Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Feb 23, 2005 06:22 PM

French Cookbook for inexperienced cook

  • s

I'm looking for a good french cookbook for someone who can cook but does not have experience with complex sauces or cooking French food. Would Mastering the Art be good or too complex? Any other suggestions?


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
    1. I would suggest Jaques Pepin or Patricia Wells. Also, Bourdains cookbook gives alot of french recipes without nonesense. Good, easy, informative suggestions. I also really like Simon Beck and/or Julia - but you may want to look into these later rather than sooner.

      1. I second the vote for Patricia Wells. I learned to cook with Bistro Cooking, her book full of recipes from French bistros. Her recipes are so well written that every single dish you make will come out perfect. From there you can move on to Mastering.

        2 Replies
        1. re: rudylee

          I began French cooking about 27 years ago while a sophmore in college with Elizabeth David's "French Provincial Cooking." If it was easy enough for a 20 year old man with little experience in cooking, it ought to be easy enough for you. I have rarely, if ever, found a recipe out of this book less than excellent. I still cook many of the items from this book. The book also provides a very enlightening essay on the provinces of France with regards to local traditional dishes and foodstuffs that are central to their local cooking. You can buy this book from Amazon in paperback for $10.88 today. You can also buy used copies from used book stores (, for example) for less.

          Note that the recipes employ English units, and English liquid measures are different from our American liquid measures. The Enlish pint amounts to 20 fluid oz while the American pint amounts to 16 fluid oz. I only found this to be an issue when making some of the excellent vegetable soups in the book.

          1. re: MHann

            I second this book. I love all of Mrs. David's books. The braised celery root in butter is worth the price alone. The mussels in cream are also very good.

            Aside from Bistro Cooking by Patricia Wells (whose recipes are good but whose writing makes me grit my teeth)-- Susan Hermann Loomis' French Farmhouse Cooking is a nice, straightforward, but comprehensive book. You get a lot of the braised dishes and other "saucy" things with fewer steps and techniques to master than in Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

            You _will_ be able to follow the directings in MAFC, but most recipes are very long, and it can be discouraging to a new cook. I'd start with Mrs. David or Ms. Loomis and then work your way up to the fullest expression of fine french cooking once you've got the basic flavor combos and techniques down.

        2. I learned to cook using Julia Child's "The Way to Cook", and continue to use it 15 years later. In the introduction, she discusses Mastering the Art, and points out that many recipes in The Way to Cook reflect methodologies and/or techniques that she developed since writing Mastering and which should not be considered "lesser" substitutes for more complex techniques in her earlier books. For instance, using the food processor to make pastry dough.

          I can't recommend this book highly enough.

          Also, for a little variety, I have been very pleasantly surprised by the Balthazar cookbook. Often restaurant cookbooks are very complicated/lots of references to preparing other items in the book etc., and then the recipes don't turn out so well. Quite the opposite with this one - I love the Riesling Chicken and the Braised Spareribs. Although I have made the chicken stock called for in the book, I have also used good quality boxed chicken stock with indiscernable results.

          1. i really like richard grausman's "at home with the french classics." it is very clear, very traditional, and the results are very delicious.