Learn from the queen of French cuisine.

By Zoe Denenberg
April 09, 2020
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“When I was living in France in the early 1950's, cut-up chicken was unheard of. You bought your chicken whole,” Julia Child writes for a 1987 edition of the New York Times Magazine. “Returning to this country some years later, I snobbishly resisted any suggestion of ready-cut chicken until I started my television series, ‘The French Chef,’ and was suddenly cooking for a large audience. I was rather rapidly won over to the idea of buying chicken in pieces.”

Child may be known for her mastery of classic French dishes, but just like generations of Southern chefs, she gained fame for her ingenuity, resourcefulness, and lively spirit. (And just like Southern cooks, Child certainly did not shy away from cream or butter.)

Julia Child is the original queen of French cooking. Her beloved French recipes—from boeuf bourguignon to spatchcocked, wine-basted chicken—stand the test of time as show-stopping dinner party mains, and her desserts are in a league of their own. Once you’ve rewatched all the episodes of The French Chef, it’s time to get into the kitchen and recreate some of Child’s classic recipes. You can find more of Child’s classic French recipes in her cookbooks—Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I, is a great place to start.

Coq a Vin

Translated as “chicken in wine,” this classic French dish is deceptively simple. A Burgundy wine like Pinot Noir gives the dish complexity and body—you can use any red wine you’d like, but in honor of Child, we suggest selecting a French bottle. Find the recipe here.

Vichyssoise

Well-known as one of Julia Child’s favorite dishes, this soup of chilled leek and potato is startling in its simplicity. Aside from the leek, potato, and water, Child’s version of the soup calls for barely any additional ingredients. Child provides the option to add a bit of cream to the completed soup as a “nourishing touch, but by no means necessary.”

Quiche Lorraine

A thin, light crust is the trademark of this French quiche, its filling made with bacon, eggs, heavy cream, and nutmeg. Julia Child’s recipe for Quiche Lorraine is guaranteed to impress. The Southern Living Test Kitchen's Quiche Lorraine is a welcomed dish at any brunch as well.

Boeuf Bourguignon

One of the first recipes featured on Julia Child’s The French Chef, this stew of slow-cooked beef and red wine is a Child staple. It may take 6 hours to come together, but that leaves plenty of time for developing big flavor. Find the recipe here, or try our pared-down take on beef stew.

Crêpes Suzette

A quintessential French dish of crepes flambeed in a buttery orange sauce and brandy, Child describes this as an “elegant dessert,” and we can’t help but agree. Watch Julia Child make Crêpes Suzette here, or make a similarly elegant Crepe Cake.

Chicken Waterzooi

What Julia Child called “the most interesting recipe I’ve clipped,” Chicken Waterzooi—chicken nestled in a silky sauce of cream and egg yolks—is Child’s take on a classic Flemish dish. She swaps fish for chicken and layers the chicken with vegetables and simmers it all in chicken stock and vermouth. Chicken Waterzooi is undoubtedly one of Child’s most underrated recipes (if not for the fun name alone).

Cassoulet

Just as Southerners hold casserole near and dear to our hearts, Julia Child celebrated the cassoulet as a perfectly humble dish of beans and meat. This must be one of our all-time favorite Child quotes: “Cassoulet, that best of bean feasts, is everyday fare for a peasant but ambrosia for a gastronome, though its ideal consumer is a 300-pound blocking back who has been splitting firewood nonstop for the last twelve hours on a subzero day in Manitoba.” Here’s Child’s quite involved take on cassoulet (but you might be better off making a classic Southern casserole).

Vinaigrette

Homemade vinaigrette is one of the easiest things to whip up in a home kitchen, and it’s so much better than the bottled stuff (Ina Garten agrees). Julia Child’s recipe for vinaigrette—made with “dry martini proportions” of vinegar to oil—certainly stands the test of time.

French Baguette

If you’re just begun to foray into bread-baking, may we suggest testing your hand with a classic French baguette? It may not be simple, but the result is spectacular. Get the recipe here.

Tarte Tatin

A showstopper of a dessert, this upside-down apple tarte is the French answer to an apple pie. When served hot and topped with a dollop of cream, this warm, caramel-coated tarte is simply irresistible. Julia Child developed multiple versions of this recipe—find them here.