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

A Beautiful Day for a Neighbor


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“It’s fun to get together and have something good to eat at least once a day. That’s what human life is all about — enjoying things.” – Julia Child

Tonight we’re having our next door neighbors over for dinner – the first time the four of us will have all gotten together since we moved into our house almost a year ago. While the husband is eager to try some French cuisine, the wife I hear is somewhat particular when it comes to food. I’m not sure how our dinner’s going to go over, but it’ll be an adventure.

Cream of Mushroom Soup (in progress)

Last night, I did a lot of prep work to get ready for tonight – I made a salad and got a head start on our Potage Veloute aux Champignons (cream of mushroom soup). I cooked some minced onions in butter, then added a little flour and added some boiling chicken broth and chopped mushroom stems. After about 20 minutes, I drained the soup through a seive into a big bowl, squishing all the juice out of the mushrooms, then poured the liquid back into the pot. I sauteed sliced mushroom caps in another pan with a little bit of lemon juice, then added them into the soup broth. I’ll finish the rest when I get home tonight – just adding some eggs and cream to the liquid and finally thickening the soup with some butter. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Frothy custard

Next, I made our dessert: Creme Renversee au Caramel (caramel custard, unmolded). I lined a mold with caramel (melted sugar and water) and began heating up some milk on the stove. In a mixing bowl, I beat together sugar, eggs and egg yolks until it became light and frothy (I’ve learned to use an electric egg beater for this rather than rely on a wire whisk…a person’s arm can only take so much of a work-out). I added the hot milk and a little vanilla extract, then poured the whole thing into the mold. I baked it at 325 for nearly an hour until a knife came out clean when inserted into the custard. I put it in the fridge overnight and will unmold it when I get home. It can be served warm or cold – I’ll probably serve it cold for simplicity’s sake.

Lastly, I got our Tomates a la Provencale (tomatoes stuffed with bread crumbs, herbs and garlic) ready for tonight. I cut tomatoes in half crosswise and gently squeezed all the juice and seeds out of them. I sprinkled each half with a little salt and pepper, and because there wasn’t much room in the center for any kind of filling, I used a melon baller to scoop out some of the middle. In a mixing bowl, I combined seasonings, shallots, olive oil and white bread crumbs, then scooped a spoonful into the center of each tomato. I covered them and set them in the fridge and tonight will drizzle them with a little olive oil and bake them for about 15 minutes until the bread crumb filling has begun to brown.

Our main course will be Bitokes a la Russe (hamburgers with cream sauce) which I’ve made before, but this time we’ll also offer Sauce Madere (brown Madeira sauce). Another side will be baked potatoes, since that’s a dish that most people like. I don’t know how much of all this food will actually get eaten, but regardless, I’m excited to have dinner guests and for the chance to get to know our neighbors. I promise to give a full report tomorrow.

Happy weekend!


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