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The best book on waiting tables that you have never read – yet

Tag Archives: French cooking

Cookbook of the day – Sauces by James Peterson

Sauces

Sauces: Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making

By James Peterson

  • Publisher: Wiley; 2nd edition (January 27, 1998)
  • ISBN-10: 0471292753
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471292753
  • Caveat – I have the original 1991 edition, which has a different cover and is about 100 pages shorter. It’s the edition that won the James Beard Award for Cookbook of the Year.

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    This is the book if you want all of the lowdown on classical sauces. If you ever wondered what the difference between a sauce and a glace is, this is the book for you. The first chapter is a history of sauces, the second, a compendium of equipment that you might need, the third a listing of ingredients. After that, he breaks down the various sauces and expands them to their variants as well. There are more sauces in classical cooking than you ever thought possible, many with French-derived names. And they are all listed in categories according to the basic recipe from which they spring. This book concentrates on classical sauces and there are essential tips scattered throughout, tips that will allow you to create sauces equal to those in the finest restaurants.

    I haven’t paged throught the more current addition pictured above, but I would hope that he’s extended his overview to Asian and other “non-western classical” offerings, as well as some of the new sauces based on more exotic ingredients.

    This is one of those “foundation books” that every serious cook should have in their cooking library. I’ll be reviewing his equally important book “Splendid Soups” in a future post. The books are a little dry, but they are intended to be reference works, not entertainment.

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    Cookbook of the Day – Jeremiah Tower Cooks

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    Jeremiah Tower Cooks

    by Jeremiah Tower

  • Publisher: Harry N. Abrams; First Edition edition (October 2, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1584792302
  • ISBN-13: 978-1584792307
  • After there was Julia Child, Paul Bocuse, Pierre Franey and Jacques Pepin and before Thomas Keller, Paul Prudhomme and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, there was Alice Waters and her chef Jeremiah Tower. Her restaurant Chez Panisse was legendary in the Bay Area and became famous nationwide through the Chez Panisse Cookbookand other writings. The restaurant, which opened in 1971, is credited with creating “California Cuisine” and Tower is considered its Godfather. He is the creator of the “gourmet pizza”, a concept later taken to massive heights by Wolfgang Puck and others. Even though Waters’ and Tower split less than amicably and the two have traded barbs in print and through the press, I suspect that Ms. Waters has more respect (if not affection) for her old head chef than she’s willing to admit (and vice versa).

    Tower became one of the earliest “celebrity chefs” in America (transplants like Child, Graham Kerr, Bocuse, Pepin and Franey notwithstanding). He did it without having a cooking show or a raft of popular cookbooks but did it though is association with Waters and his subsequent restaurants Sana Fe Bar and Grill and his most famous joint, Stars. He was (and is) legend in the culinary world and this cookbook will show you why.

    If you’ve read any of my cookbook reviews, you’ll know that I treasure a cookbook that opens the door to a chef’s inner workings. The best cookbooks written by chefs are more than just the sum of recipes, but almost manifestos of their cooking philosophy and the passing of house secrets that can transform the readers’ own culinary efforts. And this book has it in spades.

    A book that has the outer appearance of an artsy-fartsy coffee-table book, you’ll find the insides almost utilitarian, with sparse illustrations and a matter-of-fact look and feel. It starts with Chapter One, ” Delights and Prejudices”, with the admonition that errors and improvisations are allowed (his individual gourmet pizza was the result of a happy accident). He runs the gamut of a glossary of cooking terms and phrases and a concise list of techniques that are used through the book. And his description of “salt and pepper to taste” is very blunt – that’s exactly what he means.

    His 250 recipes are fresh, healthy and mouthwatering, just what you’d expect from the best California cuisine.

    As we are on the cusp of summer, I can’t recommend this book more highly, nor is any other cookbook more appropriate to this time of year. You’ll learn many quick tips and insights about combining food in palate-pleasing combinations. You’ll discover that great food doesn’t have to involve jumping through hoops.

    But let’s let croc-wearing Mario Batali have the final word:

    Jeremiah Tower became my instant hero the first time I set foot in Stars, three days after it opened. To this day I consder him my ultimate mentor, and his voice, style, and opinions the arbiters of taste and truth in the restaurant world. The recipes and words within this book are timeless classics, as is Jeremiah himself. I love this guy. 

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    Cookbook of the day – Bouchon

    9781579652395

    Bouchon

    by Thomas Keller

  • Publisher: Artisan
  • ISBN-10: 1579652395
  • ISBN-13: 978-1579652395
  • This companion piece to Keller’s book The French Laundry Cookbook is even more beautiful than its predecessor. Using luminous silver-halide-esque black and white photos to supplement the nice narrow focal plane color photography of the first volume (this technique leaves only portion of the shot in focus and can leave both the foreground and the background out of focus for artistic effect), the look and feel of the book emphasizes the old world heritage of le bistro. Some of the shots beg to be hung in a tony art gallery.

    Named for a style of French bistro in Lyon,  Bouchon the restaurant creates a paradoxical theme of an upscale bistro. Bouchon the cookbook attempts to convey the mindset behind creating bistro cuisine without reducing it to a French version of a meat-and-three.

    As in The French Laundry Cookbook, Keller demands an attention to detail and outlines a lot of technical skills necessary to produce a quality product. From his observation that you must discard any “irregular” pomme frites before cooking because they won’t cook evenly (and there’s a photo of the fries in the traditional European paper cone nestled in a hammered metal stand), to his avoidance of the cliché (outlining several skate dishes without talking about the traditional bistro dish of skate and mashed potatoes – instead he does skate with Lyonnaise potatoes), you’ll find dishes as simple as glazed pearl onions (oignons grelots glacés) and as complicated as pork trotters (pork feet) with máche and sauce gribiche (pieds de cochon et máche, sauce gribiche).

    The principles that bind two restaurants as diverse as The French Laundry Cookbook and Bouchon are an emphasis on fresh and local ingredients, an attention to detail and a passion for and a knowledge of the style of cuisine that’s being attempted.

    Owning both of these books will move you into a new dimension of cooking, and it’s a great yin to Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook’s yang. You should own both, which you know if you’ve followed my previous cookbook highlights.

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    Cookbook of the day – Larousse Gastronomique and The Food Lover’s Companion

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    Larousse Gastronomique

    by Prosper Montaigne (ed.)

    Clarkson Potter; Rev Sub edition (October 2, 2001)

  • ISBN-10: 0609609718
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609609712
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    Food Lover’s Companion, The (Barron’s Cooking Guide) 3rd Edition (Paperback)

    by Sharon Tyler Herbst

    Barron’s Educational Series

  • ISBN-10: 0764112589
  • ISBN-13: 978-0764112584
  • I combined these two reference works because every server should have at least the Food Lover’s Companion. A compact and comprehensive list of ingredients, techniques, tools and history, this volume is small enough to keep in your backpack or locker as a go-to reference when you are confronted with a term or foodstuff that you aren’t familiar with. You can also settle arguments with this thing as well.

    But I included the venerable granddaddy of culinary reference works (along with Escoffier’s Cookbook), Larousse Gastronomique. Yes, a current edition is over $50 new. Yes, it can be used as a stepladder – that’s that thick. But it’s a reference work that presents the classical culinary world better than any. Yes, it’s a narrow in its scope in that it doesn’t address a lot of exotic cuisines and cultures. Yes, it isn’t quick to give the lowdown on trendy dining fads. And, it’s a bit ponderous (like this blog can be sometimes). But any really serious culinary fan should have an edition around the house, even if they do as I do and buy a cheaper older version used. I have the 1961 edition that Rebecca Dazell wrote about on Gourmet’s website:

    “Like The Joy of Cooking, the Larousse had later editions that brought it into the modern era, made it more palatable. But the edits also took away the original’s unabashed exultation of food; the writing in that first edition drew me back for pleasure reading, if not real instruction. Were it not for the 1961 Larousse,I doubt I would have ever discovered the 17th-century poet St. Amant and his ode to Brie:

    Now then, let us shout with all our might:
    Blessed be the land of Brie…
    For one has only to press it with one’s fingers
    For it to run over with fat.
    Why then, is it not endless,
    As indeed its circular form is endless?”

    http://www.gourmet.com/food/2008/06/classiccookbook_larousse

    I bought my copy for around $18 plus shipping (not cheap to ship, this 6 lb book) on eBay. There are several intermediary editions since the original ’61 English edition and they can be had used for various prices. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they weren’t revising this at the moment and that soon, you’ll be able to get this edition for half price at a used bookstore. It took them 25 years to update the first English edition but only 13 years for the second, so perhaps we’ll see a new edition around the turn of this decade. The latest edition is still a bit creaky considering the explosion of cooking channels, mega culinary stores and an everwidening interest in the culinary arts. 

    I would have thrown in Escoffier’s Cookbook for the überfan, but that deserves its own post down the road. Escoffier did write the introduction to the original 1938 French edition, which came out after he died. The original editon of Larousse was published by Crown, the NY publisher that also published my ’63 slightly abridged edition of Escoffier’s Cookbook. But more on that at a later date.