With the 1961 publication of her groundbreaking cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking (co-authored with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle), Julia Child launched a highly successful effort to demystify French cuisine by enabling American cooks “to create French dishes in American kitchens with American foods.”
Mastering the Art of French Cooking sold more than 100,000 copies in its first year and also provided the springboard to Child's improbable career in television. In February 1962, just four months after her cookbook’s release, Child appeared on a local interview program on WGBH in Boston and matter-of-factly prepared a mushroom omelet. Viewers were enchanted, and letters poured in asking for more opportunities to see Child in action.
The result was the debut on July 26, 1962, of The French Chef—the half-hour cooking show on public television that would make Julia Child a household name and a culinary icon.
From Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, vol. 1, 40th anniversary edition (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001).
Coq Au Vin
[Chicken in Red Wine with Onions, Mushrooms, and Bacon]
This popular dish may be called coq au Chambertin, coq au Riesling, or coq au whatever wine you use for its cooking. It is made with either white or red wine, but the red is more characteristic. In France it is usually accompanied only by parsley potatoes; buttered green peas could be included if you wish a green vegetable. Serve with it a young, full-bodied red Burgundy, Beaujolais, or Côtes du Rhône.
For 4 to 6 people
A 3- to 4-ounce chunk of lean bacon
A heavy, 10-inch, fireproof casserole or an electric skillet
2 Tb butter
2 ½ to 3 lbs. cut-up frying chicken
½ tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
¼ cup cognac
3 cups young, full-bodied red wine such as Burgundy, Beaujolais, Côtes du Rhône, or Chianti
1 to 2 cups brown chicken stock, brown stock, or canned beef bouillon
½ Tb tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
¼ tsp thyme
12 to 24 brown-braised onions
½ lb. sautéed mushrooms
Salt and pepper [additional salt and pepper for the section that begins “Simmer the chicken cooking liquid in the casserole…]
3 Tb flour
2 Tb softened butter [additional butter for the section that begins “Blend the butter and flour together into a smooth paste…]
A rubber spatula
A wire whip
Sprigs of fresh parsley
Remove the rind and cut the bacon into lardons (rectangles ¼ inch across and 1 inch long). Simmer for 10 minutes in 2 quarts of water. Rinse in cold water. Dry.
Saute the bacon slowly in hot butter until it is very lightly browned (temperature of 260 degrees for an electric skillet). Remove to a side dish.
Dry the chicken thoroughly. Brown it in the hot fat in the casserole (360 degrees for the electric skillet).
Season the chicken. Return the bacon to the casserole with the chicken. Cover and cook slowly (300 degrees) for 10 minutes, turning the chicken once.
Uncover, and pour in the cognac. Averting your face, ignite the cognac with a lighted match. Shake the casserole back and forth for several seconds until the flames subside.
Pour the wine into the casserole. Add just enough stock or bouillon to cover the chicken. Stir in the tomato paste, garlic, and herbs. Bring to the simmer. Cover and simmer slowly for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the chicken is tender and its juices run a clear yellow when the meat is pricked with a fork. Remove the chicken to a side dish.
While the chicken is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms.
Simmer the chicken cooking liquid in the casserole for a minute or two, skimming off fat. Then raise heat and boil rapidly, reducing the liquid to about 2 ¼ cups. Correct seasoning. Remove from heat, and discard bay leaf.
Blend the butter and flour together into a smooth paste (beurre manié). Beat the paste into the hot liquid with a wire whip. Bring to the simmer, stirring, and simmer for a minute or two. The sauce should be thick enough to coat a spoon lightly.
Arrange the chicken in the casserole, place the mushrooms and onions around it, and baste with the sauce. If the dish is not to be served immediately, film the top of the sauce with stock or dot with small pieces of butter. Set aside uncovered. It can now wait indefinitely.
Shortly before serving, bring to the simmer, basting the chicken with the sauce. Cover and simmer slowly for 4 to 5 minutes, until the chicken is hot through.
Serve from the casserole, or arrange on a hot platter. Decorate with sprigs of parsley.
Julia Child / David Marlin / Gelatin silver print, 1971 / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; acquired through the generosity of Ann M. Shumard in honor of Thomas D. Matteson