Recommending this book is a no-brainer and I predict that it will become a classic. It will earn coveted real-estate in many bookshelves and will be a cookbook today’s children will remember as one of the ones that was out on the countertop often during their childhoods, not unlike The Joy of Cooking or Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
Part of what makes this such a keeper is Dorie herself. I don’t know many cookbook authors but I think I can safely say that Dorie is unique in the level of care she brings to developing recipes and to her cookbooks. She has commented on my site three times (so far) and I can’t be the only one. The fact that she spends so much time following the people who are using her book says to me that she cares deeply that these recipes are working, out there in the real world, and that people like them. She didn’t just give birth to this cookbook and send it out in the world to fend for itself, she is the ultimate helicopter parent and for once, it’s appropriate.
In addition to the carefully-developed recipes and instructions, this book is marbled with anecdotes about Dorie’s life in Paris. Observations and very short one-act plays that either reveal something interesting about modern French life (how to complain in a way that will earn you respect and better service) or re-enact a scene of cultural misunderstanding (In fact her story about being inpatiently waved off by a French butcher when she could not ask for the cut of meat she wanted with le mot juste is not necessarily the result of a language barrier. Having asked the meat cutters at my neighborhood store for something slightly unusual and being looked at as if I’d requested filet of poodle, I can relate). Reading the forwards to the recipes and the side bars I was filled with envy that the French have access to things like “extra fresh” eggs (9 days post-laying) and spring asparagus is rushed to the markets so it can be enjoyed at its most tender and flavorful. Then again, apparently you can’t get canned pumpkin in Paris so I guess life is not entirely a bowl of cerises there either.
Another reason I think this book will stand the test of time is that the recipes are appealing and approachable (Dorie calls it “elbows on the table” food). “Roast Chicken for Lazy People”? Yes, I think the American people can rally ’round that one. A delicious apple cake that uses ingredients most of have on hand all the time, yes, that works too. And yet there’s enough here to stretch us just a little in terms of our palates and our skills. How many of us would have made the Mustard Tart if we hadn’t been encouraged to do it? And how many of us will make it again and again? There is the cheese-draped onion soup we all love, as well as souffle, crepes, quiche, and creme brulee — in other words, the usual French suspects. But becaues this book is about what the French are cooking right now, she includes guacamole, tzatziki and b’stilla; dishes that demonstrate the flexibility and worldliness of French tastes. Just because they invented cooking doesn’t mean they have to have classic French food every night.
Of course I also appreciate that for the harder to find ingredients (I’m talking to you old friend Pimente d’Espelette) she offers a reasonable substitute that you can get at your chain grocery store (and lovely as Whole Foods and sustainable, fair-trade, cage-free peanut butter is, I’ve got a Coke Zero monkey on my back and they don’t traffic in that substance). Because she understands. She understands that some days we want to push ourselves and create something special and new and remarkable and we’re willing to send away for an ingredient and take on a project recipe, but some days (most days) we just need to feed the beasts. In Dorie’s world, you can have it both ways.
Kate, merci mille fois and many thanks too for your lovely review of my book. I’m so touched that you took the time to cook so many dishes from the book and thrilled that you liked what you made.
I will now buy this book!
Dorie, it is my pleasure and every word of it true.
You made it easy to review such a generous sampling of recipes and but it’s also important to what I’m doing here. I want to give people good recommendations based on actual cooking.
And I will continue to cook from your wonderful book!
This lovely review strikes a chord with me as I have been considering getting a second copy of the book so I have one in the city and in the country, and there aren’t too many books I have duplicates of. They would, of course, be the usual suspects – Marcella, Nigella, etc.
Gee, I have that Coke Zero thing too. I never had a problem until I read a Nora Eprhon review of it and bought a bottle to try. Big mistake. For me, not for Coke.
Nora Ephron wrote about Coke Zero? What a convergence of favorite things!
OK, I’ve put it on my Christmas wish list!
It is on my Christmas list! I made the hachis Parmentier over the weekend…it was to die for, even the “quick version.” I think my husband wanted to marry me all over again when he tried it! 🙂 I served the leftovers the next night with some mashed butternut squash and they wound up all mixed together on the plate – wonderful flavors. ULTIMATE comfort food.
I found you through many “clicks” and love your site. I have a friend of a friend on Facebook who has been cooking up Dories recipe’s Around My French Table…the photo’s on Deborah Balint’s Facebook page of Dorie’s recipes are to die for. The group she cooks with won’t divulge the recipes to make people actually buy the book…which I am promptly going to do as it seems it will be a book that won’t collect dust for once!
Hi Bridget! Thanks for stopping by and thanks for your nice comments. I don’t think you’ll be sorry with Dorie’s book. And the nice thing is you won’t have to wonder what you should make; you’ve got lots of good suggestions!