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

Just Say “No!”


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“Once you have mastered a technique, you barely have to look at a recipe again.”
– Julia Child

What can I say, loyal readers? I love to take on a challenge…and another challenge…oh, and yet another, and…well, you get the idea. I think I just don’t like saying the word “No.” The problem with that is, before you know it, you’re buried under a heaping pile of yesses. 

Between business trips and Thanksgiving and some extra projects on the side, I haven’t been able to give this project the attention it deserves. If you’re still here, I give you a gold star for bearing with me, and you’ll be glad to know that after a longer-than-anticipated hiatus, I spent last night back in the kitchen, reaquainting myself with Julia Child and her cookbook. She has since forgiven me…I hope you’ll do the same?

Dinner was good, but mostly because it wasn’t turkey. I love Thanksgiving leftovers as much as the next guy, but one can only eat so many turkey sandwiches in an attempt to clear the tupperware from the fridge before going a little tryptophan crazy. And so, in an attempt to get my sea legs under me (“But you ain’t got no legs, Lieutenant Dan!”), I took a stab at something a little familiar:

Cotes de Porc Poelees (casserole-sauteed pork chops)
Choux Broccoli a la Creme (chopped broccoli simmered in cream)
Champignons Sautes au Beurre (sauteed mushrooms)
Baked Potato

Mmm...sauteed mushrooms

I started with the mushrooms, which came already sliced. I gave them a quick rinse in the sink, patted them dry with a paper towel, then tossed them into a pan of hot butter and oil. It didn’t take long for them to brown and soften, and I followed Julia’s instructions to take them off the heat before they became too soft.

I sliced the broccoli into flowerets and blanched them for about five minutes in some salted water. Once drained, I gave them a rough chop and poured them into a pan of hot butter, shaking the pan back and forth so the extra moisture would cook out of the broccoli before turning brown. Adding 3/4 cup of whipping cream, I let it come to a simmer then covered the pan and let it cook for about 8 minutes. (I learned my lesson from the time I tried to make creamed spinach and kept a close eye on the cream to be sure it didn’t burn.)

Blanching broccoli

Meanwhile, I seasoned the pork chops with salt, pepper and thyme and then browned them on both sides in a pan of hot oil before setting them aside to drain the fat from the pan. I plopped a bit of butter into the pan, added the chops back in, covered the whole thing and put it in the bottom third of a 325 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Halfway through cooking, I took them out, turned them and basted them with the buttery juices – yum. When time was up, I set the pork chops on a plate and added some vermouth to the pan and heated it over the stove for the sauce. Remembering back to when I first learned these steps, it was encouraging to think how easily these steps came to me now. I didn’t even need to refer back to MTAOFC, except to remember how much vermouth to put in the sauce. Not bad!

Creamed Broccoli

Ben came home just as the potatoes finished baking in the microwave (yes, I said it – the microwave). We loaded up our plates and headed to the living room to catch up on three weeks of missed Survivor episodes (see, this blog isn’t the only thing that’s been neglected lately).

Overall, the dinner was good. I was surprised that the pork chops seemed a little dry this time – maybe because I didn’t marinate them first? I also didn’t use much sauce on my plate, so that could have had something to do with it. The mushrooms were tasty, but I would have liked them more had they been a little softer. But the creamed broccoli was a nice surprise! The greens weren’t mushy, and the cream was light and not soupy – it added the slightest hint of sweetness to the vegetables, and even Ben gave it two thumbs up. (“This is the only way to cook broccoli!” he announced.)

Dinner is served!

More than the food itself, it felt really good to be cooking again. Something about accomplishing a goal can lift a girl’s spirits. (And two more recipes down!)

On another note, I’m proud to announce that I finally said “NO” to a challenge, opting out of baking cookies for this weekend’s holiday bake sale and instead sending Ben to the store for store-bought treats. Maybe I’m learning after all!

Happy December, everybody!
– Jessica

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