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Pros - excellant French menues and recipes
Cons - Dry writing, and experienced recipe level
By Pamela Grant
I have been reviewing for Cheftalk.com for several years now, and this is the first book I have received to review that I had a hard time getting through. I love to read cookbooks. Especially those with the tidbits of other interesting information sandwiched in between the recipes and menus, have interest for me. This book started off slow and just dragged along for me all the way through. I fear, Food & Friends by Simone Beck, is not going to be one of my favorite books.
The first thing that I found a little upsetting was the front cover. The first bold type clearly visible is the name Julia Child, as though she were the book’s author. In truth, Author Simone Beck (A.K.A. Simca) is this book’s author and Julia Child merely wrote an introduction to the book. For those of you not familiar with Simone Beck she is a long time friend of Julia Child and the coauthor of Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
I was anxious to read this book because it has a lot of history of the authors’ life in France and the time she spent with Julia Child during the early years of Julia’s food career. I found that my mind stumbled and struggled over the reading and mental pronunciation of all the French towns and places mentioned in the book. The begins in 1911, which places the author at 7 years old and goes from there to explain a rather tedious childhood surrounded by family and nanny’s and genealogy of her family back into several generations.
Eventually, the book does get into recipes and menus. Each menu item had an accompanying recipe to go with it. The recipes are wonderful mostly old world style French cooking at its finest. Plenty of heavy cream, butter, fresh ingredients and spices we have all come to love about the French cuisine. Warning…these recipes are not for the beginning cook. They use some rather advanced techniques and assume some general cooking knowledge. The recipes are peppered throughout the 500 pages of this book but the story surrounding the recipes is what , for me, made this book hard to read. The author goes into much detail and conversation that has little significance to the overall story line of the book. The dry reading coupled with my difficulty with the frequent French language usage made this book for me an almost insurmountable task. I found myself flipping through pages to find the recipe sections, and bypassing the story altogether. How sad , as I am sure this fine lady has a truly incredible story to tell. I however was just not able to “get into it”.
In short, I cannot recommend this book to anyone if your looking to find a good read, however if you are willing to sift through the drivel, there are many many many wonderful French recipes located within its pages. The trick is to find them. Good Luck in your adventure to find the diamond in this rough.
Mousse a L’orange et au Cointreau
(Orange Mousse with Cointreau)
2 large fresh Oranges
10 eggs, separated
1 ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
½ cup Cointreau or other good orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier
2 ½ cups heavy cream
Fresh mint leaves
Using a vegetable peeler, remove the rind of the oranges and the lime, being sure not to remove the pith (white part), which is very bitter. Parboil the rind for 5 minutes, then change the water and repeat, for 10 min. Refresh under cold tap water and dry carefully. Mince the rind very fine, and reserve.
Beat egg yolks vigorously with half the sugar over hot water, to poach them slightly. When the sugar is dissolved, stir in the minced rind and liqueur, and remove from heat.
Prepare a syrup with the remaining sugar and ½ cup water, boiling until the “ thread” stage is reached. At the same time, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt. When the egg whites reach the Chantilly (“soft peaks”) stage, gradually pour the syrup into the whites, continuing to beat vigorously until thick and shiny. Fold in the egg yolk-rind mixture.
Whip the heavy cream over ice cubes to the Chantilly stage, then fold the Chantilly into the other mixture.
Line a charlotte mold with buttered parchment paper and fill with the mousse. Place in the freezer for about 3 hours.
Serve unmolded, garnished with mint leaves.