When we hear the word cuisine, we think of it as being synonymous with food. Cuisine is a French word, in fact, although it technically translates to ‘kitchen.’ Cooking, it could then be said, derives from a cuisine. Still, it illustrates how important French cooking is; how, after all these years, it continues to rest comfortably in the number one spot of all international styles of cooking in everyone’s minds.
Many people, professionals or not, consider French cuisine to be the standard when it comes to cooking and cooking skills. Learning French cooking is a goal for many, thanks to the tremendous effort of enthusiasts such as Julia Child, who co-authored the bible, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, a groundbreaking classic. It brought an exalted, seemingly out of reach art form into the kitchens of countless Americans, and still does.
What Julia Child accomplished was breaking down the mystique of French cooking without oversimplifying it and, therefore, altering a recipe irrevocably. She was a firm believer in not taking shortcuts which, although lessen the cook’s time in the kitchen, can compromise the end result, with a diminishment of richness and flavor, if you’re not careful.
That is not to say that all French cooking is complicated. Many recipes, even those in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, are surprisingly simple. But the preparation is thoughtful and spares no attention to detail to guarantee the best possible outcome every time.
French cooking may strike you as contrary to healthy eating, with its reputation for pastry, butter and cheeses. But the French, it should be noted, eat far more modest portions than Americans do; their salt of choice is always unrefined sea salt, known as fleur de sel, which is both mineral-rich and substantially lower in sodium than the chemically cleansed table salt Americans often reach for; and the French use very little sugar which is the true downfall in the health of Americans and their cooking. French cooking is all about quality over quantity, and that goes as well for their choice of ingredients—only the best items going into the pot taste the best coming out.
Learning to cook the French way includes trying your hand at the various classic sauces rife in French cooking. Once you master these easy, basic techniques and taste the results, they are guaranteed to become staples in your repertoire. Beurre blanc and many other butter sauce variations, béchamel, and mousseline, to name but a few, consist solely of ingredients all likely to be found in your refrigerator or pantry on any given day; no hard to find items or lengthy, complicated steps are required.
Basic techniques that you will learn in most French cooking classes range from clarifying butter, how to blanch or julienne, thickening sauces with a simple roux or beurre manie, whipping up surprisingly simple and versatile crèpes, to making a straightforward glace de viande, a meat glaze.
From there, it’s a short walk to creating many of France’s famous dishes, from boeuf burguignon to sole meunière to cassoulet or coq au vin, and even simple but tasty standards like Quiche Lorraine.
If you’re thinking about taking cooking classes in Los Angeles, consider a French cooking class at Elle A Cooking. It’s a great way to learn the basics of French cooking under the tutelage of an experienced chef. You’ll learn an entirely new approach to healthy, delicious fare that you can make again and again at home, and that doesn’t require fancy equipment or exotic ingredients. Bon appétit!