Mastering the Art of French Cooking
Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia Child, Louisette
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 photograph was taken by Julia's late husband Paul sometime
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."
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 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
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.
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
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
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
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.