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Mar 19, 2011 11:10 PM

Your Favorite French Cookbook and Why

I have more French cookbooks on my bookshelves than I could possibly ever hope to cook through. Yet, I feel compelled to collect more and more. Here is a list of my cookbooks:

Simply French
The Flavor of France by the Chamberlains
The Zuni Cafe
Sunday Suppers at Lucques
Mastering The Art of French Cooking, Volume I
Around My French Table
La Tante Claire
Cooking With Daniel Boulud
Michel Richards home Cooking with a French Accent
Patricia Wells at Home in Provence
The Cooking of South West France
Cafe Boulud
La Toque

Never Cooked Out of:
On Rue Tatin
Cuisine Naturelle
Madeleines In Manhattan
French Women Don't Get Fat
Baking With Julia
The French Cookie Book
Roger Verge's Vegetables in the French Style
The Cook and The Gardener
Bistro Cooking

I have made many recipes out of a few of these books; a few recipes out of most of these books; and none out of the remainder. If I had to whittle down my collection, I would be hard pressed to say which ones I would keep and which I would toss.

I would love to know which French cookbooks in your collection are your favorites and why? What are your favorite recipes out of these books?

Here are a few of my favorite recipes:

Chicken In a Pot (Michel Richard)
Roasted Chicken (Simply French)
Mustard Chicken (Simply French)
Potatoes Dauphinoise (Simply French)
Tomato Goat Cheese Spread (Provence)
Beef Bourguignon (Julia)
Entrecote (Flavor of France)
Apple Cake (Dorie)

Let's help each other make better use of our books. If nothing else, starting this thread will give me a quick reference guide to my go to recipes from each book.

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  1. A few or your faves are mine too:
    Mastering The Art of French Cooking, Volume I
    Great recipes for roast veal, rabbit, pork, well jut about everything.
    ( I also have Vol 2 but haven't cooked much from it)
    Around My French Table
    Cooked several tagines from this book and reported on Piccwicca's thread.
    Looking forward to April when it will be COTM
    The Zuni Cafe
    Sunday Suppers at Lucques

    If you've never cooked from these books Do It.
    Baking With Julia
    BWJ has some wonderful, simple recipes for food to serve with the baked goods...salads, sandwiches, etc. I don't bake much anymore but frequently refer to the adjunct recipes.
    Bistro Cooking
    If this is the Patricia Wells book, we cooked from this book when it was COTM and liked everything we made. Here's the archive link for the book:

    1 Reply
    1. re: Gio


      Which are your favorite recipes in Zuni and Sunday Suppers?

      I love Zuni's buttermilk mashed potatoes p. 233
      and in Sunday Suppers, I have a long list:
      Burrata salad, p. 135 (great, alt. with Big Nights, Small Bites recipe)
      Torchio with cavolo nero, p. 308 (so, so great!)
      Kabocha squash/fennel soup, p. 323 ( I do not puree it)
      Chestnut stuffing for thanksgiving, p. 371 (my go-to Thanx recipe)
      Sables, p. 236 - not quite as good as when I buy them at her restaurant

    2. Hmm ... well, I bake from "Baking with Julia" all the time, but I don't really consider it French. I've made the yogurt tart, the scones, the challah and various other breads ... it's one of my go-to books. I haven't had Around My French Table" too long, but what I've made, I've liked (like the baked stuffed pumpkin.)

      What else do I have?
      Mastering the Art of French Cooking (love)
      French Farmhouse Cooking (use occasionally)
      Bistro Cooking (use occasionally, good chicken recipes)
      Barefoot in Paris (don't use at all)
      My French Kitchen (great chocolate recipes)
      Provencal Light (don't use)

      That's all I can think of off the top of my head ... but part of the thing is that there are very few cookbooks that I cook from often. Some (not me) might say I have too many cookbooks. I use my baking books most often, and most of them aren't specifically from one country.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Chocolatechipkt


        Which chicken recipe in Bistro Cooking would you recommend?

        1. re: dkennedy

          I love the chicken sauteed with shallots/poulet saute aux eschalots (like chicken with 40 cloves of garlic, but shallots instead. And pay attention to the volume of the shallots [2 c] versus the number, as they vary in size and 60 can be a bit overwhelming just to think about.)

          Also good:
          Bistro d'a Cote's Chicken in Wine Vinegar
          Chez Rose's Chicken Fricassee with Mushrooms
          Coquilles Saint-Jacques a la Provencale l'Ami Louis (not chicken, but I love scallops -- and combined with garlic, tomatoes, basil and thyme is yummy)

          1. re: Chocolatechipkt

            Thanks Chocolatechipkt. I just ordered this book so it is not yet on my shelf but I followed the COTM discussion and decided I needed to acquire it.

      2. I wouldn't say that Sunday Suppers at Lucques was French personally.

        2 Replies
        1. re: greedygirl

          I see your point GG.

          I wasn't sure if I should include Zuni and Sunday Suppers as part of my French collection or not.

          Suzanne Goin is classically trained, and having eaten at her three restaurants Lucques, Tavern and AOC several times, I would have to say her cooking is in the French style if not French per se. I would probably label it more of a crossover cuisine. In any case, I use it as part of my French collection so that is how I identified it.

          The same is true for the Judy Rodgers, I think her cuisine is more of a blending of French and Italian, but when I think of Zuni Cafe, I think of classic techniques and training, which makes me think "French".

          1. re: dkennedy

            What's interesting is that here in the Bay Area (and on the SF Bay Area board), Zuni Cafe is thought of as a quintessentially local, California restaurant, just as Chez Panisse is, despite the latter's cuisine being based on French technique. But those characterizations are about the food, while you seem to be grouping your books in terms of technique, which is fair enough.

        2. In Simply French, you must try the Confit of Fresh Chestnuts, Walnuts, Fennel, and Onions. It's extraordinary. I make it with the bottled French chestnuts. Glazed Spring Vegetables is also outstanding, and very elegant if you can find the whole baby vegetables. The Provencal Roast Tomatoes couldn't be simpler and couldn't be better when fresh tomatoes are in season. I LOVE that book. Haven't cooked from it in a while. COTM anyone?

          2 Replies
          1. re: JoanN

            Thanks Joan, I am making a note. Yes, I think this would make an outstanding COTM selection.

            1. re: JoanN

              Just wanted to revive the idea of having SIMPLY FRENCH as a COTM, perhaps in the fall...

            2. Top of my list is "French Cookery School" by Anne WIllan, who used to run the La Varenne Cooking School. The thing I like about it is that is teaches you techniques, not just recipes. Each sectioin covers a specific subject (e.g. roasting), then goes on to give you recipes.

              I used this book to learn how to cook from zero. It taught me how to make soufflées, puff pastry, choux pastry, etc.

              If I had to live with just one cookbook, this would be it.

              2 Replies
              1. re: souschef

                I like Willan's La Varenne Pratique, which is more of a reference book than a cook book. It is well illustrated, even though it is 20 yrs old.

                Laura Calder (CC French Food at Home) studied with Willan.

                1. re: paulj

                  I do have La Varenne Pratique and From My Chateau Kitchen, in addition to her "La France Gastonomique", Like them all.

                  I did know that Laura Calder studied with Willan, and she is my favourite FN chef, not just because I enjoy French food, but because I like her personality. Also, she does not do the "How easy is that?" (and variations) sickly-sweet nonsense that I find irritating coming from Ina, Giada, Rachel, and Paula.

                  BTW I use the handle "souschef" but I'm not a chef of any kind; I'm an Elecrical Engineer.