Williams-Sonoma Essentials of French Cooking

by Williams-Sonoma

Cookbook review courtesy of contributing writer
Stephanie Sears

Soupe au Pistou

RATING: 3 out of 5 (a good starting point but needs improvement)

THE TEST: The cooking process itself was easy. So easy in fact that I would say this is a great starting point if you want to delve into this cookbook but lack a lot of experience. Basically all you do is boil, add vegetables, add pasta, and boil again.

THE RESULTS: I was looking forward to making this particular recipe mostly because I remember enjoying it at a restaurant years ago. However, I was incredibly disappointed. The soup was almost completely flavorless (admission: I had to skip the onion, but still). I followed the directions to a ‘T’, and both Nathan and I agreed the results were mediocre at best.

With a few changes this soup has the potential to be improved, but the cook would need to be creative. First and foremost, I would reduce the amount of water from 6 cups to 4 cups and increase the broth from 2 cups to 3 cups. I’d also add more basil and probably even more vegetables. Another zucchini or possibly some peppers would have made all of the difference in the world to the end result.

Pork with Apples

RATING: 4 out of 5 (incredibly flavorful & the meat so tender!)

THE TEST: Huge confession: I bought pork chops instead of the pork tenderloin called for in the recipe. My bad!

The instructions were straightforward and fairly easy to understand. Even a non-cook would be able to pull this recipe off and impress their guests in the process. Easy dish perfect for entertaining.

THE RESULTS: I’d make this recipe again in a heartbeat. Just writing about it is making me want to eat this dish all over again!

The pork was incredibly flavorful. White wine and apples are a classic combination with pork for good reason: they work so well together. The sauce gave the dish an almost cider-y taste, and the white wine does an excellent job of bringing out the flavour of the apples. I was blown away by the tenderness of the pork as a result of cooking it in the wine broth!

Next time around I would soak the pork in the white wine mixture overnight to enhance the delicious flavors even more, and to be honest I think I would opt for using pork chops again instead of tenderloin as I found this particular cut of meat soaked up the marinade really well.

Chocolate Pots de Crème with Crème Chantilly

RATING: 5 out of 5 (perfect!)

THE TEST: In my opinion, the true test of a cookbook lies in the dessert section. Dessert recipes can often be hit or miss, mostly because it seems like some cookbook authors try so hard to make a traditional dish unique that they end up ruining the overall flavor of the dish.

The instructions for this recipe were easy to understand, and I was able to make the dessert after dinner in a reasonable amount of time. That being said, I did alter the Crème Chantilly after mine wouldn’t peak correctly. This may have been because my kitchen was too hot. I find trying to get egg whites to peak in a hot kitchen is extra tough. In the end I added 1 ½ tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar which helped stiffen the egg whites.

THE RESULTS: This dessert ended up being just as delicious as I had hoped, and is definitely a must make if you pick-up the book. Williams-Sonoma managed to keep the recipe simple, creamy and completely addictive.

I have absolutely no suggestions for improvement to the Pots de Crème…they were perfect!