Patricia Wells' "The Paris Cookbook"
320 pages; B&W Photography
Harper Collins, 2001
Reviewed by Steven Dunn for Good Cooking
Patricia Wells has done it again and authored a well researched and presented collection of recipes in "The Paris Cookbook". In the book, Wells who moved to Paris with her husband in 1980 and has six prior cookbooks to her name, has gathered 150 recipes from her favorite chefs and restaurants in Paris, simplified them for the home cook, and sprinkled them with delightful anecdotes of her life in the world's culinary Mecca.
The book is logically broken into 12 chapters, one each for Appetizers, Salads, Breads, Vegetables, Potatoes, Pasta-Rice-Beans and Grains, Soups, Fish and Shellfish, Poultry, Meats, Desserts, and The Pantry. In addition, Wells has included a section that suggests menu pairings using recipes from the book. For the most part, the cooking skills required to complete the recipes are well within the grasp of the average home cook, and the
ingredients called for are readily available to those with a gourmet market nearby (Langoustines and fresh Black Truffles being two notable exceptions).
Wells has been careful to not just include recipes from Paris' Michelin famed chefs (Joel Robuchon and Guy Savoy to name two), but also from a myriad of bistro owners and purveyors she has befriended over the years. The result is a collection of recipes that will have the reader reaching for the book to satisfy the needs of everyday cooking, as well as the more demanding requirements of fine dining and entertaining.
I particularly enjoyed reading about her history with each of the chefs, and how she
came to include each recipe in the book. After reading the book in its entirety, I felt like I had spent a week with Wells on a culinary field-trip, being introduced to Paris' best restaurants, bistros and markets. In fact, she goes so far as to end each recipe with the address, phone - fax number, and metro stop of the restaurant (or purveyor) that supplied the recipe, very useful information indeed in planning your next trip to Paris.
The Chicken Fricasee with Two Vinegars (pg. 194-5) and the Penne with Mustard and Chives
(pg. 124-5) are two recipes that I can highly recommend to the reader. The chicken is simply a cut up free-range bird that is
sauteed and then sauced with a blend of cream, tomatoes, vinegars and stock. It is so easy and flavorful that I guarantee it will become a favorite. The Penne is a simple and subtle side dish that will work well with just about any meat and has fast become the pasta of choice for my kids. Other dishes that will have the reader looking to book a flight to Paris include Joel Robuchon's Creamy White Bean Soup, Frederic Anton's Four Hour Roast Pork, and La Maison du Chocolat's Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse. Many recipes are presented with wine recommendations and suggested accompaniments which are helpful to those looking to the book for not just a dish, but a complete meal.
The only thing missing from this wonderful book are photographs of finished dishes to help the reader "imagine" what the prepared food will look
like; there are none. That aside, I thoroughly enjoyed this cookbook and fully expect it to become a well thumb-worn addition to my collection in the years to come, Bon
Wells has always written interesting and vivid passages about travel in
France and its food. Good Cooking enjoys her writing style, her
contributions to the world of cooking and her enjoyment of French
Many chefs would benefit from owning
this book and using the recipes from it instead of creating their own
weird non-balanced creations of the moment! This book really shows us
how great simple food can be without the current weirdness found in many
restaurants' cooking styles.
Mauzac is a lively lunchtime cafe/wine bar tucked along a romantic tree-lined street in the busy Latin Quarter. Their
onglet-flank, or hanger, steak-is one of the best I've ever sampled. Following tradition, the quickly pan-seared meat is served with a mound of golden, delicious French fried potatoes. Although
restaurants do not usually offer lemon with steak, I prefer it this way and always ask for a few wedges to squeeze over the beef. Note that in cooking the meat, I do not salt it in the beginning only at the end. I feel that salting in the
beginning draws out too many of the delicious juices we want to save. But salt at the end helps give the meat a fine,
seasoned flavor. Le Mauzac 7, Rue De L'Abbe-De-L'Epee Paris 5 Telephone: 01 4,6 33 75 22 Metro: RER Luxembourg
Le Mauzac's Hanger Steak
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1.5 pounds beef hanger or flank steak,
butterflied, about 1/2 inch thick
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Fine sea salt
Lemon wedges, for garnish (optional)
1. Massage a little bit of the oil into the steak, and lightly season both sides with black pepper. If your skillet is not large enough to hold the steak, cut it crosswise into two pieces and cook them one at a time.
2. Heat a large, dry nonstick skillet over high heat for about 1 minute. When the pan is very hot, sear the steak quickly on both sides,
1 to 2 minutes a side for medium-rare, longer for medium.
3. Remove the steak to a platter. Pour any pan juices over the meat. Season the meat generously with fine sea salt, and let it rest for 5 minutes (to allow the juices to retreat back into the beef). Carve the steak across the grain. Serve immediately, with a lemon wedge if desired.