on February 16, 2004
(Full disclosure: I'm a Julia Child addict. I grew up "cooking along" with her show in the 1980s by sitting before my aunt's television with empty aluminum bowls and a whisk and clanking in time to Julia's instruction. Twenty-some years later, and I'm still at it...)
I just finished watching all 10 (!) hours of this four-DVD set over several days, and I can wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who is seriously interested in learning to cook time-tested, delicious meals at home. But be aware: this is old-school bourgeois cookery: roasts, stews, flans and crepe gateaus. This isn't foamed smoked salmon on a bed of organic flower petals or other such nonsense.
Rather, it is gratifying cooking that requires some practice and attention. That's why these DVDs are so great: You can easily play and replay the techniques that are often the most difficult in french cooking. Jacques Pepin debones a duck for an easy stove-top preparation, but if you were watching on PBS, you'd be likely to forget the exact steps and tricks for removing the hip bone or separating the breast from the carcass. It takes a bit of thinking, but if you go out and buy a duck, take it home, and review the DVD as often (and as slowly) as necessary, you will get it right. This is a great leap for home-learning.
These DVDs are a boon for Julia and Jacques's desire to convince America to return to homey, sensible meals, because it makes learning the techiques less forbidding. (I did the "serious amateur's" Saturday cooking classes at the French Culinary Institute in SoHo, where Pepin is a dean, and I especially appreciate the reminders that the DVDs provide; his technique and style is 100% FCI.)
For a lifelong devotee of Julia, it's difficult at times to see the great dame aging on-screen (and this is from '94-'95); Jacques does most of the heavy lifting here. But the series is nonetheless 100% Child and is worthy of her legend.
NOW IF ONLY THEY WOULD RELEASE ALL OF THE OLD SHOWS ON DVD ("Julia Child and Company," "Julia Child and More Company" or even the old "French Chef")!! A la Carte communications take note: there are more Julia addicts out there than just I!
on December 1, 1999
I accidentally bought this book, planned to return it, and now intend to keep it as a handy reference for all the basics of gourmet American food. Every kind of food that belongs on a well-groomed American table is explored in loving detail by both chefs, from salmon gravlax to the perfect omelet to quick stocks and fine chowders, hamburgers, roast chicken and turkey, fish, creme caramels and other simple desserts. There are great tips all over the place, from how to turn out a perfect omelet to seasoning food in stages, as it cooks, so that all the flavors are brightened instead of ending up with a salty, overseasoned dish. You could plan buffets and banquets from this one book, and while you won't be congratulated on the extraordinary originality of the food, both conservative eaters and gourmands will enjoy the quality and simplicity. Therein lies the greatness of Julia and Jaques.
There is a lot of information here, not only on how to cook but also on how Julia and Jacques think and feel about food, in the margins and in the recipes. They don't hesitate to explore their differences of opinion, from seasonings to what to do if you make a mistake. As a weekend gourmet cook, I find this extremely helpful. It has already enhanced my comfort and ease with the food I cook, and that, to me, is worth it.
Simply wonderful!! That's about how to describe a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend some time with two of the greatest French chefs!!
I have two opinions of this 4-disc set, with the first being the positive; the second opinion I label as OK, not negative, because there are no negatives when you watch these two veterans of classic French cuisine.
To begin with, you have an beautifully filmed series that brings you into the home of the great Julia Child, so you feel very much a welcomed guest. And the grand dame of French cooking has invited Chef Pepin to join her in teaching you the finer points of this marvelous cuisine, so you have much to anticipate for both eyes and palate.
They play off each other as old friends would, and you will be entertained as well as taught. You'll see Julia in a firefighters outfit ready with the extinguisher as she prepares for Jacque to make a flaming dessert or "calling all ducks" with a duck whistle; then you have Jacque in a Julius Caesar ensemble to introduce the namesake salad...............all of it as corny as you can get, and all of it exquisite morsels that hint of the friendship that existed between these two icons. You also cannot help but notice that our Julia has aged, and that makes the friendship between her and Jacque all that more touching. He shows his admiration and his loving respect for her by doing much of the physical work, but do not fret, she is as fiesty as always.
Most of all, you will not be disappointed in the recipe jewels contained within these 4 discs of French cooking joy:
Steak au Poivre
Gateau of Crepes
Classic Caesar Salad
Very Green Beans
French Style Peas
Sole Meuniere with Black Butter Sauce
Poached Snapper with Cucumbers
Cornbread and Sage Stuffing
Braised Brussel Sprouts
French Onion Soup
Leek and Potato Soup
Mediterranean Fish Stew
Roast Prok Loin
Sauteed Pork Tenderloin with Port and Prunes
Grilled Pork Chops
Ice Cream Profiteroles
Oysters and Clams on the Half Shell
Savory Stuffed Chicken
Butterflied Chicken with Spice Rub
Cauliflower au Gratin
Glazed Carrots and Turnip
Celery Root Remoulade
CHARCUTERIE (sausages and pate):
Sauages in Brioche
Poached Chicken on a Bed of Rice
Chicken Pot Pie
Country Style Apple Tart
Salmon en Papillote
ROASTS OF VEAL AND LAMB:
Veal roast en Cocotte
Sauteed Mushrooms in Cream
Eggplant and Zucchini Gratin
Roasted Leg of Lamb
A Perfect Baked Potato
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Skillet Duck with Parsnips and Shallots
Duck Giblets and Escarole Salad
Now for the "OK" part of all of this. As another reviewer mentioned, the packaging was a bit shoddy in that all the CD's arrived loose within their container because they had fallen out of the plastic grips; I think it would have been better if they had each been secured within separate plastic jackets.
That being said, each disc begins with the commercials that preceded every episode of this wonderful series. But now being on DVD, they are only at the start of each disc and not each episode; they run only two minutes so they are brief. But keep in mind that theses companies helped to underwrite the cost of such an excellent series, therefore I think anyone would be hard-pressed to be upset.
So for any gourmand of cooking, and even if that person is yourself, you will enjoy the series that brought you 85 recipes, 2 people, and one great time that you will appreciate. Besides, as Julia tells you, "it's real cooking, not for fluffies!"
This book is a companion to a PBS television series on cooking demonstrated by Julia Child and Jaques Pepin where they concentrate on largely French home cooking, with much of the `meat' of the book being created by differences in approach between the two great culinary educators. Julia Child's justly famous `Mastering the Art of French Cooking' and the long series of PBS cooking shows are well known. It may be less well known outside the foodie world that Jaques Pepin is one of the leading authors of professional level books on cooking technique. The best known of these volumes is `La Technique' and `La Methode'. Pepin is also a professional educator in his role as dean at the French Culinary Institute in New York City.
It is probably pure destiny that these two culinary legends should collaborate on one or more projects. Pepin came to the United States in 1959 and almost immediately got a position as a chef at La Pavilion, based on his great good luck of being the chef to the family of Charles DeGaulle while DeGaulle was President of France. Three years later, Julia Child's book was published and Pepin was dumbstruck, as he felt that this is the book he should have written himself. Pepin was lead from the strenuous world of the professional kitchen to a career of writing and teaching when he was seriously injured in an automobile accident and he could no longer spend the long hours of standing.
This volume is a delight to read, even if you prepare none of the recipes in the book. In fact, the recipes tend to take a back seat to the dialogue between the two principles credited with the creation of the book. The book also enjoys one of the best possible support staffs available for culinary literature. Alfred A. Knopf publishes the book and the editor is Judith Jones, the same editor who convinced the Knopfs to print Julia Child's first landmark book. Knopf's artistic and production talent available for a major book publication has been applied to full effect. The text has the benefit of having been assembled by a professional culinary wordsmith, David Nussbaum, who culled the recipes and comments from the `authors' notes and the videotapes of the PBS TV series.
The general layout of the book is that each principle author provides a recipe on an important ingredient or dish such as mussels, shrimp, hamburger, or potato salad. Each major ingredient is accompanied by sidebars by one or both of the principle authors on either handling the ingredient or strategies for preparing the dish. Some of the most interesting encounters come when the principle authors do not agree on a technique. Some disagreements are surprising, as when Chef Pepin prefers the American technique of making a hamburger while Ms. Child prefers the French, where a savory shallot saute is worked into the middle of the hamburger patty. The index very cleverly color codes recipe titles indicating whether they were supplied by Ms. Child or Chef Pepin.
The point at which the recipes wrest your attention from the banter between the two authors is when the book offers a sample of French home cooking which has rarely if ever seen the inside of an American home kitchen outside of the world of professional chefs and professional foodies. The first such recipe is Jacques's Sausage in Brioche. This is a sort of French beef Wellington where sausage replaces the beef fillet and brioche replaces the puff pastry. This is not a recipe for wimps, as brioche dough typically must be risen overnight to fully develop the dough. Pepin does give a shortcut, but it is not recommended.
The topics of the recipe chapters are familiar to all who have looked through a French cookbook. These chapters are Appetizers, Soups, Eggs, Salads and Sandwiches, Potatoes, Vegetables, Fish, Poultry, Meats, and Desserts.
The photographic arts are put to very good use in this book. Not every dish is accompanied by a photo of the finished preparation, but every special technique is explained in great detail and demonstrated very effectively in pictures. And, the techniques are not limited to the usual cutting up a chicken and cleaning an artichoke.
If you have a happy collection of good cookbooks on classic French cookery, you probably already have recipes for many of the dishes in this book. You do not buy the book for only the recipes. You buy the book for the special insights these two major culinary educators can give you on dishes, ingredients, and techniques and for the riff created when their opinions are different.
The long and the short of it is that you buy this book for inspiration. I have yet to find a culinary teacher who can encourage me to try a difficult recipe as effectively as Julia Child. I can also not find a culinary teacher who can explain technique as well as Jacques Pepin.
Very highly recommended for foodies and fans of both principle authors.
on June 9, 2006
There is a moment in this series that says it all for me: They are preparing a pork roast, I believe. Julia turns her back to fuss over one thing or another and Jacques, with a wink to the camera, scoops a few more garlic cloves out of a ramekin on the counter, dices them and slips them into the sauce he is making before she can turn back around.
It's a classic example of the good-natured parrying that makes this cooking show my all-time favorite: Throughout the series the two of them gently fuss over which type of pepper to use, how long a roux must cook, and yes, how much garlic a recipe should have, as only old friends and accomplished cooks could. What a wondeful reminder that cooking is not an exact science.
And watching the ease with which Jacques plays his little prank is a reminder of just how much skill he has. He never seems to hurry or work hard, and yet everything gets done in no time.
This 4-DVD set is a delightful collection of moments like that, and a most practical guide to preparing an inspired collection of recipes ranging from creme brulee and roulade de chocolat to roast chicken and mashed potatoes. It will help any home cook master the basics, and reach for new heights of gastronomic glory.
Yes, Julia is clearly in her twilight, and Jacques does most of the real work. But Julia is there every step of the way, which is a joy to see.
As noted here in another review, the DVD provides the best format for emulating what you see on the show. Jacques is a true master and as a result, he makes everything look easy. The first time you try to follow along as he assembles a souflee, carves a chicken or rolls an omelet, you'll realize it's not as simple as he makes it all look. But fear not, you can pause, rewind, and even go frame-by-frame to study his techiques. It really helps. (Just remember to protect your remote in plastic wrap.)
Yes, the DVD case is kinda cheap, though I have trouble getting the discs OUT, not keeping them in.
And yes, there is an unskippable commercial at the beginning of each disc. I go and drink coffee for two minutes if I'm starting a fresh disc. Otherwise I use the position-memory feature on my DVD players to skip them. Neither strikes me as overly burdensome.
Buy it. Savor it.
on July 9, 2000
In all honesty, I've only used two of the recipes from this book so far. Still, I recommend this book. I think that says more about my love for the authors rather than the recipes themselves. The recipes are pretty much classic standards, and for the most part they seem easy and straightforward. It's the personalities of Julia and Jacques that make this book exceptional - definitely a worthwhile addition to your collection. The chemistry between these two icons of great cooking is so genuine, and the love they have for food and cooking is so infectious, that even if you aren't inspired to follow any specific recipe, you will definitely be inspired to spend more time in the kitchen. They complement each other so well, too. It's amusing and enlightening to see how their styles and experiences differ, even in small details. An example of the general format - there are two recipes for scalloped potatoes: his, potatoes boulangere with a chicken stock and onions; hers, potatoes dauphinoise with milk or cream and garlic (he prefers freshly ground black pepper, she prefers white). If you watch the companion series on PBS, you will definitely want to turn to this book. Before I start any of my own recipes the kitchen, I'll routinely consult J & J (e.g. how long would they cook a pork tenderloin?) This book makes an excellent gift, too. Just make sure you buy yourself a copy.
The only negative - the page design of the book may be more appropriate for bedside reading or the coffee table, rather than for the kitchen.
on January 16, 2000
My husband and I have recently moved to a completely new area. I had been given this marvelous book as a christmas gift. I had watched the PBS series based on the book and loved the recipes. The first week we were in our new 'abode' my husbands office held a party, for which I was to bring dessert! So I made a Chocolate Roulade ala Jacque Pepin. It was fantastic, and so easy. It also looked wonderful. I am not a bad cook to begin with, but I have learned so much from this book. The 'tid-bits' of information that both Julia and Jacque give are invaluable, and their techniques are very easy to follow. I also love the fact that they use ingredients that are easily available to even those of us that have moved to a more 'rural' area! Consequently I have since used the book often, and haven't needed to unpack my other cookery boks. I thoroughly recommend this book to everyone that loves to cook and learn. And encourage you all to make the Roulade, it's worth the effort!
on February 15, 2000
I was gratified to see that another reader noticed the error of omission for the Brown Stock recipe.Only half of the recipe is printed. I hope this is the exception and not the rule.I haven't read the entire book yet.Otherwise,it's a very enjoyable book which makes gourmet cooking feel very approachable for even beginning level cooks.The recipes are not fussy but are based on the idea that good technique and quality ingredients produce great tasting food.Julia & Jacques seem very relaxed & friendly and their writing is too.They give a wealth of really helpful tips on all aspects of food preparation.This book has given me both the confidence and interest to delve into French/gourmet cooking for the first time.In conjunction with their PBS series the books really comes alive. A good basic gourmet primer.
on January 2, 2000
Along with many of you, I am an ardent admirer of both Julia Child and Jacques Pepin - and in my kitchen I would ordinarily follow them to the end of the culinary earth. But not with this cookbook. It is neither for amateurs nor well-versed cooks and that is the problem. The recipes, for the most part, are good classic ones in simplified form. The format of the book is busy and confusing, although one page is in an identifying pastel color for Julia and another page in a different pastel color for Jacques. Recipes are often written in two columns and continue onto the following page. A sauce, for instance, will follow this recipe or that and not be catoregized. The dessert section is very limited. Those who are not familiar with techniques are instructed to follow photographs which are 1 1/4" by 1 3/4" and badly reproduced. If you care about how Gourmet magazine used to look or have read a book or two by M.F.K. Fisher or just want to learn a straight-forward recipe without being distracted, I can't recommend this book. It's all over the place. And Julia and Jacques, published individually, have each done far better.There are few cooks of their calibre. Their talent "ensemble" just doesn't work here. Or the concept doesn't.
on December 8, 2006
How refreshing to actually watch 2 of the greatest teaching chefs of all time cook for us. This DVD series is matchless and timeless.
Without scripts or strict recipes, these 2 icons show us that with proper techniques, and a large passion for cooking, a home cook can turn out something spectacular. I've learned so much from this series. This dvd shows us proper techniques, and that good quality fresh ingredients, along with simple straight forward recipes are what it's all about.
The Food Network is more into cooks with trendy catch phrases, cute smiles and bubbly personalities, than it is in teaching us what cooking is all about; fun, family and a passion for food. It's great to see passionate people that show us great techniques while having fun doing it.
This DVD is nothing less than an inspiration, and they show the viewer how to cut and debone meat and poultry, and to properly roast a chicken; the basics; something that is rarely done anymore.
You will not see Rachel Ray open a can of green beans on the DVD; or Emeril Bamming; or Giada acting like a cheerleader opening her eyes real wide while smiling so cute. No you'll see the two most talented and passionate tv chefs of all time teaching us why they love to cook knowing that this will inspire us. And it's a joy knowing they love every minute of it. There's no cooking dvd better than this one.