Tidbits Reviews – French Feasts
French Feasts — 299 Traditional Recipes for Family Meals and Gatherings by Stéphane Reynaud (Stewart, Tabori & Chang) $49.95
I’m always attracted to cookbooks of unusual size be they palm-sized or tome-like. There’s just something particularly surreal about them. One wonders how the author can possibly pack enough useful recipes into either size. French Feasts, being quite large in girth, fits neatly into the latter category. The colourful cover featuring thumbnail photos of mouthwatering fare and contented folk draws me in for a closer look. The first thing I notice is the feel of the cover, itself. It’s soft, like a pillow. Is it forewarning me? If I eat enough of these classic meals will I, too, become a cream puff? No matter. It’s impossible to resist the temptation. In any case, lifting this 480 page cookbook will provide me with ample opportunities to flex my muscles.
French Feasts is made up of recipes culled from all over France. It covers the whole gamut from appetizer to dessert, along with humorous drawings and traditional songs thrown in for good measure. Raynaud provides the francophile with all the necessary components to create his or her own “rip-roaring French feast.” Nowadays, it seems that everyone’s doing charcuterie. Perhaps in honour of that obsession, Raynaud provides 33 pages worth of recipes and full-page colour photos of a whole variety of patés, terrines, jambon cru and foie gras.
I did find some of the recipes a little bit tough to swallow. The Pig’s Head Salad, for example, would be hard for the average person to duplicate. The recipe is not at all difficult, but it does require one to hunt for a butcher who is able to supply a deboned and ready to cook pig’s head and tongue. If there’s a good butcher near you who carries, or is at least willing to order, animal parts not commonly sold to the general public, then by all means, try this recipe. I was relegated to trying those that did not require such Herculean efforts, like chicken liver parfait and Filet of Beef in a Pastry Case with Mushrooms. My main criticism, though, is with the directions given for the recipes. The cooking time given for the Beef in Pastry was off by a lot. Perhaps it’s the only recipe with that problem. Perhaps I’m the only one who doesn’t prefer my beef tenderloin to emerge from the oven almost completely rare. I ended up putting it back into the oven for another 30 minutes, and enjoyed it at medium doneness.
From the simple to the elaborate, Raynaud offers the adventurous cook something really different — an opportunity to indulge at home in all of those classic French dishes that would cost loads of money at a restaurant.
Duck À L’Orange
3 duck breasts
1 Tbsp honey
3/4 cup soy sauce
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
2-1/2 Tbsp butter
1. Start the prep for this dish one day before serving. Slash the fatty side of the duck breats in a crisscross pattern (the flesh should show through).
2. Take the zest from two of the oranges and the juice from three. Mix the juice with the zest, cinnamon, honey and soy sauce. Reserve 1 orange.
3. Place the duck breasts in a dish, skin side up, and pour the orange marinade over them. Chill for 24 hours.
4. Pan fry the duck, skin side down, for 10 minutes on a gentle heat; the fat needs to render and brown. Drain off the fat and return the breasts to the pan. Peel and segment the remaining orange.
5. Add the orange segments and half the marinade to the pan, and let reduce for 5 minutes. Remove the meat and whisk in butter to make a sauce to serve with the duck.
Enjoy with a Rully Blanc.