The torch that passed from Julia to Patricia and Dorie is now Melissa’s
Reviewed in the United States on 12 March 2020
With this magnificent cookbook, esteemed New York Times food writer and cookbook author Melissa Clark carries on the storied traditions of Julia Child, Patricia Wells, and Dorie Greenspan, all of whom came to love to live and cook in France and, back in America, became (and, for Patricia and Dorie, still are) icons of “French dinners” in America. I love the book!
In her childhood, Ms. Clark and her family spent a month every summer in France, creating her lifelong love of French food and of France. The book is beautifully photographed, and almost every recipe has a rustic color photo. The headnotes are inviting and tell us how a dish is traditionally served in France, suggestions for serving the author’s version, some family recollections, or perhaps also valuable tips and techniques.
Every recipe has a much-appreciated “Thinking Ahead” paragraph. The author is a working Mom: she tells us what we can make ahead and exactly how to do it. For example, “Twice-Baked Cheese Soufflés:” make them the day before and bake for brunch “even when you’re not fully caffeinated.” Most of the recipes are straightforward and could work for a weeknight supper. If “for a special dinner,” the author warns us. For example, “Fish and Mussel Soup with Rouille.” I thank the editors for permitting the author to take 3 pages + 1 photo page so that we may understand precisely how the author hopes that we’ll see and smell and taste her dish! The same is true of several other dishes. Thank you!
Ingredients are very accessible. If I, with my itty-bitty grocery store in the inland middle of nowhere, can easily obtain the vast majority of ingredients, so can you. For me, the possible exceptions would be only fresh cherries, frisée, and some cheeses. However, substitutions (for example, olive oil may be substituted for duck fat) are frequently suggested, and usually where most needed. And, although my access to reasonably-fresh seafood is limited, I can probably get almost everything (not sure about mussels and calamari, and no rainbow trout for me) at one time or another. This is not a criticism: this is a French cookbook, so, of course it has mouth-watering dishes made with fresh seafood. I’m actually astonished that almost all of the seafood is so accessible even to me. For some meats such as duck, oxtail, and marrowbones, I think some readers would appreciate knowing whether frozen will do. However, I counted only 4 recipes using those ingredients, so I’m not missing out.
What a magnificent cookbook. Such a worthy addition to my collection of beloved cookbooks from Julia, Patricia, and Dorie!
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