Sunday, October 23, 2011

Beouf Bourguignon

I'm amazed how long I haven't updated my blog. Not that I haven't cooked anything for that long, but I mainly made just pasta or Chinese and didn't really use any of Julia's recipes.
Finally I came around all the school work and occasional social events back to my regular cooking on the weekend. As a result of over eating in Shenandoah National Park last weekend, I have restrained myself to a vegetarian diet this week, and decided if I could make it through I would make beouf bourguignon on the weekend. Okay, I don't think I lost a substantial amount of weight, but I did get back in shape somewhat. So it's time to spoil myself a little. Actually, the spoiling started on Friday when I had this sudden urge to bake and made shortbread. A sinful food because you can't stop eating it! Anyway, I made my beouf bourguignon.

I followed Julia's suggestion to dry the beef before brown them and I did not crowd them in the pan. Unfortunately I had used too much mushroom in my chicken meuniere yesterday so I didn't have enough mushroom for today, and I also didn't use small onions as a whole but instead chopped up big onions into big chunks. I think all worked well nonetheless.

I believe the most important secret to the success is the total use of wine and broth instead of water. I did not add a single drop of water in it but used entirely red cooking wine and chicken broth, with of course, the natural juice from the food and beef fat. I am sure it'll turn out to be even better if I had used authentic burgundy wine and beef broth. But I had to deal with what I had, and it was not bad.

Like always, whenever I was in the kitchen with my cookbook, I could feel Julia Child was with me.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

chicken meunière

Chicken sautéd in butter, with creamy mushroom and asparagus sauce. I feel much warmer after eating. The sudden drop of temperature almost made me believe that winer's here. A warm kitchen turns everything so much better.

The only sadness in the kitchen today is that my cucumber went bad. I had forgotten about it. I don't really like cucumber, I bought it for the possibility of pasta salad, which I had changed into mashed potatoes for the dinner party. It gave up on me after three days! I still can't believe it!

Anyway, the chicken turned out to be fantastic. Julia's recipe recommended creamy mushroom sauce. I added asparagus because I realized that I bought some. A note to remember in the future: do not buy too much produce at once!

I also made fried green beans with red chili pepper and a bit of ground beef; a popular Chinese dish. Brown rice went well with the two dishes, and I have plenty left-overs for lunches during the week.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Dinner party

Last night's dinner party was so successful that I almost fell in love with myself.
Julia's cabbage role is so fantastic that I just want to make more of them again! Great I still have a big part of the cabbage left. Although next time I will remember to boil the cabbage leaves longer because they are not as tender as cabbages in China.
The chocolate brownie turned from a failed mousse worked out really well. The girls loved it!
The mashed potatoes look yellow because I used both potatoes and yams, with salt and pepper, and of course, old bay!
Kung-pao chicken was a bit different from the first time I made them, but probably because I used scallion instead of leek this time.
Now I really think I can cook. I really can cook. I do. I'm falling in love with my kitchen.

Friday, September 30, 2011

my first dinner party

Tonight I'm having my first dinner party. I will cook for six people including myself. On demand, I will make a Chinese spicy dish called Kung-pao chicken. And, in order to follow my Julia Child's cookbook I will make cabbage rolls. Desert was supposed to be chocolate mousse. But when I realized that I couldn't beat the egg white to a foamy peak by hand I gave up trying. To fix my soon-to-fail mousse, I added flour and put it into the oven to turn it into a chocolate brownie. It came out of the oven looking fine, but I will have to wait for my guests to comment on the tastes.

Although little nervous, and excited about the party, I feel also quite bad about not studying much this week. Weekends will have to be productive, I'm setting my alarm clock tonight.

Wish me luck, Julia.
I'll come back later with results and pictures of the dinner party.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Chicken ragout with onion and red wine

After a whole week of anticipation, I finally made the ragout. As my roommate said, I am getting exponentially better. I am no longer in a hurry when I cook. I don't rush things up and I am more at ease with each step.
This week has been crazy. First I couldn't wake up in the morning. Everyday I woke up no seeing the morning light. Then I couldn't fall asleep. After two nights of insomnia, finally Friday night's booze came to my rescue. Two beer and one sip of vodka saved my sleep.
Therefore, last night I was able to gradually get back in track after a long day at the Renaissance fair.
Still stressful from all the school work, I have found this week to be particularly unproductive. I began procrastinating and stress eating. But I have been keep up with my yoga every two or three days. Life is hectic, and there's never enough time.
Fortunately, I could still find the joy in cooking; something should remain beautiful, even though I may be thinking about other impossible and irrelevant things.
I learned to use the buerre manie according to Julia's direction, instead of just using corn starch. Then, to go with the chicken, I chose to make sautéed zucchini. The recipe told me to grate the zucchinis, but I just sliced them and it worked out fine.
Another success meal, my roommate is starting to bake. I feel the calories on my hips and love handles getting thick. But I am happier and merrier.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Fast Sauté of Beef for Two

To begin with the title, it didn't seem as fast for me, HAHA. Maybe I'm just such a rookie that anything that needs to be cooked with more than one saucepan would not be considered fast for me.

Slightly better than yesterday, I was more organized and didn't have to run around in our little kitchen not knowing what my next step would be, meanwhile burning the food on the stove. Although, I could have cooked everything in a more sensible order so that I didn't have to put the onions back to the saucepan where I just cooked the mushrooms only to find out that I should have put the beef into the mushroom saucepan and let the onions simmering in another pan. The problem is, I don't have a third pan! So when I say that my cooking would be "made-do" not only because I don't measure according to the recipes and don't have the correct herbs, I'm also dealing with limited equipments here. Nonetheless, I don intend to change the herbs situation by reminding myself to shop for herbs before I cook next time so that I won't have to put oregano in everything.

Some notes about this dish. I didn't find small white onions, but one big one worked just as well. And I must say, which I forgot to mention yesterday, how wonderful the idea was to buy sliced mushrooms instead of regular ones. Saved so much time!!! About the meat, thank God today's beef is in a much better shape than yesterday's chicken. Only perhaps I could have cooked it a bit longer since it was not as tender as I imagined. Then again, Chinese and American may have different standard of beef's tenderness, which is why my roommate said it was fine and loved the dish. Since I'm all about proximity I must mention again that I do not have French white wine but used Chinese White cooking rice wine instead. Now that I'm looking back at the recipe, I also realize that when making the sauce, I was not generous enough with the cornstarch, despite the fact that the front of my shirt is marked with a thin white trail and my struggles to open the cornstarch box properly; which, by the way, is not yet properly closed either. (I was not very good at opening new packages today; I didn't know how to use the can opener to open the chicken broth and Emily did it for me.) Furthermore, I used water instead of chicken broth to mix the cornstarch! Oh NO! That's why I still  have some broth left in the can!!! Duhhhhh!!!
Oh well, all in all, it was another fine dish. I'm not very hard on myself you may have found out. That's because I'm so overloaded with school work I'd be happy just to have the time to cook. No one should be too hard on oneself. I'm just super easy-going, even with myself. Maybe I should make that my motto.

P.S. I watched Julie & Julia while cooking and eating. It was a magical feeling when Julie and I were both browning the mushrooms in Julia's way. When Julie put the butter under Julia's picture, I could almost smell the butter in my dish. All of a sudden, I felt my life was lightening up. Even now that I have to return to my research for expository writing, it doesn't feel as bad. In fact, it may be conducive to my writing because I may write my first definition argument something about cooking! Wouldn't that be fun!

A.P.S. Our next door neighbor, my roommate's classmate just brought us cheddar apple scone! Perfect timing for Dessert!

The rice is some left-over brown rice I was trying to finish, and went well with the beef.
The chef with the dish and the wine! Maybe I'm too narcissistic calling myself a chef, but I'm being encouraging. Besides, everyone should be optimistic, right? Right!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Day when the cookbook arrives

As I'm starting my blog, I am still finishing up my Chicken Provencale.

The idea came to me as a wimp; I should get a Julia Child's cookbook and start cooking from it like Julie Powell did. Then my roommate said that I should blog it. So here I am. Maybe this is a little cliche, but I think it'll be fun.

Considering the left-over chicken breast in my fridge, I decided to start with poultry. Hence, Chicken Provencale, because I also have an old tomato left. Besides, nothing con go wrong with tomatoes.

After a laborious grocery shopping at the shoppers across the street from my apartment complex, I returned with victory! But really, how can you shop for groceries without a car. It was hard work just to carry all the bags of groceries home. Anyway, it's good exercise.

I had too much confidence in our kitchen and realized that we didn't have Provencial herbs. Oh well, it'll do. I sautéed the chicken, which turned out to taste a bit funny because it's a little too old, I think. I did not feed this to my roommate.

Julia said one should use tomato pulp to make the sauce. My question was, how am I going to do with the tomato pieces without the pulps? I chopped them and threw them in the pan anyway. To replace the required herbs, I used a bit of oregano, and salt and pepper. I planned to make a side dish of mushrooms and ended up adding them to the chicken after they were sautéed. I have to admit, I don't like precision very much, so I played around the recipes.

Maybe I didn't mention, but I am not following the classic French cookbook Julia wrote and Julie used. I am using the more basic one, "The Way to Cook". Got a pretty nice deal on Amazon.

I do not have the determination that Julie had, to cook every recipe in the cookbook. I take this more as a fun getaway from my endless reading and writing for classes. Oh, one more thing I have in common with Julie, if any, is that I am a writer too, or at least trying to be one.

When I'm in the kitchen with Julia, I feel liberated from Aristotle's theories about Rhetoric.

My first cookbook!