Design vs. function found in blanquette of pork

Blanquette of pork

Phaidon Editorial Director Emilia Terragni was recently described as “Queen of Cookbooks” on the strength of the publishing house’s marvelous-looking books from such luminaries as Ferran Adrià and René Redzepi. Terragni first became known through the English language publication of The Silver Spoon, an Italian cookbook first published by the design and architecture magazine Domus. Gourmandistan owns this admittedly gorgeously-designed cookbook. It serves as a stand for Steve’s computer monitor.

Phaidon’s beautiful books have often seduced us. But, while pretty, several painfully useless purchases have prevented our acquiring many. Stéphane Reynaud’s Pork and Sons (much like its successor, French Feasts) was the attractive source of several lessons in style over substance, betraying us over and over until we learned to see it more as a source of inspiration than as an actual cookbook. (Steve admits to enjoying stroking the puffy cover almost as much as he likes petting his cats.)

Considering our skeptical approach to any Pork and Sons recipe, we were relatively faithful to this blanquette. The major changes we made were: reduce the cream, omit the favas and double up on seasonally-appropriate peas, leave out the called-for cloves and put in thyme and bay leaves. (We also added zucchini slices, which some designer put in the cookbook’s photograph of the dish, but were not on the recipe’s ingredient list or mentioned in the instructions.) And, it was delicious.

Good design can be very enjoyable. But, on the whole, we’d rather have a reliable cookbook.


(adapted from Stéphane Reynaud’s Pork and Sons)

  • 4 TB olive oil
  • 2-1/2 lbs. pork shoulder, cut into cubes
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 TB all-purpose flour
  • Chicken stock
  • 1 onion, peeled but left whole
  • 1 TB fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 new potatoes, peeled and halved or quartered
  • 3 carrots, sliced into 2-3″ sticks
  • 1 or 2 small zucchini, sliced into 2-3″ sticks
  • 2 c. English peas
  • 3/4 c. heavy cream
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Heat olive oil in a pan. Add pork and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until browned. Season with salt and pepper. Lower heat, stir in flour and cook for about 5 minutes more, stirring frequently.

Pour in enough chicken stock to cover meat by about an inch. Add onion, thyme and bay leaves. Simmer for about an hour, adding more stock if necessary.

While meat is simmering, cook vegetables separately (they all have different cooking times) in boiling, salted water. Drain and aside.

When meat is done, remove it to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Discard onion and bay leaves.

Add cream to broth. Cook, stirring occasionally, until smooth and slightly thickened. Return meat to pan along with vegetables. Add more stock if needed. When stew is heated, stir in lemon juice.

Garnish with additional thyme leaves.



  1. That looks lovely – I just had spicy roast pork with new fava beans and peas. I’m fit to burst but I could manage a taste of your blanquette 😉

  2. Boy, I could spend hours with that puffy cover. My wife has sometimes hidden the book in jealous fits. Cookbooks in general serve more as inspiration for me — including two of the Phaidons you mentioned, Adria and Redzepi. I feel like they push me to be a more creative cook. I have liked a couple of the recipes I’ve tried (or, rather, borrowed from) in “Pork & Sons.”

    • I like the books, too. And I love good design. But I find it insulting to pay a good bit of money for cookbooks with recipes that, as often as not, don’t work. Now I know they’re not likely to and have the experience to work around it. Still, I think that big publishing houses need to spend a little money for recipe testers and proofreaders. Though I know well that in the current era nobody wants to pay money for anything to do with writing or proofreading. 😥

  3. Loving all the spring veggies in here. And since I have a two-pound pork butt in my fridge right now this could be tomorrow’s dinner! And yes the puffy cover — I suspected I had Pork & Sons on my bookshelf but as soon as you mentioned the cover I knew it for sure. Haven’t tried any of the recipes yet, but now I know to thread carefully. While my husband (the main cookbook buyer in our household) is better at using recipes as inspiration, I personally value accuracy over prettiness.

    • We’ve tried a big percentage of the recipes in Pork & Sons, so obviously we like it. But we’ve also written more notes in it than in any other cookbook in our massive collection. A purist, of course, would say that this isn’t a “blanquette” at all because the meat is browned. But who cares about that? It’s a great use for good pork and lovely spring vegetables!

  4. Ha! I’ve cooked from the Silver Spoon, not as much as I would like. But I know what you mean about pretty but inaccurate cookbooks. Maybe they give more creative licence to the cook though?

    • That’s an excellent way to look at it! Perhaps cookbooks should have a rating system like “For all audiences” and “Buy this only if you’re an experienced cook.” 🙂 I have to say that, though lots of folks I know adore it, The Silver Spoon left me totally cold. But Italian food is way down my list, so I’m not a good person to ask.

  5. I really like your approach to the recipe as you describe it , inspiration rather than instruction. That´s the joy of cooking, isn´t it, even if in this case, there obviously have been some painful experiences relying on the book! Again such an amusing-to-read and gorgeously photographed post. Love the green shades in the pic!

    • Thanks, Rosemary. I love that bowl, too. But of course, like all food bloggers, I have only one of them. 🙂 I’m itching to get out to some brocantes and find some new dishes.

  6. This looks delicious. Beautiful plating. I have similar uses and experiences with certain cookbooks. So funny. I’ve been looking into a good French cookbook, modern, delicious, etc. But i have a feeling it will be more inspiring than instructional. Do you have any recommendations?

    • Thanks so much, Amanda. I’ve been thinking all day about your question. Bloggy hyperbole aside, the two Reynaud books we have are gorgeously designed and wonderful sources of inspiration. While the French section is probably the largest of my cookbook collection, I can’t think of much that’s really “modern” that I regularly use. My most-spattered is (the now almost ancient) Patricia Wells’ Bistro Cooking. Everything is so easy and so reliable and it’s fun to use recipes from bistros and restaurants we’ve visited over the years. Her subsequent books are OK, but nowhere near as good as that one. Also spattered and with broken spines are Susan Herrmann Loomis’ French Farmhouse Cookbook and, of course, Paula Wolfert’s The Cooking of Southwest France. I have lots of “one- (or two-) hit wonders” like Daniel Young’s The Paris Café Cookbook, Michael Roberts’ Parisian Home Cooking and Laura Calder’s French Food at Home. Oh, and a wonderful, wonderful book is Lois Anne Rothert’s The Soups of France. But, you see, nothing is very new. Sadly, I just don’t find many cookbooks I want to buy these days.

      • Thanks so much, Michelle for your thoughtful response. You actually have a large collection. I’ve recently been reading a lot of older writings about french cooking and I’ve been wondering what makes a French cookbook authentic. I may just need a trip to the countryside to understand. Im starting to suspect that modern means fresh ingredients and attention to health without sacrificing flavor or being trapped in fads. Thanks for the guidance. I’ll keep you updated!

  7. Vasun

    Interestingly, I also have a Phaidon book which I was v excited about upon purchasing it. Soon after, I realised that I had to ‘modify’ the recipes as some ingredients were omitted. Still a great book for ideas but not exactly foolproof.

    • For sure! I keep being really tempted by the India one, but I see a lot of reviewers with complaints similar to the ones we make here. Still, as long as one goes into the purchase with the right frame of mind…

      • Vasun

        Yes, that’s the one I have. India by Pushpesh Pant. Borrowed it first and then bought it. I really like the authentic recipes in it & i roughly know when something is off as some of the dishes are familiar to me. So i bought it desite its flaws as it was mostly good. Some reviewers commented on the amount of salt not being specific in the recipes. i found that rather silly as its rather subjective & would vary according to your ingredients etc. i would recommend it but u might not have access to many of the spices & ingredients unless u live in NYC. Try madhur jefferey’s bks. Her books cater to a western palate & usually her ingredients arent too many.

        • I totally agree with you on the salt thing. I don’t know why anybody gets worked up over that (though many do), because it is subjective and also depends on what sort of a product you’re using. I have had a number of Jaffrey’s books over the years, but I have been looking precisely for something less western. And one of the benefits of how small the world has become is that even a mid-sized city in the center of the U.S. now has a number of Indian markets. Hooray for that!

          • Vasun

            Oh wow! Good for you! Then I’d recommend the book for its numerous authentic recipes. To me, its one of the best indian cookbooks. I go to it for inspiration & recipes as I can find dishes that my grandparents cooked years ago.

  8. I tend to use the books for inspiration rather than instruction. They tend to have as many mistakes as I make posting my own stuff so I tend also to not get too annoyed with them. Lovely pork.

  9. The recipe you have created has so much more color and healthful ingredients (and better flavor components!) than the original. Maybe you can recipe test (and advise the author!) on the many recipes.that.don’t.actually.work.and.must.be.changed. I guess we will call this an Inspiration Book, not a Cook Book. The dish you created looked so appealing and scrumptious. Way to take the cue on the zucchini; the deep color and way you cut the veg caught my eye. What a comforting bowl of goodness!

    • Thanks, Shanna! I’m sure I will continue to buy beautiful Phaidon cookbooks. And will continue to gripe about them. Because that’s just the way I am. 🙂

  10. Too bad about the cookbook. I’d like design and function, please! But that gorgeous dish—even more gorgeous than the cover of any Phaidon book—looks cookbook-worthy itself.

  11. Love the changes you made to the recipe. Isn’t it interesting to see ingredients in the photographs that are not listed in the recipe? What a gorgeous bowl! Goodness! I really want to make this soup. And I love the feel of puffy covered books too…

    • So sweet! I love that bowl, too. Of course, like all food bloggers, I only have one of them. I picked it up at an antique store in a tiny little town in central Kentucky. Every time I use it I wonder whose it might have been, whether they had a whole set and how they acquired such pretty English china.

  12. There is a group of books in my collection that I haven’t cooked from ever. They are usually beautiful which is why they remain in my house, but nothing ever compels me to actually start chopping or stirring. Lovely pic and recipe 🙂

    • Thanks, Sally. It’s the same here! Such tomes are lucky that cookbooks are the only non-electronic books we buy anymore. Otherwise, they’d have been in the donation bin long ago. But, now, bookshelf space is less of a problem.

  13. Pingback: If you can’t stand the heat… | Attempts in Domesticity

  14. I too enjoy stroking that puffy cover! But the Phaidon cookbooks on the whole have issues. It’s as if they never actually tested any of the recipes at all. Case in point: I had the big Ferran Adria Family Table book and ended up selling it. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great dishes in there and I made some killer meals. BUT, I also cook enough to know when the recipe is off and I need to “go off script.” I made his slow roasted red pork. For something like 2 lb. of pork, the recipe asked for a whopping 9 cups of achiote paste — or something very ridiculous like that. I don’t even want to think about the occasional cook who follows those things to the letter…

    (your blanquette looks beautiful!)

    • We’re currently working our way through Pushpesh Pant’s India cookbook published by Phaidon. Out of about 10 recipes we’ve tried, only one has actually worked. It’s unfortunate because he’s obviously a scholar who worked very hard on what they made into a nice-looking book. But it appears that nobody proofread, much less actually tested, any of the recipes. Much like with the newspaper industry, it’s hard to know precisely where to place the blame. We’re just too far beyond it now. But it makes me sad.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: