By Lydie Marshall (HarperCollins, 2005)
Few things are more rewarding than a fragrant, slow-cooked stew or braise on a chilly evening. It’s also an easy way to feed a hungry family well — just ask the super-practical and food-revering French, whose tradition of meals en cocotte (cooking in sealed pots buried in stove coals) stretches back centuries. Consider their good sense: Stews and braises cook meats and vegetables in one pot, and they store conveniently and taste better when reheated. They also mask almost any vegetable from suspicious kids in a sauce of herbs and juices, not fat or fake flavors. Best of all, you don’t have to be that mindful (braises and stews are safely forgotten in the oven for a few hours or more) or a seasoned French cook. The oven and the food do the work — all you do is put them together and leave them alone.
This book of hearty one-pot dishes by the author of several well-loved Provençal cookbooks gives a detailed description of braising technique, as well as recipes for stews, casseroles and baked desserts. The vegetable section is rife with casserole ideas to make veggies like broccoli and spinach more pleasing for young palates; another chapter shows how to make storable stocks and condiments, so prep for one-pot meals is even faster. Full of great ideas for family meals that are healthful, soulful and easy on the schedule.