The article, written by Frank Bruni in the Diner’s Journal also makes reference to the film Julie & Julia, which Ephron produced, and recalls her excitement around a scene involving butter. It made me smile as I remembered my own encounter with Julie & Julia, Nora Ephron and butter, at Le Cordon Bleu Paris when I, along with 16 other women, who like Julia Child are expat wives, made a pilgrimage to the world’s premier culinary institute and Julia’s alma mater for a cooking class inspired by the film.
Upon arriving at Le Cordon Bleu, we were divided into two groups, each with our own instructor and English translator (because everyone knows that French is the culinary lingua franca), and sent to our kitchens where we washed our hands, tied our aprons, sharpened our knives and embarked on our epicurean adventure hoping to discover Julia Child’s Chef’s Secrets.
At our workstations we found a cutting board, utensils, cooking oil, and of course, classic white wine and beurre blanc, the basis for so many of the fabulously calorific sauces the French are famous for. Julia would be proud. Also at our workstations were “Le Cordon Bleu Paris” tea towels a recipe sheet for the dish we were to prepare: Navarin Printanier (lamb stew with spring vegetables). This recipe, a favorite of Julie & Julia producer Nora Ephron, is a Julia Child classic.
Seeing the recipe sheet immediately caused panic as it did not provide instructions on how to prepare the meal, only a list of the necessary ingredients. The how-to would have to be gleaned by watching the chef, asking questions and taking copious notes. Or, like me, you can take the 21st-century approach and Google the complete recipe when you get home.
In an effort to save time, the lamb was already prepared for us, fat removed and cut into pieces. The pearl onions were also prepared and the tomatoes were peeled, seeded and chopped. For the next two hours, we browned, boiled and simmered the meat in its juices. Peeled, turned and prepared the vegetables. We added the vegetables to the pot and placed the stew in the oven to let the flavors meld.
As we finished dining on our culinary masterpieces, we were each called to the front of the room where our instructor shook our hand and presented us with a certificate of participation. Passion. Ambition. Butter. Cordon Bleu credentials. We most definitely have what it takes.