The movie “Julie and Julia” brought back great memories of how I met Julia Child in 1978 and how it resulted in adapting her bouillabaisse recipe for a kosher kitchen.
I had just finished writing my first group of paperback cookbooks for Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm and The Farmers Market when I received notice that Julia Child was giving a cooking demonstration and book signing in La Jolla to benefit the University of California San Diego Medical Center. It was one of many charity events where Julia donated her time and expertise.
I was fortunate to meet her at the beginning of the session and explained that I was having fun converting her recipes to conform to a kosher home, especially her bouillabaisse recipe, which always includes shellfish. I also mentioned that I often make her Bouillabaisse de Poulet (Chicken Poached in White Wine With Provençal Vegetables). She thought that was “just marvelous” and insisted that I meet a friend of hers who wrote about Jewish foods.
After she finished teaching the class, we met again when I was in line to have her autograph a cookbook for me. Julia remembered the conversation that we’d had earlier in the day, and she wrote the following: “Bon Appétit to Judy who will make all of this […] kosher! Julia Child.”
A year later, she donated a cooking class to Planned Parenthood in Los Angeles. She contacted me to make sure I was attending and asked if I would assist her. Of course, I was delighted.
I later visited her in Santa Barbara and even joined her for lunch at La Super Rica, her favorite Mexican restaurant. Many years later, I was her guest at the 80th birthday party that chef Michel Richard gave in her honor at Citrus restaurant. It was lovely sitting next to her as we reminisced about our first meeting. I still have the photo taken when we first met and the apron and champagne glasses that were made to commemorate her birthday event.
I think it was Julia Child who inspired me to write my first Jewish cookbook, “The Gourmet Jewish Cook,” and I am happy to share one of her recipes that I adapted for my book — the seafood Bouillabaisse With Rouille, which I dedicated to her.
Thank you, Julia.
Bouillabaisse with Rouille (Fish Stew With Garlic Sauce)
How can you make bouillabaisse in a kosher kitchen? It’s easy — just don’t use shellfish, swordfish or any other non-kosher seafood. And follow this recipe.
This stew is ideal for a large group. Just use a larger pot and double or triple the recipe. The Rouille — I give a choice here of a classic version and one featuring fresh basil — adds an extra piquant taste.
I remember the first time I met Julia Child and explained how I began with her bouillabaisse recipe and made the necessary changes for kosher requirements. She was delighted at the idea and spoke of it whenever we met.
1/4 cup olive oil
2 onions, diced
2 leeks, thinly sliced, with greens
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 celery stalks, sliced
2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes, or 3 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon thyme
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 bay leaves
3 to 4 cups dry white wine
Pinch of saffron (optional)
5 cups fish stock
3 to 4 pounds white firm-fleshed fish fillets (such as halibut, whitefish or sea bass), cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
2 or 3 potatoes, peeled, diced and parboiled
freshly ground black pepper
2 large carrots, cut into julienne, parboiled and drained
Rouille (recipes follow)
Heat the oil in a large saucepan and sauté the onions, leeks and garlic until tender but not yet browned, about 5 minutes. Add the celery and carrots; simmer for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, thyme, fennel seeds, bay leaves and 3 to 4 cups of the wine. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Add the saffron and fish stock. Simmer for 1 hour.
Add the fish and potatoes. Season to taste with salt, pepper and Tabasco. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through; do not overcook. Ladle into hot soup bowls and garnish with the julienned carrots. Let guests add Rouille to taste.
4 garlic cloves
1/2 roasted red bell pepper
2 slices white bread, crusts trimmed
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon paprika (optional)
4 to 5 drops Tabasco sauce
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 to 1 cup fish stock
In a processor or blender, process the garlic, bell pepper, bread, tomato paste, paprika, Tabasco, olive oil and 1/2 cup fish stock, turning the machine on and off for 5 seconds.
Then continue processing 10 seconds to make a smooth paste. Add additional fish stock if needed.
Fresh Basil Rouille
6 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon salt
12 large, fresh basil leaves
1 roasted red bell pepper
1/2 cup fresh white bread, lightly packed
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 cups olive oil
2 or 3 drops of Tabasco sauce
In a processor or blender, blend the garlic, salt and basil. Add the bell pepper, bread and egg yolk. Add the olive oil in a thin stream until the sauce is thick. Season to taste with Tabasco. This sauce can be prepared a day or two in advance, covered and stored in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature and beat with a fork before serving.