Thursday, August 30, 2012

Julia Child's Roquefort Cheese Ball Appetizer, or Amuse-Gueule Au Roquefort


Ok, I don't know if this is because I am tragically immature, but I can't say "cheese balls" without feeling a little bit giggly inside. It just sounds so silly, even though the real thing (and it's very impressive French name) is nothing but serious. And the fact that these are made of Roquefort? Serious indeed. In fact, I had one guest at my party tell me I should warn people before they eat one, because they are potent!

But then, has a Julia Child recipe every been anything otherwise?

One thing I can say is, this lady loved her blue cheese. In her appetizer section of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, she has a has recipes for Roquefort turnovers, Roquefort wafers, and of course, Roquefort cheese balls. Yum!

Julia Child's Roquefort Cheese Ball Appetizer, or Amuse-Gueule Au Roquefort
adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking

I had a little trouble with these - I don't know if it was just the cheese I had (it was imported from France, so that wasn't the problem) but seemed very wet. When I blended it together with the other ingredients, it was waaay too soft to roll into balls. But then I realized, that hey! It's August in California and about 88 degrees outside, and I'm working next to a hot stove. Perhaps this is the problem? And it was. Once I let it chill in the fridge, it firmed up very nicely. I just had to make sure it stayed chilled, because if I worked with it too long, or left it out in the heat, it started to get really melty again.

1/2 lb Roquefort (8 oz)
4 - 6 tablespoons softened butter
1 + 1/2 Tablespoon minced chives
1 tablespoon finely minced celery
pinch of cayenne pepper
pinch salt
1/2 cup fine bread crumbs (if gluten-free, leave a peace of gluten-free bread out to get stale, then toast to remove any moisture out, and crumble)
2 tablespoons very finely minced parsely
1 teaspoon cognac
a few drops Worcestershire sauce 

1. In a food processor of mixer, combine the cheese with 4 tablespoons butter, and work into a smooth paste. Beat in the chives and celery, seasonings, and cognac. If the mixture is very stiff, beat in more butter by fractions. If it's too runny (like mine) try chilling it to get it to set up better. Check the seasonings carefully. Roll into small balls (I actually used a small cookie scoop to get the perfectly uniform size).

2. Toss the parsley and bread crumbs on a plate. Roll the cheese balls in the mixture, so they are well covered. Chill immediately. Serve on a chilled platter, with or without a toothpick. Bon Appetit!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Julia Child's Gruyère Stuffed Mushrooms, or Champignons Farci


Well, I'd have to say that Julia's Child's 100th Birthday party was a smashing success! I had a pretty good time too, and I feel pretty lucky to have gotten to share my birthday with such a fabulous lady. I do have to say that it was the most expensive party, ingredient-wise, I have ever thrown (and probably ever will!). Oh Julia, only you and your wildly lascivious French chef friends would come up with a recipe calling for a 4.5 lb beef filet ($18 per lb), stuffed with fois gras ($99 per lb), anointed with truffles ($1000 per pound, and no, I went with truffle butter, sorry), and braised in demi-glace ($50 per lb). That was one fine plat principal. And seeing it is such a rare thing that Filet De Boeuf Braisé Prince Albert ever gets made at all (I'm assuming. Maybe the French make it on Thursdays, for all I know), I didn't get any pictures. I know! Tragedy. But it was dark, and we were hungry, and is that enough excuses? I can go on and on you know. 

What I do have pictures of are these delicious Champignons Farci, or Gruyère Stuffed Mushrooms, and oh, they were delicious. They are definitely "old school," and by that I mean on the creamy decadent side of things, but they were quite tasty! They made a great hors d'oeuvres, and would be a perfect appetizer for your next cocktail or dinner party. 

Julia Child's Gruyère Stuffed Mushrooms, or Champignons Farci
from THE FRENCH CHEF by Julia Child

24 medium brown mushrooms, such as Crimini
14 tablespoons butter (1 stick plus 6tbs)
1/4 cup finely minced shallots
1 tablespoon flour (I used sweet rice, to make it gluten-free)
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup minced pasley
1/2 cup grated Gruyère cheese 


1. Rinse and dry the mushrooms to clean them of any remaining dirt. Rub the bottom of a baking dish with the stick of butter.

2. In a small saucepan, melt 2tbs of butter over medium heat, and set aside. 

3. Remove the stems from the mushrooms, and set aside. Brush the mushroom caps with the melted butter, and arrange in a shallow baking dish, hollow side up. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Finely chop the mushroom stems, and twist in the corner of a dish towel to remove as much water as possible. In a heavy bottomed pan, melt the rest of the butter (12 tbs) over medium high heat, and saute the shallots and mushroom stems 4-5 minutes, until softened and fragrant. Add 1tsp flour, 1/2 teaspoon cracked pepper, and the flour, and whisk until bubbling, but not browned. Whisk in the cream. Continue whisking until mixture is thickened, then removed from heat. Let cool, then whisk in the parsley, and adjust salt and pepper until it tastes delicious!

5. Fill mushroom caps with mixture (you might have to really mound it up!), and top with 1 teaspoon of Gruyère. 

at this point, the mushrooms can be covered and refrigerated until the party

6. 15 minutes before serving, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake in the upper third of the oven, until lightly browned. The bottom of the dish will probably be juicy, so I would recommend transferring to a separate serving platter. Enjoy! Or as Julia would say, Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Happy 100th Birthday, Julia Child!

If you happened to watch the movie Julie and Julia when it came out in 2009, you probably fell in love with Julia Child just like I did. It's hard not to love her enthusiasm and her pluck, and I thought Meryl Streep portrayed her with tremendous depth and humanity. I had the pleasure of reading Julia's autobiography My Life in France in a book club this year, and one thing we almost unanimously agreed on was that her personal story was an inspiration. When she married Paul Child, she was an aimless 34 year old who had been working for the foreign service in China because it was something to do during WWII. And when she and Paul moved to Paris shortly after their marriage, Julia could barely cook to save her life!

I doubt Julia would describe her life this way, but her search for something meaningful to do really resonated with me. She and Paul were never able have any children, and in the post-war era, there just weren't a lot of other career options for women. I thought the movie captured it perfectly when Julia, whose book has just been rejected, says "Eight years of our lives just turned out to be something for me to do, so I wouldn't have nothing to do. Oh well." Of course, we know that her book did go on to be published and that she went on to be the fairy godmother of French cookery in America, but at the time she must have felt very deeply that her work had turned out to be frivolous; just something to pass the time.

I think what I love about her story the most is that it's never "too late" to find something you love and be successful at it. In the post-war era, 34 was terribly "old" to marry (for the first time, at least!), but she found a great and lasting love all the same. She didn't discover her love of cooking until her mid thirties, and she published Mastering the Art of French Cooking at 49. The first episode of her TV show was broadcast when she was 51, and most of career as a television personality happened in her 50's and 60's. In our high pressure, fast paced culture there's this underlying assumption that you have to have everything figured out by the time you are 18, and if you don't, you've missed your shot. I like to think that Julia's legacy is testament to the fact that you don't have to have everything figured out right away. Like Julia, you can get half way through your life before you even discover what you love!

Tomorrow is Julia child's 100th birthday, and so to honor her (and ::ahem:: my 29th birthday also happens to be this week, just saying) I'm hosting a dinner party in her honor! There are a lot of different restaurants, chefs, and individuals honoring her all over the world, but I'm planning on honoring her in the way I think she would have liked best: by cooking from her cookbook in my servantless American kitchen. The intention of Mastering was always to make French cuisine accessible to the average American housewife, and I think she would be pleased that 50 years later, it's still being used the way she intended it to be.

So here's a rundown of the recipes coming to you over the next few days. I've tried to pull as many recipes as possible from Mastering. Some items, such as the "inverted martini" (5 parts vermouth to 1 part gin) and the fishie crackers, are simple things that happened to be Paul and Julia's favorite. The menu is modeled as much as possible on the menu that Julia served for Paul's 50th birthday party, which she remembered in My Life in France as one of her favorite parties of all time.

Le Menu


Paul and Julia's favorite "inverted" martini
5 parts vermouth, 1 part gin
Rosé French 75
gin, lemon, pink champagne, sugar

California Bramble
gin, crème de mûre, lime, sugar

Amuse-Gueule Au Roquefort
Roquefort cheese balls rolled in breadcrumbs

Fondue Au Gruyère Canapés
gruyere cheese gratinee on bread rounds with fresh vegetables

Champignons Farci
mushrooms stuffed with cheese

Fishie Crackers


Heirloom Tomato Salad
hand made croutons, burrata cheese, fresh herbs
Julia's red wine "sauce vinaigrette"

Le Plat Principal 

Filet De Boeuf Braisé Prince Albert
braised filet of beef stuffed with foie gras and truffles

 Gratin Dauphinois
scalloped potatoes with garlic, cream, and gruyère

Seasonable vegetables
 to be determined

Le Fromage 

Assorted French Cheeses
Red Grapes, Apple Slices
French Baguette
Fig Jam

Le Dessert 

Gâteau D'anniversaire Au Chocolat
chocolate birthday cake with almonds and raspberries

Le Café

Coffee with cream and sugar
chocolate bonbons

 Le Digestif

Tawny Port