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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Novice Foodie: Julia & Julie & Kelli

Posted By on Tue, Sep 8, 2009 at 3:15 PM

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Part of my concept of what being a foodie entails is being able to cook well. I think I'm a decent home cook. I cook mostly from scratch, and I love being in the kitchen, but dishes that take a long time or have a complicated ingredient list intimidate me, mostly because I have the attention span of a gnat. As part of the Novice Foodie, I'll be tackling both notorious and difficult (for me) recipes as both a learning experience and an exercise in humility.

If you like food and you haven't heard of Julie Powell and her Julie & Julia project, you've been under a rock for the past three months. Her story has been everywhere. The brief synopsis: Disillusioned blogger sets out to cook every recipe (all 524 of 'em) in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking (MtAoFC) in one year and blog about it. The blog prompted a book (Julie & Julia), which prompted a movie (Julie & Julia), released this summer.

During the height of the hoopla, I borrowed my friend Christine's copy of MtAoFC and immediately fell in love. It's not just a book of recipes, but a textbook for learning basic French techniques. I bought my very own copy last weekend, and I knew what I wanted to cook first: beef bourguignon (beef stew in red wine, with bacon, onions and mushrooms).

I love cooking with wine because I love the flavor it imparts in savory dishes. I also like drinking the wine I'm cooking with. I thought last week's cold spell the perfect setting for a hearty dish like a beef stew, which, conveniently, wouldn't take that many dishes, so cleanup would be easy. Sunday night, I gathered up the ingredients I'd need to channel Julia Child and make a proper French dinner.

The dish starts by cutting bacon into lardons and then boiling these to get rid of the smokiness. While the bacon was simmering, I prepped the carrots and onions and dried off the beef. Without drying the beef, it would be hard to get a nice brown sear. When the bacon was done, I drained it and then fried it in the bottom of my heavy casserole dish. I then removed the bacon and browned the beef chunks in the bacon fat in small batches.

This took FOREVER. This was also when I realized that it didn't feel like fall was on the way. Somehow it was muggy and hot on this, the day I needed to slave over a hot stove, and I was sweating like a whore in church. I could feel the potential zits rubbing their pimple-hands under my skin, just waiting to emerge triumphantly.

Lovely.

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