Frenchie: New Bistro Cooking (Anglais) Relié – 24 février 2014
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And, I've not been inspired. I can put up with a lot in a cookbook if I can find inspiration in it. But in this book, I'm more often saying to myself, "Hey, I've been putting those ingredients together, using those techniques, for years."
After way too many pages of background information and pictures of the chef and his life's experiences, and a few pages to introduce the recipes, I was almost 30 pages into the book before I saw a recipe--and that recipe was Foie Gras with Cherry Chutney. Along with three full pages of pictures, the Foie Gras recipe covered four pages! My heart sank...I was not going to get much out of this cookbook... The pound of foie gras called for in the recipe will set you back almost $100, and you'll need it in a sous-vide vacuum bag. You will also need two pounds of bing cherries and 16 brandied cherries, among other ingredients.
So, there are a lot of self-centered, sophisticated--and quite honestly--simply- and under-flavored restaurant-quality recipes in this book, with often expensive and often out-of-the-ordinary ingredients. It is not my style. If it is your style, you will probably be very happy with this book. And if you love lots of pictures, you are in luck, although you may be irked by the fact that the pictures and the recipes don't necessarily always match up. (Are those slices of fennel, Stone Crab claws and pea tendrils in the pictures for Wild Garlic Broth With Fresh Crabmeat? `Cause they are surely not in the 16-ingredient list!)
In each chapter (one for each season) you will find two or three starters, three or four mains, one cheese with fruit, one sweet: Eight recipes in each of four chapters. Yep, that's it. But you will love the photos!
To make the recipes in this book you will be looking for these not-quite-ordinary ingredients: Fresh jumbo lump crabmeat, wild garlic leaves or ramps, Pimenti d Espelette, vin jaune, trout roe, fresh mackerel fillets, Amarena cherries, beechwood smoking chips, skin-on boneless chicken, aged Mimolette, kafir limes, wild mushrooms like yellow-foot chanterelles, hedgehog, porcini and blewits, speck, burrata, blood sausage....
My favorite recipe in the book is the Beef Cheeks with Roasted Beets, Watercress and Grated Horseradish. What I found new in it was the use of fennel, star anise, cinnamon, orange and lemongrass in the braise, and buckwheat and raspberry vinegar in the beets. The watercress and horseradish are just garnishment.
There were some interesting touches in many of the recipes: Farro with pureed cauliflower, diced green mango in a mint chutney, for instance. But those interesting touches were not enough to bring excitement to a grilled fillet of mackerel or grilled lamb with a normal accompaniment of peas, fava beans and new potatoes.
A lovely, colorful tomato salad with currants is more a panzanella, with its tomato water, croutons, fresh almonds and heirloom tomatoes. But for all its loveliness and brothiness, it is still not exciting. And, good luck finding the fresh red and white currants at the same time you find the luscious, ripe heirloom tomatoes.....
And while Smoked Trout with Avocado Puree and Marinated Cucumbers sounds like something special, it is still just a lightly smoked trout fillet on a puree of avocado and yogurt, topped with a simple pickled onion and salted, sugared cuke. So, what's the big deal?
The Butternut Squash Risotto--haven't I seen that before? Okay, this one is different: It has lemongrass and fennel seeds in the chicken broth and is garnished with Brussels sprouts and amaretti cookies.
I was skeptical of cooking a 4 pound, bone-in rib eye steak on the grill in 16 to 24 minutes, so I did not attempt that recipe. And the accompanying grilled packets of sliced potatoes with onions and tomatoes, well, I didn't have to try that recipe--I've been grilling potatoes that way for over thirty years.
*I received a temporary download of this book from the publishers. I was able to post this review so soon after its release to the public because I've been working with it for months now. I will definitely not be purchasing a copy for my cookbook collection.
Greg Marchand who worked for Jamie Oliver who gave him the nickname Frenchie said, "I didn't write this book to show you what I could do. I wanted to show you what you can do." I love that. Why shouldn't I make incredible gourmet meals for just my small family? I do make new recipes all the time - but sometimes life's busyness gets in the way and I resort to what can I put on the table relatively quickly and inexpensively. I do cook and make wonderful dishes for those times when we have company - but why should I think like that? Why just for company? We all deserve to make and eat wonderfully crafted and delicious tasting meals every day.
This book is approachable but sophisticated as well. It is divided into seasons with a few dessert recipes in each season.
There is foie gras with cherry chutney. I am not a fan of foie gras but I did make the cherry chutney and served it along side roasted chicken and pork. It was delicious. There are recipes for wild garlic broth with fresh crabmeat. Again, my husband is not a seafood fan so I made the broth to make a chicken style soup and that was delicious as well. I don't look at books the same way some folks do - "oh there are a lot of "this type" of recipe - so I can't use it" - of course you can - adapt.
Some of my favorite recipes from the book are crispy pollock and asparagus with Vin Jaune sauce and walnut pesto, watermelon, ricotta salata, mint and pine nut salad, bittersweet chocolate and wild strawberry tart, Spanish ham, corn, bell peppers and Kaffir lime, butternut squash risotto with amaretti, pork braised in milk with marinated fennel (pork braised in milk is incredible), and the Brillat-Savarin cheesecake with mango, passion fruit -all jump off the page with gorgeous photographs and brilliant details.
Don't judge a book quickly - savor it - try some recipes, adapt. You might find yourself surprised at "what you can do".
ADDITION TO MY REVIEW 5/10/14: Suggest also the Fresh Peaches, Smoked Mozzarella and Aged Balsamic salad. Peaches now coming into season in California, and this salad is excellent. We tried it with burrata, an alternative choice in the recipe. Must say, I enjoyed the sensual tearing of the peaches. Served it as second course at a dinner party and it got rave reviews.
Overall, I enjoyed reading this book, and will enjoy the challenge of duplicating the art of this Chef!