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The Cooking of Southwest France: Recipes from France's Magnificient Rustic Cuisine Hardcover – September 30, 2005

4.5 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Revised edition (September 16, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 076457602X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0764576027
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 1.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #176,986 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By J. V. Lewis on October 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wolfert's book has taken the short shelf in my kitchen alongside Richard Olney, Alice Waters, and Marcella Hazan. The Cooking of Southwest France, especially in this new and improved edition, is a rare feat: not only are the recipes detailed, clear, and deeply informative, but the accompanying text is the best I've found for a hard-to-penetrate region of highly chauvanistic local opinion and practice. The introduction and the section on the flavors of the Southwest is an enlightening essay on its own, the bare bones of a great travel book which is fleshed out in the recipes.

Now about those recipes: Richard Olney has long been my standard for great cooking instruction. His recipes manage to be clear and opinionated, true to the region [in his case mostly Provence] but manageable in a big-city American kitchen, relentless in their pursuit of pleasure, dismissive of the narrow and purse-lipped health obsessions of the food-as-medicine Anglo-Saxon crowd, and deeply informed about the ingredients per se. Paula Wolfert, to my knowledge, is the first writer of cookbooks to equal Olney's contribution. Her style is more broadly journalistic and less opinionated, but her recipes are equally true to their sources.

That being said, her sources are French. French farmhouse kitchens and French starred restaurants. So these recipes can be arduous, a real stretch for the average American home kitchen. Many recipes require not only equipment most Americans don't own, but techniques that are dificult to master and even harder to research. But we welcomed Julia Child by spending more time in the kitchen and more money buying kitchen tools, and Wolfert's recipes deserves that same dedication.
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Format: Hardcover
This completely updated revision of `The Cooking of Southwest France' by premier cookbook author, Paula Wolfert is like a long drink of cold water to someone who looks forward to superior cookbooks. This volume may be just a tad less definitive than the author's landmark `Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco', but not from a deficiency on the part of the author, who has made things just a bit more challenging for herself by expanding the range of `Southwestern France'.

The range of her book covers, according to her map of the `Greater French Southwest', about two fifths of the country, from La Rochelle in the northwest to the Spanish border, then north along the Mediterranean coast to Montpellier on the Gulf of Lion, then north to include the provinces of Auvergne, Limousin, and Perigord in addition to the southwest heartland of Guyenne, Gascogne, and Languedoc.

While Provence and the rest of the French southeast is devoted to the use of olive oil and the French north loves its Normandy butter fat, the defining fat of the French southwest is animal fats, primarily lard from pork, duck fat, and chicken fat. These lipids are so central to the cooking of this region that many of the recipes look more foreign to our modern culinary sensibilities than recipes from Southeast Asia with its reliance on peanut oil.

Ms. Wolfert is quick to assure us early in the book that pork and duck fat is actually less saturated and less cholesterol laden than is butter fat. For the sake of enjoying this book, I will accept this and warn you that to fully appreciate the recipes in this book, I suggest you search out a good source of lard and duck fat. To aid you in this quest, Ms. Wolfert includes one of the best listings of Internet sources I have seen in a long time.
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Format: Hardcover
I would join with the other reviewers here in recognizing this work as a tour de force in the field of authentic, regional French cooking. I have owned the earlier edition for a number of years and have used it to produce successful, one-of-a-kind results. I would also echo the comments of others in warning prospective purchasers not to expect any simple, quick, or uninvolved recipes in this book. Many main courses require several steps of preparation spread over more than one day. It is also true that many of the recipes still call for ingredients that are hardly on the shelves of the average (or even above average) pantry (e.g., ventreche, piment d'Espelette, rendered duck or goose fat, etc.). Having said all that, there are some wonderful recipes here. However, the changes worked into this new edition sometimes leave me baffled. To take one example, both the old and new editions include a recipe for duck "ham," an air-cured preparation that, when it works, produces a prosciutto-like result. The substantive difference between the old and new versions of this recipe call for the cook to "shave off the duck skin [from the duck breast that is used to make the ham] leaving the fat underneath intact." This really calls for an illustration or at least some additional explanation, in my opinion, because the skin and subcutaneous fat on the duck breast I examined after reading this instrucion are, as I expected would be the case, as one. Note that in the earlier version of this recipe, the skin was left intact. I've found a few more such amendments to recipes that didn't seem to make things any clearer (not to mention easier), and while I cannot say that there aren't any recipes that have been improved by revision, they haven't jumped out at me yet.Read more ›
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