Goodcooking.com Cookbook Review---


Title: Chocolate and Zucchini; Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen
Author: Clotilde Dusoulier
244 pages; Softcover Photography---Glossy Color
Broadway Books, NY NY, 2007
Reviewed by, Chef John Vyhnanek, September 2007

One of Good Cooking's Best Summer 2007 Cookbook Award Winners!

The review---

The first thing you will notice when you flip through the pages of Chocolate and Zucchini are the beautiful photographs. A lot of time must have gone into these studio crafted shots. Most are close-ups with precise lighting effects. You will also notice the quality of the paper, the nice layout and the good feel the book has in the hand.

A cook book is more than its pictures and what its made of; the recipes and narrative will set its path. Here is where the author's style takes reign. Every now and then the author has scripted explanations of what she and her family like or dislike. These bits of information help with the readability and make the book enjoyable, and most of the recipes work too!

In an unusual way of picking recipes to test, I simply opened the book blindfolded and then went to 3 pages and pointed to a recipe. First was the Chicken Liver and Fig Terrine on pg. 155 -, then Zucchini Carpaccio with Raspberry Vinaigrette on pg. 92 and the Chocolate Caramel Tart on pg. 192. I didn't realize that I actually selected 2 dishes that had items in the title of the book: zucchini and chocolate!

The Chicken Liver and Fig Terrine was good and tasty and serving it in a glass jar was a cute touch. I, however, make a mousse like this first by combining many of the same ingredients with raw chicken livers and then pureeing everything in a blender. Then my mixture is strained and I bake it in a water bath, like a custard, until its firm. After cooling, I top it with aspic and refrigerate it to firm up. This process results in a smoother and creamier mousse than this recipe produces.

The zucchini carpaccio was a play on words, as we all know that carpaccio is made with very thin slices of beef tenderloin. Here the results were very nice and the dish was easy to make. As a note, raspberry vinegar can be a little acidic so you might want to add a pinch of sugar to it to cut the sharpness.

Wow---the dessert was great! What could be better, a perfect pie crust, caramel syrup and chocolate Ganache---pass the cream fraiche!

Do you want to start a French bistro? Well, if you do or know someone who does, then this book would be a good guide to some tasty items to serve. I would give a copy to my chef to use for menu planning. Why not buy it for yourself too?

Recipes tested---

TERRINE DE FOIES DE VOLAILLE AUX FIGUES

Beyond the bold gaminess of their flavors, what I love about meat terrines is that the recipes were often created to use up lesser cuts of meat, making them gloriously thrifty dishes, and a haven for underappreciated bits and pieces.

It is rare for city cooks to prepare meat terrines at home - they are so readily available from charcuteries, why would one bother - and many of them call for puzzling animal ingredients (calves' hooves, pork back fat, or even caul, the lacy membrane taken from the abdomen of a cow or sheep), the kind you have to request from your butcher tentatively, hoping he at least will know what you're talking about.

But this smooth terrine is quite simple to shop for: it uses whole chicken livers (they can be purchased fresh from the butcher's if you have access to one, or at the grocery store short of that), whose unabashedly earthy character is softened by port and plump morsels of dried figs. Served with thickly sliced toasts of crusty bread, it is a rustic-chic dish that will do well as a starter, or as part of a buffet. It is best made a day ahead, so the texture will set and the flavors will have time to develop.

1 pound fresh chicken livers
1/2 cup port wine
8 dried black mission figs
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 small shallots
1 garlic clove
1 teaspoon fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon, freshly ground black pepper

Serves 12 to 16 as a starter or buffet item (the recipe can be halved) Chilling time: 2 hours for the marinade, 6 hours for the finished terrine.

1. Rinse the livers under cold water, drain, and remove the white strands. Pat dry with paper towels. Combine the livers and port in a small salad bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours. Set a fine-mesh sieve over a second bowl and pour the livers and marinade into the sieve, reserving the marinade.

2. Wash the first bowl you used. Put the figs in the bowl, cover with hot water, and let stand as you go on with the recipe.

3. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for 3 minutes, until softened and fragrant. Add the livers, thyme, bay leaves, salt, and pepper, and cook for 4 minutes, flipping the livers halfway through, until the livers are browned on the outside, but still pink inside. Add the reserved marinade, turn the heat up to medium-high, and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until most of the liquids have evaporated and the livers are browned all over but still tender. Remove from heat, discard the bay leaves, and let cool for 5 minutes.

4. Transfer the liver mixture to a food processor and process until pureed. Add the remaining butter and pulse until smooth. Drain the figs, pat dry with paper towels, cut in 1/4-inch pieces, and fold into the liver mixture. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

5. Pack into two 1-cup glass jars, making sure there are no pockets of air. Place a small piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the terrine, close the jars tightly, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, and preferably overnight.
Bring to just under room temperature and serve. The terrine will keep for up to 4 days, chilled, its surface covered with plastic wrap.

Variations---The terrine can be made with other dried fruits, especially prunes and apricots. You can include walnuts or hazelnuts in addition to, or instead of, fruit. For a chunkier texture, reserve a few of the cooked livers before you puree the mixture: chop them roughly, and fold them in as you add the fruits or nuts.

TARTE CHOCOLAT CARAMEL

Anyone who's serious about pastry shops needs a reliable benchmark by which to judge, grade, and classify them. For some it might be the coffee eclair (the dough should be crisp but giving, the filling should have an assertive coffee flavor and not taste eggy, and the glaze should be sweet and thick but neither cloying nor sticky on the roof of your mouth) or perhaps the mille-feuille (the puff pastry should dissolve into light flakes and not feel dry or brittle, the vanilla cream should have the distinctive flavor of real beans, and the ratio of cream to pastry should be roughly two thirds, so you will make a mess eating it - that can't be helped - but won't have all the cream squish out onto your lap).

For me, the ultimate benchmark is the chocolate tart. Be it a single-serving tartlet or a slice of a larger tart, I am attentive to the quality of the ganache, which should be intensely flavored but not too thick, too soft, or too gelled, and the delicate crust, which should be sandy, and just sweet enough to tease the bitterness of the chocolate.

But for all the chocolate tarts and tartlets that I taste here and there I can never get enough, and this handsome dessert remains one of my favorites to make at home. I have experimented with many a variation, but this one, hiding a layer of salted caramel beneath the chocolate blanket, is undisputedly the most acclaimed. As you might imagine it is an indulgent affair, and a small slice is enough to fill you with a sense of deep, lip-smacking satisfaction.

Pate Sablee recipe is on page 182 in the book (or) use your favorite recipe---

For the Caramel Filling
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 tablespoon good-quality honey
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or kosher salt
1/3 cup creme fraiche or heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced, plus a pat for greasing the pan.

Serves 12 to 16 Chilling time: 30 Minutes for the dough, 40 minutes for the caramel, 1 hour for the finished tart.

1. Grease a 10-inch tart pan with butter. Prepare the Pate Sablee and line the pan as instructed. Wrap tightly with plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or up to a day.

2. Preheat the oven to 350F. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden, keeping an eye on it. Transfer to a rack to cool.

3. Prepare the caramel filling: make sure you have all the ingredients measured out before you start. Combine the brown sugar and 1 tablespoon water in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan and melt the sugar slowly over medium-low heat. Swish the pan around from time to time to ensure even melting, but don't stir. As soon as bubbles form on the surface (avoid overcooking the caramel, which would result in a bitter taste afterward), add the honey and stir to combine. Add the salt and cream and stir until blended. Remove from heat, add the butter, and stir to combine. Pour the caramel into the tart shell and tilt the pan slowly in a circular motion to coat the bottom of the shell evenly. Let set in the fridge for 40 minutes.

4. Prepare the ganache filling: put the chocolate in a medium mixing bowl, preferably stainless steel. Bring the cream to a simmer in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat. Pour half of the cream on the chocolate (cover the saucepan to keep the remaining cream warm), let stand for 20 seconds, and stir gently in the center with a whisk, gradually blending the cream with the chocolate until smooth. Add half of the remaining cream, and stir again until combined. Repeat with the remaining cream. Remove the tart pan from the fridge, pour the chocolate filling into the shell, and level the surface with a spatula. Return to the fridge to set for an hour.

5.Remove the tart from the fridge 15 minutes before serving. Cut in small slices - it is quite rich - and serve on its own, or with fresh berries. The leftovers will keep for 2 days, tightly wrapped and refrigerated.

Variations---For the classic chocolate tart, omit the caramel layer. Or, instead of caramel, line the tart shell with fruit or preserves before you pour in the ganache, or sprinkle it with cacao nibs, toasted nuts, or crushed pralines. You can add liqueur, coffee, or spices (cardamom or ground ginger) to the ganache, or infuse the cream with tea (Earl Grey and Genmaicha in particular), citrus zest, or herbs (rosemary, bergamot, basil, lavender) before you use it for the ganache.

WINE---BROADBENT NV RAINWATER MADEIRA (Portugal, Madeira, fortified white) This sweet dessert wine has a slight citrusy tartness, a great layering of flavors (fig, candied orange peel, burnt sugar, and butterscotch-caramel), and a deliciously nutty finish.