Oui, Oui! French Cooking Made Easy

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I Know How to Cook
By Ginette Mathiot, translated by Clotilde Dusoulier
Hardcover, 976 pages
Phaidon Press, Incorporated
List Price: $45
I Know How to Cook

First published in France in 1932, Ginette Mathiot's Je Sais Cuisiner, or I Know How to Cook, presented 1,900 recipes written with the novice cook in mind.

Food blogger Clotilde Dusoulier, who recently helped translate 1,400 of the recipes for the English version of the book, tells Jacki Lyden that Mathiot's book differs from that other French cookbook — Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking — in its dedication to simplicity.

While Child was writing from the point of view of a chef who had been educated at the Cordon Bleu, Mathiot, a young home economics teacher, was writing a book meant to accompany a young bride throughout her married life.

"The major difference is in the approach," says Dusoulier. "[Mathiot] was teaching French cooking to home cooks."

Comparing Mathoit's recipe for ratatouille with that of Child seems to support the point; though the recipes feature nearly identical ingredient lists, Mathoit presents hers in 50 words, while Child uses 320 words for hers.

"You feel like you can do this because the instructions are simple," says Dusoulier. (Check out Mathiot's recipes for Gougere and Choux Pastry, Shoulder of Lamb Provencale and Light Chocolate Mousse.)

Perhaps less simple — or at least, more archaic — are Mathoit's instructions for cleaning and removing the intestines from a rabbit. Though Dusoulier admits that most modern French cooks would buy the rabbit already cleaned from the butcher, she says the book presents a good reminder of how people used to cook from a historical point of view.

Recipes from 'I Know How to Cook'

Gougere and Choux Pastry

Gougere and Choux Pastry i

Gougere and Choux Pastry hide caption

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Gougere and Choux Pastry

Gougere and Choux Pastry

Preparation time: 15 minutes; Cooking time: 15-30 minutes; Serves 6

2 teaspoons butter
11 ounces choux pastry dough
4 1/4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated or cut into thin strips, plus extra for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and grease a baking sheet with the butter. Make the choux pastry dough, omitting the sugar and adding the cheese. Pipe or spoon the pastry dough in a ring shape, or place individual, well-spaced spoonfuls, on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with extra cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes (or 15-20 minutes for individual gougeres), until risen and golden brown.

Choux Pastry (Pate a Choux)

1 1/2 heaping tablespoons superfine sugar
Scant 1/2 cup butter, plus extra for greasing
1 teaspoon salt
1 cups flour
4 eggs, beaten

In a large pan, gently heat 1/2 cup water and the sugar, butter and salt until the butter has melted, then bring to a boil. Quickly add the flour all at once, and beat with a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat and continue to beat the dough for about 1 minute until it comes away easily from the sides of the pan. Grease a plate with butter, turn the dough out onto it and let cool to room temperature. Return to pan and gradually beat in the eggs until the dough is smooth and glossy.

Shoulder of Lamb Provencale (Epaule a la Provencale)

Preparation time: 35 minutes; Cooking time: 2 1/2 hours; Serves 6

Shoulder of Lamb i

Shoulder of Lamb with Red Meat Stuffing Epaule a la Provencale avec Farce Pour Viande Phaidon hide caption

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Shoulder of Lamb

Shoulder of Lamb with Red Meat Stuffing Epaule a la Provencale avec Farce Pour Viande


9 ounces stuffing for red meats
1 (2 1/2 pound) shoulder of lamb, boned
3 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
4 1/4 ounces bacon cubes, chopped
1 carrot sliced
1 bouquet garni
Salt and pepper
Generous 2 cups, any stock, hot
Scant 1/2 cup tomato paste

Prepare the stuffing, spread it over the lamb shoulder, the roll the shoulder up and tie tightly with kitchen string. Melt the butter in a heavy pan, add the onion and bacon cubes and pan-fry over medium heat until browned. Add the lamb, carrot and bouquet garni. Season with salt and pepper and pour in the hot stock. Add the tomato paste. Cook, covered, for 2 hours, turning from time to time.

Stuffing for Red Meats (Farce Pour Viande)
Preparation time: 10 minutes; Makes 7 ounces

3 1/3 ounces unsmoked bacon, finely chopped
3 1/2 ounces pork, finely chopped
1 handful of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon cognac
Salt and pepper

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl.

Light Chocolate Mousse (Mousse Au Chocolat)

Preparation time: 20 minutes, plus chilling time; Serves 6

7 ounces chocolate
6 egg whites
2 tablespoons superfine sugar

Chocolate Mousse i

Light Chocolate Mousse (Mousse Au Chocolat) Phaidon hide caption

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Chocolate Mousse

Light Chocolate Mousse (Mousse Au Chocolat)


Prepare 3 hours in advance. In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, gently melt the chocolate in 2 tablespoons water, stirring occasionally to make a thick paste. Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, add the sugar and continue whisking until very stiff. Fold the chocolate gently into the egg whites. Pour into a bowl and refrigerate for up to 3 hours.

Excerpted from I Know How To Cook by Ginette Mathiot. Copyright 2009 by Phaidon.

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