Chef and author, Andy Brabon, invited me to cover his photo shoot and sample recipes from his upcoming book Provencal Recipes From Provence and Côte D’Azur. Go inside part two of two capturing a behind the scenes look and learn more about the book set to release this summer in France and online.
Sunday’s weather is nothing like yesterday. Grey clouds sweep over the French countryside and everything is quiet except for the sound of children laughing and family chattering on the training center’s back patio. The kitchen is bustling in preparation of a meal for approximately eighteen guests, mostly comprised of Andy Brabon’s family and friends. My husband, Franck, and I have been invited to taste the recipes for ourselves and since Franck spent every summer at his family’s beach house along the Côte D’Azur, who else could better help me judge the quality and authenticity of Andy’s recipes in his next book Provencal Recipes From Provence and Côte D’Azur.
It seems the food gods have heard Andy’s prayers for a weekend of good weather and as Andy Brabon snaps the last photo of the day, the clouds open up and give us a rain.
The long table is dressed in fresh flowers and is set for a feast. The meal is served in casual French tradition, guests are welcome to serve themselves from a buffet of courses set out one at a time. The first dish is Soup Pistou, a Provencal vegetable soup with pesto flavoring. It goes down light and easy, so good, in fact, that one must restrain themselves from filling up on it and wiping the rest with freshly baked bread.
Next is the bouillabaisse, the famous seafood soup with a tomato base. Smooth and aromatic, the bouillabaisse proves to be Franck’s favorite dish having noted that out of all the bouillabaisse recipes in all the years of growing up in the south of France, he has never tasted one quite as tasty and irresistible as Andy’s. So impressed, that he couldn’t resist a second helping. I must confess that I was shy to taste the bouillabaisse as I have tasted terrible versions in the past, but after the first spoonful I was delighted to find a light soup free of overpowering fish odors. Andy reminded us that a bowl of bouillabaisse can run as high as 40 Euros during peak tourist season.
The main course offered a variety of dishes and sides including beef a la provencal, roasted rabbit, pan fried fish, ratatouille, salade nicoise, brazed beef in red wine and orange juices, and various salads and roasted vegetables. The pan fried fish reminded Franck of our honeymoon near Saint Tropez and comparing Andy’s version to the one he had tried in a three star restaurant on the beach; Andy’s version beat out the restaurant’s. The fish was cooked to perfection and lightly seasoned so as not to detract from the fish’s natural flavors. The colors were bright and appealing; a departure from your everyday pan fried fish.
I was rewarded with the best part of the rabbit: the loin. Once again, perfectly cooked amongst summer vegetables and complimented by the ratatouille. The beef was lovingly marinated overnight and cooked fresh that afternoon. All I could notice was how divine each piece tasted as they melted in my mouth. The salads and vegetables were the perfect ending to our main course. The salade nicoise didn’t disappoint in it’s mix of fresh vegetables including lettuce, tomatoes, and sliced onions.
For dessert, we were offered a strawberry tart, chocolate cake, and the famous tarte tropezienne served with champagne. Franck recollected summers with his grandparents sharing a tarte tropezienne at Cavalaire’s famous Cafe Pellassy; the taste, he noted, was spot making it the Cote D’Azur’s most favorite dessert.
When I asked Franck what he enjoyed most of Andy Brabon’s provencal recipes, he said,
“Everything! Everything was perfect and reminded me of all my beautiful childhood memories. Andy really knows how to make an authentic French meal.”
With approval from a provencal native, my taste buds, and my full stomach I was able to enjoy the company of Andy and his delightful family. As I looked around the table and saw smiling faces, I could tell that the inspiration for Andy’s cookbooks written for tourists wasn’t just in the French cuisine itself, but in the joy of tasting and experiencing new cuisine with friends and loved ones.
Everyone took a moment to toast Andy’s books and congratulate him on his successes in sharing the passion of French cuisine with the rest of the world. When prompted for a speech, Andy thanked everyone in the room for their love and support in making these books possible.
With just a few short months away from finally publishing his second book in one year, Andy takes some time to reflect on his publishing and culinary journey with friends and family during the meal. He realizes that finishing the book is just the beginning of the long beaten path of published chefs. In typical French style, he takes everything in stride, allowing the task of marketing his book to come in due time. After tasting the wide array of recipes featured in the book, I have no doubt that the allure of Provence and the Cote D’Azur will entice tourists to take home a gem of a book and start new culinary traditions of their own.
Find Provencal Recipes From Provence and Côte D’Azur this summer at Neva Editions Online