15 February 2012

Channelling My Inner Julia Child

Chef Batey
Ever since the film Julie and Julia came out, it seems Julia Child is on everyones radar, foodies and non-foodies alike. The fact that Julia started her passion for food and cooking so late in life makes us "kindred spirits" although, like me, I am sure she had a passion for food from the very beginning, she just didn't know it. She is so inspiring to me because of her outlook on life and her unending joy for her chosen path. I’m happy to say her wonderful recipes and independent spirit are still alive!!!!

This past week I channelled my inner Julia Child and took a cooking class with executive chef Matt Batey at renowned Mission Hill Winery. I have always had a heightened degree of curiosity about cooking. Chef Matthew Batey of Mission Hill prepares each dish in their state-of-the-art Culinary Theatre where the chefs readily share their expert knowledge about ingredients and techniques that are essential to the creation of great food. We kicked off what I am desperately hoping is the beginning of Spring and awakened our senses with irresistible recipes from the Great Dame of cooking herself Julia Child...The Best of Julia Child. You see, I love to cook and I have a tendency to romanticize the ordinary. So it simply made sense for me to think that a menu created from the Julia Child archives would be the starting point for a magical evening.

The stage was set, the lights dimmed and the culinary theatre loomed before us. Sparkling glasses of crystal soon to be filled with library reserve and award winning wines from Mission Hill Winery promised the second act to each course. On the menu Bouillabaise made with succulent clams, scallops, albacore tuna and mussels; a mushroom duxelle enveloped with crepes and topped with a mouth-watering Sauce Mornay; a Timbale of Spinach and Chicken Livers highlighted with beets pickled in pinot noir, a beet glaze and beet sorbet; Roasted Goose which Okanagan Fruit and Apple Stuffing with a succulent gravy and the piece de resistance...a Cold Pumpkin Souffle with a 2009 Reserve Vidal Icewine. Out tastebuds danced across the table with every culinary masterpiece set before us. 

Chef Batey walked us step by step through a fantastic feast of flavours following Julia Childs recipes, although he couldn't help but add his own flair here and there. It was a given that there would be a little butter in this class!!! The open concept of the gallery encourages direct interaction with the chefs and it was very clear that they enjoyed the questions and conversations. This is a very interactive class! Not only did Chef Batey impart many great cooking tips and techniques, he also discussed at length the importance for quality ingredients- local and organic whenever possible- which I always like to hear.

Timbale of Spinach and Chicken Livers
We are all blessed to be among those who owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Julia Child for her tireless guidance, enlightenment, inspiration, and encouragement through the decades. She set a tremendous example for us, not only with her culinary expertise, but also with her marvelous sense of humor, and her indomitable grace and aplomb in sticky situations and live television.  Her work speaks for itself!!!  Bloopers such as “First you take a leek…” would perhaps have destroyed the career of those less self-assured than our Julia. Long may she reign as the number one most influential woman in food, in my humble opinion.

Chef Batey brought the evening to life and I have already signed up for future classes. Enrolling in cooking classes is a good idea especially if you want to improve your culinary knowledge and skills. People who know how to cook can still improve their cooking skills. Attending classes in cooking will help you forget all the mayhem that you caused in the kitchen in the past. It serves as a map or a GPS that will guide you in the right direction. When you know where you are going, you can do the necessary steps or procedures with full confidence. Chef Batey was our tour guide through the menu to recreate one of the better experiences of my life in food.

There’s something so wonderful about cooking from a recipe. By following the directions, ingredient for ingredient we were channeling the culinary spirit that created the dish. When each dish was complete and we sampled the flavours, we were able to sit back and take an objective view. Our taste buds marvelled at the genius that married those singular flavours together and we began to understand the inspiration from the inside out. As we have all learned every recipe is a starting point and a guideline since from there you are on your own and limited only by your imagination!

So what did I learn, you ask?

That in Europe and France oils are treated as a seasoning. Their profile will add to the complexity of the dish.

 Cook with what you are drinking and at least put a little into each dish and not  just into your wine glass.

When making a duxelle a finely grated Parmesan is added to "dry up" the filling.

The crepe is just the vessel for the stuffing.

What grows together goes together!

Flavour your gravy with applesauce!

My inner Julia Child was released on a foggy, ethereal night in the Okanagan Valley. As Julia would always say......Bon Appetit!!!!!!!!

Mission Hill Family Estate
1730 Mission Hill Road
West Kelowna, Okanagan Valley
British Columbia, Canada
V4T 2E4

Main 250.768.7611
Wine Shop 250.768.6498
General Information 250-768-6448
Facsimile 250.768.2267
E-mail info@missionhillwinery.com

Mission Hill Winery in the fog
You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison.
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  1. Wow, I'd love to take such a class! Very interesting, I'm sure. The food looks wonderful.



  2. Dear Val, this is such a beautiful post. I love Julia Child, her techniques, her attitude, her, voice, everything. She is a great teacher. When I have doubts about certain combination, technique, I take her book or watch one of her DVDs to find an answer.

  3. I love taking cooking classes from Chefs in Ottawa. There is always something new to learn. That is quite a menu. That must had been delicious and worth your time.

  4. I absolutely loved this post! Like you (and Julia) I have come to the food game later in life. My culinary passions took root when I attended a cooking course with Chef Mara Jernigan here on Vancouver Island a few years ago. It changed my life!

    So glad I found this blog. I know I'm going to enjoy it!

  5. What can I say? Fabulous post written from the heart; very easy to spot how much you love cooking and and everything related to it.
    That class sounds great; you were blessed with a real chef who cares. Really wish we had that in our area; Julia is the Queen and love that tip about adding finely grated Parmesan when making a duxelle.
    Thank you for sharing; I truly enjoyed it.

  6. I wish I lived close enough to a real Chef class. Sounds like a great night. I always wanted to take the Food Network cruise, you might have just inspired me to do so. Love your blog...


  7. what a great read. it's been ages since i've taken a cooking class.

  8. What a wonderful evening this must have been, Val. Everything sounds delicious and the company sounds great as well. It is so nice to see professionals at work. I don't envy folks much, but I think your evening has turned me a little green. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  9. What a wonderful experience, Val. I have watched Julie and Julia many times and get something new from it each time I watch it. Excellent post, thanks.

  10. What a lovely post, Val! Isn't it great to keep on learning?

  11. I loved that movie! This cooking class looks like a wonderful & informative experience.

  12. I had almost forgotten about the applesauce in the goose gravy! Something I had never seen before. Excellent posts Val, and wonderful photos. So glad to have shared the table with you :-)

  13. Looks like a great evening. I agree with all the tips you shared except the last which was a new one to me...though I get it. I often put dried plums in gravies to thicken and sweeten.

  14. Glad I finally had a few minutes to sit down and read this wonderful post! What an opportunity and what beautiful recipes. It's funny. I'm always so about experimenting and using recipes as a guideline, but you made me see recipes as a way of following a legacy, almost a way to get to know a chef. Certainly using recipes from fellow bloggers is my way of getting to know them. Maybe it's time for me to start hitting my cookbook shelf.

    Such beautiful food and great tips. You are very lucky indeed!

  15. This sounds like such a fun class and awesome experience!

  16. How wonderful! What a fantastic experience. I want to go to the next one.... I've always wanted to do a cooking class - maybe now I'll be inspired to do it!


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