In the kitchen with Joy & Ju­lia

Get­ting into cook­ing, with help from a few culi­nary leg­ends

Santa Fe New Mexican - - THE WEATHER - By Sakara Grif­fin Gen­er­a­tion Next

Some stud­ies say teens aren’t cook­ing as much as their par­ents did. Some — like a re­cent Journal of Nutri­tion Ed­u­ca­tion and Be­hav­ior study — say teens who do cook eat health­ier and main­tain health­ier life­styles.

I en­joy cook­ing be­cause it’s a great pas­time and gives rea­son for fam­ily and friends to get to­gether. I’ve mainly learned to cook from my grandma and my older brother. With cook­ing be­ing a big part of my fam­ily, I’ve al­ways been ob­ser­vant of how my fam­ily pre­pares dishes since I was a lit­tle girl, and I’ve tried to trans­fer their skills, ap­proaches and recipes into my cook­ing.

And so, in­spired by the clas­sic cook­books that could long be found on a shelf in an Amer­i­can kitchen, I, as a cook­ing con­nois­seur, de­cided to make some sig­na­ture dishes for brunch, din­ner and dessert from The Joy of Cook­ing by Irma S. Rom­bauer and Ju­lia Child’s Mas­ter­ing the Art of French Cook­ing. I then com­pared the re­sults with more mod­ern­ized ver­sions of recipes that are eas­ily found on Pin­ter­est.

Cook­ing six recipes, you can bet there was never a dull mo­ment. The days of­ten ended with me in the kitchen be­ing coated in a blanket of snowy flour, or fran­ti­cally run­ning to the stove to make sure the dishes weren’t burn­ing. But what was so spe­cial is that at the end of each day, these meals were cause for the whole fam­ily to gather to­gether and laugh — whether it was about how how my cake ended up tast­ing like a soggy choco­late sponge, or how a par­tic­u­lar recipe re­minded them of an en­dear­ing but long-dead rel­a­tive.

For brunch, my goal was to cre­ate a sim­ple yet tasty dish, so I turned to Rom­bauer’s The Joy of Cook­ing. The cook­book made its de­but on shelves dur­ing the Great De­pres­sion when Rom­bauer, a high-so­ci­ety wife who was used to hav­ing oth­ers cook meals for her, lost her hus­band and found her­self in eco­nomic tur­moil. Need­ing a way to make money and ease her grief, she came up with the idea of writ­ing a cook­book, even though some peo­ple who knew her thought she was a lousy cook. But many high-in­come fam­i­lies hit hard by the De­pres­sion sud­denly found them­selves with­out maids, but­lers and cooks to help them pre­pare din­ner, so some­body had to do all the kitchen work. Rom­bauer was able to use her sales­woman skills to hawk the book door to door and cre­ate what has be­come one of Amer­ica’s most prized cook­books — with about eight up­dated edi­tions.

From her book, I chose Eggs in the Nest, an en­tic­ing dish that turned out to re­sem­ble a break­fast casse­role. The tex­ture was light and airy, and the recipe was very easy to fol­low. For the on­line coun­ter­part, I looked at the web­site We Heart It, which of­fered a sim­ple al­ter­na­tive to fry­ing an egg in pan-toasted bread. Both dishes were an easy treat to make per­fect when ac­com­pa­nied with a knock-off, non­al­co­holic mi­mosa (con­sist­ing of or­ange juice and sparkling cider).

Rom­bauer might not be a name fa­mil­iar to teens, but they may rec­og­nize Ju­lia Child through the 2009 movie Julie and Ju­lia, star­ring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep. The touch­ing film tells the story of a blog­ger who sets out to cook all the recipes in Child’s first book, while also re­lat­ing the story of Child and the start to her cook­ing pro­fes­sion. Un­like Rom­bauer, Child had taken cook­ing lessons in Amer­ica and France be­fore pub­lish­ing her first cook­book, in­clud­ing Mas­ter­ing the Art of French Cook­ing, first pub­lished in 1961, which be­came a bestseller for years. Oth­ers might re­call her from the tele­vi­sion shows Bak­ing With Ju­lia and The French Chef. This all in­spired me to take on one of Child’s iconic dishes — Beef Bour­guignon, a beef stew braised with Bur­gundy wine.

When bak­ing Child’s clas­sic stew, I found an adapted ver­sion of her recipe on­line at Epi­cu­ri­ous and I turned on a clas­sic black-and-white episode of The French Chef, found on YouTube. While lis­ten­ing to Child’s hearty laugh and help­ful tips as she diced up mush­rooms and beef cut­lets, I was able to grasp the ba­sic mo­tions and process of mak­ing this iconic stew.

The meal proved not to be so com­pli­cated, but it was rather time-con­sum­ing as it took about six hours to make. The same could be said about the more mod­ern­ized ver­sion cooked from a recipe found on Pin­ter­est for Beef Bour­guignon Pot Pie from a 2015 Bon Ap­pétit mag­a­zine. While both dishes came out rich in fla­vor, the clas­sic Child ver­sion proved to be more zest­fully taste­ful. It may have been be­cause when cook­ing Child’s ver­sion, more at­ten­tion was given to tech­nique when watch­ing Child pre­pare the dish. Plus I used higher-qual­ity wine such as Sea Phan­tom (which you can get from Smith’s for about $27), re­sult­ing in the stew hav­ing bet­ter color­ing.

Sav­ing the best for last, dessert was de­rived from Child’s sec­ond vol­ume of Mas­ter­ing the Art of French Cook­ing. I chose a corn­starch-based choco­late cake with a cit­rusy twist called Le Glo­rieux. The recipe held up to its rep­u­ta­tion of hav­ing a rich and light tex­ture. The first bite of the cake may come off as over­pow­er­ing, with its strong cit­rus notes, but this might have been be­cause I added too much or­ange zest into the bat­ter and sub­sti­tuted the unsweet­ened bak­ing choco­late with dark choco­late. As a re­sult, a slim slice of this rich cake — along with a creamy scoop of vanilla ice cream on top — did the job when it came to sa­ti­at­ing my sweet tooth.

For a more re­cent ver­sion of the cake, a flour­less choco­late or­ange cake was found on Pin­ter­est and a recipe adapted by Nigella Law­son found on the blog Neigh­borFood was pre­pared. With a cake that only had seven in­gre­di­ents and could be made in a blen­der, it seemed too good to be true. The process is quick and easy. Boil­ing or­anges for two hours is the only la­bo­ri­ous part, and it only takes about 15 min­utes to pre­pare the rest of the bat­ter. The re­sult was the cake some peo­ple in my fam­ily thought tasted like “wet choco­late sponge.” Al­though this recipe wasn’t a hit ex­actly, it also wasn’t too bad with a dol­lop of whipped cream on top.

A once-fa­mous lady with a string of pearls around her neck and a hearty laugh might say, “You don’t have to cook fancy or com­pli­cated mas­ter­pieces — just good food from fresh in­gre­di­ents.” And Ju­lia Child was right. I learned when at­tempt­ing to make com­plex stews and in­dul­gent choco­late cakes not to over­com­pli­cate things and to pay at­ten­tion to de­tail while try­ing to get the most out of my in­gre­di­ents on a friendly bud­get. More of­ten than not, the clas­sic recipes proved to be the most re­li­able, as well as my fam­ily’s ded­i­ca­tion to eat­ing what­ever science ex­per­i­ment was put on the din­ing ta­ble that day.

Cook­ing al­ways is eas­ier to do with good com­pany in hand and a good set of pearls around your neck, and with prac­tice I learned you have a good chance to per­fect the most com­pli­cated of recipes. And you get to share the re­sults with fam­ily mem­bers and friends. So bon ap­pétit!


Beef Bour­guignon, right, and Beef Bour­guignon Pot Pie, left. A flour­less choco­late or­ange cake, left, and Ju­lia Child’s Le Glo­rieux, right.


An orig­i­nal 1931 edi­tion of the iconic The Joy of Cook­ing cook­book writ­ten by Irma S. Rom­bauer and her daugh­ter, Mar­ion Rom­bauer Becker, in 1997.


Ju­lia Child shows a salade ni­coise she pre­pared in the kitchen of her va­ca­tion home in Grasse, south­ern France. Child changed the way Amer­i­cans look at food.

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