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Recipes: The Cooking of Provincial France - Foods of the World Spiral-bound – 1968
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This particular book acted as a primer for us on cooking techniques.....even though we were living in the Midwest, and the grocery stores didn't always carry things like fresh fish (other than catfish). It was apparently a good way to start our love for food and cooking, as we later opened a very successful restaurant in the Wine Country in California......using all that we had learned and more!
From what I've read the male editor of this book for Time-Life basically stole recipes from wherever he could and Julia Child and M.F.K. Fisher regretted having anything to do with it in the end. Still, it serves as a nice snapshot for that point in time, and the warnings throughout to American cooks about what passed for French bread and Swiss cheese and so on are amusing, as is the admonition, for instance, that the French onion soup recipe absolutely requires a heavy pot (this is there because cookware in the U.S. at the time was terrible, today just about any pot will do, and in fact I now make it in a Mauviel copper stock pot, which is 2 mm thick copper but not especially heavy as you would expect from that adminition [a Dutch oven also works just fine]).
This is the book from which I made my first souffle, and I still make them today. I've never had an issue with a souffle using this recipe, so I trust this recipe and just change the flavorings (see the customer image I uploaded for the green souffle made with very finely chopped spinach).
Since the French onion soup pretty much parallels the one in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I expect it was written by Julia Child. It makes a nice soup, but over the years I learned a trick from America's Test Kitchen or somewhere in which when you think the onions are caramelized fully you re-caramelize them 7-10 more times, scraping the bottom with a wooden scraper then stirring and letting them sit for about 2 minutes (to allow more fond to develop), then you scrape again every 2 minutes for the next 14-20 minutes. The flavor improves dramatically over the way the recipe is written in this book, so it's well worth doing, just take care that you watch it closely so it doesn't burn.
The method for making croutes by rubbing with garlic is delicious in the French onion soup but they're also good in salads, and I've been rubbing grilled bread with garlic cloves ever since.
While I mainly bought this book because of Julia Child's and M.F.K. Fisher's involvement, I've enjoyed it as a time capsule, taking it off the shelf from time to time ever since, and enjoying the dated pictures and (from what I've read) somewhat romanticized view of French life at that point in time.
It will always be a favorite because of the Child/Fisher connection, but also because it's the book that taught me how to make a decent souffle and French onion soup, and I've continued on from there.