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Great French Chefs and Their Recipes

by Jean-Louis André

Great French Chefs and Their Recipes

Great French Chefs and Their Recipes is a book to be reckoned with. Food and travel writer Jean-Louis André introduces us to 15 seriously accomplished chefs—an enviable, diverse group of culinary geniuses. Some you'll surely recognize: names like the legendary Paul Bocuse from L'Auberge de Collonges in suburban Lyon; Alain Passard from L'Arpège in Paris; Arnaud Daguin of Les Platanes in Biarritz; and Olivier Roellinger of Brittany's Les Maisons de Bricourt. The geographical spread of these chefs and their restaurants takes us into areas where the regional influence is distinct and memorable.

Read our feature: Provence Chefs

Because the talent is so big, it's difficult to be fair to each chef in the book. Each chapter contains an interesting and concise profile: a mini-biography, an overview of the chef's region, and insight into his or her style. Suffice to say, every dish is spectacular and sophisticated. Each recipe clearly bears the distinct mark of its creator. Starters can be simple, like Michel Portos' Oysters with Herb Butter, or Pierrot's beer-infused Maroilles Cheese Pie. Marc Meneau's Beef Ravioli with a Vegetable Broth may require more work and assembly (you'll need to spend some time filling the pasta with hand-shredded raw fillet, oysters, shallots and olives) but it's worth the additional effort. The result is delicious, beguiling and beautiful.

Main dishes are unforgettable too: Georges Billon's Spaghetti with Rock Lobster will soon appear on our dinner table. Gérard Passédat's Oriental Mullet and Oyster Consommé with Shellfish and a Pistachio Topping will follow. Star anise seasons the fish stock; puréed mullet liver and pistachio oil dresses the fish. Seafood reigns supreme, but there are a few choices from the land including Braised Shoulder of Veal with Fresh Truffle, from Mathieu Viannay, of his namesake bistro in Lyon; and Bocuse's Bresse "Chicken in Mourning" with Sauce Suprême. It's stuffed, among other things, with root vegetables, foie gras and truffle slices.

Never, ever skip dessert. You'd be missing Anne-Sophie Pic's Candied Vanilla Mango, Sugar Crisps with Lemon Cream and Vanilla Ice Cream or Mango Sorbet. It's a visual and culinary masterpiece. Pic's vanilla-poached mango is sensational. Great French Chefs is about desserts where chocolate, for once, is scarce. Instead, take advantage of inventive approaches to fruit. End your meal with Meneau's Peppery Spiced Strawberries or Passard's Pineapple in Salt Crust— finished with a vanilla-scented reduction of fresh orange juice.

If you've been to any of the restaurants, André's book brings back memories. If you haven't, the reading is a good study for a future visit. Great French Chefs also stands on its own as cookbook. Dishes range from somewhat straightforward to challenging, depending on ingredients and your level of experience. Recipes are clearly written, nicely detailed and include both preparation time and cooking time.

As long as you know how to source the specialty ingredients (you'll need a very committed fishmonger to track down sea anemones and periwinkles) nothing in the book is beyond the reach of a confident, flexible and committed home cook. Funding a dish like Marc Haeberlin's Goose Liver Terrine wit Truffles or Anne-Sophie Pic's Truffle in Pastry "André Pic" is another matter, but, hey, the pictures are amazing and dreaming is free.


Reviewed by Kevin Schoeler

(Updated: 11/25/08 SB)

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