A Culinary Love Affair: The Timeless Romance of Julia and Paul Child

As we close in on Valentine’s Day, one love story stands out as a delightful blend of passion, laughter, and culinary expertise. The enchanting love affair between Julia and Paul Child not only defined their lives but also left an indelible mark on the culinary world.

The story begins in 1944 when Julia McWilliams, a spirited and adventurous young woman, joined the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II. Stationed in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), she met Paul Child, a sophisticated and charming fellow OSS officer. Little did they know that this encounter would ignite a flame that would burn for a lifetime.

Their shared love for food became the cornerstone of their relationship. After the war, the couple embarked on a journey that would forever change the culinary landscape in America. Julia’s passion for French cuisine was ignited during their time in France, where Paul was stationed for his diplomatic duties. It was in Paris that Julia attended the famous Le Cordon Bleu cooking school, unraveling her culinary genius.

Paul, a devoted husband, supported Julia’s culinary endeavors wholeheartedly. He not only appreciated her talent but also became an integral part of her culinary adventures. In 1961, Julia published her groundbreaking cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” a collaborative effort with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle. Paul’s photography skills played a crucial role in bringing the recipes to life, making the book a visual feast.

Their collaboration extended beyond the kitchen and into the realm of television. “The French Chef,” Julia’s iconic cooking show, premiered in 1963, making her a household name across America. Paul, with his keen interest in photography, captured the essence of the show, creating a perfect blend of entertainment and culinary education. The show’s success catapulted Julia to stardom, and she became a culinary icon.

The Childs’ love was not only evident in their professional collaborations but also in the everyday moments they shared. Described by many as an inseparable duo, they embraced life with a contagious joy. Their shared laughter and playful banter were a testament to a love that grew stronger with each passing day.

In 1992, Paul Child passed away, leaving a void in Julia’s life. Yet, his legacy lived on through the love they shared and the culinary empire they built together. Julia continued to inspire aspiring chefs and home cooks alike, carrying the torch of their shared passion for food.

Julia Child once said, “The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.” This philosophy encapsulates the joie de vivre that defined their relationship. The love story of Julia and Paul Child is a celebration of shared passions, mutual respect, and the joy found in savoring life’s flavors together.

As we reflect on their remarkable journey, it is evident that the love between Julia and Paul Child transcends the confines of a typical romance. It is a love that continues to inspire chefs, food enthusiasts, and hopeless romantics, reminding us that a life seasoned with love is a life well-lived.

Now, enjoy one of the most famous recipe from Julia – her Boeuf Bourguignon – from her and Simone’s collaboration “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”.

Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon

6 ounces  bacon, solid chunk 
1 tablespoon  olive oil
3 lbs lean stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes 
1 carrot, peeled and sliced 
1 onion, peeled and sliced 
1 teaspoon  salt
1⁄4 teaspoon  pepper, freshly ground 
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups red wine (a full bodied wine like Bordeaux or Burgundy or Chianti)
2 -3 cups beef stock (Simple Beef stock is posted on the site, unsalted and defatted)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, mashed (you may choose to add more)
1 sprig thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dred thyme)
1 bay leaf, preferably fresh 

FOR THE BRAISED ONIONS

18 -24 white pearl onions, peeled 
1 1⁄2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1⁄2 tablespoons olive oil
1⁄2 cup beef stock
salt & fresh ground pepper
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
2 sprigs parsley

FOR THE SAUTEED MUSHROOMS

1 lb  mushroom, quartered 
2 tablespoons  unsalted butter
1 tablespoon  olive oil


Directions:

First prepare the bacon: cut off the rind and reserve. Cut the bacon into lardons about 1/4″ thick and 1 1/2″ long. Simmer the rind and the lardons for ten minutes in 1 1/2 quarts of water.

Drain and dry the lardons and rind and reserve.

Pre-heat the oven to 450°F.

Put the tablespoon of olive oil in a large (9″ – 10″ wide, 3″ deep) fireproof casserole and warm over moderate heat. Saute the lardons for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly.

Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon.

Dry off the pieces of beef and saute them, a few at a time in the hot oil/bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides.

Once browned, remove to the side plate with the bacon.

In the same oil/fat, saute the onion and the carrot until softened.

Pour off the fat and return the lardons and the beef to the casserole with the carrots and onion.

Toss the contents of the casserole with the salt and pepper and sprinkle with the flour.

Set the uncovered casserole in the oven for four minutes.

Toss the contents of the casserole again and return to the hot oven for 4 more minutes.

Now, lower the heat to 325°F and remove the casserole from the oven.

Add the wine and enough stock so that the meat is barely covered.

Add the tomato paste, garlic and herbs and the bacon rind.

Bring to a simmer on the top of the stove.

Cover and place in the oven, adjusting the heat so that the liquid simmers very slowly for three to four hours.

The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

While the meat is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms and set them aside till needed.

For the onion, if using frozen, make sure they are defrosted and drained.

Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet and add the onions to the skillet.

Saute over medium heat for about ten minutes, rolling the onions about so they brown as evenly as possible, without breaking apart.

Pour in the stock, season to taste, add the herbs, and cover.

Simmer over low heat for about 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but retain their shape and the liquid has mostly evaporated.

Remove the herbs and set the onions aside.

For the mushrooms, heat the butter and oil over high heat in a large skillet.

As soon as the foam begins to subside add the mushrooms and toss and shake the pan for about five minutes.

As soon as they have browned lightly, remove from heat.

TO FINISH THE STEW:

When the meat is tender, remove the casserole from the oven and empty its contents into a sieve set over a saucepan.

Wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it (discarding the bits of carrot and onion and herbs which remain in the sieve).

Distribute the mushrooms and onions over the meat.

Skim the fat off the sauce and simmer it for a minute or two, skimming off any additional fat which rises to the surface.

You should be left with about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly.  If the sauce is too thick, add a few tablespoons of stock.

If the sauce is too thin, boil it down to reduce to the right consistency.

Taste for seasoning.

Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables.

If you are serving immediately, place the covered casserole over medium low heat and simmer 2 to 3 minutes.

Serve in the casserole or on a warm platter surrounded by noodles, potatoes or rice and garnished with fresh parsley.

If serving later or the next day, allow the casserole to cool and place cold, covered casserole in the refrigerator.

20 minutes prior to serving, place over medium low heat and simmer very slowly for ten minutes, occasionally basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce.