Julia Child’s Annual Birthday Tribute
Joyeux Anniversaire Julia Child! Today would have been Julia’s 109th birthday. It has been an honor, a passion, and a tradition to celebrate her birthday on Taste With The Eyes for the past several years.
This year, let’s travel back in time to Cambridge, Massachusetts where I imagine dinner at the kitchen table of Paul and Julia Child as they enjoy a light supper together on a hot August night.
“An excellent light supper need be no more than a good soup, a salad, cheese and fruit. And combined according to your own taste, a good homemade soup in these days of the can opener is almost a unique and always a satisfying experience,” says Julia Child in Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume One, Fortieth Anniversary Edition published by Alfred A. Knopf 2006.
Tonight’s light supper begins with Vichyssoise, a Cold Leek and Potato Soup, where surprisingly simple ingredients yield a soup with an elegant texture and captivating complex flavors.
Vichyssoise à la Julia Child Recipe
“Leek and potato soup smells good, tastes good, and is simplicity itself to make. It is also versatile as a soup base; add watercress and you have a watercress soup, or stir in cream and chill it for a vichyssoise,” Julia says.
- 1 lb. leeks – white and pale green parts only, sliced, well-washed
- 1 lb. russet potatoes – peeled, large dice
- 6 c. chicken broth, low-sodium
- 2 t. kosher salt, or to taste, divided
- fresh ground white pepper
- 1/2 c. heavy cream
- chives, finely chopped
- crème fraîche for swirl
Bring vegetables, broth, 1 teaspoon salt to a boil then simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes.
Process cold soup in a high-performance blender (such as Vitamix) to a completely smooth, velvety texture. Add more salt and white pepper to taste and add cream, then blend briefly to combine all ingredients.
I found Julia Child’s Vichyssoise recipe in two of her cookbooks, Mastering the Art of French Cooking and The Way To Cook. The recipes are different. My recipe here is an interpretation of the combined recipes.
In 1961 when the first edition of Mastering the Art of French Cooking was published, there were no high-performance blenders. Julia suggested processing the soup through a food mill and then through a fine sieve to get that “fiber-free brew.” Now, a high-performance blender will achieve that velvety smooth soup. I think Julia would have been happy to add one to her collection of kitchen equipment and gadgets.
Pour soup into chilled bowls. Garnish with a swirl of thinned crème fraîche and chopped chives.
August 15, 1912 – August 13, 2004
chef, mentor, heroine, author, television icon,
inspiration, nonagenarian, friend, american treasure
More Julia Child Tributes
Julia Child’s Upside-Down Martini (here)
Julia’s fabulous recipe for Sole Meunière (here)
Sneak into Julia’s kitchen to watch her make the authentic Caesar Salad and Salmon in Papillote in her usual charming and un-fussy manner (here)
Join Julia and her friends in a beautiful courtyard, seated at a little white table beneath a leafy trellis for a splendid lunch, while they uncover the secret of Loup de Mer (here)
And a special Thank You to my dear friends, Adam (Smithsonian photography) and Lauren (prop styling) for their help with the re-creation of Julia’s Vichyssoise.
Julia Child’s kitchen is a historic artifact on display on the ground floor of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History: Kenneth E. Behring Center, in Washington, D.C., on the National Mall.