MALIBU WAY OF LIFE: Julia’s Kitchen

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“Bon appetit!” she trebled Wednesday night, signing off on another lesson in “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” As unlikely a TV star as any that ever crossed the air waves, Julia Child is big-almost 6-feet tall-with crimp-set sandy hair frizzed by steam. When she spoke, she stooped to peer into the camera as though she expected you to look back and nod compliance. And that voice! Plummy round, but with a squeak on the end, it both grated and engaged until it became iconic in “Saturday Night Live.”

Julia Child has retired. Her old house is sold and she lives in a Montecito condo, but her kitchen remains in the East as an American landmark. Housed in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, it seems humble in this day of stainless and granite trophy kitchens. Hers is all butcherblock and turquoise melamine with Rubbermaid turntables, which hold batteries of cooking oils and grinders. Measuring cups and spoons, and gadgets of every vintage and variety hang from nails on the wall with a pride of place as refined as Monet still lifes. Her stove is a battered Garland she bought used for $456 in 1953 and her dishwasher is not much newer. Pans have a pegboard wall of honor with hand-drawn outlines of each indicating its proper home.

Her only nod to modernity shows up in two new-fangled appliances-a cobalt blue Kitchenaid mixer and an industrial gray Robot-coupe, precursor to today’s Cuisinart. Of the latter, she said, “The greatest breakthrough since the mixer. It’ll even reduce a wet fish to a puree and you know how hard that is to do!” Well I don’t, since I can’t remember cooking before the processor much less life before a mixer, but Julia’s kitchen is a testament to function over form.

And, the most important function of her kitchen may be conviviality, since the purpose of all that cooking is bringing people together. In the center of Julia’s kitchen sits her most treasured utensil-a broad-breasted table with generous armchairs at either end, just the thing for the woman who wrote, “The best thing about cooking for company is company while cooking.” Thank you, Julia, for the lessons and your immortal recipes. Bon appetit, indeed!

Julia’s Roast Chicken

Serves 8 – 10

You may recall an episode where she dropped a roast after lifting it from the oven. A slight tilt of her wrist to angle it for the camera catapulted the slippery bird onto the much-tracked-upon kitchen floor. “Oops!” she cried and just as quickly scooped it back into the roaster. “You’re alone in the kitchen-a bit of parsley and no one will know,” she advised-and thus began the famed Five-Second Rule. If something falls, you have five seconds to get it back on the plate until it’s too dirty for diners. Today, Julia says the episode never happened, but millions of loyal viewers swear it did. You be the judge.

At 87, Julia says roast chicken and green salad is her favorite meal.

Roasting chicken

4 Tbs. butter, softened

2 Tbs. olive oil

1 onion, sliced

2 carrots, sliced

1 celery stalk, sliced

2 cups chicken broth

2 Tbs. butter

Note: estimated roasting time is 25 minutes a pound.

Preheat oven to 425-degrees.

Rinse, drain and pat dry chicken. Rub skin with 2 tablespoons butter and season with salt and pepper. Mix oil and butter.

Place chicken, breast-side up, in a shallow roasting pan and strew vegetables around it. Brown 15 minutes. Baste with oil and butter mix. Turn on each side for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to 350-degrees.

Baste every 10 minutes. To test for done, try wiggling the drumstick. Let chicken rest before carving.

Pour off all but four tablespoons of fat. Add broth and butter. Stir, boiling rapidly. Julia keeps Gravy Master for seasoning.

Variation: Another woman of TV fame offers an Italian version so easy it’s almost a shame to call it a recipe. Marcella Hazan calls it “Chicken With Two Lemons.” Omit veggies and preheat oven to 350-degrees. Do step two, then prick two clean lemons 20 times and place in the cavity and truss. Bake breast-side down 30 minutes. Turn and roast until done. It self-bastes and puffs up.