When friend and fellow food blogger Hélène of La Cuisine d’Hélène approached me earlier in the week about doing a Mastering the Art of French Cooking (MTAFC) challenge where a few of us would cook from the book to celebrate the upcoming release of the Julie & Julia movie, I immediately said yes. I decided that it would be wise to “get my feet wet” before jumping all the way in to cook tomorrow’s big 24, 24, 24 meal.
In 1952, Julia, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle (her cookbook collaborators), started an informal cooking school in Paris which they called L’École des Trois Gourmandes. They held the school in Julia’s kitchen and taught American students how to cook French food.
I’d like to think of this challenge as a modern-day reconvening of L’École des Trois Gourmandes where we “attended class” in our various kitchens and were taught from the pages of MTAFC.
Cherry Clafouti at More Than Burnt Toast
Oeufs à la Bourguignonne at Confessions of a Cardamom Addict
Fresh Peach Ginger Peasant Cakes at Passionate About Baking
When choosing what to make, I decided that the simplest thing to do would be to start at the beginning. The very first recipe in MTAFC is for Potage Parmentier–Leek (or Onion) and Potato Soup. MTAFC says, “Leek and potato soup smells good, tastes good, and is simplicity itself to make.”
I found this sentence to be so true. The soup is deceptively plain, only calling for a total of 6 ingredients: potatoes, leeks, water, salt, whipping cream, and minced parsley or chives. Sounds boring doesn’t it? Well it’s not–it is absolutely delicious. It’s made even more delicious by the fact that it’s a snap to make.
All you do is cut up your veggies, throw them in a pot of water with some salt, and then simmer them slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until everything is tender.
Then you mash everything up together with a fork (or use a food mill), add a bit of cream and chopped parsley or chives and it’s ready to serve!
Of course I wasn’t done there, because in my world no good meal is complete without dessert, and the world is an even better place if it’s a chocolate dessert. So back to the book I went and found the recipe for Mousseline au Chocolat–Chocolate Mousse.
Preparing it was easy, and would have been even easier if I had paid closer attention and not missed adding in the softened butter when I was supposed to. But luckily my gaff didn’t seem to effect the ultimate outcome of the mousse as I was able to add the butter with no problems as soon as I realized my mistake.
I poured the mousse into little Japanese tea cups and then had to wait in agony for it to set up so we could eat it.
Then when it was ready to serve, I added a dollop of freshly whipped, slightly sweetened whipped cream.
As for this recipe, MTAFC says, “Among all the recipes for chocolate mousse this is one of the best, we think; it uses egg yolks, sugar, and butter, and instead of cream, beaten egg whites.” They weren’t kidding. I have never had chocolate mousse that rich and creamy. I mean, wow.
If I tell you that I only took one bite, you’ll believe me, right?For the recipe, go here.