Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Julia Child was a chef that I had always heard about especially when watching American Chefs talk about their inspirations. I became a fan of Julia when I saw the film Julie and Julia, which is now one of my favourites, and read the book My Life in France. The book is all about Julia Child and how she became who we all know and love.

Julia Child has a lot of cookbooks to her name but in this post I wanted to focus on the book that started it all, Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume One. The book was first published in the USA in 1961 by Particular Books after a long journey trying to complete it. Along with Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck the first volume came to life after many years of writing, testing, editing and some set backs.

Louisette and Simone were trying to write a french cook book for American’s when they met Julia and she came onboard and reworked almost everything. When Julia lived in Paris she fell in love with French food and cooking and struggled when she couldn’t find a cookbook in English. This project was meant for her. Julia wanted to create a book that was for the home cook, those who didn’t have help but still wanted to be able to create beautiful meals.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking is a selection of their favourite recipes which are written in a clear step by step process. The end goal of the book is to teach the reader techniques of cooking as well having some amazing French food. At over 700 pages the book is very comprehensive including tips on knife skills and what wines work well with what food.

Quiche Lorraine on a white plate

There are so many recipes in this book that you will be able to find a dish for all occasions. Going through the book at first can be overwhelming and I do not know how Julie Powell cooked her way through this whole book. This is certainly one way to better your kitchen skills but I would recommend going through the book slowly.

I decided to start working through the book by trying some cheesy recipes as my partner and I love cheese. What better way to experiment in the kitchen than with a great cook book and lots of cheese?

I started with the Quiche Lorraine because I had been craving one and they are great to have for lunch with a bit of salad. At the start of the quiche section there is information on the shortcrust pasty needed and it explains in detail how to prepare your pastry ready for any of the quiche recipes that follow. I used a tart tin that was too big for the recipe so my end product came out a little thin but it was still tasty. This is definitely one I would try again and there are so many ways that this could be adapted to your tastes. Also I would love to try it again in the correct size tin too to see how thick it should be.

The next dish I tried was the cheese souffle as I had never had one and what better way to try it than a cheesy one. Yum hopefully? It was quite nice and my boyfriend enjoyed it too. I have no idea if that is how it is supposed to taste but as long as you enjoy it does it matter? Just like the quiche section, the souffle section starts with extra information on how to work correctly with the eggs, how to beat with by hand or by a mixer, how long it can be left before cooking and what moulds to use for it.

The recipe was easy to follow, divided into clear sections and instructions. This is something that could be prepared quite easily but looks very fancy for dinner parties. It just needs a little practice. I only cooked two of my souffles as I used individual ramekins. I will update this when I know how easily they cook from the freezer.

The taste of the souffle was very cheesy (obviously) but also very eggy so it won’t be for everyone. It tasted both light and fluffy yet quite filling and luxurious just because it was a souffle. I would make it again but I’ll be trying a sweet version first.

The final recipe I tried was the crepes (or French Pancakes as the book says) because my boyfriend loves them and if I can make perfect ones for him I’ll be very happy. This recipe makes great crepes and these have been both my boyfriends and my favourites so far. The batter is very easy to make and quick too not including the chill time. The batter makes around 12 crepes so if you want to keep some batter for the next day remember to cover the bowl you are using with clingfilm. Putting the cling film straight onto the batter will help prevent a skin forming.

Julia Child CrepesThis batter can be used for savoury dishes and works well with some sugar added for sweeter options. If you struggle with crepes give this recipe a try before giving up.

Overall

I love the way that this book is set up. The ingredients are sectioned to match the stages where you will need them. All the notes about alternatives to a dish are helpful and even though the images are sketches they are just what you need to demonstrate what you are doing. Recipes that can be made ahead or partially made are also highlighted throughout the book so that you can make the most of your time.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking is a book for anyone who loves food not just for those who want to know about French cooking. The time and effort that these women put into this book has resulted in a classic for every kitchen. You will definitely see plenty of recipes you’ll want to try.

If you have tried recipes from this book I would love to know what are the best ones and what I should try next.