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Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook: Strategies, Recipes, and Techniques of Classic Bistro Cooking Hardcover – September 23, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
A celebrity with a high-profile position as executive chef at New York bistro Les Halles, and bestselling author of Kitchen Confidential and A Cook's Tour, Bourdain doesn't intend to break new ground. The dishes do exactly as the subtitle notes and include such solid classic fare as Onion Soup Les Halles, Steak au Poivre, Boeuf Bourguignon, Coq au Vin and Chocolate Mousse. Nearly all recipes are within reach of competent home cooks, and those that are more complicated or time-consuming—Bouillabaisse, Cassoulet and Roulade of Wild Pheasant—are thoroughly spelled out to calm most jitters. Foie gras, duck fat and dark veal stock are frequent components, but a list of suppliers makes just about every ingredient available. Even though many of the dishes can be found in other cookbooks, what sets this one apart is Bourdain's signature wise-ass attitude that pervades nearly every recipe, explanatory note and chapter introduction. Profanity adds frequent color. If Aunt Doris would blanche at pearl onions being called "little fuckers," a cook who prefers boneless meat in Daube Provençal a "poor deluded bastard," or a person nervous about making these recipes a "dipshit," this book is not for her. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"Bourdain shows himself to be one of the country's best food writers. His opinions are as strong as his language, and his tastes as infectious as his joy."
"Bourdain shows himself to be one of the country''s best food writers. His opinions are as strong as his language, and his tastes as infectious as his joy."
"Anthony Bourdain''s Les Halles Cookbook joins the classic French cookbooks on my shelf, and shames every would-be ''bistro bible''. Nobody else writes with such respect for real food." -- Mario Batali
"Don''t be misled by Anthony Bourdain''s witty, irreverent style. His Les Halles Cookbook is solid, smart, and informative, and his recipes are bona fide bistro fareAn instant classic." -- Jacques Ppin
"Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook joins the classic French cookbooks on my shelf, and shames every would-be 'bistro bible'. Nobody else writes with such respect for real food."--Mario Batali
"Anyone serious about their cooking will want to own Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook. It has an enormous amount of vital information presented in Bourdain's pungent, abrasive, and memorable writing style."--Jim Harrison
"This is a great cookbook! Anthony Bourdain directs you brilliantly through delicious recipes, with explanations that are crystal clear."--Eric Ripert
"Don't be misled by Anthony Bourdain's witty, irreverent style. His Les Halles Cookbook is solid, smart, and informative, and his recipes are bona fide bistro fare An instant classic."--Jacques Pepin"
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He's right, you can find those same recipes elsewhere, he is only giving you (in an often paired down quantity to suite the home kitchen) the way they cook it at Les Halles. The thing is, they obviously do it well at Les Halles. I've made some of the same dishes from other French cookbooks but never achieved the same results.
Absolute stand outs (and for me more than worth the cost of the book right there) that I have already prepared several times from this book:
*coq au vin
One of the things he does well is demystify cooking. You break down a complex recipe into step by step and before you know it you have a meal that you can actually taste the layers and see how the flavors fit together without blending into one (ala slow cooker) taste.
Read and understand the recipe. Make sure that you have all the ingredients and equipment. Understand the timing of what and when you need to do to complete each task.If you have a complicated recipe make sure you can do it in stages and, do each one. The more I consciously use the technique the better the outcome and the quicker I can complete the recipe.
Bourdain's cookbook has lots of recipes and helpful advice on how to complete them.
All of the instruction is no-nonsense, and accommodates the home kitchen -- you can probably prepare most if not all of the recipes with a single knife, and Bourdain encourages you to do so. The total lack of pretentiousness, especially regarding equipment, is fantastic. I'd say "Les Halles" rivals Paul Prudhomme's "Louisiana Kitchen" in its emphasis on the love of good food over fancy technique.
Every recipe is delicious. Like, "you cant even have to say it's delicious, because you ate too much of it to even speak" delicious. And as much as Bourdain loves pork, the real treat here is the fish, and the pie dough recipe alone is worth the price.
The accompanying photography is suberb, as is the typesetting and layout. Real care went into making this. And it's plain just a beautiful book. Under the dust jacket, embossed in gold on the maroon cover, there's a skull with a chef's hat clutching a dripping knife in its teeth. So if nothing else, this will be hands down the coolest cookbook on your shelf.
It's a great book, and an entertaining read. The only downside is that it has too many... forced? artificial-feeling? "Bourdain"-ness moments, added in in a jarring way. It probably helps sell the book, but I thought it felt unnecessary and hacky too often -- and this is coming from someone who -likes- his shows and public persona! There were just too many times I thought, "I'd bet $100 some editor poked him to stick that phrase in there, or added it himself" that were jarring as I read it. And I'm a -fan- of direct, adult language and side rants! It felt like it needed another round of editing, or simply a bit more effort; sorry, had to ding a star.
Still, if you're interested in French cooking, or don't actually read the narratives of cookbooks and are looking for technique and recipes, it's a great resource.
Now go make some stock from scratch! : )
I love that, where relevant, he provides newbies with just the right thing to say to a good butcher to get the right product. The instructions are brusque, clear, and sometimes quite entertaining.
Les Halles, and Andy Richter's Pok Pok are the jewels of my (small) cookbook collection.