Read this cookbook: “My Master Recipes: 165 Recipes to Inspire Confidence in the Kitchen, With Dozens of Variations” by Patricia Wells (William Morrow Cookbooks, $35)
By Wendell Brock
American journalist Patricia Wells moved to Paris in 1980 for what she thought would be a two-year assignment. She’s still there.
A four-time James Beard Award winner and the owner of cooking schools in Paris and Provence, Wells has just released her 15th cookbook. It’s a master class in simplicity and elegance, organized around 17 essential techniques and designed to instill culinary aplomb. “Once a home cook clearly understands and masters each simple technique,” Wells writes, “confidence soars and calmness in the kitchen reigns.”
Wells tells us how to poach an egg in a teapot, Japanese style; how to steam fish with lemongrass, peas and baby spinach (she prefers a bamboo steamer); how to infuse oils and make compound butters; how to grind meat and turn it into sausage and meatballs; how to concoct clafoutis, panna cotta and chocolate truffles.
Some recipes I’m pumped about: Joel Robuchon’s “Cold-Fry” Frites, which call for heating oil and potatoes together in a pot at the same time, “totally defying all the rules of deep-frying.” Wells’ from-scratch falafel. Her Asian Chicken and Cilantro Meatballs. (Yes, I’ve gone mad for meatballs.) And any and all of the chicken stews and four-hour braised pork and lamb dishes in the chapter on braising.
Consider her prose: “I love plump, alabaster scallops in any form: as heavenly petals in a carpaccio, seared to a crisp in a skillet, or grilled in the shell with lots of butter, herbs, and sometimes fresh black truffles.” Now how lovely is that?
“My Master Recipes” makes me want to ditch work and spend all of spring cooking at a quiet, leisurely place. Good things are not to be rushed. And this book is one to be savored. Marcella Hazan, Julia Child and M.F.K. Fisher are no longer with us, alas. Patricia Wells may be the next best thing.
Wendell Brock is an Atlanta food and culture writer, frequent AJC contributor and winner of a 2016 James Beard Foundation Award for journalism. Follow him on Twitter (@MrBrock) and Instagram (@WendellDavidBrock).