It's no secret I'm a child of the 70's, born to an Englishwoman of renowned culinary talent in the French tradition (hi, mom!), weaned on PBS and, perhaps unwittingly, ushered early on into the world of cooking from scratch. Everywhere we were stationed my folks grew stuff and mom cooked it. Grades 2-6 in NoVA were spent in a giant garden, which included one million pole bean plants (my brother Dave will corroborate that figure--we had to weed them all); rubber tires filled with rhubarb bunches; and (poison ivy-ensconced) peach, apple and cherry trees augmented by dozens of patches of wild mint and wild asparagus. The basement was full of endless spice racks (at the age of nine I was made to appreciate the aesthetic superiority of white pepper in egg dishes, the striking difference between Spanish and Hungarian paprika); freezers full of pastry shells, half a cow, fruit tartlets, and homemade stocks (chicken, beef and fish); canned EVERYTHING (including mint jelly, peach chutney, and some mysterious tomato concoction); preserved milk in all its forms (evaporated, sweetened-condensed, dried); multiple tubes of escargot shells; and every kind of oil and vinegar imaginable. This was normal. This was a "decent pantry." Mom cooked. A lot.
And while mom cooked, as was the case for so many foodies my age, "The French Chef" & "Julia Child & Company" reruns provided hours of background entertainment (to this day I recommend Blue Talon in Williamsburg, not just for their excellent food but for the fact that J's old WGBH videos play above the bar--a glass of rose and a slab of country pate make for an excellent road trip reward). Julia Child, however, was more than just an omnipresent warble echoing through our split level ranch, she was practically family. Her books were everywhere. My childhood brain connected her OSS work with my mom's survival of WWII London bombings (I was in my 30's when I discovered J was in fact an American). And I remain convinced to this day that my mother named me after her. So when Kelly at Fountain Bookstore called and asked if I'd be into a "Julie, Julia & Julia" gig celebrating the movie's release and the 40th anniversary of vol 2 of MtAoFC I accepted, mais bien sur.
So. In a perfect world, I would pair delicious French wines with dishes prepared from THE book and serve them both to you at a table. But considering the wine bar construction next door is moving at the speed of Richmond, I'll have to use my verbal skills to convey the perfection of her recipes while you sip away. I have selected 4 classic MtAoFC entrees, including my mom's favorite, and using J's wine recommendations, have picked affordable, accessible accompaniments that honor the spirit of our Proto-Foodie. So I raise a glass (of sherry, natch') to Julia Child; to my mom Veronica (aka Nikki); to bookseller extraordinaire Kelly Justice; and to "Julie/Julia Project" author Julie Powell, because following directions is HARD, never mind 524 recipes in 365 days!?! That's a LOT of directions. And a whole lotta of butter. Here's to you, Ladies. Cheers! Following are four dishes from my sweet new edition of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, volume one, fresh off the shelf from Fountain Bookstore. Kelly will be bringing copies for anyone lacking this must-have reference. (Please forgive the truncated tasting notes. They are what I actually wrote in my tasting book and not Peter's well researched and thoughtful musings you are all used to by now--this missive is never going to get done otherwise.) Enjoy! p. 214 (mom's pick) ~Sole a la Dieppoise (fish filets with mussels & shrimp) ~Mestre Michelot 2006 Bourgogne Blanc Young vine Chardonnay from Mersault vineyards. Good vintage. Seriousness, depth, zip. Verve. Screwcap. Heart. May slightly unclog arteries but will not prevent French hangover. 23 tablespoons of butter...really. p. 249 ~Poulet Poele a l'Estragon (casserole roasted chicken with tarragon) ~Corail 2008 Rose de Provence Classic dry rose from southern France: Grenache/Syrah/Carignan/Cincault/Vermintino. Biodynamic. Winemaker Raymond Villeneuve owns it. Herbal notes make this interesting. ICDtSOoT. Recipe worth the trussing fussiness when tasted. p.275 ~Caneton Roti a l'Alsacienne (roast duck with sausage & apple stuffing) ~Jean Luc Mader 2007 Gewurztraminer Dry but exotic. Textbook lychee-rose-petals-in-your-glass. Great for the money. I want Belmont Butchery fennel sausage with this. Recipe requires more surgery skills, but how better to impress? p. 315 ~Boeuf Bourguignon (needs no translation) ~Les Grimaudes 2005 Costieres de Nimes Rouge Bargain Rhone! Winemaker Emmanuelle Kreydenweiss. Mostly Grenache with Syrah. Biodynamic. A four year old $12 wine that needs decanting. Love it! ...and to wash down all that fantastic animal fat? Julia's tipple of choice: Sherry! Lustau Dry Amontillado "Los Arcos" Woodsy, smokey, raisiny but not heavy. Gonna convert these people into Sherry lovers if it kills me!