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Avec Eric - Cookbook Review

A Culinary Journey with Eric Ripert, Featuring Over 100 Simple Recipes

By Eric Ripert

(Wiley, 2010)

Avec Eric: A Culinary Journey with Eric Ripert, Featuring Over 100 Simple Recipes

Chef Eric Ripert's new cookbook, Avec Eric, reads more like an adventure book organized around principles of cooking rather than a traditional cookbook. The book by the famed toque behind NYC's Le Bernardin restaurant artfully combines kitchen wisdom, cooking philosophy and regional history to achieve a complete discussion of a menu from start to finish.

Anthony Bourdain sets the tone for what the reader can expect in the foreword: an introspective and insightful exploration of the ingredients and practices that make not only a great dish, but also a great chef. Ripert lays down his philosophy, which rests on a series of complex and well thought-out principles, in the introduction. "Cooking is how I express myself creatively," he writes and "Cooking is a holistic process."

Organized around chapters that represent a cooking journey, his recipes reflect a particular principle such as "Star Ingredients," "Artisanal," "Craftsmanship" and "Tradition." Ripert takes the time to stress the importance of these ideals through interesting and insightful stories. Based in his experience as an executive chef, his anecdotes are infused with rich imagery of his world travels, conversations with the providers of the best local ingredients, and the cultural and environmental implications of each local ingredient he uses.

The instructions are clear to read, and well anticipate any problems a reader might experience while preparing a dish such as herb and salt-crusted lamb loin; pan-roasted Arctic char over black olive potatoes and melted cherry tomatoes; or roasted capon with mushroom-truffle stuffing at home. The photos provide not only visual references for the end product, but also document Ripert's adventures with portraits and landscapes of the people and places he visits. His holistic approach to cooking is reflected in the emphasis placed on the high quality of the ingredients, the dish as part of a larger menu, and the wine pairing that goes with it.

Avec Eric offers a path to not only creating sophisticated meals with appropriate wine pairings, but also to understanding a deeper and more integrated philosophy of cooking. The combination of tradition, environmentally-aware farmers providing top ingredients, and Ripert's insight as a master chef, make this book a must-have for any cooking enthusiast looking to get more than just a meal out of their kitchen

Reviewed by Claudia Craciun

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