cover imageFrench 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.

photo of bowl of soup

Creamiest Potato and Leek Soup with Chopped Scallions and Crumbled Bacon

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.

photo of plate of chicken, pasta, and a side of spinach salad

Chicken in Wine with Loads 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
Davis, Hillary
Gibbs Smith, 2014
224 pp.
$30.00, US

Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher.

Other opinions (all excellent):
Chicago Tribune
Gherkins & Tomatoes

Mad Rantings of Andrew’s Mom
Publishers Weekly

Weekend Cooking buttonWeekend Cooking is a weekly feature hosted by Beth Fish Reads, linking up food-related posts. Click here for links to other bloggers’ Weekend Cooking posts at Beth Fish Reads.


In alphabetical order, here are various audiobooks that I enjoyed, but never got around to reviewing:

audiobook on CD cover imageBrain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Suzanna Cahalan, read by Heather Henderson (HighBridge Audio, 2012)
A memoir of a brain infection that came so close to being tragically misdiagnosed until it would have been too late, written by a New York Post journalist. No sensationalism needed for this dramatic story. The audiobook narrator, Heather Henderson, is excellent and made the story seem very personal. (I talked about this book too long in my ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Skip to the end for the good part.)

cover image of audiobookThe Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje, read by the author (Random House Audio, 2011)
A novel disguised as a memoir, or is it a memoir disguised as a novel? The Cat’s Table is the tale of an eleven-year-old boy’s solo voyage by ship from Sri Lanka to England. The surreal, dream-like quality of the book mirrors the child’s confused understanding of the unusual and exciting events that transpire amid the adults and the other boys on board who are seated with him at “the cat’s table” where the least important passengers are placed.

audiobook cover imageJohannes Cabal, the Necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard, narrated by Christopher Cazenove (Random House, 2009)
Dark fantasy with dark humor, plus necromancy and a dark carnival…what could be better? I loved this narration by Christopher Cazenove, but see that the next book in the sequence (Johannes Cabal, the Detective) is narrated by the late, great Robin Sachs, so that alone would put it on my TBL list, but I do want to find out what happens next to Johannes and his brother Horst.

Lucia, LuciaLucia, Lucia by Adriana Trigiani, narrated by Cassandra Campbell (Random House Audio, 2003)
Lucia (pronounced “Loo-chee-ah” on the audio) grows up as a first-generation Italian-American in 1950s New York City surrounded by protective brothers and parents, but she wants to be a career woman. Heartwarming family drama. A nice one to listen to on audio with all the Italian names and Italian-accented words!

The Sisters Brothers cover image of audiobookThe Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt, narrated by John Pruden (Harper Audio, 2012)
Two brothers with the last name of Sisters are the fastest hired guns in the West in the middle of the 19th century. The story of their travails is told by the younger brother, Eli, and the deadpan tone of this dark comedy by audiobook narrator John Pruden fits the narrative perfectly.

Disclosure: These audiobooks were all borrowed through the public library, either on CD or downloaded as an MP3 file.


Weekend Cooking button
Weekend Cooking
is a weekly feature hosted by Beth Fish Reads, linking up food-related posts. Click here for links to other bloggers’ Weekend Cooking posts at Beth Fish Reads.

cover imageIndian Cooking Unfolded by Raghavan Iyer is everything I’d hoped it would be when I asked for it as a gift. (Last Christmas? Yikes!) The author/chef is also an instructor, so the recipes are easy to follow. He also first developed his methods as a grad student, so the recipes are Americanized (Take that, Great Britain!) but still create authentic Indian flavor. The author promises that none of the recipes will require you to visit an Indian grocery store. That right there makes it simpler to use than the average Indian cookbook!

The cookbook is beautifully designed, with a lot of black text on crisp white pages with lots of color photos of the preparation process for each recipe – not just the end results. There are pages that actually unfold, too, making more room for explanations and notes on each recipe. Those pages are designated by white text on muted color paper, which in a couple of instances, made them a tiny bit harder to read (for aging eyes) but not really much at all. I love the design layout of the book and it stays open to the recipe, too.

Click on the Google Preview here to see how the inside pages look.

You can read a lot of the book for background and enjoyment, but if you go straight to a recipe without reading anything else, you will find everything you need to know right there.

Bottom line, if you like to cook Indian food or like the idea of cooking Indian food but find it too time-consuming and complex with all its spices and exotic ingredients, you should try this book. Dinner’s not going to be ready in ten minutes, but it won’t take ten hours, either!

Indian Slaw — Bund Gobhi Nu Shaak (Vegan, Gluten-Free):

Last night for dinner: Sassy Chickpea Curry (Chana Masala — Vegan, Gluten-Free) and Nutty Broccoli with Mustard (Vegan, Gluten-Free) made with the alternative of cauliflower:

Two more plant-powered meals! Fifteen minutes of cooking was too long for the cauliflower, but I think my florets were smaller than they were supposed to be and I forgot to turn the heat down right away, so the mushiness can’t be blamed on the cookbook!

I almost forgot to mention that there’s plenty for vegetarians here – although meat recipes are included – and each recipe indicates whether it’s gluten-free, vegan, etc. Most of the recipes offer alternative versions, too, so you can use ingredients you have on hand.

Great cookbook!

Mustard oil, jaggery, tamarind concentrate, and cumin seeds

But I did go to an Indian grocery store, just because I could! The only ingredient I used, though, were the cumin seeds, which I could, of course, have bought at the supermarket.

 I first heard of Indian Cooking Unfolded from Candace of Beth Fish Reads in a Weekend Cooking post from September 2013.

Happy Weekend Cooking!

Cook-it-up-Challenge Click on image for other posts related to the Cook It Up! challenge from Trish
at Love, Laughter, and Insanity.

Horrorstor cover imageHorrorstör by Grady Hendrix is humorous horror, allowing readers to whistle past the graveyard — or, in this case, giggle past the bloody smears messing up the Ikea-like floor displays in the failing “Orsk” store, where 24-year-old Amy — the story’s heroine — reluctantly works retail.

Desperate for a transfer to a different Orsk store, Amy has to spend the night before an important inspection in the knockoff Ikea chain outlet with her annoying boss and a perky Orsk co-worker Ruth Anne to see who’s been messing up the store when no one’s there. No one suspects anything is happening except garden-variety vandalism, but no one wants the head honchos to hear about problems at the store.

Be careful what you wish for. It’s starting to look like it might be Amy’s last shift here. Or anywhere.

“Call my cell phone if you see anything suspicious,” Basil said. “And whatever happens, do not leave the break room. There are enough people running around in here. It’s starting to feel like an episode of Scooby-Doo. We’ll regroup when we find this guy.”
It was the first time all night that Amy was glad to follow Basil’s orders. She walked back to the break room and took out her cell phone.
“I don’t like this,” Ruth Anne said, coming in after her.
“Me, either,” Amy said, tapping her phone’s screen.
“What’re you doing?”
“Calling the cops.”
“But we just said we weren’t going to do that.”
“I lied.”

A former film critic for the New York Sun, the author has written for Slate, the Village Voice, Time Out New York, Playboy, and VarietyHorrorstör is the author’s first novel.

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril run by Stainless Steel Droppings ends today, on Halloween. Visit the RIP IX review site for more links to horror reviews from bloggers.

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Art credit to Abigail Larson


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