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'Rotis': The simple art of roasting

Rotis Just in time for fall's rain and chill, Stephane Reynaud is out with "Rotis," another book of hearty French food.

The author of "Pork & Sons" and "Terrine" and the owner of the restaurant Villa9Trois in Montreuil, just outside of Paris, Reynaud has attracted something of a cult following with his books, at least partly because of the distinctive designs. He's got a cook's visual sensibilities and food is photographed in situ -- in the case of "Roti," that means you've got some sort of meat sitting in some sort  of roasting pan, brown bits, rendered fat, splatter marks and all. Call him the "anti-Martha."

Recipe-wise, "Rotis" follows much the same pattern as his previous books, offering a range of dishes that go from the almost embarrassingly simple (chicken roasted with potatoes and onions) to the almost staggeringly complex (duck breast stuffed with foie gras and porcini).

Instructions are cursory and with the more complicated dishes you get the feeling he's writing something more like a musician's "fake book" -- a basic outline of the structure that will allow a fellow professional (or accomplished amateur) to follow along. Apparently he's not a fan of the thermometer, either, so you're left a little at sea as to when a roast might be done.

But, although these cursory descriptions can be a bit intimidating in some cases ("Bone the saddles of rabbit via the belly, taking care not to separate the two fillets"), mostly they serve to remind you of just how simple, and basic, the art of roasting really is.

And on a cold, rainy, windy day, there is little more comforting than the most basic instruction of all: "Heat the oven."

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-- Russ Parsons

 
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