A Tribute To Julia, Part II

This post comes to you courtesy of my partner-in-crime (or my wonder twin, depending on how you view our partnership!) at my workplace.  She and I conspired over the summer to celebrate Julia Child’s 100th birthday with good food and wine.  I posted about it here and here.  Now, I give you her post about her cooking experience.  Thanks, C.!!

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In the movie, “Julie and Julia”, the character of Julie describes a dinner party where her mother made boeuf bourguignon for a dinner party.  She remembers her mother saying it was like Julia was in the kitchen with her, on her side, cheering her on as she made the signature dish.  After last week, I know exactly what she’s talking about in that scene.

For many years, I have dabbled in cooking.  I watched my mother make her own pasta sauce without a recipe, and then as an adult, recreated her sauce simply by remembering what was laid out on the counter while she cooked.  Mine is a bit different than hers, but everyone who’s eaten it loves it.  I’ve watched the Food Network ad nauseum and tried to recreate recipes seen there.  I have cookbooks about chicken, baking, pasta, “old fashioned cooking”, vegetarian dishes (which reminds me, I love that spinach and rice casserole from Moosewood), and countless others. I am in no way a professional cook; I wouldn’t even call myself a semi-professional amateur, but I know my way around a pantry.  I daydream in Williams-Sonoma.

So when I realized that this year was the 100th birthday of Julia Child, I felt compelled to mark this occasion.  StellaCarolyn has already written here about our continued bonding over her Julia mementos, and I knew she would be the perfect co-conspirator.  I texted her in the middle of a family emergency (hers, not mine) and told her to think about it.  She just replied, “Absolutely in.  We’ll talk.”  My darling partner decided for me what I would cook—the grande dame, boeuf bourguignon.

The reason is this: many years ago, an ex with a gift for gift giving gave me the combination of Julie and Julia and Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Which scared the crap out of me.  A few years later, another more casual ex and I decided we would start cooking the recipes.  I got as far as the roast chicken and a perfect soft boiled egg before putting him (and the book) aside.  My darling, who believes in me like no other, was convinced that the boeuf was the only way to go for this dinner.  So, Stella and I planned, and I went shopping.

I bought the recommended red wines.

And lots of amazing groceries at Whole Foods. I even consulted the butcher counter about a good substitute for the bacon, and was not disappointed with the pork belly.

I read the recipe again.  And again.  And again.  And I discovered something quite interesting about Mastering the Art of French Cooking:

The cookbook is REALLY EASY to follow, once you understand the organizing principle.  Which is, the left hand column is the ingredients, laid out in the groupings and order in WHICH YOU NEED THEM, not in one grand master list.  The right hand column are the exquisitely written steps to Les Trois Gourmandes recipes.  The special educator in me studied the format, studied the lists, and realized, “I can do this.”

And even if it isn’t perfect, no excuses, don’t apologize.

I woke up really early the day of the cooking, eager to get chopping.  Realizing I was about 4 hours ahead of schedule, I made some copies and watched Season 1, Episode 1 of The French Chef, read the paper, and drank coffee.  Finally, I started chopping.  I pulled out all my great prep bowls, and my needing-to-be-sharpened santoku, and within half an hour, the recipe was laid out in a neat grouping on my counter.

At noon, the cooking began.  I chopped, blanched, then sautéed the pork belly.

The beef was dried,

and browned in batches.

Vegetables browned,

and then all combined with wine and stock to begin the initial cooking.

While that all bubbled away, I prepared the braised onions

and the sautéed mushrooms,

which I could have eaten straight out of the pan.  I have been doing this wrong for years.  Never again.   Cleaned the house, set the table, and finally checked on the stew.

Now, here’s the step where I yelled at the ghost of Julia watching over my shoulder.  The step requires that you drain the beef out of the casserole and strain out the sauce into a sauce pan, wash out the casserole, and return the beef to it while you simmer the sauce to skim off the fat.  Draining the beef and sauce into the pan was easy enough, but that cassrole was the temperature of the surface of the sun, so washing it was really challenging.  I decided to begin skimming and wait for it to be a more reasonable degree of hot.  Which, actually made cleaning it out really easy.  I returned everything to the pan, with the onions and mushrooms (picture 9), and let it cool until my guests arrived, where it would resimmer just before serving.

StellaCarolyn, her husband, and another couple arrived at our house, SC with dessert and sparkling wine, couple number two with more wine.  We had brie and pate while I reorganized the stew, and finished the boiled potatoes and roasted brussel sprouts.

We served ourselves, and then conversation briefly stopped.  It had been a success.  We toasted Julia, and her inspiration and her legacy, and toasted the good friends around the table.  We ate every last bit of dinner.  SC assembled the bombes des trois chocolates, which has been previously described.

Julia was definitely with us this night.  Julia, who loved a good meal, with people she loved.  Who brought this beautiful world of food to American women and convinced us, in words and grainy black and white tv, and later, better, clearer color tv, that this world was ours to explore.  All we needed was a good knife and the right skillet, some friends and some good French wine.  And she’d be with us as we went.

Happy Birthday, Julia.  It was a pleasure celebrating with you.

With Deepest Apologies To Jewish Grandmothers: A Guest Post

Today’s post comes from the wonderful Hungry Hippo.  I’m so lucky to have her!

With Deepest Apologies to Jewish Grandmothers

Personally, I do not have a Jewish grandmother.  I have a Jewish grandmother-In-law, but she is not the type with a box full of recipes and a kitchen full of love.  She is the dripping with large rings, taking you out to eat at a great restaurant type of grandmother.  It is a very valuable type to have.  Unless of course it is 6:30 on a weeknight and you find yourself with an overwhelming urge to make knishes. Luckily, I know exactly where to find such a grandmother, so I called Stella Carolyn and pleaded, “Does your grandmother have a knish recipe?”  This was a bit of a ridiculous question.  Of course her grandmother has a knish recipe.  The question should have been “Can you find your grandmother’s knish recipe and do you have time to possibly send it to me even though you are super busy, pretty please, pretty please?”  That was a bit of a ridiculous question too, because if you know her like I do, you know I probably should have just skipped directly to “Thank you for sending me your grandmother’s knish recipe which I need for dinner in 5 minutes.”  Because like her grandmother, she’ll do just about anything for someone she loves.  And I am truly blessed, because she loves ME.

Within minutes I was armed with the recipe and ready to start making dinner.  I did cut the dough recipe in half though, because strictly speaking, I do not need 60 knishes.  Also, as this was my very first time making it, and I did not grow up watching anyone do this, I am certain my technique was horrible.  I could almost hear the whisperings and cluckings of generations of Jewish women as I rolled out the dough (almost certainly not thin enough and definitely not straight enough).  I also quite shamelessly mixed meat and dairy, and while I’m coming clean I should point out that my meat was duck bacon which is really a pretty cheap avoidance of actual bacon.  Complete inexperience and destruction of cultural heritage aside, I would say quite modestly that the knishes were delicious.  The sweet dough, the comforting smooth potato, I mean how can you go wrong with that many carbs.

DELICIOUS KNISHES
dough from Stella Carolyn’s Grandma – original says it makes 60, so I halved it.  I didn’t get 30 out of it, but I a) ran out of filling and b) made them a little bit larger

DOUGH INGREDIENTS:
2 1/2 C flour
2 T sugar
1/2 t salt
6 T salad oil
1.5 beaten eggs ( I know, I know, the whole recipe called for 3.  Save your half egg and use it mixed with water to put an egg wash on top before you bake them)
1/2 C lukewarm water

DOUGH DIRECTIONS:
First, sift your dry ingredients ( I just tossed them in the stand mixer and mixed them a bit).  Then make a well, add oil, eggs, water and  mix thoroughly.  Dust a bowl with flour.  Form a ball with the dough and place it in a bowl and cover it with towel.  Let stand 15 minutes. Knead well, then divide into 2 parts.  Work only one part at a time.

The next direction read: roll out and stretch dough into sheet about 20 inches in diameter.  I wasn’t quite sure what that meant, so I made a large rectangle (which I know, doesn’t have a diameter, but whatever).

Then it said to brush sheet with salad oil, which I skipped because the dough was pretty moist.  Next fill dough along line 1 1/2 inches wide and roll dough twice.

You can see how I put the potato filling in a single row and then rolled it to make a tube.

Then cut away from rest of sheet (the rest of my sheet wasn’t big enough to do a second roll so I kneaded it with the remaining dough.  Repeat until all dough has been used.  After rolling, I sort of twisted off little links of dough, rather than just cutting them because that let me sort of seal the dough between them.  Then you brush tops of rolls with oil (or egg) and slice at 1 1/2 inch intervals. (I made mine a bit bigger).  Then place cut side down on an oiled sheet or a silpat.  I also made a slight indent in the top with my thumb.

Bake at 350 for an hour.  Serve hot with soup.

FILLING:
So, I sort of eyeballed and guessed and made it up as I went along, but I believe that this is a Grandma approved method of cooking.

3-4 large russet potatoes, peeled, cooked and mashed (you know, like mashed potatoes)  I used 3 big russet potatoes, but as I said, I had some dough left over, so you might try 4.
1-2 C of leek, chopped small and rinsed and soaked to get rid of grit
1/2 C minced baby bella mushrooms
1/4 C mined duck bacon
salt, pepper and oil

Honestly, I might add more of everything next time, increasing all fillings and the ration of goodies to potatoes, but the potatoes are so comforting.  I can’t even explain.  Just make it.

Heat up your oil in a large frying pan.  Add your ingredients and cook until they are soft.  If you have the time, let your leeks or onion (if you prefer onion) to caramelize.  Even more delicious.  When your leeks, mushrooms and bacon are all done, mix them in with your mashed potatoes.  Then you are ready to stuff!

Ruthless Cooking (A Very Special Guest Post)

Today, we have a guest post from a bit of a surprising source, my mother.  Enjoy!

Rutheless Cooking:
 I have been invited to “guest blog” on my daughter’s account.  I am the aforementioned mother who “opened a can of Campbell’s soup when my daughter was sick”.  Hard to admit, but I’m not the queen of the kitchen.  Nevertheless, when pressed into service for my Jane Austen book club, I managed to come up with a good meal thanks to my friends.
We started with the cold avocado and cucumber soup with crabmeat that The Hungry Hippo posted.

Very yummy!  And surprisingly easy.
Next we feasted on a variety of vegetarian dishes (disclaimer: there is bacon in the Calico Beans).  I neglected to photograph the lovely presentation in serving dishes, but this will give you an idea of the meal.

Starting clockwise from the top:

Sweet Slaw, Calico Beans, New Potatoes w/ Peas and Mint, and (according to my daughter) the driest chicken ever!

All of these are wicked easy to prepare, and all can be made ahead of time and reheated before dinner.  Well, I guess, except for the chicken!
A few days before the book club meeting, I was out to dinner at Atlantic Fish Company and had a scrumptious corn pudding.  I tried to duplicate it via a recipe I found on the internet.  Mine was not quite as moist, but I’m sure with a little tinkering, you could make it exactly the way you want it.
Finally, the dessert came via a recipe I got 45 years ago (how did I get this old??) from my college roommate’s mother, Mrs. Rakosky.  Still easy, still delicious.  BTW, when I was looking for the cake mix and the pudding mix, I saw that they have cake mixes now with pudding included.  One step saved!

That is my new Jane Austen "action figure" watching over what's left of the dessert. She was a gift from a friend and came with her own quill pen, writing desk and a copy of Pride & Prejudice under her arm!

My daughter was very proud of me for doing all this cooking, and I only had to call her a few times along the way for advice!

Slaw Salad

Serves 8-10, leftovers are fine

 Ingredients:

Slaw:

1 package of ramen noodles (chicken flavored) (I used Oriental flavor)

either one head of cabbage or, easier, one or two bags of slaw salad

½ cup toasted almonds

3 tablespoons of sesame seeds

Dressing:

2 Tablespoons sugar

¼ cup cider vinegar  (could use champagne vinegar if you have it)

¼ cup vegetable oil (I used only 1/8 cup)

¼ sesame oil

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

¼ teaspoon pepper

chicken seasoning from ramen

Preparation:

Thinly slice cabbage and put into a large bowl.  Or just open the bags and drop the slaw in!

In a dry pan, lightly toast the almonds, making sure not to let them burn.  Or just throw in untoasted almonds.

Combine all of the dressing ingredients and mix well until sugar is dissolved.

Put ramen noodles in a plastic baggie and crumble them into small pieces.

Add the ramen, almonds and sesame seeds to the cabbage and mix well.

Pour the dressing and toss well.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

This slaw can be made the day before.

N.B.

Here is an easier, similar recipe.

1 bag slaw salad

1 cup toasted slivered almonds from Trader Joe’s

2 pkgs of Oriental (not chicken) Ramen Noodles

Instructions:

Mix first two ingredients in a bowl.  Put the noodles in a Ziploc bag and smash them up.  Do not add noodles until the very end.

In a separate bowl, mix the following:

1 scant cup canola oil

6 Tablespoons sugar

6 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 pkg of the Oriental seasoning from the noodles

When ready to serve, pour the dressing over the slaw and mix.  Add the noodles and give it a good toss.

 

Easy Corn Pudding

Ingredients:

1 (15 oz.) can of creamed corn

1 (15.25 ounce) can of whole kernel corn

¼ lb. butter, softened

1 (8.5 ounce) package of corn bread mix (I used Jiffy corn muffin mix)

1 (8 ounce) container of sour cream (optional)

2 eggs

water from corn cans

 Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Put butter in a 2 quart casserole dish, place in oven until melted.

2. Remove casserole dish and add creamed corn, kernel corn, corn muffin mix and sour cream.

3. Mix well, bake uncovered approximately 30 minutes.  (I needed to leave it in a lot longer to get the top to brown a little.)

Several of the comments after this recipe recommended adding two eggs (which I did).  They also said to use the water in the whole kernel corn can as well (which I also did).  I’m sure you can experiment with many aspects of this recipe.

 

Calico Beans (from Lady Gouda)

Ingredients:

1/2 lb bacon, chopped

1 onion, diced

sauce:

1/2 cup ketchup

3/4 cup brown sugar                                            

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 tablespoon prepared mustard (Dijon works)

beans:

50 oz or so of canned beans (5 cans): I like to use any combo of black, kidney, butter beans, garbanzo, navy beans or white beans.

Directions:

Set oven to 350 degrees. Fry up the chopped bacon over medium heat until browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and put aside. Add the chopped onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Mix together the ketchup, brown sugar, cider vinegar and mustard. Toss together the beans, onions and bacon and pour the sauce over top. Mix thoroughly and pour into a 9 x 13 pan. Cook uncovered for 45-60 minutes. Enjoy!

Mrs. Rakosky’s Poppy Seed Cake via My Family’s Table author’s second cookbook, p. 14.  Or here.