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Cookbook, Spring 1979

ISSUE:  Spring 1979

Dumas’s Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine is a monument to gourmandise. Yet, because of its length and exuberance, it has never before been translated into English. Alan and Jane Davidson have finally gone through the task of “extracting the real Dumas from the dross in which it is embedded.” The result is a beautiful book, Dumas on Food, by Alexandre Dumas. It is superbly produced with illustrations in this edition by the Folio Society of London, and it is eminently enjoyable. It should take its place beside Brillat-Savarin.

COOKBOOKS The Nouvelle Cuisine of Jean and Pierre Troigros, by Jean and Pierre Troigros. Morrow $12.95

As we noted before in this column, this book is an event in the publication of cookbooks. We are happy to report that the translation into English is now available, and it is a work of high quality. The text explains what a “Belon” oyster is or a “Barbaric” duck and suggests substitutes when the French products listed in the recipes are not available. The Troigros brothers have raised “Nouvelle Cuisine” to a new height. Gourmets must try their Duck with Black Currants or the Sole with Chives. But remember: use only the finest ingredients and follow the instructions to the letter.

COOKBOOKS La Cuisine Gourmande, by Michel Guerard. Laffont (Paris)

If the Troigros are the classicists of the new school of French cooking, Michel Guerard is its perpetual innovator. His imagination, which relies on his perfect taste and superb skill, seems to have no limit, especially when he deals with vegetable garnishes. We find here exquisite red beets with shallots, mustard, chives, and cream surrounding a saddle of hare. We often serve this now with dark meat. Elsewhere, there is the most refined preparation for cucumbers cut in an olive shape. Guerard serves them with chicken wings cooked in Meursault. It is exquisite, and the idea can be used with other tender meats. On the next page the author offers a marvelous recipe for chicken supremes poached in a leek sauce, which is then “montee” with a whisk like a zabaglione. We tried this also with sea scallops, and the dish was superb. The list could go on and on. Each dish is perfectly light and tasty, and the presentations, with contrasting colors, are fresh and attractive. Every recipe you read will send you to the kitchen with an excitement about cooking something different from all the other dishes you have tasted. Guerard’s vegetable sauces and mousses were prominent in his first volume, Cuisine Minceur.These are pushed to perfection here. We were impressed by the care the famous chef has taken in this book to help the amateur cook avoid major pitfalls. The first chapter, of about 30 pages, is a clear exposition of cooking techniques. Then he explains the secrets of sauces and liaisons, including a quick substitute for veal stock and fish fumet for the home cook. Everywhere, in these introductory chapters and at the end of each recipe, he gives his own tricks and tips and suggests variations to the recipes or cheaper ingredients to use.Cuisine Gourmande has already become the Bible of French gourmets.

COOKBOOKS The Flavor of France in Recipes and Pictures, by the Chamberlains. Hastings House $12.95

The subtitle of this lovely book is, “The best of French provincial and home cooking.” This is a perfect description of the 432 recipes offered here, each accompanied by a photograph of a French landmark or street scene. The two authors, Narcisse and Narcissa Chamberlain, have toured France extensively for many years. They understood long before many of us that the “best” of everyday French cooking is found in homes and small family restaurants. They diligently gathered recipes, which are all easy to prepare, full of flavor, authentic, and economical. No one will go back to the old pot roast after trying all the braised beef recipes offered here.(All of them would do very well, incidently, in slow cookers). We are still debating ourselves about whether we prefer the Avignon style, the “daube,” or the “estouffat.” The same could be said of chicken, soups, or vegetables. The simple “lemon mousse” has become such a favorite of ours that we do it with any citrus fruit at hand from limes to kumquats. The menus at the end are light and easy, the cross indexes excellent. Anyone who has managed to cook a Great French Dish for a special occasion and is too exhausted to consider another should keep this book at hand. It is perfect for family and friends.

COOKBOOKS Lenôtre’s Desserts and Pastries, by Gaston Lenôtre. Barrons $15.95

Napoleon used to say, “War is a simple art; all is in the rendering.” The same could be said of the art of pastry as it is presented here by Lenôtre. The famous chef makes all his admirable cakes with a few basic preparations: doughs, creams, syrups, and the like. But these preparations are rendered to perfection. All the cook has to do, when he has mastered them, is to play with them in the same way he might play with a perfect stock to make dozens of different sauces. American home bakers, who are legion—and good—will find this classic approach exciting and revealing. To make things easier, Lenôtre had all these two hundred recipes tested, and sometimes simplified, by his daughter. He has also introduced Nouvelle Cuisine concepts in the old art of pastry. Batters are lighter, as in the classic génoise, which we found, at last, easy to prepare. Fillings are fluffier and tastier, as in the Pear Tart with Almonds, a simple and exquisite dessert. Lenôtre offers also excellent entrements and fruit compotes with new and unusual flavors, like a dash of black pepper in the peaches or a whiff of bay leaves in the pears. These light desserts are too often neglected in this country. He does present, of course, some extraordinary cakes which require real skills, like the glorious Marquise au Chocolat and the Succes Praline. We missed our favorite, the Etoile, but it probably is impossible to make at home. The translators have done an excellent job in rating the recipes with chef’s hats: a single one for an easy dessert up to three hats for dishes demanding skillful preparation. This book is a must for all who entertain—or have a sweet tooth.

COOKBOOKS Julia Child & Company, by Julia Child. Knopf $8.95 paperback

Julia Child’s taste has always been somewhat rococo, even when she was heralding the classic French cuisine. Here she admits it when she describes her “choulibiac,” a creation of which she is obviously proud, as a “delightful example of the rococo.” It is indeed. One thinks of a style exemplified by the overuse of otherwise agreeable elements. In this case, she wraps fish filets, duxelles, and fish mousse in a “pate a choux” (hence the name of the dish). All this is very well, but then she mixes half a cup of dough in the fish mousse and another quarter cup of it in the white wine sauce. This shows how completely she has turned her back on the Nouvelle Cuisine, its lightness and sophisticated menu combinations. With this book, she ploughs again a field she knows well. Her breakfast menu includes eggs Benedict, corned beef hash, sauteed chicken livers, scrapple, and muffins. There are no new techniques, except for an interesting way of making puff pastry. Her great innovation is the constant use of the food processor. But then, we should remember that this pretty, airy, well-illustrated book is not really a cook-book. It is a textbook made up to accompany her newest TV series in which she undertakes the near impossible task of preparing each time a full meal in 30 minutes. Every preparation which could not have been shown on the screen is displayed here, as are crucial aspects of planning and buying. This, for the host or hostess, may be the most interesting part of Julia Child & Company.

COOKBOOKS Bistro Style Cookery, by Michael Raffael. CBI $13.95

While written for the small restaurant chef, this excellent book proves to be extremely helpful for the home cook. Mr. Raffael—a scholar led by “gourmandise” to the kitchen—presents eight seasonal menus. Each includes seven first courses, nine main dishes, and an assortment of desserts. We found them very inspiring for the home menu planner. The main dishes, for example, always offer some beefstews and steak—poultry, fish, variety cuts, and then something different: rabbit, goose, or lamb. Moreover, the recipes are refreshingly different from the usual fare. We tried Lamb Tajine, a North African stew, and it turned out to be superb. The Marinated Mackerels with Walnut Cream are much easier to prepare than the classic ones, and are excellent. We also loved the simple Baked Oranges with Whisky. There is, as well, more complicated fare, like Duck Ballotine. But most of the time the author keeps firmly in mind the fact that bistro dishes should be quick to prepare and of moderate cost, two qualities we greatly appreciate. He gives the timing and comparative cost for each dish and suggests a wine. If he is at fault, this lies in his lack of interest in vegetables. Readers will rediscover English words here: mutton is hogget, to blend is to liquidise. The word “gammon” nearly sent us to our dictionary. This is a very useful book.

COOKBOOKS New York a la Carte, by Jay Jacobs. McGraw-Hill $14.95

Do you wish to taste sophisticated dishes from The Palace without even leaving home? Would” you enjoy Lutece’s incredible Canard aux Framboises (duck with raspberries)? Or perhaps the easier but delectable Bhuna Fish from Nirvana? Mr. Jacobs offers us all these recipes and many others, from what are, to his taste as a professional reviewer, the best 75 restaurants in New York. The quality of the fare varies a good deal. There are simple cafe pâtés as well as celestial concoctions of great cooks. Some chefs are more honest than others when it comes to sharing a recipe. We were quite disappointed, for example, by La Caravelle’s Crême Nouvelle France, a corn chowder led uptown by the addition of diced lobster. But the Cotes d’Agneau Champvallon, a classic dish from La Grenouille, were simply perfect. Because New York is the most cosmopolitan city in the world, there are many Italian and Chinese dishes as well as recipes from every conceivable ethnic restaurant. Many of these are fun to try.

COOKBOOKS Craig Claiborne’s Favorites from the New York Times, Volume Four, by Craig Claiborne. New York Times Books $12.50

This volume, like the first three, is more than a cookbook. Of course there are a great many recipes gathered from all over the world by one of the finest gourmets in the United States. But we find, as well, in the introductions to each column a gold mine of information about restaurants, people, places, and food in general. Claiborne will tell you that while others find salad bars “inane and sophomoric,” he thinks they are enormous fun. He explains how he composes his favorites there with a bit of anchovy and a dash of Russian dressing.”What goes on my plate is for no other mouth.” This is very well stated, and since we know by now a little about the author’s taste and insatiable curiosity, we are not surprised to find here three more recipes for chili, an introduction to Thai cuisine, an array of Italian dishes, and quite a few excellent Nouvelle Cuisine recipes. One should be aware that he always uses fine ingredients not always at hand in smaller cities. For example, the Gateau de Foies Blonds recipe, derived by the French chef Alain Chapel from the 19th-century writings of Lucien Tendret, calls for 2% cups of heavy cream. If you try to make this extraordinary dish with local cream you will likely find that it separates and that the silky mousse has granulated. It is better to follow Tendret’s own advice and always use plain milk. Cooks who enjoy diversity and good reading will always enjoy Craig Claiborne’s favorites.

COOKBOOKS The Flavors of the Caribbean and Latin America, by Alex D. Hawkes. Viking $14.95

Alex Hawkes was not a cook but a botanist. As such, he traveled throughout the Southern Americas to study and collect orchids. Fortunately for us, he was also a gourmet who never failed to pick a good recipe between two bromeliads. This book is his personal collection, and it is a treasure for all those who like to try new flavors and unusual, exquisite combinations. Because the author visited most of the countries and islands south of the Mexican border, he is able to provide an amazing variety of dishes, one of the great qualities of the book. He presents the best marinade we have found for “escabeche,” or pickled seafood. The “Coquilles a la Paul,” a coconut milk curry of scallops, is sheer delight. Although we doubted Hawkes’s assertion that his Brazilian duck, “Pato Brasileiro,” could be better than the classic French “Canard a 1’ Orange,” we tried it and found he was right. Each dish is presented with a few lines to indicate its origin, how the author felt about it, or how to serve it. The recipes are simple and easy to follow. We are gratefully spared here, for example, a great display of knowledge about the different varieties of chilies. We are asked to use dry red chilies or fresh green ones. For this alone, the author should be praised.

COOKBOOKS The Anthropologists’ Cookbook, edited by Jessica Kuper. Universe $5.95 paperback

Few things reveal more about a civilization than its food, the significance attached to it, and the rites which may surround it. Fifty anthropologists have contributed fascinating insights into these questions in this book, which carries the reader from Europe to dark corners in Uganda and to unknown Pacific islands. Most of the contributing authors offer recipes to illustrate their discourses. Predictably they range from the primitive, like the millet bread of Padhola, to the elaborate, such as the exquisite Savoury Steamed Fish from Laos or the somewhat less exotic Sasaties (lamb kebabs) from Capetown. Most of the recipes are surprisingly good, and they are a delight for the bored gourmet. The book’s conclusion is written by Claude Levi-Strauss, the most famous anthropologist who has ever devoted attention to food. His essay, brief and exceedingly bright, carries the reader beyond the analysis offered years ago in his The Raw and the Cooked.The collection is a must for the serious reader and the adventurous cook.

COOKBOOKS The “New” World Encyclopedia of Cooking, by the Culinary Arts Institute. Culinary Arts Institute $15.95

People who think that the more there is, the better, will enjoy this book. It is a stupefying collection of more than four thousand recipes. How the recipes were chosen is not clear. While there are few, if any, recipes from India, Africa, or the Middle East, the authors offer a profusion of Scandinavian, Hungarian, and German favorites. The best recipes, in any case, are the American ones. But even here there are difficulties. Why advise the cook to roast a medium weight chicken for two-and-a-half hours? Whatever is done with the meat after such treatment does not deserve attention. And why, in this monumental work, are only twelve pages devoted to fish, one of the most important foods of the world? This encyclopedia may help the hotel chef who wishes to offer “international cuisine.” Stick to the Joy of Cooking.

COOKBOOKS The Gold Cookbook, by Louis P. DeGouy. Chilton $9.95 paperback

Our grandmothers used to have one book like this on their kitchen shelf: a book which told them absolutely everything they needed to know to produce two excellent meals every day. DeGouy’s book is one of the best. He has assembled a remarkable collection of recipes gathered over a long life and a great career. Tendret’s Chicken Celestine, a rather unknown favorite of ours, is here. So is the best recipe around for Chicken Cintra and a baked shad Rouennaise. Besides excellent classic lamb dishes, we are offered a fabulous Braised Leg of Mutton “as served to King Henry VIII of England.” It would be difficult to find a dozen recipes among the thousands offered here which are not tempting. There is a good deal of excellent information in the book about how to buy food and how to present it. Thirty pages are devoted to purchasing fish and shell-fish, and there is a paragraph which explains how to get rid of shad bones without actually boning the fish. Elsewhere, DeGouy devotes eight pages to baking failures: each line lists a cause and a remedy.The Gold Cookbook is a basic cooking library in one volume.

COOKBOOKS The Salmon Cookbook, by Jerry Dennon. Pacific Search Press $4.95 paperback

There is nothing pretentious in this clear little book, which offers as many recipes for canned salmon as for the fresh fish. Readers who cannot try the mouth-watering “Sauteed Silvers”—pan-fried salmon stuffed with lemon and served with a creamed cucumber sauce—will find modest treasures in the chapters devoted to salads, soups, mousses, and casseroles. The Salmon Archiduc and the curry recipes proved to be easy and excellent. The book is a welcome source of new ideas.

COOKBOOKS The Hunter’s Game Cookbook, by Jacqueline E. Knight. Winchester $10.95

This is the best book we have seen so far on venison, small game, and game bird preparation. No emphasis here on cooking in the field or haute cuisine; the author offers hundreds of recipes fit for every taste or every situation. The classic preparations are excellent; we liked very much, for example, the Rocky Mountain curry. The unusual recipes, like those for beaver tail or stewed muskrat, are interesting to read. Most important for the hunter or the hunter’s wife is the author’s thoroughness.

She starts by explaining, clearly, how to clean, dress, hang, and cut such big pieces as antelope and deer. In the chapters devoted to smaller game, she describes each animal and how to clean it before offering recipes. What impressed us most, perhaps, is the use she makes of her catch. Nothing is wasted. She gives recipes to make soups and stocks with the bones and trimmings, to skewer or pickle the “variety” meat (heart, kidneys, liver), to make sausages or pat6s with second-choice cuts, and, of course, how to use leftovers and cure the venison brisket. Mrs. Knight’s recipes for birds are not as attractive as those she has collected for game, which may indicate that she prefers the latter. Her concluding chapter on marinades, sauces, and accompaniments proves she is an excellent cook. A must for the hunter’s family.

COOKBOOKS The Book of Salads, by Sonia Uvezian. 101 $4.95 paperback

Sonia Uvezian is a professional author who produces cookbooks regularly. She has decided this time to offer 150 recipes for salads. From the simple Salade Mimosa, made with lettuce, to the spectacular Cappon Magro, a Genoese display fit for a buffet which calls for 31 ingredients, she takes us from one country to another with great taste. The book opens with a good section about salad greens, herbs, spices, and how to use them. Chapters follow on greens, vegetable, vegetable and fruit, meat, fish, pasta, and fruit salads. She concludes with more than 20 pages on dressings. Some recipes, like the delicious Thai shrimp salad, should be followed closely. Others, like the Brazilian ham and fruit salad, give the readers fresh and unusual ideas about how to dress leftovers and may be played with. As is the case with all 101 cookbooks, the design of this small volume is very elegant and the text clear and well presented. The book will be a great help for most cooks.

COOKBOOKS Summer Food, by Judith Olney. Atheneum $10.95

Reading this excellent book makes one dream of hot summer days. Mrs. Olney does not offer barbecues. She presents, rather, a remarkable array of fresh, light, and tantalizing dishes. Her many herb sauces—sorrel cream for chicken, water-cress sauce for a delicious scallop and spinach mousse, green leaves and herb sauce for veal—are simple, pretty, and tasty. We would have liked more recipes for red meat. On the other hand, the author does offer a large choice of seafood, vegetables, and salads. She adds to this a good chapter on preserving, with a welcome recipe for cornichons, and another on growing herbs. The index is professional: dishes are listed by name, category, and by the name of their main flavor. An excellent book for the summer cook.

COOKBOOKS The Professional Chefs Knife, by the Culinary Institute of America. CBI $9.95 paperback

The first thing an apprentice learns in a professional kitchen is how to choose a proper knife and how to use it. This basic skill is too often ignored by home cooks. This book does, at last, provide everything most of us need to know on the subject. We learn why we should choose a carbon steel blade rather than a super stainless alloy steel one, how to sharpen, handle, store, and clean the knife so that it will maintain a razor sharp edge. Twenty pages are devoted to cutting techniques, from slicing a carrot to fileting a fish or splitting a whole chicken. The clear text is accompanied by many excellent photographs. We highly recommend this, the first volume in a most useful new series.

COOKBOOKS The Kitchen Book, by Terrence Conran. Crown $30

Most kitchens in the world have one thing in common: they have a problem. Most people who plan to redo or build a kitchen know that the whole story is avoiding that problem—the useless corner, the working counter which is not exactly where it should be, the china closet too far from the dishwasher. Terrence Conran’s book is superb. He has seen, or guessed, every pitfall, and he offers a remedy for each. It is not an easy task. To offer an example of what should be done in every combination of space, need, and taste would stretch this 360-page book into a hundred volumes. But by browsing through the very informative text, the innumerable beautiful pictures, and the plans and diagrams, one is sure to find a better, brighter solution to one’s quandary. After a brief but fascinating historical introduction, the book begins with illustrations of professionals’ kitchens in restaurants, cooking schools, and their homes. When you know how these work and begin to dream, the author offers a chapter on style—from the country kitchen to the “minimal” apartment corner. Only then does he move the reader to the heart of the matter: 150 pages on every aspect of kitchen planning, organized around every task which is performed today in the kitchen. This includes layouts, color schemes, choice of fuel, all with priceless details. For example: if you apply wall paper in the kitchen, paint the back with a fungicide to avoid mildew developing between the paper and the wall. Other sections are devoted to special kitchens; the most awkward, those on a boat, or those organized around a barbecue corner. After this remarkable display, another hundred pages follow devoted to stocking the kitchen, the wine cellar, the larder, how to grow herbs indoors, and what tools are needed in the kitchen. A feast for the eye and the imagination, we find the book is also useful in the planning and decoration of other spaces—bathrooms, family rooms, and the like. A man of great taste has written a very professional and useful book.

COOKBOOKS Planning Your Kitchen, by Jose and Michael Manser. Quick Fox $4.95 paperback

This modest book cannot pretend to tell you all you need to know to build a kitchen. But the chapter on technical matters, such as drainage and lighting, the tips on storage space, and the sketches depicting the four basic working areas of the kitchen are helpful. The authors have taste, and their choice of color for the kitchen is very attractive.


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