Bonnie Aeschliman: What I learned from Julia Child

08/22/2012 5:49 AM

08/22/2012 5:49 AM

Aug. 15 marked what would have been Julia Child’s 100th birthday. Hundreds of restaurants and culinary groups hosted special dinners in honor of her legacy.

Reading about those events triggered many personal memories of Julia. Although I was not in her inner circle, I was fortunate to have taken a few classes and workshops from Julia in the 1980s. Julia was foremost a cooking teacher and was instrumental in organizing a professional organization called Association of Cooking Schools, which later morphed into International Association of Culinary Professionals. In those early days, only about 200 members attended the annual meetings. It was not unusual to be in a classroom of about 50 while Julia taught all of us culinary wannabes. She was just as delightful in person as she was on screen.

One of the workshops I attended was a television media workshop where Julia taught us how to be ready with the food and how to field questions while demonstrating a recipe. She regaled us with many incidents from her television series that did not go as she planned. She reminded us that the audience loved it when the star bombed — so don’t get flustered, just make it work the best you can. If a recipe did not turn out as expected, she was not distressed but simply tried to figure out what happened. If she could salvage it by plopping it in a bowl, adding a pouf of whipped cream and passing it off as a pudding, she had no qualms about it.

I loved her approach: Never let a mistake or “flop” destroy your culinary confidence — just try to fix it or trash it, learn from it and move on to the next recipe. Bottom line: Be prepared, but don’t take yourself too seriously. And have fun. Great advice!

Although Julia wrote many cookbooks with fabulous recipes, I always will remember how she taught me a very simple technique of how to boil eggs properly. That is one thing I loved about her: how to boil an egg! Think about it: How hard can that be? But if you have had eggs with dark green circles around the yolk, you know that is not a pretty sight. Who wants to eat that?

I have used Julia’s method for years and have taught others. I included it in this column a few years ago, but it bears repeating — all in honor of Julia.

Julia Child’s technique for hard-cooked eggs

Dark rings are the result of sulfur in the eggs that occurs from overcooking. To properly hard-cook eggs in the shell, start with room-temperature eggs. Eggs, straight from the refrigerator, are likely to crack when water boils because of the extreme change of temperature.

Place eggs in a heavy pot, cover them with cold water that comes two inches above the eggs. Add a tablespoon of salt. Bring eggs to a rolling boil. Immediately turn off the heat and cover pot with lid. Let stand 18 minutes for large eggs.

Drain the hot water off; add ice and cold water to the pan to cool them quickly. When cool, drain water and whirl them around the pan to crack the shells — several small cracks work best. To peel, start at the large end with the air pocket. For a stubborn egg, it is helpful if you peel it under a slow stream of water from the faucet. I usually add an extra egg or two to the pot in case one does not cooperate. If they all come out perfect, then I have a tasty snack.

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