How to Cook French Food Like Julie and Julia

Perhaps you have read this treasure, this gem, this favorite book of mine turned into a not-so-favorite movie. If you have seen the movie and then discounted Julie Powell’s Julie and Julia as not worth it, I am sorry for you. The book is better. The movie tries to combine Julia Child’s life with the book Julie and Julia and that was not a grand idea. Even Meryl Streep didn’t make it a better idea, and Meryl will cure most ills. She is like the panacea for problem films. But I think a film just for Julie Powell should have been made and then a film just for Julia Child, because you are never not in need of some extra vitamin Streep.

The best part of the film is that you may be inspired to pick up a copy of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking so you too can get French with it. However, I’d hope you would get Julie Powell’s book too. If you are inspired by her New York lifestyle, you can learn to get French and Brooklyn-y at the same time. How? French soup in a mason jar, my friends (Just a thought. Literally. I don’t own a mason jar and I won’t purchase one.).

Cooking from Child’s tome sounds intimidating, but that was Powell’s challenge. She cooked every recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year and blogged about it, gaining internet fame that landed her the book deal to write Julie and Julia. Beyond the food, beyond the suspense, beyond Julia Child even, Powell’s way with words is beyond enchanting. Case in point, she described her love as so great that, “I couldn’t shuck straight.” Maybe I am just a food-word nerd, but come on . . . “shuck” straight. That is just one tiny gem. Powell is insanely engaging and remarkably witty. I’ve read her book maybe three times by now and just can’t get enough.

I was inspired to cook some of Child’s dishes, too. True, French food can be tough. It is full of sauces to be whipped and dishes to be glazed. However, let’s start with an easier recipe. Julie Powell made a clafouti to impress Amanda Hesser, food editor of The New York Times. I made clafouti to impress the cast and crew of the lil’ web series I created. Hesser ate two slices. I ate as much as my cast and crew left me, which was not enough. Fortunately, a clafouti is a very simple recipe. As Child would say, bon appetit!

Clafouti adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle

  • 3 cups pitted black cherries (I used thawed a bag I picked up in the freezer aisle then drained them)
  • 1 1/4 cups milk (I used almond milk)
  • 1/3 cup sugar + 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 2/3 cup sifted flour (sift then measure!)
  • powdered sugar

Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a blender (I used my immersion blender) to blend the milk, first 1/3 cup of sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt, and flour at top speed for one minute.

Take a deep pie plate (which I greased even though the recipe doesn’t specify that you must because I fear things sticking), and pour in a thin layer of the batter, about 1/4 of an inch thick. If your pie plate can withstand it, place it over a burner on low heat until the batter sets, just a little. If not try putting it in the oven a minute or so.

Remembering that it is hot (get your oven mitts out!), take the pie plate off the heat and spread the cherries over the batter. Pour in the second 1/3 cup of sugar, distributing evenly, then pour in the rest of the batter. Now put it in the oven. Child says it will take about an hour, but mine took less, so start checking around a half hour, rotating the pie plate if it appears to be baking unevenly.

When it is lightly browned, puffy and risen, and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, take it out of the oven and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Child says you need to eat it warm but lemme tell you-my refrigerated leftovers were dang tasty too.

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