Time Travel Kitchen
Just a Custard in Fancy Dress
I was my own guest for lunch this week. More on that in a minute.
A couple of weeks ago a friend who’d inherited a heap of cookbooks graciously decided to give them all to me — a “WOW!” gift if ever there was one.
Books are precious things, but there was nothing genteel in the maniacal way I tore through the bags and boxes.
“Look at this!” I said to no one in particular, pulling a 1968 edition of The French Chef Cookbook from the pile.
The backdrop to all of this was learning that the new HBO-Max series Julia was about to air and it explores exactly that period of the early 1960’s leading up to Julia’s iconic television show The French Chef.
Of course, I’m watching. But I won’t say anything — yet— because: spoilers. Even though we know so much of the story —or think we do — there’s always more.
So Julia is on my mind and flipping open the book, its well-worn binding naturally parted on a page with a perfect first recipe to make: Classic Quiche Lorraine.
Now I say ‘Classic’ because the original consists of simply a mixture of cream, eggs, seasoning and bacon — no cheese— but if you want to add some Gruyère, have at it.
Reading the introduction to the recipe you hear Julia’s lilting, but no-nonsense voice:
“Baked in an open-faced pastry shell, the quiche is really just a custard in fancy dress, a mixture of eggs and flavorings.”
— Julia Child
Here, the recipe for a classic:
A green salad and a cool bottle of white wine is what Julia suggests for a ‘light lunch’ which made me chuckle given the presence of the bacon, heavy cream and eggs.
But when I finished making the quiche and took the photos, it was 1pm and I did as instructed. I had a lovely lunch sitting on a stool at my kitchen work counter, complete with a salad and a glass of Pinot Grigio from the vineyards of the late Robert Mondavi, Julia’s great friend, with whom she founded The American Institute of Wine & Food.
Now the crust recipe in the book used instant flour (brand name: Wondra) which surprised me as did the fact that the recipe used shortening not butter (given how much Julia loved butter!) I made it and it was crisp and flaky, but I just prefer the taste of butter. Any shortcrust recipe will do, so next time I’ll make a different one because the custard filling is so delicious, I’d really love to try it with a butter shortcrust.
I talked this week with my friend and former amazing boss from my Gourmet magazine days, Sara Moulton, about all of this. Sara worked assisting Julia on her later cooking show, Julia Child & More Company.
Next week I’ll be sharing some of Sara’s thoughts and also look at her extraordinary career, not only at Gourmet but as the host of Cooking Live in the early days of the Food Network and currently as the host of Sara’s Weeknight Meals on PBS and on 177 Milk Street Radio.
In the meantime here’s Sara in a timely conversation with Chris Kimball this week about why we’ll always love watching Julia Child:
Hope you’ll make the quiche and enjoy it.