47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
`Cooking At Home On Rue Tatin' is Susan Hermann Loomis' seventh book, a followup to the memoir, `On Rue Tatin'. Many of Ms. Loomis' books follow the rubric of `Farmhouse' cooking, especially as she and her family live in a French farmhouse in northwestern France.
The first great coincidence I encounter with this book is that it reinforces an observation in the last culinary book I reviewed, `The Perfectionist' about the career and suicide of the major French three star chef, Bernard Loiseau. Loomis' book reflects exactly that trend which helped do in Monsieur Loiseau. That is, French cooking, both `haute cuisine' done by the great restaurants and `cuisine bourgeoisie' is being greatly influenced by food and cooking from France's current and former colonies from around the world, most especially in the North African Madgreb (Morocco, Algeria, and Tunesia) and Indochina (Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia). This is almost exactly the same kind of influence which Indian cooking has had on English cuisine. In fact, one wonders why it took so long, as London has been infused with Indian cooking for the last century.
It is important to note that while Ms. Loomis is a very good cookbook writer, she is not quite in the same class as Paula Wolfert for her analysis of national cuisines or of the great Julia Child for doing definitive interpretations of French dishes. But then, who is as good as these two fine culinary writers. Rather, Ms. Loomis is easily on a par with her good friend and `Franco-American' expatriot Patricia Wells. In fact, I would recommend Ms. Loomis' books over Ms. Wells to the less experienced cook who wants some exposure to French dishes but who is not ready to tackle Child's `Mastering the Art of French Cooking'.
This book is most like Ms. Wells' two books on cooking at her rural home in Provence, with the addition of the focus on the arorementioned colonial influences. The other major difference is that while Ms. Wells' interest is primarily with travel, entertaining, and wine accompaniments, Ms. Loomis is about improving her reader's general cooking skills.
Your interest in this book will have a lot to do with your cookbook collecting interests. If, like me, you are a full service foodie reader, stop now and order the book. It is an enjoyable read as well as a very nice source of internet addresses for foodstuffs.
If you like to have a nice variety of cookbooks on hand, but have limited space or budget for cookbooks, I suggest you pick one good author and get all their books. If you are especially fond of French cooking, Ms. Loomis, Ms. Wells, Mr. Olney, or, of course, Julia Child are all excellent choices. By focusing on a single author, you minimize the chances of having more than one recipe for the same dishes. And, of all these, Ms. Loomis is the easiest to read with a wide range of dishes.
If you have limited space but like a selection of books from a wide range of cuisines, then I also recommend this book, even over Ms. Loomis' other books, as I think this book is one of her warmest and most personal, and you will probably find it more enjoyable than her other cookbooks.
I thoroughly endorse Ms. Loomis' organization of subjects. In a smallish book which is meant to be a working cookbook (rather than a citizen of the library), it is best if the chapters are done by either course or by major ingredient type. Her chapters are:
The Aperitif Hour - Both classic French (Tapenade) and imported (Hummus) recipes for hors d'oeurves.
A Bowl of Soup - Spanish, North African, and Provencal standards.
First Hot and Cold Courses - Omelets, Salads, Pates, Quiches, and Mussels, oh my!
Fish, The Beautiful Swimmer - Fish a la Meuniere (dredged and fried), en papillote (in paper) and so on.
A Choice of Poultry - Wings, With Artichokes, steamed, Syrian (with tahini), brined and roasted, and, of course, coq au vin plus a few duck, duck breast, and turkey recipes.
All the Flavors of Meat - Especially stuffed vegetables, eggplant, steak, stew, braises, and grilled lamb.
A Selection of Vegetables - Gratins (My favorite!) and veggie braises. Oh la la.
Breads and Pastries - Including crepes, waffles, cookies, sweet bread, tarts, and chocolate cake.
Custards, Compotes, Cakes, Tarts and More - All the neat things the French do with fruits and ice cream.
Basics and Preserves - Stocks, Pastry Doughs, Court Bouillon, Vinaigrette, Herbes de Provence, flavored oils, onion marmalade, eggplant caviar, and steamed couscous. If you can get the tiny cucumbers, there is even a recipe for cornichons.
The best thing about this book is that it gives you a sample of a wide range of French specialities. While books specializing in pastry or preserves or braising or egg dishes or baking may cover each of these individual subjects in more detail, this book gives you a great way to learn about the full range of French `home cooking' in easy bites with reliable recipes.
In addition to the recipes, there is a great range of especially good sidebars on various cooking materials and techniques. All are good, but one I thought was especially good for a general book was the sidebar on making preserves. The very best source for French preserve making is Christine Ferber's `Mes Confitures', but this is an excellent way to get acquainted with the subject and not shoot yourself in the foot while trying it out.
Just in case you need an excuse, Ms. Loomis is excellent at making you feel good about cooking, and gives you lots of new things with which to exercize this interest.
Highly recommended for all foodies and Francophiles.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
A companion to her memoir-with-recipes, "On Rue Tatin," Loomis' eighth cookbook reflects on the international influences creeping into French cooking. A Cambodian Chicken Soup with Tamarind follows a recipe for traditional Provencal Vegetable Soup with Pistou and Franco-Vietnamese Spring Rolls follows Quiche Lorraine.
While classic French dishes predominate, Loomis collects recipes from Asian and Middle-Eastern immigrants who are equally passionate about their favorite dishes. Thus, the poultry chapter includes Rooster in Red Wine, Roasted Lemon and Orange Guinea Hen and Syrian Chicken with Tahini, Lemon, and Yogurt Sauce and the meat chapter features Rib-eye Steak with Bordelaise Sauce, Aromatic Braised Pork Shoulder and Lamb and Dried Plum Tagine with Toasted Almonds.
Loomis' focus, whatever the dish, is on careful attention to detail in technique and choice of ingredients. Thus a beef braise "needs every single minute" of its three hour cooking time, quinoa requires a gentle hand with herbs and pine nut oil and Leek Potage must be consumed the day it is made.
While the recipes are not difficult, many do require time and attention. This is a beguiling book for cooks who find the acts of cooking pleasurable and don't plan to throw dinner together in 20 minutes or less.
- Portsmouth Herald