As facile or downright hokey as it seems to compare the prose of David Lebovitz to the physical poetry of Gene Kelly, I couldn’t keep from doing so while poring over “My Paris Kitchen: Recipes and Stories” (Ten Speed Press; 100 recipes, $35). It is his sixth book.

Each multi-talented and impossibly winning, the American expat chef-blogger and the late screen legend have staked unforgettable claims in Paris. Lebovitz tells stories that are integral to his moves in the kitchen – a choreography that is compelling for Francophiles, inspired cooks and armchair sociologists.

What makes the French revere eggs yet eschew them at breakfast? Celebrate cheese as an art form and make consistently lousy coffee? Lebovitz explores with measured wonder and sly wit, covering a broad swath of food terrain. Chefs and culinary friends and purveyors perform a dance with the author at times, as he learns to tweak a dish or parse mustards.

Lebovitz’s extensive notes on making madeleines are as entertaining as watching Kelly pivot around the Place de la Concorde. The chef is at ease with the long and short form; he understands that the windup for a molten chocolate cake recipe has more ground to cover than, say, for his salted butter caramel-chocolate mousse. For the latter, the headnote is succinct: “There’s not much I can say about this. One bite will leave you just as speechless.”

Perhaps the reason his Parisian cooking translates so universally is that it reflects a growing global influence. In this cookbook, French lentil salad, Egyptian dukkah – the spice blend du jour – and stuffed naan are comfortable compatriots. The book’s warm photography goes a long way toward connecting the author’s life with the food he makes.

Some of the recipes tested for this review are not the ones I found most intriguing. (Those involved more time, effort and saturated fats than would be widely appreciated by the busy, less-food-obsessed readers of a newspaper.) Lebovitz’s repertoire speaks to those who can praise the crisp pork skin and pass the salted butter. Cookies made with duck fat, a mushy soup of bread and butternut squash and his run at cassoulet await with sticky notes, for special occasions and other seasons.

 

ALL RECIPES are adapted from “My Paris Kitchen: Recipes and Stories,” by David Lebovitz (Ten Speed Press, 2014).

Caramel Pork Ribs

4 to 6 servings

David Lebovitz says the French love to eat ribs as much as Texans do. This rendition starts with a homemade caramel that offsets the slight heat in the sauce. The ribs are one-pot, easy and delicious.

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar

3/4 cup beer

1/4 cup bourbon

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons ketchup

1/2-inch piece peeled ginger root, minced

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

2 teaspoons harissa, Sriracha sauce or other hot sauce

1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 pounds pork ribs, cut into 3- or 4-rib portions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Spread the granulated sugar in an even layer over the bottom of a large pot with a cover, such as a roasting pan or a Dutch oven. Cook over medium heat, undisturbed, until the sugar starts to melt around the edges.

Once the liquefied sugar starts to darken to a pale copper color, gently stir the sugar inward and continue to cook, stirring until the sugar is completely moistened. Cook, stirring infrequently, until all of it is a deep copper-colored liquid, similar in color to dark maple syrup, and smoking but not burnt. Turn off the heat and stir in the brown sugar, then carefully add the beer; steam will rise. The mixture will seize and harden, which is okay.

Let the mixture cool a bit, then stir in the bourbon, cider vinegar, ketchup, ginger, soy sauce, harissa or Sriracha, mustard and pepper. Put the ribs in the pot and turn on the heat until the sauce boils and bubbles up. Turn the ribs a few times in the liquid to coat evenly. Cover and transfer to the oven; roast for 11/2 to 2 hours, until the ribs are tender but not falling off the bone. Two or three times during the roasting, remove the pot from the oven and turn the ribs over.

Uncover and continue to roast, turning the ribs a few times, for 30 minutes or until the juices have thickened a bit and the sauce has created a glaze on the ribs.

Skim any visible fat from the surface of the sauce. Serve hot or at room temperature; pass the sauce at the table.

Chicken With Mustard

4 to 8 servings

This is the dish pictured on the cover of David Lebovitz’s new cookbook: dark-meat pieces of chicken sauteed in onions and bacon fat, then treated to a mustardy sauce.

You’ll need a skillet or Dutch oven that’s large enough to comfortably hold all of the chicken.

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon sweet or smoked paprika

Freshly ground black pepper

3/4 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt

8 pieces dark-meat, bone-in, skin-on chicken (separate thighs and drumsticks; 4 to 5 pounds total)

1 cup diced smoked thick-cut bacon

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (may substitute 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Olive oil (optional)

1 cup dry white wine

1 tablespoon mustard seed (may substitute coarse-grain mustard)

2 to 3 tablespoons creme fraiche or heavy cream

Warm water (optional)

Finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or chives, for garnish

Mix 1/2 cup of the Dijon mustard in a bowl with the paprika, a few generous grinds of pepper and the salt. Toss the chicken pieces in the mustard mixture, lifting the skin and rubbing some of the mixture underneath.

Line a plate with a few layers of paper towel. Heat a large, wide skillet with a cover, or a Dutch oven, over medium-high heat until it is almost smoking. Add the bacon and cook, stirring frequently, until it has crisped and browned and most of its fat has rendered. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon pieces to the lined plate. Drain all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the skillet.

Add the onion to the skillet or Dutch oven and stir to coat. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring a few times, until it is softened and mostly translucent. Stir in the thyme; cook for a few minutes, until fragrant, then use a spatula to scrape the contents of the skillet into a large bowl.

Return the skillet or Dutch oven to medium-high heat; once it’s quite hot, add the chicken pieces skin side down; if they don’t fit, work in two batches, adding oil as needed. Cook until well-browned on the bottom, then turn the pieces over and cook to achieve good color on the second side; this might take 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer the chicken to the bowl with the onion.

Pour the wine into the pan to deglaze it, keeping clear of the steam that rises. Use a firm spatula to quickly dislodge any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet.

Return all of the chicken and any accumulated juices to the skillet or Dutch oven and add the onion mixture and bacon. Cover and cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes, turning the chicken pieces over a few times during cooking. To check for doneness, insert the sharp tip of a knife into the meat next to the thigh bone; if the meat is still pink, cook for a few more minutes.

Once the chicken is cooked through, remove the skillet or Dutch oven from the heat. Stir in the remaining 3 tablespoons of Dijon mustard, the mustard seed and the creme fraiche or heavy cream to form a sauce. If it seems too thick, stir in a little warm water.

Sprinkle chopped parsley or chives over the top. Serve hot.

Bay Leaf Pound Cake With Orange Glaze

12 servings (makes one 9-inch loaf)

Cooks pay special attention to Lebovitz’s dessert recipes because he’s a gifted pastry chef.

In this recipe, he infuses melted butter with bay leaves and seats more leaves at the bottom of the cake for extra flavor. (They are not to be eaten; you may wish to remind your guests or remove them as you serve slices.)

Make ahead: The bay-leaf butter needs to steep for 1 hour.

For the cake

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces, plus 1 tablespoon softened unsalted butter, plus more for the pan

10 fresh bay leaves

12/3 cups flour, plus more for the pan

1 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder, preferably aluminum-free

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1/2 cup sour cream

Finely grated zest of 1 orange

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the glaze

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

11/2 to 21/2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

1 teaspoon orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier or Cointreau

For the cake: Melt the 6 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Remove from the heat; add 3 of the bay leaves. Let the mixture steep for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch glass or ceramic loaf pan with a little butter, then dust it with flour, shaking out any excess. Line the pan with parchment paper, leaving enough paper to hang over the long sides a bit (to help with the cake’s removal after baking).

Dab the top sides of the remaining bay leaves with a little butter, then arrange them buttered side down on the parchment paper at the bottom of the loaf pan.

Whisk together the 12/3 cups flour, the granulated sugar, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Whisk together the eggs, sour cream, orange zest and vanilla extract in a separate medium bowl.

Rewarm the melted butter as needed to liquefy it. Discard its bay leaves.

Use a flexible spatula to gently stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture, then add the melted butter; stir to form a smooth batter. Scrape it into the loaf pan, spreading it evenly into the corners and being careful not to dislodge the bay leaves on the bottom. Pipe or spoon the1 tablespoon of softened butter in a straight line down the center of the batter (create a shallow narrow trough). Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, then run a round-edged knife around the edges of the cake to help tip it out of the pan. Transfer it, top side up, to a wire rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the glaze: Combine the confectioners’ sugar, orange juice (as needed) and orange liqueur to form a smooth, slightly pourable glaze. Spread over the cake, allowing the glaze to drip down the sides.

Serve once the glaze has set.

Lemon Pistachio Couscous

4 to 6 servings (makes about 5 cups)

There’s lots of color and texture in this side dish, and the bits of preserved lemon add a special touch.

Serve with lamb shanks and other kinds of braised meat.

Make ahead: Preserved lemons are available at Mediterranean markets and at some Whole Foods markets.

The couscous can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

1 preserved lemon (see headnote)

1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup diced dried fruit, such as a combination of dried cherries, cranberries, raisins, apricots and prunes

1/2 cup roasted unsalted pistachios, lightly chopped

3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt or kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

11/4 cups plain dried Israeli (pearled) couscous

Freshly ground black pepper

Trim the stem end from the lemon; cut the lemon into quarters. Scoop out the pulp and press it through a fine-mesh strainer into a mixing bowl to extract the juices; discard the pulp and seeds. Mince the rind and add it to the bowl along with the parsley, butter, dried fruit, pistachios, salt and cinnamon.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the couscous and cook according to the package directions. Drain it, then immediately add it to the bowl, stirring until the butter has melted and the ingredients are well blended. Taste, and season with pepper as needed.

Serve right away.