72 of 73 people found the following review helpful
on September 16, 2002
This cookbook is full of country food. Most of the flavors come from herbs and olive oil and the recipes call for very fresh ingredients, so they are fun right from the beginning. If you live near a farmer's market, these recipes will do justice to the produce there.
The recipes are laid out well, with measurements given in both metric and imperial notation, and there are plenty of substitutions listed for the more obscure ingredients. Be warned, though. . . this is not a beginner's cookbook. Each recipe uses a lot of ingredients and assumes a) that you know what all the ingredients are (lamb's lettuce? orange flower water? sheep cheese?) and b) that you know to prepare each ingredient to the point where it joins the rest of the recipe (grating zest, stemming thyme, cutting basil into chiffonade). The recipes also benefit from close reading and planning beforehand. For this reason, even though the style is "country food," I mostly end up using this book for somewhat fancier dinners.
Once you've started, though, the resulting food is truly superb. No one has ever complained when fed a dish from this book. The Tomato Clafoutis is a summer standard at my place. I served the Winemaker's Grape Cake at a party today, and it was gone in fifteen minutes. There is also a nice section at the back for sauces, relishes, homemade liquors and pantry items called for in the main body of the book. These recipes are simple and keep for a while, so if you are in a place where you can't nip out to the local French-Arab market for preserved lemons, you can put your own up for when you need them.
A word to the wise, though. Spring for a hardbound edition. Although the paperback is lovely, the binding is terrible. The spine glue is weak, and your pages will start falling out in clumps, starting with the two glossy photo sections. It started to fall apart the moment I opened the book, and it just can't hack the heavy kitchen use that cookbooks tend to get.
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on June 14, 1999
We spent 1 week in Provence this year, and have become so attached to it! Having coming back to California I've realized that with the strong climatic connections, we can adapt our life a bit and relive our experiences. This cookbook is wonderful - I now know why Patricia cooks for friends all of the time - I have made so many of her recipes we can hardly eat it all! I have visited our own farmers market and have found such pleasure re-enacting our visits to the markets in Provence. Especially easy for the working wife/mother are the fish wrapped in pancetta, and the Pasta with Roquefort/lemon zest/rosemary. I slow-roasted big red onions this weekend, and am preserving lemons, and planning on doing the salt-cured olives, plus trying the brioche recipe, and on and on and on!!! Thank you Patiricia for this book!
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
In luscious pictures (by Robert Freson), recipes and anecdotes, "Patricia Wells At Home In Provence" contributes enthusiastically to America's love affair with the place. Seasonal freshness is paramount and Wells prefers her meats and fish whole and unboned. Organized by course, Recipes include tips for storage, techniques, accompaniments and wines.
Many recipes are simple - a "caviar" made with black olives and butter, Goat Cheese Gratin ("pizza without the crust"), raw Grated Beet Salad, Quick Chicken Lemon Soup, Potatoes Roasted in Sea Salt, Lemon-Thyme Lamb Chops.
Others require a bit more time - Beef and White Wine Daube From Arles with Anchovies and Capers, Chanteduc Rabbit with Garlic and Preserved Lemons, Sea Bass in Parchment with Warm Pistou.
One of the nicest aspects of Wells style is her penchant for describing techniques and the reasoning behind them - from the action of citrus in a seviche to filleting a fish to blanching olives or cutting up a rabbit.
A delightful treat for sensuous cooks.
28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
When I saw that Patricia Wells was having a new book published in Spring, I began, after several months of procrastinating, to review a series of her books, especially since the new book seems to overlap the book I am about to review in this MS.
Wells is high in the pantheon of distaff culinary journalist / teachers, on a par with Ann Willen and somewhat less well known than the great Julia Child and Elizabeth David. This book on `home cooking' in the Provence region of France falls, it seems, at the end of a series headed by the book `Simply French' which expounds on the cuisine of Joel Robuchon. This volume covers the high-end `haute cuisine' end of the spectrum. A recent book, `The Paris Cookbook' covers the less Olympian subject of cooking by Paris bistros, restaurants, and purveyors. This is closer to Child's classic subject, `la cuisine Bourgeoisie'. The subject of this review reflects cooking done by Wells herself in Provence, based on the influence of local sources and her own invention. It is a combination of Curnonsky's `la cuisine Regionale', and `la cuisine Improvisee'.
Since many, if not most of the insights into cooking in this book can be traced to the earlier book on Robuchon, it was harder to identify the value of this book in its own right. But, I think I can safely say that this volume stands on it's own two feet by combining the simplicity of home cooking with the healthy ingredients of the Mediterranean ingredients and the cachet of Provence, being an intersection of some of the best of both France and Italy.
My strongest visceral reaction to these recipes is the wealth of things to do with common, inexpensive ingredients such as potatoes, celery, carrots, and tomatoes. My next delight was the variety of bread recipes. The star of this act was a version of brioche that is based on olive oil rather than butter. The reputation of butter has undergone something of a revival since this book was published in 1996, but if you have gotten into the habit of looking for ways to have olive oil to replace butter, this is a recipe for you.
Like all of her other books, this volume's organization follows that most classic of orders, with chapters on:
Appetizers, Salads, Soups, Vegetables, Pasta, Bread, Fish and Shellfish, Poultry and Game, Meat, Desserts, and Pantry.
As the Wells homestead is a fair distance from the Mediterranean, the coverage of fish and shellfish is a bit light, but this shortfall is more than made up by other chapters, especially the chapters on vegetables and pasta, which broadens ones range defined by classic southern Italian cuisine. The most interesting seafood discovery is Wells' combining mint and crabmeat. My Baltimorean friends are rolling their eyes already.
The star of the chapter on meats is the daube of either beef or lamb. This is a fascinating technique with a French name which, however, seems to be characteristic of northern Europe. German dishes like sauerbraten use the daube technique, but, to my knowledge, there is no daube style dish in any Italian cuisine. A daube is basically applied to a dish that has marinated for a long time, a day or more, in a sauer medium, either wine or vinegar. Browning and braising follows the marinade. The recipe may even call for a further day's resting to mix together the flavors.
As with her other books, this volume includes recommendations for wine to serve with each savory dish. Unlike the very specific suggestions in `Simply French', these are fairly generic, simple enough for the least enlightened of liqueur store clerks to interpret. For those who live and die by the very best choices of wine, specifics are included with the general suggestions.
As books on French provincial cooking go, this book is at the opposite end of the spectrum defined by Elizabeth David's classic in that all instructions and descriptions of ingredients are detailed and crystal clear. Virtually everything in all the dishes should be available at a good urban supermarket.
My only complaint, which I bring up only because Ms. Wells is a culinary teacher as well as a journalist, is the inaccuracy of conversion between pounds and kilograms. A kilogram is 2.2 pounds, but Ms. Wells consistently treats the conversion as two (2) pounds to the kilogram. Fortunately, such approximations do not appear in the baking recipes, where she is extra contentious about the accuracy of her metric to English conversions of weights and volumes.
I strongly recommend this book to anyone who loves French or Mediterranean cuisine and who needs a new source of recipes from these sources. I strongly recommend it to anyone who loves to read about food. I recommend it to anyone who cooks. There will be several simple recipes here for inexpensive ingredients that I know you will enjoy.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on July 30, 1998
We have been eating out of this cookbook for weeks since we got it; all entirely new dishes or surprising new versions of things we have had before. Usually you can say a cookbook as useful if it gives you one or two new things you can use. This one has produced a couple dozen so far. Buy this book!
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on September 9, 2001
I have owned this cookbook for over two years now and I still pull it out just to read the recipes and look at the beautiful photographs. I have made dozens of the recipes and have found them all to be wonderful - well written, simple to prepare, and always delicious. If I had to limit myself to only one cookbook (and I have many,) this would be the one I'd choose.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on July 6, 1997
Of all the countries in the world, France in one of the most influential
to the culinary arts. In the Southern part of the country is a superb
region known as Provence where Patricia Wells has lived for over 13
years. Patricia Wells at Home in Provence is her 'scrapbook' of recipes
that have been inspired by her living in her farmhouse in Provence,
France. Smoked Trout Tartare, Monkfish Bouillabaisse with A(oli, Braised
& Gratin3/4ed Fennel, Fettucine with Roquefort Lemon Zest & Rosemary,
Crusty Wheat & Polenta Bread, Monkfish "Carpaccio", The Winemaker's Duck
with Olives & Artichokes, Lemon-Thyme Lamb Chops and Cherry & Goat
Cheese Gratin are just a few of the titles of the extraordinary recipes
found in this book.
Wells' award-winning journalistic style shows in her layouts of each
recipe giving the reader more then just ingredients and preparation
details. Many of the recipes give ingredient or wine tips, history or
Patricia Wells at Home in Provence with the Author's name in the title
is also published by Scribner.
An exclusive compilation of personal recipes 'inspired by her farmhouse
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
I bought this book in 1997, made many of the truly excellent recipes, but somehow forgot about it -- the result, I suspect, of my hobby of (addiction to?) purchasing cookbooks. But, while searching for something different to fix for 2005's Christmas dinner, I remembered Patricia's recipe for "City Steak" and, voila, we enjoyed a marvelous meal of City Steak, Fake Frites and Cheesemaker's Salad -- so easy, so delicious!
Thumbing through my copy and the contemporaneous notes I always write for each recipe tried, I was reminded of how we happily devoured the Amazing Sorrel Soup, Turnip and Cumin Puree, Monsieur Henny's Eggplant Gratin, Checchino Dal 1887's Spaghetti alla Carbonara, Steamed Salmon with Warm Lemon Vinaigrette and the Beef and White Wine Daube from Arles, to name a few. I suspect this book will now be a somewhat permanent fixture in my kitchen since there are dozens of recipes I can't wait to try -- even the breads and desserts that usually don't interest me. Yes, it truly is a treasure.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on December 30, 2001
I wrote this review several years ago, but thought it should be redone and credited:
Of all the countries in the world, France in one of the most influential to the culinary arts. In the Southern part of the country is a superb region known as Provence where Patricia Wells has lived for over 13 years. Patricia Wells at Home in Provence is her 'scrapbook' of recipes that have been inspired by her living in her farmhouse in Provence, France.
This book is printed on a high gloss paper making it great for use while cooking. Several full color pictures help the reader with the food styling of many recipes. While many recipes sound like they should only be made by the highly trained chef, Ms. Wells has not only made them easy to make, but has added several types of hint or suggestions under most recipes to make it fun and exciting to try. Suggestions that are added to many recipes may be for a wine-paring, a variation, a description or suggestion of several ingredients, or a source on where to find harder-to-get ingredients.
Smoked Trout Tartare, Monkfish Bouillabaisse with A(oli, Braised & Gratin3/4ed Fennel, Fettucine with Roquefort Lemon Zest & Rosemary, Crusty Wheat & Polenta Bread, Monkfish "Carpaccio", The Winemaker's Duck with Olives & Artichokes, Lemon-Thyme Lamb Chops and Cherry & Goat Cheese Gratin are just a few of the titles of the extraordinary recipes found in this book.
Wells' award-winning journalistic style shows in her layouts of each recipe giving the reader more then just ingredients and preparation details. Patricia Wells at Home in Provence with the Author's name in the title is also published by Scribner. An exclusive compilation of personal recipes 'inspired by her farmhouse in France'
A perfect addition to anyone's shelf, this book will add a vast array of recipes to everyone's pallet
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 2, 2001
After checking this book out of the library 4 times, I bought my own copy. The recipes are superb, and they are just the beginning of the journey. She gives suggestions to vary the recipes, and they all seem to work well. In the side dishes, for instance, I have made the speedy ratatouille, tomato confit, potato gratin, couscous, and several others. Each of them has been a real success. The narrative is almost like having a converstaion with Patricia Wells in her kitchen, and the pictures are views of the life she lives as well as the food she creates. I think this book is a classic.