Let’s Cook French: A Family Cookbook, written by Claudine Pépin, is a bilingual English/French cookbook featuring 30 favorite recipes perfect for cooking together as a family. A few highlights include Cheese Fondue (Fondue au Fromage), Ratatouille, Boeuf Bourguignon, Spinach with Béchamel (Épinards à la Béchamel), and Almond Cake (Gâteau aux Amandes). I will also be sharing her recipe for Apple Tarts with Almond Frangipane (Tarte aux Pommes avec sa Frangipane aux Amandes) following the review.
Disclosure: I received this book from Quarry Books in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Claudine Pépin is currently based in Rhode Island with her family. She “cooks at home almost every day, believing that sharing a meal with family and friends- eating, laughing , and spending time together at the table- is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding things in life.”
She has worked in partnership with her father, Chef Jacques Pépin, on public television and all three of their series received the James Beard Award. In 2016 at MetroCooking DC, I actually had the opportunity to watch Claudine and Jacques Pépin cook in person and it was such a fun experience.
Claudine was a brand ambassador for Moet & Chandon and Dom Perignon Champagne in New York and taught food and wine pairings for the French Culinary Institute and the Sommelier Society. She was named Woman of the Year by the Academie Culinary de France- Filiale des Etas Unis in 2002 and continues to work in television and events around the country. This is her first cookbook.
Let’s Cook French
Claudine begins with a couple of short notes for both kids and parents before jumping into the recipes. Within the book, you will find her favorites that she grew up eating and continues to cook at home for her family. I especially love how the book is completely bilingual. From the table of contents to the index, English can be found on the left and the French is mirrored on the right. Evan in particular was fascinated by the illustrations.
The chapters are divided based on course. The table of contents includes a list of the recipes with page number for easy reference. Following the recipes, you will find a set of menu ideas based on season along with a couple of empty pages to write down your own ideas.
There is no photography, but scattered among the pages are fun illustrations by father, Jacques Pépin, and daughter Shorey. Measurements are listed in US Customary and Metric. Each recipe has a headnote with basic information, personal stories, serving size, helpful tips, and menu ideas.
Apple Tarts with Almond Frangipane
Claire wanted to feature the Apple Tarts with Almond Frangipane (Tarte aux Pommes avec sa Frangipane aux Amandes) with the review. Each layer is packed with flavor from the buttery puff pastry and creamy Almond Frangipane to the baked apple topping.
The base for the tarts are four (6 inch, 15 cm) circles of the puff pastry. We had a bit of a hiccup as both of our regular grocery stores are currently out of puff pastry, so Claire also got to make a quick version for the first time. Otherwise, puff pastry sheets can generally be found in the freezer section of most larger grocery stores.
Each circle is topped with a creamy Almond Frangipane that comes together easily with the help of a hand or stand mixer. Then, the top is covered with overlapping apple slices. Claire is not quite ready to manage the mandoline, so she instead cut the peeled apples into thin slices with assistance.
Before baking, each tart is brushed with additional butter and a sprinkling of sugar, plus an egg wash around the edges. They are baked in a 400˚F (200˚C) oven for 20 minutes, then the temperature is decreased to 325˚F (170˚C) until they are puffed and golden.
These Apple Tarts with Almond Frangipane are especially delicious paired with crème fraîche, vanilla yogurt, or ice cream.
We also made Claudine’s Croque Monsieur, Ham and Leek Quiche (Quiche au Jambon et aux Poireaux), Vinaigrette for a Week (Vinaigrette pour la Semaine), and Crêpes.
Evan picked out Claudine’s Croque Monsieur. In this variation, baguette pieces are cut in half lengthwise (not all the way through) and topped with slices of ham and Gruyére cheese. The sandwiches are baked in the oven until the cheese is melted for a quick and easy lunch. It is perfect paired with soup or salad.
Claire had such fun putting together the Ham and Leek Quiche (Quiche au Jambon et aux Poireaux). She also enjoyed learning how to crimp the dough. This quiche is packed with sautéed leeks, diced ham, and grated Swiss cheese, then baked until golden and set.
She also picked the Vinaigrette for a Week (Vinaigrette pour la Semaine). This recipe comes together incredibly easy with just a handful of ingredients. Minced shallots are shaken (she especially loved that part) with red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, dijon mustard, and olive oil. And as the title states, it lasts for a week!
Another favorite for Evan was the Crêpes. The basic egg and flour batter comes together with just a little whisking and cooks quickly in thin layers on the stove. He decided to fill them with Nutella, but jam, whipped cream cheese, or fresh fruit would also be wonderful.
Let’s Cook French is a great pick for families interested in French cuisine and especially those who are learning French. As a note, there are no photographs and some of the techniques are best for older children or with entire family involvement. The steps are very well written with short paragraphs that are easy to follow.
Most of the ingredients are readily available in the average American grocery store. A few items that may require further searching include Gruyére cheese, instant flour, fresh ahi tuna, puff pastry (my supermarket was suddenly out of stock so we put together a quick version at home), and almond paste. Substitutions are provided when available.
Apple Tarts with Almond Frangipane Recipe
Excerpt from Let’s Cook French
Apple Tarts with Almond Frangipane
- 1/2 cup (68 grams) almond paste
- 8 tablespoons (104 grams) granulated sugar divided
- 8 tablespoons (112 grams) unsalted butter room temperature, divided
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract or vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons (16 grams) all-purpose flour
- 4 (6 inch, 15 cm) circles puff pastry
- 5-6 large, firm cooking apples such as Braeburn or Granny Smith
- 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) heavy cream
- Preheat the oven to 400˚F (200˚C).
- In an electric mixer with a paddle attachment or with an electric hand mixer, beat the almond paste with 3 tablespoons (39 grams) of the sugar until combined.
- Add 4 tablespoons (56 grams) of the butter and mix well.
- Add 1 egg, then the almond extract. Sprinkle in the flour, mix again, and set aside.
- Cut out four 6-inch (15 cm) circles of puff pastry.
- Trace a 5-inch (13 cm) diameter circle inside each tart, cutting slightly into the pastry but not all the way through. Prick the interior of the circle with a fork to prevent it from rising.
- Divide the almond paste mixture evenly among the 4 tarts and spread on the inner 5-inch (13 cm) circles.
- Peel and core the apples. Slice the apples into thin circles, preferably with a mandoline, and arrange them overlapping all but 1/2 inch (1 cm) on the frangipane. (Each tart should get at least 1 whole apple.)
- Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons (56 grams) of butter. Brush the apples with melted butter and generously sprinkle with the remaining sugar.
- Whisk together the egg yolk and the cream. Brush the outside rim of the tart with the mixture.
- Bake at 400˚F (200˚C) for 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 325˚F (170˚C) for 20 to 25 more minutes or until the tarts are golden brown and the puff pastry is cooked all the way through.
- Cut the tarts into 6 pie wedges each and serve 3 per person.