by Sybil PrattSeptember, 1999
Two Legendary Cooks in a Delectable Dialogue . . . Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home is the big (416 pages), beautiful (full color photographs throughout) companion volume to the new 22-part PBS series airing in October. This is a companion volume that can stand alone and stand proud. TV cooking shows can be fun, instructive, and even inspirational but, when the image fades, it's over, even if you've been taking notes madly. A good cookbook lasts for years, taking on the sauce-spotted patina that proves it's well-loved and well-used; Cooking at Home is bound for that exalted, if stained, status. Julia Child, one of our great gastronomic gurus, is a champion of the home cook; as a culinary pioneer on TV and a cookbook author, her disarmingly direct approach to the making of French food forever changed the way we cook. Jacques Pepin, a popular TV chef and cookbook author too, is a professional chef who has cooked in some of the renowned restaurants of France. Food is not only J and J's business, it's their greatest pleasure, and they want it to be ours as well. Here they take us back to basics and way beyond, from scrambling eggs to a sublime souffle, from simple poached chicken to Turkey Galantine, boned, stuffed with forcemeat, roasted, and garnished. There's a full range of interesting, intriguing recipes appetizers, soups, salads, veggies, fish, poultry, meat, and desserts including both classics and new improvisations. But it's Julia and Jacques's collaborative commentaries on ingredients, utensils, and techniques that make this book unique. Their running dialogue, distilled into chatty, informative accompaniments, flank each recipe. These patient, provocative explanations and explications can buoy up a sagging home cook who wonders why it's important to make mayonnaise rather than buy it, or who is faced with off-season, unripe tomatoes (a sprinkling of sugar can do the trick in ten minutes). As with Ms. Waters's book, there's much here that the home cook can learn from the pros. We don't have to do things at chef-speed, cutting up whole chickens in seconds, but if, as Julia advises, we can absorb some of their restaurant-honed methods into our own repertoire, we can do what we do with more ease and excellence. Julia's and Jacques's joint effort wonderfully integrates the experiences and expertise of a top-of-the-line professional and a serious home cook, properly seasoned with their joy in sharing and their unflagging elan.