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

Feeling a Little…Saucy

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When asked if she knew her cholesterol level, Julia Child replied, “Medium.”

Last night was a rare occasion…Ben had the night off work, so I didn’t have to eat dinner at 10:30! (Yesss!) There’s something pretty cool about coming home from a day of manual labor (yesterday was spent sorting boxes in the warehouse…ugh), opening the front door and having your husband there to literally greet you with open arms. *dreamy sigh*

To reward him for his undying love, I did what any good and loyal wife would do – I cooked him a meal high in calories and big on taste. I managed to knock out four (yes, FOUR!) recipes last night:

Surprisingly nice pork chops, considering they came from the local market.

This recipe was not only really easy, but it didn’t take long at all – maybe an hour total. (Much more realistic than a certain 2 1/2-hour beef stew which shall remain nameless.) I began by cooking the pork chops the same way as our previously prepared casserole-sauteed chops – pat them dry with paper towels and brown them in cooking oil in an oven-safe pan over the stove. Take ’em out of the pan and drain all the fat, then toss in some butter and halved garlic cloves and put the meat back in the pan (there’s a lot of back and forth in these recipes, have you noticed?). Since I opted to not marinate the meat ahead of time, at this point I added some salt, pepper and thyme to the chops to add a little bit of flavor. Then I covered the pan and stuck it in a 325 degree oven for about 30 minutes.

While those were cooking, I got to work on our side dishes. The most time consuming part of the whole meal was getting the water to boil for the cauliflower – holy moly, that took a long time. But once it came to a rapid boil, things moved right along. I took a head of cauliflower and removed the leaves and stem. I cut the head into “flowerets” (that word makes me a little uncomfortable…shouldn’t it be “florets”?) and rinsed it all in a bowl of cold water. I tossed the cauliflower into the pot of boiling water and let it work its magic for about 10 minutes.

Cauliflower boiling on the stove

Then I turned my attention to the peas. Personally, I have no problem using canned vegetables. Growing up, we always had fresh veggies at home, but since being married to a man whose family relied on canned green beans and peas, I have come to appreciate the speed and ease at which one can empty a can of vegetables into a bowl and put it in the microwave for a few seconds and voila! An instant side dish!

Julia doesn’t seem to mind canned vegetables, either – as long as you dress ’em up before sending them to the party. She recommends sauteing some chopped green onions in a little bit of butter, then adding the peas to the pan with some salt and pepper. Pour in a little cooking stock and boil for a few minutes until most of the liquid has cooked away. This whole process took about five minutes, and they did look much nicer than just slopping them into a bowl straight from the can. So I’ll concede that this wasn’t a bad way to make peas.

Pass the peas, please!

At the fifteen minute mark, I took the pork chops out of the oven and flipped them over, basting them with the buttery juices sizzling in the bottom of the pan. They were turning a warm roasted brown color and smelling wonderful, so I knew I was on the right track. With fifteen minutes left until the meat was ready, I knew it was time to work on the sauce for the chops and the sauce for the cauliflower. (My mom asked me yesterday, “How does one Frenchify pork chops and cauliflower?” I realized the answer was simple: wine, butter and sauce.)

First I made the mustard, cream and tomato sauce for the meat. Simmer some whipping cream, salt and pepper in a small sauce pan while mixing a couple tablespoons of tomato paste and a tablespoon of dry mustard. Pour the hot cream into the tomato paste and beat it all together until it becomes a smooth, creamy sauce of medium thickness. Wasn’t that easy?

The fresh cream sauce for the cauliflower was even easier – simmer whipping cream, salt and pepper in a small saucepan and add drops of lemon juice while stirring. Take the mixture off the heat and mix in some butter. That’s it! The final product will look like a watered down version of ranch dressing.

When the oven timer sounded, I was glad to see that everything had finished on time. I pulled the pork chops out of the oven and set one on a plate, spooning some of the creamy tomato sauce over the top. A spoonful of peas and a few florets of cauliflower drizzled with the cream sauce finished the plate…and I immediately knew we had a winner.

Pork Chop Dinner - delish!!!

The pork chop was so tender, my knife slid right through it. It was thick and juicy, cooked to the perfect temperature, and while it could have held its own, the creamy tomato sauce on top was a terrific enhancement of flavors. It didn’t taste specifically like tomatoes, really. Everything worked together to make an entirely different taste. The mustard gave just the slightest bit of tanginess, and while I didn’t smother the meat with the liquid, I did find myself mopping up any leftover drizzlings with the bites of meat on my plate. Delicious.

The cauliflower alone was pretty typical – I’ve learned from Julia that my whole life I’ve been overcooking my vegetables – it turns out I like them to be a little crispier than I’ve been making them. So these were on the crunchier side while still being tender, which I really liked. The sauce was excellent – surprisingly light and not overpowering at all. It almost added a touch of gentle sweetness to the vegetables, and again, I didn’t drown them in the sauce – a little drizzle over the top was plenty.

Holly Hunter & Richard Dreyfuss in "Always"

I liked the peas quite a bit. I probably left them on the stove a little too long, as they were a little on the soft side, but overall the flavors of the added onion and beef stock kicked it up a notch, and had I served these at a group dinner, I’d bet money that not one person would have guessed that these came from a can. (Random tangent: I’m suddenly reminded of the scene from the movie “Always” when Holly Hunter has invited the love interest over for dinner, but she can’t cook. So she’s ordered a meal from a restaurant and hides the take-home containers and messes up the kitchen so it looked like she spent all afternoon cooking herself. Great scene.  Great movie.) I suspect the trick here is to drain and rinse the peas when they first come out of the can – that helps rid them of any tin-iness and seems to freshen them up a bit.

This meal was outstanding. I’d definitely make this in my everyday cooking life. While I normally don’t use lots of sauces in my cooking – never on vegetables! – I can certainly see how the creamy tomato sauce brought the pork chops to a new level, and I’ve made a mental note to remember these various sauce recipes so I can incorporate them more into my “American” recipes. What about you? Do you use many sauces? If not, I challenge you to reconsider – try this one in particular. It’s so easy, and super tasty – a winning combination.

In other news, if anyone has seen my waistline from July, please let it know I miss it and would love for it to return home where it belongs. Thank you.

Feeling a little saucy….not to mention thick around the middle.

– Jessica

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3 Responses to “Feeling a Little…Saucy”

  1. Margaret says:

    My best “trick” for frozen vegetables (what I use for quick and easy side when I don’t have fresh veggies) is to use a little Lawry’s Seasoned Salt in just a tiny bit of water – maybe half of what the package says. Bring the heat up fast to a boil then cover and take off the heat for the remainder of the cooking time (usually 5 -7 mins). Drain and toss a Tbsp of butter in and it is so much tastier than plain salt.

    Another super simple and unique sauce my mom made and called “Ersatz Hollandaise”. 2 parts mayo + 1 part Durkees Famous Sauce (found in most any grocery by the mustards) + a little lemon juice and a little bit of melted butter. Totally yummy on broccoli and I cannot make the green stuff without also making this sauce at OUR house.

    I am really enjoying your blog, Jess!

    • Jessica says:

      Ooh, great tips, Margaret! Will definitely have to try these. I had a roommate in college who put Mrs. Dash on EVERYTHING – I know lots of people use Lawry’s the same way. :) Can’t wait to try the sauce recipe, too. Thanks for sharing! And thanks for following along on this site – glad you’re enjoying it!!

  2. Mom says:

    Alright. It’s official. You are not my child. You must be a changeling. You cannot possibly be the daughter of someone who walked into her new house, paused briefly in the kitchen and asked, “What’s this cute little room?”

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