Tag Archives: Julia Child

Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Julia’s Mushrooms

14 Aug

Happy Official Birthday, Julia! Here’s a beautiful tribute to la grande dame de cuisine herself, written by Marlo Thomas on HuffPo.

For those who’ve seen “Julie and Julia,” you might remember one of Julie Powell’s (er, Amy Adams’) early revelations from “Madame Scheeld” – don’t crowd the mushrooms! What does this semi-cryptic warning mean? (Given that it sounds like advice for when the shrooms were angsty middle schoolers – if you crowd ‘em, they get rebellious and cranky, apparently.)

Julie Powell (Amy Adams), NOT crowding her mushrooms.

Julia’s revelation was simple: When you sauté or cook your mushrooms and crowd too many of them in a pan, they’ll release their liquid and end up steaming each other, rather than browning. And brown, caramelized mushrooms are your goal, rather than “sweaty” mushrooms that haven’t had the chance to fully develop their flavors.

Determined to follow suit, I whipped up this recipe for Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Julia’s Mushrooms. The History Teacher and I noshed upon its tastiness to great effect, heartily drinking our beers alongside the dish as, I imagine, Julia and Paul enjoyed their French wines with gusto in their days in la belle France. For those of us who attempt to cook somewhat “healthily,” the butter content might stop your heart altogether. However! As Julia would say, never apologize – and never compromise with what she called “that other spread,” the infernal margarine. Bon appetit!

Julia at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, with her beloved teacher, Chef Brugnard.

Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Julia’s Mushrooms – serves two

For the chicken breasts, you’ll need:

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • A dash of poultry seasoning
  • Salt & pepper to season
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

For Julia’s Mushrooms

, you’ll need:

  • 1 ½ lbs mushrooms, wash, dried and sliced. (Use basic button mushrooms)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Parsley to serve

Here’s what you do:

  • Pound the chicken breasts until they are about ½ and inch thick; to easily do this, cover both the top and bottom of each breast with plastic wrap or a paper towel. Then, use a heavy, wieldable object (an actual meat tenderizer works perfectly, but I used the bottom of a heavy jar. Be resourceful!) to pound the breast meat until it’s at the right thickness.
  • In a wide, flat bowl, combine the flour, poultry seasoning, salt & pepper; dredge the chicken breasts lightly in the flour mixture on both sides.
  • In a 10-inch flat skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat (about a 6 on your stove dial). When the oil is hot (sprinkle water droplets into the oil – if they hiss and steam up immediately, you’re ready), add the chicken breasts. Cook for 4-5 minutes on each side, until lightly browned and cooked through. Set aside on a plate, lightly covered in foil.
  • Add the butter and olive oil to the pan, raising the heat to high. When the butter’s foam subsides, add the mushrooms and toss occasionally, cooking for 4-5 minutes. They will absorb the fat, then begin “squeaking” as the water (well, steam) escapes them. They’ll brown quickly at this point, so only cook them for 1-3 minutes longer, or until well-browned.
  • On a serving plate, first place your chicken breasts. Top with Julia’s mushrooms; then, sprinkle salt, pepper and dried or fresh (chopped) parsley on top.

Bon appetit! And happy birthday to an American legend.

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Happy 100th, Julia Child!

13 Aug

Bon Appetit!

Julia Child, circa the 1960s.

This week — specifically August 15th, Wednesday — would have been Julia Child’s 100th birthday. Huzzah! In this post-“Julie and Julia” world, it seems that everyone and their mom is at least vaguely familiar with the woman behind “The French Chef,” America’s introduction to French cooking, fine food, and the joy of what Julia called “cookery” in the kitchen. This author, television host, world traveler, former OSS-operative (no, seriously) and beloved wife of Paul and friend to millions of fans worldwide is my culinary hero, and deserves a heckuva celebration for her illustrious centennial.

Happy Birthday, “Madame Scheeld!” (As the French called her.)

Julia was, more than anyone else in her time, a hero to us “budding chefs.” She herself — as detailed in her lovely memoir with Alex Prud’homme, “My Life in France” (currently residing on my Kindle) — was a budding chef during her early days in Paris with Paul, between 1948 and 1953. Determined to explore something new, frightening and altogether invigorating, Julia took to the stove, table and countertop, taking classes at Paris’ famed Le Cordon Bleu. Eventually learning enough to write her famed tome “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” with friends Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, Julia became a household name by teaching home chefs that they, too, can rise above the drudgery of microwaved this and store-bought that. Give it a try. Make it yourself. Don’t be afraid. You’ve got guts — you can do it!

So adorable. And so brave! Even with knives and chickens, bravery is a much-lauded trait.

My favorite piece of advice in “My Life in France” is when she reminds us, as chefs, to “Never Apologize.” Here’s a passage from pg. 90 of the book that, I think, illustrates this perfectly:

“I don’t believe in twisting yourself into knots of excuses and explanations over the food you make. When one’s hostess starts in with self-deprecations such as ‘Oh I don’t know how to cook…,’ or ‘Poor little me…,’ or ‘This may taste awful…,’ it is so dreadful to have to reassure her that everything is delicious and fine, whether it is or not. Besides, such admissions only draw attention to one’s shortcomings (or self-proclaimed shortcomings), and make the other person think, ‘Yes, you’re right, this really is an awful meal!’ Maybe the cat has fallen into the stew, or the lettuce has frozen, or the cake has collapsed — eh bien, tant pis [oh well, too bad]! Usually one’s cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food is truly vile … then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile — and learn from her mistakes.”

Take chances! Make mistakes!

How can YOU celebrate Julia’s 100th birthday this week? Try any of these fun ideas, my little budding chefs. I’ll be running a few features all week in celebration of Julia, including, perhaps, some French cookery of my own.

  • Watch “Julie and Julia,” and — inspired by Julie Powell’s quest to cook her way through “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” — whip up some boeuf bourguignon yourself!
  • Find clips of “The French Chef” on Youtube — or even just Dan Ackroyd’s hilarious parody of Julia’s cute, lilting accent and eccentric ways. The internet is a magical place, friends, where you can find pretty much anything.
  • Visit the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History (or just their web site), which is spearheading their own 100th Birthday Celebration. They formerly — and, I believe, soon-to-be permanently — housed Julia’s Cambridge, MA kitchen. I saw it in 2010, and while I didn’t leave a stick of butter behind like Julie Powell, I did my best to pay tribute to this American treasure by snapping photos like a madwoman.

From my 2010 visit — it’s back for a limited time, starting this Wednesday!

  • Try something NEW, make it for someone you love — or yourslef! — and even if it turns out to be a hot, steaming plate of holy crapola, tant pis! Never apologize!
  • Shop at a farmer’s market or outdoor market. Talk to your vendors. Get to know them and their produce. Build relationships — Julia’s biggest tip for successful food shopping is, as she called it in French, les human relations — with camaraderie and respect. See what looks good, experiment, and go for it!

Bon appetit, indeed.