Tuesday, April 12, 2011

As Promised

 Over a week after the event, I give you The Clarissa/Caitlin/Julia Project- Session One: Boeuf Bourguignon

But first, a few shots of the book itself, in all its colorful glory.

Julia's the tall one. Doesn't the moustache man look just too French?

 Yes. We have this page bookmarked. It's page 315. (I have photographic proof that's coming momentarily.)
Anyone can cook in the French manner anywhere. Even me.

I told you I had photographic proof.

Boeuf Bourguignon recipe.

Burgundy. Yes. If you cook meat in this, you'll never want to return to regular methods again.

Technically speaking, we made the creme brulee before we made the bourguignon, but because we ate it *after* the bourguignon, I'll leave it for last.

Making bourguignon is a 6 hour long process. We started at about 1 in the afternoon. It's not really that it's hard to do- if you can read and follow directions, you can make it, but it is time consuming, because instead of skipping steps and doing things the fast (American!) way, you're taking time and doing things the slow (European!) way.
Firstly, we bought the list of ingredients. Beouf Bourguignon consists of:
6 ounce chunk of bacon (the real stuff) (we got this HUMONGOUS package, so we have some left over for next time. We don't usually eat pork, but Mom made an exception for this dish.)
Olive oil (throughout the whole recipe)
3 lbs. lean stewing beef
carrots (Julia calls for one, but unless you have an incredibly large carrot, you'll probably use about 3, maybe 4. Depending on how carrot-y you want the dish to be.)
1 sliced onion (not too big, because you'll be putting in lots of pearl onions later, but not too small)
salt and pepper  for seasoning (she gives measurements, but really, who cares....)
2 tb. of flour (I think we may have used a slight tad more. :-) )
3 cups of wine (Burgundy, Bordeaux- so long as it's red.)
2-3 cups of brown beef stock or canned beef bouillon (we used stock)
1 tb tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 tsp thyme
a crumbled bay leaf
18-24 pearl onions
1 lb. quartered fresh mushrooms

First comes the oven- preheat it to 450 F.
Next comes the bacon- she says remove the rind... I think we removed what we could, or else there wasn't much anyways. I don't really remember, because I was busy reading the recipe and snapping pictures while Mom dealt with the bacon. Regardless- you cut the bacon into lardons (sticks, 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long) and simmer it (with the rind) in 1 1/2 quarts of water. Drain and dry. Then saute the bacon in over medium heat for 2-3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove the bacon to a side dish.

Now comes the beef- dry it with paper towels- no seriously. If you don't, it won't brown correctly. (I know- who knew?) Saute it, a few pieces at a time (sort of like not crowding the mushrooms- don't crowd the beef too much, either.) in the hot oil and bacon fat (that's right- don't throw out the fat from the bacon. Use the same dirty pan.) After the beef is nicely browned on all sides, take it up and put it with the bacon, set aside.

In the same skillet (Correct- you just keep adding some oil to the same bacon fat. It. smells. so. good. by this time.) pop in your already sliced carrots and your already slice medium onion. After they're nice and brown and completely delicious smelling, put them aside, and pour out the fat/oil.

And yes, by this time, we were salivating. 

Apparently, Julia is doing all of this sauteing in her casserole dish. We don't have a true casserole dish, so we used something that I always thought was a casserole dish (who knew?). Anyways, we couldn't do that because while Corningware is oven-safe, it's not stove-top safe. Moving on...
Now, you put your beef and bacon all together in your (faux)casserole dish, and toss with your salt and pepper. Next comes the flour, which you sprinkle all over the meat. Toss the meat again, so that it's coated in flour (it might actually take more than one flour dosing. It did for us.) Put the (faux)casserole dish in the oven for 4 minutes, uncovered. Take it out and toss it before putting it back in the oven for another 4 minutes. That actually took a little more than 8 minutes for us, because there's supposed to be a sort of crust over the meat from the flour. So, just keep popping and tossing until you have that crust.

Turn the oven down to 325 degrees (we sort of forgot about that at first....)
Here's the fun part- splishing and splashing wine into the beef/bacon. 3 cups of it. Just be sure to *not* splash yourself with any... or get any on the counter top.... or really, on anything, because it will stain it purple.

You also put in the stock(or bouillon) at this point, until the beef is barely covered in liquid. Put in the tomato paste, garlic, herbs, and bacon rind (if you ever actually removed it in the first place.) Julia never actually says when to put the already cooked carrots and onions in the (faux) casserole dish with the meat. We popped them in here. You're supposed to bring all of it to a simmer on the top of the stove before putting it in the oven for 2 1/2-3 hours, but we couldn't do that (remember, because Corningware is oven-safe, not *fire*-safe.) so we just put the lid on it, and slid it in the oven for 3 hours.

Next came the tough part. I usually don't have a problem multi-tasking. I have two little sisters, I babysit three days a week, and just walking around while I breathe is basic multitasking. But in the kitchen, seeing as how I'm not exactly the most confident of chefs, I like to have time and read and re-read the directions before going about something. And preferably, I like to be concentrating on only one thing at a time. True, the casserole only needed to be checked on once or twice (or maybe... a few times, just to crack the oven door and sniff it again...) and the rolls really *didn't* need much attention, other than to grease the pans and let them rise (which they never did. That was the one dud of the whole evening, but we really didn't mind much.)
But the experienced cook in the house had to go run a few necessary errands, so I was alone in the kitchen for 3 hours. All I had to do was brown, then braise, the pearl onions, and saute the mushrooms. Then I'd start the water for the noodles to serve the bourguignon over. No problem. And there really wasn't any problem- I just was slightly nervous about braising onions without burning them to a crisp.
Ever work with pearl onions? They're a bother to peel. It's basically impossible. So you have to put them in a pot of boiling water for three minutes, then rinse them in cold water. Even then, they're not so easy to peel, but it's at least possible. So after I got the peels off the cantankerous things (and I dried them as well as I was able... I still had to sort of toss them in the skillet from across the kitchen, for fear of being burned by hot oil) I began browning them. Easy. Put some butter (about 1 1/2 tbs) and 1 1/2 tbs of oil in a pan, let it get hot, and brown them. Just don't expect them to brown evenly, because it's not possible. After browning them, you braise them, which is merely putting in half a cup (in our case, a little more than half a cup) of brown stock (you can also use wine, but we didn't...) a wee bit of salt and pepper, and a medium herb bouquet.
What is an herb bouquet? In a cheesecloth (or a coffee filter...) put 4 parsley sprigs, 1/2 a bay leaf, and 1/4 tsp of thyme. Tie it tight, and pop it in the saucepan. After putting all these things in, you cover the onions, and let them sit and simmer slowly for 40-50 minutes, or until the liquid is all simmered away.

While the onions were braising, I washed and quartered the mushrooms. After the onions were through, I rinsed out the pan, and sauteed the mushrooms. Without crowding them. I heated up a few tbs of butter, a couple tbs of oil, and put in two small handfuls of mushrooms at a time. And do you know what I did? I read the directions as I was stirring those mushrooms around, and saw that Julia says the best way to get them evenly brown and coated is to toss them. In my heart of hearts I wanted to toss those mushrooms, but my very realistic fear of having them come back and smack me in the face held me back. Until the 3rd batch.... That's right. I tossed the mushrooms. And I didn't. even. drop. one. Oh yeah!

Then Mom came home, and we took out the bourguignon, and separated all the meat/vegetables from the juice (because Julia says to- she wants you to skim the fat off while you heat it up in a sauce pan. We tried, but it's not so easy to skim liquid fat.) When you're done, your juice should be thick enough to thinly coat a spoon. Then you pour it back over the meat/vegetables. We added the mushrooms and onions, and gently tossed it, to coat everything in the juice, and have it all mixed up.
By this time our rolls, noodles, and peas were done. So we fixed the plates (buttered the noodles, poured the bourguignon over it, buttered the peas, and buttered the rolls. Butter.)

And we sat down to eat THIS:

It was worth every bit of the 6 hours it took to prepare it. There aren't really words for how good it was. Just know- YUM YUM YUM YUM.

That's all for now- this post is long enough. I'll post about Creme Brulee tomorrow.

Good evening, void.

Bon appetite.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Don't crowd the mushrooms


Today we made Boeuf Bourguignon, served over buttered noodles, with a side of buttered peas, and a roll (buttered. Because you can never have too much butter.) Dessert was, to my Dad's surprise and enjoyment, creme brulee. It wasn't quite like Carrabba's, but it was the very first time we've ever attempted it.

Briefly: making Boeuf Bourguignon is a six hour process. Truly. Creme Brulee was the easy part, definitely. Although none of it is actually difficult. It just takes a long time (40 minutes just to braise the pearl onions, and another 30 to brown the mushrooms which, by the way, I did not crowd, and which turned out perfectly browned.) But it was absolutely worth it. It was delicious and worth the three months I've waited to make/eat it.

That said, I'm signing off. I took plenty of pictures, and I have lots to say about our experience (such as: we need a kitchen torch, and a real casserole dish), but I am bone-tired. Standing on your feet in the kitchen for 6 hours (because you really are doing something every minute, unless you're insanely fast, or you crowd the mushrooms, and brown them all at once) is an exhausting task. So, I'm going to shower- in my own house, miracle of miracles, because Daddy fixed the septic system- and go to bed. I'm not passing 'GO', or collecting any money. I'm just going to bed, as soon as I get up the energy to 1) turn off ol' George singing about his ex's in Texas (not my song choice- I'm just too tired to actually turn it off right now.) and 2) get off my duff to go shower.

Tomorrow's another day, after all, and will have plenty of time for me to do the simple yet time-consuming task of uploading photos.

So goodnight, dear void. I'll see you tomorrow.

Bon appetit.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

We have liftoff!

We finally own it!

It's at my house. My own copy of this beautiful, wonderful book.

It's big, and bright, and sitting on my kitchen counter. (Yes, pictures will follow at some point.)

This morning, when the mail came, Mom went into the kitchen with a big package, and came back holding it out to me.

We get to make Boeuf Bourguignon! We get to splash flour on the pages, sprinkle Burgundy among the words, get grease on the page corners. We get to make notes in the margins. We get to cook lobster, and lamb, and.... We actually get to do all of it! It can begin! I no longer feel that I began this blog in vain.

I reiterate: there isn't a deadline. There isn't a schedule. There is a budget (do you know how expensive lobster is???), and all of these things will just serve to make this project more interesting.

And with this post, I declare the real, official start to this Clarissa/Caitlin/ Julia project. We will Master the Art of French Cooking... at some point. And have an enormous amount of fun doing it.

Bon appetite!

Monday, February 21, 2011


It's been entirely too long since I posted on here, and it will probably be longer still before the actual purpose of this blog is fulfilled, seeing as how no one within a billion mile radius of my house sells the book for a price we're willing to pay at this moment in time.

I have been baking and cooking, though (along with a myriad of other things that comprise my busy life), and I've taken photographic proof, which I will upload (hopefully) sometime in the next week.

But just to let you know that I am still breathing and alive (not that anyone is really reading this, but if someone *is*.... ;-D )


Saturday, February 5, 2011

It's snowing and heavily

Well, maybe not now. But it was last night. So we have nearly 2 feet of snow in our yard. It's been snowing all week, and it's supposed to snow more tomorrow and Wednesday. And here I thought we weren't going to get serious snow this year. I adore snow. It's such a felicitious sort of weather.

But on the downside of things, still no book. And it's the second month of the year. No recipes means no baking or cooking. The library will only let you keep the book for so long.

Recently, my Mom and I went shopping. We went to a used bookstore (I bought a hardback copy of Gone With the Wind. I've only been looking for a hardback copy ever since I read it 4 years ago. Proof that good books are hard to come by.) and looked all through Whole Foods (the temptation to just *buy* things there was overwhelming. Pasta noodles, olive oil, tea, salmon, cheese (even though I don't like to eat cheese by itself) and fresh fruit.....). Then we ventured to P.F. Chang's for lunch. After that exquisite meal (really- how can you go wrong with beef lo mein, garlic snap peas, and lettuce wraps? You just can't.) we looked around the square at all the different shops. Williams Sonoma. And guess what we found at Williams Sonoma? 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking' by Julia Child. (Along with a bevy of other cooking wonders and things we wanted to take home but didn't have 200 dollars to spend on a single pasta pot.) The book was 40 dollars. I am not willing to spend 40 dollars on a book. Not even this book. Something in me rebels at the thought. There was a faint glimmer of a hope of owning it, however, as we found a damaged one. The dust cover was torn and about a third of the book was warped, like it had been dropped in water. We asked the sales clerk of they'd be willing to knock the price down. They would... but only by 20 percent. So we walked out without the book.
Nevertheless, it was a superb, gorgeous shopping day.
Even if we still don't own the book we need to start our project.

The snow outside is so gorgeous, and our house is so warm. In fact, we're all still in our pajamas (sort of... I never actually got dressed for bed last night, so I'm in my lounging clothes from yesterday.) and Mom and I are watching 'Julie and Julia' again. Butter. Mushrooms, chicken, and port. Bruschetta. Beouf Bourguignon. Bread. Tomatoes. I'm hungry. I want to eat lobster dipped in butter.

But instead of boring you with more news of nothing whatsoever, I'm going to go finish my movie and contemplate whether or not I want to go out in the cold snow. Then I'll contemplate snow ice-cream, chocolate chip cookies, and hot chocolate with Irish cream.

Here's a Frenchish thing for you to hear as I sign off.

Bon Appetite!

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Do you know how much lobsters cost? (let's not go there)

Do you know how much artichokes cost? (three dollars a piece!)

Do you know how much basically anything to do with French cuisine costs? (entirely too much)

As my Mom just remarked to me, "If we were wealthy, Caitlin, we'd already be deep into this cookbook."
But as you've probably guessed, we're not wealthy, and are, generally speaking, content to be as we are. Lack of funds, does, however, make it ruddy hard to start up cooking in this expensive matter.

But all is well. Because while we may not have a lobster, artichokes, or even the cookbook (trying again at the local resale bookshop didn't work. So, Barnes and Noble it must be. Full price packs a wallop for this cheapskate.), we do have chocolate chips, flour, vanilla, sugar, and baking soda. What's that, you say? Sounds like a recipe for chocolate cookies? Of course it is. And why would I, the living antithesis to the barefoot contessa, know how to make chocolate chip cookies? Simply because I've been making them nearly non-stop for the past week and a half.

Snowy weather brings on hunger pains like no ones business. But only for snow-ice cream, chocolate chip cookies, and Mexican hot cocoa.

So, this girl got out her apron (which is entirely bereft of stains- a crying shame that will hopefully be righted in the near future) and set about making cookies. The first batch didn't take as long as previously anticipated. Could it be that confidence was creeping into my bones? I, who always double counted and re-measured?

But it was so! And every batch I've made has taken less than the time before. Practice makes perfect (except, when you think that what you need to make the texture you want is half crisco/half butter, because you misunderstood what your Mother said, and in reality, half crisco/half butter does *not* make chewy cookies- it makes nice, neat looking, crunchy cookies. Not my favorite kind.) But all the kinks worked out, and all the cookies turned out nicely, with only one burned pan (customary in this household) out of 4 batches.

Confidence in the kitchen.
It's coming.

And in the meantime, I sit here listening to the pressure cooker (not recommended by Julia Child, but a necessity in this household), bundled under a blanket, reading inspiring quotes by Christina Rossetti, waiting for my own copy of the anticipated cookbook, and vaguely entertaining the thought of getting up from my warm nest and dancing to this.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


...through the book is time consuming. But so much fun. And a perfect thing to do on an afternoon when the snow is melting and you have a cuppa tea at your elbow, and a perfect Pandora station playing.

Last time I left off at chapter 6. (And does it bother you when people go from using the actual number to using the word? It does me.) So this time we start on chapter 7.

Meat. Viandes. Beef. Boeuf. Steaks. Biftecks(sound like 'beef steaks? To me, too.) Ever broiled a steak? I haven't ever heard of broiling a steak, but then, I have absolutely  no experience with steaks outside of Outback, so I really can't tell if that's the normal way to prepare them or not. How about some filet steaks? Filet Mignon, anyone? Oh, and yum- Tournedas sautes aux champignons chausseur. Filet steaks with mushroom and Madeira sauce. Delicious.

(What is a foie gras? I've heard of that my entire life, but I have no idea what it actually means. After looking it up on Google just now, I've realized the truth behind the statement 'ignorance is bliss'. Specially fattened goose or duck liver?? Now I know. )

Back to meat. Did you expect a hamburger to be in a French cookbook? I suppose it makes sense, given that hamburgers are usually served with *French* fries. But I have a hard time imagining someone going to France and ordering a hamburger- why do that when they'll serve you a fish cooked in butter with some fresh vegetables? It's completely conceivable, though, that not everyone goes to France to entirely soak up the culture of a foreign country.

And here we are. Chapter 7, page 315. 'Boeuf Bourguignon'. Beef stew in red wine, with bacon, onions, and mushrooms. Oh. My. We're making this as soon as possible. You know something has to be good beyond all imagining when it needs to cook 2 1/2 hours.

Lamb. Never had it. Part of me is reluctant to try it. For someone who watched Lamb Chop as a small child, eating a lamb sounds nearly cannibalistic. But then, so did eating goat, and I've done that and lived to tell about it. So I suppose lamb won't be any different. (And if it is, don't tell me.) Moving on. Moussaka. Lamb and Eggplant mold. Hmm. Sounds interesting.

Veal. Isn't veal inhumane? Is there a way to inhumanely come by veal? Do I really want to know? I didn't think so. But pork, or ham. That sounds comfortable and familiar. Sweetbreads, however, is a no go. I absolutely and completely staunchly refuse to eat brains. No, no, no, no, no. So let's move on, shall we?

Chapter 8- vegetables. Legumes. Artichokes (D'Artichauts). Asparagus (asperges). Green Beans (haricots verts. That's fun to say.) Brussel sprouts (choux de bruxelles. We'll see how these go- brussel sprouts are the bane of every child's life. But braising them in butter might help things. After all, you can never have too much butter.) Broccoli (choux broccolli), cauliflower (chou-fleur), green peas (petits pois). Spinach (epinards. Think what you will, but I adore spinach. Perhaps it's being raised by southerners, but collard greens and spinach are 'laruppin good'.) Carrots, onions, and turnips (carottes, oignons, et navets). Basically, every vegetable that was ever heard of, and a few I've never seen, are included in this chapter, so you'll forgive me if I skip the potatoes, tomatoes, and leeks, and go on to chapter 9.

Cold buffet. Which is salads, aspics (no.), potato salad, molded mousses (not the chocolate kind- think chicken liver and fish, and you'll be closer.) Pates and terrines, and generally, all manner of cold side dishes that you can imagine, all of which sound incredibly American. Maybe some real French food made it over the Pond after all.

Mmmm. Chapter 10. Desserts and Cakes. Entremets et Gateaux. Who doesn't like dessert? Creme Chantilly. Doesn't that sound delicate and lovely? Especially for lightly beaten cream. Creme Brulee. Yum. Yum. Yum. Yum. YUM. Orange Bavarian cream. For something I usually associate with a donut from Krispy Kreme, it sounds delicious. Chocolate Mousse (Mousseline au chocolate). Yes, please. Sweet souffles. Chocolate, of course. An Apple Charlotte (charlotte aux pommes), which is a thick, rum and apricot flavored apple puree piled into a cylindrical mold which has been lined with butter soaked strips of white bread. Whoa. I think I gained weight just reading about it. And aspics.... a fruit aspic sounds perfectly acceptable. Jello, anyone? Pears baked with macaroons. Custard apple tart. Strawberry tarts (I'll feel like My Fair Lady eating those.) Crepes with almond cream? Mound of Crepes with apples, flambe? Yes, yes, yes, yes, *yes*. And then there are flans, which I've never had (I'm not an adventurous foodie, I admit.) Oh, and let's make Ladyfingers!

And 'five French cakes.
 #1- Butter spongecake (naturally. Butter.), or 'Biscuit au beurre'.
#2 - Orange spongecake (the French like their spongecake, apparently.) or 'gateau a l'orange'.
#3 - Spongecake with orange-butter filling. (and if you can combine two cakes into two, why not?) or 'gateau fourre a la creme d'orange'.
#4 -  (What do you want to bet that it's a spongecake?) Sure enough- 'Orange and almond spongecake'. Or 'Gateau a l'orange et aux amandes'.
#5 - Surprise! It's not a spongecake. It's a chocolate and almond cake. Like in the movie. 'Reine de saba'.
Then there are icings and fillings, and I think that this post is already too long, so I won't bore you with chocolate and buttercream icings, or raspberry fillings. And that's the end of the book, anyway.

I'll go fix something for dinner (or eat leftovers. Either way, I'm going to go eat.) And naturally, I'll be leaving with a song (because apart from reading and writing and boring you with a synopsis of a 650+ page book, that's what I do- listen to music. While I do almost everything.) today, it's my song- the only one I've ever heard that is written for brown-eyed girls (who are, despite scientific research, the minority in the world; at least in songs, if not in reality.) So goodnight, whoever you are.

Bon Appetit!