Mastering The Art of French Cooking
“You’ve got all the directions and if you can read, you can cook” Julia Child.
One of the most talked about and featured cookbooks is Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child with Louisette Berthole & Simone Beck. Julia is well known for her cooking show, “The French Chef.” I was very excited to try new recipes from this set of cookbooks. The recipes are very detailed and must be read multiple times before cooking and before shopping. I would recommend following the French tradition of “mise en place,” which is prepping all of your ingredients before you start so you don’t run into a place in the recipes where you can’t continue – especially important for baking.
Ouefs en Cocotte
"Eggs Baked in Ramekins"
Eggs Benedict to fried eggs – I don’t think I have ever met an egg I didn’t like. Finding a new way to make eggs was really exciting. I made this recipe twice as the first time I accidently got some water in the ramekins when placing the eggs in the oven. My advice to avoid this is to place the pan into the oven directly with the rack in place – on most ovens the racks can shake a little when pushed back in which can cause water to come up over the edge of the ramekins. I cooked two eggs in each ramekin and it took about 10 minutes for them to cook. They won’t look completely done when you pull them out – but trust me they will be done. Definitely a recipe everyone should try. Make sure to look at the instructions as they are based on 1 to 2 eggs if making more you will need to increase the ingredients.
"Beef Stew in Red Wine, with Bacon, Onions and Mushrooms"
Recipe 2: Boeuf Bourguignon “Beef Stew in Red Wine, with Bacon, Onions, and Mushrooms”
I was a little nervous about making this recipe as with the time it takes I really didn’t want to mess it up and have to start again. Having previously made a version of Boeuf Bourguignon from a recipe adapted for a crockpot that came out great so I was excited to try from scratch. I started by reading the recipe multiple times I even added time estimates on the recipe so I had an idea of how long each step would take and a total estimated time. (My time estimate was just over 4 hours but my actual time was 5 hours 45 minutes. Sometimes steps take longer than you think.)
Most of the ingredients were easy to find except the bacon with the rind. I finally located some at a small market here in NYC. Most larger grocery stores should have some with the rind – if you don’t see it ask the butcher and they should be able to point you in the right direction.
A little thing I noticed when I was drying the meat is that I tried one piece that I had dried and one that I had not and for me they browned the exact same. I think the meat just needs to be lightly patted down, nothing more or it will take you an hour just to dry the meat.
The stew was fantastic. Since it is just two of us eating we had plenty of leftovers for another dinner and lunch – which tasted just as good as the first night.
Overall I would say that these books are for someone who cooks regular and is familiar with different cooking techniques. However, a novice chef would appreciate the great basic information included such as how to tie a chicken up to roast, to how to measure baking ingredients properly or how to cut up a lobster. Most home chefs will find success in making a great dish from these books with some practice.