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Tony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook

Les Halles CookbookShortly before I left for France I ordered Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook: Strategies, Recipes, and Techniques of Classic Bistro Cooking. Now that I'm back and desperately craving all things French, I've dug into it, and wow! It's great! Not that I've made anything from it yet, but it's so readable (especially if you're a fan of his writing) and also so authentic.

My eating adventures last month in Paris really broadened my French culinary horizons -- and vocabulary -- and I found I recognized so many of the dishes that fill the book. Plus, he's just so frank, I find it refreshing, especially when it comes to discussing French food, which tends to receive some stuffy (or worse, insulting) treatment in the wrong hands. The back has a glossary to help clear up any confusion the reader may have about unknown terms. My favorite definition? That for my old friend foie gras:

FOIE GRAS: The fattened liver of a goose or duck. Unfortunately, an endangered menu item with the advent of angry, twisted, humorless anticruelty activists who've never had any kind of good sex or laughed heartily at a joke in their whole miserable lives and who are currently threatening and terrorizing chefs and their families to get the stuff banned. Likely to disappear from tables outside of France in our lifetimes.

Also spot-on:

CREME FRAICHE: Expensive French sour cream.

I'm heading back to New York City later this week and I'm going to eat at Les Halles. Not only has the cookbook piqued my interest, but also my apartment in Paris was right at Les Halles, the old central marketplace of Paris turned horrid underground shopping mall. It seems only fitting that I make a visit, and partake of the glories of the French table once again.

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