Culture - Book 2: A Fatal Grace


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Let every man shovel out his own snow, and the whole city will be passable, said Gamache. (Quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson, A Fatal Grace, page 135, Trade Paper Edition)

Ralph Waldo EmersonA fitting quote for A Fatal Grace, which takes place in the dead (with the dead?) of winter. Emerson, the author of “Self -Reliance” and “Nature” among other essays conceived the idea of Transcendentalism and was a pillar of the American Romantic movement. The eminent literary critic, Harold Bloom, called Emerson the “American version of Montaigne” and like the irascible Ruth, Emerson was a poet!

Strangely enough, Emerson wrote that line sometime in the summer of 1840 so, as one would expect, Emerson is being purely metaphorical here and is, in fact, referring to civic duty. Gamache seemingly uses the quote flippantly to refer to the inclement weather, even engaging Beauvoir in a very funny tête–à–tête about Emerson, Lake, & Palmer, the 70’s prog rock super band (Sadly, I just learned of Greg Lake’s passing as I write this). But, I digress.

John Adams simply and succinctly defined civic duty as, “To be good, and to do good”, adding it’s “all we have to do”. And, Gamache himself, echoes a similar refrain on civility when quoting Gandhi later in the book (page 219):
Mahatma Gandhi
Your beliefs become your thoughts
Your thoughts become your words
Your words become your actions
Your actions become your destiny

Should we take Gamache’s Emerson and Gandhi references on face value? Or, is Louise giving us, by employing these maxims, a direct look into the very character and constitution of Gamache himself?

I submit the following quotes from the Three Pines canon as evidence of this:

Armand Gamache had always held unfashionable beliefs. He believed the light would banish the shadows. That kindness was more powerful than cruelty, and that goodness existed, even in the most desperate places. He believed that evil had its limits. (How the Light Gets In)

Our lives become defined by our choices. It’s as simple and as complex as that. And as powerful. (Still Life)

Emerson himself certainly would have defined Gamache as a “great man”, one who sees that the “spiritual is stronger than any material force–that thoughts rule the world”.

Culture - Book 1: Still Life


In the bedroom Clara picked up the well-worn book beside Jane’s bed, C.S. Lewis’s, Surprised by Joy. It smelled of Floris. (Still Life, page 242, Trade Paper Edition)

Surprised by Joy by CS LewisOriginally published in 1955, Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life is C.S. Lewis’s look back on his conversion to Christianity and the idea of what actual “joy” means to him.

The title of Lewis’s memoir comes from William Wordsworth’s 1815 sonnet, “Surprised By Joy — Impatient As The Wind”, which was written in the wake of his three-year old daughter’s death and begins as follows:

Surprised by joy—impatient as the Wind
I turned to share the transport—Oh! with whom
But Thee, long buried in the silent Tomb,
That spot which no vicissitude can find?

At face value, a strange comparison—joy and death—but the world of Three Pines, as summed up by both readers and reviewers alike, is just that, a place where light contrasts dark, goodness exists with evil, innocence engages experience, and hope flourishes with fear.

Here, Louise describes the significance of Lewis’s tome:

“I came across it early in my sobriety. And that was a magical time, because I thought I was going to die by my own hand. I was thirty-five and I couldn’t see going through another year of life, never mind another forty years. So when I asked for help and got it through a twelve step program, it seemed — and perhaps it was — a miracle. At that time, I was surprised by joy, because I had been so dark and so negative and so afraid. Then, to find happiness and the freedom that comes from not having to drink every day and finding friends, and finding myself, and finding real joy. That’s when I came across the phrase and the book Surprised by Joy.”

And this is from Louise’s January 2009 Blog Post: “At 2 years sober we’re given a medallion by our sponsors and asked what phrase we’d like engraved on it. I thought about that and chose – Surprised by Joy. A phrase I used deliberately, with gratitude, in Still Life. I keep that medallion with me always. To remember.”

Louise also had a bench made and adorned with a “Surprised by Joy” plaque for her husband, Michael’s birthday in 2007 (that’s him reflected with Trudy the dog below!). As she says, “When I met and fell in love with him I was, indeed, surprised by joy. And he was the most joyous person I’d ever met.”

Happy Birthday Michael bench

Sadly, Michael passed away last year and here is a rendition of the plaque that will soon be placed on a bench in New York’s Central Park. The bench sits on an idyllic hill and faces Louise’s apartment.

Surprised by Joy plaque

The quote below from Lewis’s work succinctly sums a theme that continuously runs through the work of Louise Penny.

“I pay respect to wisdom not to strength.”

You can almost see Gamache saying those exact same words.

Discussion Question

What did Clara mean by having “Surprised by Joy” engraved on Jane Neal’s tombstone?

Recipe - Book 12: A Great Reckoning


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“Probably best to have a more private discussion,” said Armand, leading him into the kitchen where he sliced fresh bread from Sarah’s boulangerie and Gélinas helped him grill sandwiches of Brome Lake duck, brie and fig confit.

A Great Reckoning


Makes 2 servings


For the Fig Confit

  • 1 cup dried Turkish figs, finely chopped
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • ½ cup water
  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely minced

For the Seared Duck and Sandwich Assembly

  • 1 boneless, skin-on duck breast
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 slices sourdough bread
  • 2 teaspoons softened butter
  • ¼ – ½ cup baby arugula
  • ¼ cup Kalamata olives, pitted coarsely chopped
  • 2 ounces Brie cheese, sliced


  • Prepare the fig confit: In a 1 1/2-quart saucepan, mix together all of the ingredients and bring the liquid up to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover, and simmer for approximately 20 minutes. Remove lid and continue to gently simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally to ensure that nothing is sticking to the sides or bottom of the pan, until the excess liquid has evaporated and mixture has thickened like jam. Cool completely before use. The confit may be made 5 days ahead and chilled, covered.
  • Sear the duck breast: Rinse the duck breast thoroughly under cool water and pat dry with a paper towel. Place the meat on a cutting board with the skin side facing up. Use a sharp to knife score the skin and underlying fat in a checkerboard pattern, being careful not to cut all the way though to the meat. This will help ensure that the fat can render out properly and render the skin perfectly crisp. Season all sides thoroughly with salt and black pepper.
  • Set a large, heavy skillet over high heat and allow it get very hot before placing the duck breast in the center, skin side down. Turn down the heat to medium and allow the meat to cook undisturbed for 8 – 10 minutes, to ensure an even sear. Use tongs to carefully flip the meat, cooking for an additional 5 – 6 minutes on the opposite side. Once crisp and golden all over, remove the meat from the pan, letting rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing thinly. The meat should remain light pink inside.
  • To assemble the sandwich: Place a large skillet or grill pan over moderate heat. Meanwhile, spread 1/2 teaspoon butter each on 2 slices of bread. Place the buttered sides down in the pan and quickly top with an even layer of fig confit, Brie, olives, arugula, and sliced duck. Divide the remaining butter between the two remaining slices of bread, placing the butter sides facing up. Apply gently pressure to bring the sandwich together. Once the brie begins to melt and the bottom slice of bread is evenly browned, carefully flip the sandwiches. Toast the opposite side to your desired shade of brown, continuing to press lightly as they cool.
  • Remove from the heat, slice in half, and serve immediately.

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Recipe - Book 11: The Nature of the Beast


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  • Their dinner guests had already arrived and were sipping drinks and eating apple and avocado salsa by the time Armand returned . . . .
  • “I saw the Lepage boy come flying out of the woods again,” said Ruth. “What was it this time? Zombies?”
  • “Actually, I believe he disturbed a nest of poets,” said Armand, taking the bottle of red wine around and refilling glasses, before helping himself to some of the salsa with honey-lime dressing. “Terrified him.”

The Nature of the Beast


Makes 1½ cups salsa; about 8 servings


Choose a slightly firmer (but still ripe) avocado than you would for guacamole and a naturally soft red apple such as a McIntosh. The quantities below may be easily doubled to serve a larger crowd.

  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon light honey
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small Hass avocado, peeled, pitted, and cut into ½-inch (1-cm) dice
  • Half a red apple, peeled, seeded, and cut into ½-inch (1-cm) dice
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
  • Chips of choice


Put the lime zest and juice into a bowl. Whisk in the honey, salt, and pepper. Fold in the avocado and apple until coated with the dressing. Add the cilantro, if using. Taste and add a little pinch more of salt and pepper, if needed. Spoon the salsa onto the chips. The salsa is best eaten when freshly made, but can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a few hours. If refrigerating, gently press a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the top of the salsa, then cover the container. Bring the salsa to room temperature about 15 minutes before serving.

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Recipe - Book 10: The Long Way Home


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Armand Gamache looked down at his plate. Empty. All the wonderful food gone. He was sure it must have been delicious, but he couldn’t remember eating a single bite.

After a dessert of raspberry and chocolate mousse they went home.

The Long Way Home



  • 10 ounces (280 g) good-quality semisweet or extra bittersweet (about 70%) chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 large eggs, separated (see note)
  • 1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream, very cold
  • 1 tablespoon raspberry liqueur, such as Chambord, or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Additional whipped cream (optional)
  • One ½-pint basket fresh raspberries


  • Break up or chop the chocolate into small chunks. Melt the chocolate and butter in the top of a regular or improvised double boiler (set a heatproof bowl into a saucepan; the size of the bowl should be large enough to easily hold the chocolate, fit the top of the saucepan, and keep the bottom of the bowl at least 2 to 3 inches above the water). Stir occasionally until the chocolate has completely melted, about 10 minutes. Keep the water at a bare simmer.
  • Remove the chocolate mixture from the heat and beat in the egg yolks, one at a time. Beat the egg whites in a separate bowl with an electric mixer just until they hold soft peaks. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, one-half at a time, using a rubber spatula. Fold gently, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl. Stop folding when the whites have been halfway incorporated into the chocolate. Whip the 1 cup of heavy cream with an electric mixer just until it holds soft peaks. Add the liqueur to the chocolate mixture. Fold in about three-quarters of the whipped cream just until no white streaks remain. Set 12 raspberries aside. Mash the remaining berries into the reserved whipped cream until the cream takes on a light pink color.
  • Spoon about ⅓ cup into a champagne flute or other tall, clear glass (a white ramekin will work in a pinch). Spoon in a tablespoon or so of the raspberry cream, and then top up the glass (or ramekin) with another ⅓ cup of mousse. Cover each serving with a small piece of plastic wrap and refrigerate until completely set, at least 3 hours or up to 1 day. Serve with additional whipped cream, if you like, and a couple of the reserved fresh berries.

Note: Eating raw eggs may lead to foodborne illness. You can reduce the risk of illness by washing the eggshells before cracking them. In any case, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems should refrain from eating raw eggs.

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Recipe - Book 9: How the Light Gets In


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Clara and Myrna had had a simple dinner of reheated stew and a salad, then she’d gotten up to do the dishes, but Myrna soon joined her.

“I can do them,” said Clara, squirting the dishwashing liquid into the hot water and watching it foam. It was always strangely satisfying. It made Clara feel like a magician, or a witch, or an alchemist. Not, perhaps, as valuable as turning lead into gold, but useful all the same.

Clara Morrow was not someone who liked housework. What she liked was magic. Water into foam. Dirty dishes into clean. A blank canvas into a work of art.

It wasn’t change she liked so much as metamorphosis.

Olivier called Gamache and gave him the agreed-upon phrase—Gabri asked me to call to make sure you still want your room for tonight— that would tell Gamache he could have Emilie’s home.

Then Olivier had rounded up others in the village to help. The result was this.

Sheets had been pulled off the furniture, beds were made and clean towels put out, the home was vacuumed and dusted and polished. A fire was laid in the grate, and judging by the aroma, dinner was warming in the oven.

It was as though he and the Brunels had just stepped out for a few hours and were returning home.

Two of Sarah’s fresh-baked baguettes sat in a basket on the marble kitchen counter, and Monsieur Béliveau had stocked the pantry and fridge with milk and cheese and butter. With homemade jams. Fruit sat in a wooden bowl on the harvest table.

There was even a Christmas tree, decorated and lit.

Everyone, except Ruth, cleared the table while Gabri took Olivier’s trifle out of the fridge, with its layers of ladyfingers, custard, fresh whipped cream, and brandy-infused jam.

“The love that dares not speak its name,” Gabri whispered as he cradled it in his arms.

“How many calories, do you think?” asked Clara.

“Don’t ask,” said Olivier.

“Don’t tell,” said Myrna.

How the Light Gets In


Makes 8 servings


For the Custard

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 2½ cups (600 ml) whole milk
  • ⅓ cup (67 g) sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

To Assemble the Trifle

  • 1 cup (250 ml) very cold heavy (whipping) cream
  • 1½ cups (432 g) raspberry jam
  • 1 tablespoon brandy, Cointreau, or other orange liqueur
  • 2½ to 3 packages (3.5 oz/100 g each) ladyfingers (see Notes)


  • Make the custard: Put the egg yolks in a heatproof bowl. Heat the milk and sugar in a 2-quart/2-liter heavy saucepan, stirring to dissolve the sugar, until bubbles form around the edge. Gently and gradually, whisk the hot milk into the egg yolks, then pour everything back into the saucepan. Cook over medium heat, scraping the bottom and sides with a heatproof spatula to prevent sticking until the custard is steaming and thick enough to lightly coat the spatula. If you have an instant-read thermometer, the custard is ready when the temperature registers 185°F/85°C. Strain the custard into a bowl and stir in the vanilla. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap pressed directly on the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cool or thoroughly chilled, 2 to 4 hours.
  • Assemble the trifle: With a whisk or electric hand mixer, beat the heavy cream until it forms soft peaks. Set aside. In a wide, shallow bowl, stir together the jam and brandy. Have at hand an 8 x 11-inch (20 x 82-cm), or other more decorative glass 2-quart (2-liter) dish. This will be a little messy: working with your hands, turn each ladyfinger in the jam mixture and line the bottom of the dish. The ladyfingers may have to run in different directions or you may have to snap them in half to get the right fit to cover the bottom of the dish snugly. Pour about half the custard over the ladyfingers. Spoon about half the whipped cream over the ladyfingers and spread it out into a more or less even layer. (This is a rustic dish, don’t worry if some of the jam gets mixed in with the custard or whipped cream or is smeared against the inside of the glass dish—that is part of the charm.) Repeat with another layer of jam-dipped ladyfingers, custard, and whipped cream.
  • Cover and refrigerate: Cover the dish tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the ladyfingers have soaked up all the custard and the trifle is soft but spoonable, 12 to 24 hours. Serve chilled, spooning the trifle into coupes or onto dessert plates.


  1. The ladyfingers should be very dry, (not the spongy type of cookie), typically packed about 20 per box. If you find your ladyfingers are soft rather than dry, simply spread them out on a cooling rack or baking sheet and let them dry out overnight.
  2. The trifle needs at least 12 hours and up to a full day for the ladyfingers to soak up the custard and for the trifle to firm up. That will give you a trifle with a spoonable yet still soft texture.
  3. While the above recipe calls for an 8 x 11-inch (20 x 82-cm) dish, any shape dish with close to a 2-quart (2-liter) capacity will do. Glass is better—you can see the pretty layers and jam from the sides.

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Recipe - Book 8: The Beautiful Mystery


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Two monks came out of the kitchens carrying bowls of small new potatoes, drizzled with butter and chives. Broccoli and sweet squash and casseroles followed. Cutting boards with warm baguettes dotted the long refectory table and platters of cheeses and butter were silently passed up and down the long benches of monks.

The monks, though, took very little. Passing the bowls and bread, but only taking enough to be symbolic.

They had no appetite.

This left Beauvoir in a quandary. He wanted to drop huge spoonfuls of everything onto his plate until he could no longer see above it. He wanted to make an altar of the food, then eat it. All.

When the first casserole, a fragrant cheese and leek dish with a crunchy crumble top, came by he paused, looking at the modest amounts everyone else had taken.

Then he took the biggest scoop he could manage and plopped it onto his plate.

The Beautiful Mystery

Makes 6 servings


  • 4 medium leeks (about 1 pound/450 g)
  • 1 cup (3 oz/90 g) grated Cantal, Swiss, or Gruyère cheese
  • ½ cup (120 ml) chicken broth
  • ¼ cup (62 ml) heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cup coarsely crumbled day-old white bread
  • ½ cup (1 oz/30 g) grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil


  • Preheat the oven to 375°F (191°C).
  • Trim the dark green parts and root end from the leeks, leaving just the white and light green parts behind. Halve the leeks lengthwise, then cut each half across into 2-inch (5-cm) or so pieces. Wash thoroughly and drain. Arrange about half the leeks in an even layer in 9 x 9-inch (22 x 22-cm) baking dish. Scatter the Cantal cheese over the leeks. Top with the remaining leeks.
  • Pour the broth and cream over the leeks. Season with the salt and pepper. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake until the leeks are tender, about 40 minutes.
  • Pulse the crumbled bread, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil in a food processor just until the bread cubes are broken up and the cheese and oil are blended through. (The pieces of bread should still be quite large.) Taste and add a pinch more of salt and/or pepper if you think it needs it.
  • Uncover the baking dish, sprinkle the bread mixture over the leeks and bake, uncovered, until the leeks are very tender, the liquid is bubbling and the crumbs are browned, about 20 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

If your leeks are particularly thick, woody, or out of season, we recommend blanching them before arranging on the dish.

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Recipe - Book 7: A Trick of the Light


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“People don’t change,” said Beauvoir, squashing his burger and watching the juices ooze out.

Chief Justice Pineault and Suzanne had left, walking over to the B and B. And now, finally, Inspector Beauvoir could discuss murder, in peace.

“You think not?” asked Gamache. On his plate were grilled garlic shrimp and quinoa-mango salad. The barbeque was working overtime for the hungry lunch crowd, producing char-grilled steaks and burgers, shrimp, and salmon.

“They might seem to,” said Beauvoir, picking his burger up, “but if you were a nasty piece of work growing up, you’ll be an asshole as an adult and you’ll die pissed off.

He took a bite. Where once this burger, with bacon and mushrooms, caramelized onions, and melting blue cheese, would have sent him into raptures, now it left him feeling slightly queasy. Still, he forced himself to eat, to appease Gamache . . . .

Across the table Chief Inspector Gamache took a forkful of grilled garlic shrimp and the quinoa-mango salad with genuine enjoyment . . . .

This was Beauvoir’s favorite part of an investigation. Not the food, though in Three Pines that was never a hardship. He could remember other cases, in other places, when he and the Chief had gone days with barely anything to eat, or shared cold canned peas and Spam. Even that, he had to admit, had been fun. In retrospect.

But this little village produced bodies and gourmet meals in equal proportion.

A Trick of the Light

Makes 4 servings


  • 1 pound (450 g) medium shrimp (about 24 per pound/half kilo), shelled and deveined
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (or a blend of 1 tablespoon each olive and sesame oil)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup (128 g) quinoa
  • 1¼ cups (300 ml) cold water
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro or scallions
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil or olive oil
  • 1 ripe mango, peeled, pit removed, and flesh cut into ¾ x ¼-inch (2 x .5-cm) matchsticks
  • ¼ cup (23 g) toasted sliced almonds *
  • Lime wedges, for serving (optional)


  • Toss the shrimp, minced garlic, olive oil, (or olive oil sesame oil blend, if using) together in a bowl. Season generously with salt and pepper and toss again. The shrimp may be marinated up to several hours before cooking. Cover and refrigerate.
  • Place the quinoa in a sieve and rinse thoroughly under cold running water for at least 3 minutes. Drain. Bring the 1¼ cups water and a large pinch of sea salt to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir in the quinoa and return to a boil. Stir once thoroughly, then reduce the heat to the lowest setting. Cover the pan and cook for 18 minutes.
  • While the quinoa is cooking, stir the lime juice, cilantro or scallions, and the 2 tablespoons of sesame or olive oil together in a serving bowl. Add the mango and let stand, tossing once or twice while the shrimp cook.
  • When the quinoa is cooked, remove it from the heat and uncover it. Fluff a few times with a fork.
  • Thread 3 shrimp onto each of 8 short (5- to 6-inch/13- to 15-cm) skewers. Preheat a grill pan or large heavy skillet (cast iron is ideal for either type of pan) over medium-high heat. Lay the shrimp into the hot pan and cook, turning once, until they are cooked through, about 4 minutes.
  • Stir the still-warm quinoa into the dressed mango and toss well. Add more salt and/or pepper if needed. Pile some of the salad in the center of four salad plates. Scatter the almonds over the salad, and arrange the shrimp skewers around the salad. Pass extra lime wedges if you like.

* To toast sliced almonds: Preheat an oven to 350°F (177°C). Spread the almonds out on a baking sheet and bake, stirring around once, until lightly toasted, about 10 minutes.

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Recipe - Book 6: Bury Your Dead


Just ahead, the Châtea

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u Frontenac promised warmth, a glass of wine, a crusty bowl of French onion soup. . . .

Jean laughed and leaned away as the waiter placed a huge burger and frites in front of him. A bubbling French onion soup sat in front of Émile, and Gamache was given a hot bowl of pea soup.

“I met a fellow this morning who’s training for the race,” said Gamache.

“Bet he’s in good shape,” said Émile, lifting his spoon almost over his head, trying to get the stringy, melted cheese to break.

Bury Your Dead

Makes about 4 cups (1 liter)—2 main-course servings or 4 first-course servings


  • 4 tablespoons (2 oz/57 g) unsalted butter
  • 2 pounds (1 kg) yellow onions (about 5 medium onions), peeled and sliced ¼ inch/7 mm thick
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup (80 ml) white wine or 3 tablespoons (45 ml) dry sherry
  • 3 cups (750 ml) beef or chicken broth, preferably homemade
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Half a French baguette, cut into ½-inch slices
  • Olive oil
  • 1 cup (3 oz/90 g) grated Gruyère cheese


  • Heat the butter in a medium (4-quart/4-liter) heavy-bottomed pot over low heat until bubbling. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until very well browned, about 45 minutes.
  • Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 4 minutes. Add the wine or sherry and cook, stirring, until almost evaporated. Add the broth, bring to a boil, and adjust the heat so the soup is barely simmering. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the pot and cook until the onions are very tender, about 15 minutes.
  • While the soup is simmering, make the toasts: Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Lightly brush both sides of each slice of bread with olive oil. Arrange the bread on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown and crisp, about 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
  • Position the oven rack about 8 inches from the broiler and preheat the broiler. Ladle the soup into 2 ovenproof crocks. Cover the top of the soup with a layer of toasts, then spread a layer of the cheese over the toasts. Place the crocks on a baking sheet and broil until the cheese is golden brown and bubbly, about 5 minutes. Let the crocks sit for a few minutes before serving, handling them carefully.
  • Variation: If you don’t have ovenproof crocks, make the cheese toasts and float them on top of the soup: Preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Make the toasts as described above and line them up on the sheet. Top with the grated Gruyère. Bake until the cheese is golden brown and the toasts are very crisp, about 12 minutes. Ladle the hot soup into bowls and top with the cheese toasts.

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Recipe - Book 5: The Brutal Telling


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Gamache tried the door to the bistro and was surprised to find it open. Earlier that morning, over breakfast of pain doré, sliced strawberries and bananas, maple syrup and back bacon, Gabri had admitted he didn’t know when Olivier might reopen the bistro.

The Brutal Telling

Makes 4 servings


  • Eight 1-inch (2.5-cm) slices challah, brioche, or other eggy, soft-textured dough (see Note)
  • 1 cup dry-textured muesli
  • ½ cup (120 ml) milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

To Serve (choose any or all)

  • Fresh blueberries
  • Powdered sugar
  • Maple syrup


  • Arrange the bread slices on a cooling rack (or a plate) and let them get slightly stale overnight. This will give the finished pain doré an almost custardy texture.
  • Grind the muesli in a food processor to the texture of very coarse sand. Spread out the ground muesli on a wide plate.
  • In a bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, maple syrup, vanilla, and cinnamon until smooth. Pour into a square 9 x 9-inch (22 x 22-cm) baking pan. Add the bread slices and soak for 4 minutes; turn and soak the second side for another 4 minutes. There should be very little egg mix left after soaking.
  • Heat the butter in a large (10-inch/25-cm or so) nonstick pan over medium-low heat until the butter is foaming. Carefully dredge both sides of the soaked bread slices in the ground muesli. Add the bread slices to the pan as you dredge them and cook, turning only once, until golden brown on both sides, about 8 minutes. Serve warm with blueberries, powdered sugar, and/or additional maple syrup.

Note: If the challah or other bread you are using is large, say 4 inches (10 cm) high, you may only need 4 slices; one slice per serving. The rest of the ingredients will remain the same.

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