Jacques Pépin’s centennial celebration tribute video to Julia Child. Produced by Mike Klozar.
She was the Paris-loving home cook from California who made French cuisine accessible to generations of supermarket shoppers. Apprenticed to restaurant work at 13, once the private chef to Charles de Gaulle, he was the French-born, classically trained chef who made America his home. Their friendship stretched through decades, through hundreds of meals and over many bottles of wine. But how did culinary icons Julia Child and Jacques Pépin first meet?
In 1960, Jacques Pépin had been living in the States for just a few months, working for Henri Soulé at Le Pavillon, where Manhattan’s crème de la crème swapped society gossip over quenelles de brochet. It was a quick way to learn the who’s who of New York’s many overlapping power circles, including the media. Through Craig Claiborne, the influential food editor of the New York Times, Pepin become friends with Helen McCully, the editor of the then-popular magazines McCall’s and House Beautiful. When she snagged an advance review copy of Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, she took it straight to Pépin. As Pépin recalled in Memories of a Friend, Sidekick, and Foil, McCully told him that the author was from California, and was “a very tall woman with a really terrible voice.” She invited Child over, Pépin cooked, they talked food and France and a lifelong professional partnership was born, thanks to their dedication to classic French cooking and their mutual respect and fondness for each other’s home countries. (Pépin left Le Pavillon not long after, lured away by his colleague Pierre Franey, who had been Le Pavillon’s executive chef, to work in culinary development for the Howard Johnson’s motel and restaurant chain.)
When their schedules allowed, they taught classes together at Boston University, where Pépin was teaching, or did tag-team cooking demonstrations. Child, a public-television star since the early 60s, took their friendship onto the screen, pairing with him for Cooking in Concert, two he-says, she-says specials that were filmed at Boston University and aired on PBS. He was precise, with warp-speed knife skills; she supplied the gently teasing banter and grand dame presence. Here, Julia and Jacques melt, whisk, and bake their way through an extravagant amount of butter as they prepare a lavish meal for formal entertaining: rolled flounder fillets with beurre blanc, standing rib roast of beef, asparagus, mashed potatoes, and strawberry tarts.
Their rapport and the information-packed usefulness of their decades of mutual experience led to Pépin making lobster souffle and braised sweetbreads in puff pastry with black truffle Madeira sauce on Julia Child: Cooking with Master Chefs and then to the popular series Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home. Filmed in Child’s kitchen in Cambridge, which had been revamped to accommodate the demands of cooking on camera, the show ran for 22 episodes and won both an Emmy and a James Beard Foundation Award. Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, a cookbook of recipes extrapolated from the shows, followed in 1999. As Pépin admitted, Child loosened him up; for what other cook would he have gone in front of the camera in a toga to introduce Caesar Salad?
Want to see your favorite episodes again? In honor of Julia’s centennial, KQED is rebroadcasting a selection of episodes of Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home throughout August.
Here is a fun Interactive game from KQED’s Julia Child tribute page:
Julia Child Interactive Game: Help Julia and Jacques make a Caesar Salad!
Caesar Salad, Julia’s Way
Julia is probably one of the few people around who saw the real Caesar Cardini making his salad. Her parents took her to his restaurant in Tijuana when she was just nine years old. She says, “You don’t want herbs and anchovies and things like that in it, those would adulterate it.” Jacques, on the other hand, loves anchovies in his Caesar salad.
18 to 24 crisp, narrow leaves from the hearts of 2 heads of romaine lettuce, or a package of romaine hearts (about 1 pound)
1 cup plain toasted croutons (see recipe below)
1 large clove garlic, peeled
1/4 cup or more excellent olive oil
1 large very fresh egg
Freshly ground black pepper
1 whole lemon, halved and seeded
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese, imported Parmagiano Reggiano only
1. From a large head of romaine lettuce, remove the outside leaves until you get down to the cone where the leaves are 4 to 7 inches in length — you’ll want 6 to 8 of these leaves per serving. Separate the leaves and wash them carefully to keep them whole, roll them loosely in clean towels, and keep refrigerated until serving time. (Save the remains for other salads; fortunately, romaine keeps reasonably well under refrigeration.)
2. To flavor the croutons, crush the garlic clove with the flat of a chef’s knife, sprinkle on 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and mince well. Pour about a tablespoon of olive oil on the garlic, and mash again with the knife, rubbing and pressing to make a soft puree.
3. Scrape the puree into the frying pan, add another tablespoon of oil, and warm over low-medium heat. Add the croutons and toss for a minute or two to infuse them with the garlic oil, then remove from the heat. (For a milder garlic flavor, you can strain the puree through a small sieve into a pan before adding the extra oil and croutons. Discard the bits of garlic.)
4. To coddle the egg, bring a small saucepan of water to the simmer. Pierce the large end of the egg with a pushpin to prevent cracking, then simmer it for exactly 1 minute.
5. Dress the salad just before serving. Have ready all the dressing ingredients and a salad fork and spoon for tossing. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the romaine leaves and toss to coat, lifting the leaves from the bottom and turning them toward you, so they tumble over like a wave. Sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt and several grinds of pepper, toss once or twice, then add the lemon juice and several drops of Worcestershire, and toss again. Taste for seasoning and add more if needed.
6. Crack the egg and drop it right on the romaine leaves, then toss to break it up and coat the leaves. Sprinkle on the cheese, toss briefly, then add the croutons (and the garlicky bits in the pan, if you wish) and toss for the last time, just to mix them into the salad.
7. Arrange 6 or more leaves in a single layer on individual plates, scatter the croutons all around, and serve.
These croutons are essential for our Caesar salad and a fine addition to a basic green salad as well as soups. You can brush the cubes with melted butter before toasting, if you like, or flavor them after with garlic oil, as in the Caesar recipe. It’s easy to make a large batch and freeze any croutons you are not using the same day. Reheat frozen croutons in a low oven until crisp.
4 or 5 thick slices of French or Italian bread, crusts removed
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Slice bread into 1/2 inch strips, and then the strips into 1/2 inch cubes, to make 4 cups.
2. Spread the cubes in a single layer on a cookie sheet and set in the oven for about 10 minutes, turning once or twice, until lightly toasted on all sides. Spread the cubes on a tray to cool before using or freezing.
Julia Child features at KQED Food:
- Julia Child tribute page
- Interactive Game: Help Julia and Jacques make a Caesar Salad!
- Celebrating Julia Child’s Centennial: How “The French Chef” Became TV’s First Hit Cooking Show
Jacques Pépin tribute to Julia Child at The New York Times:
Memories of a Friend, Sidekick and Foil