Cookbook Review: Around My French Table


I’m going to cut to the chase here. Dorie Greenspan’s “Around My French Table” is my favourite new cookbook. In fact, with just a couple of months to go until the end of the year, I am going to be so bold as to say this is potentially the best cookbook of 2010.

I first came across Greenspan’s blog when I read one of her charming posts on Paris. Voila, I thought to myself, a kindred spirit. A foodie who loved Paris enough to live there for many years. Of course, I have never lived in Paris but I try to visit every few years and dream about a time in the future when I can retire there for part of the year.

When I received “Around My French Table” in the mail, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I have several cookbooks proclaiming to be the ultimate French cuisine compendiums (Julia Child’s even) but some of them have sat untouched until now. While I had read Greenspan’s blog, I had never attempted any of her recipes but I knew she was well-respected.

Greenspan, a multi-award-winning cookbook author, has worked with some of the greats, like Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Julia Child. In fact, Child once told Greenspan, “You write recipes just the way I do.”

Leafing through the book, you will find a collection of Greenspan’s favourite simple French recipes that she has amassed while living in Paris, with chapters on nibbles, soups, poultry, fish, desserts, and fundamentals and flourishes. There are no gimmicks here. This is the best kind of cookbook: Fool-proof recipes that show you a new thing or too, and the kind of writing that will take you from the first page to the last in one sitting. I am not one to pay easy compliments about writing.

I cringe every time new bloggers call themselves writers just because they posted a paragraph or two, or even 10. No, to call yourself a writer you must earn this title, you must sweat for it, and make money from your craft. That’s my definition anyway. And Greenspan is a good writer. She knows how to captivate her audience (don’t take my word for it, check out her blog, you will find it under my favourite links on my own blog or at the hotlink above).

And I’m not alone in my opinion, she has received glowing praise from people like Ina Garten, Adam Gopnik, David Lebovitz, Patricia Wells.

I could create several weeks of menus based on this one book, and never get bored. Without further ado, let me give you a sampling of some of the recipes I tried.

Quick and dirty review of the recipes I tried:

Chicken, apples and cream a la Normande: This sounds as if it’s going to be a 1980s throwback recipe, combining meat with fruit. But it’s nothing of the sort. Actually, there’s something about the combination of th mushrooms and apples that is just divine, and let me say this is one of the best chicken recipes I have ever made. In fact, this might be my new go-to dish for company because it is fool-proof, absolutely delicious, and unlike anything you will find on a typical North American menu. You can find the recipe here. I served this alongside wild rice pilaf and broccoli (see below) but it was so tasty that I left my pilaf nearly untouched.

Garlicky crumb-coated broccoli: My son has my face, I won’t deny it, but one of the traits he shares with his dad is his disdain for broccoli. Wouldn’t you know both of them lapped this stuff up? It’s hard to resist. Buttery, garlicky, crunchy goodness. Dorie you got my son to eat broccoli! You’re a genius!

Nutella tartine: I think I’ve said all I need to say about this marvellous creation (see my previous blog post here) but let me repeat one thing here: it’s a revelation. And it’s just the kind of recipe that Greenspan does well. Not pretentious, not over-the-top.

So should you buy this cookbook? If you are reading my blog, there’s a good chance that you love French food as much as I do. And if that’s the case, you should put this book on your Christmas wish list. It will be well used and you will thank me later. You heard it from me first: Dorie Greenspan is the Julia Child of our generation. Maybe even better.