Customer Reviews: Julia's Kitchen Wisdom: Essential Techniques and Recipes from a Lifetime of Cooking
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on September 28, 2001
I love cooking shows and often read cookbooks for pleasure, picking up tips from each author and pondering what recipes I'd like t try, but I have to admit that I've never been a part of the cooking cult that worships Julia Child. I do remember watching her shows as a child, with my mother, and know she pioneered the genre, but the meals she made rarely appealed to me--too time consuming, too "fussy" and just too "strange" for every day taste. (If I have to visit eight different shops and peruse three mail order catalogs to make a dish, I'm probably not going to try it.)
Recently, I picked up "Julia's Kitchen Wisdom" at the library and was quickly sold. I am now ordering a copy to keep. The book is filled with useful basic recipes and techniques, as well as lots of helpful time-saving tips that Child has picked up over the years. It's not really a recipe book per se, though tried-and-true formulas for things like Hollandaise sauce and pastry dough do appear, it's more of a kitchen guide. It's full of ingredient substitutions, serving suggestions and definitions of terms you may come across. More useful to experienced cooks, it's also a helpful guide for the best technique, according to Child, for things like braising, searing, roasting and folding. Child's years in the kitchen have made here at master and I was pleasantly surprised to find many time-saving techniques and places were Child says the "easy" way is actually better.
This slim volume really packs a wallop of cooking information and I think it would make a nice addition to any cook's bookshelf.
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VINE VOICEon March 7, 2001
Packed with expertise, Julia Child's "Julia's Kitchen Wisdom" began life as her personal kitchen reference, "a mini aide-memoire for general home cookery." It addresses the basics - making stock, master recipes and variations on basic sauces, soups, salad dressings, bread dough, cakes, omelets, rice and more. There are charts for steaming vegetables and tips for successful roasting, braising, sautéing, broiling and stewing.
In among the basic techniques and recipes are boxed tips - for herb bouquets, making clarified butter, buying and storing eggs, whipping cream, butterflying a chicken, etc.
Recipes range from earthy to elegant - French Fries, Pizza, Hamburgers, Pot au Feu Boiled Dinner, Cream of Mushroom Soup, French Style Risotto, Potato Galette, Genoise Cake, Country Pate, Beef Bourguignon, Creamed Lobster (or shrimp or crab).
The index is extensive and cross-referenced and the book is impeccably organized - a slim and efficient volume which answers most of the questions that arise in everyday cooking.
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on February 21, 2001
I bought this book to give as a gift and kept it for myself! I am so glad I did. Although I have been cooking for many years, this delightful little book gave me lots of hints and tips, as well as often making me laugh out loud. I regard it more as a book of kitchen essays than as a cookbook, although I think any cook could benefit from the recipes, variations, hints, tips, and reminders it contains. Many of Childs' original recipes have been simplified for this book, but this does not appear to have compromised them.
One of the nicest things about "Julia's Kitchen Wisdom" is the attractive layout and its wonderful index. Someone above mentioned this also. I am very appreciative of a good index in any book - and this one sure made the book easy to use.
I also loved Julia's pithy quotes at the beginning of each chaper--I could just hear her saying them, breathlessly. Her wording in some of the recipes is droll---when describing how to make an omelet, she instructs the reader to "jerk the pan towards you", "bang on the handle with your fist", and "spear a lump of butter with a fork". No formal language here! She really endeared herself to me when she said that she uses an aluminum Wearever pan for her omelets.
The great photos, taken over many years, brought back good memories of Julia Child's weekly shows.
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After 40 years of cooking with fellow chefs and friends, Julia Child has developed a refined method for cooking her master recipes. In this cute little cookbook, she has also included variations to many of the recipes to show us all how creative cooking can be, yet how essential it is to follow the basic cooking truths. Julia was born in Pasadena, California. She then moved to Paris with her husband Paul and studied at the Cordon Bleu. After writing her first cookbook "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," in 1961, she appeared on many public television cooking shows.

Judith Jones can be credited for discovering Julia Child, she is the best editor Julia Child could have ever found. She is very wise and once wrote me a nice letter to explain why my instructions in my own cookbook were too truncated. She loves the cookbooks she edits to have a personality and an easy flowing writing style. I took her advice very seriously and she has in fact improved my writing by her one small comment. It is with that said, that I can say that her influence on this book has only made Julia's writing even more wonderful.

I love the fact that Julia gives her editor so much credit in the Acknowledgments section. Without great editors, most cookbooks would never make it to the publishing stage. David Nussbaum was also very influential in the writing of this particular cookbook as he was with "Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home." He helped to gather information needed for this book from Julia's books and shows. He also spent time with Julia in Judith Jones's Vermont kitchen, working out the details of some recipes.

The book I am reviewing is only 127 pages, but there is also a 288 page large print edition which I applaud Julia for considering and publishing. In both books, Julia presents soups, sauces, salads, dressings, vegetables, meats, poultry, fish, eggs, breads, crepes, tarts, cakes and cookies. The index is delightfully easy to use and I love the headings, e.g., Almond(s) is in a different color than the list following it. In that way, you can find the basic categories of Apples, Crab, Soup, Cookies, etc.

When you read the text in this cookbook, you will almost feel that Julia Child is reading to you. I can hear her voice and that is what makes this book so wonderful. Each chapter begins with a fun note (or what you might call a headnote) from Julia. The first chapter is "Soups and Two Mother Sauces." There is a recipe for "Leek and Potato Soup." Julia explains the master recipe and then gives variations of "Onion and Potato Soup," "Cream of Leek and Potato," and "Watercress Soup." What you will learn from this book is "techniques." This allows you to create your own recipes. In cooking there are certain proven cooking methods and that is what I believe Julia is trying to show you. You learn to make a white sauce and a hollandaise sauce in the first chapter. The style of the master recipes is similar throughout the book. Each one has a nice heading of a different color, ingredients are listed in the order they will be used and the instructions are easy-to-read, yet do not have numbers. The Variations for the recipes are in a paragraph style, but also have nice headings in a different color. Each page has two columns of text.

In the second chapter, you will enjoy learning to make a "Basic Vinaigrette Dressing." The variations sound just delicious and there is also advice in a small block which explains how to keep your vinaigrette fresh for several days. Throughout the book you will find little blocks of text with a pink background. These must be some of Julia's secrets. This is a book you will want to read and absorb.

In the third chapter, Julia has charts for blanching and boiling vegetables. She says: "When you serve fine, fresh green vegetables, you want them to show off their color." She gives some sage advice on how to accomplish this. The chapter on "Meats, Poultry and Fish" is an introduction into sautéing, broiling, roasting, stewing, braising, poaching and steaming.

Then, onto French Omelets and dreamy soufflés. You will enjoy learning how to make molded dessert custards or as we know them to be, "Caramel Custards". She makes a "Classic Custard Sauce," a "Pastry Cream" and finishes the chapter on eggs with a "Classic Chocolate Mousse."

Julia Child knows that you could just use a ready-made pie shell, but thinks it is a shame if you can't make one yourself. With that, I can agree. So, in her Bread Chapter, she not only explains how to make basic bread dough, she shows us how to make an all-purpose pie dough. "Cakes and Cookies" follow this chapter. This will soon become one of your favorite chapters. Now, there is one thing you will want to know when making Julia's recipes. She uses a different method for measuring flour than I do. She sifts the flour into the cups and then sweeps off the excess. That will be key to your success where noted. I personally only use that method when making pie crusts, because I create my recipes by the dip and sweep method, which is the lazy way! You will notice that in her directions, she will say 1/2 cup cake flour (sifted and measured as per the box on page 97.) I was delighted to find a recipe for "Cat's Tongues." While I had heard of these finger-shaped sugar cookies, I had no idea what they tasted like.

I recommend this book to new cooks, especially because these are the master recipes I learned when I was learning to cook as a teenager in cooking class. For experienced cooks, you will enjoy the variations. This is a book of Kitchen Wisdom from American's favorite teacher of French home cooking.

~The Rebecca Review
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on September 1, 2005
I bought this book awhile ago and have even given it as gifts. For such a thin book, I find myself returning to it more than the many other cookbooks on my shelves. I made a crab souffle last year for Mother's Day, which came out great. Last night, I looked at recipes for quiche from three books before I finally turned to the recipe in this book. I didn't need a recipe with a ton of ingredients--I just wanted to know how many eggs to how much cream and how much cooked mushrooms I could add. This book gave me the exact answer I was looking for! I love that this book gives you the methods of dishes, gives you a little direction, and gives you the freedom to add your own creativity. When I read other recipes with many ingredients, I wonder if I'll screw up the proportions if I change the recipe. This book is the best reference I own.
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on December 14, 2000
This brilliant little book distills all of Julia Child's years of experience into just over 100 pages. But instead of scratching the surface of cooking and its techniques, Ms. Child tells you everything you need to know. Whether you're an expert in the kitchen or a beginner with only three favorite recipes, this book will help you expand your repertoire. Its quick reference structure makes it a snap to check the best way to cook, say, a pork chop, or how to make your vegetables tastier than ever. And interspersed among the chapters are Julia's "Master Recipes" for those classic dishes that never go out of style. A real gem.
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on January 21, 2008
Julia's Kitchen Wisdom: Essential Techniques and Recipes from a Lifetime of Cooking

While this book has many basic techniques and basic recipes, it is essentially a condensed version of the more-comprehensive book by Julia Child: The Way to Cook. If you purchase The Way to Cook, this book will disappoint you in comparison. It's a great cookbook on its own, but an unnecessary purchase if you already own The Way to Cook, since every recipe in Kitchen Wisdom is included in The Way to Cook.
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on July 5, 2006
This instantly became my favorite cookbook and I use it so much that it doesn't spend much time on the shelf. This cookbook transcends the "collection of recipes" style of most cookbooks; its style is more "how to improve your cooking skills."

Even so, some of my very favorite recipes are in this book. All the recipes adaptable and are presented in a way to make your own adaptations easier. For example, I love the braised rice recipe and found it easy to adapt the recipe for brown rice by a few minor adjustments. And this rice is good! Really, every recipe that I have tried is good.

In addition to producing wonderful tasting food, these recipes aren't the type that take hours of elaborate preparation. You can use this book to prepare full, decent meals after work in a reasonable amount of time.

This book is suitable for nearly all levels of cooking skills. It assumes some familiarity with basic cooking techniques, so a first-time cook might need a little help.
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on December 8, 2000
When I first started in this business I made pencil written copies of some of Julia's master recipes and refered to them often. This new book would have saved me the time and effort. It is truly a great resource for technique. Both the home cook and the professional could make good use of this material. I suggest that it be included in the library of every new professional and every culinary student as a resource tool.
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VINE VOICEon September 10, 2005
An awesome little reference for the essentials of cooking well. Make a decent french baguette, roast a chicken, cook veggies to bring out their best flavor... what to use when you've got stuff in the fridge and pantry but don't want to look up and plan a big, high-falutin' menu. The first place I look when I forget what temperature to use, and for how long, for whatever was fresh at the market today.

Sound, concise reference that covers just about everything you'll need.
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