Tuesday, August 21, 2012

[Belated] Bon Appetit, Julia Child!

Julia Child's 100th birthday was last week - did you celebrate?  It was the perfect excuse to unearth that good bottle of red and grab some poultry.  After all:

the best way to execute French cooking is to get good and loaded and whack the hell out of a chicken.

I first fêted Julia's birth with dinner at a new(ish) French restaurant near the Cathedral called Bistrot Le Zinc with my friend Megan.  We clinked cocktails, but couldn't enjoy ourselves too much as we were both driving.  Nonetheless, I devoured my steak tartare and a delicious mushroom risotto and felt très française all evening.  (And then, when I got home, I reread my first blog, written while I was living in Paris in 2007, in its entirety.  What can I say?  I'm a romantic.)

The real celebration, though, happened this weekend - I mean, it was supposed to, but it didn't quite turn out the way I'd hoped.  Epicurious published Julia's recipe for plain French bread; while I've made bread before successfully, it was from a much less demanding source, and I felt the best way to honor the birthday girl would be to follow her instructions.

Unfortunately... well, a less patient chef might say I failed.  Julia, I feel, would have been slightly more understanding.  As she herself declared:

one of the secrets, and pleasures, of cooking is to learn to correct something if it goes awry, and one of the lessons is to grin and bear it if it cannot be fixed.

I took tons o' pictures of the bread-making process so that I could share them with you, dear readers, but I feel a bit fraudulent posting them when they shouldn't be used as an example of How To Do Things Properly.  Everything looked more or less okay throughout, to be honest, but it was clear by the end that the yeast/dough and I disagreed about what it meant to "triple in size" while rising.  Oops.

Anyway, I decided to look at the debacle as a Lemons Into Lemonade situation - or, in this case, a Bread Into Croque-Monsieurs situation.  The bread didn't rise as it was supposed to, but it somehow turned into vaguely ciabatta-like loaves, which were, when sliced horizontally, perfect for croque-monsieurs!

Now, my secret to a good croque-monsieur isn't a hearty bechamel sauce - although, obviously, if you want to take that extra step you may, and I will recommend Martha's recipe for this.  My secret is one that Julia would approve of: butter.  Lots of butter.
to have:
two thick slices of bread
lots of butter
2 slices of ham
as much Gruyère as you can handle
a heavy skillet

to do:
Butter both sides of both pieces of bread.  Layer one piece with ham and cheese.  Top the open-faced sandwich with the other buttered piece of bread.  Heat a heavy skillet, and then cook the sandwich until the cheese melts, about five minutes per side.  Eat carefully, if you can, because the croque-monsieur will be hot and greasy.  But, above all, enjoy!

As Julia would say, bon appetit!


  1. That sandwich looks AMAZING! You should have seen my husband a couple of Christmases ago. He played Sister Julia, Child of God in a play called Nuncrackers. Pretty funny stuff!

  2. I can't believe I missed her birthday! But I did recently discovered this awesome Julia Child remix that if you're a fan, I know you'll love:
    (and this comment will probably be spammed since I'm inserting a link, but it's so good, I'm going to risk it)


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