MY parents were on an imaginary first-name basis with Julia Child. Whenever they cooked, they asked themselves, WWJD?
They needed the help. Both my grandmothers were ... let's just say they were adequate cooks. My grandmother Ella baked a mean apple, and Grandma Lily did just fine with a banana and a box of apricot Jell-O. But when it came to the daube de boeuf and cassoulet my parents served at their dinner parties, they turned to their double-volume set of Julia's classics.
Would Julia serve monkfish tails with rouille? What would she substitute for chervil if she lived in Flatbush, Brooklyn, in the 1970s?
She taught them to cook.
They outfitted an ever-growing range of cooking tools according to her specifications, filling cabinets with terrine pans, charlotte molds and fish poachers.
My sister and I were particularly fond of Julia's desserts. Lemon tarts with creamy centers. Crunchy dacquoises spread with smooth buttercreams. And especially île flottante, floating island, a cake of soft meringue rising from a pale custard sea. It was the sweetest thing I'd ever put in my mouth next to the pinches of sugar I'd steal from the bowl. It was what I'd ask for when I could choose dessert. Then I grew up, discovered molten chocolate cake and forgot all about floating islands.
But if I were called upon to make a dish in honor of Julia's 100th birthday, that's what I'd whip up. I hadn't made île flottante in years, so I revisited it recently. I beat the egg whites with mounds of sugar until they thickened into a snowy mass. I baked it at a low temperature until it puffed. While it chilled, I made the crème Anglaise. Just before serving, I poured it around the meringue. It was light, and the textures worked together beautifully.
But it was sweet (very sweet), particularly the crème Anglaise. As a child I loved the liquid custard enough to drink it from the bowl when my mother wasn't looking. Now it just made my teeth ache.
What would Julia do?
Would she puree fresh, tart apricots lying on the counter and stir the mush into the custard to make a sauce that was tangy and bright? Because that's what I did, and it did the trick.
[From The New York Times]