so this is the weekend i thought i'd get a little french. tg's father has returned from cape town via maputo, lusaka, and dubai, so we are having a little get-together that is totally non-france-related, but if i'm doing the hosting and the cooking, it is only fair that i get to choose! so we are having poached trout (easy) with remoulade sauce (easy), a couple of salads, some cheese (my beloved bresse bleu among others), olives, baguette, and gateau chocolat a la ocean.

all of which i have done before. but the new things i am keen to try are rabbit rillettes (i love nothing more than the rillettes of rabbit with pistachios and prunes at chez bernard in st-sauveur-des-monts) and madeleines. the rillettes seems fairly straight forward: pop the ingredients in a braiser for a few hours, then mash a bit (modern recipes say to pull apart the meat with a fork, the larousse gastronomique insists it must be punded in a mortar). but madeleines are meant to be tricky.

larousse is typically vague on technique. they offer two versions, commercy and plain, with the commercy recipe adding lemon zest and baking soda but containing less butter. basically, the gastronomique says to put everything but the butter in a bowl, "work with a spatula until smooth," then add the butter. one crucial difference between commercy and plain? one is baked "in a very slow oven," the other at 375F.

david lebovitz, on the other hand, cooks them even hotter and makes a big fuss about chilling the molds and chilling the batter and insists that added leavening is sacrilege - all the lightness comes from whipping the eggs and sugar together first. sort of the opposite of the gastronomique; i can't imagine "working with a spatula" would get a terrific amount of air into anything. and as the "plain" recipe looks a lot like a pound cake batter, i imagine they would be quite stodgy.

the other big difference is that the gastronomique recipes make between 2 and 5 times as many madeleines, at a guess.

i think for this weekend i will stick with the hand-holding lebovitz (but perhaps doubling the quantities), and mess with the gastronomique recipes on a less momentous occasion. the gastronomique may not be terrifically user-friendly, but any encyclopedia that offers a 5-page section entitled "restaurants of bygone days" will always have a place on my shelf.

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