When’s the last time you read a cookbook cover to cover—and in one sitting? With David Lebovitz’s forthcoming My Paris Kitchen, it’s hard not to binge, no matter where you call home. As an émigré in Paris, the longtime blogger and author of six books, who’s also a professional cook, baker and Chez Panisse alum, reworks the classics like steak frites and croque monsieur while also drawing out the flavor of French culture, such as how fashionably late one should arrive to l’heure de l’apéro (cocktail hour) or that, amusingly, their government banned the word “hashtag” and replaced it with mot-dièse.
For those planning a visit, Lebovitz also reveals some surprising places to eat, like the India quartier behind the Gare du Nord train station where, he writes, “I always order naan fromage, because I like the warm cheese tucked in the center. And I always order my own, because I don’t like to share.” This literary feast is personal, witty and so irresistibly readable it doesn’t matter if you don’t know cassoulet from coq au vin. He’ll show you the way.
Read on for a lesson in preparing Duck Fat Cookies from My Paris Kitchen (available April 8 from Ten Speed Press; $35) and, if you’re looking for a digestif, visit his entertaining blog.
Duck fat cookies
Or Sablés à la graisse de canard
Makes 45 to 50 cookies
The French haven’t embraced “extreme eating,” and thank goodness for that. I don’t have to watch perfectly normal adults turn into wide-eyed, drooling lunatics when faced with a cake festooned with strips of bacon or slamming down pork-belly and lard Jell-O shots. The only people you see in Paris squealing with delight when faced with an overloaded platter of innards are foreign chefs taping their television shows; the French are simply used to eating those things because sausages, bacon, and duck fat are just part of everyday life.
I’m not afraid of fat (if I was, I’d be out of work), and I use it when it makes something taste better. Yet even I am not immune to its less desirable effects, and when I left the restaurant business years ago, I realized that because I was eating anything and every- thing around me, I was getting “round” myself. With my restaurant years behind me, I was able to get back to fighting weight by being a little more prudent with what I eat and practicing the famed French moderation, a carefully calculated mindset where everything is to be enjoyed—but in moderation. (However, I don’t adhere to the equally important part of the weight-loss plan that includes copious amount of tobacco.)
In the Southwest of France, the locals are famous for enjoying abundant amounts of duck fat, which some speculate is the reason they so are long-lived. I can’t say eating cookies will make you healthy, but if you’re looking to get a little more duck fat into your diet, this is a pretty delicious way to do so.
1/4 cup (30g) dried currants or chopped dried cherries
1 tablespoon Armagnac, Cognac, or brandy
6 tablespoons (85g) chilled duck fat
4 tablespoons (2 ounces/55g) salted or unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
11/4 cups (175g) all-purpose flour 3/4 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
In a small saucepan, heat the currants over low heat with the liquor until the liquid is completely absorbed. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or by hand in a bowl, cream the duck fat, butter, and sugar on low speed just until well combined. Mix in the vanilla.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Add it to the fat-butter-sugar mixture, stirring until the dough comes together. Then mix in the dried fruit pieces.
On a lightly floured countertop, knead the dough briefly until smooth. Shape it into a rectangle, and cut the dough in half lengthwise. Roll each piece of dough into a log 6 inches (15cm) long. (If the dried fruit makes the dough crumble a bit, stick your thumbs into any fissures to seal them, pressing the dough back together, then continue to roll it into cylinders.) Wrap each log in plastic and refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes. (The dough can be made up to 3 days in advance and refrigerated, or frozen for up to 2 months.)
To bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350oF (180oC) and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Slice the dough into 1/4-inch (.75cm) rounds and set them on the baking sheets, evenly spaced. Bake the cookies, rotating the bak- ing sheets midway through, for 12 minutes, until golden brown across the top. Remove the cookies from the oven and cool on the baking sheets until crisp. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
Excerpted from My Paris Kitchen, available April 8.
An Insider’s Guide to Paris Cuisine
The Sort-Of Vegan Diet
Obsessions of Extreme Foodists