Dinner Inspired By Julia Child

swordfish topped with tomato sauce
I would be lying if I didn't admit that I've been counting down to the Julie & Julia movie since the first time I saw a preview for it. It comes out today, and I'll be going to see it tomorrow! I truly enjoyed reading Julie and Julia and My Life in France (found out Julia Child lived right down the street from where I live now!), and I can't wait to see how the movie connects these two stories. I have no doubt that Meryl Streep plays an excellent Julia Child, and I really like Amy Adams.

I've read some articles lately suggesting that Julie Powell shouldn't be getting all this attention as she's nothing like Julia. That may be true, but we have Julie to thank for reviving Julia, in a sense. Julia's not one to ever be forgotten, but -- and this is just going on personal opinion -- I think that there are a great number of people cooking Julia's recipes now -- sort of like the 1960s all over again. And for people my age, I think it's amazing to hear so much about a woman who was so influential and inspirational and to see the effect she still has today.

When I read Julie Powell's book a few years back, I found myself wondering if I should start blogging about the things I cook and bake. You already know how that turned out. I didn't have quite the same focus for my blog. I just knew it would be a way to share my adventures with food. I know I would never do something like cook every recipe in Mastering The Art of French Cooking, but after reading Powell's book, I recieved the cookbook as a gift (hinting at these things works really well), and I've made some dishes from it.

There has been so much said about Julia Child, especially lately, that it's hard to say something new. Instead of trying to top what's already been said about Julia, I've decided to honor her and rally for the movie by making one of her recipes.

We tried the Thon a la Provencale (page 219 for those who have the book) and loved it. It's a dish made with tuna or swordfish that gets topped with a wine, tomato, and herb sauce. The flavors are bright and well integrated.

One of the main reasons I like following Julia's recipes is that you make everything from scratch. You don't use a jar of tomato sauce; you use fresh tomatoes. She challenges you to take a step back and really make a whole dish from start to finish.

Thon a la Provencale (adapted from Mastering The Art of French Cooking)

This version serves two.

bite of tomato-topped swordfish on fork
Remove skin from 1.5 pounds of swordfish and cut into two steaks. Mix 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 6 tablespoons olive oil, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in a square (or small rectangle) glass baking dish. Then add the fish and baste it with the marinade. Cover with waxed pepper and marinate for 1.5 to 2 hours. Turn fish ocassionally to make sure both sides are well marinated.

swordfish steaks in marinade
While fish is marinating, prepare tomatoes. Drop two red, ripe tomatoes into a pot of boiling water and remove after 10 seconds. Peel away skin. You may need a knife to start, but then you can easily pull the skin away with your fingers. Cut tomatoes in half crosswise and gently squeeze out seeds. Then dice tomatoes. Set aside.

peeled tomato
Dice small yellow onion (1/2 cup). Set aside with tomatoes.

In a small bowl, mix 1/4 teaspoon oregano, 1/8 teaspoon thyme, 1/8 teaspoon salt, a sprinkling of pepper, and 1 minced garlic clove. Also set this aside.

Then once swordfish is done marinating, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in large skillet. Remove fish from marinade and saute in pan for a minute or two on each side to brown. Discard marinade and rinse out baking dish (it's helpful if there's someone else to wash the baking dish while you brown the swordfish). Then arrange the lightly browned fish in the baking dish.

browned swordfish steaks
Saute onions in skillet for 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and garlic and seasonings. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. The spread the tomato mixture over the fish.

tomato onion mixture
swordfish topped with tomato onion mixture
Cover baking dish and bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and add 1/2 cup of dry white wine.

swordfish with tomato onion mixture and wine
Return to oven and bake for 30 minutes longer, turning heat down to 325 degrees when mixture is simmering.

While fish is cooking, mix together 1 tablespoon softened unsalted butter with 1 tablespoon flour in a small bowl, and set aside.

Next, remove fish from baking dish, scraping tomato mixture back into the dish, and place fish on serving platter. Tent with foil to keep fish warm.

swordfish after scraping tomato mixture off
Toss tomato sauce mixture back into the skillet, and boil it down until it has thickened. Stir in about 1 to 1.5 tablespoons of tomato paste. Taste and add salt if necessary.

Remove skillet from heat. Mix in the flour paste, and then return mixture to a simmer.

thickened tomato onion mixture
Spoon sauce over fish, and serve.

We had ours with green beans and angel hair. Julia recommends boiled potatoes or rice, but I look for any excuse to eat pasta, and a tomato-based sauce definitely fits that bill. Also, I ended up flaking the swordfish and piercing small pieces of it with my fork and then twirling some pasta around it so I could get a little of everything in each bite.

swordfish topped with tomato onion mixture
So has all of the Julia excitement gotten to you too? Have you made any of her dishes recently? Are you going to see the movie?

swordfish-topped pasta and green beans

Suggested links

Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch
Julie & Julia movie site
The Trouble with Julie & Julia
Blogging the Art of French Cooking

Books to check out
Julie and Julia
Mastering The Art of French Cooking
My Life in France