September 26, 2009

Adventures in French Cooking

I don't know by what kind of magic my mother conjured but my sister and I believed eating artichoke was a treat akin to ice cream for breakfast. It felt like breaking all the rules but with my mother's sanction. Perhaps it was because we got to eat it with huge, mountainous globs of mayonnaise; possibly because we only ate them about once or twice a year when they were in season and ridiculously low priced. I can't explain it. It just is what it is.

In all my years of eating artichoke I've cooked and eaten it the same way, the easy way: steamed in a pressure cooker and eaten with mayo. Until tonight. Tonight's Mastering the Art of French Cooking meal:

Bifteck saute au beurre
Artichauts au naturel avec beurre au citron
Riz naturel

In English that's Pan-broiled steak, artichoke with lemon butter, and white rice. Old arty was cooked in the new-to-me, old fashioned way: boiled for an hour on the stove. In fact, everything I made tonight was from scratch. That's one of the things I love about MtAoFC. It's kind of like reading Moby Dick. Nobody really likes the story, they just read it for the bragging rights. Or maybe that's just me. (Yes, I've read Moby Dick. No, I did not enjoy it. Yes, I brag about it whenever I get the chance.) Except with cooking this way I do enjoy the final results. All the effort is worth it.

The steak cooked up nice. I would recommend a thinner cut of beef if you like your meat cooked through like my family does. The red wine and butter sauce was all the flavoring it needed.

The artichoke was great. I had fun making the lemon butter sauce. But it was too lemony for my pallet. And it just didn't compare to mayo. Nevertheless, I ate like a purist and made all the kids try at least one taste with the lemon butter sauce. Afterward I ate the heart with mayo. Awe, that was good.

The white rice was made on the stove following directions precisely. It was very sticky. Our family hasn't eaten white rice in at least a year, preferring the wholesomeness of brown rice with a little butter. It was a bit of a treat. I made so much that we will use the leftovers to make rice pudding.

I used just about a cup of butter. Anyone who knows me knows that I love butter. Love. It. This much butter is divine, wasteline be damned.

The verdict: it was good. It wasn't so wonderful that we will add it to the monthly recipe rotation but there was very little left for tomorrow's lunch.

Because I consider this an adventure I feel the need to take something away from my experience. I learned a couple of interesting things. The first is that you shouldn't drink wine when eating artichoke. Julia Child advises against it. The wine interferes with the artichoke's "character". The other is that, though I tend to dislike meat, when cooked skillfully it is not just tolerable but satisfying. OK, so I knew that second one already but it is an idea that always hits me fresh whenever I it proves true.

Food is more than just sustenance. It can be a joy. And French cooking the way Julia does it is an art. If you have the time and inclination(and stamina) you should take that copy of MtAoFC off your shelf or coffee table(I know you bought a copy) and try something new. It's rewarding. And you can brag to all your friends.


Jeane said...

My mom used to serve artichoke steamed and dipped in mayo, too. I never liked it. Maybe a dish like this would be more to my taste!

Jenny said...

Embarrassing confession: I have a hard time keeping my a-vegetables straight. Artichokes, avocado, & asparagus. Very confusing for my brain.

Your food looks delicious!

Petunia said...

Jean - I could pass along the lemon butter recipe if you like. It's not hard.

Jenny - Artichoke is like a bush, asparagus is like a tree, and avocado is like a stone. :) I like all three.

Ti said...

I used to dip my artichoke leaves in GARLIC mayo. Now that's heaven.

Your dinner looks lovely by the way.

Zibilee said...

Your meal sounds divine. My family loves artichokes as well, but we can rarely find them at a good price. I like mine with mayo, just like you and find that when we cook them for an hour in the vegetable steamer they come out perfect. I recently started adding marinated artichoke hearts to my salad for lunch as well. It totally transforms the salad into something much more special. Glad you enjoyed the meal so much!