16 May 2011

Essential Pepin; More than 700 all time favorites

I have just one complaint about this cookbook and I'll state it upfront before I go into full on fangirl swoon, no pictures.  Not a single blurry polaroid. I received this as a galley, so maybe my copy wasn't complete, I hope not, but even without the pictures, this cookbook falls into a very small category of food books that I freaking love.

Here's the shortlist of other books I love, just to give some context;  1,000 Indian Recipes, The Pioneer Woman Cooks, From Emeril's Kitchens, The Way to Cook (by Julia Child),  Mexico, One Plate at a Time and The Breadmakers Apprentice by Peter Reinhart.

Essential Pepin is divided into many chapters (the book has 700 recipes!) the first is soups, after a few pages of cold soups (I despise cold soups, unless you count melted ice cream as a soup) it then moves into some real soup recipes I could see myself making for my family; Sausage, Potato & Cabbage and Garlic Soup sound the most delish and easy to make midweek.

Then onto Salads; Spinach & Mozzarella, Frisee w/Croutons and spicy olives, Asian Savoy, Lentil and Potato. Pepin shows his French bistro roots by including many recipes for souffles, usually this would be a downer for me.  Souffles are scary.  We've all seen videos of a collapsed one and I just know, in my heart of hearts, that I'd make a collapsed, leathery souffle too.  But Pepin's confident directions and forthright tips have almost convinced me to give one a try (the Herb and Goat Cheese Souffle, perhaps?).

For a cookbook of mostly French cuisine (which is daunting and complicated for the average cook, or if you are like me, the subaverage cook,  who grew up on a diet of tuna casserole and velveeta), there are a surprising number of foods that I think would make lovely weeknight family dinners; Baked Chicken with Herb Crumbs, Chicken in Tarragon Sauce, Mussels Mariniere (my son loves shellfish, so I'll give this one a go) and Poached Salmon in Ravigote Sauce, ravigote means 'to invigorate' in French and the lemon, garlic and scallion sauce does sound rather ravigote to me.

For special nights, Duck with Orange Sauce, Lobster in Artichoke Hearts (my two fave foods, together? The end is nigh!) Beef Tournedos in Mushroom, Mustard and Red Wine Sauce, Stuffed Squid with Cream Sauce and Kasha and the delicious sounding Lobster Souffle are just some of the more daring (and time consuming) choices.
Often there are suggestions for substitutions of ingredients and nice bits of information about the foods being prepared including references to his mother's cooking and restaurants that he admires.  On a sidenote, I've always wondered where chefs eat and what they order when they are out.  Now I know.

Anyways, the side dishes are wonderful, I'm always on the lookout for new veg recipes and hope to add Baker's Wife Potatoes (sliced potatoes cooked with stock and wine after a brief saute), Asparagus in Mustard Sauce, Cream Puff Potatoes, Cauliflower with Toasted Crumbs and Eggplant and Tomato Gratin to my cooking roster.

Whew, I haven't even gotten to the desserts.  I will just say that they are sweet, delightful and entirely too enticing.  His exhaustive description for a tarte tatin almost made me feel like I'd just eaten one.

Bread in a bucket is a recipe I must try, I mean it is BREAD in a BUCKET!  Same same with the English Christmas Pudding with Hard Sauce, I've always wanted to make one for Christmas or perhaps a future post about pudding with hard sauce ala Anne Shirley of Green Gables (no dead mice in my sauce, alas).

So, pictures or no pictures, this is a great cookbook.

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