The Flavors of Bon Appétit 2001
by the editors of Bon Appétit magazine
Published by Condé Nast Books/Clarkson Potter Publishers
224 pages, 2001
Buy it online
Reviewed by Adrian Marks
There are certain things in life that are always sure: things that you can consistently count on. You can't go wrong with a handcrafted Zinfandel. If you have a good loaf of French bread and a half decent cheese, you can make a meal (especially if the Zinfandel is on hand!) And at least some of the recipes in Bon Appétit will appear not only mouthwatering, but approachable.
With this in mind, every year the editors of that venerable food magazine publish a collection of recipes that serve as a kind of "Best Of" for the year in question. Since Bon Appétit tends to travel on the leading edge of foodyness, the annually published book provides a culinary glimpse of what's happening in the food world. And just as an annual "Best of Vogue" book would take the pulse of hemlines and colors and all of the basic trends in the fashion world, The Flavors of Bon Appétit provides a barometer of trend and style for the food world, as seen from the home kitchen. This alone would not a popular book make, since the fashion of food is also regulated by our good sense in terms of what we like to eat. Food is a little more personal, perhaps, than what we choose to drape on our bodies. However, year after year, the book -- like the magazine -- tends to balance haute cuisine with recipes that are uncomplicated and would look good on anyone's table.
For instance, while it might be nice to eat Shrimp Remoulade with Avocado and Hearts of Palm or Grilled Lobster with Ginger Butter or even Classic Coq au Vin every night -- and recipes for all three are included in The Flavors of Bon Appétit 2001 -- most of us don't have the time, or even the inclination to make such daring attempts on any old weeknight. However, the everyday can be elegant as well, as long as we approach it with foresight and a sense of adventure. Just about anyone could make Pan-seared Steaks with Goat Cheese, Caper and Tomato Butter in very little time. This could mean either a really nice dinner just for the family, or a dish for entertaining when you don't feel like spending all night in the kitchen. Likewise, the Grilled Cheddar, Tomato and Bacon Sandwiches seem like a gorgeous reinterpretation of a classic North American dish -- so simple, yet so like comfort food for many of us -- and the Skillet Choucroute with Potatoes puts a delightfully easy spin on a French country classic.
All of this is echoed in the dessert department, as well. Here, also, you can prepare to knock the socks off your guests with the likes of a Plum Tart with Marzipan Topping or Chocolate Pots de Créme with White Chocolate Whipped Cream, or relax and be comfortable with Raspberry-Apricot Shortcakes or a Cherry Crumble Pie. My favorite recipe from this section is an innovative and beautiful Pistachio-Topped Flan. It's so simple, I'm amazed I didn't think of it myself, and yet... Essentially it's a huge Creme Caramel made for a crowd in a cake pan instead of ramekins, sliced and served like pie with pistachios artfully sprinkled over top. What could be simpler? That, however, always strikes me as the essence of Bon Appétit -- the magazine and the books -- elegance so effortless it really is easy with the kitchen testing to back it up. Bring on the Ginger Beef Tataki and let the Tropical Bananas Foster chill: Bon Appétit is in the house. | August 2001
Adrian Marks is an author and journalist.