Tailgating with American icon Julia Child

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Aug 15, 2012

Culinary icon Julia Child would have turned 100 years old today. You can argue “The French Chef” influenced tailgating culture.

After all, she inspired millions of Americans to experiment in the kitchen. I’m certain she inspired millions of American to experiment in the parking lot, too.

I wrote about her today in the Boston Herald, with some cool insights into her life from some of her friends – successful chefs who she influenced directly and who in turn influence us when we dine out today.

Child grew up in California and worked for the OSS (the precursor to the CIA) in Asia during World War II. Essentially, she was an American spy during the Big One.

She grew to fame in Boston, where she moved in the 1960s and where she taped “The French Chef.” She was America's first celebrity TV chef.

I met her only briefly in passing when she was late in life. Never knew her. But a few years ago I ate at La Couronne, the 667-year-old restaurant in Rouen, France where Child ate her very first meal in France. I was working on a story about the movie "Julie & Julia."

The restaurant is quite historic. It was 86 years old when Joan of Arc was executed right outside the front door. Wow.

Definitely an experience. I ate canard aux sang, pressed duck served in a sauce of its own blood. I wrote about it here on CHFF, actually. 

Child ate rye bread slathered with Normandy’s famous Isigny butter along with fromage blanc, sole meuniere and oysters Portugaises – much better, she wrote, than “bland” oysters from Massachusetts.

It was a meal that changed her life and ultimately changed the way Americans cook, and even tailgate.

Child’s food wasn’t exactly tailgate friendly. The recipes in her classic cookbooks are highly elaborate and often involve jumping around from page to page.

However, I have picked up a number of her recipes over the years through chef pals and through various stories I’ve written about her.

I’ve had Child's recipe for sole meuniere for many years. It was one of the dishes she ate that day at La Couronne. It’s a classic French dish but actually quite easy to cook at home. You might even be able to pull it off in the parking lot with a little prep work. Naturally, being French, it’s quite decadent.

Julia Child’s Sole Meuniere
(From “The Way to Cook” by Julia Child)
6 4-oz. to 6-oz. filets of sole, or other thin fish filet, 3/8 inch thick
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ c. or so flour in a plate
4. T. clarified butter
3 T. fresh parsley, minced
4 to 6 T. unsalted butter
1 lemon, cut into wedges
Dry off fish and lay on a sheet of wax paper. Dust the filets lightly on each side with salt and pepper. The moment before sautéing, rapidly drop each filet in the flour to coat both sides, then shake off the excess. Set the frying pan over high heat and film with 1/16th inch of clarified butter. When the butter is very hot but not browning, rapidly lay in as many filets as will fit easily, leaving a little space between each. Sauté a minute or two on one side, turn carefully so as to not break the fillet, and sauté a minute or two on the other side. The fish is done when just springy rather than squashy to the touch. Immediately remove from the pan to warm plates or platter. Sprinkle each filet with parsley. Wipe the frying pan clean, set over high heat, and add the unsalted butter. Heat until bubbling and pour over the filets. Decorate with lemon wedges and serve immediately. Serves 6.

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