The new film Julie & Julia opens tonight, and if you have even a passing interest in food and cooking I highly suggest you catch it. If you haven’t seen the trailer (or book or blog), it’s a Nora Ephron film about a girl, Julie Powell, who decides to cook and blog her way through Julia Child’s masterpiece, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It’s an ideal girls-night-out film with splendid acting by Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. It’ll also give you a glimpse into the high-stress juggling act of working by day and food blogging by night, like yours truly, though Julie had only a cat watching, not a hungry child calling for attention every other minute. There’s a catch-22 for food bloggers in discussing this film, as any negative criticism is quickly dismissed as jealousy over the fact that Julie successfully blogged her way to a book and film deal; something that is surely the dream of many food bloggers around the world. I had never read Julie’s blog or book but was familiar with the tale; my main complaint with the movie is not directed at Julie’s character but just that I would have loved to see much more of Julia.
At any rate, my sure-fire pitch for a book deal is also a blatant rip-off of based on Julie’s challenge: my soon-to-be-3-year-old will cook his way through Julia’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking before his 4th birthday. Okay, maybe we’re not quite ready for that, but in honor of his impending 3rd birthday I decided it was time to teach him to crack eggs. We set out to make the ubiquitous Julia Child clafouti(s) — for some reason Julia omits the “s” — but since cherry season here has come and gone I opted to use the last of July’s blueberries, which the husband and the boy picked up at the Del Ray Farmers Market on Saturday.
Recipe: Blueberry Clafouti, adapted from Julia Child
1 1/4 cups milk
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 – 2 cups blueberries
1/3 cup sugar
A few words of advice for baking with younger kids: measure and prep all ingredients before hand, then arrange them in the order needed next to the mixing bowl. Have them crack the eggs first and into their own bowl to make fishing out pieces of shell a little easier. Clafoutis is simple to prepare and kids can take charge of mixing all the ingredients but the fruit together in a large bowl. We whisked the eggs together first, then vanilla and almond extracts (almond is my addition), sugar, flour, salt and milk.
I wouldn’t dare criticize Julia, but I find it amusing that she speaks so condescendingly of using a blender to make mayonnaise and yet uses one to whip up her clafouti(s) batter. If your child over eagerly dumps in ingredients before the prior ingredients are fully combined, here’s an easy trick to smooth the batter: pour it through a fine mesh sieve, pressing with your spoon to dissolve the lumps.
To bake the clafoutis, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour a thin layer of batter into the bottom of the buttered, wide and shallow baking dish and cook it until it just begins to set, about 3-4 minutes. Sprinkle the blueberries over the batter, and the 1/3 cup reserved sugar over the berries, then top with the remaining batter. Return to oven and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until custard is puffed and a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar and enjoy!
The boy scored a bite before bed and declared it “mmm, good.” If you want to introduce your kids to Julia without messing up the kitchen, head over to the American History Museum to see her complete kitchen, including her very own French copper pots and pans which were recently returned by Ephron after being used in the movie. (At the donation event, Julia’s niece Phila Cousins relayed Julia’s incredulous reaction to the Smithsonian’s request for her kitchen. One can only imagine what she would think of the film!)
In the film, Julia writes to her sister, “I think I’m the only American woman in Paris who has as much fun shopping for food as shopping for a dress.” I’m with her, but for a less foodcentric review check out my friend the DC Fashion Gal’s take on the film. Seen in? Love it? Let us know!
I’m sharing this post with the Mastering the Art of French Cooking round-up hosted by La Cuisine d’ Heléne (and #MTAFC on twitter); and sending it over to Fight Back Fridays at the Food Renegade, because Julia wrote MTAFC to empower “American women without cooks” to get into the kitchen, something my fellow real food advocates believe in as well.