Ducasse Flavors of France book review cookbook

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Ducasse Flavors of France Heart

Reviewed By

Sue Dyson and Roger McShane

When the only chef ever to gain the coveted three Michelin stars at two restaurants simultaneously puts out a cookbook then the food world sits up and takes notice.
Having eaten his food in a number of his restaurants, we were worried that the recipes would be inaccessible and overly complex for the lay cook to even contemplate. Nothing could be further from reality.
In producing this book, Ducasse has taken great efforts to ensure that the techniques and the ingredients are appropriate to the environment they are aimed at - namely the home kitchen.
The recipes in the book are divided along the traditional lines of aperitifs, vegetables, fish, meat then desserts. There is also the standard section at the back for the basic techniques for making stocks and sauces.
The very first recipe gives you the confidence to explore further. Fennel marmalade is a simple yet refreshing garnish to be served on small pieces of toast - ideal for walking around the garden with a glass of pastis prior to a long summer lunch!
A multi-layered omelette sees five thin omelettes with different ingredients providing varying colours and textures, stacked on each other and then served in bite-sized pieces.
Having tasted his stunning spring vegetable dish at two of his restaurants, we delved into the Vegetables section with anticipation. A wonderful broccoli soup with a crème fraiche froth starts the offerings. Further on is a perfectly simple recipe for potato gnocchi. This is one of those recipes that relies almost solely on technique. Good gnocchi is a rarity in restaurants.
When reading his recipes, however, it is always a good idea to remember that many of the flavours that remain with us long after we have left France are because he only uses the finest, purest and freshest ingredients. Therefore, don't even attempt the tart of young lettuces and tomato confit unless you have perfect, field-ripened tomatoes and lovely young lettuce.
Moving on to the seafood section we find many of the recipes including citrus flavours so reminiscent of the Provence area. One in particular, the sea bream with orange ‘daube of beef' sauce is a triumph of flavours.
In the meat section, some of the recipes require many ingredients, however apart from fresh black truffles, most of them are readily available in specialty greengrocers throughout the world.
The sautéed veal chops with a blanquette of vegetables is a classic and the roast chicken is demanding but worth the results.
In the Dessert section we were particularly taken by the technique for the roast pineapple dessert even though the photograph does not match the technique described in the recipe on the facing page. Similarly, a lemon tartlet with orange chips asks you to remove the rind and pith but the photograph shows them retained. Nevertheless the recipe itself is wonderful.
Many recipes are accompanied by recommended wine styles. Mercifully, in keeping with Ducasse's philosophy (for which he has been heavily criticised within France), the recommendations include wines from Italy, California, South Africa and Australia as well as some of the lesser known regions of France such as Bellet and Cotes de Provence.
Overall, this is a great book setting down the ideas of a great chef. Linda Dannenberg has managed to simplify and clarify the thoughts of Ducasse without losing the essence of his passion for produce.
Ducasse Flavors of France
Alain Ducasse with Linda Dannenberg
Published by Artisan in 1998
ISBN 1-57965-107-0

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