There is a very good chance that out of all the chef cookbooks coming out this year, Daniel: My French Cuisine will be the one people remember for years to come. That's because Daniel is really three cookbooks in one: a section each is devoted to the dishes served at New York chef Daniel Boulud's three Michelin star restaurant Daniel, the iconic dishes of Boulud's homeland in Lyon, and simple menus home cooks can prepare. Alone, each would be a good read; together, it's a worthy of celebration of the 20th anniversary of a world famous restaurant.
The first section (also the longest section) consists of dishes served at Daniel. In the introduction Boulud writes, "I didn't want to keep any details from you by trying to make things simpler. You can decide how inspired you want to be: to make the whole recipe or just the main protein, or perhaps only the vegetable garnish." The warning is there for a reason: recipes can be pages long, with many sub-recipes and bright photos that often span two pages. Interspersed are sections of food philosophy from Boulud: "Daniel on Bread," "Daniel on Truffles," "Daniel on Wine," etc.
Section two is written by Bill Buford, the author of Heat. In this, the "Iconic Sessions" section, Boulud and Buford create the incredibly complex fine dining classics of Lyon, what Buford calls "extreme versions of the extreme...wizardly, masterful, wacky and often baffling." First up: turbot soufflé. Second: Jambon au foin, a pork leg cooked in hay. Third: a massive tête de veau en tortue. The dishes are as much three dimensional dioramas of vintage copies of Larousse Gastronomique as they are actual food. There are crayfish figurines involved, and something called a Provencal Checkerboard garnish, and everything has a "surprise" inside when you cut into it. Desserts are lit on fire. Buford does not provide recipes for these and opts instead to narrate the (often several-days long) adventure of creating them.
And then, just when you've had enough of the tortuously complicated old school, Boulud ends the book with four simple menus you can make at home. One each for Alsace, Normandy, Provence, and, of course, Lyon. The menus are seasonal, and consist of three or four recipes each. Altogether, the three sections create a sort of super cookbook: glossy food porn, a great read about technique and historical context, and food you might actually make for dinner. What else could you ask for in a cookbook?
Spread through the book is pristine photography from Thomas Schauer, who lavishes equal attention on the refined plates from Daniel as he does on a beer-marinated pork roast in the home cooking section. The book opens with a letter of introduction from French chef Paul Bocuse, and was co-written by Sylvie Bigar. Daniel: My French Cuisine comes out from Grand Central Life & Style on October 15 (pre-order on Amazon). Take a look inside.