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Before the word “hack” was in anyone’s vocabulary (or before anyone even knew what a kitchen hack was), we had Julia Child. Plugging away in her iconic blue-green kitchen, this master of French cuisine discovered more handy tips and tricks than any other chef we know.
Our Cookbook Club has spent January immersed in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1 and even if you haven’t been cooking alongside us, we know that you won’t be able to live without these five incredible tips we’ve picked up along the way.
What to do when… your fruit sinks to the bottom of your cake.
It’s frustrating to pull a beautiful fruit clafoutis out of the oven only to discover that all of your luscious fruit has sunk to the bottom of the pan. There’s a surprisingly easy solution to this common baking dilemma, however.
When you’re ready to bake, spread 1/4 of your batter across the bottom of your pan and set over medium heat. Let it cook for just a few minutes, until a film of batter has set, then add your fruit and the rest of the batter, and bake as directed. Allowing this bottom layer to cook and “set” creates a barrier between the fruit and the bottom of your pan.
What to do when… you’re out of shallots.
Shallots are indispensable in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and with good reason. They add a mild, sweet flavor with none of the bite of their onion relatives. But what to do when you’ve used the last one and can’t whip up your favorite vinaigrette?
Try substituting the white part of a green onion, or very finely mince a white onion and boil it for one minute. This removes some bitter sharpness of the onion.
What to do when… your sautéed mushrooms are soggy.
Stop overcrowding them! For perfect sautéed mushrooms every time, take a tip from Julia’s playbook and give them plenty of room (and time) to brown.
Mushrooms can give off quite a bit of cooking liquid, so when they’re crowded into a pan, they’ll steam rather than brown. Avoid that by using a large enough pan and letting them have enough time to get those deliciously crispy edges.
What to do when… your soup is too salty.
An over-salted soup doesn’t have to be a mood-killer with Julia’s easy, meal-saving tip.
If your soup has taken on the flavor of the Dead Sea, you can remove some of the saltiness by adding a grated potato. Simmer the potatoes in the liquid for 7 to 8 minutes, then strain the liquid, discarding the potatoes. Note that they're acting like a sponge, absorbing salty liquid (not just salt), so you might need to add in more water or another (non-salty) liquid after removing them.
What to do when… you have too many egg whites.
If you’ve ever made ice cream, pasta, or curds, you’ve probably ended up with more than a few homeless egg whites. Luckily they can easily be frozen and stored.
Julia has the perfect tip for portioning them out: two egg whites measures approximately 1/4 cup. Freeze them in muffin tins, then once frozen, unmold and store in the freezer until they’re ready to use. Once they’re thawed, they’ll whip up perfectly!
Tell us: What have you learned from Julia?