Julia Child turned the art of French cooking into prime-time entertainment and taught a generation weaned on can-opener casseroles how to cook fine food. With her groundbreaking books, Mastering the Art of French Cooking I and II, and her 10-year run as the exuberant host (with a distinctive voice!) of the PBS television series, The French Chef, Child demystified French cuisine in a way that had not been done before and taught home cooks to have fun along the way.
Child died at the age of 91 in 2004, and Aug. 15 marks the 100th anniversary of her birth. Celebrate this legendary chef by trying some of her classic recipes, introduced below by her insightful comments. Bon appétit!
Broiled Butterflied Chicken: "Rather than broiling a chicken in pieces, which is easy to do but not wildly exciting, and rather than roasting it whole, which takes an hour or more, butterfly your chicken. It cooks in half the time and makes a great presentation."
Braised Rice Risotto: "To give rice more character so that it can stand on its own, sauté the grains briefly in butter, then simmer as usual, but with herbs and onions, and chicken stock or beef stock rather than water. Note that this is the French risotto, not the Italian method."
Leek or Onion and Potato Soup: "Leek and potato soup smells good, tastes good and is simplicity itself to make. It is also versatile as a soup base; add watercress and you have a watercress soup, or stir in cream and chill it for a vichyssoise. To change the formula a bit, add carrots, string beans, cauliflower, broccoli or anything else you think would go with it, and vary the proportions as you wish."
Crepes: "Every French household makes use of crêpes, not only as a festive dessert for Mardi Gras and Candlemas Day, but as an attractive way to turn leftovers or simple ingredients into a nourishing main course dish. Crêpes may be rolled around a filling of fish, meat, or vegetables, spread with sauce, and browned under the broiler."
Fresh Mussels Steamed Open in Wine and Flavorings: "Here is the simplest version of this most typical of French methods for cooking mussels. They are steamed open in a big pot with wine and flavorings, and it takes only about five minutes. Then the mussels, shells and all, are dipped out into soup plates, and the cooking liquor is poured over them. Each guest removes the mussels one by one from their shells with fingers or a fork and discards the shells into a side dish. In addition to shell dish and fork, provide your guests with a soupspoon for drinking up the mussel juices, a big napkin and a finger bowl."
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