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.

A Tribute To Julia

As mentioned here, August 15, 2012 would have been Julia Child’s 100th birthday.  I’ve mentioned this before, my grandparents were friendly with the Childs.  They bought wine from my grandfather in his store and my grandmother and Julia knew each other through a few gourmet cooking groups.

One of my prize possessions is framed and hanging in my kitchen.  It’s a letter written to my grandmother a few months before her death.  My grandfather had reached out to Julia to let her know that Grandma was sick so she wrote to her in response.

It’s a bit hard to read so I’ll re-type it here:  “Dear Grace, Just a little note to wish you well.  Myron tells me that you have been having a mean rotten time.  No fun!  Things have been going well with me, thank heaven, and we’ve a new television series on Public TV starting in October- hope you’ll see it.  On baking this time- breads, brioches, gooey chocolate cakes and all kind of good things.  Not fattening if you keep to small helpings.  Here’s wishing you all the best, and sending you my love- Julia Child.”

Sadly, my grandmother died almost exactly a month later so she never saw the baking series (it was Baking With Julia).  I found that letter years later when I was going through stuff at our house.  My grandfather had saved it, along with this bill of sale from his store:

Julia and Paul loved their wine!

You’d think with these letters and the connections that I’d remember Julia Child.  I do not.  I recall tall and that’s about it.  I feel connected to her, nonetheless.

As a tribute to Julia and her 100th birthday, a friend and I planned a dinner party composed of her dishes.  My friend made her Beouf Bourguignon, roasted brussel sprouts and potatoes with parsley.  It was all delicious and when we were done, there were no leftovers.  My friend will guest blog that one soon.  It was a meal worthy of Julia- several bottles of wine, lots of laughter and so much good food.

I was in charge of dessert so I made Julia’s Bombe aux Trois Chocolats.  It’s a large chocolate cake filled with chocolate mousse and topped with chocolate ganache.  Incredibly rich and decadent.

While the recipes themselves aren’t complicated, they are a bit time-consuming due to all the steps.  I did mine over the course of two days.  I suppose you could do it all in one day but I think you’d need the whole day.  The recipes are really three separate things plus one set of instructions for putting it all together.  As usual, I ended up putting my own twist on this for reasons I’ll explain as we go.  Rather than making one whole cake, I made individual ones.  Either way, it’s a delicious way to end a meal.

Kate’s Great Chocolate Fudge Cake

Ingredients

1 stick (4oz) of unsalted butter

4 ounces of unsweetened chocolate

1 more stick of unsalted butter

2 cups white sugar

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup of white, all purpose flour

*For this you will need a jelly-roll (sheet) pan, 11 x 17 inches

Instructions:

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.  Butter (or spray) your jelly roll pan and line it with parchment paper.  Leave about two inches hanging over the edge of the pan.  Then butter and flour your parchment. I actually just sprayed mine with baking spray.  It worked just fine.

Make sure to use good quality chocolate.

Melt it with the butter in a double boiler.  Julia says to have about 2-3 inches of water in the bottom of the double boiler and to let it simmer (over low heat).  This will let the chocolate in the top part melt slowly, without scorching.

Combine the butter and the sugar.  Julia actually offers three different ways to do this in her book- by hand, in a mixer or in a food processor.  I chose to use the mixer.

Once the butter and sugar is sort of light and fluffy, add the eggs one by one and mix well.  Add the vanilla and salt.  Then stir in the yummy melted chocolate/butter mixture.

Don’t taste the chocolate mixture- remember that it’s unsweetened chocolate.  Mix it well.

Add the flour (Julia says to do it in thirds but I will admit that I just dumped it all in, lazy cook that I am) and mix well.

Pour it into the sheet pan and spread it evenly.

Bake for 25 minutes on the middle rack of the oven.  It should be set but the top should be spongy.  A toothpick inserted in the middle should come out with a few crumbs on it.  It’s important that it not overcook- you need it to be chewy for texture in the dessert and you need it to be bendy in order to assemble it.

When you take it out to cool, let it sit in the pan for 10 minutes.  Then turn the pan upside down over a cake rack and unmold the cake, gently.  Peel off the parchment and let it cool at least 10 more minutes.  Since I’d made mine the day before, I wrapped it tightly in plastic wrap and kept it in the fridge overnight.  Before I used it the next day, I let it come to room temperature.

Chocolate Mousse (Chocolate Mougins)

Ingredients

12 ounces semisweet chocolate

1 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate

2 1/2 teaspoons plain unflavored gelatin (this was about a packet and a half of the kind I bought)

3 Tablespoons Dark rum, cognac or bourbon whiskey (I used Godiva chocolate liquor)

3 large eggs

2 egg whites (about 4 Tablespoons)

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 1/2 Tablespoons vanilla extract

large pinch of salt

3 Tablespoons white sugar

Directions

Break up the two chocolates and place them in the top of a double boiler.

Meanwhile, pour the gelatin into a small bowl and pour the liquor over it.  Let it sit while you do the rest and it will soften.  Soften means it will start looking like this:

and end looking like this:

So the chocolate is melting, the gelatin is setting.  Time to get the rest of the mousse going.  Separate the eggs, putting the whites into a mixing bowl and the yolks into a saucepan.

Beat the yolks with a whisk until they are thick and sticky.

Then add the cream and stir it slowly over low heat.  It is important not to let come to a boil or else it will curdle.  If this happens to you, according to the hippo, you can strain it and no one will be the wiser.  (I think that Julia would have liked that tip.)Julia has all kinds of tips to know when the custard is ready.  None of them have worked for me in general.  The only one that sort of works for me is to let it coat the back of the spoon.  Or to let it heat to 156-185 degrees Farenheit.  Either way, immediately remove it from the heat and stir it for a minute so that it stops cooking.

Stir the gelatin into the custard.  It will be in one big lump (actually one big shape of whatever it was in) but keep stirring and it will melt into the custard.  Once it has dissolved into the custard, add vanilla and then the melted chocolate.

Beat the eggs whites (remember them from earlier?) with a mixer at slow speed until they get foamy.  Then add the salt and increase the speed to fast.  Keep beating until the egg whites form soft peaks.  Add the sugar and beat more, until the egg whites are forming stiff, shiny peaks.

The magic of egg whites, they go from this….

….to this. Cooking magic!

Fold these egg whites into the chocolate mixture.  Gently, so as to keep as much of the air as possible. Cover the mousse and put it in the fridge to set.  It should be soft but not runny.

Chocolate Ganache for topping

I improvised a bit here.  Julia uses the same chocolate as the mousse, recipe, melted and drizzled over.  I made a ganache, using the ratio of 3 parts chocolate to 1 part cream.  This means I heated 1 cup of cream over low heat to just under the boiling point and then added 3 cups of milk chocolate (good quality please) chips.  I let it sit off the heat and then whisked it together until smooth.

Putting it all together

Ok so this is where I drove myself a little bit nuts.  Julia calls for a 6 cup bowl, about 8 inches in top diameter.  She says that you could use a charlotte mold “or even a flowerpot could be used, of course, and either is fine because they are both tall enough for drama.”  I found a bowl that fit the requirements and lined it with plastic wrap as Julia instructed.

One of my favorite bowls, given to me at my wedding by a dear Irish friend.

Then it was time to cut out the template.  Julia suggests that you cut out a template using parchment paper so that you know how to cut the cake to line the bowl.  I am  not exaggerating when I tell you that I worked on this for a solid half an hour.  Let’s just say that I am not spatially gifted.

This was the aftermath after a half hour of working on the template. Again, not spatially gifted.

I did finally end up with a template that fit the bowl.

But when I tried it on the cake, I couldn’t see how I was going to have enough cake.  At all.  Aside from the pieces pictured above, I also needed one to “cap” the cake- a round piece the same diameter as the bowl.  I thought for a bit and then decided that I could make individual ones in ramekins.  The best part about that?  I didn’t really need a template.  Though, I did make one- it was slightly easier than the large bowl.  Not much but slightly.

So, this is where Julia and I diverged.  If you want to make one big cake, I hardily recommend you consult her recipe because her instructions for the template are good.  Unless you’re me.  The steps are sort of the same, small or big.

Line each ramekin with plastic wrap.  Place a circular piece of cake on the bottom, good side out (it’s going to be the top of the cake so make it pretty).

Then line the sides.  The cake will sort of squish together, kind of like making pie dough.  Keep the edges of the cake at or just below the edge of the container.

Fill with mousse.

Top with another circle of cake, sort of pushing down in order to keep the mousse inside.

Wrap in plastic wrap (I just pulled up the sides that were overhanging) and put into the fridge to set.  Let them set for six hours or overnight.

When you’re ready to serve, whip up some cream, make or heat up your ganache and then get ready to unmold.  Unwrap the plastic from the top and then place a plate over the opening.  Flip the ramekin over and tap it.  It should come out- you may have to wiggle the plastic wrap a bit.  Peel the plastic wrap off and you should be left with a little chocolate bomb.

Top with the ganache, chopped nuts or sliced strawberries.

There you have it!

Happy birthday Julia.  You are missed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Julia!

Today would have been Julia Child’s 100th birthday.  I’m sure, if I were to go through all my grandmother’s photo albums and loose photos, I’d find one of her with Julia.  I’m also sure I just don’t have time to do that right now.

Instead, I am planning, with a friend, a Julia dinner.  The friend is making Julia’s Beouf  Bourguignon.  I’m in charge of dessert- Bombe aux Trios Chocolats.

A few preview photos:

Mushrooms for the beouf.  My friend will be guest blogging this one for sure.

Chocolate for the cake/mousse.  Mmmmm.

So, that’s in store for here.  As well as  a meal prepared by my father and a quick tour of two NYC eateries from our trip earlier this week.  So much to write!

 

More Bits and Pieces

I have started about twenty posts since I last posted.  The problem I was having prior remains:  lots of kitchen fails.  Add that to the heat and the baby weight and the fact that I’m not really cooking anything interesting and you get a whole lot of nothing.  But I can report that we have had a minor miracle in our house tonight:

It is 9:15 and the baby is asleep in his crib and my daughter is asleep in her bed.  This has never happened, ever in the history of, well, ever.  We are not a cry-it-out family so it’s been several years of coaching G. to sleep in her bed by herself and we are traveling the same path with baby M.  Though, we are trying to let him sleep alone whenever we can.  So I finally have time to write but, sadly have nothing about which to blog.  Sigh.

I have done some minor entertaining in the last few days.  If you’ve been following along at home, you know that last September I started at a new school.  This means lots of new work socializing, something we all know I loathe.  Not because of the people themselves but because of me- I hate, hate, hate social situations which do not involve people I already know.  So it was a nice turn of events that I grew to adore one of the administrators at my school- the one I work with most directly.    We agreed that when the year was over, we would need an outside-of-work adult playdate (which sounds so much dirtier than it was) which would involve yummy snacks and wine.  That came to fruition this week.

I know I don’t speak about it as often as I could here but my grandparents knew Julia Child.  My grandfather was well-known in our area because of his knowledge of wine and his wine shop in our town.  My grandmother knew all the gourmet chefs in the area, Julia foremost among them.  In my kitchen I have a few pieces of correspondence from Julia and Paul framed and hanging by  my oven to remind me of all of this.  I have only the vaguest of memories of Julia Child- mostly I remember tall.

At any rate, I tend to forget just how neat it was that my grandparents knew Julia and Paul Child.  It’s only in the re-telling that it comes back to life.  Which it did this week when my new work friend came over for snacks, wine and gossiping.  Turns out she’s a huge Julia fan and we share a love of cooking, reading cookbooks for fun and cooking shows. We also share a love of yummy snacks.

Deviled eggs because, why not?

Lady Gouda’s Peppery Cucumber Crackers.  To which I added cherry tomatoes which made them even more delicious (and slightly breast-like).

Ina Garten’s Green Herb Dip (I added some garlic and basil as well).  Note:  if you happened to have a whole bunch of cilantro (yuck! why would you?!) around, it would be good with this dip.  I’m just saying.)

It all went nicely with some prosecco and lots of gossip.

This week I also made the Hippo’s Delectable Radish Spread/Dip/Slaw.

It was good and did not taste like dirt.

I also added some celery seed and a pinch of sugar to sweeten it slightly.

I’m trying to avoid desserts these days which is killing me.  I have a few things I’d like to try over the next few weeks but will need to plan carefully so that there are others around to eat my creations.  Stay tuned for that.

Meanwhile, I’ll get around to more family recipes, I promise.  I plan to flip through Grandma’s recipe box this weekend.  Stick with me!

Cookbooks

As mentioned here, my grandmother had a zillion cookbooks.  She read them for fun, cooked from most of them and left handwritten notes in some of them.  I inherited all of them and over the years, I’ve pared down.  I mean, most of the time when I need a recipe I turn to the internet.  Epicurious.com, foodtv.com, allrecipes.com, The Hungry Hippo, Lady Gouda-they haven’t let me down yet.  But the cookbooks I kept, the ones I turn to, are the ones I know she used because I can see her notes in them.  So now rather than an entire cabinet of cookbooks, I have one long shelf.  See:

While I love the internet for recipes, there’s nothing like cracking open a good cookbook.  Pages, yellowed and stained and sticking together.  Glossy photographs of delicious food.  Handwritten notes like, “too much sauce” or “needs more spice”.  Sometimes the cookbooks have stories interspersed with recipes.  One of my favorites in this category is by Lora Brody, called, Growing Up On The Chocolate Diet. There’s an inscription in it, written to my grandmother which starts, “To my dear friend, G.”  They were friends and a few years ago, I emailed Ms. Brody to tell her how much I liked her book.  She responded telling me how much she had loved my grandmother. It was a nice little brush with local fame.  Each cookbook that belonged to Grandma is a connection for me.

Any time I open one of the cookbooks, I can feel Grandma with me.  These were books she held, wrote in and used. I can tell which ones were used more than others by the notes and bookmarks in them.  Some of her favorites were from of course, Julia. She also had a lot of James Beard. Over the years, as I’ve said, I’ve pared down-there’s only so much Japanese Ornamental Garnishing I’m going to do.  Some I hung on to because of the history.  I mean, I don’t speak French but this one seems too good to give away.  Especially since the one I have is pretty old.  Some I hung on to because I actually use them.  One of the ones I use often is Beard on Bread.

Grandma used this one as evidenced by her bookmark notes throughout:

This one says "too dense, try more yeast"

This one says, “too dense, try more yeast.”

The recipe I use most from this book is for banana bread.  There are actually two, side by side.  I’ve used them both and can’t ever remember which one I like more.  So I think I end up alternating between the two.  Of course, Mr. Beard has his own notes on each, calling one more flavorful than the other but saying that both are “extremely interesting breads.”

This time around, I used the recipe on the right.

Since we  had a book club meeting at my house this weekend, I decided to make all kinds of “tea” things.  Banana bread, pumpkin bread, cookies…  Ok, so really, I  made lots of dessert things.  Whatever.  While I’ll post about those later, I wanted to give you the banana bread recipe first.

Ingredients

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter

1 c. white sugar

2 eggs

1 cup mashed, very ripe bananas (I actually freeze my bananas when they get ripe and I’ve found that they produce really flavorful, moist bread)

1/3 cup milk

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional- I like nuts in my bread but my husband doesn’t so I tend to leave them out)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350.

Whisk the flour, salt and baking soda together and set aside.  You could also sift it but I’m too lazy. 

Cream the butter and sugar.  Add the eggs and mix well. 

Add the mashed bananas and combine well. It’ll look gross but stick with me, it’s going to be good, I promise.

In a small bowl (I use a measuring cup), add the lemon juice to the milk- it will curdle a little (essentially you’re making buttermilk which makes me wonder if you could just go ahead and use buttermilk.  Hmm.  Maybe next time.).  Alternate adding that and the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Pour the batter into a well-greased (I use Pam) loaf pan.  I actually use one large and one baby loaf pan- it seems to be the perfect amount. 

Bake for about an hour or until the bread springs back when lightly touched in the center. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes and then turn them out of the pan and let them cool on the rack completely.  Don’t wrap them up when they’re still warm- it will make them sort of mushy.

Cooking Shows

It’s a well-documented fact that I love cooking shows.  I would like to say that I’m not a big tv watcher but in truth I am.  I don’t watch a whole lot of sitcoms or dramas (though, there are some that I DVR) or even movies.  I do watch a fair amount of reality tv in that if I’m home and the tv is on, it’s likely to be on Food Network or HGTV.  What can I say?  I’m a sucker for a good room make-over.

I like to watch the cooking stuff, though, for two reasons.  One, it reminds me of my grandmother.  She faithfully watched cooking shows when Julia was really the only game in town.  The Frugal Gourmet and Yen Can Cook followed soon after- ah the days of PBS- but Julia was always the favorite.  Possibly because she was a friend (someday I’ll upload the really sweet letter she wrote to my grandmother when Grandma was diagnosed with Cancer), possibly because she’s really the best.  Who knows?  I just know that I spent many an afternoon on the sofa with my grandmother watching Julia cook.  When I watch cooking shows now, I often wonder if she would have liked Food Network as much as I do- all those chefs and recipes in one place.

The other reason I like cooking shows is for the knowledge.  The more you cook, the more you get a sense of what flavors pair nicely and what different techniques do.  The more I watch, the more confident I am that I can make these things at home.  The less I need actual recipes.  And the more I can go out to eat, taste something and figure out how to replicate it at home.  Cooking isn’t a mysterious art.  It’s like anything else- the more you do it, the better you get at it.  The more you know, the better you do.  I was visiting with a friend recently and she said to me, “So, wow, you cook a lot!”  My response?  “Well, not a lot.  Once a day. You know, dinner.  Because otherwise we don’t eat.”

My grandmother, by my friend’s measure, cooked constantly.  She made breakfast, lunch and dinner most days.  Money wasn’t free-flowing when my mom was growing up so they didn’t eat out a whole lot.  Plus, that wasn’t the culture back then- restaurants weren’t what they are today.  They were for special occasions, not three or four nights a week.  So my grandmother knew about flavors and techniques.  She took a few cooking classes and she read cookbooks.  I actually used to wonder how she could read a cookbook- isn’t it just a list of ingredients and directions?- but I get it now.  If you cook enough, when you read a recipe you can sort of picture and imagine the process, how you might tweak it and how it might taste.  It’s another thing I do that makes me feel connected to her.  I read cookbooks (and blogs but Grandma didn’t have those.  I think she would have loved them- all those recipes, right at your fingertips.).

But back to the cooking shows.  Food TV has one show I like called “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” Basically, it’s all these celebrity chefs talking about the best things they’ve eaten at various restaurants.  They’ll pick a subject- cake, breakfast, gooey treats- and the chefs will spend a few minutes singing the praises of this hamburger or that pastry and they’ll show the restaurant where it’s made.  Sometimes they’ll show the chef making it.  Always they show people eating it.  I can’t help it- I love food porn.

My husband benefits from this love.  He actually says he hates that particular show as he finds it pretentious. Of course, he’s never seen it but that’s his opinion.  When I made the dish I’m going to tell you about, you can bet I cackled after he announced it was his new Favorite Thing- it’s from this show.  Which I wasted no time in telling him.  He has since modified his opinion on the show slightly.  I think it’s now something like he finds the show pretentious but maybe it’s not all bad.

Anyway, this dish, Pasta Mama, was featured on the breakfast show, I think.  I make it for dinner.  You can find the actual recipe along with a video on how to cook it here. I’ll post the recipe as I do it below, with photos but it’s not my original recipe.  I feel I need to make that clear, especially given the recent Cook Source Magazine debacle.

Pasta Mama (marginally adapted from the recipe by Hugo’s Restaurants)

Ingredients

1/2 box of angel hair or spaghetti, cooked according to package directions, reserve about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid

3-4 eggs, beaten

2-4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 -2 Tablespoon olive oil and/or butter (I use both)

1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan

2 teaspoons of seasonings  (1/2 teaspoon of each: garlic powder, oregano, seasoning salt and onion powder)

Directions

Warm oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Mix together the seasonings.

When the oil is hot but not smoking (it should look sort of shimmery), add the garlic and seasonings and saute for 1-2 minutes.  They’ll sort of bubble and brown up a bit.

Add the cooked pasta plus about 1 Tablespoon of the cooking water.

Stir to coat.  Add the eggs and sort of stir  and mix it all around while the eggs cook. 

It’s sort of like scrambling the eggs with the pasta.  I tend to switch from tongs to a spatula at this point.

Top with the parm (lots and lots!) just before serving.

Breakfast of Champions

Around these parts breakfast is a serious meal. At least during the weekends. I thought I knew what breakfast was until I married my husband and then I found out that breakfast has a number of meanings.

Growing up, breakfast used to be bagels and cream cheese and lox every Sunday.  My grandmother would put out what I think of as the “breakfast” china and my uncle and his wife would come over and we’d all just sit around, eating bagels and reading the newspaper.

The breakfast china

If it was a weekend when I was with my father, breakfast was french toast or pancakes made with Dad’s special touches- cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla in the batter.  If it was a weekend with my mother, one or both of us would walk up to Bildner’s (which is no longer there) and buy a few muffins for us to share.  Banana nut was my favorite. Or my mother might ask me to make biscuits as she loved those.  Back then I always used Jiffy (kind of like bisquick) and a little bit of milk.  Mmmm, biscuits with jam.

For my husband, breakfast means eggs.  Lots and lots of eggs.  In his glory days, it was 6 to 10 eggs at a time, always scrambled.  Sometimes it’s pancakes or waffles or french toast- in fact, early in our relationship he made me french toast which was great but after I ate it, I went home and, well, it came back up.  I don’t blame the toast but rather, the seventeen million or so espresso martinis I’d had the night before.  Boy, those do sneak up on you!

My husband also eats breakfast any time.  No, not like the old joke, in the Renaissance or Golden Age, but any time of day.  When it’s his night to cook dinner he tends towards what we call “upside down dinner”- that’s right, breakfast.  But hey, I can’t complain because it’s one night when I don’t cook and his eggs are pretty tasty.  I’ve taught him to make a frittata as well and he’s gotten pretty good at that.

But I digress.  What I’m going to give you today is perhaps the perfect mix of breakfast- his and mine.  Eggs in a biscuit.  I love, love, love biscuits, he loves, loves, loves eggs.  A perfect marriage.  Plus, there’s always biscuits left over for snacking. With jam, with butter, just plain….  Mmmmm….

Eggs In A Biscuit

Biscuits (made almost exactly as this recipe from Gourmet, posted on epicurious.com)

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

3 Tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces

3/4 cup buttermilk*

1 Tablespoon milk, cream or buttermilk, for brushing on the biscuits before baking

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Place parchment paper or silpat or foil on a baking sheet.

Place all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt) in to a food processor and whirl a few times to mix. 

Feed the butter pieces

through the feed chute and whirl until the mixture resembles crumbles or small peas.

With the processor on, pour the buttermilk through the feed chute.  All of a sudden you’ll have a ball of dough.

Sprinkle some flour on a work surface and scrape out the dough onto it.  Make a rough ball with the dough and turn it a few times with your hands- it’ll be sticky, so flour your hands as well.  Shape it into a rough rectangle and cut out biscuits with a cookie or biscuit cutter or use an upside down glass.  This recipe technically makes 6 biscuits which are pretty big and rather puffy.  I never measure my rectangle but the Gourmet recipe suggests that the rectangle be 8 by 5.5 inches.

Place biscuits on sheet and brush with milk/cream/buttermilk.

Bake in oven for 12-15 minutes or until sort of just golden.

If you don’t have a food processor, you can easily cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or your fingers or forks or whatever you have on hand.  It’ll just take longer.  Then, just use a spoon to mix in the buttermilk and then your hands.

*If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, place 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar into a liquid measuring cup.  Add enough milk to bring the measurement to one cup.  Let it stand for 5 minutes and then use 3/4 of a cup of that.

Eggs:

Make eggs using Julia’s recipe (as adapted by me) or your own scrambled egg recipe.

Eggs in a biscuit:

Slice biscuit in half.  If you’re so inclined, you can butter one or both sides of the biscuit.  You may also want to add a slice or two of your favorite cheese.  Place eggs on top of one half of biscuit.  If you like ketchup on your eggs, this is a good time to add some.  Place other half of biscuit on top and there you have it.  The perfect breakfast!

My First Kitchen Fail

Not everything I make is delicious.  No, it’s true, I sometimes make things that fall flat.  It’s not often, mind you, but it does happen.

The first time it happened, I was maybe 9 years old.  My parents had recently divorced and I wanted to make my father breakfast for Father’s Day.  My mother thought it was a nice idea (I had already learned to make her breakfast in bed- toast and tea- she trained me early) and taught me how to make scrambled eggs.  I watched her do it and paid close attention so that I could emulate it at Dad’s apartment.

That Sunday was bright and clear.  I got up, ready to make eggs.  I went into the kitchen and gathered what I needed.  Eggs?  Check.  Milk?  Check.  Butter?  Check.  Frying pan? Yup.  Bowl and fork?  Got it.  I cracked a few eggs, fished the extra shell out of the bowl and whipped them together with the milk.  I melted some butter in the pan and then added the eggs.  As I watched them begin to cook, I started to worry that it wasn’t going to be enough.  I mean it didn’t look like much scrambled egg.  So I cracked a few more, added some milk and throw it in the pan with the original mix.  It still didn’t look like enough.  (Can you see where this is going?)  So I repeated the process and added more egg to the pan.

I used an entire dozen eggs.  They filled the pan to the brim and then wouldn’t cook because the pan was so full.  It was a disaster.  My dad was so touched that I’d tried that he didn’t care and I think he ended up making pancakes for us (he went out for more eggs).  I was mortified but it didn’t keep me from trying other dishes.  In fact, it set me on a quest to find the best scrambled eggs.  I found ’em, in the Boston Globe Magazine.  Written by- who else?- Julia Child.

Julia’s Eggs

Ingredients:

2-3 Eggs

Dash (no more than 2 Tablespoons) milk

Gobs of butter

Salt and Pepper

Directions:

Crack the eggs into a bowl.  Fish out any extra shell.  Whip them together with the milk until combined.  Add a dash of salt and lots of pepper.

In a large frying pan melt a Tablespoon of butter over medium high heat.  Add the eggs and let them set for a minute or two.

Working from the edge towards the center, push the egg towards the center of the pan with a wooden spoon or spatula.  Work your way around the edge, pushing the egg towards the center each time.  It will sort of fold in towards itself.

Be gentle with it.  You want the eggs to stay sort of silky.

If you like your eggs very dry, you may want to also incorporate a little flip, to ensure that the top side cooks before the bottom side browns.

Once your eggs are cooked, add another bit of butter, 1-2 Tablespoons, and mix it around into the eggs.

The eggs will be silky, yummy and buttery.  What could be bad?  The last time I made these, I served them up in a fresh biscuit with some cheese. Yeh, my husband loves me.

I’ll post the biscuit recipe soon, I promise.  Those are some good biscuits.