In the ever-changing world of food, Julia Child is a constant.
It’s been almost 70 years since Julia was considered an “emerging leader” in her field, a sort of second-life career she chose because making hats was a bore, she loved to eat and she needed something to do in Paris while her husband worked.
But she is still a “leader” today. No one before or since has had quite the same impact and influence on the American palette.
Her recipes may be fussy and time consuming in a hectic world where recipes appeal with words like “quick” and “easy.” They may be richly laden with forbidden fruits like butter and cream in an age where healthy eating is ingrained in the public conscience. They may be made from scratch at a time everything seems to come in a box.
But they are unarguably delicious.
I have a small group of friends who like to gather a few times a year for what we call “Julia Dinners.” They are themed affairs – a Caribbean feast for Reggae, a harvest dinner for homecoming, a Greek or Italian spread for an ethnic birthday party.
But the first dinner, the one that kicked it all off, was The Julia Dinner.
The assignment to the Julia Juniors was simple: Everyone would prepare a course chosen from Julia’s seminal “Mastering The Art of French Cooking.” Those who didn’t cook would round out the menu with purchased delicacies from specialty shops; a pate? to start, a cheese platter between the entre?e and dessert.
After much pouring over recipes, courses were chosen and markets were raided for delicacies not usually found in home pantries, unless you keep largons in stock. Blocks of time were set aside to slice and simmer.
On the appointed day, food was carefully packed and hauled off to one chef’s home. The cooks donned white toques and Julia’s signature strand of pearls, and the party began. It was a gala evening, bursting with aromas, tastes and bon vivant. It has been one fondly remembered for years.
Give it a try. Pick a cool fall day, play some French cafe? music, sip some wine and cook. It may be fussy, fattening and old-fashioned, but I guarantee it will be memorable.
THE JULIA DINNER
Galettes Au Fromage
Coquille St. Jacques
Baba Au Rhum
GALLETES AU FROMAGE
1?2 pound Swiss cheese (2 cups, pressed down)
1?2 pound softened butter
1?2 cup flour
1?4 teaspoon pepper
Lightly buttered baking sheet, with sides
1 egg, beaten with 1?2 teaspoon water
1?2 cup grated Swiss cheese
Knead all the ingredients together in bowl or on a board. The mixture will be sticky. Mix with hands. Roll one tablespoon of dough into a ball, then flatten to a cake, 1?4-inch thick. Test dough by baking one cake for 15 minutes in 425 degree oven. The cake should spread and puff lightly and brown. If it is too fragile or spreads too much, knead an extra 1?4-cup flour into dough.
If dough is satisfactory, form rest of dough into cakes and place on buttered baking sheets. Paint tops with beaten egg and a sprinkling of Swiss cheese. Bake 15 minutes and cool on a rack. May be made in advance and reheated in a hot oven.
COQUILLE St. JACQUES
11?2 cups white wine
1?2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons shallot, minced
Bring the mixture to boil and simmer 5 minutes. Let stand.
11?2 pounds scallops
1?4 cup onion, diced
5 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon shallot, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
Wash and dry scallops. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour. Saute, in 2 batches, in hot oil and butter. Remove from pan and set aside.
3 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour (You can use the leftover dredging flour)
1?2 cup cream
2 egg yolks, beaten and mixed with 1?2 cup additional cream
Salt, pepper, thyme to taste
Cook butter and flour until brown and fragrant. Pour in reserved wine mixture, discarding bay leaf. Boil, scraping bottom of pan to release flour into liquid. Off heat, add the 1?2 cup of cream. Slowly add the cream mixture to the egg/cream mixture. Return to heat. Bring to simmer, stirring until thick. Add salt and pepper and lemon juice, a drop at a time. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Off heat, add scallops.
Butter 8 large scallop shells. Spoon in scallop mixture. Top each with 1 tablespoon grated Swiss cheese. Broil up to 5 minutes until top is brown and sauce is bubbling.
One 6-ounce piece of chunk bacon
31?2 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds lean stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 carrot, sliced
1 onion, sliced
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups red wine, young and full-bodied (like Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone or Burgundy)
21?2 to 31?2 cups brown beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1?2 teaspoon thyme
A crumbled bay leaf
18 to 24 white onions, small
31?2 tablespoons butter
Herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, 1?2 bay leaf, 1?4 teaspoon thyme, tied in cheesecloth)
1 pound mushrooms, fresh and quartered
Remove bacon rind and cut into lardons (sticks 1?4-inch thick and 11?2 inches long). Simmer rind and lardons for 10 minutes in 11?2 quarts water. Drain and dry.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Saute? lardons in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a flameproof casserole over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon. Dry beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Heat fat in casserole until almost smoking. Add beef, a few pieces at a time, and saute? until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the lardons. In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the excess fat. Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with 1?2 teaspoon salt and 1?4 teaspoon pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat again and return to oven for 4 minutes (this browns the flour and cover the meat with a light crust).
Remove casserole and turn oven down to 325 degrees. Stir in wine and 2 to 3 cups stock, just enough so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs and bacon rind. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove. Cover casserole and set in lower third of oven. Regulate heat so that liquid simmers very slowly for 3 to 4 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms.
Heat 11?2 tablespoons butter with 11?2 tablespoons of the oil until bubbling in a skillet. Add onions and saute? over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling them so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins. You cannot expect them to brown uniformly. Add 1?2 cup of the stock, salt and pepper to taste and the herb bouquet. Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but hold their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet and set onions aside. Wipe out skillet and heat remaining oil and butter over high heat. As soon as you see butter has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add mushrooms. Toss and shake pan for 4 to 5 minutes. As soon as they have begun to brown lightly, remove from heat.
When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan. Wash out the casserole and return the beef and lardons to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms on top. Skim fat off sauce in saucepan. Simmer sauce for a minute or 2, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 21?2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons stock. Taste carefully for seasoning. Pour sauce over meat and vegetables. Cover and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times.
Serve in casserole, or arrange stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles or rice, and decorated with parsley.
JULIA’S SIMPLE GREEN SALAD
1 pound fresh greens (Julia likes Bibb)
1?2 finely minced shallot or scallion
1?2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1?4 tablespoon salt
1?2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1?2 tablespoon wine vinegar
1?2 cup good olive oil
Fresh ground pepper to taste
Wash and dry the greens.
Shake the salad dressing ingredients in a screw-top jar (or you can mix individually, stirring shallots with mustard and salt, whisking in lemon and vinegar and whisking in oil a few droplets at a time until smooth before adding pepper).
Taste dressing by dipping a piece of lettuce in it. Add extra salt, pepper or lemon if needed. Put lettuce in large wooden bowl. Toss with a couple tablespoons of dressing, reaching deep into bowl with wooden fork and spoon. Continue adding dressing until salad is lightly coated but not swimming.
Optional: Lemon peel or fresh herbs such as parsley, chives, basil or oil may be whisked into the dressing.
1 wedge of Saga Blue
1 wedge of Camembert
1 wedge mushroom brie
1-2 sliced red pears
Stuffed Dates (cut dates in half, stuff half with honey nut cream cheese and half with mascarpone)
Spiced Pecans (saute pecans in 1 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon maple syrup and 1?4 teaspoon nutmeg, dry on waxed paper dusted with Demera Raw Sugar)
Nut Crisp Crackers
Arrange cheese, fruits, nuts and dates on a platter and serve with crackers.
BABA AU RHUM
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon dry yeast
3 tablespoons tepid water
3-quart mixing bowl
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
11/3 cup flour
Melt the butter and let it cool. Blend the yeast and water in large bowl with wire whisk. Let stand until yeast has dissolved. Beat in sugar, salt and eggs.
Mix the flour with the cooled melted butter. Knead the dough for 5 minutes. Dough will be very sticky at first. When elastic, pull to length of 10-12 inches and give it a full twist without breaking it. Shape into ball in bottom of bowl. Cut a cross an inch deep on surface and sprinkle with flour. Cover with damp towel and let rise in a warm place for 11?2 to 2 hours, until doubled in bulk.
Deflate the dough.
Butter insides of 12 muffin cups. Break off 1/3 cup of dough and put in muffin cup, filling 1/3 of cup. Place, uncovered, in warm place and allow to rise 11?2 to 2 hours more, until dough is 1?4 inch above cups.
Bake in upper third of 375 degree oven for 15 minutes, until nicely brown. Unmold on cake rack.
Arrange warm babas in 2-inch high dish. Prick top in several places. Pour lukewarm syrup over babas and let stand 1?2 hour. Drain on rack 1?2 hour.
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1?2 cup dark rum
Bring water and sugar to boil. Remove from heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. When cool, stir in rum.
After babas have drained, sprinkle the top of each with a few drops of rum. Top with berries that have sat in the leftover syrup for 15 minutes.
Serve with freshly whipped cream or Cre?me Chantilly (1 cup of lightly whipped cream flavored with 2 tablespoons rum and 2 tablespoons powdered sugar).