Cooking Julia Child

The title of this post is kind of a joke. It's intended in the spirit of Julia Child, who said on one of her shows "We're having vegetarians for dinner! Well, we're not going to EAT them."

I am no Julia Child expert, but I do respect her work and her legacy. And I loved the movie Julie and Julia. (Thanks for a great afternoon, Ma!) My knowledge of Julia Child is limited to that movie, plus a few cooking shows I borrowed from the library. I have also cooked just a few recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking (written with Louisette Berthole & Simone Beck). Even with this limited knowledge of her work, though, I find Julia Child inspiring. She has a marvelous attitude, which seems to be something like, "Do it right and use the best ingredients, unless you have to do something else in a pinch." I also love her firm support of butter and salt. We watched her program on how to cook vegetables a few years ago, and noted that the key to cooking most of them was to add plenty of butter and plenty of salt. And it works! On another show she remarked to her celebrity chef co-host that if people are trying to cut down on butter, we can simply add cream instead. Wry and hilarious.

Before the movie came out there was a rash of press that a food-blog addict couldn't help but notice. bon appetit devoted a piece in their August 2009 issue to the movie's release and Julia's August birthday. The recommended recipes included pissaladière, a savory tart made mainly of onions with anchovy and olive garnish. I imagined I would have to make this at some point, so when I saw anchovies on sale, I snapped them up!

The anchovies had to wait a few months though. I finally had an occasion to cook some Julia Child recipes this past weekend, when an honored guest was in town and ready to try something new. Since she was from the West Coast, I decided to make 2 "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" recipes, plus something involving a Gilfeather turnip, to represent a taste of Vermont. Here's my menu:

Gilfeather turnip soup with sea legs

Pissaladiere (Onion tart with Anchovies and Black Olives)

Clafouti aux Pruneaux (Plum flan)

Green salad

Sliced baguette


Here are a few photo highlights:

The annual Gilfeather turnip, with onion for scale. Read other posts about my Gilfeather soup recipe from 2008 and 2004. The soup was a hit. I didn't add the onion this time, since the main course was mostly onion.

I didn't have a flan mold OR a spring-form pan for the tart shell, so I used a square cookie sheet instead. (A pretty poor substitute.) After the dough is ready to bake, one must cover it with buttered foil and dried beans to keep it from puffing up. (Pie weights are also acceptable.)

The tart filling involved 2 pounds of onions, chopped and cooked for an hour, plus olives and the anchovies.

I only put anchovies on half since I correctly surmised that not everybody would want to eat them. Some slices of the finished product:

The plum clafouti was a variation rather than a main recipe--the regular recipe calls for cherries. I liked the plum version though because it calls for soaking the plums in brandy or liqueur for an hour. (They must be briefly boiled and then peeled before soaking.)

Above is the soaking, and below the baked clafouti. It actually turned out to be even better the next day, served cold and covered with the leftover soaking liquid. Amazing!

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