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Cookbook Review: Avec Eric, A Culinary Travelogue + Eric Ripert's Homemade Butter Recipe

Ya, ya we all know not to judge a book by its cover. And then we do it anyway. Consider Avec Eric, the latest from Eric Ripert that looks like yet another food television show in hardcover form. And it is, complete with another hot-as-hell Top Chef judge as the star. But when you get into the Avec Eric's core, you remember that the television show by the same name is on PBS, not prime time. Add in recipes like oysters and sea lettuce salad with anchovy vinaigrette, the reason the Le Bernardin chef earned all those New York Times and Michelin stars, and this is the kind of cookbook worth an in-depth look.

The book, at least according to the subtitle, is a "culinary journey" with Ripert that happens to have more than 100 recipes. Which is fancy-speak for a catalog of Ripert's television show episodes with plenty of prose to remind you how great that trip to Tuscany really was (we bet).

He Cooks, Too

BravoTVHe Cooks, Too

You know, the sort of made-for-TV stills of the chef grilling meat in the Caymans with his pal Anthony Bourdain (who wrote the Foreward) or smoking a cigar and sipping wine with José Andrés as the sun sets. Cut to Ripert laughing it up in a cheese factory in Italy or driving a tractor during harvest at Sonoma's Flowers winery, followed by a menu relevant to time and place. Those barley-cooked scallops with tomato compote and Champagne buerre blanc Ripert dreamed up in Sonoma, the ricotta-spinach ravioli with butter and sage he whipped up after that fresh ricotta tour. Exactly what we would have made.

With a well-starred chef, you expect to find multi-step roasted pork loin with wild mushrooms and sage pan jus recipes. They're here. But it's the simple home cook-friendly takes on regional dishes that are the best of the bunch. Garlicky olives spiced with cumin and fennel, ice cream enriched with brown butter, and this tangy butter that Ripert serves at Le Bernardin.

Cultured Butter

From: Avec Eric by Eric Ripert

Note: Makes about 2 cups. Ripert says the crème fraîche helps give his homemade version the flavor and texture of European butters.

1 quart heavy cream (preferably 40% fat)

1 cup crème fraîche

1 gallon ice water

1. Stir the cold cream and crème fraîche together in the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Using the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream on medium speed for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the fat separates from the liquid, making sure to cover the mixer and bowl with a towel or piece of plastic wrap.

2. Drain the butter through a fine-mesh sieve (reserving the buttermilk for later use) and rinse the butter in the ice water. Place the fresh butter on a clean, damp towel and knead on a cold surface to remove the rest of the moisture. Wrap the butter well and refrigerate. For best flavor, allow the butter to warm up to room temperature before serving.