Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Time to Master the Art

Even though I don´t typically make New Years Resolutions (I believe in making positive, gradual changes throughout the year), this year I decided that I wanted to take my cooking to the "next level."
Many of you know that Zev is a wonderful cook and the "gourmet" cook in our family. I am the "sustenance" cook, meaning that I make great "during the week" staples. Basically: I love my crock-pot.
I really do love my crock-pot and it´s endless utilitarianism so much, that I made up a batch of mushroom chicken to go with rice, for the girls and Zev and I tonight. (My sweet little cousin Shelley and her 3 college girlfriends arrived today for a 2 week visit. Such fun! I LOVE having them here!)  As a college girl myself these days, I simply turn on my crock-pot before I leave for school in the morning and there is (usually) something yummy (and hot) inside. A warm meal goes a long way. But, last week, I started thinking that I wanted to really learn some good, solid cooking techniques, to take my cooking to the "next level". I know you are probably wondering, how much better than a crock-pot one-stop meal does it get, right? Well, although the crock-pot is very versatile, it does really involve any complex cooking techniques. This is where Julia Child comes in. Some of you may have already heard of this fabulous cook (who is actually now deceased). She was an American cook who used to live with her husband in Paris in the 50s, while he was working for the American government as a diplomat. She learned how to speak French in the 3 years that they were stationed there AND learned how to appreciate the great local produce and cuisine. She is credited with writing an excellent cook book in English called "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." Zev bought me this book and her second French cooking book for my 30th birthday last year. I never really picked it up until recently. I have to tell you, it is probably the BEST cook book I have ever read (and parts of it ARE like reading a novel). Mrs. Child goes into excellent detail in explaining why certain techniques are used, what the right tool to use for a certain technique is and manages to do this (teach you how to cook properly), in a very simple, easy to follow way. Seriously. Her cook book is a very enjoyable read, and I would actually recommend it as a good book, if you haven´t already read it!
One of my favorite lines from the book is her dedication: "This is a book for the servantless American cook who can be unconcerned on occasion with budgets, waistlines, time schedule´s, children´s meals, the parent-chauffeur-den-mother syndrome, or anything else which might interfere with the enjoyment of producing something wonderful to eat." Isn´t that wonderful? I love her writing style. I even told Zev that I feel like I have a little in common with Mrs. Child (the whole living in a foreign country, learning the language and going to a local school.) Anyway, not to digress too much, my goal in 2011 is to make one recipe from Julia Child´s cookbook a week. Doesn´t need to be anything fancy, but I would like to remain immersed in the cookbook in order to properly learn some solid cooking techniques. Once we have kids, I probably won´t have the time to devote to learning new cooking techniques. So now is the time to do it. My first dish was a simple (well I thought it would be simple, that´s why I picked it!) soup dish called "Aigo Bouido." What exactly is this, I hear you asking? Well, basically it is garlic soup (one whole head of garlic as a matter of fact), where the garlic and herbs are gently boiled for half an hour and then gently beaten into a mixture of eggs beaten with olive oil. "Drop by drop" as Julia explains. For good reason too; so you don´t cook the egg as you add the garlic broth to it. I am sure you are also wondering what the "proper" way to pronounce Aigo Bouido is. Well, for that, I would recommend you visit google translate, and click on the "listen" button. Let´s just say that the English to German google translate web page has become a dear friend to me....
As you can see, the recipe itself is very plainly laid out, so even a novice cook like me can follow it. In the CORRECT sequence too!
I had to take a picture of the eggs. In this day and age, when we are watching calories and avoiding "bad" foods like egg yolks, which have a reputation of being high in fat and cholesterol, Julia Child has you not only whipping the egg YOLKS but adding three tablespoons of olive oil to the whipped mixture. (Beaten in "drop by drop" mind you). I saved the egg whites. In case I wanted to make an egg white omelette. Haven´t gotten around to that one yet.
So the verdict? Well, although the soup has a fabulous mouth texture and was cooked according to the book, the taste was milder than we expected. I guess Zev and I were expecting a real "garlicky" flavour. Julia Child DOES say that some people add more garlic than others. We LOVE garlic. It was good. And the best part was that I learnt something about Kitchen Science in the process! And Zev was right there by my side to be a part of it. If you would like to see a cute video clip of Julia Child making an omelette during her famous television show "The French Chef", click on the link below.
"How about dinner in half a minute...?"

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