Can I just say how totally in love I am with this cookbook??!! I think I have to admit that right now, because I am going to regale you with my delight at owning this new updated version of the original 1998 cookbook, At Home With The French Classics.
First of all, let me tell you about the author. Richard Grausman is a Cordon Bleu trained culinary instructor and cookbook author. He is founder of the non-profit Careers Through Culinary Arts Program, and has been educating young chefs and home chefs about the culinary arts for almost forty years. He is a pro. He is a wonderful communicator. And he know exactly how to explain a recipe so that you want to drop everything and try it.
This is my kind of cooking. I love classic French cuisine. I love whipping up souffles and terrines, or a Tarte Tatin or rows of puff pastries. However, I was merely skimming the surface.
For instance, take souffles. I learned from Richard's book that I could prepare them in advance, and bake them at the last minute. I learned a technique where they don't necessarily need the paper collars I envelope them in. And I received a pat on the back for still using my huge copper bowl to hand beat the whites.
Next chapter: fish mousse! In all its glory and variations. Then quiches, soups, main courses and desserts. Almost every recipe is a favorite of mine and offers a different spin on how to make it, causing me to write up a long list of recipes I want to try from this book: Savory Gruyere Pastry Ring Filled With Cheese Souffle, Stretching Noodles (!), Truffled Chicken, Chicken With Riesling, Cream Puffs Filled With Chocolate Souffle,Ladyfingers, and a classic Paris-Brest. And I want to try Richard's Chocolate Genoise With Grand Marnier Ganache (plus its variation, the Sachertorte).
I love the way he explains a recipe, then provides illustrations of how to visually build it, asides that describe variations on the main dish, and short interesting bits about other ways to use the same ingredients for other dishes or the special molds or dishes needed to make the dish: resulting in a delicious discussion thread that makes each chapter a pleasure to read.
He sealed the deal when I came to his chapter containing recipes for dessert omelets, one of my weaknesses! I adore making a deep chocolate omelet for weekend breakfasts. Richard's become after dinner desserts: Orange Souffleed Omelet, Apple Omelet With Calvados, and Strawberry Filled Omelet With Cointreau. Yum!!!!!! Sign me up! Oh, and the recipe for Riz A L'Imperatrice, something you definitely won't find on restaurant menus anymore, is divine and worthy of a special occasion. And a final round of applause for Richard's recipe for Floating Island (Ile Flottante), a dish that has always eluded me (although it is a simple farm house dish) and which Richard solves by baking the meringue rather than bathing it. Easy!
So you see, this wonderful cookbook is perfect for beginners who want to learn the basics, as well as for people like me who have "cooked French" forever and still have a few new tricks to learn!! I am thrilled with this book, the closest thing I have to a Julia Child cookbook. Interesting to read, breaking down difficult French recipes so they are totally easy to make, and appreciating that in America we have to use substitutes for a lot of the classic ingredients we can't get here. A plus: Richard takes time with each recipe to relate how he has "lightened" it up from its classic rich butter and cream origins, preserving the flavor and reducing the calories. All in all, I would say this is a just about perfect French cookbook.