A few weeks ago The Hub netflixed The French Chef, starring Julia Child. It was a short DVD collection of some of the best episodes of her 10 plus years on PBS teaching America how to cook.
It was fascinating to watch this almost prehistoric television. She filmed direct to tape, so there were no edits, no cuts – if she made a mistake, she made do with what happened. And boy, did she make mistakes. Of course, there is the famous mistake of flipping the pancake and having it splatter all over the place, but my favorite woopsie was when she was deep fat frying potatoes and the basket broke off into the oil. She was flustered for just a moment before fishing the basket out with a couple sharp knives. Inventive and dangerous!
I think what is so engaging about Julia is that she seems so familiar. She is like a dotty grandmother, cooking away while mumbling to herself about this and that and when and who and making an incredible mess, but ending up with something delicious and satisfying. She makes you want to give her a hug.
My favorite recipe that she made I have yet to prepare myself, but it is on my list for a cold fall day soon:
Julia’s French Onion Soup
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup olive oil
3 lbs onions, halved and sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced very fine
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 cups dry white wine
6 cups beef stock or chicken stock (the beef will make a darker, more robust soup)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 ovenproof soup bowls
12 toasted slices of French baguettes, 1/2 inch thick
2 cups swiss cheese, grated
3 teaspoons parmesan cheese, grated
In a large saucepan over medium heat melt the butter and oil together. Add the onions, garlic, and sugar. Saute until slightly colored, stirring occasionally (don’t stir too much – you want them to brown), for 7 minutes.
Add the white wine, raise temperature to medium high, and bring to a boil.
Lower temperature back down to medium and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the stock, raise temperature to medium high and bring to a simmer.
Lower temperature to low and simmer *uncovered* for 1 1/2 hours (90 minutes).
Preheat your broiler.
Ladle the soup into the ovenproof soup bowls (6 of them).
Place two slices of toasted baguette onto the top of each soup bowl.
Sprinkle each serving with 1/3 cup of Swiss cheese, then 1/2 teaspoon of Parmesan cheese.
Place soup bowls onto a baking sheet and place in oven under preheated broiler. Broil until the cheese melts (watch them carefully – depending on your broiler and how far the rack is from the heat, it can take anywhere to 45 to 90 seconds or so).