Copyright 2009 Julie Kohl
Over the Summer I read the books Julie & Julia by Julie Powell and My Life in France by Julia Child. Of course when the movie came out I convinced Richie to take me to see it. The previews were funny enough but after being put through hours upon hours of the Food Network I’m certain Richie must have dreaded it just a little bit. It turned out to be one of the best movies I have seen in a long time. The story flowed well between Julie and Julia and Amy Adams’ and Meryl Streeps performances were spot on and hilarious. And the food! Oh the food looked delicious.
After seeing the movie Richie bought me a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking Vol. 1 and suggested that I try some of the recipes.
Two weeks ago I cooked the famed Boeuf Bourguignon with brown-braised onions and sauteed fresh mushrooms. For sides we had cracked new potatoes (an Amy Finley recipe) and Asperges a la Beurre au Citron (Aperagus with Lemon Butter, a Julia Child recipe). For desert I had made Le Marquis which is a chocolate spongecake with Creme au Beurre, Menagere which is a butter cream frosting with powdered sugar. The meal was absolutely divine but literally took hours to prepare and I began to think that this French Cooking thing was not for me. The results were fantastic and the process was enjoyable but the amount of dishes at the end was daunting to say the least.
It seems as if each recipe in this book is several pages in length and references at least two other recipes or techniques in the book. The opening sentences of the cookbook read,
This is a book for the servantless American cook who can be unconcerned on occasion with budgets, waistline, time schedules, children’s meals, the parent-chauffeur-den-mother syndrome, or anything else which might interfere with the enjoyment of producing something wonderful to eat. Written for those who love to cook, the recipes are as detailed as we have felt they should be so the reader will know exactly what is involved and how to go about it. This makes them a bit longer than usual, and some of the recipes are quite long indeed.
WOW! She wasn’t kidding. I think I have grasped and understanding of why French Cooks/Chefs are so talented and the french methods are coveted by so many chefs. While labor intensive and long, the culinary knowledge you gain from cooking a single recipe can a turning point in your cooking skill. The recipes aren’t about putting together food items as much as they are about getting to know the ingredients, building an understanding of how they work together and learning to combine technique and flavor in an effective and tasty recipe.
After two weeks of rest and cooking food that was good but not great I decided it was high time to break out MTAOFC again and see what treats I could whip up. I had a beautiful whole chicken on hand and some juicy looking pears from the farmers market that I knew I wanted to use.
For the meal I decided on Polet Roti (Roast Chicken), Puree de Pommes de Terres a l’ail Roti (Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes) and Choux de Bruxelles Etuves a la Creme, or Creamed Brussels Sprouts.
For dessert I made Tarte Aux Poires a la Bourdaloue.
Copyright 2009 Julie Kohl
The tart crust is a Pate Sablee or sugar crust. Basically it is similar to a sugar cookie only a little less dense. The Pears are poached in Red Wine. The recipe calls for Bordeaux Wine but I had Chianti so that is what I used. After poaching the pears are removed and the wine sauce is reduced until it is thick and syrupy. It is then mixed with jelly(the recipe calls for red currant but I used strawberry) and brushed over the crust. The wine reduction takes on a deep earthy grapey taste that is amazing. The crust is then filled with a chilled Frangipane, or almond custard, and then topped with the sliced poached pears. I also toasted some slivered almonds to decorate the edges.
French cooking isn’t easy but the tastes are pure and amazing. It takes time and patience and is even better if you can convince someone else to wash the dishes. And the best part is sitting down to a meal with the ones you love, knowing you are eating good food that was made with love.
Please Note all photos are Copyright 2009 Julie Kohl. Please do not copy or use these photos without my written permission.