Food Blogger Alert {Book Club}

Of all the recipes included in Mastering the Art of French Eating, I figured aligot would be right up my alley.

Creamy, cheesy potatoes? Doesn’t that sound heavenly?

Unlike a lot of the ingredients for the dishes we learned about in this book, I was quite sure I could find all that was needed for aligot. Or at least the substitutions Ann Mah offered for this particular dish.

I like cooking, and learned when I was a kid, but I wouldn’t describe myself as a good cook. Or at least not a very confident one. I don’t feel like I know all the secrets and hacks, though I can usually follow a recipe.

But I figured I could handle aligot!

To start, I cut the potatoes into cubes and boiled them. This part requires patience and I’ve been known to quit too soon and then the potatoes aren’t easily mashable and not quite as enjoyable. I recommend listening to a podcast or tidying your kitchen while keeping careful watch so the pot doesn’t boil over (not that I have experience with that happening or anything).

Ann recommends using a ricer or food mill to get a fine puree. My kitchen was lacking those instruments, so I settled for a good old spoon and got them as smooth as possible.

Crème fraiche isn’t available in my little Midwestern town so I subbed sour cream, which gets added with garlic, salt and pepper. Next you add the diced fresh mozzarella. It started getting melty right away which was lovely, and then I beat the mixture with a wooden spoon. This part was exhausting! But well worth it, I think. The potatoes were so smooth and gooey.

I didn’t have steak to pair it with as was recommended but I thoroughly enjoyed a bit of pork loin and brussel sprouts with my aligot. Hot and eaten immediately is definitely delicious but I don’t mind warmed up leftovers either.

So if you are celebrating American Thanksgiving this week, add some cheesy aligot to your menu! Or just enjoy it on any old night of the week you want. You can find the recipe at the end of chapter ten in the book. I also found this version on Pinterest.

Did you try making any of the recipes in the book? Or any you want to try?

Before we close out our discussion of this book, I want to mention Julia Child. I was hoping the author would touch on Julia since they had many similarities and food-loving French adventures. In chapter nine, Mah shares the story of helping her father cook for guests when she was a girl. The souffle didn’t turn out quite like they hoped so they asked, “What would Julia do?” Well, Julia’s influence led to using it anyway and not apologizing.

As I was thinking about my lack of confidence in the kitchen, this story struck me. Often when something doesn’t quite turn out or at least I view it with a critical eye, I want to point out all the flaws to my guests. But truthfully, it doesn’t have to be perfect! Isn’t it more important to create an atmosphere of grace and fun and laughter, letting ourselves just enjoy those who are around our table? Instead of letting fear keep us from trying to make that local dish for our friends and partners, it can be a learning opportunity. Sometimes mistakes can be a point of connection and stories that are remembered and retold.

Food is such a powerful connector no matter where we live around the world. I hope that you’ve enjoyed this book and the opportunity to reflect on special dishes in your own culture or the one you currently call home.

Any final thoughts on the book? Was there a story or experience that stuck out to you from this last section? If you’ve made one of the dishes in Mastering the Art of French Eating, add a picture below or tag me or Velvet Ashes on social media!

We won’t be reading a book for December, but enjoy some book lists from the community and holiday short stories!

November 30th: No Book Club, but learn about Giving Tuesday

December 7th: Favorite Books of 2021

December 14th: The Burglar’s Christmas

December 21st: Favorite Books of 2021

December 28th: Uncle Richard’s New Year Dinner

Photo by angela pham on Unsplash


  1. Bayta Schwarz November 23, 2021

    I actually made boeuf bourguignon on Saturday! Well, not the recipe from the book but a much simpler one I found online. I don’t have much patience when it comes to cooking… It was yummy and perfect for these colder, darker days.
    I enjoyed the book more and more as I went along. At first, there was too much about her and not enough about France for my liking. Thankfully that shifted as she got more into her adventures across France. And I did appreciate her reflections on being an expat.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann November 24, 2021

      How fun! I would love to try making boeuf bourguignon but it feels like a very involved process- so cheers for finding a simpler recipe. 🙂 It does sound just right for cold weather!

  2. Rachel Kahindi November 23, 2021

    Most years I cook traditional American Thanksgiving foods for Kenyan family members and/or friends. I’m sometimes surprised by what dishes turn out to be a hit and which ones I have to eat for lunch for the next 5 days… The first year that I made a pumpkin pie, everyone was shocked to see pumpkin as a dessert. They normally put it in stew. But everyone loved it. The year I made an American apple pie, hardly anyone was willing to try it. Everyone loves my chocolate pie, though

    1. Sarah Hilkemann November 24, 2021

      I love that you get to share Thanksgiving dishes with your Kenyan family and friends, Rachel! I’m sure it’s interesting to have that blend of cultures. 🙂 In Cambodia there’s a delicious pumpkin dessert that is basically cooked pumpkin and sweetened condensed milk (from what I remember). It was perfect for “fall” when the rainy season was ending and it was a tad cooler. 🙂 Not quite as sweet as pie though, so I’m not sure how that would go over.

  3. Rachel Kahindi November 23, 2021

    Oh! I haven’t been cooking as we’re traveling right now, but I am looking forward to trying some of the recipes when I’m in the kitchen again! Especially steak-frites, soupe au pistou, cassoulet, boeuf bourguignon and aligot.

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