HomeLifestyleMiss Traveling To France And Italy? Here Is The Next Best Thing

Miss Traveling To France And Italy? Here Is The Next Best Thing

If you can’t physically travel to France and Italy right now, you can be an armchair traveler with a set of books from Francois-Regis Gaudry and Friends, published by Artisan Books. 

Gaudry is a French food critic, radio host and author. The “friends” are a brigade of food friends, experts, food artisans, academics, cooks, confectioners and sommeliers that contributed to the glorious and ginormous books. The first book, Let’s Eat France was published in 2018 and a few weeks ago, Let’s Eat Italy was published.  

Weighing in at 6-pounds and 400 pages each, the over-sized illustrated coffee-table books are stunning in their design and perfect gifts to buy for yourself and/or anyone you know who loves both the featured countries and their food. And, the set of two would be a very welcome and very special gift for the foodie traveler. 

Part encyclopedia, part history book, part travel guide and part recipe book, it is full of fun facts and provides “everything you want to know about the food” of France in the case of Let’s Eat France, or Italy, in the case of Let’s Eat Italy.

I love both the commonly known and the esoteric information like a list of France’s holy saints of foods, and Italy’s 19 different eating establishments. Most of us know the Trattoria, but have you ever heard of the Bacaro? The name comes from the Venetian expression far bacara (to party) and it is a place that serves “wine by the glass, spritz and snacks.” There are about a dozen other names for eating and drinking establishments that I had never heard of.  This is the ultimate [French and Italian] read for food trivia buffs.

And there is more…apparently, Dishwasher Salmon and Car-Engine Chicken were invented in France, and I thought it was an American thing…but one thing that was new to me was Electric Kettle Eggs. It makes sense, and if you have an electric kettle and no stovetop, you can make perfect soft-boiled eggs with your tea or coffee as pioneered by Jean-Philippe Derenne.

Both books are fun to read and you can open the pages at random as each subject is quickly and colorfully presented. Common questions are also answered, did you ever wonder if you should you eat the skin of sausage? The answer is if you buy good, “well-made sausage” using natural casings, yes. If you buy commercial sausage with plastic casings, no. 

And, the recipes abound.  If you are feeling French, you can make your favorite Croque Monsieur the real way with a broiled topping of heavy cream, cream fraiche and cheese or bake a Sweet Souffle with Grand Marnier first popularized by Paul Bocuse. In the mood for something fancy? Prepare Nouvelle Cuisine visionary Chef Alain Senderens’ Brittany Lobster with Vanilla which he created in 1968, or Pierre Herme’s famous vanilla macarons among many, many others.

Craving Italian? Start with Amaro, “ a bitter beverage to facilitate digestion, prompt a nap or encourage chitchat with friends.” Next up for me is, Pizze Napolentane either the Classic Margherita or the modern Rucola (Arugula) topped with Mozzarella di bufala once baked. All your favorite pastas and risottos are here, as is Parmigiana di Melanzane a.k.a. Eggplant Parmesan, which I mistakenly assumed was an Italian-American thing and not authentic.  I stand corrected! 

This time of year is perfect for learning the professional technique of Panettone Tradizionale Milano and you can bake one with candied orange, honey and vanilla; or bake one of many creative versions including candied chestnuts, and candied apricots and coffee. 

The section on “A Love For Tomatoes” made me remember how I learned the secret to a superior silky and simple tomato sauce when I took a cooking class in Tuscany many years ago—shocker, it’s a food mill.  Here is a similar tomato puree recipe from “Let’s Eat Italy.” 

Buon Appetito!

Passata Di Pomodoro

Can be used in pasta sauces and as a tomato sauce for pizza

Makes 4 cups 

4 1/2    pounds ripe tomatoes, such as San Marzano, Roma, or on the vine…,very ripe but firm

6          basil leaves, washed and dried

2          teaspoons (12g) fine-grain sea salt

Special equipment: 4 one-cup glass jars, sterilized, Food mill

Wash, dry and quarter the tomatoes. Remove and discard the seeds, stems and cores. Place the quarters in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and cook for 15 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally. 

Process the flesh through a vegetable mill to remove the skin, and create a velvety consistency. If it is still to runny, cook for another five minutes. 

Add the basil and salt. Stir well. Use immediately or transfer the hot purée to clean jars. 

The purée will keep in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.

Recipe adapted from “Let’s Eat Italy” by Francois-Regis Gaudry and Friends and published by Artisan Books, November 9, 2021.

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