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

It’s a Home Run!

 

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“The steak was quite good…Artichokes tasted like, well, lemon butter mostly…Nothing went wrong.  It was good, though after one meal we’re already feeling the buttery side effects.  I cooked Julia and lived to tell the tale.” – Julie Powell

 
Ted Williams hit 521 home runs in his baseball career – and after last night, that’s exactly how many more recipes I have to make this year. Yep, that’s right! Last night I cooked my very first round of recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and you know what? Not only did I survive, but the food turned out great! The menu was Artichauts au Naturel with Beurre au Citron and Bifteck Saute au Beurre – that’s three, count ‘em THREE, recipes we can check off our list. Here’s how it went:

 

First things first, I divided every recipe for last night’s dinner in half, considering the recipes in this book are intended for 4-6 people and there are only two of us in this household. Not being the quickest mathematician, I had to keep reminding myself not to put in the full amount of ingredients – hopefully the more I do this the more natural it’ll become.

Preparing Artichokes for Boiling

Because the artichokes took the longest to cook (at 45 minutes), I began with those. I’ve eaten artichoke once before when I was a young girl, but had never paid attention to how they were prepared. It takes some prep work to get them ready for boiling – first you have to use a knife to cut off the stems and the top points of the cone, and then use scissors to remove all the little sharp points of the leaves. Rinse ‘em off in the sink, then rub lemon juice on the exposed tips so they won’t have any discoloration in the cooking process. Plunge them into a bowl of cold water and vinegar until a pot of water and salt has come to a full boil. Drop the artichokes in the pot – they’ll float – and cover them with cheesecloth. Put the cloth right on the veggies, like you’re tucking them in for a little nap, and come back in 45 minutes.

About ten minutes before the artichokes were done, I got the steak ready for cooking. Trim off the extra fat, make little incisions around the perimeter of the meat so it won’t curl up in the pan (smart!) and heat up some butter (not as much as you’d think) and a little bit of oil. Drop the meat in the pan (carefully…that hot butter/oil will pop right up and smack you in the face if you’re not careful!), give it a good sear for about 5 minutes, then flip it and do the other side. (Note to self: turn on the stove fan before getting started. The moment that meat hit the hot butter, the kitchen filled with smoke. Smelled delicious, but was pretty ridiculous.) The outside of the meat came out pretty dark, but the inside was just right. If nothing else, I’ve decided that this method of cooking meat is super easy and definitely the way to go. Next came the au beurre sauce, and that plus some seasoning really gave the meat some terrific flavor. (This step involved my only fatality of the evening, when I accidentally dropped a pat of butter onto the floor – that stuff is slippery! No worries – I had plenty more in my reserve.)

Melting Butter in the Au Beurre Sauce

The last thing I made was the lemon butter sauce for the artichokes – super easy. All in all, the experience of cooking this meal was pretty simple. Like any big menu, things got a little hectic toward the end as everything finished cooking at about the same time, but with a little bit of juggling and only a tiny bit of panicking, all turned out well in the end. (To fill out the meal, we added some mashed potatoes and dinner rolls to the menu, but these were not inspired by Julia – we just know what we like.)

Once seated, it came time for the best part – tasting the food! The meat was perfect. I was worried because the outside looked a little black, but it didn’t taste charred at all. Julia’s meat only needed four minutes on each side, but I found mine needed about six to eight minutes each side. (We prefer our meat to be medium to medium-well, and this cooked it perfectly through for us.) Because of a medical condition I had in my teens, I don’t typically cook with seasoning – I figure anyone who wants it after the fact can add it as needed. So out of habit, I didn’t season it as much as Julia had encouraged, and she was right – a little more salt and pepper really put it over the top as it seemed to bring out the flavors of the butter sauce. Delish! (Side note: I had asked the butcher for 1 lb. of meat, and he offered us a cut of 1 ½ lbs. – Ben was skeptical and thought it was too much but I went ahead and bought it. Please note that there are no leftovers.)

Bon Appetit!

The artichokes were also cooked perfectly. The soft meat on the underside of each leaf was just right, and it was fun to show Ben, who had never eaten an artichoke before, how to scrape all the tasty flesh off the leaves. Artichokes are kind of like crab meat – it’s a lot of work for a little reward, but still fun to eat. We dipped the leaves in the lemon butter sauce, which for some reason came out reeeeeally tangy. It was good, but a little went a long way. Luckily for my hips, I wasn’t a huge fan – there’s no concern about going overboard with this sauce. Of course the best part was the heart of the artichoke. Soft and tasty, it was a nice surprise after eating through all those leaves.

By the time we finished our meal, we were stuffed and happy. My first attempt at a Julia Child recipe went really well. As Julie Powell said on her first night, “It was easy. Too easy.” I don’t want to get too confident too soon, but this meal was really encouraging. If anyone else wants to attempt this challenge, I’d definitely recommend this as the meal to begin with. It’s complex enough that you feel you’re really cooking in the kitchen, yet straightforward enough you don’t feel you’ve attempted an impossible feat. All in all, a great start! I’m proud of Ben for being open-minded and trying new things, and I’m proud of me for producing a delicious dinner. Here’s to 364 more!

-Jessica

Day #1 French Lesson:
“S’il vous plaît me passer le pot.”

Day #1 Waistline:
30″

 

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5 Responses to “It’s a Home Run!”

  1. Emily says:

    Congratulations! In honor of your incredibly brave and exciting start to A Year With Julia I made Grandma’s Taco Casserole.:) Not as adventurous but everyone loved it. Maybe while you work your way through Julia Child I’ll attempt Betty Crocker, more my speed.:p
    I look forward to reading your blog every day like a book I can’t put down. Lots of love!!!

    • Jessica says:

      Hooray!! I’m so glad everyone liked the casserole. My favorite part is the crunchy Doritos on top. 😉 I’m really excited you’re going to follow along on the blog. Thanks for the comments! Stay tuned for more adventures in the kitchen… :)

  2. Mary says:

    Great Job!!

  3. Mary says:

    Yum! I’ve never had an artichoke in anything that’s not a dip. Can’t wait to try it!

    • Jessica says:

      I know what you mean – I love artichoke dip!! Artichoke is one of those vegetables that doesn’t have a whole lot of flavor on its own, but definitely worth trying for the experience. Thanks for following along, Mary!

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