Sunday, August 9, 2009


I love to cook. I mean, I really love to cook. Starting as a young girl crafting and molding inedible mud pies in our backyard to one day dreaming of cranking out sublime, lighter than air pastries. Those dreams have never completely come true, and I'm not quite sure why. Perhaps it's time, fear, laziness or just plain a lack of ability.

I watched my parents cook for years; mainly my mother. But my father jumped on the bandwagon at one time, tackling one of the simplest of cuisine - French. I can't precisely recall how exactly he came to buying Mastering the Art of French Cooking - Volumes One and Two, but suddenly there were multiple pieces of Le Creuset (cookware) and quarts of heavy cream covering an entire shelf of our refrigerator.

While Mastering the Art of French Cooking - Volume One resides in my father's kitchen (I must plot its escape into my luggage during our next visit) I happen to have Volume Two; a notably very different set of recipes and techniques than its predecessor. What's the same is the simplicity in which recipes are based; simple ingredients and simple preparation. And today ingreidents are much more accessible than almost 40 years ago (when Volume One was published).

And after seeing Julie & Julia last night my desire to kick off my shoes and get into the kitchen is as strong as ever. (But my track record as a "food blogger" isn't so good... I've started and stopped numerous times, telling my husband it's stupid and silly. And I've always felt my photography skills were too weak to do any food the right justice. But that's hopefully all in the past... for now.) At this very moment, I'm actually contemplating being a true copycat [of Julie Powell and her Julie/Julia Project] and tackling a predetermined list of Julia Child recipes from Volumes One and Two. There are some very personal favorites, like Vichyssoise, Boeuf Bourguignon and Julia's scalloped potatoes with nothing more than potatoes, butter, salt, pepper, Gruyere and heavy cream. (There are remains, still, of these delectable potatoes on my hips consumed during my adolescence.)

Now I've been inspired to tackle the recipes of foods I happen to love (and happen to consider to be the Holy Grail of foods). Recipes of foods I can't find plentiful here in the south. Recipes like brioche; a simple egg bread but easy to completely destroy.

And cream of mushroom soup. (This Volume Two receipe is a simpler verson than its Volume One partner.)

And then there's Italian meringue, or what we Americans refer to as "Chantilly cream".

But, undoubtedly, there's one recipe I have never dared to approach. But I'm hopeful to conjure up the courage, although the entire recipe spans 7-1/2 pages.

And I can find one place where my parents noted a favorite; beef.

It happens to be the only folded page in the book so it must have been important.

And here's where my mother or my father noted the importance of searing the beef for Julia's Beef Stew with Onions and Red Wine.

Thankfully I've approached and tackled difficult recipes before, and have made repeatedly because they were a success.

It comes from this cookbook.

Bless its heart; it has seen better days.

And since I've had success with this cookbook, I'll take on what I believe are some of the easier recipes. (Could be famous last words.)

Which starts with this...

So, in short, today I'm going to create a list of recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking - Volume Two and The Best of Bon Appetit; my very own, personal version of a copycat project. To time constrain or not to time constrain? After all, that's what Julie Powell did. But if starting and stopping something with discipline is a prerequisite, I'm in trouble. It took me over an hour to write this post because life, being a wife, and motherhood all took priority.

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