The Tante Marie's Cooking School Cookbook: More Than 250 Recipes for the Passionate Home Cook|
by Mary S Risley
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|A Review of: The Tante Marie∆s Cooking School Cookbook
by Sarah Sheard
This is the first cookbook produced by Mary Risley, founder of Tante
Marie's Cooking School. The 250 recipes included do not cover all
the culinary waterfronts but offer a firm foundation from which any
adventurous cook may sally forth. Each recipe provides easily grasped
instructions on everything from how to trim artichokes to wrapping
salmon in parchment bundles with beurre blanc. A number of basic
French cookbooks also do this of course, but Risley-and this is
rarer-encourages improvisation. In each section, she includes a how
to cook this without a recipe' entry. If it isn't a salmon looking
up from the reader's cutting board but a haddock instead, Risley
will have provided enough core information to allow for the adjustment.
She also includes a the big problem' entry at the start of each
section which safely guides home cooks through whatever tricky bits
lurk behind kneading tender pastry, testing doneness in meat or
getting the risotto to the table in synch with the diners.
The recipes themselves span a solid range, from simple starters
like mushrooms filled with garlic butter to more scary-ambitious
desserts like almond Genoise with fresh fruit and raspberry sauce.
Each recipe is followed by precise, brief postscripts, printed in
red, flagging what to look for when buying the ingredients; how to
store; what to substitute, what is meant by folding' etc.
Despite naming her school after a French mentor, Risley does not
offer particularly French-dominant recipes. Yes, she calls them
hors d'oeuvres rather than starters but goes on to include a pasta
and risotto section, a number of Middle Eastern dishes, chilies
here and there and a decidedly hippie whole-grain breakfast bread.
I instantly warmed to her voice. It conveyed an effortlessly
conversational tone yet wasted not a word and exuded steady respect
for the kitchen wisdom even a novice foodie has or will soon acquire
working through this book. The instructions were without exception
models of clarity-a bit like having her there at my elbow. I also
appreciated that she was not a control freak about quantifying
everything down to the last gram. A bunch of this, a handful of
that, liberates the creator inside each reader.
Mary Risley's got a huge home advantage, having run a cooking school
in San Francisco's affluent Fisherman's Wharf area for thirty years.
She's seen it all by this time and knows exactly where the amateur
cook tends to blow it as well as where the advanced might like to
venture next. Her three decades of teaching coincide with the
evolution of the home cook-likely your mom or mine-who started out
married life thickening casseroles with Campbell's Cream of Mushroom
soup, growing more adventurous with ingredients as a little prosperity
arrived and the world swapped foodstuffs, graduating, by the new
millennium, to heady improvisations of lemon grass, fresh coriander
and wasabi, much to the delight or dismay of hubby and the now-adult
A cookbook ought to be a sensual pleasure to read and hold and
should not fight back when opened on a counter. This one has none
of the arty full colour photos we've come to expect in cookbooks
but does offer occasional, modestly decorative line drawings of
hands slicing vegetables and so on. The book lies open obediently
and the text is in easy-to-read columns, with passages alternating
in red and black on creamy pages. Most pretty to look at, although
the red type was a little hard to read. The overall presentation
this book made was one of confidence-building, unfazable recipes
of appeal to both novice and experienced home cooks. Risley's
intuitive coaching effortlessly conveyed the essentials and is
likely the next best thing to attending her cooking school in person.