In the foreword to this cookbook written by Hadassah and Joe Lieberman (former United States Senator from Connecticut), Senator Lieberman extols the restaurant’s virtues: “Le Marais was probably the first kosher steakhouse to offer dry-aged eats…Le Marais is a unique restaurant. It has remained popular for so long because the food, wine and service are so good. It just also happens to be kosher.”
This cookbook is an unusually fun read, filled with great comments , fine writing, and humor. Recounting the Le Marais story, Executive Chef Mark Hennessey ends his tale by jibing, “…but I need to save something for the next book. Tentatively titled Shabbos Goy, possibly Tuesday with Moishe, we’ll see.”
Knowing the important role that sauces play in French cuisine, it is the first chapter of the book, featuring Dominique, the revered butcher. There is an array of Mother Sauces, the base sauces adapted in numerous ways; vinaigrettes get their own due; Fresh Mayonnaise is indeed “much better than prepared mayos and it is worth the extra effort.”
“If I have to eat a salad — and my wife insists that I do on occasion — then it better damn well have bacon. You need a thick slab of bacon to pull this off, thin slices of the ‘facon’ that is sold at kosher butcher counters just ain’t gonna cut the mustard. It’s a good thing that I make just such a product at Le Marais.” Hence he presents us with a Frisée aux Lardons.
In his introduction to the Kale, Italian Sausage, and Butter Bean Soup, Hennessey insists that, “For the record, Italian food isn’t what you get at most American restaurants. I call that pizzeria cuisine.”
Beautifully executed appetizers such as the Assiette de Crudités make their proud appearance,as do the restuarant’s lauded Veal Sweetbreads with Forest Mushrooms. “No, it’s not brains!” the chef assures. “I’ll never forget a guest demanding my presence tableside and then arrogantly asking me to tell them what sweetbreads were. When I said veal thymus glands, he defiantly insisted upon just how wrong I was and then proceeded to tell his dinner guests just how little this “chef” actually knows. Not that it bothered me or anything.”
The Crazy Good Biscuits found in the Breads and Pasta section, are “Just flat out sick. ‘Nuff said. This recipe is worth the cost of the book on its own. Assuming that you paid for it.”
We learn that the perfect potato fry needs a double frying method, as many French cookbooks will tell you. The Beef section has an introduction of several pages — Le Marais is, after all, a steakhouse — that includes a detailed explanation of the different types of meat and the temperature of the meat you select when it is grilled. Asking for your portion to be cooked “well done” is the chef’s “oy gevalt” .
Other scrumptious offerings are the Duck à L’Orange that is magnificently described; the 3 days process to make Cassoulet is a riot to read:
Modern chefs who feel the need to improve upon what doesn’t need to be improved, have tried many haute cuisine versions of the cassoulet. I suppose the goal was to make it with less fat and all of the flavor. All these attempts have, in my opinion (and who else’s opinion really matters?!), fallen short in their misguided attempts. Let’s face it, this is a dish that will be eaten at most a few times a year. It is perfect as it is. Rich, creamy, and a little bit salty. Indulge… For what it’s worth, this is the perfect Shabbos dish, it destroys any cholent ever made.
Lamb and veal are well represented. An appetizing Osso Bucco is featured. Chicken recipes are executed carefully so as to make it a delectable centerpiece. Excellent and imaginative fish recipes are included, as well as some marvelous sides.
Lest we forget desserts: the cookbook offers the recipe for Le Marais’s famous Baba au Rhum — “Cake and booze and fire, Need I say more!” — as well as the Alsatian cake known as Kugelhopf: this version uses baking powder rather than yeast.
The color photographs are right on target as is the excellent index.