THE DINNER PARTY: Dinner with Julia

A much beloved figure in our culinary history, Julia Child ignited many a home cook's Francophilia, so much so that her name is practically synonymous with French cuisine in America. In honor of her birthday (she'd be 100 today!), we've put together a menu of classic French favorites: lemony sole in butter sauce, tender asparagus topped with Julia's blender hollandaise, fluffy pommes soufflées, and a rich chocolate mousse from Mastering The Art of French Cooking.

The Menu

More About This Menu

1. To drink, French wine is a must! Try a sauvignon blanc from Sancerre or Pouilly Fumé; the grape's minerality complements the white fish, without competing with the buttery sauce. Or a crisp white Burgundy from Chablis will convert any "anything but chardonnay" wine drinker with its fresh, lively flavors.

2. 3-5 cheeses, from mild to sharp, is a good number to offer for the cheese course. We suggest Brillat Savarin, a french triple cream that tastes like heaven and is great with bubbly white; Ossau Iraty, a firm sheep's milk cheese from the French Pyrénées that has a nutty, sweet, buttery flavor similar to Manchego; and Roquefort (if you like strong blue) or Bleu d'Auvergne (for a more mild flavor). For more cheeses we love, see our favorite cheeses of the Savoie or cheeses of the Auvergne.

3. Making hollandaise can be intimidating. For a method that Julia herself described as "within the capabilities of an 8-year-old child," all you need is a blender. See how to make blender hollandaise »

4. For more ideas, see our collection of recipes inspired by Julia Child »

RECIPE: Sole à la Grenobloise
In the realm of classic French cuisine, any preparation bearing the designation grenobloise-literally, "of Grenoble", a city in southeastern France-is served with a sauce of browned butter, capers, parsley, and pieces of lemon. SERVES 2

2 whole skinless sole filets (about 4 oz. each), halved lengthwise down center line
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
¼ cup milk
1 lemon, peeled
½ cup flour
2 tbsp. clarified butter
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tsp. capers, drained
2 tsp. coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

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1. Season sole filets with salt and pepper; put them into a shallow dish. Cover with milk; set aside.

2. Using a knife, cut white pith away from lemon; remove segments by slicing between membranes. Cut half the segments into ½" pieces. (Reserve the other half for another use.) Put flour on a plate; season with salt and pepper; set aside.

3. Heat clarified butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Remove filets from milk; fold the thin, tapered ends under to create an even thickness. Dredge both sides in flour, shake off excess, and add to skillet. Cook, turning once, until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to plates; cover with foil to keep warm.

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RECIPE: Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce
This unorthodox method for making hollandaise simplifies and streamlines the process by letting you cook nearly all the ingredients together at once. The resulting sauce is luscious and full-flavored, with a hint of spice from Tabasco sauce. SERVES 6

¼ cup white wine vinegar
¼ cup dry white wine
10 black peppercorns
1 large shallot, finely chopped
8 egg yolks, beaten
1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Kosher salt, to taste
Tabasco sauce, to taste
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 ½ lbs. asparagus, woody ends removed

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1. Put vinegar, wine, peppercorns, and shallots into a large skillet over medium-high heat; simmer until reduced to about 2 tbsp., 5-6 minutes. Strain reduction through a fine-meshed sieve and let cool.

2. Pour water into a medium pot so that it reaches a depth of 2"; bring to a simmer over medium heat. In a large bowl, whisk together reduction, yolks, butter, salt, and Tabasco. Set bowl over pot; the bottom shouldn't touch water. Whisk mixture until thick, 4-5 minutes. (Don't be alarmed if it looks curdled.) Remove bowl from heat; add lemon juice and ¼ cup warm water; whisk until sauce is smooth; keep warm.

3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add asparagus; cook until just crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and transfer to a serving platter. Pour sauce over asparagus and serve.

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RECIPE: Chocolate Mousse Recipe
This rich, elegant dessert is a classic. SERVES 6

6 oz. semisweet chocolate, cut into small chunks
1⁄4 cup dark rum or orange liqueur
4 eggs, separated
3⁄4 cup sugar
1⁄4 cup strong coffee
8 tbsp. softened butter, cut into chunks
1⁄4 tsp. cream of tartar
Pinch of salt
1⁄2 cup heavy cream

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1. Combine chocolate and rum in a small pot; nestle it inside a larger pot filled partway with boiling water. Cover smaller pot and set aside to let melt.

2. Beat yolks in another small pot until pale and frothy. Combine sugar and coffee in another pot; cook over medium heat until dissolved, 5-6 minutes. Pour into yolks in a stream, while whisking; set aside. Pour water into a large pot to a depth of 2". Heat over medium-low heat until hot but not simmering. Nestle pot containing yolk mixture over pot and cook, whisking vigorously, until thick and creamy, 8-9 minutes. Transfer yolk mixture to a clean bowl; beat with an electric mixer until cool, about 5 minutes. Uncover chocolate mixture and stir; add butter and whisk until smooth. Fold chocolate-butter mixture into yolk mixture; set aside.

3. Beat egg whites in a bowl until just frothy. Add cream of tartar and salt; beat to stiff peaks. Stir one-fourth of the egg whites into chocolate-yolk mixture; gently fold in the rest. Spoon mousse into 6 serving cups or dishes; cover; chill until set. Beat cream to stiff peaks; transfer to a pastry bag with a star tip. Pipe a rosette of cream onto each mousse.

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