November 07, 2009

Adventures in French Cooking

One of my favorite cooking shows on cable is Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee. She's so pretty and the colors in the background of her kitchen match the mood of whatever she is cooking and she decorates the table so adorably; and best of all, she creates wonderful food by cutting corners without sacrificing flavor. She saves us time by showing us what we should do for ourselves and what can be 'borrowed' from other sources. It's like Martha Steward for real women.

As you know from my previous adventures in French cooking, Julia Child doesn't cook semi-anything. She is down and dirty, food flung all over the kitchen, 3 sinks full of dirty dishes, and hunker down 'cause it's gonna be a long ride. In the end the food is usually really good but I am learning where corners may be cut that would not make any difference to the food. I am going by the advice of first do it the right way, then adjust it to suit your needs.

What I need is for Sandra Lee to come out with a book based on Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

I haven't cooked a full meal in a couple of weeks because of a readathon and a flu followed by a cold but I did try to squeeze in this little dish because asparagus was in sale:

Asperges au Naturel avec Sauce Hollandaise

In case it is not completely obvious, that's boiled asparagus with Hollandaise sauce. I was surprised when I read through the recipe. First, she tells you how to peel the asparagus. I have never peeled an asparagus before. I had no idea it needed to be peeled. But, as I said, first do it the right way. Second, Hollandaise sauce is essentially egg yokes blended with two cups of butter. That's it?

Guess how long it takes to peel two dozen or more thin asparagus? Guess! Forty five minutes!! You can't just use a potato peeler either. I'm grateful that Julia tells us that up front. Once they are peeled and placed in the boiling water I was ready to start the Hollandaise sauce.

The process for the sauce looks something like this: whisk, dribble in melted butter, whisk whisk, dribble, whisk whisk whisk, dribble dribble, whisk some more. Fifteen minutes later I realized that I would be using the electric mixer with the whisk attachment next time. I also realized that my hand had a major cramp going on. French cooking is a contact sport.

So pour the sauce over the boiled spears and there you have it. It tasted just like when I boil my spears and add a big dollop of butter. An hour for this? Oh well. I like asparagus and I like butter. But I will never peel an asparagus again.

Next on the menu:

Râpée Morv Andelle

Gratin of shredded potatoes with ham and eggs and onions. OH EM GEE! This was the best recipe so far. It was easy to make and tasted like heaven in my mouth. Can you see the foamy bubbles around the edge of the dish? That's what butter looks like when it has been baked into a gratin.

Real men may not eat quiche but they DO eat gratin. And they ask for more. You can't tell from the photo but this is a smaller sized casserole dish. It makes about six smallish portions. When we all realized how little gratin there was we almost cried. So I made it again the next week, doubling the recipe and cooking it in a regular sized casserole dish but it didn't turn out as yummy as the first one. I will just have to buy another smaller casserole dish. Yes, I would spend money on another dish just for this gratin. It's worth it.

Hey, I thought of something that Sandra and Julia have in common: they both suggest the appropriate type of alcohol to go with any meal. No wonder I love them both so much.

You can read more of my Adventures in French Cooking here.


Linda said...

Yum. That casserole looks delicious. I wonder if you could not peel the asparagus. I wonder if it would ruin the dish?

Petunia said...

I have eaten it unpeeled many times. It didn't taste any different than it did that night. From now on, if I see asparagus served at a restaurant I'll check to see if it's peeled. :)

Ti said...

I think most of the nutrients are in the peel and if they are boiled, I think the texture is the same, peeled or not.

The gratin looks yummy.

bermudaonion said...

My husband really wants to try some of these recipes. I plan to buy him the cookbook for Christmas.

Marie said...

I love Sandra too. Her stuff is great and so perfect for real life! :-)

Petunia said...

Ti-I didn't know that. Now I have a good excuse not to peel them if asked.

BermudaOnion-It takes some deciphering but Julia is very thorough. I love finding the really good recipes.

Marie-Her books are fun too. She gives ideas for tablescapes and party favors. I love that kind of thing.

Zibilee said...

Ok, my husband would flip for both of these recipes, but I am not going to be peeling any asparagus! He has been asking for Hollandaise sauce for the past couple of weeks, so I know this would score me some major points, and that gratin looks heavenly. I think it's time to get a copy of the book. I have been holding out, but seeing these amazing things coming from your kitchen is just too much for me. I am going to order it. Thanks for letting me live vicariously!

Peter S. said...

Oh my goodness! 45 minutes to peel a bunch of asparaguses (asparagi?)! Hehehe. I guess it's worth it though. Just looking at your pictures makes my mouth water.

Beth F said...

I would love to see Sandra Lee meets Julia Child! I like Sandra's show too. Wouldn't you love to completely redo your decorations to match your meal??

I love your recipes. Thanks so much for sharing them!

I want to apologize for being late to visit. I missed the notice that Mr. Linky sent me saying you linked up. I just saw it! So sorry.

Please feel free to play along any time.