Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 2 - cover

The first volume of this classic cookery reference was extensive but not complete. The second book is a valuable addition as it covers many important missing elements.

Essential Technique Guide to the Cuisine of France for Serious Cooks

Volume 2 of Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child and Simone Beck has now been republished by Penguin in paperback. It is in the same accessible style as the first book and is illustrated with simple line drawings that fulfil their purpose of showing technique admirably. They leave the final presentation of the food to the creativity of the cook.

The two volumes of Mastering the Art of French Cooking are a refreshing change from the glossy celebrity cook books which leave so many amateur cooks feeling inadequate. These classic books concentrate on technique rather than glossy presentation. They allow a cook to develop their skills based on the methods of French cuisine which even today underpin most fine cooking. As skills develop the cook will be able to create their own style rather than copy the often over elaborate fine dining presentation used in other books.

Extended Coverage of French Cooking

As the authors acknowledge there were significant gaps in the coverage of volume one of Mastering the Art of French Cooking but expanding it further would have made it unpublishable. This second volume was the response and is the result of a considerable amount of research and experimentation. Bread making alone used 284lb of flour for testing to ensure the recipes and techniques worked with non-French ingredients.

The authors regard the second book as a continuation of the original Mastering the Art of French Cooking aimed at filling important gaps rather than extending coverage on all fronts. It is a broadening of coverage at a similar level rather than moving on to more advanced techniques. As a result the reader can dive straight in to volume two with little need to reference the previous book.

The extensions in volume two of Mastering the Art of French Cooking are covered in seven sections:

  1. Soups from the Garden – Bisques and Soups from the Sea
  2. Baking: Breads, Brioches, Croissants, and Pastries
  3. Meats: from Country Kitchen to Haute Cuisine
  4. Chickens, Poached and Sauced – and a Coq en Pâte
  5. Charcuterie : Sausages, Salted Pork and Goose, Pâtes and Terrines
  6. A Choice of Vegetables
  7. Desserts: Extending the Repertoire

The section on baking is a particularly important addition and its coverage is extensive. Most of the recipes require considerable elapsed time, often seven hours and more, croissants really need twelve hours which may explain why it is almost impossible to get a really good croissant outside France. Few other nationalities and especially factory bakers would have the patience to give that, not so humble, pastry the attention it deserves.

Complete Reference and Cookery Course

There are appendices and an index that increase the value of Mastering the Art of French Cooking as a reference and as a cookery course. They cover:

  1. Stuffings for Meats and Vegetables
  2. Kitchen Equipment
  3. Conversion tables for Temperatures and Measures

A Good Read and Guide to Successful Cooking and Essential Technique

In many ways Mastering the Art of French Cooking is a traditional cookery book that is about ingredients and sound technique rather than superficial gloss. It allows the reader to run before they can walk. It also encourages readers to try more complex dishes as it details the techniques and guides the novice to success. Many glossy modern cookery books are superficial on technique which can lead to failure and discouragement of the inexperienced cook who does not understand what they have done wrong.

Working with the two volumes of Mastering the Art of French Cooking is rather like learning alongside a talented and friendly chef and teacher whose sole purpose is for the pupil to succeed. Not only do the books describe the techniques carefully and fully they also explain the background and reasoning behind the methods. But above all they share an enthusiasm, a passion, for French food and the cultural importance of cuisine to the French – as a result it is also a good read.

A Classic Masterpiece of a Cookery Book

For many cooks this, and volume one of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, could be the only cookery books they need. Anyone who studies Mastering the Art of French Cooking assiduously would become a very accomplished cook without reference to any other book.These are a pair of books that the novice cook or experienced professional chef should have on their shelves.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 2 (2010, ISBN: 978-10-141-04842-0) by Julia Child and Simone Beck is republished in paperback by Penguin at £12.99.


First appeared on Suite101

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