Coq au vin, Boeuf Bourguignon, Vichyssoise, Clafouti… had these names even been pronounced much less heard of in any home kitchen in the United States before 1961? I’m sure they had somewhere, but was anyone actually cooking them at home? I think not so much.
A woman changed all of that here…Julia Child. She brought everyday French cooking to the United States, but more than that…oh so much more, she brought a French food aesthetic and culture to the U.S. and made it assessable for everyone, and primarily the home cook. Her exposure to her husband Paul Child and the culture and worldly food they shared, informed her desire to cook and then fueled a wish to educate her home country about French food and cooking, prompting the massive undertaking that was cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The impact that book had on her life and the lives of all who read it and tried making the dishes in their own homes, was nothing short of phenomenal.
We all know her here as the “French Chef” saying “Bon Appétit” to us from her Public Broadcasting, omelet misfire-flipping, black and white TV early years. Throughout the remainder of her life (she was 50 when this journey started), she continued to be a seminal figure in cooking including sojourns with master chefs, bakers and the great Jacques Pépin. If you haven’t read her journey yet in the form of the many biographies out there, now is the time. You can look here for a few books to bring you up to speed. And if you have room for only one of her cookbooks on your shelf, it should be Mastering the Art of French Cooking, though I have many of her cookbooks and they are all good!
As I said in my last post, we are zooming in upon her 100th birthday next Wednesday, August 15. The challenge has been issued and here is my first recipe…Clafouti.
I’ve made a lot of Clafoutis, but somehow had never tried Julia’s recipe. It’s my mom’s favorite recipe for Clafouti and is actually quite a different process from any others I’ve made, and very fun to make! First, she uses a blender to whirr up the batter…that’s unexpected. Then you make it in a pyrex or flameproof dish because it has to have a layer of batter cooked for a minute in the bottom, before you proceed with the cherries and the rest of the batter. You then add the cherries, a layer of sugar and the rest of the batter, then cook it for an hour and voilà! A beautiful, puffed and bubbly dish emerges from the oven, deflates slightly and cuts like a pie…and tastes amazing, of course. Many have posted her recipe on the internet, but in looking at them they aren’t quite true to the original in the cookbook…so I’d recommend trying it her way first! You can pick up a copy of this great cookbook in a used bookstore or online.
So what great dish of Julia’s have you made so far? Please tell me about it, and better yet, share a photo of your dish on my Facebook page for us all to see as we celebrate her birthday! You can get there by clicking the “like” button on the homepage of this blog in the Facebook box, or click this link right here. You have 4 days left before her birthday, so let’s get cracking!