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

I Think I’m Turning Japanese, I Really Think So


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“I’ve often wondered to myself: Does a vegetarian look forward to dinner, ever?” – Julia Child

Fun with chopsticks!

Last night, to give ourselves a brief vacation from the butter and cream and wine and sauces and heavy (albeit delicious) meat recipes, I thought I’d try something simpler and lighter. While flipping through MtAoFC trying to find a vegetable side dish for tonight’s dinner, I had happened across a recipe for what Julia called Riz a l’Orientale (vegetarian rice bowl). Ooh! Asian infused French cuisine?? Intriguing!

Here are things that immediately drew me to this recipe:

1.) Only one tablespoon of butter is required for the whole thing. Hallelujah! My hips can breathe a sigh of relief!
2.) Six easy ingredients, almost all of which only needed to be diced and sauteed. Easy!
3.) Julia orders me to “pass chopsticks to my guests”…Chopsticks make any meal fun!
4.) The whole thing only took about 30 minutes to make, as opposed to my usual 1 hour minimum.
5.) Did I mention we get to use chopsticks??

Colorful chopped vegetables

This recipe is so ridiculously easy, I almost hate to even tell you what little amount of work went into preparing this meal. But since we’re friends, and I know you won’t judge me, I’ll go ahead and tell you. While I steamed about four cups of rice, I sauteed minced onion with herbs, followed by diced eggplant with garlic. I set both of these aside, then chopped about 1/3 cup of walnuts and halved 12 cherry tomatoes. The last step was to make an omelet – yes, you heard me. An omelet! I followed the recipe for Julia’s rolled omelet that I made earlier last month, then slid it onto a plate and cut it into thin strips.

Rice, Omelet, Sauteed Vegetables

When the rice was ready, I used a pair of chopsticks to give it a light fluff, then added in the onions, eggplant, walnuts and cherry tomatoes. I gave it a taste and realized it was sorely lacking in seasoning, so I added salt and pepper, then decorated the top with the omelet strips. To go along with our Asian theme, we also made some potstickers that we had in the freezer. Ta-daa! Dinner was served!

I have to say, I was really looking forward to this dish. It seemed so different from anything I’ve made so far, and I really wanted to like it. Unfortunately, I have to report that the best thing about the rice bowl was the chopsticks. To be fair, each element of the dish was pretty good – the rice was nice and fluffy; the onions were well sauteed; the eggplant added a different texture to the otherwise soft rice and onions; the walnuts were…well, a little crunchy and almost out of place; and the tomatoes…I forgot that I don’t like hot tomatoes, and that’s what these turned out to be. So the dish lost points for me on that part alone. I think probably the best food item in this entire dish was the strips of omelet on top. Mostly, I just couldn’t get over how bland the whole thing tasted, and how none of the ingredients really seemed to go together. The whole thing was just kind of weird. And a little disappointing. Thank goodness for potstickers. I offered to try adding some soy sauce to the rice bowl, but Ben just shook his head and said gently, “I don’t think there’s any way to salvage this meal. I’m sorry.” And I think he was probably right.

Finished Rice Bowl

So the question is this: was it operator error? I followed the recipe, but maybe I misunderstood something along the way; I’m not familiar with eggplant, so maybe I made a mistake there? Surely Julia Child wouldn’t have recommended this particular dish in her book if it had turned out the way I had made it. Then again, maybe I just don’t appreciate Asian inspired French cuisine. Or something. All I know is this was the highlight of last night’s dinner conversation:

Ben: “This dinner sort of tastes like…like…”
Me: “Feet?”
Ben: “Well, I wasn’t going to say that, but since you did…yes, it does taste a little bit like feet.”

Anybody out there want to give this one a try and let me know where I went wrong? I can’t find any record on Julie Powell’s blog that she attempted this dish, so I have nothing else to go by. Tell you what…first person to make this dish successfully (even if it still comes out tasting like feet) and reports back on this site with their own review will win a set of chopsticks. For real. Because I just have to know.

Off to finish the last of the potstickers…


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2 Responses to “I Think I’m Turning Japanese, I Really Think So”

  1. Diane says:

    Thanks for the laugh–“It does taste a little bit like feet.” Reminds me of a dish I cooked a LONG time ago when I accidentally put baking soda in a sauce instead of cornstarch to thicken–the whole thing ended up smelling like ammonia!!! Needless to say it went in the trash and we got fast food instead.

  2. Mom says:

    And how, pray tell, does one know precisely what feet taste like??

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