Between September and December, publishers will be wooing us with a stunning array of new cookbooks. I want to whet appetites for some of the goodies to come and will do so throughout the summer in a series of previews.
I want to begin with what I think may end up becoming the cookbook of the year. In AROUND MY FRENCH TABLE: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Dorrie Greenspan could quite possibly make French food popular in this country again. I'm not saying there have been any good French cookbooks lately, but between the politics of the Bush administration (those ghastly jingoistic 'freedom fries'), and America's seemingly endless love affair with Italian food, French cuisine, has seemed to have fallen on hard times. I'm not suggesting a return to French haute cuisine, which is better left to the professionals in top French restaurants. I'm talking about real French cooking, prepared at home for family and friends. And Dorrie Greenspan has created an intoxicating blend of classics (gougères, pissaladière, boeuf à la mode, pommes dauphinois, crème brûlée, clafoutis) with a much larger portion of the recipes given over to the kinds of foods she has been making in her French kitchen for the past thirteen years. I was writing to Dorrie's editor about my first reaction to AROUND MY FRENCH TABLE: “The pumpkin recipe (Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good, which means bread, cheese, garlic, bacon, scallions and heavy cream--you'll just have to get the book to find out how this heavenly concoction comes together) looks divine. So does the Cauliflower Gratin, and Hachis Parmentier. I want to do the skate recipe, but can't find skate here yet. Pumpkin-Gorgonzola Flans--is that a great gimmick or what? The Savory Cheese and Chive Bread toasted could be my go-to bedtime snack. That Citrus-Berry Terrine looks swell. Is she trying to kill me with that Nutella Tartine? I want to make the Orange Almond Tart today." But the focus is on a wide variety of nibbles, first courses, soups, salads, fish and shellfish, poultry and meats and desserts.
AROUND MY FRENCH TABLE already has the kind of quotes that cookbook writers kill for from Ina Garten, Patricia Wells and and David Lebovitz. I've been amassing Dorrie Greenspan books since she published Sweet Times nearly twenty years ago. She's a James Beard and an IACP award winner, contributes frequently to Parade, and has been a Bon Appétit for years, and is frequently heard on NPR about food matters.
If you love to read cookbooks like I do, you'll love reading this--Dorrie is very chatty and reading her is like a dialogue with a cherished friend. But most of all, this is a truly wide-ranging and thoroughly up-to-the-minute collection of food exemplifies French cooking today. And like that famous American woman who taught our parents how to cook French food in the early 60s, Dorrie is poised to teach a few new generations about this endlessly fascinating and delicious cuisine.
AROUND MY FRENCH TABLE goes right to the top of my Christmas gift-giving books this year.