is on full exhibition on every page. If you ever get the opportunity toeat at one of his restaurants or see him on TV, you will be delighted and amused. His ideas are simple yet clever. His execution and attention to detail and the craftsmanship of his dishes (flavor pairings, hot vs. cold, texture contrasts, etc.) are second to none. His presentation is better than almost everyone else - he takes it as seriously as the ingredients themselves. Many of his tips, in fact, are designed just to make the presentation more interesting, fun, and offbeat. If ever there was a cooking maverick who deserves the oft overused term "genius" this is the man. His book is a gem. Buy it. Buy it. Buy it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 11, 2010
As someone who's lucky enough to have eaten in Michel's flagship restaurant Citronelle, and eats regularly at his bistro Central Michel Richard, I can tell you that this is pretty much as good as it gets. Recently I've been exploring his cookbook, which is surprisingly approachable. Many of his recipes are novel in that they fundamentally change one component of a familiar dish or concentrate flavors. The low-carbonara for example is a play on a traditional pasta dish where blanched onion lengths are substituted for the traditional spaghetti noodles. The result is an astonishingly good pasta- in fact, probably the best carbonara I've had. One thing I really like about his cookbook is that its much more approachable than a Thomas Keller cookbook, and would probably be a better place to start for a beginner.
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on November 17, 2008
This is one of the best cook books I have ever read. I am an ex chef and am able to understand and apply some of the more advanced tecniques in the book so it might have a greater impact on me then someone else. However, there are plenty of beginner and intermediate recipes that will absolutely wow your guests. The asparigus stuffed salmon is a particular favorite of mine. If you ever get to D.C. don't miss his restaurant Citronelle or his newest restaurant Central. (James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant) Everything is incredible. Even if you sit at the bar and just order french fries I guarentee you won't be disapointed. This guy is my food hero!
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