My dear, poor, non French people,
Do you remember when it all started?
That exact moment when you fell in the “cauldron of magic potion”, as the French and perfect hero Obelix would say ?
I fell in love with cooking with one book. “Desserts en bande dessinée” (Dessert recipes in comic books).
My mom bought it one day and my boring wednesday afternoons (kids dind’t go to school on Wedneday in France) and never-ending summer days were over.
Whenever my brother and I didn’t know what to do (or more precisely were too tired to run after each other and fight like cats and dogs), we would open it and decide to cook un gâteau mexicain.
I’ve spent hours looking at the pages of this book, trying to imagine what it would be like to cook and taste all its recipes…
I just moved in a new house, and while I was packing all my cookbooks, I thought I had to share my favorites with you.
I tried to choose some that are available in English or at least easily found on internet, so sadly enough the Desserts en bande dessinée is not on the top 10, but you know it’s number one in my heart. Alors voilà
This is the first cookbook I ever bought.
And as you can see, it has been used, a lot !
This book was the first cooking best-seller in France.
Ginette Mathiot wrote it in the 30’s, at a time when young brides had suddenly to cook for their beloved husbands and needed to know how to feed them…
It’s very simple and direct, like an encyclopedia : ingredients, directions, et voilà.
The idea was to be able to cook everything (a version featured at some point how to cook guinea pig!).
Phaidon just published a beautiful english version of “Je sais cuisiner” and of her pastry cookbook.
Funnily enough, her relatives say that she never cooked petits plats at home : she’d rather write about it, and then go to the restaurant!
This one is the exact opposite of the first one!
I never use it on a daily basis : actually, recipes are far too three Michelin stars for me.
But they are wonderful to read about.
Michel Bras is for me the best chef ever.
I love how he can poeticly marry flavours and textures.
It’s always incredibly simple and beautiful.
Eating at his restaurant in Laguiole is one of my best souvenir.
So I love to just look at the book and dream about his Gargouillou, or his world famous coulant au chocolat, the molten chocolate cake that is now world wide famous.
I actually use another Bras’s cookbook on a daily basis.
“Petits festins et desserts” is great collection of small traditional recipes the chef likes to cook at home.
Lots of souvenirs, smells and feelings of childhood, and you can almost feel that you are linveg in Aubrac all year long.
There are also plenty of small drawings the chefs make to explain things…
But this book hasn’t been translated yet…
Michel Bras has now retired and left the restaurant to his son, Sebastien.
I highly recommend that you see the documentary “Step up to the plate”, which relates how they work together, and what “la cuisine de chez Bras” means…
Reading this blog, I’m sure you’ve come to the understanding that I really love the South-West of France cuisine.
I love it there, the cooking tradition is so generous and alive !
Christian Constant loves this region too, and shows it everyday in his three great parisian restaurants (and oui, they are on my list of the best restaurants in Paris!).
I love the way he knows how to cook traditional meals with a definite savoir-faire.
Constant is a very classically trained and awarded chef (he started as a chef in the Ritz and the Crillon) and he uses his knowledge with a deep love for terroir.
This book is about recipes but also about what you use to cook them : the best ducks, the best porks ( Ah ! Eric Ospital’s hams…) and poulets des Landes…
I had the surprise to discover this GIGANTIC book on my frontdoor last year on my birthday.
My mom had decided to send me the biggest cookbook she could find, and the great thing is it’s also totally French and perfect in its content.
“Tout est bon dans le cochon“, say my fellow Frenchmen, everything is good to eat in a pig, and this book shows it very well.
There are recipes for all things pork, among great pictures of the people who know how to raise them, kill them, and cook them!
Love seing the faces of people who are keeping the big tradition of French charcuterie…
The English version is smaller but still big, and a great way to discover charcutailles !
She is the only lady with Three Michelin stars, and one of France’s most interresting chefs.
Anne-Sophie Pic is also a mom, and knows how to cook simple and amazing daily meals.
Her collection of daily cuisine books haven’t been translated into english yet, but if you speak a little bit of French they can be easily used : there are plenty of pictures to show how to make everything.
I love how simple the books are, and teach you the most traditional recipes (Love love Les bouchées à la Reine !), as well as more modern dishes with her special touch.
There are also plenty of recipes for kids. Not the kind you make to be sure that your precious ones are going to finish their veggies (Hey, we’re French, Kids eat everything ! Most of the time…), but the kind you can make WITH your kids. Whicj is the best way to have them understand what food is, and finish their #)@# plate!
Then if you really want to read about her cooking in English, I hear her Livre Blanc has been translated, and is a little merveille.
6. En Cuisine avec Alain Passard, Christophe Blain
This is not properly a cookbook. No ingredients lists and detailed recipes. But it’s a great hommage to cooking.
This graphic novel by famous French Comic book writer Christophe Blain is the true story of his meeting with French culinary legend Alain Passard.
Alain Passard is a three Michelin star chef.
The last 10 years, he has totally changed the way he cooks at his restaurant, l’Arpège : now his cuisine is all vegetable oriented.
He has a garden in the countryside, and only cooks with what is in season and… in the garden.
I love how Christophe Blain shows his love for taste, his quest for the perfect taste actually, the perfect mix, the perfect way to display his precious finds and share it with the client.
It’s all about the love of beauty, in your palate and in your place, and a great way to understand what Haute cuisine means…
7. La grande cuisine minceur, Michel Guérard
French women don’t get fat. Of course, the whole world knows that, thanks to dear Mireille Guiliano.
But there was a time when French Grande cuisine was the best way to gain 20 pounds in a few hours.
Love of the perfect sauce and crème fraîche, added to a fierce competition to cook to impress, had made the high end restaurants a dangerous place to approach for your waistline…
And then came Nouvelle Cuisine. As revolutionary as the New Wave in cinéma, this new generation of chefs decided to go back to a leaner, closer to the product approach of cooking.
Michel Guérard is one of the fathers of Nouvelle cuisine. He actually invented his own version : la cuisine minceur. Slim cooking.
In his three Michelin stars restaurant, Les Prés d’Eugénie, he offers a high end, grande cuisine, that is actually very healthy and not calories-infused.
He was the first to try and find new ways of cooking healthy and tasty. By poaching, using a lot of spices, etc. His recipes are very inspiring!
8. 155 recettes pour mincir, Joël Robuchon
Another diet cuisine book, made by another three Michelin stars chef…
Joël Robuchon is more famous for his incredibly buttery mashed potatoes (“just” 9 ounces of butter dor 2 pounds of potatoes!), which is not particularly diet, but at some time he has had to pay attention to his figure, and has liked the challenge of trying to cook deliciously and healthy at the same time.
You can find all his influences in his great and easy recipes : mediterranean and japanese cuisine for example.
Lots of tips to understand how to cook simply and tasty, with spices, and almost no oil. And what I love abut the philosophy is that it’s not at all about dieting/starving for a moment, and then re-gaining back everything. It’s more about taking care of yourself. Gently. And beautifully.
9. Larousse de la pâtisserie / Larousse on pastry
Talk about a classic! Have a look in any French home, and you’ll find a Larousse. The classic thesaurus, “petit Larousse” has been a staple for every student for more than a century… And the cuisine dictionnaries are also must haves.
On top of the list is the world famous “Larousse Gastronomique”, the gigantic French cuisine encyclopedia, that has been translated into english. But the one I really use daily is the Larousse on Pastry.
It’s very simple, with all the basics of French pastry techniques, and traditional French recipes.
I actually mostly use their iphone and Ipad app, but it’s in French…
Ok, it might not be fair to talk about I write in, but quoi! I wish I could be always as proud as I am of writing somewhere.
180°C is a little magic of a magazine/book published every 6 month by a band of crazy food lovers.
The photos are all extremely beautiful, the layout is very classy
Bon appétit les amis!
PS: and once you’ve read them all, maybe try and consider reading mine? Very proud and happy to announce that my first cookbook, The Everything Easy French Cookbook, can already preordered. 300 easy French recipes that I hope you will love!