Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My Paris Kitchen - David Lebovitz

My Paris Kitchen: Recipes and Stories
Random House recently launched a new program for book bloggers like myself. Blogging for Books offers the opportunity to choose from a selection of recently published books, have a free copy sent to you, write a review, and then repeat the process.  

I know that some bloggers are not fans of the program, even with the revisions that have been made since its launch. However, I have no issues with it. The main complaint I have read is that bloggers don't want to be obligated to review a book. I write about everything I read, so that's not a problem for me. 

When I went to select my first book, I floundered around through the different categories for a bit before spotting this cover. How can I, francophile that I am, turn down anything with Paris in the title? And a book about food? David Lebovitz had to have written this with me in mind. Let's disregard the fact that the man has no clue who I am.

When my thick, hardcover copy showed up at our door, I literally squealed with joy and hugged it. At this point, Kevin was rolling his eyes. Book hugging is a surprisingly infrequent action at our house, but I do succumb when I am really excited about whatever new treat I have my hands on.  This book more than qualified.

Lebovitz's latest work is a blend of memoir and cookbook. As you know from earlier this week, I had his memoir, The Sweet Life in ParisOn Reserve for quite a while. When I selected this book to read and review, I knew the time had come to read that one as well. Lebovitz, who was one of the earliest food bloggers and has become well known largely through that world, has lived in Paris as an ex-pat for ten years and has plenty of amusing stories from his adventures there. My Paris Kitchen combines those stories with recipes, artfully tying it all together.

Lebovitz offers plenty of classic French recipes. Coq au vin and buche de noel both appear, along with croque-monsieur and madelines. He offers insight into the ingredients that the French love. I actually learned a lot from his little stories, including that mustard is the condiment of choice for the French. Thanks, David Lebovitz, for doing your part in convincing my dear husband that we belong in France. 

Beyond the classic, however, Lebovitz offers a fairly wide variety of cuisines, each with a French twist. As he points out, Americans don't eat only hamburgers and apple pie. We love international cuisine and the French have come around to it as well. Of course, they tweak it to fit their tastes just as we do, and those are the recipes Lebovitz has created. I must say, I did not ever expect to find a recipe for barbecue style pork in a French cookbook, but it looks amazing!

Lebovitz talks you through each recipe very well. Unlike most French cookbooks, he offers the step-by-step guidance you need to succeed. He includes some variations and suggestions. Right from the start, he encourages readers to cook "au pif," literally, "by the nose." Each cook must adjust to their own tastes and the specific ingredients they are using. I loved that he recognized that and admits that his recipes fit his tastes and may need small changes to work in your home. 

I love to cook and feel that I have finally arrived at the place where I feel comfortable doing just that. I don't follow recipes exactly any more. I adapt to what is in our kitchen and what I know we would like. It's nice to have a cookbook on hand that follows that mindset as well. We tried the recipe for Chicken with Mustard and, while it was completely delicious, I know I will adjust some things next time to fit our specific palate.  

I have no doubt that this book will become a staple in my kitchen. Its beautiful cover already earned it a spot of prominence on the top of our bookshelf. That position lends itself to quick referencing as well. There are a lot of recipes I want to try. Some may even require me to seek out some uniquely French ingredients from the Sources page Lebovitz included in the back. I also am confident that I will read the whole thing cover to cover again before we go to France (whenever that is). The personal stories and look into French culture add so much to this book and make it a valuable resource in myriad ways. 

Pages: 352
Date Completed: June 16, 2014

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

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