An accidental Texan’s kitchen is a tribute to her English heritage
Julie Osburn has a fondness for English breakfast tea with cream and sugar. Osburn, after all, spent her early childhood near London until age 10, when her family moved to Amarillo, Texas.
“My father was in the Air Force, so we moved all the time,” Osburn said. “I eventually lost my accent, but not my love for everything English.”
Julie Osburn’s Waterford Harbor home in Kemah is a testament to that love, especially in her kitchen where she enjoys baking from scratch and setting the table with English china for special occasions.
“I love to cook,” she said. “So, whenever there is a royal wedding, I invite several of my girlfriends to come over to watch the event live on television and partake of English food on English china. That means they must come in their pajamas at 2 a.m. to celebrate the event while dining on eggs, sausages, scones, tea sandwiches and Victoria sponge cake — a four-layer cake with different fruits and whipped cream — and Champagne.”
Osburn’s open-concept kitchen, remodeled six years ago, not only is elegant and contemporary, but functional, which is important to her, she said.
“I like to do impromptu entertaining, with the exception of the royal weddings, because if I plan something, that makes me nervous,” she said. “I like to cook for my guests anytime, all the time. If people are here, I just start cooking. People will ask, ‘What are you doing?’ and I just say, ‘I’m going to make something for you,’ and soon 15 people are eating.”
Travertine floors of beige and cream, countertops of pearl and gold — Taj Mahal quartzite from Brazil — and cabinets of white and soft gray stand out. White leather barstools detailed with nailhead trim offer the best seats in the house because of their proximity to the open living room and its impressive floor-to-ceiling slate-stacked stone fireplace.
A separate wet bar mere steps from the living room is where guests like to congregate for cocktails. The bar dominates the room with its gorgeous gold onyx countertop in front of a mirrored wall, flanked by two curio cabinets displaying memorable collectibles.
“The wet bar is cozy, and guests like to convene there, but I’m happiest in front of my stove in the kitchen since that’s the heart and soul of my house,” Osburn said. “I’ve hosted formal dinners, but I prefer spontaneity and spur-of-the-moment get-togethers where I make something like Italian wedding soup. All I need to do is chop some vegetables, add meatballs, orzo and it makes a big pot. Plus, I always have spaghetti sauce and lasagna in the freezer that I’ve prepared in advance.”
Osburn seldom looks at cookbooks, because she has most of her recipes in her head, and she rarely measures anything, she said.
“I do everything by hand, even though I have a Cuisinart,” she said. “I like getting my hands into dough and playing with it. I’m totally into baking and even made jelly doughnuts recently.”
A china cabinet in a hallway, just a few steps from the kitchen, holds a treasure trove of china, including Wedgwood Queens Ware, MacKenzie-Childs English dinnerware, Royal Doulton figurines and a collection of Italian Deruta Ceramica in various patterns.
Osburn is a fan of dining outdoors when weather permits. Her kitchen opens onto the patio and pool, where she swims daily.
A former registered nurse — she worked in cardiology at Houston’s St. Luke’s Hospital with Dr. Denton Cooley — Osburn presently co-owns a software business with her husband, Doug. Their two sons and four grandchildren live close by and enjoy visiting, knowing there will be homemade cookies and other delights for them to devour.
“A few ingredients will make something just as good as something with a lot of components,” Osburn said. “At one dinner party I hosted, a few people asked who catered it. I said that I made it all, so I guess I’m my own caterer.”
Can’t do without: Cangshan German steel knives
Heirloom item: Mother’s antique hand-painted and signed Rosenthal china
Best cooking entertainment: “The Great British Baking Show”
1⁄2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup water
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
Powdered sugar for dusting
Heat saucepan with butter, water and salt until it boils. Remove from heat. Add flour and beat with wooden spoon until it forms a ball. Add eggs one at a time, beating vigorously until incorporated. Cool.
Spoon 12 equal portions onto a greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet 3 inches apart. Bake in a 325 F oven for 50 minutes until light brown.
Split each cream puff and return to oven for 10 minutes. Turn oven off and let the puffs dry.
Insert whipped cream into the split and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar, honey or maple syrup
½ teaspoon vanilla
Place mixing bowl and whisk in freezer for
20 minutes to chill.
Pour heavy whipping cream, sugar and vanilla into the cold bowl and whisk on high speed in mixer until stiff peaks form; about 1 minute. Do not overbeat.