10 October 2009

Return to Paris


Return to Paris is really more memoir than cookbook, but it is about Paris and it has recipes so I'm fine with it.
The book begins in 1947 when a teenaged Rossant returns to Paris after spending eight years, including the difficult "war years" in Cairo, Egypt. Though she was born in Paris, she had lost touch with the city. The family cook lead her to embrace the city and the food.

Colette Rossant is a fine writer and her memoir is a heartfelt tribute to the Paris of the past. She leads us wandering down the city streets to the crémeries, pâtisseries, and markets where her descriptions of the food still bear the wondrousness of a child:
"Butter, sold by the pound, was cut with a metal string from a motte, a hill of luscious, yellow creamy butter. I was always astounded that Mme Blanchette could cut exactly a pound if this is what you wanted. The butcher and the produce stores were next on my trip; first came the butcher. Meat was displayed in the window, laid out in an organized mosaic of reds, and whites and yellows. the butcher's wife was a friend of my grandmother, who would called ahead to order the meat for dinner. As I approached the end of the street I closed my eyes while passing the horse butcher."

The recipes included are so very simple and yet they produce dishes of great complexity -- a French paradox, I suppose.

Steamed Leeks

Cut off about 2 inches from the green part of 12 leeks. Trim the tops and wash the leeks under cold running water. Drain. Place the leeks in a large skillet with 1 cup water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the leeks feel tender when pierced with a fork.

Sure, it sounds like a breeze, but the leeks are absolutely wonderful and make a great side dish to any meat. I keep trying valiantly to grow leeks, but I haven;t had much luck. This year I am determined to make it a reality, just to cook leeks for my own garden.

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