Thursday, April 29, 2010

A moveable feast

This past sunday my good friend Kristin and I made our first full french meal from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. The book is truly a plethora of culinary knowledge and has each dish explained down to the minute detail (except for some minorly confusing verbiage in the souffle recipe...which when it comes to making souffle, its probably not so minor) but all in all our bellies were well rewarded for our efforts.

We started our feast with cream of watercress soup, which had a lightness to it, but filled every ounce of the body with a creamy warmth. The trick it seems is whipping cream with egg yokes and then wisking it into the hot soup to acheive maximum thickness without feeling greasy or heavy.

Next was our heart attack in a fluted tart pan. The Quiche Lorraine. To add insult to injury we decided to add some swiss cheese to our quiche, which already contained bacon, cream and eggs and dots of butter on the top (and this is before we factor in the crust.) But the filling was light and airy and the top formed a thin almost creme brulee-like crust.

For our main course, we indulged in potatoes au gratin, coq au vin, and roasted asparagus. Potatoes au gratin may be the only dish that really makes me nervous across the board. Any time I've ever had them at a dinner they've been undercooked and inedible, but Julia, ever the brilliant culinary problem solve had this one down. You arrange your first lay of potatoes then cheese, salt pepper, butter (of course), then your second layer, then more cheese salt, pepper, butter, then you pour boiling milk into the terrine, place it on a hot stove and wait until the whole dish is simmering before you put it into the oven. Voila'! Perfectly tender potatoes au gratin, no slices of nearly raw potatoes mucking up your cheesy goodness.

Next was our main event, our coq au vin, which is basically rooster (or in our case chicken) stewed in wine. The coq au vin was more than I could have even imagined, the meat was tender and the sauce rich, earthy and complex. We used nearly a bottle of my father's home-made wine to drown our little chicken in along with a splash of bourbon and butter (there's always butter). It filled the kitchen with an almost sweet aroma, the kind of scent that welcomes you home and eases you in your chair after a hard day. It was a peasant dish, french style, sacrificing nothing for taste with the simplest of ingredients, some ingenuity, and little extra effort.

And when all this was consumed and we were happy with wine, we decided to take on one more task. The chocolate souffle. Not only is the souffle one of the more difficult French masterpieces to tackle, chocolate only makes things more difficult structurally for the souffle. In the process of combining the egg whites and the chocolate was where Kristin and had to overcome our first hurdle. Doubts and disappointment started to set in as we sadly poured our lumpy brown goop into the souffle pan. But 45 minutes later, like a miracle a perfect little souffle puffed up in our oven.

And after filling our bellies to the brim and releasing several well earned contented sighs, we decided on our next venture. Duck and cheese souffle.


  1. You must make me the potatoes au gratin. lol.

  2. This meal was AMAZING and we WILL do it again! :)