Jean-Pierre and Denise Moullé met on a street corner in Berkeley, California, in 1980; six months later they were married. French Roots is the story of their lives told through the food they cook, beginning with the dishes of old-world France--the couple’s birthplace--and focusing on the simple, pared-down preparations of French food common in the postwar period. The story then travels to the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1970s, where Jean-Pierre was appointed executive chef at Chez Panisse when California cuisine was just emerging as a distinctive and important style, and where Denise began importing French wine. Finally, the journey follows the couple to their homes in Sonoma, California, and Bordeaux to revisit the classic dishes of the Moullés’ native country and hone the forgotten skills of foraging, hunting, and preserving.
Exquisitely written, with recipes that are innovative and timeless, insights on cooking and thinking like a chef, and an insider’s guide to the wines of Bordeaux, French Roots is much more than a cookbook—it’s a guide to living the good life.
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About the Author
DENISE MOULLE comes from the Bordeaux wine-making empire of the Lurton family. She worked as a wine distributor in California for many years before starting Two Bordelais in 1987, which offers guided tours through France.
Read an Excerpt
“Alors, we are having our picnic now,” announced Denise.
She unfurled a tablecloth over some wet logs in the middle of a meadow in the foothills of the French Pyrenees. Jean-Pierre pulled bread, charcuterie, cheese and fruit from a wicker basket. The Americans, kids and adults in sweatshirts and jackets, actually thought it was raining. The French, in shirt sleeves and shorts, sipped wine from tumblers and admired the scenery. We picque-niqued for exactly forty-five minutes and damply piled back on the tour van, which headed straight up the mountain to an encampment of Basque shepherds in their late spring stage of transhumance, the annual migration of pastoral animals with their human and canine caretakers.
The mountain pastures dotted with tiny yellow wild flowers looked like psychedelic green velvet. Misty bare peaks and forested slopes enveloped us. Our French-American contingent set up tents amidst outcrops of rock. We shared the meadow with woolly white sheep on impossibly skinny legs and monolithic reclining dun cows in leather necklaces strung with tin bells. The ruddy shepherds in serge jackets and black berets lived in a crumbling stone building with a tiny stove. There Jean-Pierre heated up his garbure—a thick soup of ham, cabbage and vegetables enriched with stale bread and mountain cheese—our dinner.
I had never been anyplace as profoundly beautiful as this, and I have never spent a more miserable night. At dawn we watched the sheepdogs corral ewes for milking, guiding them one by one into the hull of a gutted car, its open doors creating a stall. The cheesemaker, in white coat and hat, heated an aluminum pot of sheep’s milk over a burner on the stone floor of the house, added a few drops of rennet, and gently stirred it with his hands until he was able pull out a soft, poofy basketball of curd—the birth of a wheel of tome de pyrenees.
Draining the whey, he gave us the warm solids, sheep’s milk fromage frais, to eat with wild berry preserves, and cooled the rest in a pail anchored in the icy stream that meandered through the pasture. I have never tasted anything more delicious, or more intimate with nature. Jean-Pierre and Denise had taken us Americans by the hand and dragged us to experience the wonder of the traditional food they grew up eating. We would never be the same.
This happened twenty years ago. As I read French Roots, more memories flooded back—being with Jean-Pierre and Denise in Peyraud and Arcachon, and in Berkeley and Healdsburg. The two of them taught me, and a whole generation of northern Californians, how to eat and drink and cook and live.
Now, reading this evocative joint autobiography, I discover what great storytellers they are. They describe the evolution of their unique, multi-cultural sensibility in a moving coming-of-age story with benefits: it includes an inside look at the Chez Panisse kitchen, a wonderfully personal collection of recipes (some so simple and homey I started cooking them for dinner; others I’m aspiring to take on) and a lifestyle primer. Most of all, they’ve written a love story—their own—rooted in provincial France and nurtured by the social freedom of America.
I didn’t want this book to end.
comté cheese soufflé
Soufflé au Comté
We lived in Franche-Comté for ten years when I was a child, years that have been extremely valuable to me as a chef. The quality of the ingredients there at the time was unreal—surpassed perhaps only by their diversity. Jura, in the south of the region, is the epicenter of the world for Comté cheese. We ate a great deal of cheese—on bread, in gratins and quiches, and, of course, in soufflés. My mother’s soufflé mixed three different types of Comté that had been affiné, or aged and tended, for various lengths of time: soft and creamy Comté, aged less than six months; a young, one-year-old cheese that was firmer with a stronger flavor; and finally a fairly dry, older Comté, or comté fort, aged to sharp maturity for more than two-and-a-half years. If my mother had a signature dish, this cheese soufflé might just have been it. —jean-pierre
1-1/4 cups whole milk
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
Salt and black pepper
3 eggs, separated
6 ounces Comté cheese, grated
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Scald the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat and set it aside.
In a sauté pan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. When it’s hot, whisk in the flour and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently with a rubber spatula. Add the warm milk to the flour mixture slowly, whisking steadily as you pour. Season the batter with a pinch of salt, black pepper, and a few shreds of grated nutmeg. Cook over low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a mixing bowl and let the batter cool for 10 to 15 minutes before whisking in the egg yolks and cheese.
Use the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter to coat the insides of 4 individual (6 ounce) ramekins and then dust them with flour.
Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form and fold them gently into the mixture. Fill the ramekins about two-thirds full with the soufflé mixture. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the soufflés are well browned on top. You may also bake the soufflé in one large, 5-cup soufflé dish. Cook the soufflé longer, 18 to 20 minutes, until it rises measurably above the rim of the baking dish and is nicely browned on top. Serve immediately.
Table of Contentsacknowledgments foreword introduction getting started
French Family Life
France en Famille
Life in Berkeley in the Seventies
La vie à Berkeley dans les Années Soixante-Dix
Back to Bordeaux
De Retour à Bordeaux
Denise in the Kitchen
Denise dans la Cuisine
In the Kitchen at Chez Panisse
Dans la Cuisine de Chez Panisse
Aperitifs and Toasts
Aperitifs et Canapés
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a charming combination of memoir and cookbook. The memoir portions are fun to read, and it feels like you're following right along with them as they hunt wild mushrooms, picnic in the French Pyrenees or just experience French family life. The recipes are fascinating if not always appetizing! I'm sorry, but things like Steak Tartare (there is nothing healthy or even tasty to me about raw meat!!) or duck legs cooked in over a GALLON of duck fat are definitely not going to come out of my kitchen. There is some great information (I loved the note on Bouquet Garni), but it's obvious that the author lives in an area where he can get pretty much whatever he wants and finances are not an issue. He states that only fresh fish should be used and "if frozen is all you can get, cook something else." I'm sorry, but I happen to love seafood and since I live in Tennessee, there's not a lot of fish I can get that's really fresh. I'm not going to stop cooking fish simply because I don't have access to fresh fish. If I am blessed to someday live where I can get fresh seafood then I'll happily cook it instead. Until that day, I'm going to do the best I can with what I have. There are so many great recipes in this book. Summer Vegetables in Terra-Cotta, Baked Mussels with Saffron and Cream, and Porcini Omelet to name a few. The recipes are clear and easy to follow. The Pizza Dough recipe for the Onion Tart with Anchovies, Olives and Thyme does not have enough liquid. I had to add a good tablespoon of water to it. That could have something to do with altitude, type of flour or other variable. Also, it only makes a 10-inch flat bread, so having it rise for 12-18 hours seems a bit much. This is a beautiful book with a good quality binding and gorgeous photos. It would have been nice to have more photos of the actual dishes and less photos such as the one with someone's feet and a small basket of figs, a fern lined basket with mushrooms inside or the author gathering firewood. The Summer Vegetables in Terra-Cotta, for instance, talks before the recipe about the importance of slicing the vegetables the same size an how much better effect it has. It would have been nice to include a photo to show that effect. If you are trying to eat remotely healthy, this probably is not the cookbook for you. Lots of heavy cream, cheese, fat and more makes my arteries harden just reading it! If you love France, French food, or deep flavor--well, then I would definitely recommend this book. I received a copy of this book through Blogging for Books for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.