It all began with Anne Willan’s book From My Chateau Kitchen in about the year 2000. I dreamed of going to France, going to cooking school, and learning to prepare good French meals. Her school did not work out, but my daughter and I were able to go to one led by Patricia Wells and I have subsequently attended several others. A photo from this cookbook will appear somewhere else in this blog. It is of the large glass ceiling market in Auxerre, Burgundy, where friends and I were shopping for fresh eggs (well, I was shopping for fresh eggs and my friends were taunting me about being so particular about EGGS) at about the same time the 9/11 attack happened in the United States…a turning point in how we experienced France and the French people.
Two of our go-to recipes are in the book pictured above by Patricia Wells. One is for a three-tomato sauce and the other is her recipe for polenta (Italian, yes, but in many ways, they are cooking neighbors).
Ina Garten, known as The Barefoot Contessa, frequently goes to Paris with her husband Jeffrey. They own an apartment there fitted with a cook’s dream kitchen. Her books, and in particular this one, are some of the staples in my cooking library. Preparing her French recipes and those of her friend and colleague Patricia Wells are the next best thing to being in France!! My well-used book opens itself to Vegetable Tian, Lemon Roasted Chicken with croutons (makes a hot mess of the oven but is oh, so good), Boeuf Bourguignon (beef stew with red wine) and Pear Claflouti.
Madeleines are tiny buttery tea cakes that are very popular in France. Baking them so the puff in just the right places and the color is even has been an elusive art for me. This year at Christmas time I baked a dozen trial and error varieties of these little goodies following the recipes in the book pictured here, making adjustments until I finally got them right. Now I am looking forward to going to a Boulangerie/Patisserie in Paris named Blé Sucre to see how the best pastry maker in Paris does them.