Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My Yummy Valentine

I'm worth it, and so are you.

Sometimes we want to have dinner at an upscale eatery but either don't have the time or funds to make it happen. So, I had this great idea, or so I thought, to use my miles in exchange for a restaurant certificate. After all, you need like 739,271 miles to get 1 round trip DOMESTIC ticket. I figured, why waste time? Anyways, my plan didn't quite work out, so instead, I decided to take a stab at one of Julia's recipes as a special treat to myself. It was time to see if I could recreate that high end restaurant flavor on a modest budget. This is my version of combining two recipes Chicken in brown sauce and Chicken with vegetables in a cream sauce.

I picked up a small bottle of vermouth, two large boneless skinless chicken breasts, heavy cream and some savory veggies all for a total of about $12. After dividing the breasts into 6-8 event pieces, I seasoned with salt and pepper, dredged in flour and browned in approximately 6 tablespoons of butter with a bit of canola oil. After setting the chicken aside, I added diced carrots, celery and onion and scraped up all the "yum yums" browned bits from the pan. I removed the veggies, then added a small amount of butter along with the chopped shallots. I then added the vermouth (I wanted to get fancy and flame the pan, but I tend to like having eyebrows) and beef stock then reduced by half to concentrate the flavor. I then added heavy cream, chicken and veggies, brought to a simmer and served.


Now you calorie watchers and fat gram stalkers may want to turn your heads, but there is something to be said about the flavor of butter and heavy cream as a flavor enhancer. Both lend a velvety smooth texture and serve as ideal carrier for the flavor of other ingredients. Truth be told, you when you eat quality food that is well prepared, you don't have to engorge to feel satisfied. Now that I've tested a recipe, I plan on preparing another gourmet specialty to celebrate Valentine's Day, oh and the All-Star game :).

I encourage anyone who wants to perhaps impress that special Valentine or prepare a special meal for yourself to try one of Julia's recipes.

Happy Cooking!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Me and Julia

So here we are; another year and a fresh start to new possibilities and dreams. Over the holidays I finally had the chance to see Julie and Julia and I must say as a foodie, the movie was both captivating and inspiring. Meryl Streep did an exceptional job in portraying the icon of gourmet cooking, Julia Child. I admit to having come across Ms. Child’s book some years ago, when at first glance appeared so intimidating based on volume alone. After all, the book is 684 pages! With the birth of the Food Network, advent of the internet and newer cookbooks, I prematurely thought a cookbook on French cuisine, published some 40 years ago was hardly relevant to today’s cooks.

Since watching the movie, I decided to check the book out at the local library and see what the hype was all about. First, let me start off by saying that I day dream about food. Yes, you read it correctly. I think about different types of cuisines, dishes, techniques, ingredients, etc. ALL DAY LONG. Since my trip to France, I’ve often wondered what it is that distinguishes French cuisine from American. Other than the obvious, the French considered food as a means of expression, lifestyle and nourishment. Meals are consumed slowly to savor the taste, texture, aroma while spending time with others. Consideration is given to ingredients at their beginnings whether it is the quality of the produce, the condition of the soil or the diet fed to animals supplying meat and dairy because the best dishes start out with the best ingredients. Ms. Child's book explains French cooking in very practical and simple terms including helpful tips to ensure the result is the same as if dining on the Champs Elysees. The book took some years to complete and rightfully so as each section from soups to eggs, entrees, fish and poultry list the ingredients and instructions in order making a home cook feel like an experienced chef. The ingredients are simple and common place in American supermarkets which is encouraging to the layperson. Transforming simple ingredients into a Poulet au Porto (roast chicken steeped in port wine, cream and mushrooms) or Boeuf a la Mode (beef braised in red wine) paired with a complimentary wine can be turned into an extravagant feast.

So here I go, about to embark on a mission to cook most, if not all of the recipes from this Masterpiece. By no means will I be able to recreate all the dishes in a year (or two for that matter), but I will cherish each whiff of melting butter, dollop of heavy cream and savory, tender bite of meat morsel along the way.

Thanks Julia (& Julie).