The Provence Cookbook (Anglais) Relié – 13 avril 2004
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No matter where you live, or how gloomy it may be outside, Patricia Wells will brighten your kitchen with the sunny flavors of France's bountiful south with The Provence Cookbook. A French-food expert and longtime Provence resident, Patricia offers readers an intimate guide to the culinary treasures of this sun-drenched landscape and dishes that will transport you and your guests with every flavorful bite.
The Provence Cookbook's 175 enticing recipes reflect Patricia's long and close ties with the farmers and purveyors who provide her and her neighbors in Provence with a kaleidoscope of high-quality foods. Their year-round bounty is the inspiration for these exciting, healthful Mediterranean-French dishes,which Patricia shares with home cooks everywhere. Over the past twenty years, it is Patricia who has often been the student, learning Provencal ways and regional recipes directly from the locals. With The Provence Cookbook, her readers benefit from this rich inheritance, as she passes along such recipes as My Vegetable Man's Asparagus Flan, or Maussane Potter's Spaghetti.
Along side authentic and flavorful dishes for every course from hors d'oeuvre to dessert, as wellas pantry staples, The Provence Cookbook features eighty-eight of Patricia's artful black-and-white photographs of Provence's farmers, shopkeepers, and delightful products. More than a cookbook, this is also a complete guide and handbook to Provencal dining, with vendor profiles, restaurant and food shop recommendations and contact information, and twelve tempting menus -- delight in An August Dinner at Sunset or perhaps A Winter Truffle Feast.
Whether you are a home cook, a traveler, or an armchair adventurer, enjoy Provence as the locals do, with Patricia Wells and The Provence Cookbook as your guides.
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Madame Wells gives no clue in this book to distinguish it from the earlier title. She does indicate that it marks the occasion of her living at the farmhouse, Chanteduc, with her husband for the last twenty years. My biggest question about the current volume is, after all the books which have already been published, what new can be said about the cuisine of this singularly fecund culinary terroir? The answer in this book is `A lot'.
Like Wells' earlier Provence book, this book does not dwell on standards such as Bouillabaisse or Salad Nicoise. It presents recipes of local restaurants and bistros and recipes invented by the author herself. There are still lots of references to friends and acquaintances such as Joel Robuchon who happens to be great French chef, but the emphasis in this book, unlike the earlier title, is much more on the restaurants and food producers and vendors of her neighborhood in Provence than it is about Madame Wells and her contacts to the greats of French cuisine. This concentration on contacts in Provence sometimes seems a bit absurd to 99% of Madame Wells' potential audience. What reader / cook in Duluth will have any interest whatsoever in the telephone and fax numbers of `Restaurant Le Mimosa' just outside of Montpellier in Provence? Only that reader who will happen to be traveling to Provence within the next year, I gather. This doesn't mean there are no such contacts of value to the general reader. There are names, addresses, telephone numbers, and e-mail addresses (of course) to many local vintners, truffle merchants, and olive oil producers. I'm certain that if someone were absolutely determined to obtain a bottle of primo olive oil from Provence, they could use this information to track down a source. Note that the references to these merchants is certainly not an afterthought. The subtitle of the book states that it is a book of both recipes and a guide to markets, shops, and restaurants. I will chalk this up as a plus, as 175 good recipes for a list price of less than $30 is a bargain. Throw in first rate intelligence on Provencal merchants and I think the interested buyer will be getting their money's worth.
In addition to addresses and other contacts to Provencal restaurants, the book contains a three-page presentation of major market days in Provence, by day and by department. The end of the book also has three solid pages of sources gathered from the body of the book.
Regarding the recipes, I will not verify that she did not duplicate any recipes from the earlier book other than recipes for aioli, vinaigrettes, stocks, and pistu. Actually, I did check and find that Mme. Wells does not even duplicate her aioli or pistu recipes. That doesn't mean aioli and pistu are not used in the book. They are so ubiquitous that they even appear together in the `Spaghetti a l'Aioli au Pistou' dish. There are chicken stock recipes in both books and they are very similar, yet the one in the current volume is `homemade' and somewhat simpler than the earlier recipe.
The older and newer books are almost exactly the same length. The older book has eleven very traditional chapters. The newer book has thirteen chapters. It has the same eleven titles as the older book plus chapters on `Potatoes' and `Eggs and Cheese'.
I compared the recipes in the `Breads' chapter and found no overlap. Both books contained recipes for Fougasse (French focaccia-like flatbread), but the older book's treatment was a general treatment of this type of bread while the newer book deals only with a single recipe incorporating black olives. Treatment of bread in the older book more thorough in general.
I compared the salad recipes in the two books and found one overlapping title for a `winter salad', yet the two recipes were for two different winter salads.
I compared the potato recipes from the index of the older book to the potato recipes in the new book and again found no overlap. I did, however, find support for Madame Wells' statement in her introduction that her cooking has gotten simpler over the years. As interesting and diverse as the potato recipes are, they are all utterly simple, but not without a clever technique to two. The placing of a bay leaf in a thin slit in new potatoes is certainly new to me.
This book includes wine recommendations for every dish where a recommendation seems appropriate. As with all of her earlier books, the wine recommendations can be pretty arcane and may only be for very general guidance. No apology is made for the obscure references. If wine is not your thing, just ignore them. If you are as fond of wine as are the fictional Drs. Crane, then enjoy yourself.
If you are a fan of Provencal cooking, then you want both books. If you feel the need for at least one book on Provencal cooking and don't want to spring for Richard Olney's oversize tome, then get this newer volume. It's index and table of contents are superior to the earlier book and I do believe the recipes are simpler. If you are traveling to Provence, this book is a terrific find.
Highly recommended. Many simple recipes (not necessarily fast) and lots of panache.
I think Wells hits her stride with the meats. Her recipe for the red wine-marinated leg of lamb is truly great, and her recipe for a simple red wine daube is very good. I did not like the results of her recipe for pork daube with sweet and hot peppers. It would have been far better, I think, had it called for a fattier cut than the tenderloin [my least favorite part of the pig] and if the olive oil were doubled or tripled. Anyway, the short stretch of meat recipes is the high point of the book for me.
But my favorite feature is the wine notes that accompany most of the recipes. They are well conceived, well written, and constitute a clear window on a little-known wine region. Provencal wine is food wine, first and last, and Wells does a very nice job as matchmaker and inspiring partisan. Grand Aioli with Domaine Tempier Rose... THIS is Provence, and should be the touchstone of any cookbook on the region.
Among the best recipes included in this volume are those that Wells admits she made up on the spur of the moment using whatever fresh ingredients were available at the time. In the text accompanying the recipe for roasted cherry tomatoes she notes that she was seeking something to fill space in the oven, noticed that her cherry tomatoes were ripening wildly and created a recipe right then that has since become a favorite. There is no better lesson in the spirit of Provencal cooking than this - use what is around, treat it well and you will be well fed.
Perhaps more fun that the recipes themselves, if possible, are the profiles of Wells' favorite producers, vendors and restaurantors. These are the people who inspire Wells herself - the farmers and fisherman, the cooks and the market stal owners. Her nod to their dedication and professionalism is lovely and shows the many strands that are woven together to eat well in the classical sense.
Technically, the book is well organized and the instructions are clear. Wells also includes source and contact information for those lucky enough to visit Wells' territory in person. Definitely recommended for anyone who enjoys true, fresh flavors cooked simply in season. That Patricia Wells has managed to cover new ground is a wonder, but she has, in fact, done it again!