The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux by Samantha Vérant

Samantha Vérant has the recipe for the perfect book: a wealthy French grandmother, her country chateau and an ambitious young chef on the run from recent disgrace at a top-tier restaurant in New York.

As one of my own favorite chefs says, you need a combination of tastes and textures to satisfy the palette: sweet, bitter, sour, salty, smooth. The chef strives to strike the right balance. That’s just what Samantha Vérant has done with this book — it’s a bit sweet, a bit salty, leading off with a sense of loss and bitterness that needs to be brought back into balance. As Jacques Pépin said, “cooking is the art of adjustment.” What better place for Sophie to do that than a beautiful sun-drenched town in Southwestern France?

Sophie’s favorite memories were the summers she spent with her Grandmère Odette at her crumbling old chateau along the Tarn River. Sophie spent her idyllic time outdoors, chasing geese and rabbits, catching frogs, picking cherries, climbing trees and enjoying Sunday picnics with local villagers. And then, of course, there were Grandmère’s mouthwatering recipes, kept in her secret notebook: from clafoutis (a Provençal cherry tart) to duck fat french fries (a standard in Southwest France) to duck à l’orange and boeuf bourguignon.

Sophie returns to her grandmother’s chateau years later, emotionally shattered after a colleague’s betrayal destroys her career as an up-and-coming New York chef. Sophie is surprised to see that her Grandmère has renovated the chateau and transformed it into an award-winning restaurant and inn. Grandmère’s health is fading and she hopes that her granddaughter will carry on her legacy in France, but Sophie can’t let go of her ambition to seek redemption in New York. Sophie and Grandmère have a lot of work to do to make up for years of misunderstanding caused by Sophie’s troubled mother. But most of all, Sophie’s got to get her groove back. And not just in the kitchen (wink, wink.)

This book is a delight for foodies, Francophiles and dreamy travelers. Try out some of the recipes in the back and picture yourself tasting some of those sweet and tart black cherries on the terrace of Grandmère’s lovely chateau.

You can follow Samantha Vérant on Twitter and Instagram as @samantha_verant, where she posts lovely photos of her life and her cooking adventures as am American living in Southwestern France.

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