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April 29th, 2011 | Rachel
No. More. Cream. Please.
Since I’ve roasted three chickens in the past month, I decided it was time to move on and try something from a different chapter in Julia Child’s Mastering The Art Of French Cooking. Quiche Lorraine was one of the original contenders, so I gave it a shot.
The makings of a quiche crust
The makings of Quiche Lorraine filling (Note: contrary to popular opinion, this dish does not contain cheese)
The making of an insanely buttery quiche crust
This recipe might be the epitome of Julia Child’s interpretation of French cooking. The crust is made with a stick and a half of butter plus half a cup of shortening, and the filling is made with a CUP AND A HALF OF CREAM. Let’s all pause for a moment and think about the splash of cream we add to our coffee (when the good stuff is available). Then, dump out the coffee and fill the whole mug with cream. Twice.
To finish off this already indulgent pie, the recipe entails dropping blobs of butter into the pie crust full of cream, egg and bacon before sending it into the oven until it puffs up and turns golden brown.
The result couldn’t have been more delicious, but after eating it for lunch and dinner two days in a row, I felt like I was going to die. I also think I gained two pounds in the process.
I don’t know if I measured something wrong, but my crust came out disappointingly soggy. Also, the blobs of butter kind of pooled in the middle and kept the quiche from puffing up evenly. I didn’t think it was pretty enough to share with anyone at work, so I ate half of it myself (over the course of four meals, mind you) and threw the rest away.
I need to be better about arranging for people to come over and eat the food I am cooking. I don’t think my cholesterol levels can handle me eating this food alone.
April 19th, 2011 | Rachel
This weekend I finally got to share some french cooking with my favorite dinner companion. I wasn’t planning on cooking this weekend (the highlight of the weekend involved a frozen drink machine and a recipe for a Lemon Whiskey Slush — which is even better with lime juice), but Steve and I decided to brave the crowds at Whole Foods to pick up some dinner ingredients.
For those of you who do not live in New York City, a trip to Whole Foods — particularly on a Sunday evening — is not for the feint of heart. A sign at the check out counter listing the best and worst times to shop adeptly described it as “frenetic.” We managed to navigate our miniature shopping cart through the narrow aisles full pairs and trios of shoppers (Whole Foods is no place to be seen alone on a Sunday evening), and eventually ran into a wall of people dividing the bakery from the deli. That was one of the check out lines. There were three of such lines, each comprised of at least 25 people who were funneled into a color coded holding pen. At that point we waited for a screen to tell us which of the 40 check out counters to go to.
Since this dinner was unplanned, I wasn’t able to reference my copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. However, the upside about making the same dish several times in a row (this was my third roasted chicken in the past month) is you pretty much memorize it. I almost pulled of this roasted chicken from memory without a hitch, but I forgot to pick up some sort of stock to make a light sauce at the end.
And I forgot to put salt on the chicken each time I flipped it.
I also forgot to dry the chicken before I slathered it in butter.
I also forgot to make note of what time I put the bird in the oven and cooked one side more than the other…. I guess I forgot to do a lot of things.
I did not forget to buy cooking twine to tie the birdie’s legs together (although Julia Child prefers to use a mattress needle to sew her chicken into a tight bundle). I also did not forget how to roast the tomatoes, which make an excellent, fresh side dish.
Since several people have asked for recipes, perhaps I will start sharing some:
Prepping the tomatoes for roasting (this photo is from my first attempt… this past time I used Roma tomatoes)
Julia Child’s Roasted Tomatoes (a rough paraphrase): Select tomatoes less than 2″ diameter. Cut out the stems an sprinkle salt and pepper in the cavity. Paint with olive oil and place stem side down in a baking dish (I’ve been using round casserole dishes). Bake in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes or until skin starts to split. Serve immediately.
Although many of Julia’s recipes involve smothering your main ingredient in butter or cream, others are designed to showcase the essence of the meat or vegetable. If you are ever at a farmers market and come across a table of small, ripe, homegrown tomatoes, this is what you need to do with them.
My sous chef for the evening, Steve
Patiently waiting for the chicken to finish (due to a late start we ended up eating close to 11pm… woops)
One more golden-brown chicken to add to the archives
Third time was not the charm, unfortunately. Although the color was near perfect, the texture of the skin was not. By the time I realized I hadn’t properly dried the chicken, I had already smeared it with butter. I was hoping the oven, which was far more powerful than the Easy Bake Oven in my apartment, would compensate for this omission, but no dice. The inside, thankfully, was still near perfect
And so, after battling the crowds at Whole Foods and schlepping our groceries onto the subway, Steve finally got to try some of my (beginner) French cooking.
Carving the bird
One of these days I’ll get it right. And one of these days I’ll be brave enough to try a French dessert.
April 13th, 2011 | Rachel
I’ve started noticing a few side effects of web-logging (sounds more sophisticated than blogging).
For starters, I’ve become one of those people who talks about their blog. “I was working on an entry for my blog the other day…” or “I don’t know if you’ve seen the latest update on my blog…” or “Please please please visit my blog so my Google Analytics report will make me feel good about myself….”
I’ve also started talking to myself… even more than usual. I find myself constantly having conversations with myself in my head about ideas for posts or what to write about a particular subject or how to say it. This is most prevalent when I am cooking. And, since many of these recipes take four hours to complete, I’ve had plenty of time to hash all of this out ahead of time.
Unfortunately, these helpful voices cease as soon as I turn on my laptop…
… like right now.
Maybe I should just stick to showing you photos of my food.
Tonight I created a savory gâteau de crêpes. I was previously only aware of dessert crêpe cakes, but Julia Child prefers cheese sauces and spinach and ham fillings.
Everything you need for perfect crêpes
According to Julia, the easiest way to make a smooth crêpe batter is to throw it all in a blender. I don’t own a blender, so I used the food processor. The results were excellent.
Set-up for making crêpes
The recipe calls for approximately 25 6.5″ crêpes
The filling begins with a light cheese sauce, part of which is mixed with sauteed ham or blanched spinach
This recipe was definitely a labor of love. I started around 7:00 pm and was still assembling crêpes at 11:00 pm. Julia says crêpes freeze very well, so the next time I have an hour to spare, I just might cook up 30 or 60 crêpes to freeze and use at a later date.
Behold, the gâteau de crêpes. It was magnificent.
Twenty five layers of deliciousness
The cake looks small (its only 6.5″ in diameter), but it is so rich that the servings should be pretty small. This would make an excellent lunch or first dinner course for six people.
Now that this is finished, I am starting to think I should have come up with some great life metaphor about layers. Ah well.
April 11th, 2011 | Guest Blogger
This is the first of hopefully many guest posts. My friend Lisa recently traveled to Savoie, and she kindly agreed to shared some of her beautiful pictures. If you would like to write about something or share some pictures, email me at email@example.com. ~ Rachel
Last summer, I had the opportunity to visit the Savoie, which is in the Rhône-Alpes region of France and about four hours outside Paris. Upon arriving in the small town of Saint-Pierre-d’Albigny, I was immediately greeted by natural beauty–snow-capped mountains, lakes, waterfalls, fir trees, birds– and felt like I was on a set for “The Sound of Music.” On my first day, I hiked up to the Chateau de Miolans, castle ruins from the Twelfth Century that later served as a prison, the most famous of whose convicts was the Marquis de Sade.
On later days, I enjoyed sunbathing at a natural lake, exploring the quaint town, and enjoying many of the locally-produced wines, which were a steal at € 2-4 a glass. Wine production is a large part of the agriculture of the region. Savoie wines are made from grape varietals that are rare elsewhere and best enjoyed young.
I also took a day trip to Annecy, in the Haute-Savoie. This scenic city offered a perfect blend of natural beauty with urban delights.
There is great shopping in Annency (I did some serious damage), including well known chains as well as independent shops, and abundance of aesthetically pleasing food, whether sold in patisseries or at a farmer’s market.
You can also take out a paddle boat on Lake Annency.
Should you find yourself in the Savoie, I highly recommend visiting an Intermarche, which features the ingenious product Porteval=wine in juice boxes, which makes a great treat for the long trip home.
~ Lisa D.
April 7th, 2011 | Rachel
I was digging through my e-archives and came across the photos from my first trip to France. It was a week in Paris, of course, and I was a college sophomore at the time and hadn’t yet taken the photojournalism class that taught me how to take a proper photo.
Honestly, I don’t have any strong memories of this visit. I was with a college church group of sorts and had spent the three months prior studying at Oxford University in Oxford, England with a political science program. That was the semester my eyes were opened and my political and religious viewpoints shifted dramatically. In light of that, one week in Paris at the end of my program was relatively insignificant. Sorry, Paris.
I do remember that the week I was in Paris was the same week the United States started bombing Iraq, so all of our plans involving evangelizing the many college campuses in Paris were abruptly canceled. On top of that, some sort of poison was discovered in the subway, so our mode of transportation was limited.
I remember liking how the city felt small and a little dirty, in a good way. It had a completely different feel from London (or any other European city, for that matter, but at the time my limited experiences involved London, Edinburgh and Vienna). I’ve always thought of London as grandiose and somewhat sterile.
Another vivid memory involves my first crepe, purchased from a street vendor. It was filled with butter and Nutella, and it actually changed my life.
The highlight of the week was a day trip out to Mont Saint Michel. This tidal island has been the home to an evolving monastery and town for a thousand years. The monastery grows out of the top of the steep hill and the town wraps around the bottom. When I was there, we drove to the island by a land bridge. Wikipedia now tells me the land bridge has been removed and Mont Saint Michel is officially an island again. Visitors must enter the island via shuttles until the construction of an actual bridge is completed.
My boyfriend hasn’t yet experienced Mont Saint Michel, so I am hoping to make it a part of our upcoming trip to France this summer. It would be interesting to see it again now that I am a seasoned traveler.
Here are some random (and admittedly not very good) photos from the trip. Perhaps you can help me identify them:
View from the Eiffel Tower and the Arc De Triomphe
Two universities in Paris
Entrance to the Louvre and La Sainte Chapelle
Group shots at Mont Saint Michel
Man feeding birds in front of Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower
Me during my awkward college years
I still wear the scarf from that last photo, so at least something has stayed with me. Stay tuned for the tale of a more memorable second trip to Paris with my grandmother, as well as the story of that one time I ended up in Strasbourg for the start of the Tour de France.
So, what about you? How was your first trip to France?