Today (Aug. 15) would have been the 100th birthday of Julia Child, the doyenne of the culinary world who died in 2004.
You could call her the original top chef — she not only deciphered French cooking techniques, but brought them to us through TV.
Child didn’t find her calling until she was in her late 30s and living in Paris. There, she enrolled in the famed Le Cordon Bleu cooking school and later joined a cooking club, where she met Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck, Child’s coauthors of the groundbreaking “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” (Knopf, $40).
Folks, including me, learned a lot from Child.
She had a passion for cooking and good food — and that shows in many recipes. She was also a great teacher who made cooking look easy and explained everything to the very last detail. Child’s famed boeuf bourguignon, for example, covers nearly three pages in “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”
From her cookbooks, I learned:
How to make a stunning soufflé, including pinning together a parchment paper collar so it rises properly.
That when making a beef stew-type dish, like boeuf bourguignon, pat the beef cubes dry with paper towel. This ensures you will get a nice sear. If the meat is too wet, it will steam. Also: Never crowd the beef in the pan.
Why it’s important to remove the wishbone before roasting a chicken (it facilitates carving).
In fact, Child’s remarks about roasting a whole chicken are cemented in my mind.
“A well-roasted chicken is the mark of a fine cook,” she wrote in “Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home” (Knopf, $40), a cookbook she coauthored with celebrity chef Jacques Pepin.
Another favorite is Child’s advice on preparing the chicken.
“I always give my bird a generous butter massage before I put it in the oven. Why? Because I think the chicken likes it — and, more important, I like to give it.”
You gotta love it.
I’ve also followed Child’s recipe for gravlax — raw salmon cured in sugar, salt and dill. The dish is not a huge undertaking, but delicious and divine.
In honor of Child, I’ll probably watch the 2009 movie “Julie and Julia” and salivate over the sole meuniere that Child, played by Meryl Streep, gushes about. Most people I know who have seen the film said they came away hungry and wanting to cook.