Monday, December 28, 2009

Not Mastering the Art of French Cooking

I don't want to speak too soon, but I believe the Midwest has just about recovered from the blizzard of '09--three straight days of snow. I was lucky to be trapped at my parents' house for the holiday with cross-country skiing as the only means of escape (not too shabby if I do say so). I received several food-related gifts this year (having a hobby makes me an easy person to shop for), two of which are related to Julia Child. One was the movie Julie and Julia (Meryl Streep is amazing) and the other was (obviously) Mastering the Art of French Cooking. And after my first foray into the tome of culinary instruction, I can safely say I will not be replicating Julie Powell's quest to cook through the book.

The first edition's foreward says the manual is for the "servantless American cook who can be unconcerned on occasion with budgets, waistlines, time schedules, children's meals, the parent-chauffeur-den-mother syndrome or anything else that might interfere with the enjoyment of producing something wonderful to eat."

I'm afraid I'm not one of those people--and I don't even have kids. I suppose on occasion I could splurge for a whole, live lobster or, I don't know, chicken kidneys, which, according to Julia are quite delectable. There are recipes for brains in here, people. I'm adventurous, but I can't see myself thinking one night, "Hmm, let's try that recipe for stewed brains just to say I've tried them." No. Not happening (my dad and vegetarian roommate along with every single person who gets invited over for dinner at my house is now breathing a collective sigh of relief). And, though I think I can say with confidence that I am whole-heartedly content with my waistline--more so than most women I've met--I must confess I do care about the volume of butter required to execute these dishes. Take for instance last night, I made crepes, stuffed with sauteed mushrooms and topped with brown sauce. I went through nearly an entire stick of butter between the three elements. And that was removing the cheese sauce that was supposed to go with the mushrooms. Granted, I didn't eat all of the meal myself, but still. And for time, there is no way I'm going to come home from work after 5 p.m. and begin a meal that takes three hours.

Right away as I start reading the cookbook, I'm thinking, "Julia Child would not like me." She insists you read the entire recipe beforehand and follow it to the T the first time through. What!? I almost never read past the ingredients and where it says how long something takes to make, and things usually turn out just fine. But last night, I did it. I followed the directions (for the most part) and read through the entire recipe before turning on the stove. And I ended up with a savory sauce, confidence in flipping crepes and a pile of mushrooms that were lovely even though I used Marsala cooking wine--something decidely "not French."

Katy braved the roads to drive 10 blocks to my apartment with Cordell in tow. He liked the crepes, though not stuffed with mushrooms. And I think that skill is certainly a keeper--I predict more dainty, berry-stuffed French pancakes in my future.

I'm not even going to attempt to transcribe these complicated recipes here.

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