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

And Three Bad Things Happened…

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“The idea of cooking anything at all seemed beyond the pale, but I was cheered by the hardy fantasy I had been maintaining that poached eggs were easy, that I had mastered the technique and any dish that called for them was by definition a snap to make.” – Julie Powell

When I was a little girl and was faced with bedtime, I would ask my mom to make up a story before tucking me in for the night. Seems like a simple enough request, right? Only for some reason, I was very particular – three bad things had to happen, and in the end I had to be the hero. (I don’t know where I got this stuff, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I was a weird kid.) There was also something about a worm and a magic sweater, but that’s another story for another day.

So yesterday morning I woke up early to make breakfast before I had to run off to a day of chorus rehearsals. To be honest, the last thing I wanted to do when my alarm went off on a beautiful Sunday morning was to get up and cook breakfast, but I was already behind in my recipes and had promised Ben I’d make something over the weekend. I decided to give Julia’s Oeufs a la Bourguignonne (eggs poached in red wine) served in artichoke bottoms a try.

Poaching eggs

I had cooked the artichoke bottoms the other night, so I already had them ready to go. The poached eggs I had done before (only not in red wine), so I pretty much knew what to expect from the cooking process. I poured some red wine and beef stock into a small pot and brought it to a simmer. I broke an egg into a cup and used the cup to get close to the surface of the water and gently slide the egg into the pot. Only, once the egg was in there, I realized my pot was too shallow – there wasn’t enough liquid covering the egg for it to cook properly. Rats. I scooped it out, threw it away, and added more beef stock and wine to the pot. (Note to self: next time, use smaller and deeper pot.) I tried again, and this time the liquid covered the egg, but just barely. I was able to get the egg white to wrap around the yolk, but because the wine and beef stock were such a dark color, it was hard to see what I was doing and to determine whether the egg was done. This was going to be trickier than I thought.

Because of time and frustration constraints, my plan of making 4 eggs turned to making 3, and I set them aside while I worked on the sauce to pour over them. I added some seasonings to the liquid in the egg pot, then added a paste of butter and flour. The sauce thickened a little and was ready.

Because an egg on an artichoke isn’t much of a breakfast on its own, I decided to fry up some bacon. This particular bacon was really fatty, and there was a lot of grease in the pan. So as it cooked, the kitchen began to fill with smoke – and ultimately set off the fire alarm. (Bad Thing #1.) I began opening doors and windows and finally, the alarm subsided (poor Ben – not the sweet awakening I had planned for his Sunday morning).

I also made some toast to round out the meal, and was finally ready to serve our breakfast. I used a spoon to lift an egg onto an artichoke bottom, but in the process, the egg white tore and yolk began to spill out. (Bad Thing #2.)Clearly I hadn’t left them in the water long enough, but I didn’t have time to worry about it now. So I held the artichoke up against the ripped egg, then inverted the whole thing so the leaking yolk was on the bottom and you couldn’t tell that anything had gone awry. I think Julia would have been proud.

Poached Egg on Artichoke w/ Toast and Burnt Bacon

I spooned some of the sauce over the egg, then tossed a couple pieces of crispy bacon onto the plate along with some toast. This would have to do…I was running out of time. Ben joined me at the dining table and I dug in. I thought the egg with the artichoke was a really nice combination! The artichoke itself was tender and light, and the sauce was thin and full of beefy wine flavor, without taking away from the taste of the egg. The yolk was a little too runny, but the toast was perfect for sopping that up. The bacon, I realized now, was burnt – in all the running around trying to get the fire alarm to quit, I must have left it on the stove too long. (Bad Thing #3.) Oh, well. All in all, I thought this was a pretty good breakfast. But then I looked up and saw Ben’s face.

He had taken a bite of the egg and the artichoke, and he was just sitting there – not chewing, not swallowing, just holding this bite in his mouth. When he saw me looking at him, he forced a smile. “You don’t like it??” I asked. I was really surprised – I thought it was pretty good. He shook his head. And then he made some gagging noises and rolled his eyes back in his head and pretended to die. And I rolled my eyes, because I apparently married a three-year-old. “It’s okay, you can spit it out,” I told him. But he shook his head and swallowed it.

“Is it really that bad?” I asked, still trying to figure it out.
“It’s just that…those are two flavors that don’t go together!” he told me. So he took a bite of bacon, only to discover that it was burnt. And then he took a bite of toast, and smiled. “Julia makes great toast!”
“I have to get in the shower,” I told him flatly. And then he apologized profusely.

So that’s my story of yesterday’s breakfast, where three bad things happened. Only this time, I didn’t really come out the hero in the end. But even heroes have off days, right? I’m willing to put money on the fact that even Superman gets a run in his tights every now and then.

– Jessica

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2 Responses to “And Three Bad Things Happened…”

  1. Ben says:

    I’m still sorry about that, by the way. 😉

  2. Diane Duke says:

    hahahaha, I’m still laughing! I can picture Ben’s face with the egg in his mouth…I’m sure it’s funnier now than it was at the time!

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