Cookbook Watch: 'French Bistro Seasonal Recipes'
Bistrot Paul Bert in the 11th arrondissement of Paris appears on almost everyone's list of top Paris bistros. It looks as if it's been there forever, so it's wonderful reading about the beginnings of this modest place in the introduction to a wonderful new book called, appropriately enough, "French Bistro." Paul Bert's owner, Bertrand Auboyneau (Paul Bert is the street on which the bistro is located), writes that after making an agreement with the building's owner, "I became the proud owner of a disgustingly dirty, tastelessly decorated piece of property, with a kitchen that would best be dealt with by demolition. It was also located in a none too desirable area, but none of this worried me in the slightest, for I was in love..."
"We scraped the floors, stripped the walls, sourced antique mercury mirrors, found sets of chairs, varnished tables, and hung vintage posters on the walls." An antique dealer supplied period glasses, plates and dishes. Another provided tables, chairs and other bistro furniture. And then after a series of cooks who didn't quite work, a young Burgundian, Thierry Laurent, took the job. He's still there.
Written with Auboyneau's good friend and Le Figaro food critic François Simon, "French Bistro" is not a typical cookbook, though it does have plenty of recipes from the Paul Bert and some of the authors' other favorite bistros. As Auboyneau explains, "It is a book about the 12 years of happiness we have shared with wonderful people: restaurant owners, wine producers, suppliers, cooks, dishwashers, and waiters, all of whom have contributed to the successful rebirth of the classic bistro."
As for the recipes, I can't wait to cook veal chop in a creamed morel sauce, salt cod-filled piquillo peppers, herring and potato salad, calf's liver with green asparagus, blood sausage, apple, and potato parmentier or fattened hen in Jura vin jaune. Oh, and definitely tongue salad with tarragon-scented new potatoes. And in case you're wondering, the famous fillet of beef with Sarawak pepper is on page 168.
The text briefly covers all the essentials of the bistro -- last, but not least, the clients. "What is a bistro without guests? A song without words, a film without music. The guest gives the cue for the show to begin."
"French Bistro Seasonal Recipes" by Bertrand Auboyneau and François Simon (Flammarion, 2012, 215 pgs, $34.95). Available Feb. 7.
-- S. Irene Virbila
Photos: Top: French Bistro cover (Bistrot Paul Bert) Bottom: Diner at Paul Bert. Credit: Christian Sarramon / Flammarion