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best cookbooks for learning french and italian cooking

Discussion in 'Social Life, Food & Drink, Travel' started by GQgeek, Sep 7, 2006.

  1. GQgeek

    GQgeek Senior member

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    I'd like one for french and one for italian since those are my two favorite cuisines. I need books that cover technique in a thorough manner and not just a bunch of recipes.

    For french the choices seem to be Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child or the Larousse Gastronomique. I'm sure a lot of people will say both, but I just ordered several hundred dollars worth of cookware so i want to take it easy; i still have to buy food ;p Is one better than the other for learning technique? And is there something comparable to those works for italian cooking?
     
  2. horton

    horton Senior member

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    For French, the Bocuse (sp?) book -- I forget title -- is tough to beat. If you love to cook you'll want to read it from cover to cover. Be sure to read the into though as they'll provide explanation, e.g., Bocuse recommends larding certain meat because in France it is leaner; in U.S. you won't need to lard.

    If you can handle that book, the next leap is to Kellher (sp?) French Laundry, which is not meant for beginners or novices (other than for the pictures).
     
  3. DocHolliday

    DocHolliday Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    This may not be quite as specific as you're looking for, but the one cooking book I consider truly indispensable is Anne Willan's "La Varenne Pratique." It's huge, beautiful and contains most every cooking technique you'll ever need, all illustrated in full color.

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg...73830?v=glance
     
  4. chorse123

    chorse123 Senior member

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    For french the choices seem to be Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child


    We have a winner! [​IMG] Yes, this is what you want.
     
  5. pejsek

    pejsek Senior member

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    The one book you--and everyone else!--really needs is Edouard de Pomiane's French Cooking in Ten Minutes. First published in 1930, it's a fun and witty book that takes the charge of its title seriously. Amazon has excerpts up on its site. I really can't recommend it highly enough. Elizabeth David's books on French and Italian cooking are also very good. Like Edouard de Pomiane, she's a great writer who really gets to the core of things in an economical way. I'd also put in a word for Waverly Root and his large book, The Food of France, and his even larger one, The Food of Italy. These aren't really cookbooks as much as travelogue, history, and descriptions of food, but they really put it together so you understand how and why the people of these various regions cook things the way they do.
     
  6. Edward Appleby

    Edward Appleby Senior member

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    I'd like one for french and one for italian since those are my two favorite cuisines. I need books that cover technique in a thorough manner and not just a bunch of recipes.

    For french the choices seem to be Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child or the Larousse Gastronomique. I'm sure a lot of people will say both, but I just ordered several hundred dollars worth of cookware so i want to take it easy; i still have to buy food ;p Is one better than the other for learning technique? And is there something comparable to those works for italian cooking?

    The Gastronomique, while a fascinating volume that makes great reading with a cup of tea, is not exactly didactic. Still, I highly recommend it.
     
  7. LabelKing

    LabelKing Senior member

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    How about Auguste Escoffier's original, The Complete Guide to the Art of Modern Cookery?

    This is seminal material.
     
  8. acidboy

    acidboy Senior member

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    for italian, i think 'the silver spoon' (phaidon) is complete.
     
  9. Stax

    Stax Senior member

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    For technique, the best cookbook out there, hands down, is the The Essentials of Cooking by James Peterson. It covers over 250 core techniques and recipies. It includes tons of photos, as well.
     
  10. alflauren

    alflauren Senior member

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    If you have a week or two on your hands, there's always the Ritz school in Paris. You can take their cooking course one week at a time, and get a certificate after completing all parts of the 6-week series.
     
  11. GQgeek

    GQgeek Senior member

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    If you have a week or two on your hands, there's always the Ritz school in Paris. You can take their cooking course one week at a time, and get a certificate after completing all parts of the 6-week series.

    That would certainly be interesting. It's not in the cards in the immediate future though ;p

    I bought Mastering the Art of French Cooking and Joy of Cooking last night. Mastering is great. I read through a few chapters and it really makes everything easy to understand. It's very clear and concise, unlike a lot of cookbooks I've looked at in the past. You never have to guess what they mean.

    Once I've made some headway in to that, I'll definitely be getting The French Laundry. It's an absolutely gorgeous book, but right now I think the recipes are a bit out of my reach so I'll wait until I've got some experience before attempting any of them.

    As for Escoffier, I'll probably get it eventually but for learning the basics I couldn't be happier with MtAoFC, plus it has new techniques for old recipes, like a foolproof way to do Hollandaise in a food processor, which will be helpful when I go back to Escoffier. The really cool thing however is that it suggests you learn the "old-fashioned" way because every good cook needs to become intimately familiar with the properties of eggs and how they react to different techniques.

    I can't wait till my pots and pans get here! I cooked cheap supermarket steak yesterday and it was rare in the center and well-done around the edges...
     
  12. tattersall

    tattersall Senior member

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    for italian, i think 'the silver spoon' (phaidon) is complete.
    Got this book last Christmas and have made many dishes from it - an excellent book with many simple receipts. Also for Italian, the River Cafe (in London) series is worth a look.
     
  13. esquire.

    esquire. Senior member

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    It really depends on what type of french and italian cooking you like to eat. There's a big difference between classical french cooking with its heavy sauces vs. nouvelle french cuisine just like there's a big difference between french haute cuisine vs. bistro food vs. hearty food of the countryside you'd find in Provence.Your book choice should recognize that as there's not one single book that can effectively teach you all those different styles.

    For example, LabelKing's suggestion, Escoffier wrote back in the early 1900s and he's a source you'd use if you were more interested in classical french cooking. I haven't read Julia Child's work, but I would believe she would also fall into the category of more classical french cooking. Personally, I don't know if I'd want to eat that much classical french food with all that butter every day at home. And, I wouldn't even bother with the expensive Larousse Gastronomique- its really for a hardcore chef; its more of an encyclopedia than a teaching tool or cookbook. For example, here's a typical entry:

    "CAT - Domestic cat whose edible meat has a flavour halfway between that of rabbit and that of hare. Cat's meat has often been eaten in periods of famine or siege. Legend has it that in the cook-shops the cat is often used in the making of rabbit fricasses. Examination of the bones would easily enable one, in case of doubt, to distinguish between the one animal and the other."

    Like I said, LG is encyclopedic. I wouldn't even be surprised if they had an entry on MAN as well.

    If you really like Julia Child, then you should also try Marcella Hazan for Italian cooking. The similarities are pretty eerie. They were both women who didn't show that much interest in cooking until they were married and had to learn how to cook for their husbands. What Julia Child did to French cooking, Hazan did to Italian cooking. Before Hazan, the American perception of italian food was limited to spaghetti and pizza. She popularized balsmic vinegar among other things.
     
  14. romafan

    romafan Senior member

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    It really depends on what type of french and italian cooking you like to eat. There's a big difference between classical french cooking with its heavy sauces vs. nouvelle french cuisine just like there's a big difference between french haute cuisine vs. bistro food vs. hearty food of the countryside you'd find in Provence.Your book choice should recognize that as there's not one single book that can effectively teach you all those different styles.

    For example, LabelKing's suggestion, Escoffier wrote back in the early 1900s and he's a source you'd use if you were more interested in classical french cooking. I haven't read Julia Child's work, but I would believe she would also fall into the category of more classical french cooking. Personally, I don't know if I'd want to eat that much classical french food with all that butter every day at home. And, I wouldn't even bother with the expensive Larousse Gastronomique- its really for a hardcore chef; its more of an encyclopedia than a teaching tool or cookbook. For example, here's a typical entry:

    "CAT - Domestic cat whose edible meat has a flavour halfway between that of rabbit and that of hare. Cat's meat has often been eaten in periods of famine or siege. Legend has it that in the cook-shops the cat is often used in the making of rabbit fricasses. Examination of the bones would easily enable one, in case of doubt, to distinguish between the one animal and the other."

    Like I said, LG is encyclopedic. I wouldn't even be surprised if they had an entry on Man as well.

    If you really like Julia Child, then you should also try Marcella Hazan for Italian cooking. The similarities are pretty eerie. They were both women who didn't show that much interest in cooking until they were married and had to learn how to cook for their husbands. What Julia Child did to French cooking, Hazan did to Italian cooking. Before Hazan, the American perception of italian food was limited to spaghetti and pizza. She popularized balsmic vinegar among other things.


    I like the green M. Hazan book ('The Essentials of Italian Cooking'?). A friend once saw her in a restaurant: she was eating corned beef and drinking bourbon (w/ a lit cigarette in the ashtray)!
     
  15. Fabienne

    Fabienne Senior member

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    Don't buy anything yet. Go to your local library, get the Larousse gastronomique, the Escoffier if they have it, a bunch of others on French and Italian cuisine, and try them for a while. See what fits your style and needs best.

    I do that with various cuisines, and if a book has repeatedly excellent recipes, I buy it. This does not happen very often.
     
  16. GQgeek

    GQgeek Senior member

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    Don't buy anything yet.

    Too late. What I bought were safe bets though. Right now I'm more interested in technique than any particular recipe. However that's a good suggestion for the future when my focus becomes more specific.

    It really depends on what type of french and italian cooking you like to eat. There's a big difference between classical french cooking with its heavy sauces vs. nouvelle french cuisine just like there's a big difference between french haute cuisine vs. bistro food vs. hearty food of the countryside you'd find in Provence.Your book choice should recognize that as there's not one single book that can effectively teach you all those different styles.

    I agree, but I think Child's book (and it's definitely classical) will be great for learning and that's all I'm trying to do right now. Once I get good I'll start trying the sorts of things I like to eat at restaurants. A lot of the best restaurants these days tend to be a fusion of different cuisines so I'll learn the basics first and then worry about the fun stuff. The French Laundry is the direction I'd ultimately like to head in though. I was salivating just flipping through the pages.
     
  17. horton

    horton Senior member

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    How about Auguste Escoffier's original, The Complete Guide to the Art of Modern Cookery?

    This is seminal material.


    That is just recipes and doesn't cover technique etc. as requested in original post.

    I checked on my earlier suggestion. It's Paul Bocuse, French Cooking. I hope it's still in print.

    That is the place to start if you're already serious and at least a novice cook.

    You can't beat it for technique, e.g., cook hare while the blood is till warm, etc.

    It's only shortcoming is it's too french not accounting for US food product versus continental differences
     
  18. countdemoney

    countdemoney Senior member

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    I very much enjoyed and used Anne Willans "Perfect Pasta" when I first learned to cook. Covers all the basic Italian pasta dishes and how to make them. Numerous photos and very easy to follow.

    Once you learn the techniques, I'd look to some other places for different versions of the same recipes. epicurious.com is a solid resource for multiple, high quality versions of recipes.

    In my case, I found that getting good at a couple of dishes and then doing different versions of them really helped develop my cooking palate and confidence. Willans book has some of this, showing how one base can then be used to make several different dishes. Her book is slightly biased towards fish and seafood.
     
  19. GQgeek

    GQgeek Senior member

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    In my case, I found that getting good at a couple of dishes and then doing different versions of them really helped develop my cooking palate and confidence. Willans book has some of this, showing how one base can then be used to make several different dishes. Her book is slightly biased towards fish and seafood.

    I'll stay away from that one then. Fish and seafood make me gag :p
     
  20. Edward Appleby

    Edward Appleby Senior member

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    I'll stay away from that one then. Fish and seafood make me gag :p
    And you call yourself a cook [​IMG]
     

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