Hillary Davis traces her fascination with the cocotte--the enameled, cast-iron French version of a Dutch oven—to early memories of her grandmother:
“She was pulling a hot pot out of the oven and was swinging it around heavily to land with a thud on the wooden kitchen table. Her pot was bursting at the top with a golden crust that oozed bubbling brown gravy down the sides. Ever since that pot had been brought to her as a gift from Europe, she had not gone a day without using it. If she was the queen of the kitchen, this pot was the queen of her cuisine...”
Today the New Hampshire-based author has grandma’s pot proudly displayed in her own kitchen...along with a vast collection of French-made cocottes she has collected over the years.
And, as of a few weeks ago, she has a gorgeous new cookbook devoted to cooking in them. Using techniques such as braising, stewing, roasting, baking, stovetop and frying, the 224-page hardcover Le French Oven will help you create tantalizing appetizers, soups, main courses and desserts, no matter the size, shape or make of your own pot.
Hillary’s publisher, Gibbs Smith, has given me two copies of this beautiful new book to give away.
Hillary works as a food journalist, cooking instructor and publisher of the popular food blog Marche Dimanche. She's a long-time food columnist and restaurant critic for New Hampshire Magazine and her work has been featured in many national and international magazines. She has an economics degree from Columbia, a Masters from Cambridge (yikes!) and two previous books to her credit: French Comfort Food and Cuisine Niçoise.
When she’s not at home in New Hampshire, Hillary’s almost always in France. Having lived along the Cote d’Azur for more than eleven years and in Paris for three years, she now spends two to three months every year exploring different regions of the country she considers her second home.
In the book’s intro, Hillary gives us some brief background about the object of her passion: “The best [cocottes] are made in France and those are the ones I collect,” she explains. “It’s a subjective and personal opinion based upon years of trying different ones. Mine are French ovens and are 100 percent made in France.”
She also tells the stories behind the top brands-- Chasseur, Emile Henry, Fontignac, Le Creuset, Mauviel, Revol, Staub—and provides info on how to choose and care for their wares.
“I never realized they are like snowflakes," she says. "Each one is unique and hand made. Emile Henry even has its people sign the bottom of the cocottes they make. It makes me appreciate them even more.”
And then it’s on to 80 tantalizing recipes for full-size cocottes and mini-cocottes, including Warm Mushroom Custards with Garlic Toast, French Carrot Rice Soup, Basque-Style Paella, Two-Hands Praying Rack of Lamb Roast, Lemony Braised Chicken with Green Olives, and Beef Pot-au-Feu. Dessert recipes include Raspberry Clafoutis and Hot Brandied Peaches Over Ice Cream.
To illustrate Le French Oven, Hillary turned to her long-time collaborator, the photographer Steven Rothfeld, whose other titles include The Tuscan Sun Cookbook, Bringing Tuscany Home, Hungry for France, Simply French and French Comfort Food. In addition to photos of the finished dishes you’ll find wonderful images of French villages, people, landscapes and more.
To enter to win a copy of the book, simply leave a comment under “comments” below. Tell us why you simply must have this book...or why you want to give it as a gift...or what you remember most about your own grandmother’s cooking...or how you came to have your own cocotte. Make sure to leave us a way to reach you; signing in with your Google account is not enough. Winners will be chosen in the next month and the publisher will send the books out tout suite.
If you’d like to go ahead and buy the book, it’s on Amazon here.
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