Announcing ... The Little Women Cookbook

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Announcing: Recipes from Little Women

Hello friends. I’m very happy to tell you about my next project, The Little Women Cookbook. It’s coming out this October 1st, in advance of a new film version of the movie, starring two of today’s most gifted actors, Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet, in the leading roles. Oh, and if that’s not enough, Meryl Streep is in it, too (!).

Here’s my “elevator speech” about the book:

The Little Women Cookbook celebrates the scrumptious and comforting food that play a prominent role in Louisa May Alcott’s beloved classic, Little Women. Recipes include Blanc-Mange, Apple Turnovers, Vanilla Butter Cookies with Mr. Bhaer’s Chocolate Drops, Amy’s “Pickled Lime” Sugar Cookies, Hannah’s Turnovers, Hannah’s Pounded Potatoes, Captivating Little Tarts, Jo’s Gingerbread Cake, and other breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert recipes inspired by the foods that the March family and their friends enjoyed throughout the book, plus more recipes from the time period. The book also holds fascinating insights into the way Americans cooked and dined during the era of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. Fans of Little Women — both the book and the upcoming film version starring Saoirse Ronan, Timothée Chalamet, and Emma Watson — will love recreating these heirloom recipes for friends and family. Author Wini Moranville, an established cookbook author and veteran food writer and editor, has ensured that each recipe calls on a straightforward instructions and easy-to-find ingredients. Combining modern ease with the warmth and spirit of yesteryear’s cooking, Wini has ensured that the recipes beloved by the March family will become your favorites, too.

Let me tell you — I had a blast researching and writing about foods from the book and time period. The testing + eating = pure joy. I’ll share some of my more fascinating discoveries in future posts (e.g.: Did you know that exotic spices were thing in the Marches’s time? Sriracha sauce has nothing on some of the condiments of their time).

But for now … I’d like to ask you a favor. If you’re interested in this book (and I hope you are!), I would be very grateful if you’d pre-order it from Amazon. From what I understand, pre-orders can make or break sales of a book. So if you know any fans of Little Women (or if you’re a fan yourself), or if you enjoy the warmth and well-being of great American home cooking … please consider ordering it.

By the way — order now and if the Amazon.com price decreases between your order time and the release date, you’ll receive the lowest price. Because Amazon.com’s prices fluctuate often, this is a great way to guarantee you’ll get the best price between now and then.

I’ll leave you with a few images from my recipe testing … they’re not nearly as pretty as the photos from the book (yes! the book has photos) — I’ll share some of those pro photos when my publisher gives me the go-ahead.

Thanks for your consideration, friends. I do appreciate it. And as always, thanks for reading my blog.

Every morning, Hannah, the March family’s Irish cook, bakes hot turnovers for the sisters to help them keep their hands warm on the way to work and school. Here, then, are Hannah’s Turnovers (before being turned over and baked, of course!). Savory cheese-butter crust with a dot of sweet jam filling. Oh my.

 

Mr. Bhaer always brings Meg’s twins chocolate drop candies. And so, I made these treats into “Vanilla Cookies with Mr. Bhaer’s Chocolate Drops.” So. Good.

 

Remember all the trouble that Amy gets into when she brings pickled limes to school? These “Pickled Lime” Sugar Cookies are a tip of the hat to that little fiasco.

There are many more recipes that honor the honest and gratifying food of that book and time period. Got any questions? Ask them below! And thanks for your consideration.

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This Year's Crop of Gifts for France-Lovers

What France-lover wouldn’t love this lovely tea towel?

Five new gifts for France-lovers, plus five of my enduring favorites. Enjoy this little shopping spree! Greetings, friends. Each year, I unveil my list of the best French gift ideas—gifts for lovers of France (and food). Take a look! And always remember that any purchase you make through one of the links on my site will help support the work I do on this blog and on social media. So, if I’ve ever led you to a great restaurant or recipe, a favorite wine, or a lovely place in the world to visit, please consider making a purchase through one of my links. Doing so won’t add to your costs in any way! PS: Even if you don’t buy exactly what I’m selling, if you get to Amazon through one of my links, I’ll still get some credit. Thank you for your consideration.

My Top 10 French
Gifts of the Year

1. My Number-One Favorite New-Found Gift of the Year: French Jacquard Tea Towels from Garnier Thiebaut Consider giving the cook or Francophile in your life a Jacquard tea towel (or two or three) from Garnier Thiebaut. These richly colored towels are not only beautiful to display (they’re unmistakably French!), but incredibly useful, because they’re absorbent. As of today, they’re $23 to $28 on Amazon. You’ll find some lovely designs (rabbit, goose, seafood, garlic, foie gras), but if the recipient is a veteran francophile and all-out Paris lover. you can’t go wrong with the Paris design. BTW: What is “Jacquard”? It means the design is woven directly into the cloth (not simply printed on it). It’s about craftsmanship.

2. OXO Fish Spatula Bracket the word “fish”—you’ll use this for everything from lifting delicate cookies off sheets, to gliding under that fried egg for the perfect flip. The ultra-thin beveled edge lets you smoothly slip beneath the food, and those long, narrow slots work two ways: They allow fats and oils to drip away, while distributing the tension of the load, preventing even the most delicate food (like fish) from breaking apart.  And don’t worry if you think the recipient might have two of these. I’m always wishing I had an extra one when one’s at the bottom of the sink or in the dishwasher and I need to turn something quick. As of this posting, it’s currently $12.99 on Amazon.

Every year, I get my husband one of these.

3. The 365 Days of France Calendar I love love love this calendar, and I have given one to my husband, Mr. Sportcoat, every single year since we’ve been going to France nearly every summer. Each month features a region (e.g., Savoie) or a city (e.g. Marseilles), with representative photos of the month’s highlighted region for every single day. Better yet, the copy is written by Patricia Wells, the famed French-cooking expert and cookbook author. It’s a lovely gift for anyone who loves France, dreams of going to France, or goes to France often. (We love it because we often recognize minutiae of places we’ve been, from little shops and cafes to little-known churches.) As of this posting, the calendar is currently $10.99 on Amazon.

Jacquard Tablecloth. Rich, elegant, sumptuous colors.

4. French Jacquard Tablecloth from Occitan Imports For the food-lover, France-lover, and anyone who loves to entertain, give them a beautiful Jacquard tablecloth. What is “Jacquard”? It means the design is woven right into the cloth (rather than printed on). Made in France, imported from Provence, the warm colors are just so rich and sumptuous. Right now on Amazon, the prices range from $109-149, depending on the size. If that’s a little pricey, check out some other designs of lovely French-designed (though made elsewhere) tablecloths. And if you like something a little more whimsical than elegant, take a look at the rooster design of this tablecloth — I appreciate that it’s available in lots of sizes.

5. Serrated French Dining Knives

Serrated table knives. I won't call these "steak knives," because you'll use them for everything from chicken to pot roast to pizza. It's the French way.

Serrated table knives. If you’ve ever dined in France, you know: The French use serrated knives at the table for just about everything except fish.

For heaven’s sake, if you don’t already own some elegant French dining knives, get yourself a set. And, while you’re at it, give someone on your list a set, too. Everything from chicken breasts to pot roasts to pizza cuts better with a serrated knife, and that’s why the French use serrated knives at the table for just about everything except fish. So while these might be classified as “steak knives,” once you start using them for everything else, you’ll wonder why you’ve been using flat-edged table-knives for so long. As of right now, they’re $47.99 on Amazon.

Oh–and make no mistake. These knifes are truly from France. There are some imitations out there, but these are the real deal.

6. The Wüsthoff Set: The Ultimate Gift for Artisanal Cheese Fans Enjoy a little German craftsmanship with your French cheeses with the Wusthof Gourmet 3-Piece Cheese Knife Set with Cheese Board. I especially adore the soft-cheese knife—it’s the one with the holes in in the blade. Use it for washed-rind and bloomy rind cheeses (like Camembert, Epoisse, et al.); the cheese won’t stick to the knife. The offset knife is stellar for cutting firm and semi-firm cheeses, while the cheese plane lets you cut those ultra-thin slices from favorites like Comté and Gruyère. Currently $114.95 on Amazon. PS: If you want, you can just purchase the Soft Cheese Knife (currently priced at $79.95), my favorite of the three.

7. The Splurge Gift for a Lifetime of Great French Meals: The Le Creuset Braiser

The Le Creuset Braiser. Available in a multitude of legendary colors.

I don’t know how I ever lived without my enamel cast-iron braising pans from Le Creuset. Braising is a “low and slow” cooking method for transforming less-expensive cuts of meat into rich, succulent meals. Coq au Vin, Boeuf Bourguigon, Blanquette of Pork, Osso Bucco are all braises, as are a slew of great everyday recipes, like pot roast and beef stew. With its tight-fitting lid, wide base, and shallower-than-a-Dutch-oven sides, the braising pan is simply the best choice for this cooking method. As I write this (12/2018), they’re currently priced around $265 for the 3 3/4-quart braiser, or $339 for the 5-quart braiser. Which one should you buy? If you usually cook for four to six people, get the 3 3/4-quart braiser. If you generally cook for six to eight, go for the 5-quart braiser.

8. A Less-Expensive Alternative to the Le Creuset Braiser: The Lodge Braiser The Lodge Color Enameled Cast Iron 3-Quart Covered Casserole is another great braiser—I’ve tested one and give it a hearty thumbs up. So, if you don’t want to splurge for French pedigree with the Le Creuset, I can recommend this braiser. It’s made of enamel cast-iron, just like the French pans; see my review for more information. It’s designed by an well-respected American company and made in China. PS: While there aren’t as many colors as there are for Le Creuset, both the Blue braiser the red braiser  are lovely. Both cost $59.90 as of this writing.

9. The Bonne Femme Cookbook: Simple, Splendid Food That French Women Cook Every Day I know. I’m blowing my own horn here. But if you have a food and France lover on your list, please consider giving them a copy of my book, The Bonne Femme Cookbook: Simple, Splendid Food That French Women Cook Every Day. Now in its third printing, the book continues to be a guiding light for those who want to bring French joie-de-vivre to the table, but don’t have all day to do so. It showcases a fresh, simple, modern approach to French cooking—an approach I discovered through many summers living and cooking in France. I’m especially honored that Publisher’s Weekly called it “a good read”—there are a lot of vignettes about how I discovered everyday French cooking. But don’t take my word for it! Check out the reviews on Amazon.com.

You do not need a “crêpe pan” to make crêpes. A nonstick skillet with flared sides will do just fine.

10. A Bundle of Crêpe-Making Essentials I love my T-Fal skillet; in fact, I am on my third skillet (they last a long time but one finally wore out after 15 years, and I misplaced the other one when doing a crêpe demo off-site recently). These non-stick skillets with flared sides are perfect for making crêpes and French omelets (and many other French and non-French things). I also highly recommend a small Le Creuset silicone spatula for flipping the crêpes. And if your recipient needs a crêpe book, I’ve purveyed a very popular one. (Of course, the Bonne Femme Cookbook has plenty of crêpe recipes in it as well!). Finally, why not throw in a bottle of high-quality chocolate sauce for topping the crêpes?

 

Happy Holidays to everyone, and thanks for reading Chez Bonne Femme.

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Should I Buy a Braiser or a Dutch Oven?

I would never say “no” to a Le Creuset Dutch Oven (aka French Oven), but…

The Braiser versus Dutch Oven Question Answered.

Recently, a comment came in on my ever-trafficked “What Is a Braiser” post. A reader asked which is more important to own: A braiser or a Dutch oven.

When it comes to the Dutch oven versus braiser question, the short answer is that most cooks should have both a Dutch oven and a braiser.

The medium answer is that if you absolutely cannot have both, alas, get a Dutch oven.

But a third and perhaps most useful answer is this: If you can’t afford to have both a high-end braiser and a high-end Dutch oven, I recommend splurging on the braiser, and getting good-quality but affordable Dutch oven. 

…but I cannot live (or at least, I could not cook well) without my Le Creuset braiser.

Here’s Why: The things you cook in a Dutch oven — such as soups, chili, stocks, spaghetti sauces, and other dishes with a significant amount of liquid (more liquid than meat, in fact) — can, quite honestly, be cooked in just about any good vessel that’s stovetop safe and has a lid.

Dishes that need to be braised (that is, cooked tightly covered in a small amount of liquid) — will greatly benefit from the braiser’s specific design:

• The braiser’s wide base allows the meat to gain maximum contact with the heat source, making it easier to get it all nicely browned before it simmers. If you use a Dutch oven for browning, you have less base space, so you have to brown in batches.

• The braiser’s shallow sides are key: Because braising requires less liquid than stewing, the sides of these pans are shallower that those of a Dutch oven. The liquid spreads out for a true braise (cooking with moist steam heat) rather than a stew (simmering covered in liquids). When you braise, you want don’t want the meat to be fully submerged in the liquid, which can happen when you use a Dutch oven instead of a braiser.

And so it might surprise you that I recommend getting a Farberware pot like this, instead of a Le Creuset Dutch Oven. That way, you’ll save loads on the Dutch oven so you can buy a braiser.

That’s why I always use my braiser for all braised meats, including pot roasts, osso bucco, short ribs, beef stews, chicken fricassee, coq au vin, beef bourguignon, lamb shanks, pork shoulder  …. the list goes on and on.

Q: What’s the best braiser? 
A: The Le Creuset Braiser is the gold-standard for braisers. But I also adore the Staub braiser. I own both, and use both all the time. Between the two, simply choose which color you like best, and go from there.

Q: What’s the best Dutch Oven?
A: While purists may say the best Dutch oven is the Le Creuset Dutch oven*, if you’re following my advice to splurge on the braiser and save on the Dutch Oven, I suggest that you get a stockpot instead of a Dutch oven.

Say what? A stockpot is like a Dutch oven, except most Dutch ovens are made of cast iron, and most stockpots are made of steel.

Certainly, I’d never say “no” to a Le Creuset Dutch Oven. However, there are two drawbacks: One, they’re expensive. Two, a cast-iron Dutch oven, when full, is extremely heavy. A stock pot can do almost anything a cast-iron Dutch oven can do, but it’s a lot easier to manage. And it’s generally a lot less expensive.

That’s why I recommend the Farberware Classic Stainless Steel 6-Quart Covered Stockpot. I use this for everything from boiling pasta to making a big batch of soups or chili. I have had mine for over 20 years, and it’s wearing incredibly well. Like new, in fact.

Confused? Let me boil it down for you:

>>>>>>>>>>>>LE CREUSET DUTCH OVEN*         FARBERWARE STOCK POT>>>>>>>>>>

Best Options:

• If you can afford both a Le Creuset Dutch Oven and a Le Creuset Braiser, get them both, but keep in mind that the Le Creuset Dutch oven is heavy, so make sure you’re fine with lifting 12+ pounds.

• If you can’t afford both a Le Creuset Dutch Oven and a Le Creuset Braiser, buy a Farberware Dutch Oven; that way, you’ll save  $300, which you can spend on a Le Creuset braiser.

• If, for some reason I’ll never understand, you simply do not want to own both a braiser and a Dutch oven, then, alas (and it kills me to say this), buy the Dutch oven. You can certainly braise in a Dutch oven, but it’s not nearly as ideal as a braiser (for reasons I mention above). Whether or not you go for Farberware or Le Creuset depends simply on how much you want to spend.

* Actually the Le Creuset Dutch Oven is officially called a “French” oven, because the French aren’t going to call their vessels Dutch, now are they? But because most American cooks call these vessels “Dutch” ovens (not “French” ovens), I’m going to generically refer to these pots at Dutch ovens. Okay?

More questions:
Q: Gimme a break. The Le Creuset Braiser costs nearly $300, and the Staub Braiser costs that and more. Seriously? For a pan?
A: You will use this pan the rest of your life. After you go, your descendants will fight over it. You see, not only is it a durable pan that wears like iron (because it is iron), but it will also be an enduring symbol of the wonderful times they had around the table with you. It’s a workhorse. It’s an heirloom.

But….if that price is simply out of reach, the Lodge Braiser will do. (It’s officially called a covered casserole, but take my word for it, it’s a braiser). I tested one and it’s absolutely fine. Made in China, but designed by an American company, the Lodge Braiser works well, though doesn’t have the French pedigree or gravitas of the Le Creuset or Staub, which are both made in La Belle France.

Q: My adult children all live separately on their own. They don’t cook a lot, they have tiny apartments, and they’ll probably move a lot before they truly get settled. What should I buy them?
A: Get them The Farberware Stock Pot, for now. But when they get married, get them the Le Creuset Braiser and the Le Creuset Dutch Oven.

Q: Which size of braiser should I get?
A: If you generally cook for four to six people, a 3.75- to 4-quart braiser is the way to go. If, however, you often cook for eight or more — or, if you will mostly use your braiser for entertaining 8 or more, then get the 5-quart braiser. I own both sizes, and my 3 1/2-quart definitely gets more use.

Q: How do you know so much about braisers?
A: When I was writing my e-cookbook book on braising, I tested just about every braiser available. Any more questions? Post them below.

Yes! This post provides affiliate links to Amazon.com. That means that I earn a small commission from anything you purchase through one of these links. It does not add to your costs in any way. Thank you for your consideration. 

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