For the past two weeks I’ve been living like a bachelor, working in the city during the weekdays while my wife and son spent some time away at the cabin. As mentioned previously, I should not be left alone with myself. On my own, all proper thoughts of nutrition and culinary propriety leave my head and it’s not hard to find me eating a dinner of cornflakes and nacho chips at 11:30 in the evening (yes, I actually did this). This probably comes as a surprise to anyone who has been to a restaurant with me or been a dinner guest at Upper Fort Stewart. Excepting my unholy love of gravy (can’t make poutine without it!), I think it’s well known, I love fine food.
Anyway, all this digestive abuse has reminded me how much I love my old out of print copy of Everyday French Cooking by Henri Paul Pellaprat. Printed in 1968, it’s described in the introduction as being something like a primer on basic french cooking for the American house wife. For the American house wife? Where’s Beav and Wally with my Apron? Whatever, I love it. This, for me, is cooking orthodoxy. Whenever I follow a recipe from this book I produce a simple, almost platonic, meal that just tastes the way one thinks it should have tasted always. That’s an accomplishment. But it’s hard to expect less when the author was a professor at le Cordon Bleu, the MIT or Harvard of cooking schools, for over forty years.
My favorite recipes: Pellaprat’s simple Roast Chicken. Beef Bourguignon. Baked Eggs. Simple stuff that tastes perfect.
Most terrible sounding recipe that I long to try: Smothered Rabbit. That “widdle wabbit” was a monster, judge, he deserved it!
Recipe I just won’t ever make: Braised Sweetbreads Jardinière. Sweetbreads is guts.
If you ever get a chance to pick up this book, do it (you can buy it used from Amazon). It will increase your confidence in the kitchen, teach you something about cooking, and probably make for some great nights entertaining. Plus, it’s old looking, and does not have Rachel Ray on the cover. That always helps.
You know, somehow, I suspect Mssr. Pellaprat would not be amused by late night cornflakes and nacho chips.