On Your Table: Cooking in Julia Child’s kitchen

My visit to the legend’s home in France

By Cathy Branciaroli, Food Correspondent, The Times

The author, posing with the famous pegboard that husband Paul Child created for French Chef Julia Child in the 1960’s.

The author, posing with the famous pegboard that husband Paul Child created for French Chef Julia Child in the 1960’s.

Thanks to a friend with connections, ten of us food writers and food artisans spent the week at Julia Child’s get-away home in the south of France just this month. The village actually is called Chateauneuf de Gasse and the home is affectionately named La Peech. It’s perched on top of a tall hill about 30 minutes drive from the Nice Airport.

I could appreciate why Julia and her husband Paul chose this place, far out in the countryside, as a getaway from their hectic lives, doing TV, writing books and otherwise interacting with the world. The only sounds we heard each day were roosters crowing and horses clip clopping along the trail on the farm nearby.

The house itself is tiny, a cottage really. Snug and cozy, the current owners retained the look and feel, many of the Child family’s furnishings and artifacts from Julia’s time. Julia’s kitchen, where she developed and tested her recipes is compact but it was a kitchen for a cook. In the center is a sturdy butcher-block island. Along the wall is the pegboard husband Paul is so famous for creating for her. A perfectionist and an artist at heart, he drew deep black outlines of pots, pans and utensils on that pegboard, marking the place for each of them. The outlines remain and it gave me shivers to peer at them.

Each day, we cooked from Julia’s “Mastering the Art” cookbook which she worked on at this house with co-author Simone Beck, whose house lies yards away. The first day it was roasted chicken thighs bathed in white wine sauce and covered with roasted lemon slices and olives. Then the bakers among us created roasted apple and pear tarts seasoned with thyme and saffron.   I would never have thought to season a dessert dish with such flavorings but they worked.

Finally and the dish that I truly savored was one styled on her beef bourguignon recipe for a French style beef stew. This recipe, which runs three pages in length in “Mastering the Art”, thoroughly covers every aspect of preparation and cooking for this stew. When it was brought to the attention of a publisher who cared about authentic French cooking and who wanted to bring that cooking to Americans, it turned out to be the key that finally unlocked the door to getting her book published after years of failed attempts. It was delicious. Winey, slow cooked beef. It was the showpiece of our cooking experience.


Beef Stew (Beef Bourguignon)

Adapted from Julia Child, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Serves 4-6

3 Lbs beef chuck roast cut into large pieces, browned in the skillet

1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 carrots peeled and finely chopped

Several strips of bacon, sauteed

2 cloves mashed garlic

1 bottle good red wine, preferably burgundy

1tbs tomato paste

1 bay leaf

1 pound button mushrooms, quartered and sautéed

2 tbs butter

1/3 cup flour


Preparation: Dry the beef with a paper towel and toss with flour.   It will not brown if wet. Sautee the vegetables in the butter in a skillet. Add wine and beef and sauté further. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to boil and cook over high heat for 3-5 minutes.   Reduce heat and simmer for 3 hours. Serve hot or warm.

Cathy Branciaroli also writes about her adventures in the kitchen on her award-winning blog Delaware Girl Eats

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