I have a desert island list of cookbooks. Ones that I would want on the proverbial desert island that is, of course, equipped with a full kitchen. Being a retailer of cookbooks, it never occurred to me to write about out- of-print ones that I use constantly and have bought extra copies, just in case… Tatiana, the Bologna daughter who writes Pronto! Che Si Mangia for us, cherishes her copy of Camille Glen’s Heritage of Southern Cooking, and suggested that we should write about these cookbooks and the recipes within that we adore.
So my first book that I would be heartbroken if I ever lost, is Samuel and Narcissa Chamberlain’s The Flavor of France.
It was only when I researched the history of this wonderful book that I found out that he was a noted artist and print maker and taught at M.I.T. He and his wife lived in London, Spain, Italy and most of all in France. Before the advent of World War II forced them to leave again for the United States, the Chamberlains collected and cooked dozens of recipes from regions they had visited. He wrote a charming book under a pseudonym- Phineas T. Beck- titled Clementine in the Kitchen that has been reprinted and which we can hardly keep in stock. It is a great read AND it has some of the recipes found in The Flavor of France.
But back to this wonderful book of lovely black and white photographs by the author, each with a recipe underneath. One of my favorites is a pear dessert called Poires Josephine. A legend behind this simple and luscious dish (just pears, butter, sugar and cream) is that it was a signature dessert of a housekeeper and cook on a small estate in the French countryside. The property was taken over by the Nazis and Josephine poisoned the well. She was executed. I make this dessert often (although my husband says not often enough) and it always makes me think of the memorial park at Oradour-Sur-Glane. It is definitely worth a visit if you are visiting in that area (Haute-Vienne) of France.
Like all their recipes in their Flavor series (they did one with regional recipes in the US and another with regional recipes in Italy…I have those too). They are short and some come out perfectly with little adjustment such as their Lapin en Gibelotte ( another post, I promise), others require tweakage, such as Poires Josephine
6 Pears, peeled, cored and quartered–They suggested Anjou, but I prefer Bosc. And I love my pear corer which the
Cuisinettes call Snoopy on a stick.
Pack them in a shallow baking dish– I bake them in a copper tarte tatin pan as the carmelization is better, but I have done it in porcelain, Pyrex, and terra cotta.
Sprinkle generously with granulated sugar and dot them with 4 tablespoons butter, cut into small bits. Use unsalted butter, and mix in some Light Muscovado sugar with good superfine or caster sugar so that you get about 1/2 cup.
Put in hottest possible preheated oven and bake them until sugar is brown and caramelized. This is where you need to look and turn the pears after about 20 minutes and check until you have thick light brown syrupy texture with the juice of the pears, sugar and butter. My oven goes up to 500F.
Then add 3/4 cup of heavy cream, spoon the caramelized juice and the cream over the pears to blend the sauce, and serve them warm, from the baking dish. Serves four to six. In the US you should only use organic heavy cream–never ultra pasteurised. Our cream is thinner and requires additional reheating with the pears until you get this lush golden sauce.
This book is available on sites that feature out-of- print cookbooks. My personal favorite is Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks. If you are in New York City and can arrange it, visit her wonderful shop. By the way, if you have an AOOP (Alas, out of print) cookbook you use frequently, let us know and share one one of your favorite recipes. You never know, a publisher might notice our interest and republish it, as that is what happened to Clementine In The Kitchen