NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The beloved author of Dinner in an Instant breaks down the new French classics with 150 recipes that reflect a modern yet distinctly French sensibility.
“Melissa Clark’s contemporary eye is just what the chef ordered. Her recipes are traditional yet fresh, her writing is informative yet playful, and the whole package is achingly chic.”—Yotam Ottolenghi
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST COOKBOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR • Delish • Library Journal
Just as Julia Child brought French cooking to twentieth-century America, so now Melissa Clark brings French cooking into the twenty-first century. She first fell in love with France and French food as a child; her parents spent their August vacations traversing the country in search of the best meals with Melissa and her sister in tow. Near to her heart, France is where Melissa''s family learned to cook and eat. And as her own culinary identity blossomed, so too did her understanding of why French food is beloved by Americans.
Now, as one of the nation''s favorite cookbook authors and food writers, Melissa updates classic French techniques and dishes to reflect how we cook, shop, and eat today. With recipes such as Salade Nicoise with Haricot Vert, Cornmeal and Harissa Soufflé, Scalloped Potato Gratin, Lamb Shank Cassoulet, Ratatouille Sheet-Pan Chicken, Campari Olive Oil Cake, and Apricot Tarte Tatin (to name a few),
Dinner in French will quickly become a go-to resource and endure as an indispensable classic.
Dinner in French is an invitation to travel with Melissa to the country she knows well and loves deeply, and to cook with your heart. Her recipes toggle between high and homey
—I love when she says she adds ‘a dose of Brooklyn moxie’ to France’s ‘buttery haute cuisine.’ But what I love most is what you get from this mix: Food you’ll want to cook and share all the time, anywhere you are.”
“Oozing with charm, enthusiasm, and deep-rooted expertise as only she has,
Dinner in French may just be my favorite Melissa Clark cookbook of all! Her palpable adoration for French cooking and the intuitive way she adapts it to her Brooklyn life make each recipe more approachable and alluring than the next. No need for a plane ticket to France when you can get in the kitchen with Melissa and savor all of this glorious food!
Vive la cuisine!”
Dinner in French is a joy-filled love letter to France and a portrait of what it can do for a fledgling cook. Melissa Clark is never sentimental, though—her love is the result of a profound understanding of the French way with food, and a curious intelligence. There are classic recipes here but also plenty I was unaware of, and Melissa brings her own touches to many dishes. You’ll want to book a flight to Paris or Marseille, or at least spend a weekend in a pool of sunlight, reading every word. Moving as well as inspiring.”
“If you have ever dreamed of spending a summer eating/cooking in France,
Dinner in French is as close as you can get without traveling there. Every recipe brings French cooking alive.”
Dinner in French could also be called the dinner that you want to eat tonight, this Saturday, and this Sunday, and actually every week and every season. Clark has an uncanny facility to translate complex dishes into their straightforward essentials, and with enough hunger and longing that, like a spell, she makes you want to make them. The cookbook is so appealing it will drive you a little crazy.”
“A superb addition to [Clark’s] cookbook repertoire. Whether they are classic French staples, such as Niçoise salad and scalloped potato gratin, or inspired twists on the classics, such as wine-braised chicken with orange and olives or crème fraîche caramels, each recipe is a hit. . . . Clark also provides dozens of helpful make-ahead tips. . . . Equally inviting are her introductions to each recipe, which are filled with fun anecdotes (“It took a long time for me to agree to taste a snail”) and even more helpful tips (“If tarragon isn’t your favorite herb, you can use chives”). This remarkable volume will entice avid home cooks to return to it time and again.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“The French canon, but make it Brooklyn.
Dinner in French is the invigorating, mouthwatering best of two worlds that Melissa Clark brings together like no one else. I can’t wait to start cooking.”
“Whether you''re craving bistro fare or a trip to Paris, you will love this joyful panoply of modern French recipes.
Dinner in French reinvents the classics with Melissa Clark’s signature sparkle, clever cooking techniques, and fresh flavors. Finally, the secrets behind simple, spectacular, seasonal French home cooking are available to all of us every day.”
Melissa Clark is the author of
Dinner in an Instant, and
Comfort in an Instant and is a staff writer for the
New York Times Food section, where she writes their wildly popular food column, “A Good Appetite.” The winner of multiple James Beard and IACP awards, Melissa is the host of the “Weeknight Kitchen” podcast on
The Splendid Table. Melissa earned an MFA in writing from Columbia, and her work has been selected for the
Best American Food Writing. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter.
I can’t really speak French, but I cook in French. For years, I studied conjugations and the
passé simple, practiced pronouncing
grenouille, but try as I might I just couldn’t seem to master it beyond the essentials like
“deux pains au chocolat, s’il vous plaît.”
In the kitchen, however, I am fluent. The fistfuls of garlic and thyme, the pebbly feel of grey
sel marin de Guérande between my fingers, and the lushness of an emulsifying sauce are now so ingrained, I can cook in French without thinking. The ethereal creaminess of a
soufflé, the anchovy funk of a
pissalardière, the caramelized depth of
boeuf Bourguignon are as deeply part of me as the bagels and lox we ate in Brooklyn every Sunday.
That merging of classic French cuisine and the food I grew up eating in Brooklyn is the foundation of how I approach cooking—and the raison d’étre of this book. To me, the cuisines are not two distinct things, but seamlessly intertwined into a glorious whole, because I learned about them at the same time. Yes, we waited in line for Di Fara’s pizza, Lundy’s clams, and chicken feet and tripe at our favorite dim sum palace. And we also spent countless weekends fussing over Julia Child’s terrines and Jacques Pépin’s
coq au vin, which my mother might slather on leftover challah, and my dad might spike with soy sauce (sorry, Jacques). It wasn’t irreverence so much as an intense culinary curiosity, a playful exploration of the delicious. All of these influences are so essential to the way I think about food that they’re the touchstones of every recipe I create. I might start by asking myself, would adding chicken schmaltz to
ratatouille be a good thing? The full answer is on page 176. The short answer is: Yes!
None of this would have happened if my Great-Aunt Martha and Uncle Jack hadn’t dragged my parents on their first trip to Europe—seven countries in twenty-five days—after medical school in 1960. My dad, whose ideal vacation up until then was fishing in the Catskills, didn’t want to go. But they went and fell hard for France, getting hooked on escargot, extra crispy frites, and the high culture of Monet-filled museums and Gothic cathedrals, all so astoundingly ancient and different from the Yeshiva-centric Brooklyn they grew up in. My parents went back every year, first by themselves, then with my sister and me in tow.
The planning began in January. At first my parents rented houses. But at some point they started house exchanging to economize. Less money spent on lodging meant more on the Michelin-starred meals my parents mapped into their own stellar universe. The year began with the arrival of a thick catalog in the mail: HomeAway, bursting with options. We swapped our old wood-framed Victorian in Flatbush for stone-walled farmhouses in Burgundy, cabins in the Dordogne, stucco split-levels near Nîmes. It was the 1980s, and it was still the custom for a psychiatrist to take off the entire month of August.
This was back before the internet, back before cell phones, even before fax machines. My parents typed letters on blue onionskin paper, then sent them via airmail. There was no way to look up references and no background checks from the HomeAway company. We packed our valuables into a locked closet, printed out instructions for the care of the cats, and caught a cheap charter flight to Paris, hoping for the best. It always worked out, though some years better than others. There were the lifelong friends we made with the people whose homes we exchanged for ours, like the Lamontagnes, gourmets to the core, whose pantry filled with jars of homemade quince jam and pork rillettes was rival to our own.
On the other end of the spectrum were the shady characters who used our Brooklyn house and Volkswagen Rabbit while we got their marbleclad apartment in Nice, their white Mercedes convertible, and their National Front pamphlets next to a loaded gun in their bedside table. We came home to find the odometer of the car disconnected, the wineglasses broken, and the cat gone. We never did figure out what happened, but always wondered if the mezuzahs on our doors sparked the sabotage.
Meanwhile, behind all the closed doors of our house exchanges, my mother, an incorrigible snoop, opened high cupboards and poked around closets, hoping for menorahs, seder plates, yarmulkes—looking for a clue, any indication of kindred spirits. Sometimes a bookshelf revealed a volume of translated Philip Roth or Saul Bellow, which led to speculation and a little spark.
Our true connection to the French was through our mutual obsession with the food—learning about it, exploring it, and preparing lavish feasts with it. When we weren’t cooking, we were planning the next meal, chasing the daily markets from small town to even smaller town, reveling in the figs, the sausages, the incredible cheeses we couldn’t get at home.
We also went to fancy restaurants. It was my dad’s quest to eat in every Michelin-starred restaurant in France, and he came pretty close, despite getting lost along the way. Pre-GPS, losing our way on tiny country roads was just a normal part of the journey to a meal. When my kindergarten teacher asked me what I did with my parents every August in France, I said, “First we get lost, then we have lunch.”
That cute reply was the original title for this book. But as I cooked and wrote down my recipes, I realized that I wasn’t lost anymore. I knew where I was going with every recipe. They’re quirky and personal, streamlined and practical, seasoned with a dose of Brooklyn moxie to augment all that buttery
haute cuisine. Yes, there are times I might meander down a seemingly dead end of harissa
gougères only to end up with a buoyant
soufflé (page 34). I always find my way because, really, I’m not going very far. It’s all right there, rooted in my New York–Jewish–Francophile DNA. And my cooking ends up playfully and unmistakably French. At our house, the conversation might be in English, but dinner’s in French.