Julia Child

Provence, 1970: a Review

by Anne Maxfield on December 9, 2013

Provence 1970On the surface, Provence, 1970 would look to be the perfect read for the Accidental Locavore. It’s about one of my favorite places, the South of France. It’s about Julia Child and James Beard and MFK Fisher and Richard Olney and Simone Beck, and, and, and. It’s about how they all convened in this place at that time and ate great food, drank great wine, had great conversations and saw great sights. It’s been excerpted in every food magazine and made it on to several foodie gift lists. So, naturally, I eagerly accepted a reviewer’s copy and sadly, it’s been downhill ever since.

How a book about all these fascinating early food celebrities, hanging out in such fabulous locations manages to be so damn dull is a pretty amazing feat! While reading Provence, 1970, I find myself looking for any and all diversions (like writing this blog). Email, Words With Friends, Freecell, Facebook, Netflix, you name it, if it’s on my iPad, ADD sets in after about five pages.

Accidental Locavore PearsThe reason I haven’t given up on it (yet), is that I keep hoping that by the time they all get together in Provence, things will pick up. However, after reading it for a month or more, I’m only a third of the way through. Even when something interesting or familiar happens (visiting the Foundation Maeght, the Matisse Chapel), it’s reduced to a couple of perfunctory paragraphs. Incredibly, the chauffeur who takes MFK and James Beard to the museums gets more of a description than the entire Foundation Maeght (if you don’t know it, it’s an amazing museum in St.-Paul de Vence, in a spectacular setting).

While the book has made me curious to look at Richard Olney’s French Menu Cookbook, I think Provence, 1970 will rest unfinished on my iPad. Hopefully, I can find the “good bits” about Julia and Paul Childs in their house in Plascassier and hopefully they will indeed be “good bits”.

If you’ve gotten further in the book than I have, I’d love to know what you think.

 

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Mastering Boeuf Bourguignon

by Anne Maxfield on December 2, 2013

Accidental Locavore Boeuf BourgignonIf you were going to make boeuf bourguignon, wouldn’t you just turn to the expert and consult Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking? That’s what the Accidental Locavore thought when It was time to make a special meal for my husband.

Luckily, my copy is not a first edition (although it’s probably about 40 years old), because my poor book ended up getting really abused in the process of looking up and making the recipe. Between tossing a full glass of water all over it and then dripping stuff on it while cooking, you’d never know it was one of my favorites!

Whatever you think of Julia Child (and I’m a huge fan), it’s always fascinating to make one of the recipes from the book. They’re smart, well written, well edited and even when they start to get complicated, make sense. That may sound like me being fussy (probably true) but when you look at something like Mastering the Art and compare it to a modern best seller, like say Jerusalemthere’s just such a huge difference. Part of it is confidence. I know Julia will never let me down, but with Ottolenghi, it’s very much hit-or-miss.

Accidental Locavore Making BoeufAnyway, back to the boeuf. For once I was a pretty faithful recipe follower and I’m glad I was. My usual tactic with something like this would be to just dump in a bunch of mushrooms and pearl onions (and to the horror of my friend Zhu Zhu, yes, I do buy frozen onions – hate peeling the fresh ones). Julia has you cook both separately and it was definitely worth the time (and cleanup). This time, you got a real taste of mushrooms, sautéed in butter, earthy and flavorful. Same with the onions, after being browned and then braised in beef stock. Of course, beautiful grass-fed beef from our Brykill Farm share helped, as did a good bottle of Burgundy. If I get more obsessive, I’ll look into making my own egg noodles and who knows, might even start peeling pearl onions. In the meantime, for this and coq au vin, the mushrooms and onions will always get the Julia treatment!

 

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Poulet Grillé à la Diable (Grilled Chicken With Mustard)

by Anne Maxfield on September 27, 2012

One of the reasons the Accidental Locavore loves to cook is because you get to try all the interesting recipes that cross your path. Often, the most difficult part is figuring out that age-old question, “what’s for dinner?” Today, I had an edge; Frank wanted chicken, roasted chicken, so I had the perfect excuse to pull out an old favorite Julia Child recipe for poulet grillé à la Diablo. It’s a recipe I used to make all the time, easy and tasty. It brings into play a little-used part of the oven, the broiler.

Poulet Grillé à la Diable (Grilled Chicken With Mustard)

Serves 4
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 40 minutes
Total time 55 minutes
Meal type Main Dish
Region French
The Accidental Locavore revisits an old favorite chicken recipe from Julia Child:Poulet Grillé à la Diable. Main course chicken recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 chicken about 4 pounds, halved or quartered (or use your favorite parts)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons scallions or shallots, finely minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme, rosemary or basil
  • pinch pepper
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups fresh bread crumbs (from white bread)

Directions

Step 1
Preheat the broiler to moderately high. Melt the butter with the olive oil in a small pan. Dry the chicken thoroughly and paint both sides with the butter mix. Put the chicken skin side down in the bottom of a broiler pan (without the rack). Place it so the chicken is about 5-6" away from the broiling element and cook for 10 minutes on each side, basting with the butter mix every 5 minutes. The chicken should be lightly browned.
Step 2
While the chicken is cooking, put the mustard, shallots, herbs, salt and peppers in a small bowl. Slowly pour the remainder of the butter into the mix, beating it well to emulsify it. When the chicken is done, add half of the fat from the pan, slowly beating into the mustard mix. Reserve the rest of the fat.
Step 3
Paint the chicken with the mustard mix. Pour the breadcrumbs into a wide shallow bowl, or plate. Roll the chicken in the crumbs, patting them so they'll adhere.
Step 4
Place the chicken, skin side down, on the broiling pan, this time with the rack in place. Drizzle with half the basting fat. Broil under moderately high heat for 10 minutes. Turn the pieces over and drizzle with the remaining fat. Cook for another 10 minutes or until the juices run clear when pricked with a fork. Serve and enjoy!

My verdict: as good as I remember it being! This is definitely going back into rotation. Don’t worry if your broiler isn’t adjustable, many aren’t. Just keep an eye on the chicken and if it’s getting too brown too fast, lower the rack. I didn’t make homemade bread crumbs (sorry Julia), but substituted panko bread crumbs instead and they were great! I used some fresh basil as the herb. Julia doesn’t specify fresh or dried. My preference would have been for some fresh tarragon, but the amount is negligible, and used what I had fresh. Some dried herbs de Provence would be a fine substitute. Since the mustard is key here, try to use some good Dijon if you have it. This post might give you some mustard ideas. And yes, if you’re going to be picky, this is not technically roasted chicken…

 

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In Honor of Julia Child’s 100th Birthday…Hamburgers?

by Anne Maxfield on August 16, 2012

Accidental Locavore Julia Child

Quick now, name the best French meatballs you ever had.

The Accidental Locavore was thinking about the 100thanniversary of Julia Child’s  birthday and wondering what could be make with hamburger (since that was what was for dinner) that would be French. Other than steak tartare or bifteck haché (hamburger without the bun to you or me) not a whole lot comes to mind. In both volumes of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, a mere three pages is devoted to hamburger (the ever-popular kidneys get six). Mind you, one of the recipes has the bifteck haché sautéed in butter and topped with cream sauce, but for the usually verbose Julia, hamburger goes virtually unmentioned.

Which got me to thinking, what do the French make with ground beef? For a cuisine that does really amazing things with leftover bits and pieces, ground meat of almost any kind rarely makes a solo appearance. Meatloaf quickly becomes pâté and is usually a pork or poultry product. According to my French friend, MC there are boulettes (meatballs) in the South and towards Alsace and she also mentioned hachis Parmentier, the French version of Shepherd’s Pie. However, a quick scan of all my Julia books fails to mention it, although according to Dorrie Greeenspan’s Around My French Table, it was a favorite of Daniel Boulud (but generally made with left-over beef).

Accidental Locavore French ChefBut back to Julia. Most people I know, grew up cooking with the Joy of Cooking, Fannie Farmer, or possibly Betty Crocker as their go-to cookbooks. When I went off to college, I was armed with Volume One and a Cuisinart, both of which I still use many (many) years later. At RISD, I would play with souffles, make a mean poulet grilles à la diable, learned hollandaise sauce and sole meunière from the book. Now, it’s my go-to for basics like coq au vin and anything else where I want to get a sense of what the “vrai” dish would be. It’s also interesting to see how some recipes transform from volume to volume. One of my early culinary disasters was the tarte tartin (upside-down apple tart)from Volume One. Later, in The Way to Cook (my personal favorite), it gets simplified/clarified and possibly because, according to Julia, it’s the ”definitive version” I haven’t ruined a skillet since then!

So, Happy 100th Julia! And even though you weren’t much help with the hamburger, thank you for being a major influence on how I cook today!

 

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