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Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia Child, Louisette  Bertholle and Simone Beck
 
684 pages; Black and White Sketches, no Photography 
 
Alfred A. Knopf, New York 2001
 
Review by Nadia Domeq for Good Cooking, Inc., Summer of 02

 

Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child is a book written for those who love to cook. The recipes are longer than usual but are so detailed that the reader will know how to prepare a dish from start to end. The ingredients are not out of the ordinary: that’s important because you can get everything in any supermarket. For exceptional French cooking and any good cooking in general, the technique is more important than anything else. Any individual can cook in the French manner, with the right teaching. I believe this book would help you to perform this job.

In this book you will find all the techniques for the most fundamental things: how to sauté, how to fold beaten egg whites into a cake batter, how to add egg yolks to a hot sauce so they will not curdle, how to chop onions, how to dice, how to mince and many more. In French cooking, the most important thing is the pleasure from a well-known dish perfectly cooked and served. So all the techniques used have only one goal: How does it taste? The French are not fascinated by unusual combinations or surprise presentations.

Cooking is an art, and like all art, the more you cook and the more you learn the more sense it makes. But like any art you need practice and knowledge. And the most important ingredient: love for cooking.

The Rear Cover:

The photograph was taken by Julia's late husband Paul sometime in 1960.

left to right: Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck working with their maitre, Chef Max Bugnard

They were debating the final seasoning of a sauce!

 

 

What I like the most in this book is the way the recipes are explained and the way they are written, in a two column form. On the left are the ingredients, and on the right is the paragraph with the instructions. Another good point is that there’s no time of preparation, as some people take half an hour to slice three pounds of mushrooms and others take only five minutes. An additional good tip is the suggestion for vegetables and wines with all the main course recipes.

Chef John J. Vyhnanek of Good Cooking has the privilege of knowing Julia.  "I can remember the day I first met her and her late husband Paul", he recalls.  "Finally after years of watching her on TV, and cutting high school classes to do so, my dream came true in 1977.  She had lunch at the Ritz-Carlton Cafe where I was the Chef.  After lunch she stopped by the open kitchen to say hello to me and my staff of two.  It was truly an honor!  In the following years I've become friendly with her.  She has dined at my restaurant, cooked with me at Boston University and we even ran into each other in Venice of all places. I remember how proud I was to introduce my "foodie" mother, also named Julia, to her at her 75th birthday party."

Chef John Vyhnanek shows Julia Child and a Boston University student how he cuts a boiled lobster during one of his classes.

 

 

 

 

Julia Child set American cooking on a new course with the original publication of this book in 1961.  Everyone who wants to be a better cook should rush out and buy this 40th Anniversary Edition. 

The recipe below is a classic, tried and true---delicious!

Boeuf Bourguignon

Boeuf a la Bourguignonne---Beef Stew in Red Wine, with Bacon, Onions, and Mushrooms (page 315)

As is the case with most famous dishes, there are more ways than one to arrive at a good boeuf bourguignon. Carefully done, and perfectly flavored, it is certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man, and can well be the main course for a buffet dinner. Fortunately you can prepare it completely ahead, even a day in advance, and it only gains in flavor when reheated.

Vegetable and Wine Suggestions:

Boiled potatoes are traditionally served with this dish. Buttered noodles or steamed rice may be substituted. If you also wish a green vegetable, buttered peas would be your best choice. Serve with the beef a fairly full-bodied, young red wine, such as Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone, Bordeaux-St. Emillion, or Burgundy.

For 6 people

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Ingredients:

a 6-ounce chunk of bacon
a 9 to 10 inch fireproof casserole 3 inches deep 
1 Tbsp. olive oil or cooking oil 
a slotted spoon
3 lbs. lean stewing beef cut into 2-inch cubes
1 sliced carrot 
1 sliced onion 
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper 
2 Tbsp flour
3 cups of a full-bodied, young red wine such as one of those suggested for serving, or a Chianti
2 to 3 cups brown beef stock or canned beef bouillon 
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic 
1/2 tsp thyme
a crumbled bay leaf 
the blanched bacon rind 
18 to 24 small white onions, brown-braised in stock 
1 lb. quartered fresh mushrooms sautéed in butter
parsley sprigs

Instructions:

Remove rind, and cut bacon into lardons (sticks, inch thick and 1/2 inches long). Simmer rind and bacon for 10 minutes in 1/2 quarts of water. Drain and dry.

Sauté the bacon in the oil over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon. Set casserole aside. Reheat until fat is almost smoking before you sauté the beef.

Dry the beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Sauté it, a few pieces at a time, in the hot oil and bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the bacon.

In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the sautéing fat.

Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with the salt and pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly with the flour. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of pre-heated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat and return to oven for 4 minutes more. (This browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust.) Remove casserole, and turn oven down to 325 degrees.

Stir in the wine, and enough stock or bouillon so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs, and bacon rind. Bring to simmer on top of the stove. Then cover the casserole and set in lower third of preheated oven. Regulate heat so liquid simmers very slowly for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms. Set them aside until needed.

When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan. Wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms over the meat.

Skim fat off the sauce. Simmer sauce for a minute or two, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of stock or canned bouillon. Taste carefully for seasoning. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables.

('*) Recipe may be completed in advance to this point. 

For Immediate Serving: Cover the casserole and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. Serve in its casserole, or arrange the stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles, or rice, and decorated with parsley.

For Later Serving: When cold, cover and refrigerate. About 15 to 20 minutes before serving, bring to the simmer, cover, and simmer very slowly for 10 minutes, occasionally basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce.