French Comfort Food is the kind of cookbook you might reach for more often in fall and winter, but cookbook author and Marche Dimanche food blogger Hillary Davis does have the ambitious home cook covered year-round with recipes like Perfect Crème Caramel (which can be served with either berries and fresh mint or sugar-frosted cranberries, depending on the season) and Summery Salade Niçoise Sandwiches.
Most of the recipes in French Comfort Food, though, are for hearty, substantial dishes such as the Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie (Ratatouille Comme un Parmentier) pictured on the front cover – made with ratatouille instead of the traditional ground beef base – and Potato, Bacon, Cheese, and Wine Casserole (La Tartiflette) – which is just what it sounds like.
Here’s how the author describes the kind of home-style French food she fell in love with and pays homage to in her recipes:
There are dishes in every region of France that stand out as superb soul-soothers, the ones you would reach for on a gloomy day that are not well known and not easily found in cookbooks. There’s the ancient dish, crespéou, a stunning vegetable omelet cake standing high on a plat surrounded by a glorious sauce you swipe your fork through. Or the potato bacon, and melted cheese wonder from the alpine region of Savoy called tartiflette. What could be better than watching snowflakes fall while you tip your fork into this meltingly delicious casserole? Quite possibly, it could be another heartwarming, rich tasting casserole found in southwest France, called cassoulet, made with sausages and beans and duck. Once I tasted it, I fell in love and found myself searching for it in restaurants wherever I went. Now I have a way of cooking this labor-intensive dish at home in a slow cooker, and have included the recipe for you to try for yourself. And what about riz à l’impératrice, all the Normandy cider-apples-and-cream dishes; or Brittany’s butter cakes and cookies; French Alpine fondues; Alsatian quiches; Burgundy’s boeuf bourguignon and garlicky escargots; or the sun-drenched Midi’s much-loved fish soups and vegetable tians?
French Comfort Food is beautifully laid out with gorgeous photography by Steven Rothfeld. The book is hefty, with excellent-quality paper and a sewn binding, making this a great gift for Francophiles or anyone who likes the idea of learning to cook French food that’s not as elaborate and labor-intensive as haute cuisine. It lies open flat at any recipe in the book, and seems made to last. It also has an excellent 9-page index!
Just reading through the book is enjoyable – a bit like traveling through France with the author – but the recipes are also appealing and I wanted to try all of them, except the two veal ones (Alsatian Two-Crusted Meat Pie and Creamless Creamy Veal Stew with Mushrooms and Pearl Onions.) Many of the recipes aren’t suitable for people on restricted diets, but the cookbook includes recipes that could be made for just about anyone here, whether vegetarian, gluten-free, or low-carb. Low-calorie dieters might be out of luck, though.
The Creamiest Potato and Leek Soup with Chopped Scallions and Crumbled Bacon was absolutely delicious. Different eaters in the family could enjoy this, because the bacon is an optional topping.
The Chicken in Wine with Loads of Garlic (Poulet au Vin Avec Beaucoup d’Ail) was also delicious – chicken thighs made with fresh rosemary and thyme, as well as two whole heads of garlic.
Planned for this weekend: Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Candied Chestnuts (Soupe de Courge Musquée Rôtie et Marrons Glacés) and Brie Melted in Box with Brown Sugar for Two.
Having this soup along with Thanksgiving leftovers for supper tonight. Photo of finished soup to come!
Happy Weekend Cooking!
French Comfort Food
Gibbs Smith, 2014
Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher.