The Best French Cookbooks

Find our top 6 picks for the best French cookbooks of the past 25 years.

Patricia Wells at Home in Provence
Photo: Randy Mayor

Patricia Wells at Home in Provence

Patricia Wells at Home in Provence: Recipes Inspired by Her Farmhouse in France By Patricia Wells, Simon and Schuster, First Fireside Edition, 1999. Paperback. $24; 368 pages

Straightforward, rustic country cooking at its best from another American known for her experiences of France. The subtitle makes a key point: This book doesn't seek to be the first and last word on Provençal cooking but instead a collection of the sort of meals Wells finds herself whipping up while at her enviable 10-acre hideaway in Vaison-la-Romaine. We get Wells' favorite speedy ratatouille; a garlicky-cheesy summer pistou soup; and other classics from the sun-beaten region.

This book is personal, and, unlike several other tomes in this collection, it's not massive. And, written by an expat, it occasionally betrays a little wanderlust: Inspired by the flavors of France's Bresse region, Wells combines tarragon and vinegar in Chicken with Tarragon and Sherry Vinegar, a delicious yet simple chicken stew finished with a bit of cream. She also includes a recipe for très riche potato gratin Dauphinois from the neighboring Dauphiné region.

There is nothing we haven't heard a thousand times before in Wells' philosophy, but her recipes allow the cook to follow this guidance: "Keep it fresh, keep it simple, respect the seasons, and allow the integrity of an ingredient to shine through."

GIVE THIS TO: All Francophile cooks. —Tim Cebula

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