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In ‘À Table,’ stylish French recipes for a return to entertaining

A French shrimp boil atop a newspaper-lined table
Low-effort French recipes that deliver high-impact results — like a French shrimp boil — fill "À Table,” the new cookbook by Rebekah Peppler.
(Joann Pai / Chronicle Books)

As more people are getting vaccinated and able to gather in small groups, Rebekah Peppler’s new cookbook “À Table” has come along at just the right time. A comprehensive guidebook to the relaxed French way of entertaining at dinner time, the book is packed with the sort of dishes to help ease us back into the type of gathering we used to do.

In “À Table,” Peppler — who splits her time between Paris and Los Angeles — catalogs French food that is low on effort but delivers high-impact results. Look no further than an appetizer of puff pastry twisted with Comté cheese and sesame seeds. It’s a brilliant three-ingredient appetizer that requires only a bit of cutting and shaping to deliver an hors d’oeuvre that’s stylish, easy and delicious all at once.

Dinner is equally relaxed: a French shrimp boil that asks of the cook only to do a little staggered simmering of potatoes, artichokes and shrimp in a full-bodied broth of white wine, lemon, garlic and Dijon mustard spiked with herbs de Provence, paprika and a pinch of cayenne. Whether toppled onto a newspaper-lined table in your backyard or strewn about on a large platter indoors, it’s an elbows-on-the-table dish - the type that many of us can’t wait to eat again with friends.

And for dessert, “À Table,” has a dish that couldn’t be simpler: the first of spring’s strawberries, macerated in a little sugar and served with whipped cream enriched with crème fraîche. But the icing on the cake — or in this case, cookie on the crème — are Peppler’s intensely buttery and salty sablés, a type of French slice-and-bake cookie that’s crumbly and rich.

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But in the cookies, you get a two-fer: first, a flavorful topping to crumble over the berries and crème and second, a take-home snack for your guests. It’s the type of lagniappe, or gift, that will make your guests’ whole day better when they remember they have them. In “À Table” you get a book full of these little extras, “remarques” on how to stock your house wine or which outdated dinner party rules need to be retired.

As we all start returning, albeit sporadically, to life as we knew it, Peppler’s “À Table” is a fantastic guide to re-learn how to entertain in a way that makes everyone feel like we’re back in the good ol’ times.

Get the recipes:

Comté and Sesame Twists

Time 45 minutes
Yields Makes 32 twists

French Shrimp Boil

Time 40 minutes
Yields Serves 6 to 8

Strawberries and Crème

Time 20 minutes
Yields Serves 4

Sablés (But not, like, regular sablés, cool sablés)

Time 1 hour, plus 2 hours chilling
Yields Makes 64 cookies


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