Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mastering the Art of French Cooking

The Curious Cooks are back and working it, Julia Child style! For this month's cooking club we chose recipes from Julia Child's cookbook "Mastering the Art of French Cooking". The food was amazing. How could it not be with all that butter and cream? In addition to being tasty, we also discovered how time consuming french cooking can be.

Here we all are (before our tummies were full of rich food) - Amanda, Sarah, Janna, Madelynne, Bonnie & Glory
Tonight's menu included Brioche, Soup a la Victorine, Ratatouille, Ham w/ mushroom cream sauce, and finally a blueberry Clafoutis for dessert. Is your mouth watering yet?

Here's a picture of my plate. It's grape juice, just in case you were wondering. Ha ha.

The brioche was amazing - so rich and buttery. Madelynne really outdid herself on these. The recipe is huge (and takes 8 hours) so if you would like a copy, just mention it in your comments and I will email you a copy).

Here is Bonnie's contribution - Soup a la Victorine (puree of white bean soup, eggplant and tomato garnish)  Same thing here -if you want a copy of the recipe, tell me in your comments and I'll email the pdf.

Janna made ham with mushroom cream sauce

Sarah made the classic vegetarian dish - Ratatouille

Glory brought a little bubbly.

Finally we finished the meal with my treat - a blueberry Clafoutis. What a great meal!


Blueberry Claufoutis
(Serves 6-8)

1 1/4 cups milk
1/3 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups flour
3 cups blueberries
1/3 cup sugar
powdered sugar

In a blender blend the milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt and flour. Pour a 1/4 inch layer of the batter in a buttered 7 or 8 cup lightly buttered fireproof baking dish or 9 inch pie plate that is 1 1/2 inches deep. Place in the oven for 5 minutes until a film of batter sets in the pan. Remove from the heat and spread the berries over the batter. Sprinkle on the 1/3 cup of sugar. Pour on the rest of the batter. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. The clafouti is done when puffed and brown and and a knife plunged in the center comes out clean. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, serve warm.

For 6 to 8 people

1/2 pound eggplant
1/2 pound zucchini
A 3-quart, porcelain or stainless-steel mixing bowl
1 teaspoon salt
A 10- to 12-inch enameled skillet
4 tablespoons olive oil, more if needed
1/2 pound (about 1 1/2 cups) thinly sliced yellow onions
2 (about 1 cup) slice d green bell peppers
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil, if necessary
2 cloves mashed garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound firm, ripe, red tomatoes, peeled, seeded and juiced (makes 1 1/2 cups pulp)
Salt and pepper
A 2 1/2 quart fireproof casserole about 2 1/2 inches deep
3 tablespoons minced parsley
Salt and pepper
Peel the eggplant and cut into lengthwise slices 3/8 inch thick, about 3 inches long and 1 inch wide. Scrub the zucchini, slice off the two ends and cut the zucchini into slices about the same size as the eggplant slices. Place the vegetables in a bowl and toss with the salt. Let stand for 30 minutes. Drain. Dry each slice in a towel.
Drain your eggplant and zucchini slices and dry them on a towel.

One layer at a time, sautée the eggplant, and then the zucchini in hot olive oil for about a minute on each side to brown very lightly. Remove from the pan and set aside.

In the same skillet, cook the onions and the peppers slowly in olive oil for about 10 minutes, or until tender but now browned. Stir in the garlic and season to taste.

Boil a small pot of water and immerse your tomatoes for about 10 seconds. Remove, cool, and peel off the skins. 

Slice the peeled tomatoes through the center (crosswise and not through the stem), and gently squeeze them over a bowl to extract the juices and seeds. Slice the juiced and seeded tomatoes (Julia calls this the “tomato pulp”) into 3/8 inch strips. 

Lay the sliced tomato pulp over the onions and peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the skillet and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, or until the tomatoes have begun to render their juice. Uncover, baste with the juices, raise heat and boil for several minutes, until juice has almost evaporated.

Place a third of the tomato mixture in the bottom of a heavy casserole pot (the recipe calls for a 2 1/2 quart fireproof casserole about 2 1/2 inches deep) and sprinkle over it 1 Tb. of parsley. Arrange half of the eggplant and zucchini on top, then half the remaining tomatoes and parsley. Put in the rest of the eggplant and zucchini, and finish with the remaining tomatoes and parsley.

Cover the casserole and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Uncover, tip casserole and baste with the rendered juices Correct seasoning, if necessary. Raise heat slightly and cook uncovered for about 15 minutes more, basting several times, until juices have evaporated leaving a spoonful or two of flavored olive oil. Be careful of your heat; do not let the vegetables scorch in the bottom of the casserole.
Set aside, uncovered, and reheat slowly at serving time, or serve cold.

Ham with mushroom cream sauce
 Serves  6 people

1/2 pound sliced fresh mushrooms
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon good cooking oil
3 tablespoons minced shallots
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch of pepper
2 1/2 pounds sliced ham
2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon cooking oil, more if needed
1/4 cup Madeira or dry white vermouth (can substitute white grape juice or apple juice)
3/4 cup beef stock
1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons cornstarch blended with 1 tablespoon of the cream
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons softened butter
parsley sprigs

1) Sauté the mushrooms in the first amount given of butter and oil for about five minutes, or until lightly browned. Stir in the shallots and cook for a minute longer. Season the mushrooms and scrape them into a side dish.
2) Cut ham into slices
3) Place butter and oil in the skillet and set over moderately high heat. When the butter foam begins to subside, sauté the ham, a few pieces at a time, for 2-3 minutes on each side
4) Pour the wine and stock into the skillet and boil it down rapidly, scraping up the coagulated cooking juices, until liquid is reduced to about 1/3 cup. Beat in the cream, then the cornstarch mixture. Simmer a minute. Add the mushrooms and simmer a minute more. The sauce should be lightly thickened. Correct seasonings.
5) Season the ham lightly with salt and pepper and return it to the skillet along with any juices which may have escaped. Baste the ham with the sauce and mushrooms, or transfer everything to a serving casserole.
6) When you are ready to serve, cover the skillet or casserole and heat to below the simmer for 3-4 minutes, being very careful not to overcook. Turn off heat and just before serving, tilt casserole, add butter to sauce a bit at a time while basting the meat until the butter has absorbed. Decorate with parsley and serve at once.

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