Easy ‘Julie/Julia' Recipes to Cook Like a Pro and Impress your Friends

How the late Julie Powell’s foray into French cooking can inspire your own kitchen adventures with three simple recipes.

Chef and author Julie Powell attends the New York City premiere of Nora Ephron's "Julie & Julia"
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Food blogger and best-selling author Julie Powell died at 49 in October, but the legacy of her cooking adventures lives on.

Powell was best known for her 2002 food blog “The Julie/Julia Project,” where she set off to cook all 524 recipes listed in award-winning chef Julia Child’s book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1” in one year. The personal approach of Powell’s blog, often including anecdotes of her own early 30s ennui and struggles of recreating French recipes with little cooking experience in a cramped New York apartment, set the blog apart from the refined conventions of food writing popular at the time.

Readers were refreshed by her honesty. In a remembrance profile for Vulture, writer Rax King insisted, “It’s hard to overstate Powell’s impact on food writing at the turn of the millennium. How much glorious writing would be explicitly devoted to home cooking without her?”

Powell achieved every blogger’s dream when her online kitchen vignettes graduated from her desktop to bookshelves nationwide with the book “Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen” published in 2005. Her popularity skyrocketed further after Nora Ephron wrote and directed the 2009 film “Julie & Julia,” starring A-listers Amy Adams as Powell and Meryl Streep as Julia Child.

The “Julie & Julia” film grossed $129.5 million at the box office, and the book was a best-seller. Powell’s playful approach to cooking and writing inspired a new wave of people who wanted to “maximize the pride and the pleasure to be had in making and consuming delicious things,” commented journalist Frank Bruni.

While a Peabody and Emmy award winning television chef’s dense cookbook on French cuisine may seem like an intimidating addition to your kitchen, Powell posited that her adventures were about “learning to sniff out the secret doors of possibility” over mastery of the craft. You don’t need culinary experience or to stumble through 524 recipes of French cuisine to ignite that sense of wonder in your home.

Here are three easy recipes from “The Julie/Julia Project” to add adventure to your kitchen and convince your friends you are a culinary pro.

Quiche Lorraine

Quiche Lorraine is a perfect example of the type of cooking Julie Powell loved: easy, delicious, and ostensibly fancy. This fluffy egg custard will make you feel like a French chef in four steps.

Ingredients

  • 6 to 8 pieces thick-sliced bacon
  • An 8-inch partially cooked pastry shell placed on a buttered baking sheet
  • 3 large eggs 
  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of pepper and nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Steps

  1. Preheat Oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Slice bacon into ¼ inch pieces and brown lightly in a frying pan; drain and spread in bottom of pastry shell. Beat eggs, cream, and seasonings in a bowl to blend.
  3. Just before baking, pour cream mixture into the shell, filling to within 1/8 inch of the top. Cut butter into bits and distribute over the cream. 
  4. Bake in upper third of oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until quiche has puffed and browned, and a small knife, plunged into custard, comes out clean. Serve hot, warm, or cold; quiche will sink slightly as it cools.

Puree de Pommes de Terre a L’Ail

Fear not, Puree de Pommes de Terre a L’Ail is a lot simpler than it sounds. As Powell put it in her 2002 “Julie/Julia” entry, “that’s garlic mashed potatoes to you and me.” Here is a perfect side dish to add to your holiday roster and convince your family you’ve mastered French cooking.

Ingredients

  • 30 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 8 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 ½ lb. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" pieces
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
  • ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
  • ¼  cup minced parsley

Steps

  1. Boil garlic in a 1-qt. saucepan of water 2 minutes; drain and peel.
  2. Melt 4 tbsp. butter in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium.
  3. Cook garlic until soft, 15–20 minutes.
  4. Stir in flour; cook 2 minutes. Stir in milk; cook until thickened, 3–4 minutes.
  5. Transfer to a blender; purée into a smooth sauce.
  6. Cook potatoes in salted boiling water until tender, about 15 minutes; drain and pass through a potato ricer back into the pan.
  7. Stir in remaining butter, reserved sauce, the cream, parsley, salt, and pepper; cook 2 minutes more.

Crème Renversee au Caramel

Crème caramel is a sweet caramel custard also known as flan. When Powell made this “warm and yummery and great” caramel custard in 2003, she considered it her best and easiest dessert.

Ingredients

For the caramel

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water

For the custard

  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, or 1 vanilla bean

Steps

  1. Add sugar and water to a heavy stainless-steel saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. When it starts to brown, swirl the saucepan around but do not stir. This will ensure that the sugar turns color evenly and will help wash any crystals off the side. When it is thick and a light, nutty brown, remove from heat and pour directly into molds; swirl each mold to coat evenly with the caramel.
  2. Bring the milk and vanilla bean (if you are using) to just below a simmer in a saucepan. Let the vanilla steep in the milk while you prepare the rest of the custard ingredients.
  3. Gradually beat the sugar into the eggs and egg yolks in a bowl until well mixed, light, and foamy. Continue beating while pouring in the hot milk in a thin stream of droplets. If you are using vanilla extract rather than a vanilla bean, add it now. Strain the mixture through a fine-meshed sieve into the caramel-lined molds.
  4. To bake the molds, set them in a pan and pour enough boiling water around them to come halfway up the sides. Place in the bottom third of an oven preheated to 350F. After five minutes, turn down the heat to 325F. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the center is firm but slightly wobbly. Cooking it too long will result in a tough rather than tender custard.
  5. If you would like to serve the custards warm, set the molds in cold water for about ten minutes before unmolding; otherwise, chill in the refrigerator. To unmold, run a knife between the custard and edges of the mold. Place a serving dish upside down over the mold and quickly reverse the two and remove the mold from the custard.
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