Testing Recipes from Simca’s Cuisine

April 7th, 2014



I have been a faithful follower of all of Julia Child’s recipes for a long time.  Every one of them works well if you follow the instructions.  As Julia and her collaborators Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle devised Mastering the Art of French Cooking, nothing was left to chance.  Each recipe was meticulously tested and refined.  When volume two of their book came out, sans Louisette Bertholle, both Julia and Simca (as Simone Beck was affectionately known) scored another fine publication.  But, by this time, tempers were flaring between the two dear friends.  Simca was very opinionated about the superiority of French cuisine and argued with Julia about cooking methods needed to translate recipes to the American kitchen.  She was also beginning to feel slighted by the popularity and recognition that Julia was receiving because of The Mastering books and her television show.  Simca had her own way of doing things and felt that many of her recipes were left out of the second volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Julia and Simone

One of the recipes that she wanted included in Mastering II was a Pork Roast that she had developed.  Julia, knowing that the book was too far along in the publication process, had to veto the recipe.  There was no time for testing and preparing it for inclusion.  After Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume II was published, in part to placate Simca,  she was offered the opportunity to publish her own cookbook called simply Simca’s Cuisine.  One of the first recipes in the book is Pork Braised with Bourbon and Prunes.  I am assuming that this was the recipe that she had wanted to include in The Mastering volume.

Pork Braised in Bourbon

I made this pork roast recipe last week.  I give Simca high praise for the flavor combinations in this dish.  The pork is slathered with Dijon mustard and rolled in brown sugar before being sauteed and then braised in bourbon that is first flamed in the dish.  The prunes are a perfect accompaniment.  But I did not lard the dish with pickled tongue as suggested.  Who of us home cooks has a larding needle or has easy access to pickled tongue?  She did offer the alternatives of prosciutto or smoked ham, but I was still put off by this step.  I also found the cooking time of 1 3/4 hours much too long for the pork.  It was dry.  Maybe the larding would have made a difference. The sauce made with the bourbon juices offset the dryness.  To me it was a good recipe that needed tweaking.  You can find my version of the dish here.

Casserole of Ham and MushroomsThe second recipe that I tried, Molded Casserole of Ham and Mushrooms with Macaroni, Cheese, and Cream, did not work at all.   It had such promise.  I was excited about cooking the quiche-like filling in my charlotte mold.  It was supposed to be unmolded onto a plate and then drizzled with a tomato cream sauce.  One of the instructions was to cook the macaroni and then chop it up, after draining well.  This made absolutely no sense to me, but I did it anyway.  After baking everything in the charlotte mold, I flipped it over onto a plate and it had not set up.  Everything just puddled out.  Since this was supposed to be dinner last night, I just put it all into a casserole, rewarmed it and served it.  The flavors were great.  I would make this again as a casserole.  It is like a sophisticated macaroni and cheese with ham, mushrooms and Gruyere cheese.

So I guess the moral of this story is that Julia Child knew what she was talking about.  When you publish a cookbook it is best to test and retest.  Simca’s recipes are inspiring.  They have great flavor, but the techniques do not always work.  Here is my version of her macaroni and cheese.  I hope my techniques and flavors work for you.


1 cup Macaroni
2 cups diced ham
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
Juice of 1/2 a lemon, strained
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup half and half
4 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup Gruyere cheese, grated
Salt and pepper to taste
Nutmeg, freshly grated

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter a heavy casserole dish.  Cook the macaroni in a large quantity of boiling salted water until barely tender.  Refresh under cold running water, drain, and dry on paper towels.  Combine with the diced ham.

Clean the mushrooms and slice.  Sprinkle them with the lemon juice.  Melt the butter in a large frying pan, add the mushrooms, and saute, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes.  Salt lightly, pour in the light cream, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the mushrooms are tender and the cream has almost evaporated.  Drain if necessary.

Beat the eggs thoroughly with the heavy cream and the grated cheese.  Add the mushrooms, macaroni, and ham, and season highly with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.  Mix thoroughly and put mixture into casserole.  Cover casserole with lid or foil.

Bake casserole for about 30 minutes.

Printable recipe


18 responses to “Testing Recipes from Simca’s Cuisine”

  1. Penny @ The Comforts of Home says:

    They both sound like they taste wonderful! I get a little frustrated when I follow a recipe exactly and it does not work out. Looking forward to Thursday!

  2. Pam Thurow says:

    Yes, I remember Julia was a stickler with procedure and technique, while Simca was lackadaisical about testing her recipes. They’re all great cookbooks and cooking changed thanks to Julia. The ham dish ingredients all sound delicious together; it definitely has more than its share of fat!

  3. Barbara Williams says:

    So, Julia was right. I remember when our League put together a cookbook, each recipe was tested several times by different members. Took forever, but we have one gem of a cookbook, won all sorts of awards. (Savor the Moment is the name) Testing, as we all know…and we bloggers are the first to admit our problems and failures…is the answer to great cookbooks.

  4. Lemon Tart says:

    Penny, I think our pork has been bred to be so much leaner now than in Simca’s time. Also, if you have time go on youtube, watch Julia roast her chicken. She said it takes 3 hours. My sister laughs out loud when she watches her truss it, then tie it, then screwer it, oh, and I forgot that she butters it.

    That said, I think Simca’s/your dish sounds delicious and I’m good with the casserole. Nice save.


    • Penny Klett says:

      Thanks Madonna. You are right about the change in pork. Also we no longer feel that it should be cooked to death. Safety standards have improved. I love looking at old Julia videos. Where would we all be without her? Does this new generation of cooks even comprehend what she did? There are so many new blogs with great ideas out there. I hope they remember and appreciate what she accomplished.

      • Lemon Tart says:

        Zov Karamardian, a restaurant chef/owner here in Southern California/my favorite went up to Santa Barbara and visited and cooked her one of her last lunches. Zov did not think any thing of it. I told her she must tell everyone that story. How many people can say they cooked for Julia Child?

        Yes, Julia has given us so much.


        • Penny Klett says:

          The fact that Zov cooked for Julia and never shared it says a lot about her. Maybe one day it will be the right time to talk about it. You are so fortunate to be so close to such wonderful food history.

  5. Karen (Back Road Journal) says:

    The black and white photo seems to show their strong personalities. It does sound like Julia was correct in the end. It was good that you could salvage the dish. 🙂

  6. Larry says:

    Both dishes sound like some good eats Penny

  7. Sam Hoffer says:

    I love that photo and it certainly proves they disagreed and I have also read that they had problems. Both of your dishes are lovely Penny. I’ve never tried any of Simca’s recipes.

  8. Sharon says:

    That foto is a find. I get more hits for the pix of Julia and Paul than for anything else.

  9. Connie says:

    Simca’s cookbooks are excellent recipes. And pork Sylvester is one of my favorites. Yes it’s rich but you don’t eat like that everyday. We have always used Canadian bacon. We use to eat gravy but few eat like that today.

  10. Connor says:

    I think you have to understand that French cooking is very precise and I also think that you have to research both sides of the story before presenting your perceived version of the truth about both. You failed to mention that a large number of the recipes from the first book are actually family recipes of Simca’s that were passed down from generation to generation. You do her a great disservice with your comments.

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