29 August 2009

Julie and Julie & Julia. Oh, and mayo.

I went to the Alamo Drafthouse a couple weeks ago and saw Julie & Julia "with" other Austin area food bloggers. I say "with" because there wasn't much talking, mostly watching, which was sort of a relief. I had read all the reviews of the movie and was sort of apprehensive. They mostly all said the same thing: Meryl Streep is a vision as Julia Child and Amy Adams can't hold her own against the actress, though she is handicapped by her role because the story of Julie Powell isn't nearly as intriguing.

In a way, they're totally right. I first picked up the book in the fall of 2007 because I saw my name on the cover, which was impetus enough for me to flip it over and read the dust jacket. This was around the time that I first started cooking, so the theme of the book resonated with me. Not wanting to actually pay for it myself, it made its way onto my Christmas list and my little brother got it for me. I read it in the span of about three days when I went to D.C. for New Years and I was really glad that I didn't pay for it myself.

The book and movie are set up in a similar fashion. It weaves the stories of Julie and Julia's lives in a way similar to the way the Earth (Julia) and Moon (Julie) orbit the sun together. No, the Moon does not actually orbit the Earth, it orbits the Sun, but it sure does look like the Moon is orbiting the Earth. Astronomy references aside, they both tell their separates stories together, except that in the book, Julie Powell made up stories about what Julia's life was like and in the movie, Julia's story was adapted from her autobiography My Life In France. I highly recommend that book. The fictitious Julia scenes in Julie&Julia(thebook) were kind of stupid and MLiF is a really sweet story told by Julia about the great loves of her life: Paul, food, and France.

By the time I went to see the movie, it had been awhile since I had read J&JtB, but MLiF was fresh in my memory. On the Julie side of the movie, it softened her imaged and rounded the corners of her pricklyness. She was still portrayed as rather self-centered, but in a way that didn't necessarily make you hate her, unlike the book; meltdowns seemed the exception, not the rule. For this, I'm grateful to Amy Adams for making me feel less stupid for going to see the movie; however, the Julia side was rife with inaccuracies that bothered me. Now don't get me wrong, Meryl Streep plays an amazing, impressive Julia Child. She makes up for the height differential by the cadence of her voice and her movements as she really becomes Julia, but the story wasn't 100% true to MLiF.

My Life In France is as much a love story between Julia and Paul Child as it is between Julia and French cuisine. The movie makes their (julia and paul) relationship much more lustful than loving... i.e. I could have done with way fewer Julia Child sex scenes. And I think the scene that bothered me the most was when they showed her famous mortar and pestle on her counter with a big red bow atop as a gift. In the book, she and Paul went around the markets and she found a giagantic mortar and pestle and Paul lovingly carried the large thing on his shoulders all the way back to their car. It's one of the most touching parts of her book and it's completely misrepresented in the movie. Her difficult relationship with Simca was also glossed over, as well as the timeline of her relationship with Avis de Soto, but most glaring of all Meryl Streep is WAY too old to play out most of the early scenes in the movie. She was in her mid thirties when she attended Le Cordon Bleu, and though Meryl Streep did a wonderful job, she definitely did not look anywhere near 30... or even 40.

In all, though, it was a wonderful movie and my complaints are nitpicking. I loved the movie and it inspired me to try to cook more often and with more creativity. In fact, shortly before the movie came out, I bought a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and until the movie came out, I hadn't really used the book. Shortly thereafter, I made her scrambled eggs (whoa em gee. so good!) and tonight I made mayonnaise... by hand. It turns out that she definitely knew what she was talking about.

3 egg yolks, room temperature
1/2+ tsp salt
1/4+ tsp mustard (I used dijon because I hate yellow)
1 T+ acid (I used white wine vinegar, but is interchangable with lemon juice)
1 2/3c olive oil
2 T crazy hot water

1)Take a metal mixing bowl and run under hot water to make warm. Wipe dry with a cloth.

2)Beat the 3 egg yolks with a wire whisk until they're "sticky" (Julia's word not mine). This should take 1-2 minutes.

3)Whisk in 1/2 t salt, 1/4 t mustard, and 1T acid until combined, about 30 seconds.

4)Begin whisking the mixture and add in the oil a few drops at a time. Julia suggests that you whisk at least 2 sweeps per second. Don't stop whisking. After about 1/3-1/2 c of oil is incorporated, it should be cream-like and sticky-ish again. At this point you can stop your continual whisking and add in the oil about 1-2 T at a time. If the mixture gets too thick, then add in more acid a couple drops at a time to thin it out. Also, hot water will be added at the end so don't get to carried away.

5) Once all the oil is incorporated, whisk in 2 T of hot water. Julia says that this is a safeguard against separation. After, season with the mustard, salt, acid, and pepper to taste. (I ended up adding more salt.)

I ended up with a little under 2 cups. It's different than Helmann's and I would argue to say much more flavorful and way less gross. ;) Be sure to refrigerate if you're not using it right away and put it in an airtight container. If you put plastic wrap down over the top, it won't develop that gross film on top that so defines mayo.

25 August 2009

Chicken Tortilla Soup

It's that time of year again... classes start tomorrow and I'm not particularly excited about the prospect of grading, being graded, and being degraded. (Okay, maybe that last one is a bit dramatic, but I am *not* a drama queen. ::ahem::) Usually, the ill-effects of class going are mitigated, at least slightly, by going out to lunch. This has become a daily occurrence in the department, but it all seems a bit costly. My solution to this for this year (at least for the next week or so until I forget about it) is to make large batches of soup and take that to lunch.

The other day I tried making chicken tortellini soup with horrible tortellini. They were discarded before hitting the stock pot, but I was left with a lot of vegetables in broth. And then I discovered the jar of salsa in the fridge. Thus chicken fauxtilla soup was born.

3 chicken breasts baked and pulled
1 jar salsa (I used some smoked chipotle stuff. the kind in the small jar)
64ish oz chicken stock
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3-4 celery stalks, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 ear's worth of corn kernels
1.5 c tortilla chips
1 Tbs olive oil

Saute onion, carrots, and celery and about a tsp of salt in olive oil until the veggies are softened. Add in corn and garlic and stir until fragrant (like 30 seconds). Add in chicken stock, salsa, chicken, and tortilla chips. Let simmer until the tortilla chips are "dissolved" and the soup gets a thicker consistency.

You can also add in herbs. I guess if I had been thinking ahead, I would have put in oregano. I also took the celery leaves from the heart and chopped them up and put them in the soup because it makes me feel thrifty.

18 August 2009

Potato Chip Chicken

I should really start taking pictures again, but I'm currently using a film camera, which makes me all hipster and shit as well as completely broke. You see, it costs EIGHT BUCKS to develop ONE ROLL. Hence, my picture taking has been limited. Anywho.

Dinner tonight was awesome, although now I'm regretting eating like 3/4 of a bag of brussels sprouts. It turns out that they're really tasty. In addition to the brussels sprouts bonanza, we had potato chip chicken in an effort to do something different. The idea for potato chip chicken came from tortilla chip chicken that I saw on a Martha Stewart Kingdom show on Create. We had salt and pepper chips on hand, so I took a handful, crushed them in a plastic bag with a jar of honey (this isn't a required implement).

Potato Chip Chicken (Makes 4 servings, unless you're married to Colby in which case it makes 2. 1 piece for you and 3 for him.)

2 chicken breasts cut in half
flour for dreging
1 egg + 1ish Tbs water beaten
crushed potato chips

Preheat the oven to 375. Season chicken on all sides with salt and pepper. Dredge in the flour making sure to shake off the excess. Dip in the egg wash and then coat in the potato chips. Place in the oven for 25ish minutes or until the inside is 175-180 F.

It sounds kind of crazy, but it was really good. We buy frozen chicken breasts because we're poor. I discovered that the chicken being completetly thawed is super important if you want the chips to stay crispy on the outside. This is also somewhat healthier way to get a "fried" flavor into your chicken without actually almost setting your house on fire. :)

The reason why I wanted to do something *different* was because we're trying to menu plan and not eat out or go to a grocery store for *at least* a week, but Kyle's coming for a couple days at the end of the week, so we'll see if I can actually stick it out. And posted below is our menu for the week (which is mostly for my sake).

Monday: Potato Chip Chicken and Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Tuesday: Chicken Salad (w/greek yogurt, NOT mayo), roasted corn
Wednesday: baked Chicken Parmasean with pasta
Thursday: Umami burgers and corn
Friday: Chicken Tortellini Soup

16 August 2009

Hatch Season!

It's hatch green chile season once again and there's a glut of them at the local grocery stores. I'm pretty sure that if there's a state that I am spiritually from besides Michigan, it's definitely New Mexico. I definitely go hatch crazy! Anaheim peppers are similar, but not grown in the designated county, so these are special peppers. Being that I've been on a hummus kick, I decided that roasted hatch "hummus" would be a really great end-of-summer snack.

Hummus is very basically garbanzo beans + tahini + lemon juice + olive oil. A lot of other ingredients are often added including roasted red pepper. In fact, I have roasted red pepper hummus sitting in my fridge, but I couldn't resist making this reformulated version for a light dinner tonight. In the version, black beans replace the garbanzo, lime juice replaces lemon, and avocado replaces tahini. Tahini is roasted ground sesame seeds and has a high fat content, so something that was similarly fatty needed to replace it to help maintain a similar texture.

Hatch "hummus"

2 roasted hatch peppers, seeded and skinned
1 14-15 oz can black beans, rinsed
1/4 c avocado, diced
1/4 c olive oil
2 cloves garlic, grated
2-3 Tbs lime juice
salt to taste

Roast the hatch peppers any way you like. Since we have an electric stove as well as a grill ban at our apartment, I coated the peppers in vegetable oil since it has a higher smoke point than olive oil and then put them under the broiler until the skins blistered. The time will vary based on your oven, peppers, etc. so keep an eye on them. It probably took 3-4 minutes on each side for me. After roasting, place in a sealable plastic bag and leave sealed until they're at least cool enough to handle. This makes taking the skin off super easy.

Add the peppers, black beans, avocado, 2 T lime juice, and garlic to a food processor. I usually just grate the garlic over the other ingredients. Pulse a few times to break down the beans, peppers, and avocado. Taste to see if you want more lime juice and add if desired. Turn the food processor back on and drizzle in the olive oil.

The peppers add some water to help thin out the mixture. If the texture isn't to your liking, add in water, about a tablespoon at a time.

09 August 2009

best burgers ever

Umami is the fifth taste. We all know sweet, sour, salty, and bitter but umami is what adds depth and savor. Mushrooms and soy sauce are loaded with umami, but one sure way to add umami to your dishes is with fish sauce. Most people are afraid of fish sauce (okay, by "most" people I mean all of my very not Asian friends in the central Texas region), but be not afraid of fish sauce! It's what you're missing in many of the meals that you eat. I'm pretty sure that the lack of depth in my Thai curry is due to my timidity with the fish sauce. And thanks to White on Rice Couple I've discovered that what I've been missing from my burgers has been fish sauce.

Adapted from White on Rice Couple:

1 lb ground beef (I used 90/10 grass fed)
1 Tbs fish sauce
3 cloves garlic, grated or finely minced
1 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp sugar

Mix fish sauce, garlic, pepper, and sugar in a bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves. No need for salt here since the fish sauce provides plenty. Mix into the ground beef and let sit for about 30 minutes. Form into four 1/2 inch patties and cook in your favorite (or only legal) method. Apparently the city of Austin forbids grills on apartment patios, so we cook all our burgers in a piping hot cast iron skillet. Flip once and *never* smash. Then, top the patties in (bleu) cheese and cover towards the end such that the cheese gets nice and melted. We ate ours with umami packed mushrooms that were sauteed in butter, garlic, and the most expensive olive oil I've ever bought. But I guess I have to use it at some point.

04 August 2009

Olive Oil Cake... tastier than it sounds

The September issue of Bon Appetit featured two very happy articles. First, it named Faygo Root Beer as the number one root beer in the Top Picks section. I take pride in this, of course, because anything that remotely involves Detroit totally has to do with me (except for the whole crooks running the local government). Second, it included a recipe for olive oil cake. The original recipe called for orange zest, but I subbed meyer lemon zest because that was all the citrus we had on hand. So tasty! I also covered it in a glaze to help amp up the citrus because I didn't want expensive pieces of fruit to rot and I had some left over from a batch of meyer lemon ice cream.

Olive Oil Cake (adapted from Bon Appetit)

1.5 c AP flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 c granulated sugar
2 eggs
3/4c milk (we had 2% and it called for whole, so I added in a Tbs of cream as well)
1/2 c olive oil
1 T packed meyer lemon zest

lemon glaze (1/2 c powdered sugar + 2 T lemon juice, stir well til smooth)

set oven to 325. flour and oil a loaf pan. whisk dry ingredients together to combine. whisk eggs, milk, oil, and zest in a separate bowl and then stir gently into the wet ingredients. pour into pan and bake for ~1 hr or until you can cleanly remove a toothpick from the center. Remove from the loaf pan and let cool for 15 minutes. Top with lemon glaze.

I used Central Market Organics brand extra virgin olive oil, which isn't heavy handed in its oliveyness, but rather slightly fruity. The oil shouldn't be incredibly assertive because it will clash with the sweetness.