Like many of you, I suspect, I’ve been a big fan of David Lebovitz for many years now. When I found out his latest book was to be called “My Paris Kitchen“, I eagerly anticipated its release date. Over the years, I have really enjoyed reading David’s experiences with his search for a Paris kitchen worthy of his cooking and baking. On his blog, David documented his kitchen renovation in the apartment he ended up buying, the final product being a better-designed kitchen than most of us with way more space, but I know his kitchen hadn’t always been so spacious (he gave a tour of his previous digs over on The Kitchn). Having lived in Paris for over 5 years, I had a “Paris kitchen” too, once. Of sorts… And let me tell you it was nothing like David’s (sadly!).
When I first moved to Paris (in a similar fashion to David as he says on page 2) “without a plan”, I stayed in a women’s hostel for a month while I looked for a place to stay. On a limited student budget (the only thing planned about my move to Paris was that I was supposed to be working on my PhD there), I quickly realised that I wouldn’t be living in anything more than a simple “chambre de bonne” (maid’s room on the top floor of a building) which, in some cases (mine for a few months) is literally, a room. One room. My room had a bed, a sink, one hotplate and a shower. An electric shower (don’t even ask!) and a crazy landlord who would sometimes come to “do some work in the room” when I was at my classes (I mean, really, don’t even ask…). After my concierge alerted me to a TWO ROOM chambre de bonne available in the same building, different staircase, I jumped at the offer and for about 4 years, I lived in the luxury of 18m squared. One of my rooms had the bed, my bookshelf, a TV and my clothes. The other room had a table/ desk, tiny cupboards, two hotplates (the luxury!) strangely situated on top of the bar fridge and, that’s right – a shower. Conveniently placed behind the door and next to the sink. And that looked out on the courtyard. One of my first purchases there was a set of curtains
Even the “grown up” kitchen in my last Paris apartment was tiny. It boasted a toaster oven (yup, I was moving up in the world!) and a space of its own (a teeny galley-like space that led to the bathroom but still, it wasn’t in the corner of another room!). So sadly, in all my years in Paris, I didn’t really “cook” much. I entertained a lot, however, and the foods I would serve would be simple – many salads (I discovered couscous and quinoa during my time there), lots of cheese and baguette and, of course, pastries. A lot of the recipes in the “First Courses” section of “My Paris Kitchen” remind me of my time in Paris and what I used to eat there: céleri rémoulade, tabbouleh, frisée salad with bacon, egg and garlic toasts, oeufs mayonnaise, carottes rapées – these made regular appearances on my table. Might not sound like much but when you combine dishes like that with a few choice fromages, you’ve basically got yourself a meal (if you are a poor student/ teacher!). My friends all “got it” re the cheese, as does David – he says he simply points at the closest cheese store when people ask him why he lives in France (there’s a lovely chapter all about the “cheese course” in the book).
One of my favourite chapters in the book is the dessert chapter. David is a former pastry chef so you know these recipes will be good. They are, in fact, the sort of recipes I could only dream about in my tiny, equipment-less kitchen back in my Paris days but which now I love to make at home, then sit back and pretend I’m in Paris as I enjoy them! My eye was drawn, in particular, to the salted butter caramel chocolate mousse. The photo on p 259 looks like the aftermath of one of my sister’s visits to Paris whereby we would head to the supermarket and buy a four pack of mousse au chocolat noir and eat them all. In about 4 seconds. And bemoan the fact that you simply can’t get “decent” chocolate mousse in supermarkets except in France. I still treat myself to a (single) mousse au chocolat noir every now and then when I am in Paris (squee – I leave later today!). But now I know I can make a much, much better version, thanks to David’s recipe. I am fortunate to have permission to share the recipe with you all today too!
- ½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons salted butter, cubed
- ¾ cup (180ml) heavy cream
- 6 ounces (170g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 4 large eggs, separated
- Rounded ¼ teaspoon flaky sea salt, preferably fleur de sel
- Spread the sugar evenly over the bottom of a wide saucepan. Heat the sugar over medium heat. As it begins to liquefy at the edges, use a heatproof spatula to very gently drag the liquefied sugar toward the center. Watch carefully, as once the edges start to darken, the sugar is in danger of burning. Continue to cook, stirring very gently, until all the sugar is melted and begins to caramelize.
- When the caramel is a deep amber color and starts to smoke, wait for a moment for it to smell just slightly burnt, then remove it from the heat and quickly whisk the butter, stirring until melted. Gradually whisk in the cream and stir until the little bits of caramel are completely melted. (A few can be stubborn, so be patient. You can strain the mixture if they simply refuse to budge.)
- Once smooth, add the chocolate, stirring gently until it's melted and smooth. Scrape the mixture into a large bowl and let it cool to room temperature. Once it's no longer warm, whisk in the egg yolks.
- In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff. Fold one-third of the whipped whites into the chocolate mixture, sprinkling in the flaky salt. Fold in the remaining beaten egg whites just until no streaks of white remain. Divide the mousse into serving glasses, or transfer it to a decorative serving bowl, and chill for at least 8 hours. While it might be tempting to serve this with whipped cream, I prefer to serve it pure, straight up with just a spoon.
Of this recipe, David says: “There’s not much I can say about this. One bite will leave you just as speechless.“. He’s right. This is ridiculously good.
The book includes a section on ingredients David uses a lot as well as his “can’t do without” equipment and at the back of the book there’s an excellent list of places to source some of the ingredients/ equipment that might be hard to find in some places in the world. I also loved the “Pantry” section where David lists “ingrédients de base” – things he always keeps on hand in his fridge, pantry or freezer.
If you’re looking for a “French food cookbook” this might not be the book for you. As David says, the food he cooks is influenced by where he has lived and where he lives now. He’s guided in his cooking by the influence of other cultures that is felt throughout Paris these days, reflected in its many multicultural neighbourhoods and food stores. So the food he cooks isn’t what you’d think of as typically French (although it is how many French people eat these days). But if you are the type of person who keeps cookbooks alongside fiction on your nightstand, then this is absolutely the book for you. It’s as much about the stories that go with the recipes as the recipes themselves.
A My Paris Kitchen giveaway for Canadian readers!
Thanks to the kind folks at Random House Canada, I have one copy of “My Paris Kitchen” to giveaway to a lucky Canadian reader.
How to enter:
There are 2 ways to enter (maximum of two entries per person for the duration of the contest).
1. Leave a comment on this post telling me why you’d love a copy of David’s book.
2. Tweet the following message: Enter to win “My Paris Kitchen” from @RandomHouseCA + @eatlivtravwrite (Canada) Details: http://bit.ly/1nV0gvT then come back to leave a second comment letting me know you did.
Eligibility and contest rules:
- Open to Canadian residents only.
- No purchase of any product necessary for entry.
- Winner will be chosen randomly (using www.random.org) from all qualified entries on Sunday June 29th 2014 after 6pm EST.
- Winner will be notified via email Monday June 30th 2014.
Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of “My Paris Kitchen!” for review purposes. I was not asked to write about the book, nor am I being compensated for doing do. All opinions 100% my own.
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