Saturday, February 27, 2010

Andi & Julia: January Goal

My goal for the month of January was to cook a meal taken entirely from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Since most of the recipes are supposed to serve six, and I didn't want to try halving the recipes, I invited two friends whose potlucks, dinner parties, and food experimentation always inspire me: Carlos and Lana. Along with Gabriel, I figured the four of us could handle food for six, leaving me with a few leftovers. When choosing a menu I had a few things I kept in mind. My first constraint was the lack of a good heavy dutch oven that can go between the stove-top and the oven. I also wanted to cook either a chicken or a beef dish for the main course. As for the dessert, I wanted to choose a cake, simply because it would be a little more in my comfort zone. Here's the final menu:

Boston Bibb Letuce Salad with Sauce Vinaigrette
with goat cheese, cherry tomatoes, and almonds

Sauté de Boeuf à la Bourguignonne
with mushrooms, bacon, and onions

Pomme de Terre Saut
ées en Dés

French Baguette

Reine De Saba
with chocolate-butter icing and almonds

I actually started my preparation (on the last Saturday of January) by making the cake, but let me first describe the main part of the meal. I sautéed the mushrooms for the beef burgundy first, and then made the glazed baby onions. That was what I used the bouquet garni seen at the beginning of the post for. Then I started cutting the potatoes into a small dice. The sautéed potatoes were the suggested side dish for the beef, but rather than the "elongated olive shape" suggested in the main recipe, or potato balls, formed using a "potato-ball cutter," I chose the much simpler dice. They went in a non-stick pan with butter and olive oil, and at this point, Gabriel took over the potatoes. He was much more talented than I at the shaking and flipping required to keep the potatoes from sticking or cooking too much on one side. The beef dish was actually the faster sauté version of the famous boeuf bourguignonne that was such a big deal for the food-blogger Julie in Julie & Julia. So I started by browning the sirloin steak, leaving it a little rare in the middle. Then I started on the really fantastic sauce: red wine, garlic, beef stock, and tomato paste, all thickened with a beurre manié (a paste of butter and flour, whisked in at the end). At the very end, Gabriel helped me assemble the salad and shake up the vinaigrette in a mason jar.

I felt a little overwhelmed near the end, and almost forgot a few important parts of the sauce for the beef, but sitting down at the table with my friends and a glass of wine, I felt it was all worth it. The salad was a good combination of the tangy dressing and the sweet tomatoes, the creamy cheese and the crunchy almonds. The potatoes were simple, dressed only in butter and herbs, but they were so smooth, with the texture almost like that of a risotto. (I've made them since, in an stainless steel pan, with much less success - non-stick is the way to go). The beef was tender and flavorful, but the big hit was the sauce, which I will admit we were sopping up with bread and eventually eating straight from the pan.

Now to the important part: dessert. The chocolate was set to melt in a bowl over simmering water, and the butter and sugar were creamed together. And then, partly because I wanted to try it by hand, and partly because I didn't want to wash the beaters I had used for the butter and sugar, and beat my egg-whites by hand. It was tiring, and it took a little bit longer, but it resulted in a finer and more consistent foam. And holding up my whisk and seeing stiff peaks felt a lot more rewarding than when I use electric beaters. I mixed the chocolate with the butter and almond meal, and then carefully folded in the whites and flour. I poured it into a 9 in. pan (although the recipe called for a 8 in pan) and put it into the oven. I should have modified the cooking time because I changed the pan size, but I didn't think about it. So my cake turned out a little less moist than it was supposed to, but it still tasted delicious.

I made the chocolate-butter icing after dinner (wearing pearls, of course) and spread it on the cake. We took a break from playing my favorite game, Pictionary, to dig into the cake. And though I won't reveal who won *both* games of Pictionary, I will say that the cake was a winner. :) So the completion of my first goal for the year was a success. I see more meals inspired by Julia Child in the future...

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1 comment:

  1. Fantastic meal! I love Julia, she helped me in the kitchen decades ago when I first moved to the US and I made those recipes too! My whole family makes the Reine de Saba.
    Yum, I am getting hungry now!