Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Julia Child I Am Not

I'm not even Julie Powell....but I have been listening to the audio version of Julie's book "Julie and Julia" and it inspired me. At least it inspired me enough that when my Dad asked what I wanted for Christmas, I mentioned Julia Child's classic "Mastering the Art of French Cooking". And - ta da - Dad came through. What his shopping style lacks in surprise, it makes up in the always-get-something-you-wanted area. Since Christmas, I've spent hours combing through the recipes, imagining how they would taste, picturing myself whipping up gourmet meals for my family and wondering where I would possibly get those ingredients in the middle of nowhere (and if you've never visited southwest Kansas, you probably can't grasp how serious I am about that nowhere thing).

Since Monday was a holiday for those of us with cushy government jobs but not for high school students or regular people and thus, I was home alone and no one would witness my potential disaster, I decided to take my first foray into French cooking and tackle Beouf Bourguignon. I selected this recipe because 1. I've heard of it and 2. I could procur all of the ingredients or reasonable substitutes.

I must admit, it wasn't nearly as daunting as I feared. Once I got past the fact that the recipe spans two full pages and realized the length was due to Julia's precise directions, that precision made the actual cooking a breeze - or a reasonable substitute. It took just under an hour to complete the first 285 steps and reach the step that says "place in lower third of oven and regulate heat so liquid simmers for 2 1/2 - 3 hours." Whew! All that was required was peeking at it occasionally and microwaving some rice just before the meat was finished. I'm sure Julia wouldn't approve of minute-rice, but you may recall - Julia Child I am not!

The results, if not in the superb category, were firmly within the "not bad" range. For all the other French novices out there, turns out boeuf bourguignon is beef stew with carrots, onions and mushrooms. But here's the funny part - or insert the word of your choice there to describe my total lack of discernment...savoir faire...brains. The beef is simmered in a sauce made largely of red wine - hence the name. Being the total Food Network geek that I am, I've heard many professional chefs admonish viewers to "cook with a wine that you would like to drink, because the flavor will be concentrated in the food." So I picked a lovely bottle of red wine - and I mean the bottle was lovely because it had a large purple Powercat on the label (Kansas State University mascot) and at our house if it's purple or features a Powercat, it rocks! As for the contents of the bottle, I don't know my pinot noir from my merlot so I assume it was fine. And the chefs are right, the broth had a hint of the concentrated taste of the wine. But here's the thing - I don't like red wine.

I do realize that admitting this makes me look a bit daft, but what can I say? It was fun to test out my cooking skills - and my best Julia Child voice - and expand the family's culinary horizons a bit. I will not be following in Julie Powell's footsteps and cooking my way through the entire book in a year - or in a lifetime - but I do have my eye on the crepes chapter, so I'll keep you posted.

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  1. Bon Appetit! Maybe escargot is next, no?

  2. Tami, I loved this post. So fun to hear about your adventure. I read Julie and Julia and thought about doing some of the recipes too. I say, Good For You! And, keep on going.

    You ought to submit this to the Weekend Cooking edition at BethFish Reads on Saturday morning. I think others would enjoy reading it. Here's the url:

  3. I meant to ask a question about the Powercats - the mascot for K State. What happened to the Wildcats? My husband is a 1964 graduate. Since we don't live in Kansas anymore we've missed out on this mascot change.

  4. Sorry for the confusion - KSU is still the Wildcats. The new logo (new 20 years ago) is referred to as the powercat. Go Cats!

  5. I always hate to admit it, too but I also do not like red wine. Or... have not found one I like anyway. I agreee, I love it! I really enjoyed reading this post and even laughed out loud a few times. I have also thought of making something from the cookbook and also figured I would pick beaouf... ok... that's about as far as my spelling goes.

  6. What a super post!!! Love it.

    I do like red wine, but unfortunately it makes my face break out, so I don't drink it or cook with it often. So happy I can still drink white!

  7. Love this post... and red wine ;-)

  8. This is a great post! I'm not the biggest red wine fan either, and I don't eat beef, so no Beouf Bourguignon for me! but I do enjoy a coq au vin, done in white wine, of course!