julia child, mastering the art of french cooking, julie powell, french cuisine

Happy Birthday, Julia!

I know…you can’t believe it. I’m actually posting a current article to this blog. It’s true, I’ve been remiss in keeping up with my adventures a la Julia Child, but I couldn’t let this monumental day get past us without so much as a slight nod in this general direction. Just think, 100 years ago today, Julia Child was born, and the world of cooking would never be the same. To celebrate, I’m pulling out all the stops and inviting you to a cyberparty here on A Year With Julia! At this party, YOU get the gifts…pretty sweet, eh? Let’s begin with your first present…here ya go! Tear through that giftwrap and let’s see what’s inside!

Gift #1: Let’s start this shindig with some Julia Child Trivia brought to us by PBS. (*Dear Julia, please excuse the rather unflattering graphic representation of you. No offense to the PBS illustration team, but … really? Yikes. Give the woman a break. It IS her 100th birthday, after all.*)

Didja learn something new about our fun-loving chef? She sure racked up some pretty amazing accomplishments in her day! Okay, let’s keep the party going and move on to your next present…

 

Gift #2: Check out today’s Google doodle! (*Now THIS representation is much more like it!*) I wonder what she would think if she saw her likeness in the coveted doodle spot. (See the doodle live here.)

While these online discoveries are nice and a fine way to honor our friend, let’s check out your next package…the one over there, with the big blue bow. Yeah, that’s the one! Open it up and see what it is!

 

Gift #3: Ooh, it’s a fun video compilation of some of our favorite Julia Child moments. (Check out her still image at 1:18…Juju was a babe!)

I hope you’ve enjoyed your loot so far, but now the excitement really builds because I’ve been saving the best for last. I mean, this is the present to beat all presents! Consider this your final warning: prepare to have your mind totally. blown. Are you sitting down?

 

Gift #4: Brace yourself for the awesomeness that IS Julia Child in the 21st century. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Julia Child: Remixed.

While I’m happy to tip the proverbial birthday hat to the true master of French cooking with this blog post, my husband has pointed out the obvious…this small blip on the cyber radar isn’t enough. With a freezer full of miscellaneous cow parts that only a cookbook from the 1960′s would require, and a can of sardines in the pantry that’s about to expire, it’s only fair that we prepare a special meal for our favorite culinary queen. Stay tuned for more tales from the kitchen as I dust off the ol’ cookbook, shake out my wrinkled apron and get cooking.

Happy birthday, Julia! Your recipes don’t look a day over 40.

- Jessica

 

I Wish I Could Quit You

 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Chef Bugnard once said that you never forget a beautiful thing that you have made. Even after you eat it, it stays with you – always.” ― Julia Child
 

So you may have noticed that what began as “A Year With Julia” has now become “A Year and Two Months With Julia”. Unfortunately, I have officially fallen short of my goal to complete all of the recipes in “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” and so, no trip to Paris. (Quel dommage!) But strangely enough, I’m okay with that. I still can’t believe how much I’ve learned by taking on this project, and am pretty proud of myself for having gotten as far as I did in this amount of time. And here’s the thing – I’m not done. I really do want to make all of Julia’s recipes, and I have a freezer full of interesting ingredients that have to fulfill their destiny, and so – despite its name – I’m going to keep on trucking with this project. To those of you who have been following along on this crazy culinary journey, thank you! I’m sorry I couldn’t pull off this feat after all – you might say I bit off more than I could chew – but I invite you to continue along with me to see this thing through. Because while I may be a procrastinator, I am certainly not a quitter. I don’t have a timeline in mind for when I’ll finish this thing – life is too crazy-busy for me to set those kinds of parameters at this point – but the way I figure it, it’ll be sometime between now and when I die. *shrug* At any rate, stay tuned for more recipe recaps coming to a computer near you.

This screen shot of my TV shows PW's punk wearing the shirt I made and gave her last February.

While my cooking project may have fallen a little short, I’m happy to report that my dream to appear on the Food Network has been fulfilled. Remember when I met The Pioneer Woman at her book signing in February? I had given her a small gift as a way to say, “Hi, famous lady I’ve never met. Thanks for inadvertently teaching me how to blog.” (Would you believe Hallmark doesn’t have a card for this gift-giving situation? Personally, I think they’re missing a significant target market.)  It was a t-shirt I designed with a Julia Child quote: “The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.” Seemed appropriate for a family of cowboys/girls, no? Last night I was watching a DVR’d episode of her cooking show on the Food Network, and what do you suppose I saw? Her younger daughter wearing said shirt!! My design was on the Food Network!! The way I see it, if my cooking skills couldn’t get me there, I’m glad to know my graphic design skills could.

I think Julia would be proud.

Elegance With Eggs

 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Once an egg is taken out of the breakfast category and put to use as a hot entree…it offers a great variety of presentations. Unfortunately, wine and eggs have no great sympathy for each other.” – Julia Child

I got home a little later than planned last night, and Ben was pretty busy wrapping up some online projects, so a quick and easy dinner was definitely the way to go. There’s nothing much more easy than egg recipes (at least, in MtAoFC), so I decided to give Julia’s Oeufs en Cocotte (eggs baked in ramekins) a try.

It just so happened that I actually own four little pyrex ramekin dishes, which I bought at the grocery store on a whim one day years ago when I wanted something to serve pudding in…because apparently bowls just wouldn’t do. (Of course, over the years they’ve served several purposes, the most of recent of which is to hold a random collection of foreign coins and small pebbles from our miscellaneous travels. In fact, I can’t quite remember the last time I actually used them to serve pudding…considering we usually just eat the pudding straight from the bowl in which it was mixed. Am I divulging too much information? I think so.) Moral of the story: buy some ramekin dishes. Their uses are endless! 

*ahem* Moving on.

Cream is spooned into the dishes just before they go into the pan of simmering water.

The idea behind this recipe is to heat eggs in ramekins in a pan of simmering water, which will cook the insides, then they go into the oven to cook the outsides. The end result is an “eggs over easy” sort of dish, only much more elegant because – you guessed it! – it’s served in ramekins. Clever! This recipe has about four steps, and takes about 15 minutes total. Don’t believe me? Check it out! 

Bring a pan of water (not too full…just about ¾”) to a simmer and butter your ramekin dishes. Add a tablespoon of cream to the bottom of each little dish, and set it (carefully!) into the simmering water. Don’t be alarmed when the bubbles in the water start making your ramekins rattle around like there’s no tomorrow…your kitchen isn’t possessed by a poltergeist. It’s just science at work. If it makes you nervous (like it did for me), then feel free to turn the heat down a little – but don’t lose the simmer, because that’s the key to cooking the inside of the dish. 

Don’t be alarmed by the foggy water…some of the cream splashed into the pan when I dropped in the eggs.

Once the cream inside the ramekins is hot, break one or two eggs into the little dishes (I used two each). Top each dish with another tablespoon of cream and a dot of butter. Set the whole pan into the oven at 375 degrees and bake for about 10 minutes. Just enough time to fry up some bacon and make some toast…how convenient!

You’ll know the eggs are ready when they’re just set but still have a little jiggle to them – kind of like my bottom. But that’s another post for another day. It was at this point that I started to doubt Julia – after 10 minutes, the eggs still seemed awfully undercooked, and while she says to remove them then because they’ll continue cooking even after the pan comes out of the oven, if there’s one thing I can’t stomach, it’s the thought of eating raw eggs. So I let it cook a little longer, all the while wishing Julia had included a few photographs alongside the recipes every now and then. A visual aid can do wonders for a girl’s confidence in the kitchen.

I mean, really...who can tell if these are done?

When I finally removed the pan from the oven, I was still a little leery, but was also ready to move on with my night. Using a dish towel, I carefully took each ramekin from the pan, dried the bottom, and set it on a plate with some turkey bacon and toast. I dusted the eggs with a little salt and pepper, and braced myself for what I anticipated to be an undercooked, mostly-raw egg.

 In the end, I should have just trusted Julia – the liquid I was seeing was actually the cream and butter on the surface of the perfectly cooked eggs. When I dipped my fork into the dish, I was surprised to see that the egg whites were set, and the yolks were solid yet runny when I cut into them – as I said, much like eggs over easy. I highly recommend serving with toast to sop up the runny egg yolks that mixed with the butter and cream to make a tasty yet unobtrusive sauce.  

Trust in Julia - she won't steer you wrong!

I couldn’t get over how wonderfully simple yet delicious this meal was. It didn’t make a bad light dinner, but I could really see it showcased on a breakfast buffet or a ladies’ brunch. And the best part? It was done in 15 minutes! You can’t beat that. Who says you’re too busy for a good meal? Give this one a try – I’ll definitely make it again. 

Happy cooking!
- Jessica

 Today’s French Lesson:
Petit dejeuner pour diner? Oui, s’il vous plait!

Mawage is What Bwings Us Togeva Today

June 23, 2006

Five years ago today, I was reborn. A new name, a new life, a new world of possibilities. I cried tears of sadness to leave the old me behind, and tears of joy to welcome the new me to the world. Five years ago today, I married my very best friend - the love of my life – and, as nauseating as it is, began living a true fairytale. (Of course, somehow my fairytale includes kitchen fires and plumbing back-ups, but hey – to each her own.)

Now, I’m no expert, but five years in and just a handful of arguments along the way, I have to say that marriage is pretty awesome. It’s like a 24-hour slumber party with your best friend – staying up late watching movies, making horrible, messy cookies at 2 a.m., and then lying in bed laughing and talking in the dark when you should be sleeping (of course, there are times when you’ll have to substitute “watching movies” with “paying the water bill” and “making horrible, messy cookies” with “cleaning up cat vomit” – but whatever you do, keep that part about lying in bed laughing and talking in the dark when you should be sleeping). Don’t get me wrong, I know that every day isn’t rainbows and sunshine – there are frustrations and sorrows and heartaches. But the beauty of a marriage is that you’re paired up in a team, so you never have to go through that stuff alone. Pretty brilliant, really!

At the risk of over-simplifying things, I truly believe that any marriage can be successful by following these five easy-to-remember rules (in no particular order):

1.) Maintain Open Communication - yelling and screaming and flinging insults gets you nowhere, and besides, why would you want to hurt someone you love? Instead, a heated debate that ends in a hug (even if that hug is actually a vice grip in disguise) is much more effective.

2.) Keep a Sense of Humor - let’s face it, life is a struggle and at some point you’re going to reach a crossroads where you can either cry about it, or you can laugh about it. And honestly, life is too hard and too funny not to laugh about… and it’s even funnier when your best friend is there to get the jokes.

3.) Pick Your Battles - little whiskers in the bathroom sink are the bane of my existence, but are they really worth arguing over? Not when the tower of dishes in the kitchen sink has been cleaned without my even having to ask. Decide what’s worth a family meeting and what’s worth a smile and kiss on the cheek.

4.) All You Need is Love - you don’t have to always like your spouse (which is good, because there will probably be times when you don’t), but unconditional love is the only way you’ll get through a life together. Take time to fill each other’s love bank – that way, when you have to make a withdrawal because you missed a birthday or forgot to DVR the World Series in HD (*cough cough*), you’ve got more wiggle room before you wind up in the dog house.

5.) Keep Your Promises - for many, it seems, this is easier said than done, but I’m here to tell you that wedding vows are serious business. If you can stick to ‘em, there’s nothing you can’t get through. The words are “I do.” So, you know…Do or Do not. There is no try.

And they lived happily ever after.

Oh, and it doesn’t hurt to marry someone who doesn’t like pizza crust…because then you get theirs, too! (Hey, it works for us.) All of this to say, I won’t be cooking any Julia Child recipes tonight. I won’t be cooking anything, for that matter. Tonight, I’m putting on a dress and going out for a nice dinner with my husband - it’s kind of a special day for us, you know. But here’s a little something, just for you:

The Wedding Cake

Happy anniversary to my BFF - I love you to the moon and back!
- Jessica

Jambon’s Connected to the Yum Bone

 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“If a preparation of ham can be considered ‘refreshing,’ this is it.  Not to mention the fact, and I could have said this earlier, I suppose, but ‘Jambon’ is just a great word to say.  You can amuse yourself for several minutes, if you’re Julie, just wandering around the house saying ‘Jambon… Jambon… Jambon…’ and bopping your head like a Rastafarian.” – Julie Powell

Kind of over the whole stew thing and in need of some recipes that wouldn’t take hours of preparation (I’ve got a bit of a hectic week), I decided that last night’s dinner should be a ham dish. After all, it’s been awhile since I’ve made ham – we’ve pretty much exhausted all of Julia’s chicken recipes (or is it they who have exhausted me?), and the beef chapter is almost finished as well; veal twice in a week seems a bit pretentious, and I just wan’t in the mood for fish – so, there you have it. I spun my wheel and it landed on ham. Ham’s the winner! 

Tranches de Jambon en Piperade  (ham slices baked with tomatoes, onions, and peppers) sounded both simple and delicious (I’m always particularly encouraged when the recipe is only a page long). It begins with slices of cooked ham (remember, if a recipe calls for “pork”, it’s asking for raw meat; if it calls for “ham”, it’s already cooked) which I browned in a mixture of hot oil and butter. Julia tells her readers to really crank up the heat when it comes to browning meat, but I have to tell you – the way that fat was popping and splattering, I had a flashback to this incident and decided not to take any chances. I turned the heat down, told Julia to mind her own business (after all, it wasn’t her face and hand that were scarred for life!) and went about my work. The ham I bought at the store came sliced, which is fine as this recipe calls for us to do so ourselves – unfortunately, mine was sliced thinner than Julia recommends, so the meat didn’t turn out as hearty as I had envisioned it would. No matter! The show must go on!  

 

When all of my ham slices were browned, I set them into a baking dish. In the same pan, I added a cup of sliced onions, covered the pan and cooked them slowly for about 5 minutes, then tossed in a cup of sliced green bell pepper and cooked them together for another 5 minutes. Meanwhile, I prepared some PSJ tomatoes and gave them a rough chop, then tossed them over the veggies in the pan. I also included a clove of mashed garlic and some pepper, thyme, and the slightest baby pinch of cayenne pepper (of which I am not a huge fan).  

Onions, pepper and tomatoes are happy campers on the stove.

I covered the pan and let all of these vegetables work together for a few minutes, then took the lid off and let the liquid come to a boil. I gave the pan a few good shakes until the tomato juice had mostly evaporated and then, using a pair of tongs, I covered the browned ham in the baking dish with the vegetables. For just the two of us, I used one large yellow onion, one large bell pepper, and three medium-sized tomatoes and had just enough veggies to cover the ham. The onions were translucent but not brown, and the bell pepper was nice and tender. Things were looking good!  

I covered the baking dish with a sheet of tin foil, then popped it into the oven (350 degrees) for about 15 minutes. (It doesn’t need much time, since the ham is already cooked.) When I pulled the dish out of the oven, yummy smells were filling my kitchen. I let the dish cool for a few minutes, then used a large spoon to serve the casserole onto our plates (along with a bowl of leftover cabbage soup…still delicious days later!). 

Browned ham is hiding underneath this layer of veggies.

With the thin ham slices hiding beneath the mounds of vegetables, I wasn’t entirely convinced I was going to like this dish. However, I shouldn’t have been concerned, because this recipe was surprisingly good! The vegetables were cooked perfectly, tender and full of flavor, and they worked really well with the sliced ham (again, too thin, but still delicious). Funny how the ham was supposed to be the star of the dish (I mean, it had its own dressing room and everything), yet the vegetables were my favorite part. As I scarfed down not one but TWO helpings of this dish, my mind wandered to the possibilities. Things I want to try using this same recipe: replacing the ham with shredded beef and making fajitas with those delicious onions and peppers; topping an all-beef hot dog with the medley for a little kick; replacing the ham with southwest chicken for a zesty casserole. (I have a feeling Julia is rolling over in her grave, but I can’t help it – her techniques have inspired me to think outside the box, and as I’ve said before, there’s nothing wrong with that!  

The ham dish goes great with our leftover cabbage soup.

I liked everything about this dish. Visually, its bright colors made a nice presentation on the stark plate. The seasonings in the dish were just right – even my arch-nemesis cayenne pepper seemed to behave. And as if I had spent hours planning it, the cabbage soup with its chunks of ham was a really nice, complimentary sidekick to this meal. (“My, but your cape is especially billowy today. And look at the way you handle that grappling hook with such finesse!”… Things a complimentary sidekick would say!)

This was a different take on French cuisine, as there was no vermouth or beef stock sauce to flavor the dish – just simple ingredients for a simply delicious meal. This dinner took a little less than an hour to make, and a lot less than an hour to eat…it was super tasty and didn’t last long on our plates. I definitely want to try it again, next time with thicker slices of meat. (Luckily, there are still a few more sliced ham recipes to go.)  

Next up…a new quiche recipe! If you like mushrooms and you like pastry, you’re in for a treat. I hope. 

Until next time!
- Jessica

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Sensing a Theme…

 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“So my husband and I were trying to decide, if I were a celebrity chef, what my trademark saying, my ‘Bam!’, should be, and we decided that whenever I threw in another stick of butter, I’d say, ‘What could happen?’  This catchphrase is perfect, because it works in so many situations.  Thus, ‘The Julie/Julia Project on the Upper West Side – What Could Happen?’” – Julie Powell

After tackling Julia’s veal stew the other night, I was looking forward to going back to more familiar ingredients…like beef. In fact, I think I can easily say that Julia’s beef recipes are my favorite – something about the way the meat turns out just right, and is usually enhanced by some sort of delicious sauce. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

I bookmarked the recipe for Saute de Boeuf a la Bourguignonne (beef saute with red wine, mushrooms, bacon, and onions) – which is not to be confused with the now-famous-thanks-to-the-Julie & Julia-movie Boeuf Bourguignon. That recipe, my friends, we’re saving for a special occasion. (I don’t know what, exactly, but surely something special has to come along. Right? Right! And don’t call me Shirley.)

Browned beef seasoned with salt and pepper.

What I didn’t realize until after I had already cut my beef filets into cubes, sliced my bacon and measured out my beef stock and red wine, was that this recipe looked very similar to… what I mean to say is, it seemed an awful lot like… oh, heck, this is basically just a beef stew. Which wouldn’t have made me bat an eye, except for the fact that we just had veal stew the night before. Ah, well. C’est la vie!

My favorite part about this recipe was the fact that it took less than an hour to make – and that included prepping the meat! I started by trimming the fat off my filets (boy, do cows have it easy…it takes me months on the elliptical machine to get those kinds of results), then cut the meat into 2″x1″ cubes and browned it in a mixture of butter and oil in a deep pan. I removed the beef to a side bowl and tossed my sliced bacon pieces (which had been blanched ahead of time) into the pan and lightly browned them as well. **Can I just take a moment to reiterate: this recipe uses beef AND bacon!! BEEF AND BACON!! There’s no way this can go wrong.** I poured the fat out of the pan and then added red wine, beef stock, mashed garlic, thyme and a bit of tomato paste to the dish, letting it boil down while I braised some pearl onions and sauteed some sliced mushrooms in two separate pans.

This will become a tasty sauce for the saute...

At this point, you should toss in a paste of butter and flour (called beurre manie), which will magically begin to thicken the sauce for the beef…unless, of course, you become over-confident and are too busy congratulating yourself for staying a step ahead of the recipe in your food prep and accidentally overlook this minor (read: really important) step. *ahem* If that’s the case, just add it in when you remember – the world won’t come to an end. Not that I would know from first-hand experience, or anything…

Toss the mushrooms and onions into the pan – they want to join the party, and who can blame them? Fun things are happening – at this point, the music is blaring, the joint is jumpin’ and the gang is just waiting for the meat to show up. Add some salt and pepper to the beef in the bowl and add it to the pan – the guest of honor has finally arrived. Here, Julia says to arrange all of these ingredients in a separate fire-proof casserole dish – I don’t see the point, frankly, as I’m not trying to impress anyone. *Side Story* I had a friend in college who, when getting ready for a party, would always hide all the packaging from the food and drinks before guests arrived – she said it was like leaving your dirty underwear out for the guests to see. The only person coming to this party was my husband, and after five years of marriage I’m sorry to say he’s already seen my dirty underwear…and I’m not dirtying another dish to save face at this stage in the game. All of that to say, leave the food in the original pan…it’s fine, really.

This is smelling terrific...look at those pretty onions, and those tender mushrooms floating around in there!

I let this medley simmer on the stove for a bit while Ben whipped up some mashed potatoes. (What can I say, we’re Irish…meat and potatoes go together like peas and carrots. Wait…huh?) Just before we were ready to eat, I took the pan off the heat and dropped in some butter. I mixed it around until it dissolved into the sauce, thickening things just a little more. Perfection!

One bite of this dish and the verdict was in – the winner of this week’s Stew Off was the Saute de Boeuf! (Hey, no fair! Beef saute isn’t even a stew!) Eh, close enough. The meat was amazing – browned perfectly on the outside but still somewhat medium rare on the inside, yet not chewy or tough like undercooked meat can sometimes be. The sauce was outstanding, thick and hearty with the sweet pearl onions and tender sauteed mushrooms adding some terrific flavors. The side of mashed potatoes was a great idea, because it gave me something to sop up the rest of my sauce with – I was kicking myself for not having made some crusty bread to go along with this meal.

You'll want to savor each bite of this delicious meal - and then go back for seconds!

We couldn’t believe how fantastic this dinner was, and how quickly it came together. This definitely has to go in my rotation for regular meals – it’s easy to multiply or divide the recipe, so it’s great for a family of two or a large dinner party (just be sure to make some bread to go along with it, or else the natives will become restless…trust me).

If you’re looking for a simple, hearty, home-cooked meal, this is the recipe for you. Give it a try this weekend! You won’t be sorry!

Bon appetit, mes amis!
- Jessica

Stew On This

 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Lisa was scouring Manhattan for veal stew meat.  She had spent the day industriously calling up fancy-ass butchers.  When she said ‘veal’, the butchers kept saying they had something called ‘veal log’.  Lisa is no butcher, but she knew enough to find the word ‘veal’ and the word ‘log’, together in the same sentence, vaguely sinister.  So on she wandered, from shop to shop, searching vainly for veal stew meat…Poor Lisa – looking for veal, and too much of it, in all the wrong places, while I start on my first vodka tonic of the evening, not to say my last.” – Julie Powell

Let’s face it…only a crazy person would make stew in the dead heat of summer. (“Summer?” you ask. “But it’s only June!” Yes, friends…when you live on the sun, seasons are meaningless.) What can I say? I’ve barely made a dent in the veal chapter of MtAoFC, and drastic times call for drastic measures.

Julia’s Saute de Veau Marengo (brown veal stew with tomatoes and mushrooms) sounds more like a latin dance than a French dish, but that’s what struck my fancy while perusing the pages of the cookbook. I had to ask my local butcher to cut me some veal stew meat, but it only took a few minutes and the end result was worth the wait. I dried the veal with paper towels and browned them in a pan of super-hot oil (be sure to keep an eye on it – it doesn’t take long to brown!). I then tossed them into an oven-safe casserole and added a cup of minced yellow onions to the oil in the saucepan.  

The flour will coat the meat and help thicken the sauce.

It’s here I must confess to you my love-hate relationship with onions. I can’t stand the way they burn my eyes when I’m chopping them up for the stove. It seems that no matter what trick I try (short of resorting to a pair of goggles), I always look like I’m having some sort of emotional break-down in the kitchen. (So if you come by while I’m cooking and I’ve got mascara streaming down my face, fear not. Chances are an onion got the better of me.) BUT, all is forgiven when those onion bits start to heat up in the pan, and their sweet aroma begins filling the kitchen…it’s heavenly, I say.

 Now, where were we? AH! Into the pan of lightly-browned onions goes a cup of vermouth…stand back, sister, and brace yourself for an onslaught of steam! Things settle down pretty quickly, and the onions and wine start to work their magic. 

Meanwhile, back in the casserole, heat the meat on the stove and add a dash of salt and pepper, then a little touch of flour to sort of thicken things up a bit. Add the wine/onions to the casserole and give the whole thing a good mix, bringing it to a simmer to be sure everyone is mingling and having a good time. (Have an ice breaker game on-hand, just in case.) 

Now we're cooking with gas! No, really...I have a gas range.

The last major step is to add some chopped PSJ tomatoes (a lesson on that coming soon, friends) and some seasonings (basil, thyme, garlic…you know, the usual suspects). Slap a cover on that casserole and put it into the bottom third of your 325-degree oven and take a break for an hour and a half. (Of course, halfway through the cooking process it occurred to me that since I had halved the recipe – I mean, really, how much veal stew do two people really need? – the cooking time should also be less. I know, sometimes I amaze myself with my brilliance.) So it only took about 45 minutes for the dish to cook through. 

 I took the pot out of the oven (okay, I had my husband take the pot out of the oven…that thing was HOT and HEAVY. Hey…get your minds out of the gutter!) and added some quartered mushrooms, simmered the dish on the stove for a minute, then set it back in the oven for a few more minutes. When it was done, the pot was removed from the oven a final time, and I poured the contents through a strainer into the original saucepan (you know, where those delicious onions cooked in the beginning). The sauce poured through into the pan, and all the meat and veggies were caught in the strainer – I tossed them back into the pot and boiled down the sauce a bit. Finally, I poured it back over the stew, and dinner was served! 

And up through the ground came a-bubblin' crude... stew sauce, that is.

Julia recommends this dish be served with rice or noodles. We had some spaetzle a friend had given us, so we decided to use that for something different. (Not to completely derail our adventure here, but if you’ve never had spaetzle, here’s a fun recipe to try. I’ve never eaten it the way they suggest, but it looks like it’s worth trying!) 

The stew was pretty good! I have to admit, it wasn’t my favorite, but it was very tasty. After having tried hundreds of French recipes in MtAoFC, I’ve determined that Julia’s dishes whose sauces are beef stock-based taste more American to me – the flavors are familiar (but better!) and the ingredients are recognizable. Her dishes whose sauces are vermouth-based have certain tones and flavors that are unique to the French cuisine. All of that to say, this stew was definitely a French dish. The last time I ate veal, the meat seemed a bit tough and gamey, but this meat was very tender and reminded me of the lamb stew I made before. The tomatoes had created a really nice rosy sauce that was just the right consistency, and the onions and wine gave the dish a little extra flavor. I felt like it was missing a little je ne sais pas, but couldn’t put my finger on it. I added more salt and pepper, and that seemed to help. 

Not a bad dinner, if I do say so myself. I think Julia would be proud...although I'm not sure she would approve of spaetzle. (It's German, you know.)

All in all, this was a good recipe. It didn’t knock my socks off, but it wasn’t disappointing, either. Halving the recipe still made plenty for two people – we each had a good-sized serving for dinner, and there was enough for another round of leftovers for lunch. This would be a good meal for the fall…you know, if you live in a place that actually has a fall with cooler temperatures.

 

Tonight we tackle something a little more familiar – beef sauté! 

Bon appétit!
- Jessica

 

Soup’s On!

 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“This fine and uncomplicated peasant soup is a comforting dish for a cold winter day.” – Julia Child

Despite the fact that I’m not sure how I feel about being referred to as a “peasant”, and the fact that we are nowhere near a cold winter day (we’re already breaking 100-degree temperatures and it’s only June…ugh), I do like the word “uncomplicated”. Last night I had some errands to run after work, so I wanted a dinner recipe that wouldn’t take too much time and would be fairly simple to make. I finally settled on Julia’s Soupe aux Choux – Garbure (main-course cabbage soup) with home-made French bread (I’m telling you, you have GOT to get a bread maker) and Charlotte Malakoff aux Fraises (almond cream with fresh strawberries) for dessert. The dessert needs to be made the night before, as it has to sit in the fridge overnight to set (isn’t it nice that I tell you this early on so you don’t find out the hard way that you won’t actually be eating this delicious treat until tomorrow?), so I actually made this on Sunday night. I used this handy tool to hull a quart of strawberries, then lined the bottom of an unbuttered mold with a round of wax paper. (Helpful Tip: I set a large square of wax paper inside the mold and used my fingernail to trace around the inside diameter of the bottom of the dish. It left a perfect outline I could then cut around with kitchen scissors.)

These ladyfingers have been dipped in orange liqueur/water and are waiting to line the dessert mold.

Next we make the “crust” for this dish by dipping about 24 ladyfingers (that’s one package…you know, if you were to buy them from a store rather than beat your head against a wall and actually make them from scratch) in a mixture of orange liqueur and water and drain them on a rack while we make the almond cream. Mix butter and sugar in a bowl until nice and creamy, then beat in more orange liqueur and almond extract. Once the sugar has completely dissolved, add about 1 1/3 cups of pulverized almonds. (This is a great exercise if you’re having a particularly bad day. An excuse to pulverize something?? Yes, please! I, however, went the gentler route and tossed some sliced almonds into my food processor and took Julia’s advice – include a couple tablespoons of sugar, otherwise the almonds leave an oily residue that makes them impossible to add to dry ingredients. How scientific!)

The mold is topped with a final layer of almond cream...

In a separate chilled bowl, I whipped some cream and folded it into the almond mixture. Next, I lined the bottom of the mold (which was covered in the wax paper round) with ladyfingers, cutting them to fit together nicely, then continued the cookies around the sides of the dish. (I had a couple of ladyfingers left over for this portion of the recipe, so I cut them apart and used the smaller pieces to fill in the gaps between cookies.) I then turned a third of the cream into the dish, covered with a layer of strawberries (for some reason, my strawberries were of monster proportions, so I sliced them down a bit to be more manageable), and topped with a layer of ladyfingers. I repeated this for another layer, and topped the entire thing with the remaining almond cream. I covered the mold with another wax paper round, then set a saucer on top of the paper and used a can of cherry pie filling (Julia recommends a one-pound weight or parts from a meat grinder…and since I had left these handy tools in my other pants, I had to get a little creative. Please note: the pie filling worked fine.) I set the whole thing in the fridge overnight and tried to put it out of my mind until Monday. Which is hard to do, when deliciousness is calling your name from the refrigerator all night long.

Sometimes a little creativity can go a long way.

For the soup, there’s a bit of prep work involved, but for the most part it pretty much takes care of itself. Start out by bringing a large kettle of water, peeled/quartered potatoes and a chunk (yes, I said chunk) of smoked ham to a boil. In the meantime, roughly slice a head of cabbage, peel/quarter a couple of carrots, stud a couple of medium onions with cloves (uh…what did she say?), and smash a few cloves of garlic. When the water is boiling, add all of these ingredients along with several seasonings (including marjoram, which the foodie at the grocery store pronounced “mar-JOR-am”…I’m not sure I trust him, even if he did have a large white, scholarly moustache and little round glasses on the tip of his nose). Partially cover the pot and let it do its thing for about an hour and a half. Then go and make a loaf of french bread in the bread maker, or watch a few re-runs of Sex and the City, or … you know … whatever it is you do when you suddenly find an hour and a half of down time.

This recipe calls for a lot of cabbage. Which really shouldn't come as a surprise, considering that's the name of the dish, and all.

When the timer sounds, take the ham out of the pot (it’ll be nice and tender) and cut it into bite-sized pieces, then toss it back into the pot for a few more minutes. And that’s it! Ladle some into a bowl, add a little salt, slice that home-made French bread and sit down to enjoy the fruits (or in this case, vegetables) of your labor.

This is shaping up to be good!

Now, I have to interject here and say that I am actually a fan of cabbage. My husband, on the other hand, instinctively wrinkled his nose when he heard what was on the menu. “Why does everything smell so good,” he asked, peering cautiously into the pot, “when it’s going to taste so bad?” (Clearly optimism runs rampant in our kitchen.) I’m happy to report that this dish received rave reviews, from even the toughest critic. “This is fantastic!” he  declared, and I had to agree. The ham gave the overall dish a nice smoky flavor, and also made it a little more hearty than an average vegetable soup. The cabbage was tender and perfect, as were the rest of the vegetables, and all of the flavors worked well together – go team! But I think the thing that really made this was the seasonings. Due to a funky medical issue I had in college, I tend to stay away from seasonings, mostly from force of habit than anything else. Recipes like this remind me what magic a few herbs can do – and it’s a good thing.

Unmolded and served on a plate...so far, so good!

We saved room for dessert and were eager to try this charlotte malakoff (not to be confused with charlotte mazel tov). I took the mold out of the fridge and removed the can of cherry pie filling, the saucer and the wax paper round (because let’s face it, those items would be a little hard to stomach). I ran a butter knife around the inside of the mold to separate the ladyfingers from the sides of the dish, then inverted the whole thing onto a plate. I peeled the wax paper from the top, and was happy to see that the dessert had remained in tact! This might be a success after all!

Cabbage soup and homemade French bread. Delicious!

While Julia recommends this dish be served with whipped cream, we decided to go without. And honestly, I’m glad we did – while the dessert was really good, it was also really rich. The ladyfingers had absorbed much of the liqueur and were very soft – that coupled with the liqueur in the almond cream was a little bit much for me, and I think next time I would omit the step of dipping the cookies in the liquid before lining the mold with them. The almond cream was delicious – sweet and rich, a little nutty both in flavor and texture (from the pulverized almonds, obviously) and lovely. The sliced strawberries, however, was the piece that tied everything else together. The almond cream/ladyfingers on their own were a little overpowered by the taste of orange from the liqueur, but add a bite of tart strawberries, and the edges of the flavors were canceled out and the result was sweet perfection. This dessert is definitely a keeper.

Those strawberries were huge!

Two recipes down, and both a total success! The best part about these dishes was they made leftovers for tonight, and the cleanup was super easy – cover the malakoff with some saran wrap and stick the plate back in the fridge; put the lid on the pot and stick the soup in the fridge as well. Ta-daa! No muss, no fuss…my kind of meal!

Stay tuned for more exciting culinary developments. Anyone want to take a guess at what’s in my freezer? Details coming soon…

Until next time!
- Jessica

Think Outside the (Recipe) Box

 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Oh, those were such fine, fat, full-flavored birds from Bresse—one taste, and I realized that I had long ago forgotten what real chicken tasted like!” – Julia Child

Remember that relationship you were in where you really loved the person, but after awhile, there was no spark? No excitement? They had become too familiar and too predictable and … let’s face it … too boring?

That’s where I am with chicken. (My husband just heaved a sigh of relief.)

Step 1: Saute mushrooms

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love chicken, but man it can get boring. Grilled chicken, fried chicken, barbecue chicken, chicken parmesan (which I like to call Chicken PamaJama, after this catchy-yet-mildly-inappropriate tune)…sometimes it’s hard to think of new ways to prepare this meat that doesn’t take a lot of effort but also gives your tastebuds a thrill. And isn’t that something we all want? Thrilled tastebuds?

Julia Child really opened my eyes when it came to chicken. Her way of cooking chicken breasts was totally inspired, and yielded incredible results! But even her recipes, as delicious and easy as they are, are beginning to wear thin. And so, for the final chicken recipe in MtAoFC, I decided to give it a Jessica spin (my, isn’t someone getting bold!).

Topped with a piece of buttered wax paper, this pan is headed to the oven.

This week we had Supremes de Volaille aux Champignons (chicken breasts with mushrooms and cream), which are cooked with Julia’s clever method of rubbing chicken breasts with drops of lemon juice before seasoning them with salt and pepper and searing them in a pan of hot butter. A cover of buttered wax paper seals the deal, and into a 400-degree oven they go for a record-breaking 6 minutes until … voila! … delicious decadent chicken! (In this variation, diced mushrooms and minced green onions cook in the hot butter before the chicken is added, and the whole thing is popped in the oven beneath its wax paper lid.)

I decided I didn’t feel like pieces of cut-up chicken breast with a couple of veggies on the side. Again. That’s so…everyday. So instead, I made a batch of fettuccine* noodles and heaped a helping (say that five times fast) into a couple of bowls. When the mushroom chicken was finished cooking, I pulled it out of the oven and removed the chicken to a separate plate, letting it sit for a few minutes before I roughly diced it (and immediately noticed that it was cooked to perfection as always!) and sprinkled a few pieces of the moist, tender meat over the noodles.

This cream sauce is amazing!

The final step is to make the cream sauce, and because we weren’t just going to be drizzling this over some meat but would rather be covering our fettucini, I doubled the recipe (a first in this project, as we’re usually having to down-size!). I poured a half-cup of brown stock and a half-cup of Madeira into the pan (where the butter and mushrooms/onions were still waiting) over high heat. Once it began to bubble and boil, I poured in two cups of whipping cream, watching the sauce thicken and bubble some more. I turned off the stove and used a large spoon to pour the sauce over the chicken and noodles in each bowl. Man, this was smelling good!! A couple slices of toasted homemade white bread (do you own a bread machine? You should!!) finished off the dish and we were ready to dig in.

Doesn't this look delish?

As I mentioned before, the meat was perfect, and the cream sauce…divine!! The consistency was great – not too thick, but not watery, the flavors came together perfectly. I couldn’t even notice the alcohol in the sauce (which is good…I’ve had mishaps where the alcohol was too strong in the final product, making the dish hard to eat). Best of all, there was plenty of sauce to sop up with the bread. A home run!

Sometimes it’s fun to put your own spin on a tried and true recipe. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box…just because it’s written in a book or on a card doesn’t make it set in stone. Make modifications – make adjustments – be bold! The kitchen is no place for the timid.

What recipe will you create? Feel free to share your latest adventures!
- Jessica

*I know, I thought it was spelled “fettucini” too…shocking journalistic discoveries here on AYWJ!

This Recipe Won’t Have You Feeling Blue

 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“I go into this very weird fugue state where I start thinking about the Roquefort filling, which is determinedly trying to escape the turnovers, and how isn’t it sort of essentially arrogant, really almost a slave-owning mentality, to be approaching this from the perspective of how best to trap the Roquefort filling, without consideration for the Roquefort’s fundamental desire for freedom? In retrospect, this was probably the first symptom of my imminent psychotic break.” – Julie Powell 

The other night I was looking for a side dish to spice up a simple beef casserole recipe I found online. I wanted something that was a little out of the ordinary, yet not too complex. I flipped through my (now somewhat disgusting) pages of Mastering the Art of French Cooking to see what delectables Julia had for me. I stopped in the Hors d’Ouevres chapter when I saw a recipe for Petits Chaussons Au Roquefort (pastry turnovers with Roquefort cheese). Curious, I read into it a bit and was happy to see that I could substitute the Roquefort (which I had learned from a previous culinary experience is a really strong and tart cheese) with Blue Cheese (a somewhat more mild version of its predecessor).

Cheese filling for the turnovers

I started by mashing a wedge of Blue Cheese (isn’t it supposed to be Bleu Cheese??) with a fork in a mixing bowl, adding butter, a couple of egg yolks, a dash (or five) of cognac, and some pepper and minced green onion tops. While this was a bit of a struggle in the beginning, the more I mixed everything together, the more the cheese softened and eventually this process was pretty easy. If nothing else, it’s a good arm workout, which you’ll need if you keep eating all this cheese. (And by “you”, I mean “me”.)

Next I beat a couple of tablespoons of cream into the bowl, making sure the consistency of the mixture remained pasty. (We don’t want this to thin out too much, or disaster will surely strike! I’m not sure what that disaster is, exactly, but I’m not going to question Julia’s words of warning. *Note: Julia Child does not actually use the phrase “disaster will surely strike” in this recipe.)

At this point, what’s left in the mixing bowl is now a pastry dough. As I pulled it out to plop down on my floured countertop, I realized immediately my dough was too wet (okay, I’ll admit it…I went a little gung-ho with the cognac). But no worries! I simply tossed a little more flour into the ball of dough and worked it together until it lost its stickiness and was easy to manipulate. (I was going to make a witty analogy here, but let’s just move on before we get entirely side-tracked.)

These were still too thick, so I rolled them out a little more before filling.

I rolled out the dough into a large rectangle about 1/8″ thick, then used a butter knife to cut the dough into 2.5″ squares (of course, I use the word “squares” loosely). I preheated the oven to 425 degrees and began to fill my dough pockets (that’s what those squares are) with the cheese filling. I dropped a teaspoon of the mixture into the center of each square, then used a pastry brush (okay, I used my finger – my pastry brush met an untimely demise during the crepe chapter of MtAoFC, if you must know) to paint the edges of the dough with a mixture of one egg and a splash of water. This egg wash will act as a glue to keep the edges of the dough together – you’ll fold one corner of the dough diagonally, making a triangle, and pinch the edges together to seal the cheese inside its fateful tomb…MWAHAHAHA! (Honestly, that was a bit much. My apologies. Please continue.)

Once the little ravioli-like triangles are sealed (uh, aren’t ravioli squares?), I took the tines of a fork and made pretty little imprints along the edges, then set them all on a buttered baking sheet. I finger-painted the tops of the turnovers with the egg wash, then poked a 1/8″ hole in the tops so the steam could escape while they baked. (You don’t want a bunch of cheese turnovers exploding in your oven…like the time in high school when my ceramics teacher put our handmade vases in the kiln and mine exploded from the heat, taking out all of my classmates’ projects in its wake. Sad times.)

Don't these look great??

These babies baked in the oven for about 15 minutes (keep an eye on ‘em and don’t let ‘em burn, because then it really would be sad times!) and I removed them when they were lightly browned and had puffed up nicely. They smelled amazing, and tasted great! This is probably a bad time to mention that I’m not a huge fan of Blue/eu Cheese, but I must say these were QUITE tasty. While not as powerful as Roquefort, blue cheese is pretty strong, so I could only have a couple (or seven), but they were definitely a hit at my house.

The crust was perfect – light, thin, slightly crispy on the outside and soft and airy on the inside. The cheese filling itself was creamy and tangy yet mild – the individual ingredients couldn’t really be detected, but instead they all worked really well together. As I bit into the turnovers, I was surprised to see that the creamy cheese mixture had melted (duh) as it cooked, and spread out to fill the hollow insides of the doughy triangles – it wasn’t just a lump of filling in the center. Quite nice! These would be great for a holiday party, or perfect for a game night (finger foods are always the way to go!). Even better, you could make larger dough triangles and serve these as a luncheon entree. I have a blue cheese fan in my life, and I think these would be a great gift for a certain upcoming holiday… The sky’s the limit!

Whether you want these as a snack, or are looking for a way to dress up an ordinary meal, give these turnovers a try. Imagine the other fillings you could use for a whole new taste!

Have fun in the kitchen!
- Jessica

To subscribe via email, enter your email address:

Powered by WordPress | Find Wireless Deals at BestInCellPhones.com. | Thanks to iCellPhoneDeals.com Free Cell Phones, Find Highest CD Rates and Incinerador De Grasa Revisión