Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Art of Eating Celebrates 25 Years

Edward Behr is the publisher and one of the main writers of The Art of Eating, a really fine cooking and food magazine that comes out four times a year. A of E, which is ad-free, has in-depth articles about food and wine from around the world, sometimes common, sometimes very esoteric. For example, the Spring 2011 number included articles on Bordeaux cannelés (one of my favorite pastries), crème Anglaise, brioche, biscotti di prato, Normandy farm-made cider and making baklava in Gaziantep, Turkey, among others.

In commemoration of A of E's 25th anniversary, Behr has published a cookbook entitled The Art of Eating Cookbook: Essential Recipes from the First 25 Years. The book contains many traditional recipes that you will never make (marinated mackerel and sweet-and-sour sardines, for example, in my case) and many that you might. But the real strength of the book, as of the magazine, is in the scholarly approach it takes with respect to all the recipes, carefully explaining the choices made, describing the different traditions and options available, and giving other interesting facts. This is a book to be read as much as it is a cooking manual.

I am probably never going to make far aux choux (cabbage pudding), but what a pleasure to read his introduction!
The batter for this rustic pudding, from the Quercy in southwest France, is essentially the same as that for crepes, clafoutis, popovers, and Yorkshire pudding. Similar dishes are made in other French regions from other vegetables as well as fruits. When made without goose or duck fat, far au choux loses its regional reference and tastes much less interesting. Best of all is fat from a garlicky goose or duck confit. The far should be crisp-edged and tender -- not at all stodgy. A lighter consistency comes from Savoy cabbage, whose heads are, as the cook and gardener Barbara Damrosch describes them, "ruffled and crinkly," with an "elegant" texture and a flavor "so much more delicate that that of the firm-headed types." The leaves are thinner and the heads looser than with regular cabbage, and the Savoy varieties don't keep as well, but their taste is sweeter and milder, less sulfurous when overcooked, faster cooking and more tender. It is Damrosch's favorite kind, and the favorite of many cooks.
Get this book. If it's not for you, give it to a foodie friend.

Bobby Jay

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