During her lifetime, Julia Child starred in thirteen different television series, authored seventeen cookbooks and painstakingly developed thousands of recipes. In fact, in just a single cookbook (the hugely successful Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Vol.1), there are 524 recipes! What a daunting task it must have been then for Mission Hill Family Estate Executive Winery Chef Matthew Batey to select just five recipes to represent The Best of Julia Child but last month he did just that and, with some help from Terrace Restaurant Chef Chris Stewart, presented a wonderful tribute to one of the world’s most beloved chefs.
Selecting just five of Julia’s recipes to present during the culinary workshop at Mission Hill Winery wasn’t the only challenge Chef Batey faced. He also had the difficult task of staying true to the original recipe while still putting a bit of his own culinary magic on the plate.
The first dish Chef demonstrated was the classic fish soup Bouillabaisse. He started by preparing a traditional Provençal soup base but deviated just a bit by adding a healthy cupful of Mission Hill Family Estate Sauvignon Blanc (remember Mission Hill is a winery first). He also omitted the black pepper. Chef Batey explained that he doesn’t cook with black pepper very often since it tends to have a negative effect on the taste of the wines – especially the reds. Once the base was ready, he added clams and mussels to the pot to cook, then spooned raw tuna and scallops into each serving bowl. I admit this made me a little nervous but I need not have worried. The delicate seafood was actually cooked to perfection when Chef Batey ladled the boiling hot broth into the bowl. He finished the dish with croutons, chopped parsley and a generous drizzle of citrus olive oil. The flavour was very light, bright and, well, citrus-y.
The second dish Chef Batey demonstrated was a Mushroom Crêpe with Sauce Mornay, following Julia’s master crêpe recipe. He shared a few tips for making crêpes:
- Always let the batter rest for about an hour in the refrigerator before cooking the crêpes.
- The first few crêpes are for the garbage bin.
- Flip the crêpes with your fingertips, gently and slowly, lifting them up bit by bit.
Once cooked, he filled the crêpes with a luscious mushroom duxelle, smothered them in a rich and creamy Mornay sauce and then put them in the oven to gratinée. This was my favourite dish of the evening. I wanted to pick up my plate and lick all that cheesy goodness off of it, but I managed to restrain myself.
Next up was a dish I’d been dreading – Timbale of Spinach and Chicken Liver, or as Chef Batey called it – Pâté 101. A timbale is a moulded custard. It’s also a shape, similar to a thimble or a shot glass. Chef Batey was true to Julia’s Chicken Liver Timbale recipe only altering it by adding some spinach, but his plating was a different story. By garnishing the timbale with paper-thin, Pinot noir-pickled beets, reducing the pickling liquid to create a thick glaze, and adding a quenelle of beet sorbet, he took an otherwise old-fashioned stodgy dish and turned it into a modern masterpiece.
I really didn’t expect to like the timbale, especially after seeing the chicken livers soaking in milk that had turned a very suspicious looking pink, but I kept an open mind. The pâté was creamy and rich and very tasty spread on the toasted brioche, and the beet sorbet was a culinary revelation.
The fourth dish that Chef Batey demonstrated was Roasted Goose with Apple Stuffing. Let me start by saying cooking a goose is no small task. First you need to make the prune and apple stuffing. Next, you peel and cut onion, celery, carrots and apples and layer them in the bottom of a roasting tray. Then wash, trim, season, stuff and truss the bird (and be sure to save the goose fat that you remove from inside the neck so you can use it to make delicious goose fat potatoes). Place the bird on top of the veggies in the roasting tray and put it in the oven. Cooking time for a 10 to 12 pound bird is about 4 ½ hours. During that time, you’ll need to adjust the cooking temperature several times and baste the goose with its own fat. In the meantime, you’ll need to make a stock for the gravy. Once the goose comes out of the oven, let it rest for half an hour while you use the stock to make the sauce. Remove the stuffing, carve the goose and serve.
Frankly, I didn’t enjoy this dish enough to make me want to try it at home. The crispy skin was delicious, as was the applesauce-thickened gravy, but the bird itself was just not that special. The beautiful pelican plates that Chef Batey chose to serve the goose, however, were absolutely gorgeous!
The last dish of the night was Cold Pumpkin Soufflé, a light fluffy cloud of a dessert flavoured with pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, dark rum, vanilla extract and ginger marmalade, and topped with a fan of preserved pear slices. Chef Batey shared some general pointers for making a great soufflé:
- Butter and flour the ramekins then put them in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to let the butter firm up.
- Fill the ramekins with the soufflé batter then run your thumb around the inside edge to help the soufflé rise.
- For a cold soufflé, make a collar out of parchment paper then over-fill the ramekins to mimic the rise of a classic baked soufflé.
The pumpkin soufflé paired with a 2009 Reserve Vidal Icewine was the perfect end to an enchanting evening. Chef Batey struck just the right balance between Julia Child’s classic French cooking and his own fresh, modern cuisine. Throughout the night he displayed an obvious affection and respect for this magnificent woman as he educated, entertained, and fed some of her biggest fans.
“Until I discovered cooking, I was never really interested in anything.” ~Julia Child
I couldn’t have said it better myself Julia.
Mission Hill Family Estate 1730 Mission Hill Road West Kelowna, Okanagan Valley British Columbia, Canada V4T 2E4 The Dynamics of Wine and Food Culinary Classics - Winter Program ~ The Best of Julia Child Date: February 7, 2012 Cost: $79.00 CDN Style: Demonstration, Dinner with Wine Pairing Duration: 3 hours Chef Instructor: Matthew Batey (assisted by Chris Stewart) Highlights: Seeing how skillfully Chef Batey combined classic technique with contemporary presentation.
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