Cookbook Review: 2010 Cookbook of the Year: Around My French Table

My rating 4 1/2 stars


This book is old school i.e. it’s similar to books from the 60’s and 70’s in that there are hardly any pictures and there’s an overdose of words. (bye bye Gen Y, LOL, LMAO).  I would have cooked more than one recipe but typing out one gave me carpel tunnel.

Each recipe is minimum 2 pages of 10 font.

This book also weighs about 800 kgs. If words or poundage got awards, this book would have won them too. Indeed it has honour of winning a multitude of awards (all granted by people born pre-1970 I’m sure). Even though this book won a million best book of the year awards, I think it’s a book best for serious home cooks who want to pretend they are cooking for a French family (and not a restaurant) and who aren’t looking for a coffee table book (limited appeal in that department).

Dorie Greenspan is an American in Paris so to speak.

A Francophile with a genuine love for French food, the book contains the type of food that the ordinary French housewife would cook. So don’t expect escargots or brasserie type food (no beef bourguignon or duck a l’orange).   However, DO expect housewifey type tips eg use the Nestle chocolate bar instructions for the best chocolate mousse in France! Dorie also happily heats things in a microwave – a machine celebrity chefs seem afraid to admit they use!  There is also a wonderful “short primer on the do’s and don’ts of cheese” – did you know cheese is meant to be spaced in a clockwise direction on the board course by course?

Some of the things I wanted to cook include cheesy crème brulee, cheese soufflé, short ribs in red wine and port, cola and jam spare ribs, lamb and dried apricot tagine, potato gratin, tourteau de chevre.

As I said there aren’t a lot of photos as Dorie’s recipes are about micro management.
There’s not a lot of room for many photos as her recipes are so long. This is really good for people that need to know exact steps to get a recipe made. However, I found sometimes the wordiness made me even more confused.

For example, to cut onions for soup she writes,

“using a long chef’s knife, cut 1 onion in half from top to bottom. Lay it cut side down on the cutting board, cut it lengthwise in half again, leaving it intact at the root end, and then thinly slice crosswise (discard the root end).”

This is confusing me!!!!!! GIVE ME A PICTURE PLEASE AAAARRRGGGHHHH

Nevertheless, what pictures the book does contain are nicely done.

 

So how does this book cook??

Michel Rostang’s Double Chocolate Mousse Cake from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table

Note the following is just an excerpt of the content Dorie squeezes on the page: “Makes 6 servings”

Serving: Whipped cream or ice cream is never a bad idea with chocolate cake

Storing: You must bake the base of the cake ahead, and the mousse can be kept chilled for several hours.  Once baked, the cake can be covered and kept in the fridge for a day or two or wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months; thaw the cake in its wrapper.

Be prepared: you’ll need to chill the base of the cake for at least an hour.

Note: conversions are my own.

  • 1/4 pound bittersweet chocolate coarsely chopped (113.4 gms)
  • 1/3 cup hot espresso or very strong coffee (78.9ml)
  • 7 tbl unsalted butter at room temperature (99.2gm)
  • 2/3 cup sugar (150gm)
  • 2 pinches salt
  • 4 large eggs separated
  • cocoa powder for dusting

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (204.4C)

Generously butter the sides of an 8 inch springform pan (you won’t be using the base). Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper and put the springform ring on it.

Melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally, in a large bowl set over a pan of simmering water (the bow should not be touching the water). When it’s smooth, whisk in the espresso or coffee. Remove the pan from the heat and mix in the butter tablespoon by tablespoon. Gently whisk in the sugar and a pinch of salt until they are firm but still glossy. Very gingerly whisk about one quarter of the whites into the chocolate mixture, just to lighten it. Switch to a rubber spatula and gently fold the remainder of the whites in to the chocolate.

Scrape a generous one third of the mixture in to the buttered ring of the pan. Cover and refrigerate the rest of the mousse.

Bake the cake for 15 minutes, at which point it will be puffed. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cake cool to room temperature (see below if serving the cake cold) – when there is there’ll be a dip in the center of it.  Then chill the base, still on the baking sheet, for at least an hour if you want to serve the cake warm.

To serve the cake cold: Wait for the bottom layer to cool completely (you can put it in the refrigerator), then scrape the remaining mousse in to the pan. Cover the pan and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or for as long as overnight.

Transfer the springform to a serving plate and remove the ring (run a blunt knife around the edge, with the ring still in place, or warm the pan with a hair dryer. Dust the cake with cocoa powder.

To serve the cake warm: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (204.4C). Scrape the chilled mousse onto the chilled base, still on the baking sheet. Bake the cake for about 30 minutes or until the top is puffed and dry – it will crack and that’s both find and attractive – and a knife inserted inside the crack comes out almost dry.

Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and wait for 5 minutes, then run a blunt knife around the edges of the cake and remove the sides of the pan. The cake will sink, so just let it settle for another 5 minutes. Transfer to a serving plate and dust with cocoa powder.

To serve the cake baked and chilled (the way I (Dorie) prefer it): Bake the cake filled with the chilled mousse as directed for the warm cake above, then cool it to room temperature and chill it for at least 4 hours. Remove the sides of the springform pan (run a blunt knife around the edges or warm the pan with a hair dryer), carefully transfer the cake to a serving platter, and dust the top with cocoa powder.

I did it the Dorie way…

This tasted really good. Its a mousse but tasted dense and chocolatey when cooked. My chocoholic sister in law loved it. It tastes a bit like a souffle. Definitely a great cake to try. I preferred it cold. It also freezes really well. Delicious.

I enjoyed the quantity of recipes and reading Dorie’s stories about the sources for her recipes. However, I prefer a lot more visual cues in my books and a little more adventure and glamour. In terms of a quality cookbook, even though it’s not for me, I would still have to give it 4.1/2 stars for taste, quality and broad appeal. This is the perfect book you give your parents, professor, kindly teacher, alpha male or female best friend so long as they have biceps to lug around a 10lb book.

Shopping Always shop around. I bought mine at Amazon.com (US version) as it was the cheapest. I believe there is only the US edition of this book.

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