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

9 Comments

  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

      Bayta,
      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.

  4. Amanda Hutton November 29, 2021

    Having two littles in the house, I made the switch to audio books for book club. It wasn’t the ideal format for this book, but I would love to go back and find some of these recipes. I thought the same about the potatoes and ingredient access.

    Sarah, as someone who LOVES to host and cook, I so appreciated your comment: 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?

    Amen and Amen! This was definitely not a book I would have picked up on my own, but I so appreciated it.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann November 30, 2021

      Amanda, I’m so glad you enjoyed the book! You can probably find similar recipes on Pinterest/the Internet, but it is fun having them in the book. 🙂
      I’m so glad that comment resonated! I really love hosting people, especially small gatherings, but I always seem to find an excuse that fits in the category of “not good enough”. It’s something I need to keep working on!

  5. JoyH December 2, 2021

    “The cheese-making techniques are laborious and old fashioned.” This description of the work it takes to make cheese struck me because at this house that we are living in there are several fields attached to the land that we also rent. I turned one area into a garden, and the others have been planted by a neighbor who takes half and gives us half. Watching each step of the rice harvest showed me how VERY much work goes into just being able to eat. Tilling, fertilizing, sowing the seeds, moving the seedlings throughout the field, keeping the berms in repair so enough water stays in the field for the rice to grow, cutting mature stalks (by hand), setting the shocks to dry, coming back and knocking the kernels of rice out of the stalks, sunning it for a few days, shaking and throwing the kernels up to knock off the extra husks, storing…in hope that the rats don’t get it. “Laborious and old fashioned.” It is good for us, as humans, to see these processes, though, and to live them, as I think they keep us more humble.

    “The gnaw for permanence became ferocious.” I feel this sometimes. This life teaches pilgrimage, and it that is good, but I do long for permanence. One day.

    “The loneliness of being new again.” Oh, man, that was just the words for a feeling I’ve had many times. “Being new again.” I’ve come to hate explaining about myself, but that is also a part of this life if you want to get to know people.

    “We had made the world our home.” This helps with the above two quotes. I’ve tried to teach our children that we have many special places all around the world and the US, in hopes of helping them not have a problem with the transience of our life.

    I probably wouldn’t have picked this up on my own, but I did enjoy it, especially her hunt and descriptions of “authentic” food.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann December 2, 2021

      Joy, thank you for sharing these thoughts! I agree- so much is convenient for us, and there’s something so good for the hands and the soul when we see the process of making or growing something through from start to finish. Even on a small scale, with just having a couple of herbs on my back porch, I sometimes begrudge the constant watering and tending and just want the final product. 😉

      I’m glad you joined in this month! It was delightful to have you. 🙂

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