Shirley King Cooks at Central Market

In order to make a living in the food business these days it is often necessary to wear many different hats. Talented and resourceful Englishwoman Shirley King has one of the most impressive resumés around: cookbook author, chef, cooking instructor, artist, photographer, food stylist, caterer. King brought her considerable skills to Austin recently to promote two new books with classes at Central Market. The first evening, a large group tasted several wonderful fish dishes from the new edition of King's Fish -- The Basics (Chapters Publishing, $19.95, paper), a comprehensive guide to selecting and cooking fresh seafood. An accomplished chef with a natural affinity for seafood cooking and one of the foremost authorities on fish cookery in the U.S., King successfully manages to demystify the prospect of preparing fish for the average cook. The book is arranged in three sections: part one offers basic information about seafood and health, buying and storing fish and shellfish, and suggests the best methods for preparing different types of fish based on their anatomies (round, flat, etc.); part two features recipes with suggestions for all the appropriate varieties of fish, cooking methods and techniques; part three provides illustrated profiles of over 100 different types of fish and shellfish. Both novice and veteran cooks will find this book a valued and useful resource.

King's second class presented a bountiful French meal based on recipes from her newest work, Pampille's Table (Faber&Faber, $24.95, hard), the sensitive translation and adaptation of one of the few historical source books on French regional cooking. King came across the 1919 classic Les Bons Plats de France by Marthe Daudet while researching her first book Dining with Marcel Proust (Thames & Hudson, 1979). Proust himself described Marthe Daudet's (nicknamed Pampille because of her butterfly-like delicacy) recipes as "incomparable," and indeed, they are. King dazzled her lucky students with steamed mussels filled with spinach, an incredibly flavorful french onion soup, tasty red mullets a la nicoise, a braised lamb shoulder with garlic cloves, fava Beans tourangelle and petit pois parisiene and the piéce de résistence, a chocolate-coated Savoy cake doused with orange liqueur and filled with creme fraiche. These and many other traditional French regional dishes are included in the book, but the recipes are not the only important attraction. King has artfully managed to capture the "voice" of Pampille, rendering her descriptions of the diverse regions of France, her opinions of Parisian butchers, and her hilarious essay on "The Awful Dinner" for American readers to treasure. -- V.B.W.

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