Parisian Home Cooking Hardcover – 4 Nov 1999
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Presenting wholesome, easy-to-make recipes (most of which take less than 30 minutes to prepare), this book offers a look at how real people shop, cook and eat in the French capital.'
From the Publisher
Publishers Weekly May 17, 1999 Starred Review
Chef and hotel restaurant consultant Roberts bings a disarmingly relaxed approach to French cooking and succeeds in taming a cuisine that can intimidate with its sometimes exacting procedures. He shows that Parisian home cooks are as hampered by small kitchens and time shortages as the rest of us, and, that, as a result, their daily recipes are far less complicated than traditional French cookbooks suggest. Roberts proves that techniques are within the reach of anyone. His book provides ingredient lists that are not overwhelming and brims with such fresh ideas as the simple Cream of Radish Leaf Soup. Steamed Mussels West Indian Style tingles with coriader, curry and red pepper flakes. Pan-seared Tuna Served with its Marinade boasts a virtually effortless sauce of red wine, Dijon mustard and shallots. Casserole Roasted Chicken is one of several recipes that that recall earlier Parisian stoves without thermostats, while delivering a very moist bird. Veal Shanks with Bread Sauce has a braising liquid ingeniously thickened with bread crumbs. Beef Tenderloin Steaks with Roquefort Sauce lavishly weds savory flavors popular with Parisians as does Pork in the Style of the Butcher's Wife, heady with a mustard cream sauce, herbs, capers and cornichons. Many dishes are not for the fat concious, but those who want to prepare French food with an informality that's almost Italian will relish Roberts's delectably casual recipes
Top customer reviews
I made a wonderful discovery the other day that I would like to share with you because its simplicity can bring so much happiness no matter how busy you are.
During a recent torrential rainstorm that brought down a hail of branches and partial tree limbs on my roof that's a bit wobbly to begin with, I decided that venturing outside might be dangerous to my health. And so it would have been because just as I was thinking of going to retrieve my mail, a one and a half foot long tree limb bearing a striking resemblance to the leg bone of a long extinct animal, fell to the ground next to my welcome mat, of all things. This rather impolite gesture on the part of nature hurled this soaking wet limb to the ground with such force that it looked as though some wayward golfers completely bereft of any ability whatsoever had moments before been just "playing through" and left deep pockets suitable for billiards on my front lawn.
It was at that moment that I realized the virtue in tending to neglected work ... indoors, of course! So, I put on the kettle, made a steaming cup of cinnamon orange tea on this dreary afternoon and nestled into the soft cushions of my old, familiar couch with Parisian Home Cooking by Michael Roberts. The sheer delight of this experience overcame the heavy feeling brought on by the storm and I reveled in the visions of what I would prepare for dinner the next few days.
Michael Roberts, the author, writes in the introduction to his book as though he were speaking to you at a small, outdoor table at a local café' while dunking a biscotti into his espresso. His message is simple and insightful. His advice is worth hearing.
To begin with, you should know that Michael Roberts moved to Paris in 1975 and earned his professional certificate from the Ecole Superieure de Cuisine Jean-Ferrandi. He lived and worked in Paris before returning to the U.S. and opening his own restaurant Trumps in Los Angeles in 1980. He has since that time returned to Paris for several extended visits. He brought his experiences of everyday life in Paris to this book that reveals how the average, working person in Paris shops for food and prepares meals at home. In his introduction to the book, you instantly recognize yourself because he explains how people in the everyday Parisian culture share virtually the same food varieties, cooking equipment, busy schedules and lack of time that people in every other metropolitan area of the world also share.
The discovery that I made is based upon an admission by the author in the opening of his book when he speaks of his youth and says "The realization that I had learned to cook but not to nourish, that I hadn't grasped the gastronomic world of the average Parisian, disheartened me." So, he set upon a course to correct that oversight and wrote about his experiences that revolve around one simple philosophy from which we can all profit. "You start with fine ingredients. You cook things in a way that coaxes out the flavors. No need to complicate a recipe with many ingredients, because they only end up fighting each other. ... Let the ingredients speak to you." He goes on to say "The charm of a French meal lies in their insistence on quality ingredients and balanced flavor, in respecting those ingredients by not overcomplicating the cooking." I enjoyed and wholeheartedly agree with his comments that shopping for flavorful ingredients should be a delight, not a chore; that cooking delicious meals doesn't really take very long; that the resulting enjoyment breaks up the tension of the day from which we can all benefit; that the devotion to this splendid ritual of eating well should become part of the rhythm of life; and, finally, that families who share this pattern of living will pass on the gift of memories of yesterday so that familiar flavors or aromas will "unlock the memory of childhood, ... what most Parisians do nearly every time they sit down at the table."
The book's 175 recipes that reflect the author's philosophies are easy to prepare and suit a variety of tastes for various courses of a meal, including soups, salads, entrees, and desserts. My copy of the book has already shown wear on its edges and stains on its most used pages which, if you will pardon the expression, speaks volumes about what I think of this book.
The new rush-to-the-stoves book is Parisian Home Cooking: Conversations, Recipes and Tips From the Cooks and Food Merchants of Paris......a collection of recipes lovingly and cannily collected from Parisians young and old-- a concierge, a hip friend and his mother, a fellow American in Paris, the butcher at the street market and many other garrulous vendors. Roberts, a longtime Los Angeles restaurant chef and (with Barbara Kafka) one of the country's few truly original thinkers about cooking, returned to Paris 20 years after receiving his culinary schooling there, armed with a student's enthusiasm, an anthropologist's curiosity, a born schmoozer's way of eliciting cooking secrets and a sensational sense of taste. He rediscovers techniques born of Parisian practicality in the face of minimal burners and unreliable ovens: duck cooked and defatted in a pressure cooker before being finished in the oven, chicken roasted in a closely covered casserole, steak seared in a cast-iron skillet over high heat. Techniques and recipes like this will make cooks who cut their teeth on Julia Child and then moved on to Italy fall in love with French cooking all over again.
Description: Roberts starts off with advice on how to shop Parisian style in your hometown (frequent small markets; develop relationships with purveyors), then launches into recipes for every course, which are appended with kitchen tips and trenchant tales of marketing and cooking in Paris. Assessment: During this vogue for all things Italian, Roberts clearly wants to rescue French food from its current reputation as fussy and outdated. He absolutely succeeds with this well-written collection of vigorous, straightforward recipes. The book also paints a vivid picture of Roberts' Parisian crowd, urbane professionals who happen to whip up fabulous meals in their tiny kitchens. -Erica Marcus .
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
This book of 175 simple and elegant recipes and evocative stories of the authors' meals with friends, trips to the markets, and greengrocer, ~the latter of whom offers his recipe for making soup by retaining tender young radish leaves.
There are recipes for steamed mussels in white wine, skirt steak served with sautéed shallots, chicken roasted with root vegetables, and memorable dilled pork chops that I have made with several other cuts of pork, and cook in a cocotte instead of a skillet. These are simple straightforward recipes in the style that Parisians cook at home every day of the week.
Roberts has an uncanny knack for pairing flavors that elevate simple dishes to extraordinary heights. His dilled pork chops in a cream sauce for instance, combine a splash of Pernod (I use Ricard) with the dillweed to compliment and play off one another. Pernod Anise and Ricard Pastis, are both anise-flavoured liqueurs and their interplay of flavors with fresh dill is magical.
Moreover, I am a fanatic about retaining cooking juices from previously roasted meats/vegetables and labeling and freezing them for use as enrichments in subsequent dishes such as this. Using homemade stock and concentrated juices always elevate a dish to restaurant quality.
Michael Roberts spent years shopping in the markets of Paris and cooking with friends. The photos of the claustrophobic kitchens are sure to make American cooks grateful for our abundance and opportunity. For cooks in the City of Light, the philosophy is simple buy whatever foods look best at market, whatever is freshest, and prepare them simply. Too many flavors hide the flavors of food.
Americans with our larger kitchens and ample storage, as well as our access to foods from around the world should find extra enjoyment from these recipes, many of which are passed on from the author's family and friends.
One caveat however, the sauces do tend to be thinner than that which many are accustomed. This should never present a problem for the experienced cook who will simply add their choice of liason such as a beurre manié ("kneaded butter") - also known as "lazy man's roux." Or, even a slurry of corn starch.
Speaking of ROUX, ~ I have always been intrigued by those brackish, nasty looking jars of black roux found around the fish monger counters in the Gulf States. They prompted my decision to always make an extra cup (or, two) of white roux. I use neutral canola oil, - (it can be seasoned & enriched later with butter) - then, place the extra White Roux in my own glass jar for later use. It has proven to be a great time-saving convenience. It also keeps longer in the refrigerator if made with oil than made with butter.
I highly recommend this book's recipes. Many flavor combinations are conducive to interchanging the suggested meat. Pork for rabbit, Chicken for rabbit, chicken for pork, etc. His pairing of flavors are both extraordinary and frequently universal. The mouth-wateringly-good "Chicken Sauté with Green Olives" would be just as delicious with fish! - I also like to tone down his occasional use of dry Vermouth with a table quality Muscadet. A little Noilly Prat goes a long way on my pallet.
I consider "Parisian Home Cooking" my favorite 'Winter Recipe Book'....
~ Simply because Robert's many delicious recipes can often be oven roasted.
~ The home oven, the French Cocotte, are warming elements that compliment the chill in winter kitchens. ______________________________________________________________
NOTE: I find it beneficial to understand the reviewer's flavor profile when considering one of their recommendations. The following books represent my flavor profile, if not necessarily Michael Robert's simplicity of approach.
My favorite flavors: Chanterelle
Vegetables: Roger Vergé's Vegetables in the French Style
Gourmet Vegetables on the Upscale The Natural Cuisine of Georges Blanc
Everyday French (with less butter and truffles) The Cuisine of Jacques Maximin
The Lutece Cookbook (also using less butter)
Georges Perrier Le Bec-fin Recipes
My affinity for Parisian Home Cooking by Michael Roberts is partially due to his ability to simplify all of the above referenced chefs' recipe presentations in a simple format which allows serious and knowledgeable cooks the means to get in, and get out with extraordinary result. The authors' recipes are also easily embellished, and personalized by the adroit cook.
Two prominent virtues of chef Robert's book are its low price and its simple recipes. The books by Wells, Loomis, and Garten also have simple recipes, which points out that all these books are really dealing with what has famously been classified as `cuisine provincial' and not `cuisine bourgeois' which is the subject of the great books by Julia Child, Elizabeth David, and Richard Olney' and certainly not `haute cuisine' which you will find in Wells' collaboration with Joel Robuchon. While most recipes are simple, Roberts has the virtue of having a few more recipes for money. Oddly, I don't see much greater depth in the description of the recipes based on the fact that Roberts is a trained chef and restaurateur.
All these books have some overlap in recipes, but not as much overlap as you may see in similar books on Italian cuisine. In fact, Roberts gives several very interesting recipes for `potted' dishes, which seem to be a species of rustic pate. About half of his soups are based on very common themes of beans, leeks, potatoes, mushrooms, cream, and onions, but some are quite new to me, such as the sauerkraut and Brussels sprout soup from Alsace (bordering on Germany).
The section on egg recipes is something of a surprise, as it completely eschews classic omelet recipes in favor of scrambled eggs. The only recipe with `omelet' in the name might be much more properly be called a frittata as it is done with six or more eggs, cooked on the stove top and finished in the oven, without folding. To make this turn even more interesting, the author says that French home cooks simply do not bother with the true omelet as taught to us by Elizabeth David, Julia Child, and a battalion of other notable culinary writers. Two things keep me from gigging the author on his opinion. One is David's dictum that an omelet is what you want to call it. The second is the fact that the author has lived, studied, and worked in Paris and I have not, at least not for several decades, so I take him at his word when he says the everyday at home egg dish in Paris is the scrambled egg, not the omelet. Even so, his description of the scrambled egg method, while very good, is not the very best I have seen. For that, look in `Simple to Spectacular' by Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and journalist Mark Bittman. As someone who has struggled with scrambling two eggs, I strongly recommend Roberts' suggestion that scrambling should be done with no fewer than six eggs. On the other hand, I find the techniques here for soft boiled and coddled eggs to be too good to miss.
Most of Roberts' salad recipes are pretty standard stuff except for his unusual suggestion on the use of verjus as a replacement for vinegar. What is so delicious about this notion is not that it is very new, but that it is so very old. Verjus is a common ingredient in most Medieval and Renaissance cookbooks and it probably went out of fashion when commercial vinegar production was well established.
As with any good French cookbook, the vegetable recipes always seem to be the most interesting, especially the gratins and tarts.
The seafood recipes are heavy with mussels, scallops, and salted cod with poaching, fennel, and pan-frying done in many different ways.
The poultry recipes also include the usual collection of excellent chicken recipes, heavy on the methods for treating older birds and roasters. I was especially happy to see three different chicken casseroles. Turkey, duck, and rabbit also get their usual quota of recipes.
In the chapter on red meats, there is the usual collection of veal, beef, lamb, and pork recipes, including a very nice take on preparing `minute steaks'. No treatment of our famous Philly cheese steak does as good a job of detailing the best way to coddle rather than to sautee the thin meat.
The chapter on desserts follows the lead of the egg chapter, in that the average Parisian will simply not bother trying to compete with the local Patissier. So, most of the desserts are quite simple, more assemblies than fully baked cake or pastry. The author does, however, go to the trouble of giving us a lemon tart recipe, including a shortbread-like crust very similar to the Chez Panisse sweet tart crust.
Speaking of Chez Panisse, I suspect Alice Waters and Jeremiah Tower would take issue with the author's bio that credits him with pioneering `California cuisine'.
A very nice, inexpensive book of simple and authentic Parisian recipes. Recommended.
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