This is the first time I have reviewed a cookbook without holding it in my hands, to feel its heft, and how it actually reads with (and without) my glasses.
The layout is immediately engaging, with photographs that make me want to scratch the page to see if, by chance, I might get a sniff of the food Maria has prepared.
’t huge, but they aren’t traditional. The onion soup, for example, calls for vegetable or chicken stock. I have never seen it made it with anything but beef stock.
Maria has a good sense of flavors, and has adapted many of these recipes to make them more accessible and less daunting for a home cook.
I love that her recipe for Pâté with Radishes and Horseradish Cream, calls for “4 slices good pâté” – purchased, I assume; who among us is a French farmwife with time to work up a pâté from scratch? Yet she also gives us recipes for rilettes from scratch, which are not too difficult, and rather fun to make.
À la Minute (In a Minute), Au Four (From the Oven), De Campagne (Rustic), Un Bon Marriage (A Marriage of Flavors), Ose! (Daring Flavors), Les Fromages (About Cheese), Les Desserts (Sweets), Apéritifs, Digestifs, et les Autres (Drinks).
“What-shall-I-serve?” moments that vex us all, these are just right for getting the creative juices flowing.
One downside to the book is the way the recipes are written. It reminds me of reading old recipe cards from my grandmother – a list of ingredients, sometimes without clear quantities, and often with unclear directions. A seasoned cook will be able to make sense of them but, for someone who is just learning, this book might be very frustrating.
I look forward to the book's release so I can hold it in my hand, spatter its pages while cooking, and share its delights with my friends.
Chicken Stew with Apple Cider and Cream
(My notes appear in blue)
2 tablespoons flour
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
31/2 ounces (100 g) lightly salted pork belly
10 pearl onions (If you count mine, I think I used 13)
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) dry apple cider (I used fresh apple cider from our farmers market)
1 bouquet garni (a few sprigs of parsley, thyme, and a bay leaf tied with cooking twine)
1/2 cup (100 ml) cream
1 tablespoon parsley
Divide the chicken into eight pieces (I used 8 chicken thighs, skin on and bone in.). Flour, salt, and pepper each piece. Sear them in a pan with half of the butter, so the chicken gets a nice color all around. Transfer the chicken to a large pot.
Slice the pork belly into small cubes and sauté it in the pan in the remaining butter. Peel the onions and add them to the pan when the pork begins to take on some color and become crispy. Continue sautéing until the onion, too, has browned. Then place the onions and pork in the pot with the chicken—use a slotted spoon to avoid picking up too much of the fat. Pour in the cider and bring to a boil, without covering.
Tie together the parsley, thyme, and bay leaf to make a small bouquet garni. Place it in the bottom of the pot and cover. Simmer for about 30 minutes. Add the cream and cook, uncovered, for about 10 more minutes, then garnish with parsley.
Serve with salad and rustic sourdough bread.