Long before anyone on this side of the Atlantic was devoted to eating seasonally and locally, the French were doing precisely that, just as they had been for centuries. Although the high-end haute cuisine of Paris exported itself far and wide many decades ago, the varied regional cooking styles of France continue to reveal themselves to the world and dazzle those fortunate enough to experience them firsthand. Williams-Sonoma's "Essentials of French Cooking" takes you on a meandering food lover's tour of France, from the windswept coastline of Brittany, where the lamb tastes of the salty fields on which it grazes, southward through Gascony, with its bracing Armagnac and rib-sticking cassoulet, to the delicious fish stews of Marseilles and the Mediterranean, and back up through Burgundy, where the wine flows from some of the world's greatest vineyards and the local Dijon mustard makes a perfect sauce for the local rabbit. In these pages you'll also explore the fascinating intersections of culture and gastronomy in Alsace, where potatoes, cabbage, and beer lend a Germanic heft to the traditional menu; sunny Provence, where dishes made with tomatoes, garlic, olives, and basil link its cooking to that of neighboring Italy; and the Basque country, where Spanish flavors and Moorish spices like saffron and cumin have seeped over the Pyrenees. In addition to presenting a wide range of traditional, regional main dishes to build meals around, this collection of more than 140 carefully selected recipes covers a full range of courses and techniques, from silky baked farm-fresh eggs to brilliantly simple preparations for every season's vegetables through the most luxurious chocolate creams and satisfying rustic fruit tarts. And while "terroir" plays an undeniable role in this cuisine, true French cooking is comfort food for family and friends, which translates everywhere. A comprehensive glossary and a section on basic stocks and sauces help you fill your pantry with the authentic elements and bring one of the world's most admired cuisines home to your table.
Georgeanne Brennan, a noted cookbook author, is a recipient of both a James Beard Award and a Julia Child Award. She divides her time between her small farm in Northern California and her home in Provence, where she has a seasonal cooking school.