“Julia,” the HBO series that chronicles Julia Child’s journey from cookbook author to unexpected TV star and national icon, concludes May 5. And what better way to ring in the finale than with a pre-show meal created by The French Chef?
Child’s extensive range of recipes is known for its respect for French tradition, fearless handling of various animals and their parts, and liberal use of butter. What are they not known for? Ease. Sure, it takes less than 30 seconds to make a French omelet. And countless attempts to perfect the flip-and-roll motion that defines it.
“Cooking a good omelette is a matter of practice,” writes Child in her seminal Mastering the Art of French Cooking. “Make one at a time for groups of people at every opportunity for several days and even be prepared to throw some away. They should develop the art soon.”
Some of her most famous recipes are the titles of episodes in the series, in which Sarah Lancashire plays the happy-voiced kid: Coq au Vin, Beef Bourguignon, Crêpes Suzette—those dishes that you follow throughout the book in Mastering looking for secondary recipes just to prepare all the ingredients. Or it’s about setting something on fire.
But Child gave us so much more than that. She made French cuisine accessible, even if it took time and work to get there. At the end of Julia, accept the challenge of a children’s recipe or two to honor the grande dame of French home cooking. Enjoy your meal!
Chicken Water Zooi
For 4 to 6 people.
Note: This Flemish dish is traditionally made with fish, but Child happily swapped in a whole shredded chicken poached in a fine broth. It’s a quick meal; The most time consuming part is julienning all the veggies. The creamy soup is loaded with spring greens, deepened with vermouth, and made luxurious by the addition of six — yes, six — egg yolks. Child credited the recipe in the New York Times in 1987 to her teacher Max Bugnard, who owned a restaurant in Brussels before World War II, and served the dish with eel and white fish in this rich broth. “A divine ambrosia indeed,” Child wrote, “and in those halcyon days nobody thought of six egg yolks, big dollops of cream and butter.” She called this “one of my favorite recipes.” Serve with pasta or dumplings or crusty French bread to soak up the broth. From the New York Times.
• 2 large carrots
• 2 medium onions
• 2 tender celery ribs
• 2 medium-sized leeks, only white and tender green parts
• 1/2 tsp. dried tarragon
• Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
• 2 1/2 pounds shredded roast chicken, drumsticks or thighs or breasts (with bones) or a mixture thereof
• 1 1/2 c. dry white French vermouth
• 1 1/2 to 2 c. chicken soup
• 1/2 c. whipped cream
• 1 1/2 teaspoons. cornstarch
• 6 egg yolks
• 3 TBSP. chopped fresh parsley
Trim and wash the vegetables and cut into julienne matchsticks 1 3/4 inch long and 1/8 inch wide. (This should make about 5 cups total.) Toss in a large mixing bowl with the tarragon and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Pat chicken pieces dry and set aside.
Using a saucepan large enough to comfortably hold the chicken and veggies, layer in the following order: one-third the veggies, half the chicken, half the remaining veggies, the remaining chicken, and the rest Vegetables. Pour in the vermouth and enough chicken broth to just barely cover the chicken. (Up to this point, the recipe can be made several hours in advance. Cover and refrigerate.)
When ready to cook, cover and bring to a simmer and cook slowly for 25 to 30 minutes or until chicken pieces are tender and juice runs clear when piercing.
Strain, degrease and season the cooking liquid.
Whisk together the cream and cornstarch in a small mixing bowl. Whisk the egg yolks together in a large bowl and stir in the cream mixture. Slowly stir in the hot cooking liquid. Pour the sauce over the chicken. Place over medium-high heat and gently toss the casserole until the sauce is warmed and slightly thickened, but do not bring to the boil or the yolks will curdle.
To serve, place chicken, vegetables, and gravy in large, warm soup bowls and sprinkle each serving with parsley.
Serve with boiled potatoes, pasta, gnocchi or simply good baguette bread.
Reine de Saba (Queen of Sheba) cake
Note: In the first episode of Julia, Child bakes this cake to flatter the public television producers, who would decide the fate of their television show idea. (It worked.) The power of this chocolate and almond cake was clear to Child; She once wrote that it was the first French cake she had ever tasted. She preferred the cake, which was slightly undercooked in the center, giving it a “special creamy quality”. The recipe is easy and versatile—with buttercream frosting, whipped cream, or nothing at all. From “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”.
For the cake:
• 4 oz. semi-sweet baking chocolate
• 2 TBSP. coffee (or 2 tablespoons rum)
• 1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
• 2/3 c. Sugar, plus 1 tbsp, divided
• 3 eggs, separated
• Pinch of salt
• 1/3 c. Almond flour (or finely ground blanched almonds)
• 1/4 tsp. almond extract
• 1⁄2 c. cake flour
• 1⁄4 c. Sliced almonds, for garnish, optional
For the glaze:
• 2 ounces. semi-sweet baking chocolate
• 2 TBSP. coffee (or 2 tablespoons rum)
• 5 to 6 tbsp. unsalted butter
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the oven rack in the middle position. Butter and flour an 8 inch round cake pan.
How to prepare the cake: Place the chocolate and coffee or rum in a small saucepan, cover and transfer (from the stovetop) to a larger saucepan of almost simmering water; Allow to melt while continuing with the recipe.
Cream together the butter and 2/3 cup sugar for a few minutes until a pale yellow, fluffy mixture forms.
Beat in the egg yolks until well combined.
In a separate bowl, beat egg whites and salt until soft peaks form; Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar on top and beat until stiff peaks form.
Using a rubber spatula, mix the melted chocolate into the butter and sugar mixture, then stir in the almond flour (or ground almonds) and almond extract. Immediately stir in 1/4 of the beaten egg whites to lighten the batter. Gently fold in 1/3 of the remaining egg whites and when partially combined, sift in 1/3 of the flour and continue to fold in. Alternate quickly with more egg whites and more flour until all the egg whites and flour are incorporated.
Turn the dough into the cake pan and use a rubber spatula to push the dough up to the edge. Bake about 25 minutes. The cake is done when it’s puffed up, and 2 1⁄2 to 3 inches around the circumference are adjusted so that a needle stuck into this area comes out clean; The center should move slightly when the pan is shaken and a needle comes out oily.
Leave the cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and turn the cake over on the rack. Let it cool for an hour or two; it must be thoroughly cold if it is to be iced.
To prepare the icing: Place the chocolate and coffee or rum in the small saucepan, cover and place in a larger saucepan of water that is almost simmering. Remove the pans from the heat and allow the chocolate to melt until completely smooth, about 5 minutes. Lift the chocolate pan out of the hot water and fold in the butter one tablespoon at a time. If the frosting is too runny, place the chocolate shell in an ice bath and whip until the chocolate mixture has cooled to a spreadable consistency.
To serve, use a spatula or knife to spread the frosting over the cake and press an almond pattern onto the frosting, if desired.