Savoy restaurant

The very first thing which appealed to me was the somewhat quirky, but highly effective method of laying out the ingredients and procedure for each recipe which typically appears on the left side of a two page spread dedicated to each dish. The translators have done a serviceable, albeit somewhat gross translation of metric measurements into familiar English units. I can't complain too much about these, as even the equivalencies in Patricia Wells' excellent books are often off by about 20%. But, in the world of savory cooking, 20% difference doesn't mean a whole lot.
The next feature that impressed me was the dual table of contents that cross-referenced all the recipes by both primary ingredient and by type of dish. This is really a very European thing, as I see it much more often in French and German books than in books written by Americans.
Other especially good features were the basic advice and basic recipe sections. The basic advice has not nearly enough content to come even close to being a tutorial on cooking, but it does include a few rare pointers centered on taking your time, paying attention to taste, and being organized. The basic recipes are not just your typical stocks and vinaigrettes,

as Monsieur Bras' recipes require several unusual pantry preparations.
There are some less common but still familiar preparations such as beurre noisette, pate brisee, pate sablee, Italian meringue, and French meringue. There are also some preparations I have never seen before such as aigo boulido, gomasio, grilled lard, huile rance, kefir, long jus, short jus, and nougatine.
Some of these preparations are simply unfamiliar names for common cooking techniques. Gomasio, for example, is simply toasted sesame seeds crushed with sea salt. Some preparations are totally familiar to every cook, yet they are generally thought of as nuisances, such as milk skin, that skin that forms on the surface of heated milk.
I should also soften my judgment that the recipes in this book are totally impractical for the home cook. There are many ideas here which, with a fair amount of practice, can turn up on your table when you entertain to impress.

Many other recipes also start with very common ingredients to give us fried bread and Mediterranean tuna with a presentation which would knock the socks off of the most jaded brunch guest. But then, the author goes off the deep end by giving us recipes requiring Banyuls sweet wine, venison, potimarron squash, demerara sugar, candied orange, and juniper berries to yield a leg of venison with licorice-like lemon puree. The presentation of this dish, like all the others, is a knockout.
The texts surrounding the recipes are a combination of childhood memories and somewhat mystical ruminations on things that inspire the chef's cooking. It does give us a look at the substance and inspirations of French haute cuisine. And, unlike Charlie Trotter's book `Raw', it is not totally impractical.

Michel Bras
Essential Cuisine
Bruce W. Marold

Like an earlier book "A Chef in Provence" by Edouard Loubet, this book is the perfect example of a foodie's coffee table decoration which will very likely never see the inside of a kitchen or suffer an olive oil stained fingerprint on any of its especially glossy pages. The main difference between Loubert and Bras' efforts are that Bras and company wastes less page space on nice pictures of Provencal gardens, hill, forests, and wildflowers among the recipes. The gallery of pretty pictures is relegated to the back of the book.
This does not mean this is a bad book. It only means that it would be a real shame for someone to buy this book under a mistaken idea about its contents. If cookbooks were mapped to magazines on building, carpentry, crafts, and hobbies, Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" would become "Fine Woodworking", Tony Bourdain's "Les Halles Cookbook" would become "Handyman", and Michel Bras' "Essential Cooking" would become "Architectural Digest". The first two are consulted for serious ideas on projects that an amateur can do at home. The latter is browsed for the pictures and the romance of very expensive venues.
The title, "Essential Cooking" gives the impression of being about basics. The book is about as far removed from being about basics as you can imagine. Unfortunately, it is also devoid of much insight about professional cooking which can be transferred to improving an amateur's cooking practice. But let me spend a few words on telling you what is good about this book.

Restaurant & recipe book review

Essential Cuisine

Featured recipe


2 kg of apples (preferably Fuji variety), 2 tbsp virgin plum oil, a pinch of salt.

Wash your apples and wipe them. Use a fruit centrifuge to extract 600 g of apple juice.

Reduce the juice by boiling it lightly to
200 g. Leave to cold.

Add virgin plum seed oil and vigorously beat. Add a pinch of salt.

Adjust ingredients (salt and virgin plum oil) if necessary for a light and fruity mixture.

You will use the dressing with shrimp, fried fish, lobster or with avocado.

Published by Editions du Rouergue
269 pages


Bras - Laguiole - Aubrac (French)
Published by Editions du Rouergue

Die Küche des Michel Bras. Phantasie & Perfektion in 85 genialen Rezepten von Michel Bras (German)
Published by Christian Verlag