Anne Willan has quietly made a significant international contribution as both a teacher and a cookbook author specializing in French cuisine for over 35 years. With the support of Julia Child, Willan opened the La Varenne Cooking School in Paris in 1975. In the mid-1970s, as Willan writes in her memoir, “French cuisine was becoming a portal by which Americans were rediscovering the culinary arts after a long dormant period that began in the 1930s with the taming of vegetables in cans, followed by the 1950s and frozen foods. Julia had opened the front and led the battle, and now La Varenne was the place people could have the Julia Child experience, a working laboratory of classical French cuisine.”
As recent guests of the UC San Diego Library, Willan and co-author Amy Friedman offered morsels from Willan’s autobiography, “One Souffle at a Time: A Memoir of Food and France.” Together, they share stories, pictures and secret ingredients to a life well-lived.
With the cooking season upon us, how about trying one Willan’s delicious recipes that you can find here: La Varenne Cooking. Or check out our favorites below: Happy Holidays everyone!
Roast leg of lamb is the French cook’s pride, paraded for guests, or a birthday, or for family Sunday lunch. To make the most of this expensive cut, a gigot is invariably cooked on the bone, with a clove of garlic tucked into the shank so it permeates the whole roast. The meat may be spiked with more garlic and herbs, and is basted with butter to ensure a golden finish and tasty gravy.
Serves 6 to 8
One 4- to 5-pound/about 2-kilogram leg of lamb
Endive and lamb’s lettuce are among the treats of winter, a glimpse of green among the seasonal roots on the vegetable stand. Teamed with beets for color and hazelnuts for crunch, they are a classic French combination, delicious with thinly sliced Virginia or Smithfield ham, or some imported prosciutto.
Serves 4 for supper
70g/2½oz/½ cup hazelnuts
450g/1lb cooked baby beets
These apples are hollowed to the shape of a volcano so they take more stuffing, hence their name in our family. For the filling, I’m calling for muesli as it is so easy to find, but you’ll save a bit of time if you use granola, which is already toasted. Simply mix it with the other ingredients. You’ll need a tart variety of apple that will be fluffy and juicy when baked; traditional favorites are Rome Beauty or McIntosh (Cox’s or Reine de Reinettes in theUK), though you can always fall back on the ubiquitous Granny Smith.
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