Book Review: Ducasse Made Simple by Sophie

Oct 7, 2008 at 3:00 p.m. ET

If ever a book is as delicious to read to cook from, it is Ducasse Made Simple by Sophie. Without taking away from master chef Alain Ducasse's signature style, Sophie Dudemaine simplifies 100 of his exquisite recipes and makes them easy and accessible for the hungry home cook. Read on for a short list of mouthwatering meals as well as a seasonally-fitting recipe for Cream of Pumpkin Soup made simple.

Ducasse Made Simple by Sophie

Simplying a master chef's recipes

In her newest book (released September 2008), Ducasse Made Simple by Sophie, Sophie Dudemaine, one of the bestselling cookbook authors in France, presents simplified yet sumptuous renditions of some of the most intricate recipe classics from Alain Ducasse's encyclopedic Grand Livre de Cuisine.

For those of you unfamiliar with Ducasse, he is considered to be one of the most renowned French chefs of his generation. In addition, the master chef is also at the helm of more than 20 restaurants around the world. His recipes are superior and distinct, and typically require ample time to prepare.

However, Dudemaine has taken 100 of Ducasse's prized recipes and streamlined them so the average home cook can make and enjoy the swoon-worthy flavors of fine fare. "I always simplify the recipes and make the accessible to anyone. Fifty years ago, people spent almost four hours making the daily meals – today this has been reduced to 45 minutes. My aim is not to make complicated failures, but to prepare simple and good meals," says Dudemaine.

Deliciously divided

Ducasse Made Simple is divided into chapters featuring exquisite first courses, fabulous fish, mouthwatering meats and poultry, veritable vegetables, decadent desserts, and must-learn basics.

Best yet, every recipe is accompanied with a stunning photo that gives you a preview of the delectable meal you are about to eat. (Or you can simply page through the book to whet your appetite!)

First courses include palate-piquing dishes like Cream of Pumpkin Soup, Cold Red Snapper Nicoise with Tomato Compote, and Herbed-Duck Ravioli.

The fish chapter features Lobster Newburg, Almond-Crusted Fillet of Sole, and Hake with Pine Nut Chutney.

If you prefer meats and poultry, you'll be inspired by the Spiced Rack of Lamb, Veal Saltimbocca, Rolled Stuffed Escalope of Turkey with Mustard Sauce, and Garlic-Roasted Cornish Hens with Cherry Sauce.

The vegetables chapter makes it easy to get your 5-a-day, with vegetable recipes such as Provencal Stuffed Baby Vegetables, Gratin of Fall Vegetables and Fruits, and Potato Gnocchi with Wild Mushrooms.

Save room for dessert (or just make dessert for dinner) and indulge in a dish of Butter-Rum Bananas with Chocolate Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream, Strawberry-Pistachio Trifle, Lemon Tartlets, or Chocolate Fondant Cake with Earl Grey Tea Sauce.

And if you want an abbreviated lesson on the fundamental recipes that are components of some of the featured recipes in Ducasse Made Simple, take some time to read and practice the recipes in the chapter on cooking basics.

Cream of Pumpkin Soup

Serves 6

Fitting for the season, this exquisite pumpkin soup is easy to dish up on a blustery fall evening. Ducasse suggests garnishing soup with small, homemade croutons or sautéed wild mushrooms. Another tasty tip is to add a pinch of spicy ground red chili pepper to the heavy cream before whipping.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 leek (white part only), thinly sliced
1 pound sugar pumpkin, cut into small chunks and peeled
6 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
5 ounces slab bacon, diced small
1/2 cup heavy cream
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1. In a medium stockpot, heat the olive oil medium heat. Add onion and leek, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until they soften and begin to look translucent. Stir in the pumpkin and add a dash of salt and pepper.

2. Add broth and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, add the ricotta cheese, and stir to combine. Transfer the mixture to a blender and puree until smooth. Adjust the seasoning to taste.

3. While the soup is cooking, heat a medium-sized skillet over high heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring frequently, until browned and slightly crispy. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the heavy cream with a pinch of salt until the mixture forms stiff peaks.

4. Ladle the pumpkin soup into warmed bowls and garnish each serving with the diced bacon. Add a generous spoonful of whipped cream in the center of each bowl and serve immediately.

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