My favorite cookbook of this year is a classic:
Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child.
To be honest, I'd never heard of Julia Child before watching the movie Julie & Julia with Amy Adams and Meryl Streep. Of course, I am not an American so how would I know.
The movie made me curious and I bought Julia Child's classic. The book was first published in 1961 specifically for American women who wanted to cook classical French cuisine with the ingredients available in the States. This is classical French cooking pre-nouvelle cuisine.
The first recipe I tried was an eye opener: Roast Chicken. I have roasted, grilled, bbq'ed more chicken than I can remember so I was skeptical. What was the big deal, so I set out to follow Julia's recipe to the letter. Her recipes are by the way very detailed and very clearly written. Off I went.
A 1.5 kg chicken, salt and lots of butter are the main ingredients (will serve 4 people) . For the sauce, she also adds some carrots and an onion but that is a different story.
Heat your oven to 425 F or 220 C. Salt the chicken on the inside, truss and smear 2 tablespoons of butter on the chicken. Place the chicken breast up in a roasting pan in the oven. Roast for a total of 15 minutes, turning the chicken every 5 minutes around to brown it on all sides. Bast when you turn the chicken, using a mixture of an additional 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of cooking oil that you melted in a separate small pan.
Reduce the temperature of the oven to 350 F or 180 C and put the chicken on its side, basting ever 8 minutes. Halfway through the cooking time (1 hour and 20 minutes total) turn the chicken on its other side and continue basting. At this point salt the chicken on the outside...
15 minutes before the chicken is done turn its breast up and continue basting. If you run out of melted butter, use the drippings in the roasting pan.
Check the doneness of the chicken and if it is OK, let rest for at least 5-10 minutes, prepare the sauce, undo the chicken from the trussing strings and serve.
In essence you have to sit next to the oven to baste, baste and baste but I can assure you the result is amazing and worth the effort. The color, texture and flavor of the chicken are superb.
If you are interested or need an idea for a Christmas present, the book is now also available as eBook for Kindle.
Julia Child was the wife of a diplomat and travelled all over the world. During their stay in France she learned cooking at the famous Cordon Bleu school. Later she started writing, first with two friends, eventually on her own.
Her bibliography is impressive and her books are definitely worth reading.
When she returned to the States, after her husband retired, she appeared on television, one of the first TV cooks, a novelty at that time.
She donated her complete kitchen to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. in 2001.
Happy reading and cooking