It is my great honour to take part in the sharing of Mardi Michels’ first cookbook, In the French Kitchen with Kids, which is out on July 31, 2018. You may already know Mardi from her prolific blog, eat. live. travel. write., her role as a Food Revolution Ambassador, her Les Petits Chefs and Cooking Basics cooking class, or her full-time job as an French elementary school teacher. I’ve also edited some of Mardi’s freelance work, which I’m not sure she knows about–that’s part of her resumé as well. It is safe to say that Mardi lives and breathes food, all day, every day!
French Food: Je t’aime
I absolutely love France, French food, the culture, the people, and consider myself lucky to have a couple of newly adopted French friends from my partner. And, of course, the French know their food. At our Spanish friends’ wedding a few months ago, our very global group–couples representing Canada, France, Australia, and England–all stayed together in a Spanish rental flat, and our amis français brought a huge stack of crêpes from Brittany, which we snacked on with Nutella and strawberries prior to the wedding ceremony. Lucky for all of us, this moment can be recreated again with Mardi’s Crêpes recipe, made for special occasions.
My most recent trip to France was a speedy (22-hour) sleepover to validate my UK Visa. (I wrote a bit about that here.) Because it was so quick, and I only had two full meals to enjoy, I was on a mission to eat purely iconic French dishes, many of which I was delighted to see in the pages of this book (bonjour, crème brûlée et steak frites). The flavours are richer, the ingredients, simpler, and the preparations, timeless. It’s food you want to cook, and eat, no matter your age.
How to Cook with Kids
My sister-in-law is one of the most talented bakers and cooks I know, and she is a testament, like Mardi’s book and work with Les Petits Chefs, to what kids are capable of. I’m a proud Auntie to two beautiful nieces who can, in fact, glaze salmon, pipe icing onto a cupcake, stir soup, chop veggies, bake and decorate cookies, plan a balanced dinner, and more, thanks to my sister-in-law (the girls are both under 7). It is about giving kids a chance in the kitchen, being patient, and cheering them on.
In Mardi’s book, she has “Top Tips for Cooking with Kids,” ensuring success. Notes like, “Demonstrate, don’t do” speak to those of us (ahem, me) who have a tendency to take over. Mardi’s advice: “Kids are remarkably capable in the kitchen, but they need to be shown how to do certain things, sometimes multiple times, before they can work on their own.” But she urges you to let them “have a go.”
Mardi has taken the often intimidating world of classic French cuisine and made it doable for any age and kitchen skill level. Breakfasts like No-Knead French Loaf, Quick Croissants (her recipe is revelatory), and Creamy Yogurt Pots will have you and your family jumping out of bed in the morning. Traditional French café meals such as Mardi’s version of a Grilled Ham and Cheese Sandwich (Croque-Monsieur) offer a moment of midday indulgence on the weekend. Frankly, I can’t wait to serve the Croque-Monsieur to a room full of adults with glasses of chilled Alsatian riesling.
In the after-school snack chapter, you’ll mouthwatering nibbles such as Pains au chocolat, Madelaines, Financiers, and Yogurt Cake (Gâteau au yaourt). And savoury French comfort food classics take you into the evening, with cozy back-to-school wonders like Pork Chops with Apples, Crispy Fish with Lemon Zest, and Beef Stew. If it’s vegetables you’re after, Rustic Oven-Baked Ratatouille, Ratatouille Tian, and Crispy Vegetable Cakes would be a dream dinner topped with a poached egg and paired with a buttered slice of that No-Knead French Loaf or baguette.
As a woman who must eat dessert every day to feel complete, Mardi’s Le Dessert chapter makes me very happy. Snowy-white Cœur à la crème is paired with a beautifully tart raspberry coulis for France’s heart-shaped answer to no-bake cheesecake, and Mixed Berry Galettes, the first recipe I made from the book (I’ve shared the recipe here), is a no-fuss new-favourite for me. But there’s many more sweet treats to be made, like an Instagram-worthy Strawberry Tart, crispy-topped Crème brûlée, silky Crème caramel, and pâtisserie-perfect Éclairs. For chocolate fans, Mardi’s Chocolate Mousse offers an elegant yet achievable dessert to share with your family, friends, or keep all to yourself.
In the French Kitchen with Kids also includes a few recipes that are commonly made to celebrate special occasions in France. Here, you’ll find not only treats like Galette de rois, a candy-coloured Choux Puff Tower, and the Crêpes I mentioned earlier, but the history that goes along with them.
A chapter full of basic pastry recipes closes the book, and will be a place I turn to often as a starting point for tarts, galettes, and quiches.
With recipes, history, French lessons and translations for every dish, guided and detailed instructions, and real food that pleases everyone at the table, In the French Kitchen with Kids by Mardi Michels has me excited about the next generation of home cooks. With stunning photography by Kyla Zanardi, naturally chic food styling by Dara Sutin, and playful illustrations by Lisa Orgler, this book will capture the imagination of everyone in your family. And, perhaps I should have started with this, the forward is by the one and only Dorie Greenspan, whom The New York Times (and pretty much everyone else) calls, a “culinary guru.”
This book focuses on cooking with kids, not for them, and that is so key to Mardi’s overall teaching ethos. She shows us that by trusting, guiding, and letting kids be kids by doing, we’re fostering confidence. I agree, and believe that learning to cook from a young age is an essential skill for building intelligent, healthy grownups who have a positive relationship with food, and their community.
Mardi’s Galette Recipe from In the French Kitchen with Kids
I’m sharing the recipe for Mixed Berry Galettes (Petites galettes rustiques aux fruits rouges) from In the French Kitchen with Kids, which I made with a combination of strawberries and nectarines, here. It also includes a basic Sweet Shortcrust Pastry recipe, which can be use in several other applications beyond the galettes.
Excerpted from In the French Kitchen with Kids by Mardi Michels. Copyright © 2018 Mardi Michels. Photography © Kyla Zanardi. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.
Disclaimer: I was sent a free copy of the cookbook by the publisher. I was not obligated to provide a review, nor was I monetarily compensated for my review. All opinions are my own.