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Cookbook Review: Country Cooking of France

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Fast Review: Be your own chef de cuisine with this quintessential French classic.

The French countryside is the home of many culinary daydreams. Despite its humble origins, the food from these regions holds the fascination and respect of the world’s most acclaimed chefs. Each area, pays, contains a treasure trove of fresh ingredients and specialty foods. Anne Willan of La Varenne cooking school uses her masterpiece, The Country Cooking of France, to capture the essence of timeless dishes. Her extensive research, years of experience, and deep appreciation for the culinary trends of France make this book indispensable in any kitchen. Once you have your copy, simply start cooking to become an authority on French food!

Who’s Kitchen Would You Find It In: simple food lovers, Julia Child followers, Francophiles


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Nuts and Bolts:

The key to answering the question “Why France?’ lies in terroir. That special concept of diverse, region-specific ingredients and flavors that change with the seasons. Although the term directly translates to soil or climate, Willan considers it more romantically. She describes it as the expression of the land itself, as well as the people who live there. Perhaps no where on Earth embraces terroir with as much success (an intensity) as France.

To begin, Willan expounds the virtues of soup. Whether you are in the mood for creme, boullion, or puree, this chapter is full of nourishing suppers. Following next is “The French Touch: Frogs and Snails”. These rustic proteins were initially harvested in the many stretches of shallow freshwater throughout the country. Don’t be intimidated by odd ingredients, once treated with butter, garlic, and wine they make quite the delicacy! “Indispensable Eggs and Cheese” have their own chapter. This holds recipes for light meals and other nibbles, like how to construct the famously fragrant cheese platter.

Of course, Country Cooking of France includes all of the major porteins. Fish and shellfish, poultry, beef, veal, pork, and game meats feature in individual sections. There is even a chapter called “The French Touch” that details dishes made with innards and extremities! Chapters titled “Potatoes, Pastas, and Legumes” and “Vegetables” offer a variety of side dish options. All of those tasty meat main courses deserve the perfect accompaniment. This book has plenty of breads and cakes to tempt every home baker. Plus, desserts, ices, and treats from the orchard for a sweet finish.

Stunning color photographs by France Ruffenach grace almost every page. These are as much of an inspiration as the recipes themselves! After all, we eat with our eyes first. As an added touch of fun, there are historical tidbits about the people and places of France peppered within the chapters.

What to Make

To feel pampered: oyster fritters in Champagne batter (p. 90), pumpkin and leek soup with foie gras (p. 24), duck breast with cherries (p. 120), boudin blanc (p. 186), chanterelle mushrooms with garlic and parsley (p. 273)

For something savory: Roquefort and caramelized onion tart (p. 46), saute of chicken with forty garlic cloves (p. 115), veal chops with mustard (p. 148), leeks vinaigrette (p. 246), the real coq au vin (p. 113)

When dessert is the star: rum babas (p. 202), walnut and caramel cake (p. 300), lemon, cinnamon, and fennel seed custard (p. 313), coeur à la crème (p. 314), sorbet Normande (p. 326), tarte des demoiselles tatin (p. 345)

Country Cooking of France  is by Anne Willan. Shop all of our cookbooks here!