aspic. there’s a reason no one makes it anymore.

Hey kids!
I’m still on vacation, but here is a dooooozie for ya.
Jayne. As in, Jayne, The Barefoot Kitchen Witch.

I met Jayne on our trip up north. Yes, I know what she looks like, and, no, I’m not telling.  She’s done a marvelous job of keeping herself well hidden!  She’s so funny, so dedicated – and such a real kitchen she has!! I have pegboard envy, I do!!

I’d like to tell you that you are going to run right out and make her upcoming recipe, but well, ummm…let me just say it now.

Jayne?  I told you so.

And now, I give you our guest blogger. Enjoy!! Thanks Jayne!

Attempting Aspic

Last week, in a moment of apparent weakness or desperation, Susan asked if I’d write a guest post for her this week. I asked if she’d been feverish lately, and when she said no, really, she was fine, she really was, I agreed to do it. I asked if there was anything in particular she’d like me to write about, and she said – and I quote – “Write about anything.”

Ohhh, Susan, you are regretting those words now, I’m sure.

For those of you who have no idea who I am – and no, I’m not a wacky relative taking advantage of blogging nepotism – I’m Jayne, and my main blog is Barefoot Kitchen Witch. Like Susan, I write about food and my family, among other things, I’m a member of Tuesdays with Dorie, and unknown to Susan, I have an evil streak a mile wide.

Not long ago, Susan wrote a post about making creme brulee, and said some pretty harsh things about flan (“congealed old milk”), and so initially I wanted to do a post about flan. Just ‘cuz. But I thought that would be kind of silly, since she’d just written about creme brulee and I had already recently written about flan. Enough with the egg custard stuff. She’d also mentioned, in the same paragraph of this post I’m talking about, that the only thing more hideous than flan would be aspic. “Aspic is like a big, fat mistake….Who thinks of crap like that?”

And it is for that reason that I decided to try my hand at making aspic.

Now, to make an aspic you need some sort of stock, to begin with. Beef, fish, chicken, pork, vegetable, or veal. Different animals’ bones produce different amounts of gelatin, so it’s sometimes necessary to add additional gelatin to create a successful aspic. Veal, I’ve read, provides a lot of gelatin, but I don’t happen to have any. I have a few varieties of chicken stock, some fish stock, clam broth, and crab stock, at the moment. Oh, and beef stock, too. I really should keep a list.

Anyway, I decided to go with the crab stock. It’s very flavorful stuff, because when we cooked the crabs that produced this stock, we used all sorts of seasonings, including some Old Bay. And as far as what to put IN the aspic (because what’s the point of aspic if you can’t suspend stuff in it?), I went with shrimp and vegetables, because, again, that’s what I’ve got on hand.

So, first thing – how do you make aspic? I purposely avoided Julia Child’s books, because, well, I was being lazy, and her recipes are so detailed you need a GPS to follow them. I googled “aspic recipe” and found one on I haven’t tested this recipe, and in fact, as I type this, I haven’t even finished making my aspic – it’s chilling in the fridge. So I won’t even have an opinion about it until I’ve taken a picture of the final product. Exciting, huh?

Per the recipe, I needed the following basic ingredients:

4 cups of well-seasoned stock – check!

2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin – check!

3 room temperature egg whites – check!

I thawed two 2-cup bags of crab stock in separate pots, and then, even though it doesn’t say to at this stage of the game in the recipe, I strained the liquid, just in case any teeny tiny crab bits remained from when I froze it.

Next, as directed, I sprinkled, the gelatin over one 2-cup portion of the stock. You have to “bloom” gelatin before you can use it, and to do this you simply sprinkle the gelatin over some cold liquid – in this case, the stock – and let it sit for 5 minutes. During that five minutes, the dry gelatin particles absorb some of the liquid and soften. That’s blooming. Simple stuff, right?

While the gelatin bloomed, I separated my eggs and set the yolks aside for something else. (Maybe a flan…) Then I whisked the whites until they were frothy, as directed, and whisked the whites in with the other 2-cup portion of the stock.

By the way – and off topic a bit – I’ve been seeing this commercial on TV for an egg-cracking contraption, and I’m just curious, does anyone out there own one of these? The way the commercial plays, you’d think we’re all a bunch of incompetent ninnies with regard to egg crackage. My five-year-old daughter can successfully crack and even separate eggs with less angst than the miserable folks in this commercial. I have not once had to pick shell out of anything I’ve cooked. Why do these commercials have to tell us we’re helpless? It’s just an egg! Do we really need one more gadget? Hands work just fine! Really!

Okay, tiny rant over.
After the gelatin bloomed, I whisked the egg white and stock mixture into the gelatin and stock mixture and then heated the whole thing on medium high until it boiled. I was supposed to stir constantly, but I didn’t. Why stir at all? And what’s with the egg whites, anyway?

Well, I’ll tell you. The egg whites are there to attract any remaining proteins floating around in the stock. The whites act like…well, okay, try this analogy – you know when you have something packed in styrofoam? Like, oh, the Christmas village houses you finally got around to packing up last night? And you know how those tiny styrofoam balls break loose and, through the magic of static electricity, they stick to your fingers and clothes and you have to stand in the wake of a jet plane just to get them to STOP STICKING ALREADY!! – you know that? Well, the egg whites are like you, and all the tiny bits of protein are the styrofoam. And in this instance, that’s…to quote Martha…a good thing. And the stirring helps keep those tiny bits of protein moving around, so they’re more likely to be dragged, kicking and screaming, to the egg whites. Fewer tiny proteins = clearer aspic.

Egg whites, incidentally, are also used for this purpose sometimes in beer and wine making. Just thought I’d share that.

Anyway, you want to boil the stock mixture until, according to the recipe, “a dense foam appears.” This foam is the egg whites and the proteins. At this point you remove the stock from the stove and let it cool. The foam will stay foamy – it won’t dissolve back into the liquid – yay! And when it’s cooled (but not too cool, because you don’t want the gelatin to set up yet) you strain it to get rid of those ucky proteins once and for all. I used a very fine mesh strainer and a tight-weave cotton tea towel that I dampened first. I think that’s sort of what the article means by “cup towel.”

And just to keep this as up to the minute as possible, I just took my cooling stock out of the fridge, and sure enough, the foam is all huddled together in a big frothy mass, and the rest of the stock looks pretty clear. I’m going to strain it now – I’ll be right back.


I’m back. I actually let the stock get too cold – it started to set, so I’m warming it just for a moment on the stove, just enough so I can strain it. I am notorious for trying to multitask too many things at a time, and this is what happens. My aspic starts to set. Will I ever learn?

I got out 5 ramekins and brushed the bottoms of them lightly with oil. Then I ladled a little of the aspic into the ramekins and put them in the fridge to set. Twenty minutes later, I added two pieces of cooked shrimp arranged in the shape of a heart and some tiny bits of roasted red pepper, cut in heart shaped pieces, as garnish. A bit more aspic, then back into the fridge. One more addition of roasted red pepper and the last of the aspic, and back into the fridge until serving time.

My first victim was Alex. I’d dropped Julia off at a birthday party, and Bill had a faculty meeting, so it was just the two of us. I took one ramekin from the fridge, ran a knife around the edge of the aspic and warmed the ramekin in some hot water for a minute or so. Then I inverted a plate on the ramekin and flipped it over. I lifted the ramekin gingerly, hoping it would come out okay, and tilted it slightly, because that seems to help in situations like this.

Moments later, my shrimp in aspic slid out onto the plate, minus the first layer of aspic, which slid right off the shrimp and onto the side of the plate with a cloudy, gelatinous shiver. No matter, it still looked pretty enough without that layer, so I tossed that into the sink and proceeded with my garnishing. I took a few pictures, and then I summoned the boy.

“Alex!” I called. “Come here and try this!”

I did my best to sound enthusiastic. It would have helped if I had a plate of chocolate chip cookies instead of the aspic, but hey, life’s tough, kid. Sometimes you have to eat a little aspic.

Well, sometimes you do. And sometimes, you will do anything within your power NOT to eat it. Which is what my handsome little son did. He ran. He ducked. He sidestepped. He laughed at my offer to pay him a dollar if he had a taste, saying “I have plenty of dollars, Mom, I don’t need it.” I begged. I cajoled. I pleaded. All to no avail.

“But, Alex,” I said, ridiculously hopeful, “this is for my website (I meant Susan’s, but that would have taken too much explaining) – I have to let people know what you think!”

“Tell them I think I don’t want to try it,” he told me.

“You like jello, right?” I said brightly.

“No.” he said.

“Well, this is better!” I’m so lame.

Finally, by wearing him down, or appealing to his sense of pity, I got Alex to agree to one itsy bitsy little taste. He said he would touch a bit of the aspic with his tongue. I held out the spoon, which contained a bit of shrimp and a bit of aspic, and he – brave soul – touched the aspic portion with about a square half milimeter’s worth of his filiform papilae (the bumps on the tongue). And then he made a horrible face and ran from the room in a terror-stricken, zig-zag pattern.

Duly noted.

Bill arrived home a little later, after Alex had recovered. I switched back to my happy homemaker persona and asked “Care for some shrimp in aspic?” He looked at me dubiously, then looked cautiously around the room as thought the shrimp in aspic were hiding in the cupboards, ready to jump out at him. “Ohhhhkaaaaayyyy….” he agreed. I quickly plated up another of my concoctions – this time that first layer of aspic stayed put – and handed him a spoon.

He looked at the cloudy blob and looked at me with an expression very similar to Alex’s look earlier. Then, bravely, because he has taken that “for better or for worse” part seriously all these years, he spooned up one of the shrimp, greyish aspic clinging to it, and put it in his mouth.

Then he spun around and ran to the garbage can and…well…eliminated the aspic as best he could.

“That’s F***ing horrible!” he said. “I don’t think I ever want to eat that again.”

Two down.

I had hopes for Julia. She eats fish eyes, after all. Granted, seven o’clock in the morning isn’t optimum aspic-eating time, but fortunately she doesn’t care about stuff like that. I unmolded yet another of my concoctions and told her what it was. She was worried more about the little bits of red pepper. “Are they spicy?” “Oh, no! They’re the sweet kind.” I asked if she wanted to try a bite of the shrimp first. She nodded, and added “Just a little bite.” No problem. With the spoon, I cut one off about a third of one of the shrimp and scooped up a bit of the aspic. She ate that without a hitch, and then, when I asked her how it was…

She nodded, and gave it two thumbs up.

No, really, she did. Honest.

And then, when I asked her if she wanted the rest, she nodded and then…her head changed direction…and she was shaking it from side to side. “Mom,” she said sadly. “I hate to tell you this…but…I don’t like it.”

Okay. I surrender. Aspic was a big FAIL in our house. I don’t even know if I liked it or not. I think I wanted to like it…and I was pleased that I was kind of successful, though the aspic isn’t as clear as it should be. I liked my little two shrimp in the shape of a heart design, and the little tiny roasted red pepper hearts.


Okay, unless someone actually hires me to do so, I won’t be making this again. Probably. Although there is a part of me that really wants to get it PERFECT, just once. Even if that perfectly clear aspic ends up in the trash. Or on the stove – the flavor wasn’t horrible…it was our own crab stock, after all. It was just…well, it was very weird to eat very cold crab stock, but it might taste better as a hot soup. But wouldn’t be an aspic.

Okay, Susan. With regard to aspic, you win.

I should have done the flan post.

My flan rocks.

classic crème brulee, a la Julia Child

My sister is a huge fan of anything Crème Brulee.  We were on a cruise once, and the dessert options included a Grand Marnier Crème Brulee. She nearly birthed a chicken on the spot.  Me?  I can take it or leave it, as I am not all that in to custardy desserts.  Especially flan. Gag. I can’t take that consistency.  It’s like congealed old milk.  And speaking of congealed, what’s with the obsession in Julia Child’s cookbooks with aspics? Aspic is like a big, fat mistake…definitely not something I would make on purpose.  I’ve never been sitting around thinking, Hmmm. I have a few whole fish with eyeballs still, and you know what? I think I’ll just boil down some fish bones and spare parts, make some Jell-O out of it, and suspend those dead suckers right in the middle of it. Nahhhhsty. Who thinks of crap like that? cremeb1 

But back to crème brulee.  I thought I could take it or leave it.  But that was before I made the crème brulee from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Dear Lord.  I only made one change…yes, just one!  Instead of using vanilla extract, I used one whole vanilla bean – another Tongan from Beanilla – and steeped it in the heavy cream while it cooked.  I topped the cooled custards with brown sugar (instead of white, which melts more smoothly to give you that flat shell you are used to) and it offered a nice, sweet addition after I hit it with the torch. The little almost burned spots? Imagine toasted marshmallows, followed by a taste of the best vanilla ice cream you’ve ever had.  That’s the best I can do to describe it!

I’m not sure why, after all this time, I hadn’t made crème brulee.  Honestly, I had never even read the recipe entirely, or I would have known how easy it really is. Whoudda thunk it? Doesn’t “crème brulee” just sound all fussy and complicated? Let me demystify it for you…it’s not. A few egg yolks, some whipping crème, a little sugar – that’s it. If you can temper eggs, you’ve got this one. (Trust me, you can temper eggs if I can.)  Give it a try, I know you’ll be thrilled!


Classic Crème Brulee

adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by Julia Child

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 5 tablespoons white sugar ( I use Domino)
  • 1 teaspoon Cornstarch
  • 1 3/4 cups Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 1 Vanilla Bean (I prefer Beanilla Vanilla Beans)
  • Brown or White Sugar for Candy Topping

In stand mixer or with hand mixer, beat egg yolks with the 5 Tablespoons of sugar about 3 minutes, until ribbon forms.  Then beat in the cornstarch for another minute.

In medium saucepan over medium-low heat, bring heavy cream and scraped vanilla bean (you can even throw the whole pod in there as well) to a boil.

Slowly, very slowly, a few drops at a time, add the boiling cream to the egg mixture to temper the eggs while the mixer is running on LOW. This prevents the eggs from cooking.  Continue to add the cream until it is all incorporated. Remove the vanilla pod – just throw it away.

Return the mixture to the saucepan over moderate heat, watching very closely, and never allow it to simmer. Stir constantly. The sauce will thicken as it cooks – but do not let it get above 170 on your candy thermometer.  It should be thick enough to coat the back of your spoon.

Pour into shallow bowls and refrigerate for several hours. Sprinkle with sugar and use your torch to crystallize it, or, alternatively, place in a preheated broiler for about 5 minutes.  Top with fresh fruit if you like. (The strawberry was wonderful!)


cremebspoonNow, I have some good news for all of you with Beanilla Envy.  The prices they offer are already great, but, if you order and type in DOUGHMESSTIC in the coupon code field, you’ll get an extra 5% off your purchase.  i really can’t tell you how much I love the quality of their product – it has made a lot of difference in my baking flavorwise!

Have  a great day! (and try to stay warm! What’s going on with all this COLD everywhere? Don’t say winter…it’s been winter before without all this frigidity!) See you next time!




it only looks expensive

Two and a half days into the Eat on $30 Challenge and we are doing just fine.

Perhaps it’s the fact that we haven’t been eating from the Mastering the Art of French Cooking Book.  Perhaps it’s because I have been beyond sick.  Perhaps it’s because we really don’t spend that much money on food anymore.  I think it’s a combination of all three…but mostly, I really believe that the July Experiment of living on $100 with the Penny Pinching Pantry Raid has made me a very frugal person.  I really can’t cut back much more than I already do, which I guess is a good thing.

Monday was Day One.  Luckily, Jon had made a huge amount of Pork Barbeque on Sunday.  Juicy, tender, full of flavor, and best of all – on SALE.  He cooked us about 6 pounds, and the cost? $5.00.  With the seasonings, vinegars, etc – I am guesstimating $7.00 total.  So on Monday, we both ate it for lunch & dinner.  Seven had yogurt and grapes for breakfast (35 cents for the yogurt, 25 cents for the grapes).  I had a Diet GingerAle (25 cents) and Sev had some KoolAid (10 cents).  At dinner, we added a box of Velveeta Shells & Cheese ($1.50) and a can of Green beans (60 cents).  So, very little money spent on Monday.  I’m going to go ahead and count the entire PorkFest on Monday, but we ate it on Tuesday as well.  Tuesday was a bit unusual – I was too sick to really eat. Jon ate leftover pork for lunch & dinner.  Yep, just pork.  Seven had yogurt again for breakfast, plus whatever Mom fed him while she was keeping him.  For dinner, he had Totinos Pizza Rolls (about a bucks worth) and some grapes and string cheese. He also had milk both days (est. $1.00 total).

Total for the first two days:

About $12.60, give or take, plus the dessert I am about to introduce you to, which brings the total to around $15.90.

  For dessert on Monday, because I was trying to be budget conscious as well as creative, I made Puff Pastry filled with Nutella Mousse and Homemade Chocolate Syrup.  Perhaps there is someone reading this that has yet to use Puff Pastry (which was ME until about a year ago, it isn’t impossible!) and needs to be enlightened.  YOU MUST HAVE PUFF PASTRY ON HAND.  At all times.  Trust me.  Just buy a few boxes, put them in the freezer, and whenever you are short on time but needing something divine, grab it.


I let one sheet thaw ($1.75) then cut it into little rectangles before baking.  While it baked, I made the Nutella Mousse.  I used about a cup of Whipping Cream (75 cents), 2 tablespoons of Nutella (30 cents) and a quarter cup of powdered sugar (15 cents).  I whipped that together until it was nice and fluffy (whip the cream first, then add in the Nutella and sugar, it will do much better) and once the pastry was cool, I sandwiched the mousse in between two pieces.  When I was ready to serve it, I simply poured a little homemade syrup (30 cents) over it.  It was delish!  And so easy!  Newbies – give it a shot – you’ll like it!  Tomorrow I’ll be posting the recipe for the chocolate syrup, so stay tuned!


image On another note, I have just started writing for The Examiner as the Roanoke Food Examiner. It’s a fun gig, and I am happy to have it!  Check out my first post there?  Subscribe?  I’ll be posting a few times a week, so I would appreciate the feedback.  Anything you’d like to see?  A special recipe? Something related to the holidays?  Say the word, I’m open to suggestions!



Secondly, I opened my Etsy Store today, and already had a sale!  Open for all of 10 minutes, and I get a hit!  I am going to be adding aprons along with my custom cookies, but if you can think of something else that would go over well, I’d LOVE to know!

See you tomorrow with the recipe for Chocolate Syrup!

Mastering the Art of French Cooking…Week Five

Let me start by saying this: I am not a fan of Pot Roast.

Mom will make it occasionally, and while it’s good, for sure, I just don’t dig it.

So why I didn’t realize beforehand that “Carbonnades a la Flamande” was well, Pot Roast, I don’t know. Maybe it was the extra steps that Julia Child always throws in. Maybe it was the fact that beer was involved. Maybe it’s because I’m just plain stupid. Something like that. But nonetheless, I made it. A fancy French Pot Roast. And you know what?

It was damned good.

Carbonnades a la Flamande, according to Julia, is Beef and Onions Braised in Beer. It all starts with a nice lean cut of beef, sliced and browned in a smoking hot skillet before being braised with, well, onions and beer. The recipe was actually pretty straightforward, not too many extra steps, and believe it or not, I was able to put it all together in about 30 minutes. That doesn’t include the 2 1/2 hours of oven time, but who cares about that? You can go play a round of golf while it bakes, like I did. Then, when you get home and pull it out of the oven? Heaven on a plate.

The beef was so tender and juicy, the onions so flavorful. And before you ask…no, it didn’t taste a thing like beer (I used Guinness). It was just plain good. It would be the perfect late fall or dead of winter meal, so warm and delicious and the exact thing you’d want after a day of playing in the snow or watching your local football team whip up on their rivals. I served mine over potatoes, as Julia recommends, but her other suggestion was buttered noodles, which I can see being equally good. Or, as my Aunt Sylvia might say, “it would be good on a piece of shoe leather,” and she’d be right. Mighty fine.

Try it! You’ll like it! You can find the recipe on pages 317 & 318 of Julia’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” or, there are several websites with adapted recipes floating around. Personally, I think you should just buy the book. I have yet to find a recipe I haven’t liked.

Moving on…its still Football Season! Last week was the first home game for the Virginia Tech Hokies, so that meant TAILGATE! Around 10pm on Friday night, a mere 11 hours before we were leaving to go to the game festivities, I set about making a “Hokie Cake.” Just something sweet for us all to eat in addition to the Cilantro Cheeseburger Sliders, Chicken Wings, and Kabobs. 10 o’clock is not the most ideal time for cake making/decorating, but it was good enough. I made a square Devils Food double layer cake, using a malted milk chocolate mousse as filling that I mixed tons of cut up Kit Kats into. hokiebirdcloseupThe icing was Red Russet Cocoa Buttercream, and I added Maroon food coloring to it to bring it up to Hokie Par. I tinted some fondant orange, left some white, and cut circles out of it to decorate the top and sides quickly. As a topper, I used a little fondant Hokie Bird that I had made a week or so ago on a whim, just for fun. It was nice to have a use for it finally!

There’s another big game this weekend, but I have a wedding cake to deliver right around the time of the tailgating…so no party for me. I hope you’ll be partying though! Have a great weekend!

Mastering the Art of French Cooking…Week four

Whoa. Falling behind! It’s been two whole weeks since posting my last French Meal. It’s just been so busy here at Casa DoughMesstic with cakes, cookies, parties, etc. that I just haven’t had the time it takes to execute a full on Julia Recipe.

But sit back and relax, dear readers, this one was worth the effort.

Poulet en Cocotte Bonne Femme, on page 252 of Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. Apparantly this translates as Casserole roasted Chicken with Bacon, Onions and Potatoes. Huh. I don’t speak a lick of French, but I would have guessed this would have translated as Chicken in a Pot with a Good Woman. Or Chicken and Pot Makes a Good Woman. Something like that. But that’s just me.

Whatever it translates as, it’s good. Yes, it’s a bit of work. I’ll admit I have never cooked a whole chicken. Never even touched one if we’re being entirely honest. I had no idea they left all those spare parts shoved inside the dear bird. So, after that little surprise (which involved a bit of gagging and shaking the chicken until aforementioned parts exited the cavity) I went to work. Unafraid, Julia-style.

Instead of just dumping the bird and veggies in a pot and putting it into the oven, there are a few extra steps. Sauteing the bacon, saving the fat, and then browning the chicken in that fat is one additional step. Even cooking the veggies a bit in advance is a step which I believe is only to aggravate me, as I detest having extra dishes to wash. But Julia didn’t know that, so I assume that mustn’t be the case.

What did make it worth it was pulling a beautifully browned, crispy skinned and juicy chicken out of the oven. It was perfectly cooked, as were the vegetables. And the taste? Surely you know the answer to that already…divine. That Julia really knew what she was doing. Pick up a copy of the book if you haven’t already. I’ve even made it easy for you – click the link below.

Now, help time. I had to borrow a lidded casserole dish from my grandmother in order to cook this recipe. i am in love with Le Creuset, though I own nary a piece of it, as money is a little too tight to be spending it on cookware these days. However, I am in the market for a long lasting, good quality lidded casserole dish. I am thinking 5 quarts or larger would suit me best. Any suggestions? Please?

Thanks in advance, kids…I know I can always count on you guys.

Poulet en Cocotte Bonne Femme

  • 1/2-pound piece bacon
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3-pound roasting chicken, trussed and buttered
  • 15 to 25 peeled white onions (about 1-inch diameter)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds boiling potatoes
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Herb bouquet made with 4 parsley sprigs, 1/2 bay leaf, and 1/4 teaspoon thyme tied in washed cheesecloth

1. Remove the rind and cut the bacon into lardons (strips 1/2 inch wide and 1 1/2 inches long). In 2 quarts water, simmer the bacon for 10 minutes. Rinse in cold water and dry. In a fire-proof casserole, saute the bacon for 2 to 3 minutes in 1 tablespoon of the butter until lightly browned. Transfer to a dish.

2. Brown the chicken in the hot fat, breast side down. Brown for 2 minutes, regulating heat so the butter is always very hot but not burning. Turn the chicken on another side using 2 wooden spoons or a towel. Continue browning and turning the chicken until it is a nice golden color almost all over, particularly on the breast and legs. This will take 10 to 15 minutes. Add more oil, if necessary, to keep the bottom of the casserole filmed.

3. Remove the chicken from the pan. Pour the fat out of the casserole. Set the oven at 325 degrees.

4. Drop the onions into boiling, salted water and boil slowly for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

5. Peel the potatoes and trim them into uniform ovals about 2 inches long and 1 inch in diameter. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Drain immediately.

6. In the casserole, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons butter until foaming. Add the potatoes and roll them around over moderate heat for 2 minutes to evaporate their moisture; this will prevent their sticking to the casserole. Spread them in the pan. Salt the chicken and place it breast up in the casserole. Place the bacon and onions on the potatoes and add the herb bouquet. Baste all the ingredients with the butter in the casserole, lay a piece of foil over the chicken, and cover the casserole.

7. Heat the casserole on top of the stove until the contents are sizzling. Transfer to the oven and roast for 1 hour and 10 to 20 minutes or until the chicken leg registers 180 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Baste once or twice with the juices in the pan.

Adapted from “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” Volume One, printed in the Boston Globe.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking…Week Three

Not since purchasing Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours have I loved a cookbook as much as I am loving Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I find myself reading it, as I would a novel. It sits beside my bed when it isn’t being abused in the kitchen. I think about it throughout the day, wondering what I could be making if only I had the time.

On Tuesday, I had the time.

Having picked up a huge pack of chicken at the grocery, I found that all of the ingredients needed for Poulet Saute aux Herbes de Provence were already in my house. Seven and I took a field trip up to the garden and picked thyme and basil (the basil is the most aromatic and flavorful Lemon Basil and Purple Basil) and the rest we found in the fridge.

This recipe comes together easily, and Julia’s directions once again produced a no fail entree. For those of you not into French, the recipe is translated as Chicken Sauteed with Herbs and Garlic, Egg Yolk and Butter Sauce. It wasn’t our typical chicken recipe…but we all enjoyed it. Even little Seven, who rarely likes meat other than bologna and hot dogs, called out for it more than once. The sauce is savory and rich, and the chicken is just the right amount of crisp and juicy. I can see it being made here again…but oh! There are so many more recipes for me to try!

Poulet Sauté aux Herbes de Provence

Bon Appétit August 2009

by Julia Child


1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 3- to 3 1/2-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces, rinsed, patted dry
1 teaspoon dried thyme or savory
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground in spice mill or with mortar and pestle
3 unpeeled garlic cloves
2/3 cup dry white wine or 1/2 cup dry white vermouth
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon dry white wine or dry white vermouth
2 to 3 tablespoons butter, cut into 1-inch cubes (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, fresh fennel fronds, or fresh parsley (optional)


For chicken:

Melt butter in large wide pot over medium-high heat. Working in batches, if necessary, add chicken pieces and cook only until golden, turning occasionally, about 8 minutes per batch. Transfer chicken breast pieces to plate. Sprinkle remaining chicken pieces in pot with half each of thyme, basil, and fennel seeds, then salt and pepper. Add garlic to pot. Cover pot; reduce heat to medium and cook 8 to 9 minutes. Sprinkle chicken breasts with remaining thyme, basil, and fennel seeds, then salt and pepper. Return breast pieces to pot; baste chicken with butter in pot. Cover and cook until chicken is cooked through, turning and basting occasionally, about 15 minutes. Transfer to hot platter; cover.

Remove peel from garlic cloves; mash garlic with spoon or fork in same pot. Add 2/3 cup wine to juices in pot; boil until liquid is reduced to 3/4 cup, occasionally scraping bottom of pan, about 8 minutes. Pour reduced pan juices into measuring cup and reserve for sauce.

For sauce:

Off heat, whisk egg yolks in heavy small saucepan until beginning to thicken. Whisk in lemon juice and 1 tablespoon wine. Gradually whisk reserved pan juices into eggs, 1 teaspoon at a time. Set sauce over very low heat and whisk constantly until warm and slightly thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. If desired, whisk in butter, 1 piece at a time. Remove from heat. Stir in herbs, if desired. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon sauce over chicken and serve.


For those of you who signed on for the Blogging Pen Pals, hang tight! Tomorrow I will be announcing our mailing rotation. In case you want to join us, scroll back a few posts, catch up on the details, then sign on! We’d love to have you!

Mastering the Art of French Cooking…Week Two

On Saturday, in between the time I dropped off my Competition Cake (more on that in another post) and the time they announced the winners (of which I WAS, yippee!), I took myself to see Julie & Julia.
If you are a Foodie (and you probably are, if you are reading this post) you will find this movie right up your alley. Personally, I can admit that until I saw this film, I knew absolutely nothing about Julia Child. Hell, with that whacky accent, she could have been French for all I knew. I had never watched her on television, but know who she was…that bigger than life, loud, cheeky lady who cooked. The one mimicked on SNL by Dan Akroyd. I never knew what kind of person she was at all.
Now, I think I may love her. I started making recipes out of her Mastering the Art of French Cooking last week and became hooked. Seeing the movie just made me want to keep on cooking. I wish I could tell you what it is that draws me to her. Perhaps it is the fact that she was so stubborn, yet full of heart. Perhaps it was the fact that she started her dream so late in her life. Truly, though, I think it was the way she dealt with being childless. It is such an incredibly difficult thing to cope with.
There is a scene in the movie where Julia reads a letter announcing another’s pregnancy and she cries…and then says how happy she is. I have been that person. We tried for so long to have Seven, and it seemed everywhere I turned, another friend or family member was getting pregnant. It was so hard to be happy for them without aching for myself and Jon. I have yet to apologize to my sister-in-law for the way I handled her announcing her own pregnancy…I feel terrible still about leaving the restaurant where we were and taking time to pull myself together so that I wouldn’t have a meltdown in front of the whole family. It wasn’t that I wasn’t happy for her – I really was – it was that I was twice as unhappy for myself. To see how that is played out in another’s life in front of you really makes it hit home, or at least it did for me. It made me feel like maybe I wasn’t crazy for feeling the way I had…Julia felt that way, too. I wept right there in the theater, as I imagine anyone who has been through that would. That being said, I think Meryl Streep could play a Latvian snake charmer living as a Brooklyn street dancer/rapper and pull it off, she’s that good. She made this movie what it is.

So, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I really pushed myself today. Not in the cooking sense, but in the comfort zone sense. I was actually talking aloud, psyching myself up…to make mayonnaise. Julia’s Mayonnaise.

I followed her recipe for making it in the Food Processor, and even though I was ready to fail, it turned out perfectly. I love that she advises you in each step what to do, how things will look and act, and then tells you how to fix any boo boos that may have occurred – not that any did because I followed her recipe to the letter. You can also make mayo by hand following her method and recipe that can be found at The Nibble. If I were you though, I would just buy her book. Seriously, you know you should.

I just got the thumbs up from the Hub, who ate it on a tomato sandwich. While I wanted to love it for myself, I really made it for him. Him, and well, Julia.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking…Week One

It seems to me that the Blogosphere has recently blown up, anticipating the arrival of the movie Julie & Julia (and by Blogosphere, I mean us Foodie Types. I doubt the Emo kids or Political Blogs have really jumped on the culinary arts bandwagon.) I, too, have jumped on. I bought my copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking a couple of weeks ago, and was thrilled when it arrived last Saturday. I was equally as thrilled to learn that both Kayte of Grandma’s Kitchen Table and Helene of la Cuisine d’Helene would be making weekly recipes out of the book as well. So, I think I am going to give it a go! It’s outside of my comfort zone, for one, but that means it’s a learning experience. I love learning…supposedly it keeps you young, but I guess I am more impressed that it gives me an edge during Jeopardy. :)

It is an unusual cookbook for me to love, for a couple of reasons. One, no pictures. I am a sucker for photos in a cookbook. Typically, I won’t buy one if the picture to recipe ratio displeases me. Don’t ask me why, I guess I just like to have an idea of what my finished product should look like. Second, the layout of the recipes. Instead of listing all the needed ingredients at the beginning, they are listed as you will USE them, and how you will use them. Kind of different.

While I thought the layout might be an issue for me, I have found that I really do like it. It keeps me better organized, and her descriptions are spot on. She tells you what to look for in a specific cut of beef, how chickens are split, what makes a good green bean. It is really helpful, and I appreciate the extra guidance.

For our first meal from the book, I chose food items we already had in the house since I was still under the Challenge Budget. I had a bag of Bay Scallops that needed used, so I chose the recipe for Coquilles St. Jacques a la Provencale. In Susan’s kitchen, once you have said that about 7 times in.a.row to your husband, it becomes ScallopsDammitwithWineandCheeseJustQuitAsking, which works just as well and tastes the same going down. To Accompany the ScallopsDammit, we had Gratin Dauphinois – Cheesy Potatoes. Both recipes were excellent, easy to put together despite their fussy French names, and a really nice way to get out of the rut of our typical everyday meals. One can only eat Hamburger Helper or Grilled Chicken so many times before needing a break. (not ME, but, well, someone, I guess.)

I was very impressed with my results if I do say so myself…it was my first time (gasp) cooking with wine. It was my first French recipe. It was my first time making cheesy potatoes from scratch. And it went QUICK. Now I am excited about making more things from the book…crepes, for one. Souffle. Nice.

So that you can try it yourself, I grabbed the recipe from BigOven for you…

Coquilles St. Jacques a la Provencale

1 ½ pounds scallops (or shrimp) washed
1 ¼ C yellow onions minced (I used white, it was what I had)
6 buttered scallop shells or porcelain or pyrex shell (I skipped this part entirely)
5 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon shallot or green onions minced
1 clove garlic minced
salt and pepper
1 c flour sifted
2/3 c dry white wine (mine wasn’t terribly dry, but it worked great)
1 ½ bay leaf
1/8 tsp. thyme
1 ¼ C swiss cheese grated ( Ihad to use Provolone.)

Cook yellow onions slowly in 1 T butter in a small sauce pan for 5 minutes, until tender and translucent but not browned. Stir in the shallots or onions, and garlic, and cook slowly for 1 minute more. Set aside.

Dry the scallops (or shrimp) and cut into ¼ inch pieces. Sprinkle with salt and pepper just before cooking, then roll in flour, and shake off excess flour.
Saute the scallops (or shrimp) quickly in very hot butter and oil for 2 minutes to brown them slightly.

Pour the wine into the skillet with the scallops. Add the herbs and the cooked onion mixture. Cover the skillet and simmer for 5 minutes. Then uncover, and if necessary boil down the sauce rapidly for a minute until it is lightly thickened. Correct seasoning, and discard bay leaf.

Spoon the scallops and sauce into the shells. Sprinkle with cheese and dot with 2 T butter cut into pieces. Just before serving, run under a moderately hot broiler for 3 to 4 minutes to heat through, and brown the cheese slightly.

One of these days I will post the recipe for the potatoes, as I know I will be making them again. Do you have a favorite recipe from the book that I should try? I would love to hear your suggestions!

Tuesdays With Dorie…Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Can you believe it? It’s Tuesday and I managed to actually participate in the Tuesdays With Dorie Recipe! Even more surprising..I had to buy nothing inorder to participate, which reallllly helps out with the end of my Penny Pinching Pantry Raid! Today is my last day, and we MADE it! With a couple of bucks to spare, even! Tomorrow I will be listing everything left in the fridge/freezer/pantry – and I think you’ll be shocked! I was expecting to have emptied everything I own, but that’s not the case at all – we have LOTS of things left, and new things as well! So, I guess what I am saying is – stay tuned. I will give you the full rundown and my assessment tomorrow. Maybe after reading it, you’ll want to play along the next time I do this! (and believe me, there WILL be a next time.)

Back to the Vanilla Ice Cream. Lynne of Cafe LynnyLu decided on Vanilla Ice Cream on pages 428-429. I don’t know why I shun making custards, but I do. I think I imagine the tempering of the eggs to be more trouble than it actually is. Truth be told, I made the custard from start to finish in about 20 minutes, not even paying that much attention to it. And I made it at night, after dinner. Actually, last night to be honest. Nothing like waiting until the last minute. I let it churn in my Cuisinart while Seven was in his bath, and this morning we took pictures of it and ate a little bit for breakfast. (No point in letting the model go to waste, right?)

Thoughts? It’s good. I prefer flavors, but I left this one be just so I could give it a review of it’s own. But it’s a great Vanilla Ice Cream. Smooth, creamy. Just what you want with a vanilla ice cream. Tonight I intend to pair it with a rich dessert, which is why I think vanilla ice cream was invented…to be a side. But that’s just me. Perhaps you crave plain jane vanilla? Or maybe you have a favorite thing to pair it with? Let me know…I have to make something tonight! I need suggestions! Seriously…leave me a comment. I need ideas!

Day 27 Rundown: Spent $0

Breakfast: Seven ate an egg, toast, cheese and a few strawberries. I skipped.

Lunch: Both Seven and I had leftover Pasta Salad. Seven also had a PB & J.

Dinner: Wow, dinner deserves a post all it’s own, and I intend to do just that…later this week. As you know, I just got Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, and I made 2 recipes from it for dinner. Oh good grief. That woman knew what she was doing. We had scallops, peas, and cheesy potatoes. That’s the English translation, anyway. Oh, we also had deep fried zucchini straws, and I intend to post on those as well. Beyond good. Just beyond. I promise to post soon! This week!

1 Day to Go, $2.16 left to spend.