Sunday, January 13, 2013

Random Cookbook of the Week - Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Of all the cookbooks I own, the only one that intimidates me more than Mastering the Art of French Cooking is The French Laundry Cookbook. I'm just an ordinary American, you see. I cannot master French arts. OK, I'm probably about 1/128th French, give or take a generation or two, on my father's mother's side. Some Huguenot refugee got mixed in with the standard Celt, Anglo-Saxon, and Creek and/or Cherokee blend you expect in a deep-rooted Alabama family. When all that "freedom fries" crap was going down a decade or so ago, I started taking outspoken pride in my fractionally French heritage, let me tell you. But I'm nowhere near French enough to give me, oh, chef genes.

But, hey, I do realize that Julia Child's whole point was that anyone can cook, so I took a deep breath and attempted the very first recipe in the book:

Potage Parmentier (Leek or Onion and Potato Soup)

3-4 cups or 1 lb. peeled potatoes, sliced or diced
3 cups or 1 lb thinly sliced leeks including the tender green, or yellow onions (I used leeks)
2 quarts water 
1 T salt
4-6 T whipping cream or 2-3 T softened butter (I used butter)
2-3 T minced parsley or chives (I used chives)

Simmer the vegetables, water, and salt together, partially covered, for 40-50 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

Mash the vegetables in the soup with a fork, or pass the soup through a food mill. (I used a potato masher.) Correct seasoning. Set aside uncovered until just before serving, then reheat to the simmer.

Off heat and just before serving, stir in the cream or butter by spoonfuls. Garnish with the herbs.

Nothing intimidating about that at all, as it turns out. One of the simpler recipes I've attempted lately, really. Which is not to say I'm ready to charge deeper into the book and make a souffle or her cassoulet recipe that she recommends spending three days on, and I can happily live my life without ever eating a brain. I've eaten haggis AND lamb fries, so I think I've proven my culinary courage sufficiently. Even if my in-laws didn't tell me what the lamb fries were until I'd already eaten two.

Anyway, the soup tasted like mashed potatoes in liquid form, pretty much, albeit with a strong overtone of leeks. Very pleasant, though if I make it again I'll try some of the suggestion variations or additions to give it a bit more oomph.

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