When I grow up, I want to go to culinary school. In the meantime, I feed my craving for kitchen mastery by attending cooking classes where ever I find them, so naturally I jumped at the chance to take the “Celebrating Julia Child” class at the Sur la Table in Dallas, in honor of the great lady’s 100th birthday. Julia was the original celebrity chef and she brought traditional French cooking into American homes with humor and grace, and regular mistakes, endearing her to millions of Americans. In the Sur la Table kitchen, we chose work tables and with sixteen in the group, we were four to a table. Armed with 17 pages of instructions (just one was a brief bio of Paul and Julia Child’s life together), we set to work. Our first preparation was the often intimidating soufflé. This savory recipe for a cheese version began with a béchamel sauce enriched with egg yolks and cheese, then lightened with folded-in beaten egg whites. My table of four fabulous ladies produced these beauties! Chef Jennifer was friendly and knowledgeable, guiding everyone through each of the recipes. We also made Coquilles St. Jacques, scallops gratinéed in their shells. Well, that’s how they are traditionally served, but seeing as St. Jacques scallops in their shells are a bit hard to find here, we improvised by cooking them in small soufflé dishes. Sorry, no pic. I was too busy eating. Rounding out the menu were asparagus in hollandaise sauce, and mousseline au chocolate/ chocolate mousse served in petite dessert cups. A large would have been preferred, thank you very much. (It’s difficult to see in the picture, but check out the Eiffel Tower earrings, design by Betsy Johnson.) Julia’s autobiography, released posthumously with the help of her great-nephew, Alex Prud’homme, tells of the magnificent life she and Paul lived, first in Paris and then Marseilles. She describes taking classes at Le Cordon Bleu, writing “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” and starting a cooking school with friends Simca and Louisette, plus countless mouthwatering meals shared with terrific friends like Jim Beard, whose legacy lives in at the James Beard House in New York. This is the same story that was made into the movie “Julie and Julia”. I’m fond of the original cover.
Before she died in 2004, Julia donated the kitchen from her home in Cambridge, Mass. to the Smithsonian Institution and it is now on exhibit in the National Museum of American History. Quite impressive. Mine would go to the front curb with a sign marked “free” on it. She willed her Le Cornue oven she used in France to her dear friend, Patricia Wells, who proudly uses it in her own cooking classes in Provence.