Steven Peterson's Reviews > Grand Livre de Cuisine: Alain Ducasse's Culinary Encyclopedia

Grand Livre de Cuisine by Alain Ducasse
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Sep 11, 2009

it was amazing
Read in January, 2008

A quotation from the Introduction, written by Jean-Francois Revel, of the Academie Francaise: "By imitating the masters, one cannot of course reach their level of perfection, but one often escapes the routine of one's own banality. You are going to discover the French art, one which has never been so alive, in the following pages. May then and from now on your dream, inspired by Alain Ducasse, direct your hands, as fallible as they may be!" Rather edgy, I think, but probably accurate.

First, this is a thousand page volume, genuinely a Culinary Encyclopedia, pulled together by a team of chefs under famed chef, Alain Ducasse. There are some wild elements to it, such as lobster recipes from page 422 through page 491 (almost 70 pages worth of lobster works!). Some nice features at the close of this volume: a glossary of terms, some basic recipes (consomme, stocks, jellies, juices, etc.), serving quantities associated with different dishes, and a seasonal table of meats, vegetables, fruits.

Second, though, it's the recipes that make this book fascinating. Here, I'll say it at the outset. There are some (many, even most) recipes here that I would never try. I'm too impatient and don't know all the skills needed for some of the dishes. Take, for example, Wild Roasted Hare Saddle. The process of preparation and cooking is complex--from cutting up the hare and reserving its lungs, kidneys, heart, etc. Next, each segment of the recipe is complex, with steps one does not usually experience, such as shredding the hare's shoulders with pliers. You create a sauce, with a first and a second thickener, plus a garnish for the finale. I imagine that this would be delicious when eaten, but I get exhausted looking at the process of preparation.

However, there are some recipes that seem like they are doable and would be fun and taste good. Acacia Blossom Fritters for one. You begin with a bunch of acacia flowers and then create a fritter batter Put the acacia flowers in the batter and fry in grapeseed oil. Looks tasty!

This is an absolutely massive volume, and even though many recipes won't get into my household's menus, they are enchanting to read. For one thing, I admire the work of the team that would put these dishes together in a restaurant. For another, it makes me appreciate more what goes into the work of a "starred" restaurant.

So, even though the bulk of these recipes don't fit my modus operandi of cooking, I will try some and will appreciate what goes into fine dishes more than I ever did before.
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