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

Going Green for St. Patty’s Day



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“Anyone who has been fortunate enough to eat fresh, home-cooked vegetables in France remembers them with pleasure. Any fine, fresh vegetable in season will taste just as good in America or anywhere else if the French vegetable-cooking techniques are used.” – Julia Child 

Top o’ the mornin’ to ye! So I’m a little behind in my blogging these days. I’m happy to say I’ve been cooking up a storm, and mostly-written articles are stacking up in my Drafts box, but I just haven’t been able to get them all posted. What can I say? These are crazy times. However, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day and luck o’ the Irish and all that, today’s post features all things green. I made these recipes last night, and any of them would be perfect for the office pot luck or family get-together.

Looks like noodles, but it's really creamed cucumbers.

1. Concombres a la Crème (creamed cucumbers)
The first step here is to make baked cucumbers (concombres au beurre), which we’ve done before. Peel a couple of cucumbers, slice them in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Cut them into matchsticks, then toss them around in a vinegar/salt/sugar mixture and let them sit in there for about a half-hour. Drain them and pat them dry, then put them in a baking dish and toss them with melted butter and basil, minced green onions and pepper. Set them in a 375-degree oven for about an hour, giving them a little toss every now and then. 

When they’re finished baking, remove the dish from the oven and add a cup of boiling whipping cream to the cucumbers. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and fold it all together, and it’s ready to serve. Pretty effortless dish, really – it just takes some time to cook.  

Green beans and sauce mornay headed to the oven.

2. Haricots Verts Gratines, a la Mornay (green beans gratineed with cheese sauce)
Some preliminary work is needed here – blanch green beans and make a batch of sauce mornay (flour/butter/milk/cheese mixture into a creamy sauce). Spread a third of the sauce in the bottom of a baking dish and arrange seasoned green beans over the top, then pour on the rest of the sauce. Sprinkle with a little more grated Swiss cheese and dot with butter, then bake in the upper third of a 375-degree oven until the beans are heated through and the sauce has browned lightly on top. 

Cut the asparagus into 1/2" pieces.

3. Timbale d’ Asperges (asparagus mold)
I started with a bunch of asparagus and prepared it as Julia suggests – hold the asparagus by the bottom and bend upwards until it snaps. That’s the part you want to throw away. The top portion that remains is the good part you’ll use to cook with. Pretty neat, huh? Boil these pieces while you prepare the rest of the recipe. Oil a soufflé mold and cover with bread crumbs, shaking out any excess. Cook minced onions in butter until they’re translucent (but not brown) and scrape them into a mixing bowl. Add salt and pepper, shredded Swiss cheese and more bread crumbs. Beat in a few eggs, turning the mixture into a creamy batter, and finish by drizzling boiling milk and butter into the bowl.  

Fold the asparagus pieces into the custard.

The mixture forms a sort of custard, and into this you’ll fold the cooked asparagus, which should be cut into ½” pieces. Then turn the mixture into the soufflé mold and set into a pan of boiling water, all of which goes into a 325-degree oven for about 30 minutes. When it’s ready, the top will be lightly browned and the edges will be turning crusty. Take it out of the oven, let it sit for awhile, then use a knife to separate the edges from the dish. Invert it onto a plate and voila! Done!  

Unmolded asparagus...tastes better than it looks!

To accompany this triad of veggies, I made a simple pair of supremes (chicken breasts) that I’ve made before. I wanted the side dishes to actually be the star of this show, so I didn’t do anything fancy with the chicken. Not that it needed it – Julia’s recipe is delicious simplicity. The baked cucumbers were okay, but I still don’t get it. They just taste like warm, limp cucumbers. The cream added a gentle sweetness, but other than that, it just seemed like milky cucumber. *shrug* Not my personal favorite, but not bad either. The green beans were cooked really well – still had a bit of snap to them, and the cheese sauce and melted cheese topping gave them a heartiness you don’t usually find with green beans. I must have added a little too much flour to the sauce mornay, because it was a little gritty, but the flavor was still fine. The beans were good, but I’d still rather have them plain and natural – just a personal preference.  

Chicken, green beans, creamed cucumbers, asparagus mold - YUM!

However, when I bit into the asparagus mold, I was really surprised by how delicious it was. The bread crumbs had formed a perfect light crust on top of the veggies, and the onions mixed with the breading combined with the overall texture reminded me of a cross between homemade stuffing and green bean casserole. It was fantastic! I would definitely recommend this dish as a Thanksgiving side. It was super flavorful, hearty, and comforting – all the things a good holiday dish should be. This was definitely the stand-out recipe for me last night, and I would certainly make it again.  

All in all, not a bad dinner! These three dishes have you covered for green on St. Patrick’s Day – no pinching allowed. Whether you’re making a thematic meal for your family or are just in the mood for some tasty veggies, consider these recipes the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Until next time…  

Like the warmth of the sun
And the light of the day,
May the luck of the Irish
Shine bright on your way. 

– Jessica

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