When a person with admirable qualities inspires stories that are passed down through generations, they are called a legend. This year, I’d like you to join me in celebrating the 100th birthday of the legendary chef, Julia Child.
Many of you know Julia Child as the wildly popular star of the 1963 television program, The French Chef and co-author of the culinary classic, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Though she was a French-trained chef and prolific writer, what made her a legend most was her knack for educating, entertaining and inspiring countless Americans to drop their frozen dinners and pick up a whisk, a pan, a knife and a spoon and get cooking.
At a time in America when garlic was considered an exotic ingredient and iceberg lettuce reigned supreme, Julia Child burst onto the stage telling American housewives to demand quality ingredients from their supermarkets, to experiment with flavor and to see cooking as a joy rather than a chore.
It was, in fact, not her culinary technique and training that propelled her to fame but rather her occasional awkwardness in the kitchen, her self-deprecating humor and her general conveyance of the idea that the most important thing was not to be a master chef but to have fun with fresh ingredients and experience the true pleasure of food. In Julia’s words, ““You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.”
As written in Hamming it Up in the Haute Cuisine (Life Magazine, October, 1966),
“To the millions of faithful followers who joyfully tune in on her half-hour program every week, Mrs. Child seems quite a person herself, offering considerably more than wizardry in haute cuisine. …she is a delightfully incorrigible ham…She samples sauces by sticking a finger in and shamelessly licking it – and occasionally spills the whole mess and has to start over. If she drops an ingredient on the floor, she’ll pick it up, dust it off, toss it into the pot and confide to the camera “After all you’re alone in the kitchen and no one can see you.”
One reader of the 1966 Life story responded,
“Thank you for finally publishing something on that delightful 6-foot pixie Julia Child. Everyone seems to have a feeling of trusting friendship for Julia. We visited Boston this summer and I had every intention of phoning her just to tell her how much I loved her. My husband, who is more reserved than I, appealed to my dignity and talked me out of it. – Laura S. Ruelberg, Highland Park, Ill.
It’s the feeling of trusting friendship that stays with us when we remember Julia Child. I remember watching The French Chef and laughing out loud when hands would suddenly appear from behind the counter to take away Julia’s dirty dishes.
I gained confidence from watching Julia, knowing it okay and normal to make mistakes when cooking and baking. In fact, I learned that the mistakes were often delicious new inventions. I also admired Julia for writing her first book in her 40’s, hosting The French Chef in her 50’s and starring in and producing Baking with Julia in her 80’s.
It’s worth noting that Julia Child and her beloved husband Paul spent the better part of their lives in New England with homes in Cambridge, MA and in Maine. Just today, I strolled past Julia’s old house (yes, that is her house in the picture), bordering Harvard University and retraced her footsteps to her neighborhood gourmet market, Savenor’s.
I laughed thinking about some of our similarities – how we both live in Victorian homes, how we both have 1950’s cabinets and blue walls in our kitchens and how our husbands converted our dining rooms into photography studios. How could I not, then, when asked by the agency representing Julia’s publisher (Knopf), write a post featuring one of her favorite recipes – her divine chocolate mousse.
In fact, as a tribute to Julia, I decided to update and relaunch my website, Fresh New England – a guide to finding the best and freshest local food in the New England area. When I started the website, there was no comprehensive guide to local food in New England – anywhere.
I’m pleased to say that year by year my database grows by leaps and bounds and there is more incredible regional food sources here in New England than there ever before. I suspect Julia would be pleased.
In honor of Julia’s 100th birthday I give you the recipe for a wonderful brown sugar chocolate mousse cake, a major update to the Fresh New England website (something to bookmark and explore on your next visit) and, an incredible giveaway which includes:
– A copy of Julia’s cookbook: Mastering the Art of French Cooking
– An assortment of sensational high quality foods made right here in New England and contributed by their amazing producers which includes:
– A gift box of Homemade Chocolate Brownies from Sweet and Simple
– Two bags of Kenyan AA Kahindu Estate Coffee from Chilmark Coffee Company
– A $25 gift certificate to Vianne Chocolat online
– A sampler case of Late July Organic Chips
– A copy of the cookbook: New England Cooking by Brooke Dojny and provided by The Harvard Common Press
And from Julia’s neighborhood in Cambridge, MA, I’m also including:
– A canvas shopping bag from Julia’s favorite neighborhood market, Savenor’s
– A coffee mug from Julia’s neighbor Harvard University
– A bag of Harvard Square’s L.A. Burdick’s Ecuadorian Dark Chocolate Hot Chocolate Mix (or perhaps Frozen Hot Chocolate) with a mini-whisk
Entering to win this incredible assortment of goodies is easy. Here’s how you can win:
- Leave a comment on this post before midnight on Friday June 22, 2012
- Make sure your comment links directly to a site where you can be contacted. Otherwise include a Twitter or email address. Only comments that include this information are eligible to win.
- One entry per person.
- The winner will be selected at random and contacted on Saturday June 23, 2012 before noon (EST).
- Be sure to check your inbox, messages or comments. If no response is received by June 25 at noon (EST), another winner will be selected.
- This giveaway will ship anywhere in the world.
Tweet about this post and the updated Fresh New England (add #JC100 to the end of your your tweet) for additional chances to win!
Brown Sugar Chocolate Mousse Cake made with Julia Child’s Chocolate Mousse
This scrumptious cake is made of 3 key components: Julia Child’s Mousseline au Chocolat from Mastering the Art, a Chocolate Cookie Crumb Base and a Brown Sugar Chocolate Cake. I make the mousse last so it’s easier to pour and chill.
Chocolate Cookie Crumb Base
166 g (about 5 large) egg whites
138 g (3/4 c) sugar
80 g or (2/3 c) powdered sugar
34 g or (1/4 c +1 tbs) cocoa powder
78 g (1 c) almond powder
34 g (3 tbs) half and half
12 g (1 tbs) sugar
1 pinch of cream of tartar
20 g (2 tbs) Grand Marnier
Preheat the oven to 275°F (135°C)
In a bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Egg whites should be glossy and fold over a bit at the top when you pull the whisk away.
In a separate bowl mix the sugar, powdered sugar cocoa powder and almond powder. Mix in half and half. Add a few spoonfuls of beaten egg white to the dry mixture and stir. Fold in the remaining egg white until there are no particles of unblended egg white in the finished batter.
Drop batter by tablespoonfuls onto a silpat lined cookie sheet or buttered parchment paper. Bake for 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center of the cookie comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack. Grind up in food processor with 2 tablespoons of Grand Marnier.
Brown Sugar Chocolate Cake
30 g (1/3 c) cocoa powder
80 mL (1/4 c) water
150 g (about 1 c) good quality dark chocolate, chopped and melted
150 g (11 tbs) butter, creamed
300 g (1 1/3 c) brown sugar
125 g (1 1/2 c) almond powder
4 large eggs separated
pinch of cream of tartar
extra butter for greasing pan
Preheat the oven to 320 F (160°C). Generously butter a 9 x 11 pan and dust with cocoa powder
In a large bowl, mix the cocoa powder with the water until blended. Stir in the chocolate, butter, sugar almond powder and lastly the egg yolks.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment beat the egg whites with cream of tartar until stiff but not dry.
Fold egg whites into chocolate mixture until well blended. Pour batter into pan. Bake for approximately 1 hour or until toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean. Watch closely as baking times will vary considerably depending upon your oven.
Cool on wire rack. Cut out cake circles using a 3 inch ring mold and set aside.
4 egg whites
Pinch of salt
1 tbs granulated sugar
Melt chocolate with coffee over hot water. Remove from heat and beat in the butter- bits at a time to make a smooth cream. Beat the chocolate into the egg yolks and sugar.
Beat the egg whites and salt until soft peaks are formed. Sprinkle on the sugar and beat until stiff peaks are formed.
Stir one fourth of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Fold in the rest.
(I had to double the recipe and add 1.5 sheets of melted gelatin to stiffen the consistency for the cake. You might want to try the recipe first to see what you think. It’s really personal preference. You can also find an alternative mousse recipe in grams here.)
In the bottom of a 3″ ring mold, pack down a layer of cookie crumb. Layer mousse with cake rounds- finishing with a cake round. Carefully remove mold. Repeat until you have used all of your ingredients. My ingredients made 8 three inch cakes. Chill until firm. Frost cakes with mousse and decorate with chocolate decorations, berries or shaved chocolate. Freeze up to 3 days or until ready to eat.