Happy Birthday, Dear Julia!
This August 15th would have been Julia Child’s 100th birthday, and all week long, restaurateurs around the country will be paying homage to her with dishes she created and inspired. Thanks to her wonderful cookbooks, you too can celebrate Julia Child’s birthday.
Here’s the menu for Julia’s birthday dinner chez Alice:
Coq au vin (I considered making her wonderful and famous boeuf bourguignon. But looky here; compare her boeuf bourguignon recipe to her coq au vin recipe and you’ll see how very similar the two recipes are. So think boeuf bourguignon with chicken….)
Steamed asparagus with Hollandaise sauce (or maybe I’ll just have the Hollandaise – what better homage to the woman who said “If you’re afraid of butter, use cream”?)
Clafouti aux pommes (the epitome of Julia’s philosophy about French cooking: it’s delicious and easy).
Many of you know how easy it is to make coq au vin. But have you made a clafouti? It’s a kind of pudding cake with fruit, easier to make than a pastry dessert but every bit as buttery and delicious. The ingredients are already in your pantry, though you may need to get a few more sturdy apples: butter, sugar, flour, eggs, currants, apples, rum, cinnamon and a little cream. This is Julia Child, so you won’t just throw everything in the blender à la impossible pie. There are steps that must be followed, but they are pretty simple. Sliced unpeeled apples are roasted in butter and sugar till tender and then covered with a batter of eggs, sugar, flour, rum and cream that has some currants folded in. Bake and serve.
Many years ago when I was trying to make something totally different each night for dinner, I made a Cherry Clafouti (Mastering the Art of French Cooking ) for dessert. I was just slipping it into the oven to bake when our dinner guests arrived. “Wow!,” exclaimed one. “We’re having hot dog pieces floating in milk for dinner tonight.” That’s when I started using Julia’s recipe for clafouti with apples, though good fresh cherries make a wonderful clafouti.
The two-volume Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by Julia Child and two French friends, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, is considered Child’s masterpiece. Though it took me a couple of years before I had the courage to actually make one of her recipes, I loved reading the cookbooks, hoping to absorb some of her wisdom. I regret that I never saw any of her television shows in the 1960s and 1970s, but I bought the books that were based on those shows. Reading them along with the several biographies that have been written about her, I can visualize how entertaining she must have been on television, especially when she was “whacking the hell out of a chicken!”
Julia Child was an extraordinary woman who lived her very full life with unusual enthusiasm. More books have been written by and about her than any other chef. Her autobiography, My Life In France, is a fascinating story of her early life. Knopf has just published a new biography, Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child, by Bob Spitz, which is a good companion to My Life in France as is Appetite For Life, by Noel Riley Fitch, recently out in paperback.
Happy Birthday, Julia! Thanks for making cooking FUN.