January 8, 2004
Introducing the most beautiful cookbooks of all times : Le Grand Livre de Cuisine d'Alain Ducasse and his little brother Le Grand Livre de Cuisine d'Alain Ducasse - Desserts et Pâtisseries, both generous Christmas gifts from my parents.
Alain Ducasse, for those of you who may not be familiar with the character, is one of the greatest (and probably richest) French chefs of this era. A creative genius, he owns and operates restaurants in New York, Monaco and Paris, and also runs a cooking school. I can't imagine how busy his life must be, but he reportedly manages to take part in all the decisions - large or small - that concern his business.
And these books you see here, ladies and gentlemen, these books contain The Knowledge. In it, Ducasse shares the recipes he has elaborated and perfected over the 25 years of his career. Targeted at professionals, the first volume has over 700 (yes, seven hundreds) savory recipes, while the second one offers the key to more than 250 desserts and pâtisseries.
The recipes are organized in alphabetical order of starred ingredient, making for the most enchanting inventory. Each recipe is described in fascinatingly intricate and precise detail, sometimes with diagrams even, and generally on two pages. Notes on finishing touches and plating are included, illustrated by splendid pictures. The section on asparagus alone is enough to make you dizzy. And the one on chocolate? You've never seen anything like it.
Both books also include a wealth of information at the end, with sections on basic techniques, as well as ingredients, their seasonality and how to select them.
Of course, a lot of these recipes call for sovereign ingredients, truffle shavings and lobster galore, but some of them are breathtakingly simple, and they are all a goldmine of inspiration, lending themselves to inventive - and thrifty - adaptation. Some of them would also require a professional kitchen and a staff of three or four commis, but I find it of the utmost interest to learn how the real guys work, and what it takes to bring three-star restaurant food to life.
This is not, as you might have guessed, the kind of book you flick through, standing in the kitchen, hip resting at the counter, wondering idly what to make for dinner. This is rather a food art book, the kind you cuddle up with on a cold Sunday afternoon, balancing it on your lap, with a hot cup of tea and a stack of your faithful mini page-marker stickies, embarking on an incredible vicarious gastronomic journey, dreaming, exclaiming, and building a rather ravenous appetite.
Just writing about these books makes me all tingly inside, and I encourage you to visit the mini feature presentations on Alain Ducasse's website. Get a glimpse of these jewels, truly understand my infatuation, and start saving - or lobbying for an english translation! (Which I would just love to take part in, by the way.)
I had planned on saying that these were the last cookbooks I would ever need, it would have been a nice tag line, but, ahem, I've already bought two others since, so I guess I can't really say that.
The French Market Cookbook
5 Ingredients 10 Minutes: A Giveaway!
An Everlasting Meal: The Onion Tale