We spent last week with some friends (our quarantine pod) in Santa Barbara to ride out the election. And what a week it was! We thought we might be celebrating on Tuesday night as the results rolled in, but, as we all know, Tuesday’s uncertainty led to Wednesday’s uncertainty as the votes were slowly and meticulously counted.
How best to get our mind off of election stress? The ghost of Julia Child visited us one evening and told us to go visit La Super-Rica. The place is legendary — Isodoro Gonzalez opened it in 1996 — and Julia Child counted it as one of her favorite places to eat Mexican food. So off we went.
Recipes, sometimes, are like dreams. You experience them but then, quite often, you forget that you’ve experienced them. And then you’re standing somewhere, and the memory floods back to you: “I was being chased by a gorilla through Filene’s Basement!” Or, in this case, “I once made a corn chowder so good that I wrote a post called CORNGASM and didn’t even share the recipe.” That was back in 2007, after I’d interviewed Chef Jasper White for Salon.com. All these years later, the memory of that chowder came back to me as I started planning the menu for our V.I.P. dinner guests. And after making it again, I can assure you: it really is the corn chowder of your dreams.
A few months ago, when I first conceived of Sauce Week, I set out to make a dinner for myself that promised to be so outrageously decadent, I’d have to close my blinds before eating the first forkful. The premise was pretty basic–steak and potatoes–with one key difference. I was going to drench the whole thing in that most indulgent of French sauces, a sauce that contains more butter than most people eat in a month, yet a sauce so rich and sultry it’s pretty much the height of sophistication and elegance: I’m talking, of course, about Sauce Béarnaise.
Ok, enough with this healthy stuff. Bring on dessert.
Very well! For a long time I’ve been curious about Crème Caramel but too wimpy to make it. It starts by making caramel, something I’ve done many times, but then you pour the caramel into ramekins, make a custard with eggs and milk and vanilla bean, pour it on top and cook everything in a water bath. The scary part comes later, after you refrigerate it, when your guests are there and it’s time to unmold… what if it doesn’t come out? What if the caramel didn’t melt and remained a hard block? What if your custard is too wet? Or, worse, overcooked? When it comes to Crème Caramel it’s easy to be afraid.
Watching Martha Stewart on Hulu while doing the New York Times crossword puzzle (don’t be too impressed, I barely got four answers) I had a distinct memory of her having Julia Child and Jacques Pepin on as guests. So I went on to YouTube and sure enough the clip you see above surfaced. I love the moment when Martha’s whisking with Julia and Jacques peering over her shoulders; it is, as I quote Martha saying in this post’s title, both a cook’s nightmare and a cook’s dream. If only most of us could be so lucky.
Last weekend, I decided to make a very ambitious breakfast of poached eggs on roasted potatoes with Hollandaise sauce. It took a whole carton of eggs (three for the Hollandaise, four for poaching and the rest for throwing away after the yolks bled into the whites) but the resulting dish, as you can see, was pretty dazzling. It’s the kind of breakfast that makes you, the chef, feel proud and triumphant, roaring with the might of a culinary lion. “I made that!” you keep saying to yourself, reluctant to disturb the plate with a fork. “I really made that.”
“Yes,” says your companion, digging in.
“I’m a culinary lion!” you continue. “Rawwwwwwwwr!!”
“Julie & Julia” is a movie about connections. There are the connections between Julia Child and her husband Paul, her collaborator Simone Beck, her sister Dorothy, and her pen pal Avis; the connections between Julie Powell and her husband Eric, her best friend Sarah, and the one that forms between her and her ever-growing audience. But it’s the connection between Julie and Julia–two very different women who never met in real life–that forms the heart of this movie, a movie that’s been covered to death, but a movie to which I, myself, felt a profound connection.
The “Julie and Julia” trailer is now online and I have to say I just watched it with relief: sure, it looks really slick and Hollywood, but how nice that there’s going to be a movie that’ll turn a whole new audience on to Julia Child, “Mastering The Art of French Cooking,” and finer food in general.