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Comfort And Joy: Making The 'Morning Edition' Julia Child Thanksgiving08:56
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Julia Child's reassembled Thanksgiving turkey. (Maggie Starbard/NPR)
Julia Child's reassembled Thanksgiving turkey. (Maggie Starbard/NPR)

Like many of us who consider ourselves food adventurers most of the year, when it comes to Thanksgiving, we just want the turkey and mashed potatoes we grew up with. Well, OK, maybe just a teensy bit better than what we grew up with, but along the same lines.

Chris Kimball and Renee Montagne share a laugh with Paula Johnson, curator of a new exhibit at the Smithsonian's American History Museum featuring Julia Child's kitchen. (Maggie Starbard/NPR)

For inspiration, the Morning Edition Thanksgiving crew turned to the cookbooks written by the first woman who showed Americans that comfort food could be fresh, special and loaded with real butter — Julia Child. She would have turned 100 years old this year, but it was on her very first show, The French Chef, that she proved there is nothing to fear in the kitchen.

And when you're staring down a giant turkey, let's face it, it can be a little scary. Hearing her cheery voice intone, "In fact, it's very easy to roast a turkey!" might give you just the boost of confidence you need.

"Julia was never intimidated, and I think her success was based upon making people comfortable with cooking because they were comfortable with her," Chris Kimball, host of America's Test Kitchen, tells Morning Edition host Renee Montagne. Kimball, both a fan and a friend of Child's, joins Morning Edition every year on Thanksgiving.

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So for this year's feast, Kimball put together a Julia Child Thanksgiving menu, complete with roast turkey, mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts and, of course, dessert.

The centerpiece, naturally, is the reassembled roast turkey. It's separated so the dark and white pieces cook perfectly, and then put back together on the platter — "like Frankenstein," Montagne says. Kimball shows Montagne the steps, and they have a little fun with skewers.

In between preparing their Thanksgiving dishes, through the magic of radio, Kimball and Montagne even had time to pop over to the American History Museum to see Child's reassembled kitchen. It's headlining a new exhibit opening this week called "Food: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000."

There, amid the copper pots hanging on the pegboard and the ancient Garland oven, put back together the way it was in Child's own kitchen, Kimball recalled how she was generous and warm. But she had a competitive streak — like the time she asked him to shuck a bag full of oysters and he managed about two before cutting himself and admitting defeat.

She liked him after that, he recalls.

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To hear the full story, click on the audio above.

And check out our slideshow above to see went into making our Thanksgiving segment.

And of course, no Thanksgiving segment would be complete without the recipes. These come from Julia's classic cookbooks, Mastering The Art Of French Cooking and The Way To Cook.

As Child would say, if things go wrong in the kitchen, just keep on going. And pour yourself a glass of wine.

A Julia Child Thanksgiving Menu

Petits Choux au Fromage (Cheese Puffs)

The Reassembled Roast Turkey

Choux de Bruxelles Etuves au Beurre (Brussels Sprouts In Butter)

Puree de Pommes de Terre a L'Ail (Garlic Mashed Potatoes)

Cornbread, Sage and Sausage Stuffing

Tarte Au Pommes (French Apple Tart)

P.S: While you're cooking away, check out this Julia Child TV highlights reel Boston member station WGBH put together this summer, set to the music of Guns N Roses.

Photos: Behind A Julia Child Thanksgiving

Chris Kimball of America's Test Kitchen adds salt to the roux he's made to add to Julia Child's Puree De Pommes De Terre A L'Ail, or Garlic Mashed Potatoes. (Maggie Starbard/NPR)
Food stylist Lisa Cherkasky, who cooked most of the meal in advance of the taping, checks the temperature on the oven. The trick to Child's Brussels sprouts is to blanch them first, then cut off the ends and place them flat on the bottom of the pan so they soak up all the butter. (Maggie Starbard/NPR)
It takes a village to make a Thanksgiving radio segment. From left, assistant Carolyn Robb Schimley, Cherkasky, Kimball and publicist Deb Broide go over the plan for creating a Julia Child Thanksgiving on the radio. (Maggie Starbard/NPR)
Morning Edition's RenŽee Montagne reaches for the prepared turkey as Kimball explains how Child's recipe calls for the turkey breast to be butterflied and separated from the thighs and legs and cooked in different pans. (Maggie Starbard/NPR)
An expertly trussed turkey thigh, Child's way, deboned and seasoned with salt, pepper, and sage. (Maggie Starbard/NPR)
Putting a foil collar around the stuffing creates a base for the turkey breast to rest on and allows both the stuffing and the meat to cook up moist and juicy. (Maggie Starbard/NPR)
Kitchen tip: Corks make a great handle if you don't want to mess with potholders or dishtowels. (Maggie Starbard/NPR)
Montagne tastes the garlic mashed potatoes. Kimball, who is known for tweaking recipes to perfection, says this is one recipe that he wouldn't change a bit. (Maggie Starbard/NPR)
After a few hours of taping, it's time to eat. Kimball adds a dollop of creme fraiche to his apple tart. (Maggie Starbard/NPR)
Montagne enjoys the apple tart as Kimball tells stories of Child, like the time she asked him to shuck a bag of oysters, and he didn't do so well. Kimball cooked with Child on her show several times and developed a close relationship with her. (Maggie Starbard/NPR)
While disassembling the turkey to cook it takes some labor, it ensures all the parts are cooked to perfection. Plus, it's easier to serve. (Maggie Starbard/NPR)
The America's Test Kitchen and Morning Edition crews call it a wrap. (Maggie Starbard/NPR)

Copyright NPR 2021.

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