Justly famed for the originality of its ever-changing menu and the range and virtuosity of its chef and owner, Alice Waters, Chez Panisse is known throughout the world as one of America's greatest restaurants. Dinner there is always an adventure—a different five-course meal is offered every night, and the restaurant has seldom repeated a meal since its opening in 1971. Alice Waters is a brilliant pioneer of a wholly original cuisine, at once elegant and earthy, classical and experimental, joyous in its celebration of the very finest and freshest ingredients.
In this spectacular book, Alice Waters collects 120 of Chez Panisse's best menus, its most inspired transformations of classic French dishes. The Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook is filled with dishes redolent of the savory bouquet of teh garden, the appealing aromas and roasty flavors of food cooked over the charcoal grill, and the delicate sweetness of fish fresh from the sea. There are menus here for different seasons of the year, for picnics and outdoor barbecues and other great occasions. Handsomely designed and illustrated by David Lance Goines, this is an indispensable addition to the shelf of every great cook and cookbook readers.
“A lovely book, wonderfully inventive, and the food is very pure.”—Richard Olney
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Read an Excerpt
INSPIRATIONS AND ADAPTATIONS
For some years now, every Thursday I have faced the weekly dilemma of planning a different five-course meal for each evening of the following week, a chore which could rapidly have become drudgery had it not been for the creative stimulation of the wonderfully inventive cooks I have known and admired. They have influenced me with their clearly delineated likes and dislikes and their discrimination: that most desirable of qualities which combines discernment, penetration, and judgment. In helping me define my personal gastronomic aesthetics, they have supplied the motivation and encouragement that every cook needs. The result has been a personal aesthetic which is very much a patchwork—an idea borrowed from here or there, an adaptation of a particular concept, an infusion of stimulation—spurring me to create those five new menus each week. I believe this combining of styles and flavors is what has made Chez Panisse a unique establishment.
I cannot overemphasize the importance of approaching each new menu or each new dish with a fresh attitude. Never look back, burdening yourself with the memory of the dinner that didn’t quite work. Nor should you endlessly repeat the comfortable dish that you have mastered: that promotes a stagnant attitude. Move away from that safe old chocolate mousse recipe to new ideas, new cookbooks, and new restaurants for inspiration, motivation, and incentive. Learn to discriminate and choose the best of everything. More than any other quality in other cooks, the one I most value is the ability to see precisely what is needed in a particular dish, dinner, or event. This discrimination and attention to detail distinguish those dedicated and perceptive cooks I most admire.
Dodin-Bouffant, the fictional bon vivant in Marcel Rouff’s The Passionate Epicure, epitomizes this ability to discern and to discriminate. Everything in his life was tied in to gastronomic enjoyment. He believed that the lush greenness and scent of a freshly mowed lawn just outside the window had much to contribute to a successful dinner party, and that no more than eight guests should gather round the table, eight being the exact number needed for stimulating conversation! The paintings on the walls, the color of the wood in the dining-room furniture, and the relative comfort of the armchairs at his dining table all played a major role in cosseting his guests. The flowers had to perfume and color the room in a manner harmonious to the foods and the wines, and the temperature of the room had to be precisely 16 degrees Centigrade, summer and winter. Dodin-Bouffant believed in an overall ambience that enfolds you in its reassuring warmth.
He took great pains to achieve a harmonious effect in the pairing of a particular food and the dish it was served upon. His inspirational discourses on the subject of total eating have exhilarated and influenced me in countless ways. His premise that dining well is an art that must be preserved has made me apply his standards to many details of the restaurant and its food. A successful dinner is more than the sum of the food and the wine; it includes comfortable chairs, pleasant artwork on the walls, lovely linens, delightful dishes, a comfortable room temperature, sparkling glasses—and most of all, the receptive and participatory attitude of the guests.
Rouff’s model for Dodin-Bouffant was the great French gastronome Curnonsky. The charming photographs in his cookbook The Traditional Recipes of France are a source of never-ending delight to me. Regional specialties are illustrated with meticulous attention to detail. Wines, silverware, dishes, linen, all harmonize with the food. The photograph of beige and brown-striped gloves laid casually on the table beside tiny striped petits fours, a still life of crusted old bottles of port next to a Roquefort cheese on a daintily flowered plate, a succulent goose surrounded by fresh truffles—these are the visual stimuli that inspire me.
I have a wonderful picture book called La Belle France, and I have spent hours examining all the details in the photographs: the old gentleman pictured in his garden as he chose a ripe peach and held it up to the camera’s eye, the close-up of a strawberry patch overflowing with perfect tiny red berries, a restaurant in a garden with tables under the arbor right on the grass —images such as these have helped mold my gastronomic tastes in many ways.
While the menus that follow do not always include dishes specifically created by the cooks or writers who inspired them, they are the result of my exposure to the tastes and ideologies of these people, and in each case, their clearly defined aesthetics and their incomparable sense of food and life have inspired the menu.
Roasted Red Peppers with Anchovies
Potato and Truffle Salad
Hard-Cooked Quail Eggs
Marinated Cheese with Olives and Whole Garlic
Roast Pigeon with Purple Grapes
*Sourdough Bread with Parsley Butter
Lindsey’s Almond Tart
Picnics can be very special, indeed, if the foods are chosen carefully enough so that they last through the entire outing—or if the dishes improve with time. Then the picnickers can experience the food undistracted, discovering each dish as it is taken from the basket. So, it is important to consider every possible need when planning the picnic. Elizabeth David inspired this menu because she loves to eat out-of-doors and says she always travels with a bit of this food and that food, just in case she finds herself without access to something edible. Picnics provide diverse opportunities for experimentation with color and texture because all of the foods are laid upon the table or cloth at the same time. For example, in this menu the smooth purple skin of the grapes contrasts nicely with the crinkly brown skin of the squab, while the sleek black of the olives is a foil for the roasted skin of the bright red peppers.
SUGGESTED WINES: Red or white Provençal wine with most of the picnic, and a Muscat Beaumes-de-Venise with the dessert.
Roasted Red Peppers with Anchovies
3 large red bell peppers
½ cup virgin olive oil
3 whole salt-packed anchovies
6 to 8 basil leaves
ROAST 3 large red bell peppers directly over a medium-high gas flame on the stove top. Turn the peppers as they blacken, holding them with tongs to char the stem area. When the peppers are completely charred but still firm, about 5 to 6 minutes, remove them from the flame to a paper or plastic bag. Close the bag loosely and let the peppers steam for about 5 minutes.
Remove the peppers from the bag, cut them in half lengthwise and remove the seeds, fibers, and stems. Scrape the charred skin from the peppers with the blunt edge of a knife. Cut the peppers in 1-inch strips lengthwise, put them in a dish and cover them with ½ cup virgin olive oil.
Fillet 3 whole salt-packed anchovies and rinse them thoroughly in cold water. Add the anchovy fillets to the peppers along with 6 to 8 basil leaves. Sprinkle lightly with coarse ground black pepper and toss the basil, anchovies, and peppers to coat with oil. Arrange the dish and marinate at cool room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Potato and Truffle Salad
12 red or white new potatoes, about 2 inches in diameter
1 tablespoon sea salt
3 large shallots
¼ cup white wine vinegar
Fresh black truffles
about ½ cup virgin olive oil
PUT 12 small red or white new potatoes in a pot and cover with water by 1 inch. Add 1 tablespoon sea salt, cover the potatoes, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a strong simmer, remove the cover and cook the potatoes gently for 5 to 10 minutes. Check the potatoes frequently with a small sharp knife for doneness. When the potatoes are just done, drain them and let them cool.
While the potatoes are cooking, dice 3 large shallots and put them in a small dish. Cover them with ¼ cup white wine vinegar and sprinkle them with a little salt.
Peel the potatoes and slice them into ¼-inch rounds. Thinly slice as many fresh black truffles as you can afford and toss them gently with the potatoes. Finish the vinaigrette by adding ½ cup virgin olive oil and freshly ground black pepper to the shallots and vinegar. Adjust the vinaigrette with more olive oil, pepper, or salt if necessary. Dress the salad and cover it well so that the truffle aroma permeates the potatoes while the salad is being taken to the picnic.
Hard-Cooked Quail Eggs
12 to 18 quail eggs
PUT 12 to 18 quail eggs in a pot and cover with cold water by 1 inch. Bring the water to a boil. The eggs are usually done just as the water begins to bubble. Remove one egg and cut it open to test for doneness. The centers should still be soft and orange. Drain the eggs immediately and cool them under cold running water. Shell the eggs at the picnic.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
As a culinary student, I found Alice Water's book to to be incredibly sense arousing! The four pages on 'Composing A Menu' are invaluable themselves. The rest of this work presents several 5+ course meal menus including Hors d'Oeuvres to accompanying wines that will bring your guests to their knees. For the love of fresh mustard, add this book to your colection!
American foodies owe a debt of gratitude to Alice Waters. She is the patron saint of California cooking, or new American cooking, or whatever you want to call it. She¿s the one who gave us goat cheese croutons, roasted beets, mache, and so many other now-ubiquitous dishes. ¿Former Chez Panisse chef¿ is just as much a brand name as the brand named meats and produce she serves at her restaurant.For those reasons, I actually read The Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook cover to cover, the way one reads an MFK Fisher book ¿ to get an understanding of the cook¿s philosophy as well as recipes. Both women write in a formal style and have strong ideas about ingredients, preparation, presentation, and consumption. Unfortunately, Water¿s writing is more spare, perhaps as befits a patron saint, and lacks the pithy humor that leavens Fisher¿s books. Reading her prose is more like learning a lesson than being entertained. Which may be why this book struck me as an essential book for someone who wanted to learn to be a restaurant chef, but not particularly useful for someone cooking at home. Most of the menus require some final preparation of the next dish after the preceding one has been served ¿ possible in a restaurant, but not much fun at a dinner party if the cook wants to eat with the guests. The individual dishes are also complicated or labor-intensive, causing me to often think as I read, ¿I¿d eat that if someone made it for me.¿ Waters is particularly fond of leg of lamb, lobsters, and quail and her recipes for these show the difficulty in preparing them at home. First, most of the lamb recipes call for spit-roasting the leg of lamb. She even explains how to build a spit. In my spit-deficient kitchen, those recipes are not possible. Second, while I find a steamed lobster to be a wonderful treat on a special occasion, Waters takes the fun out of it with instructions to semi-cook a lobster, then remove the meat and make a fumet with the shells ¿ a process involving roasting the shells, making the broth, putting the shells in a blender, then straining the whole thing through a fine sieve ¿ then finish cooking the lobster. Whew!Finally, quail do not usually show up on my dinner table, but if they did, I do not think I¿d have the dedication to follow Walter¿s recipes. In most of her quail recipes she gives similar instructions: ¿Marinate the quail in a cool place overnight . . . turning the quail four to five times during this time.¿ No little boney bird is worth losing a night of sleep.Reading this Menu Cookbook made me want to spring for dinner at Chez Panisse, but it did not make me want to don an apron and start cooking.