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Paris Cookbook

Listen to Linda Wertheimer's report on unusual recipes in The Paris Cookbook.

Nov. 19, 2001 -- Food writer Patricia Wells has lived in Paris for 20 years, dined in many the city's finest restaurants -- and now has produced a cookbook showcasing those restaurants' recipes. On All Things Considered, host Linda Wertheimer talks to Wells about her new Paris Cookbook. Wertheimer's inquiry to Wells: Should cooks really try to recreate these dishes from three-star establishments at home? Wells insists it's more than possible: "I'm a practical gal," she says.

Gazpacho with Mustard Ice Cream
Watercress Soup with Caviar
The Apple Lady's Apple Cake
Arpege Eggs with Maple Syrup

Paris cookbook

Patricia Wells' Paris Cookbook celebrates 20 years of eating and cooking in Paris. Photo: HarperCollins

Gazpacho with Mustard Ice Cream
Reprinted with permission from The Paris Cookbook, by Patricia Wells (HarperCollins, 2001).

3 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored and quartered
1 red bell pepper, trimmed and quartered
1 green bell pepper, trimmed and quartered
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
2 plump fresh garlic cloves, peeled and quartered
1/4 cup best-quality sherry vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt to taste Mustard Ice Cream (optional, recipe to follow)

Place the tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor and puree them. Then add the remaining ingredients, except the ice cream, and puree. Taste for seasoning. Pass the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve, discarding the solids that remain in the sieve. Transfer the soup to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours. Serve it in chilled bowls, with a spoonful of Mustard Ice Cream if desired.
8 servings

Mustard Ice Cream

6 large egg yolks
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 tablespoons French Dijon mustard

Ice cream maker

Place the egg yolks in a medium-size bowl and whisk to blend. In a heavy saucepan, cook the milk over medium heat until bubbles form around the edges. Slowly whisk the hot milk into the egg yolks. Return this mixture to the saucepan. Rinse out and dry the mixing bowl, then set a fine mesh sieve on top. Set it aside.

Place the saucepan over low heat. Using a wooden spoon, stir the sauce gently but consistently, sweeping the entire pan bottom and reaching into the corners. As soon as the sauce is slightly thickened, remove the pan from the heat and stir gently for 2 minutes to complete the cooking. The sauce should be the consistency of heavy cream and register around 170 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. When the mixture is thoroughly cooled, transfer it to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Taillevent's Cream of Watercress Soup with Caviar

Wells describes Taillevent as "a place that my husband, Walter, and I reserve for special occasions." And she describes its watercress soup as "the perfect choice for a celebratory New Year's Eve dinner. Like so much of the fare at this august restaurant, this soup shines with simple elegance."

The leek and stock base:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound leeks, white and tender green portions, rinsed, halved, and thinly sliced
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
Fine sea salt
1 quart homemade chicken stock
2 cups heavy cream (or substitute whole milk)

The watercress:
3 tablespoons coarse sea salt
4 bunches watercress, stems removed, leaves rinsed

The cream:
1 cup heavy cream
Juice of 1 lemon
Sea salt
Freshly ground white pepper
2 tablespoons caviar, preferably Osetra
A 6-quart stockpot, a 6-quart pasta pot fitted with a colander, a food processor

1. In a 6-quart stockpot, combine the butter, leeks, onions, and a pinch of sea salt. Sweat - cook, covered, over low hear - until soft but not browned, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and cream. Simmer gently, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
2. Process the soup in a blender, food processor, or with a handheld immersion blender until emulsified into a smooth-textured mixture.
3. Return the mixture to the saucepan, increase the heat to high, and bring to a gentle boil. Using a slotted spoon, skim off any impurities that may rise to the surface. Set this base aside. (This mixture can be prepared up to 1 day in advance. To store, cover and refrigerate.)
4. Prepare a large bowl full of ice water.
5. In a 6-quart pasta pot fitted with a colander, bring 4 quarts water to a boil over high heat. Add the coarse sea salt and the watercress leaves. Blanch, uncovered, until soft and wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Immediately remove the colander from the water, drain the watercress, and plunge the colander into the ice water to stop the cooking. Drain again, and puree the watercress in a food processor. Place the puree in a fine-mesh sieve, and carefully press out any remaining liquid. Set it aside.
6. In the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with a whisk (or with a handheld mixer), whip the cream at high speed until stiff. Add the lemon juice, and season to taste with sea salt and white pepper. Set aside.
7. At serving time, reheat the creamy soup base. Remove it from the heat and add the watercress puree, stirring until thoroughly blended. Serve the soup in warm, shallow soup bowls, placing a scoop of the whipped cream in the center of each bowl. Top with a small spoonful of caviar, and serve.
6 servings

The Apple Lady's Apple Cake

Wells got this recipe from a woman who sells her family orchard's apples at a Paris farmer's market "in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower." This cake, Wells says, is "the sort of homey recipe that makes French home cooking so incomparable." She recommends serving it with honey-flavored ice cream.

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/3 cup whole milk
4 baking apples (about 2 pounds total), cored, peeled, and cut into thin wedges

The topping:
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 9-inch springform pan
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and set it aside.
3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and sea salt, and stir to blend. Add the vanilla extract, eggs, oil, and milk, and stir until well blended. Add the apples and stir to thoroughly coat them with the batter.
4. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake pan. Place the pan in the center of the over and bake until fairly firm and golden,a bout 25 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, prepare the topping. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, egg, and melted butter, and stir to blend. Set it aside.
6. Remove the cake from the oven and pour the topping mixture over it. Return the cake to the oven and bake until the top is a deep golden brown and the cake feels quite firm when pressed with a fingertip, about 10 minutes.
7. Transfer the cake pan to a rack and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Then run a knife around the sides fo the pan, and release and remove the springform side, leaving the cake on the pan base. Serve at room temperature, cut into thin wedges.
8 servings

Arpege Eggs with Maple Syrup

At the restaurant Arpege, Wells says, "one dish that won me over immediately was this adorable palate pleaser that appeared out of nowhere at the beginning of a meal: a surprising mixture of egg, cream, maple syrup, and sherry vinegar all served in the shell - an appetizer that properly awakens your palate with a jolt of surprise and a clap of acclamation."

4 tablespoons heavy cream
About 3/4 teaspoon sherry vinegar, or to taste
Sea salt to taste
6 very fresh eggs at room temperature
2 teaspoons finely minced fresh chives
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
About 2 teaspoons maple syrup

An egg cutter or a very sharp knife, 6 porcelain egg cups

1. Place a bowl in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. In the chilled bowl, whisk the cream until soft peaks form. Season with the sherry vinegar and sea salt. Set aside.
2. Place an egg in your hand, tapered end up. Using an egg cutter of a very sharp knife, carefully slice off about the top third of the eggshell. Carefully pour the egg white out of the shell into a small bowl, holding back the yolk with the flat side of a knife. (Reserve the white for another use.) With a damp paper towel, wipe the bottom of the shell. Place the shell in a porcelain egg cup. (If you return the eggs to the egg carton, they are likely to stick and will be impossible to remove later.) Repeat with the remaining eggs.
3. Select a large, shallow skillet that is large enough to hold the eggshells in a single layer. Add water to about 2 inches in depth. Bring just to a simmer.
4. Carefully lift the eggshells from the egg cups and place them in the simmering water (the eggshells should just bob on top of the water). Cook just until the yolk begins to set around the edges, about 3 minutes. Using your fingertips, carefully remove the eggshells from the water and return them to the egg cups.
5. Sprinkle each cooked egg yolk with minced chives. Season with sea salt and pepper. Then carefully spoon the whipped cream over the yolk up to the rim of each egg cup. Drizzle with maple syrup, and serve immediately.
6 servings