By Michael Roberts
In Parisian Home Cooking: Conversations, Recipes, and Tips from the Cooks and Food Merchants of Paris, Roberts captures the French passion for food and lovingly serves it up to readers with the attention to detail that marks him as one of America's most talented chefs and food commentators. Unlike the grand endeavors of the city's two- and three-star restaurants, Parisian home cooking is simple arid straightforward. It has to be, Roberts tells us, since kitchens are small and residents are short on time. The Parisian home cook and professional chef share the same principles of cooking and love of table: "You start with fine ingredients. Let the ingredients speak to you, tell you what to cook."
Roberts begins the feast with a selection of "small bites to whet the appetite," as would typically be served with an aperitif at the end of the Parisian workday. They range from such familiar favorites as traditional Snails Braised in Red Wine to Senegalese Salt Cod Fritters, typical of the West African specialties now sold in Parisian markets.
He moves on to a medley of petits plats, courses that might be small meals in themselves. Parisians love soup for lunch or dinner, and Roberts ladles up a savory sampling-Cabbage, Bean, and Winter Vegetable Soup, Sauerkraut and Brussels Sprout Soup, and Fava Bean Soup with Spring Vegetables. His selection of egg dishes includes Scrambled Eggs with Porcini Mushrooms (scrambled the French way, yielding small tender clumps of eggs suspended in an almost saucelike background) and Coddled Eggs with Madeira.
Salads in Parisian Home Cooking range from Escarole Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette and Belgian Endive and Walnut Salad to simple composed salads as Dandelion Greens with Prosciutto. Vegetables, always served as a separate course in France, include Upside-down Tomato Tart, Glazed Brussels Sprouts and Shallots (when the kitchen fills with an aroma reminiscent of chestnuts roasting, they're done), and a Panfry of Baby Artichokes. Rounding out petits plats are such bubbling gratins as Gratineed Winter Squash and Chard and Turkey Gratin. Roberts's main course seafood selections range from Mussels Steamed in White Wine (with a little heavy cream or crème frâiche) to Casserole-Roasted Sea Bass and Leeks to Monkfish Roasted with Yellow Beets. Poultry is served up in such preparations as Tarragon Chicken, Pan-Roasted Turkey Breast with Onion Marmalade, and Roasted Duck and Turnips, which is cooked and rendered in the moist atmosphere of a pressure cooker and then finished to perfection in the oven. Meat dishes range from Stuffed Breast of Veal to Veal Sweetbreads with Artichokes, Peas, and Potatoes, from Beef Stewed in Wine to Beef Tenderloin Steaks with Roquefort Sauce, from Braised Lamb Shanks with Prunes to Seven-Hour Leg of Lamb.
Finishing the Parisian home meal with a flourish are simple desserts such as Spiced Poached Peaches and Strawberry Trifle in the summer, Chestnut Cake in the late fall, and Bitter Chocolate Crême Cake and Cream Puffs at any time.
Parisian Home Cooking's more than 150 easy recipes, most of which take less than 30 minutes to prepare, bring Parisians' daily fare into readers' homes. Interspersed throughout with charming commentary and evocative black-and-white photographs, Parisian Home Cooking belongs in the libraries of all who love fine food and French culture.
Parisian Home Cooking
Conversations, Recipes, and Tips from the
Cooks and Food Merchants of Paris
By Michael Roberts
William Morrow & Company
Hardcover, $25.00, June 1999
Information provided by the publisher.
This page created July 1999
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