Guide Culinaire? In 2021?

Joined Mar 22, 2017
Hey all,

I want to improve on the French classics. Got 10 pounds of veal bones ordered to make demi glace next weekend, and plenty of homemade stock in the freezer. But that's not enough. I want to produce dishes that would make Escoffier smile upon me from heaven.

What I need is guidance! What's the recommended textbook to learn the French fundamentals in this day and age? Guide Culinaire? Robuchon? Institut Paul Bocuse? Larousse Gastronomique? I am quite overwhelmed with the plethora of "ultimate guides" to French cuisine.

To be perfectly clear, I am not asking this to be spared any expense or effort, but to get the most out of the produce and time I sacrifice, using updated, modern techniques. Open to modernist stuff as well.

Looking forward to any input!
Joined Jun 7, 2021
This site - lists the best French references. I personally like no# 1 on the list.

Remember, demi glace is a collagen rich stock made from veal bones, tomato, and Espagnole sauce. The veal bones are simmered long enough to render out the marrow, and dissolve the collagen, and calcium. The bones should first be roasted until browned, to create the Maillard reaction, enhancing the flavor. A pressure cooker will reduce simmering time of the bones from an all day process to an hour.

Demi glace is used as a flavorful meat glaze, or as a component of other daughter sauces such as Chasseur sauce, Bordelaise, and many others. It's also used to add rich flavor to soups, and stews.

Seeeeya; Chief Longwind of the North
Joined Sep 21, 2010
Here's a couple of threads with recs on the best French cookbooks:

The thread on regional French cuisine includes a link to an online library of out-of-print or difficult to find older books. I found them very interesting. Some were in French and were excellent references. I speak French, though google translate could help those who don't.

I have the big Bocuse, a few Roux, a Pepin that's more modern, and lots more. I just moved to a new place, and when packing my books, I noticed I have so many French (& a few Quebecois) cookbooks, all very heavy lol. There's no way I could leave any of them beind. Also, don't disrgard Keller's French Laundry, which is based in classic French technique..

There's a recent and detailed thread on demi-glace here, too. I personally use Keller's style in French Laundry, which holds closely to Escoffier's method. I also make Tonkotsu broth using some of the same techniques, because both demi-glace and tonkotsu are essential for that gelatin mouth feel and body, and a neutral, rather than rich flavour, in my opinion. I'll make big, time-consuming batches and freeze cubes for later use.

There are members here with a lot of experience and knowledge on French cookbooks & cuisine, I'm sure they'll chime in here with their advice.
Joined Oct 31, 2012
I like James Peterson's "Sauces" book but I'll suggest you read several source recipes like Escoffier and the others to get an overall idea of the process and to contrast and compare. See the similarities and differences from each source. If possible, have several source books open at the same time on a large table to make comparison easier. It is more important to understand the process and desired end result than it is to follow someone else's exact recipe.
Once you have done that, most important though is to simply make some. Take notes on what you did so you can review and improve. Then make some more.
I will say that a good Demi is dark and very rubbery when cool. It isn't brown. but almost or nearly black, It does not look like thick brown gravy, which is why it is often referred to as black gold.
A long simmer and skimming to remove the impurities and then fine straining at the end.
According to Jacque Pepin's autobiography, it was common practice in French kitchens for sauciers to make more than needed and sell the extra to make a few dollars.
For storage at home an ice cube tray is useful for freezing small amounts. You don't need much per dish so an ice cube size makes using easier.
Btw, good for you for making it. It is considered too time consuming and difficult for many these days but I think Demi is one of the best ways to understand and appreciate time honored advanced cooking processes. And as Chef Longwind noted, it is the mother of many other sauces. With a fresh batch of Demi your cooking can really shine.
Joined Mar 22, 2017
Thank you guys for your recommendations! It will take some time for me to get an overview over the recommended source material, and I guess then I'll just order one to start somewhere.

I've previously done a larger batch of Chef John's Demi, with, at least to me, great success. Finished the rest last night, so perfect timing I suppose.

In my experience, ice cube trays are a bit fiddly and messy with amounts larger than a liter or two, so I actually switched to silicone muffin forms. Can recommend!
Joined Mar 22, 2017
OK so sorry to kinda hijack my own thread, but as none of the books I ordered (Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making, Essentials of Cooking, Concise Larousse Gastronomique (do I have to worry about the addition of concise?)) have arrived so far, I was wondering whether someone could share a recipe for Demi. ATM, I've got a brown sauce on the stove, cooking overnight. I think, at least, that it is a brown sauce. There are just too many recipes out there,

Also, if I understand you correctly, I shouldn't rely on Escoffier as much, but rather Keller, Perterson, Librairie Larousse or David?
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Joined Sep 5, 2008
Also, if I understand you correctly, I shouldn't rely on Escoffier as much, but rather Keller, Perterson, Librairie Larousse or David?
It all depends on what you mean by "rely on"??

If you want to learn to play rock music, should you "rely on" the Rolling Stones as much? Or rather the Foo Fighters, the White Stripes, U2, Muse or Rage Against the Machine?

I think you're overthinking it (I can relate, I tend to overthink everything as well). Just get one or two books, study them, get a couple more, study those, go back to the first two, compare them, see what you enjoy better, etc. There's no absolute.

(PS: I have read and cooked from Keller, Escoffier, the Larousse, and many others)

(PPS: the book that best lays down classic French cooking for 2021 cooking in my opinion is the one that is being taught in French cooking schools today: La Cuisine de Référence by Michel Maincent Morel)
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