The morning after Thanksgiving, I woke up and ate homemade duck cassoulet with baked eggs and brown butter croissant French toast, because I was at Julia Child’s house, and that’s what you eat for breakfast when you’re living the dream. About six months prior, I read that Julia’s former home in Provence, France, was available to rent on Airbnb. My roommate, a fellow chef, and I looked at one another with wide eyes. “Could you imagine!?” we said, followed by at least ten rounds of “Should we?” We did. We put our paycheck-to-paycheck fears aside and gathered up four of our favorite women and multiple credit cards. As Julia once said, “In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” So we channeled our inner Julias and booked La Pitchoune for Thanksgiving.
Instead of planning our week of meals beforehand, we decided to let the French markets and Julia's spirit inspire us. Of course we still spent long nights prior to our trip curled up on our couch in Brooklyn, devouring early editions of Mastering the Art of French Cooking volumes 1 and 2. Her descriptions of a slow-simmered meaty cassoulet was just one of the many recipes we drooled over.
Now we were in the tiny town of Valbone, near Julia’s old house, staring at aisles of beautiful produce and meats—once again drooling. We found duck confit and some gorgeous sausages, and while gazing at the fresh, unrefrigerated eggs we heard Julia saying, “You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces—just good food from fresh ingredients.” With that, we decided to put our Brooklyn spin on Julia’s cassoulet: We turned to canned beans for speed and decided to #putaneggonit. Well versed in the importance of a balanced meal, we grabbed some of the most beautiful croissants we’ve ever encountered and cream and butter—two of Julia’s first loves—and headed back to La Pitchoune to make our morning feast. It turns out, a quick cassoulet is just as decadent as a day-long braise, and the baked eggs on top made this the ultimate first real breakfast at Julia’s (the previous morning we ate robust cheeses and fresh baguettes). And brown butter croissant French toast? It was equal parts rich, warm, sweet, French, and Julia—just like our entire stay. From the famous pegboard of kitchen tools and the herbs available to pick fresh from the backyard to the late nights gathered in the living room, drinking three-euro rosé and talking until we fell asleep, Julia was with us every moment.
I can’t quite describe the feeling of putting a lifelong love of cooking into Julia Child’s pots and pans. We spent two days making a Thanksgiving feast filled with Julia’s classics, adding our own touches, and taking advantage of the free-for-all cabinet of ports and brandies. We made buttery sauces and roast chickens, braised artichokes, and sausage stuffing. We spent hours chopping shallots and garlic, picked herbs in the pouring rain, added splashes of wine, taking swigs in between. We even found time to do a mannequin challenge.
A wise woman once said, “Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.” So try these recipes, or go rogue. Make them your own, put an egg on anything you want, and honor the woman who made so many of us fall in love with cooking.
By Theodora Kaloudis
Baked Brown Butter Croissant French Toast
By Theodora Kaloudis
3 slices thick cut bacon, chopped
1 lb chipolata sausage
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper
2 15-oz cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 ½ cups canned chopped tomato
2 cups chicken broth
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 cup shredded duck confit (optional)
6 large eggs
½ cup Panko bread crumbs
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 day-old croissants, cut in half through the middle
4 tablespoon unsalted butter and a little extra for greasing
1 cup whole milk
½ cup heavy cream
4 large eggs
⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
How to Make It
Place bacon in a large ovenproof skillet over medium. Cook bacon until crispy and brown, 6–8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon and set aside. Pierce sausage all over with a fork and add to skillet. Cook, covered, flipping halfway through until browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board, allow to cool slightly, and slice into ½-inch rounds.
Preheat oven to 375F. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook, swirling pan occasionally, until butter is deep golden and fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool.