Some people read the Yellow Pages to pass the time away. I read Larousse Gastronomique. Weighing in at a hefty 6 pounds 11-1/2 ounces, it is worth its heft in historical perspective, culinary fact, gastronomic bravura, and is lots of fun to read. I recommend it highly for our new generation of foodies whose passion runs deep but whose knowledge is short of breadth. Not their fault. The field of gastronomy is slowing being replaced by the current vogue of anything goes, anyone can be a chef, anyone can write a cookbook, and everyone can be a critic. Information and experience not required! When the American version of the book first appeared in 1971, Craig Claiborne wrote, “It is a work so towering and so meticulously put together, the reader must stand back in utter awe…A volume that should be of extraordinary interest to anyone with a serious interest in gastronomy as an art.” Encyclopedic in nature — from A to Z — it contains 4000 recipes and 1000 illustrations and explains every facet of classical cuisine.
The first installment is abaisse — which, according to Larousse, is a term used in French cookery for a sheet of rolled-out pastry. The last word (or words in this case) is zuppa inglese — a dessert invented by Neapolitan pastry cooks who settled in big European cities in the 19th century. It was inspired by English puddings that were fashionable at the time (literally meaning “English soup”), made from layers of sponge cake soaked in liqueur, with pastry cream, candied fruits and covered in meringue.
But something is missing! The flap copy says that the last word in the book is zwieback (a kind of cracker) — but it simply isn’t there.
So I offer you a radically simple recipe from Recipes 1-2-3.
This simple little twice-baked cookie is somewhere between Jewish mandelbrot and Italian biscotti. Great for dunking, great for teething.
2 extra-large eggs
2/3 cup vanilla sugar
1 cup flour
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Beat the eggs with a pinch of salt in a standing mixer for 6 minutes until very stiff and creamy. Add the sugar and beat 1 minute. Lower speed and add the flour (add more if it is too wet.) Pour batter into a nonstick 8-inch loaf pan (or grease the pan lightly.) Bake 25 to 30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool on rack. Lower oven temperature to 275 degrees. Remove the loaf from the pan and cut 16 1/4-inch slices. Place on a baking sheet and bake 8 to 10 minutes on each side until they begin to color. Let cool. Makes 16
You will learn so much, with Larousse at your bedside, that you will want to quit your job and become a Culinary Historian.