Stephane Reynaud: French Feasts

Always with excitement do I open a cookbook by Stephane Reynaud.

Having read and re-read and then tested his book
Pork and Sons, I was eager to find out what his new book was all about.

French Feast (Stewart Tabori & Chang 2009) is not your regular cookbook: it is a memoir, a recipe book, and an homage to French culture and traditions.

The book, 500 pages long with lovely photographs and illustrations, is the type of book to put next to your night table and read a few pages before going to sleep and to dream of marvelous feasts.

It includes portraits of famous and not-so-famous cooks — mainly friends of Stephane’s, with whom he has either spent time exchanging ideas or cooking together for holiday meals. He has a fun essay on Jean Foillard, who makes excellent fruity Beaujolais “Gamay,” which Stephane pairs with some of his freshly made pork sausages. He also discusses the best Beaujolais available. Or read about Helene and Nene, who run a restaurant in the Camargues region, where Stephane rhapsodies on their crab dish, whole-baked garlic, and drinking champagne. You will find yourself at your computer, looking for a reasonably priced plane ticket to whisk you to France next day.

The book has pen and ink drawings of how to carve a duck, easy drawings about how to make your own preserves, and funny cartoons of Guignol (a traditional French children’s puppet). When you make the recipe for Braised Beef with Carrots (p. 184, he even suggests a song from the Moulin Rouge (p. 178), to sing while you cook. And if you have ever wanted to raise sheep, Stephane lets you know what sheep you should raise and how to spin wool.

But what about recipes?

The recipes are very clearly written and are often quite easy to make. I tried and loved his chicken liver pate. His recipe for eggs baked with Roquefort is scrumptious. I tried the recipe for potatoes and black olives: wonderful! But best was a “Soup au Pistou” (a soup with a pesto sauce) (p. 118), which brought sunshine to a gray winter day.

If you love food and are curious about other culture, this book is a must.

RECIPE: Soupe au Pistou

1 ½ cups navy beans
3 cups thin string beans cut in small pieces
1 1/2 cups snow peas diced
2 potatoes peel and diced
2 carrots peel and diced
3 onions peel and diced
3 1/2 ounces spaghetti cut in small pieces
Salt and pepper

For the sauce:
1 bunch fresh basil
3 garlic cloves
1/3-cup pine nuts
¾ cup finely grated Parmesan
¾ cup olive oil
2 tomatoes peeled, diced and seeded

Rinse the navy beans. Place all the vegetables and beans in a large saucepan. Cover with twice their volume of water, bring to as boil and simmer for an hour. Then add the spaghetti and cook for an additional 15 minutes.
Make the sauce.
Crush all the ingredients in a mortar and pestle until it form a paste. The gradually add the olive oil. And the tomatoes salt and pepper to taste and mix well. Serve pipping hot with the pistou sauce and a crisp baguette.

(From Stephane Reynaud ‘s French Feasts)

(Photo of Stephane Reynaud by kattebelletje on Flickr)

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