Favorite Tips From The French Chef

Cooking shows have been a regular part of my television viewing since long before Emeril, Top Chef and the Food Network became household words. Graham Kerr, Jeff Smith, Justin Wilson, Martin Yan and Marian Morash all found their way into my living room, but in my opinion, Julia Child still reigns supreme in the world of celebrity chefs.

About “Julia's Kitchen Wisdom”

Julia Child's wealth of cooking knowledge and talent for sharing it with home cooks through television and books is nothing short of iconic. She made her television debut in 1963 on WGBH in Boston, yet decades later her books are still my first choice when I feel the need to “consult.”

My favorite is The Way To Cook, but I also love the little book she wrote in 2000 called Julia's Kitchen Wisdom. It's compiled from the “trials, remedies, and errors” Julia experienced throughout her career in the kitchen. I thought I'd share some of my favorite and most used tips from that publication here.

  • Give canned broth some fresh flavor by simmering for 15 to 20 minutes with a handful of minced carrots, onions and celery and a splash of white wine (I like to add a little parsley too).
  • General salt proportions: For liquids, use 1-1/2 teaspoons per quart. For raw meat, use 3/4 to 1 teaspoon per pound.
  • Roast chicken timing: Begin with a standard 45 minutes, then add 7 minutes per pound of weight – e.g. a 3-pound chicken would roast for 66 minutes.
  • For maximum flavor development, the ideal temperature for rising dough is 70° to 75°F.
  • Baking powder, once opened loses its strength after about six months. To test it, stir one teaspoon into 1/2 cup of hot water. It should actively produce bubbles immediately – if it doesn't, discard it and buy fresh.
  • To sauté mushrooms, toss frequently them until butter (or oil) is first absorbed, then reappears on the surface. At this point, the mushrooms will begin to brown.
  • Test meat for doneness frequently by pressing it with your finger – if it feels soft and squishy, it is very rare, lightly springy is medium, no spring – well done.
  • Whisk together equal quantities of sour cream and heavy cream as a substitute for crème fraîche.