Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking
After posting a recipe from Stanley Tucci’s cookbook, my mind naturally went to Julia Child, where he played her husband in the 2009 film, “Julie and Julia.” I love this movie for the cast, humor and plot. Afterall, Julie is a blogger, who takes on the task of cooking Julia Child’s 524 recipes from “Mastering The Art of French Cooking” in 365 days.
The movie, of course motivated me to buy the double volume set of this critically acclaimed cookbook. I remember how enthusiastic I was to try some of these French classic dishes. I had no intention of trying them all, as did Julie Powell, but I was eager to try to elevate my cooking skills. I couldn’t stop staring at the beauty of the cookbook set. It was placed in a prominent place of honor on my bookshelf. And there it sat for years. I would occasionally open it; leaf through the hundreds of very complicated recipes; start to hyperventilate; and then close the book quickly and replace it on the shelf. I’ve done this for 11 years! Until now!
But let me be honest. I’ve been staring at this book for over 2 weeks and still had a very hard time deciding on a recipe. Most of them still intimidate me. It’s really not your average cookbook. It is more of a textbook, teaching you about techniques, equipment, cuts of meat, and so much more. It could have been called, ”Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About French Cooking, But Were Afraid to Ask.” However, if you look long and hard enough, there are some simple recipes to be found. Not every recipe is complex.
So I decided on what Julia considers to be the most basic soup, Potage Parmentier (scary, right?), or also known as Leek and Potato Soup. I chose this because not only is it simple, but she has so many variations of this soup, that once you master this basic recipe, you’ll have several other soup recipes to rely on and impress.
Now let me continue with my honesty and admit to you that several years ago I purchased the cookbook, “Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom.” This was the title of her PBS special by the same name. I would say this cookbook is a mini-version (cheat version, actually) of her masterpiece mentioned above. She makes sure you realize that this contains a less complex version of several of her recipes. It still offers a great deal of culinary education, but some simpler techniques are used. However, I proudly stuck to the original recipe in Volume 1 of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I didn’t even take a peek. Honestly!
The soup was delicious, and I can see that by adding other vegetables, such as carrots or squash, you would have a very different tasting soup. The addition of watercress as a garnish added a lovely, light crunch. In its simplicity it is very elegant tasting. Perhaps that’s because it came from this very elegant cookbook set.
RECIPE: serves 6 to 8 people
1 lb peeled potatoes (3 to 4 cups), sliced or diced
1 lb thinly sliced leeks, including tender green ( 3 cups)
2 quarts water
1 TBSP salt
4 to 6 TB shipping cream or 2 to 3 TBSP softened butter
2 to 3 TBSP minced chives or parsley
I added watercress
- Simmer the vegetables, water and salt together, partially covered, for 40 to 50 minutes, until vegetables are tender.
- Mash the vegetables in the soup with a fork or pass the soup through a food mill.
- Correct seasoning. Set aside until serving, then reheat to simmer.
- Off heat and just before serving, stir in the cream or butter by spoonfuls.
- Pour into a tureen or soup cups and decorate with herbs or watercress.
** Julia says that if you chill this soup, you have Vichyssoise. Very fancy!
** Silvia says to use an immersion blender to puree the soup, and so does Julia in the small “cheat book.” Next time I will do this for sure!!