Jul 24

First Attempts at Mastering the Art of French Cooking

in Uncategorized

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.

(The school logo, designed by Paul Child, which the women wore on their cooking school aprons.)

See what my fellow bloggers made:

Salade Niçoise at La Cuisine d’Hélène

Râpée Morvandelle at Gratinée

Cherry Clafouti at More Than Burnt Toast

Coquilles St. Jacques à la Provençale & Biscuit au Beurre at Lisa is Cooking

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.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Amber July 24, 2009 at 7:19 am

Yum! I have a few extra leeks on hand leftover from the Washoku Warrior challenge I finished last night, I may have to try this. That chocolate mousse looks simply divine, and just one bite? Really!?


Fuji Nana July 24, 2009 at 7:33 am

No, I absolutely DON'T believe that you took just one bite. I think I know you enough to know that! Both dishes look scrumptious!


Tina @ Squirrel Acorns July 24, 2009 at 8:08 am

Oh my goodness, those look yummy. I love potato leek soup and I even have fresh leeks here from my CSA box this week. Mmmm….I can't wait to check out the other links. I was just thinking about making cherry clafouti this morning.


Natalie July 24, 2009 at 9:08 am

That mousse looks fantastic! And the soup looks so velvety and rich.


Darina July 24, 2009 at 9:10 am

Such a simple soup yet so delicious. And the chocolate mousse is to die for. No one does it like Julia. I'm going to cook my way through MTAOFC eventually. Great post, R. And nice pics. It was great fun, wasn't it?


Heavenly Housewife July 24, 2009 at 9:51 am

I cant wait to see that movie. Desert looks gorgeous! I want it!!!


Bob July 24, 2009 at 10:38 am

Hm, that mousse sounds a lot like the one my mom used to make. I wouldn't be surprised if she used the same recipe. It all looks fantastic. Heh, it's cold enough here that I could go for some soup. :)


Jenn July 24, 2009 at 12:49 pm

Nice job. The dessert looks divine. I'm tempting to lick the computer screen. Haha…


Helene July 24, 2009 at 7:37 pm

Thanks so much for being part of this challenge. You did an amazing job. That mousse looks so creamy & delicious. Love all the pics :)


Sarah July 25, 2009 at 10:07 am

Ooooh! Yummmy! When I was about 8 I had a recipe for chocolate mousse that was divine – but ccalled for raw eggs. I no longer have the recipe, and regret the loss constantly – but this looks like one that could fill the void! Wow!!


Emily July 25, 2009 at 7:31 pm

When I was 10-11 my mom got a whole bunch of Julia Child video's from the library and ended up making the leek and potato soup. I've been a fan ever since. (She chops a head off a fish in one episode with a great deal of relish – gave me nightmares). Thanks for bringing back those memories. I can still see Justin sitting in front of the tv with all of his bowls pretending to be Julia at 2 years old.


Bobbi July 26, 2009 at 6:01 am

One bite!?! what, and waste the rest of that lovely dessert!?! I'm sure you displayed far more common sense and frugality than to waste the rest of that lovely cup. You are a much wiser woman than to do such a silly thing!


Bob July 26, 2009 at 5:15 pm

Having been the recipient of some of the mousse, I can vouch for the fact that it is incredible, absolutley incredible.


koshercamembert July 26, 2009 at 9:15 pm

I want to be part of a challenge like this! I'm almost finished with "My Life in Paris" and savoring every moment. What a wonderful meal you made. Thank you for sharing it.
– Zahavah


Amanda August 2, 2009 at 11:34 am

Both recipes look absolutely amazing! I just finished going through MTAFC this weekend and this morning I made eggs in ramekins, delish! I'll be joining everyone on Friday~


Megan Gordon August 26, 2009 at 12:08 am

What a beautiful post! Congratulations. I saw the photos first on Foodgawker–what a sweet little dessert. Enjoying your site immensely.


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