In JUNE OF 1960 a hefty manuscript--a treatise on French
cooking by an American woman, Julia Child, and two French ladies, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle--landed on my desk. I had been an editor at Knopf for about three years, working primarily on translations of French books. But it was no secret that I had a passion for French cooking, so I was the logical person to read it.
The manuscript had been sent down from Cambridge by Avis de Voto, who worked as a scout for the Knopfs... Avis...became involved when she heard that Julia was working on a cookbook in Paris with Mesdames Beck and Bertholle, and she offered to try to find an American publisher. Her first submission met rejection, the publisher's comment being, Why would any American want to know this much about French cooking?
Well, it so happened that I did. As I turned the pages of this manuscript, I felt that my prayers had been answered. I had lived in Paris for three and a half years--at just about the same time the Childs were there, although our paths had never crossed--and most of what I learned then about cooking I absorbed from the butcher, the baker, the greengrocer, and the fishmonger...
When I returned to the States, I realized how totally inadequate the few books that dealt with French food really were...
Yet here were all the answers. I pored over the recipe, for instance, for a beef stew and learned the right cuts of meat for braising, the correct fat to use (one that would not burn), the importance of drying the meat and browning it in batches, the secret of the herb bouquet, the value of sautéing the garnish of onions and mushrooms separately. I ran home to make the recipe--and my first bite told me that I had finally produced an authentic French boeuf bourguignon--as good as one I could get in Paris. This, I was convinced, was a revolutionary cookbook, and if I was so smitten, certainly others would be…
The rest is history. In the fall of 1961 we published Mastering the Art of French Cooking (incidentally, Alfred Knopf, when I told him the title we had settled on, said if anyone would buy a book by that title, he would eat his hat), and after Craig Claiborne pronounced the book a classic, the book went into a second printing before Christmas. Of course, when Julia went on television the following summer as the French Chef all of America fell in love with her. But everything she taught on camera was grounded in this seminal book--understand what you are cooking, do it with care, use the right ingredients and the proper equipment, and, above all, enjoy yourself.
Excerpted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume 1, published by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House.
Photo by Paul Child
From left: Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck with their maitre, Chef Max Bugnard.
We have so far said hardly a word about the illustrations, which are, to our mind, the glory of Volume II. We can speak of them without a hint of modesty because they are the result of a remarkable feat of teamwork between Paul Child, our action photographer, and Sidonie Coryn, our illustrator. Because of their tireless expertise we have been able to picture step-by-step operations that to our knowledge have never been adequately illustrated before; we now feel confident that this combined visual and verbal presentation makes absolutely clear the most complicated-sounding process. For French bread alone there are 34 drawings, showing the procedure from the start: mixing the dough, kneading it, how it looks when risen, how to deflate it, and the intricacies of forming the dough into various loaf shapes. Tenderloin of beer pictured in such detail that you can buy a whole one and trim it yourself. With an illustrated guide before you, you can bone out the breast of a chicken, trim and tie a saddle of lamb, or cut up a lobster. Puff pastry and croissants are illustrated every step of the way, as are brioches and bouchées. You can see how to form upside-down pastry shells, how to stuff a whole cabbage leaf by leaf, and if you have never done or even seen a pâté en croûte in your life, you can be assured of success, because you have 12 drawings to show you every necessary move.
Stuffed mushrooms make a good hot hors d'oeuvres or a meat platter.
12 fresh mushroom caps 2 to 3 inches in diameter, stems removed
2 to 3 Tb melted butter
A shallow, lightly buttered roasting pan
Salt and pepper
3 Tb finely minced onions
2 Tb butter
1 Tb oil
3 Tb minced shallots or green onions
Stems from the mushroom caps, finely minced and squeezed in a towel to extract their juice
Optional: 1/4 cup Madeira
3 Tb fine, white, dry bread crumbs
l/4 cup grated Swiss cheese
l/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 Tb minced parsley
1/2 tsp tarragon
Salt and pepper
2 to 3 Tb whipping cream
3 Tb grated Swiss cheese
2 Tb melted butter
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Brush the mushroom caps with melted butter. Place them, hollow-side up, in the roasting pan. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
Saute the onions in butter and oil for 3 to 4 minutes without browning. Then add the shallots or green onions and mushroom stems. Sauté...
Add the optional Madeira and boil it down rapidly until it has almost entirely evaporated.
Off heat, mix in the bread crumbs, cheeses, parsley,
tarragon, and seasonings. A spoonful at a time, blend
in just enough cream to moisten the mixture but keep it
sufficiently stiff to hold its shape in a spoon. Correct seasoning.
Fill the mushroom caps with the stuffing. Top each with a pinch of cheese and drops of melted butter.
♦ May be done ahead to this point. Bake in upper third of a preheated, 375-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until caps are tender and stuffing has browned lightly on top.
Copyright © 2009 by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck. Reprinted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume 1 with permission from Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House.
BOUILLABAISSE DE POULET--
[Chicken Poached in White Wine with Provencal Vegetables, Herbs, and Flavorings]
Famous and successful recipes have a way of turning up in other guises, chicken has a habit of wearing other costumes, and there should be nothing suprising about chicken swimming in the robust flavors of a bouillabaisse. Although the method here is almost the same as that for the previous poaching, the ingredients differ; we therefore outline all the steps. Serve this with rice or boiled potatoes, French bread, and a strong young white wine like a Reisling or Pinot Blanc, a rather light red like Beaujolais or Mountain Red, or a rosé.
For 4 people
1. Preliminary cooking of vegetables
1/2 cup sliced onions
1/2 cup sliced white of leek (or more onion)
1/4 cup olive oil
A heavy 3-quart flameproof casserole with cover
Cook the onions and leeks slowly with the oil in the covered casserole for about 10 minutes, stirring fairly frequently, until tender but not browned.
About 1 1/2 cups tomato pulp (4 or 5 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and juiced, or a combination of fresh tomatoes and canned Italian-type plum tomatoes, drained and sieved)
2 cloves garlic, minced or mashed
While vegetables are cooking, prepare the tomatoes; when vegetables are tender, stir tomatoes in along with the garlic. Cover, and cook 5 minutes so that tomatoes will render their juices; then uncover, raise heat, and let juices almost entirely evaporate.
2. Poaching the chicken
2 1/2 lbs. ready-cut chicken
When tomatoes are done, salt chicken lightly, and arrange in casserole, spreading vegetables around and on top. Cover and cook 10 minutes over moderate heat, turning once.
1 1/2 cups dry white wine or 1 cup dry white French vermouth
About 2 cups chicken stock or canned chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
2 pinches saffron threads
A 2-inch piece of dried orange peel, or 1/2 tsp bottled dried orange peel
Big pinch pepper
Pinch Cayenne pepper or drops Tabasco sauce
Salt as needed
Pour the wine or vermouth over the chicken, and enough stock or broth barely to cover the meat. Add the herbs and seasonings, bring to the simmer, and salt lightly as necessary. Cover casserole and simmer slowly either on top of the stove or in a preheated 325-degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until chicken is tender.
Tip casserole and skim off surface fat; remove bay leaf and orange peel, and carefully correct seasoning. Serve as is, from casserole, or arrange chicken and vegetables on a bed of steamed rice, decorate with parsley sprigs, and pass rest of cooking liquid separately.
♦ AHEAD-OF-TIME NOTE:
May be kept warm for at least half an hour; set cover askew for air circulation and place in a 120-degree oven, on a hot-tray, or over barely simmering water. Do not overheat and let chicken overcook.
To serve cold or in aspic
This is delicious as a cold dish. When chicken is done, skim off surface fat,
remove bay leaf and orange peel, and correct seasoning. When cool, cover
and refrigerate for several hours. Scrape off congealed fat and serve the chicken as
is; cooking stock will set lightly, like jellied consommé. (If you want a firmer jellied
effect, strain cooking stock out of casserole when chicken is done, degrease completely,
and dissolve in it 1 package (1 tablespoon) of gelatin for each 2 cups of liquid;
pour back over the chicken and vegetables, and chill.)
Copyright © 2009 by Julia Child and Simone Beck. Reprinted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume 2 with permission from Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House.
Julia Child was born in Pasadena, California. She was graduated from Smith College and worked for the OSS during World War II in Ceylon and China, where she met Paul Child. After they married they lived in Paris, where she studied at the Cordon Bleu and taught cooking with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, with whom she wrote the first volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961). In 1963, Boston’s WGBH launched The French Chef television series, which made her a national celebrity, earning her the Peabody Award in 1965 and an Emmy in 1966. Several public television shows and numerous cookbooks followed. She died in 2004.
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