We are finally at the last week of cooking! Actually, we were there about a month ago but it’s taken me a while to catch up.
I saved French week for the very end because French food is so revered and is viewed by many as the best. I’ll save my thoughts on that perspective for another post but it’s safe to say, I was a believer before taking on this project. I knew it would be time consuming and it would require a lot of knowledge and effort so that’s why I saved it for the end. I figured that by the end of it, I would be a much better cook and would have some extra skills that would help me take on the Goliath of international cuisine.
One of my birthday gifts from James was Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1. I’ve always wanted to buy this cookbook but I couldn’t ever justify spending $30 on it. I don’t know why; it’s huge, it’s a classic, it wasn’t ever going to be any cheaper, but I just couldn’t do it. But what I could do was ask someone else to buy it for me as a gift so when James took me to Book People for my birthday and said I could buy whatever I wanted (within reason) I grabbed this one and handed it over! Thanks James!
This cookbook is WORTH $30. It’s worth a lot more but $30 is a good starting point. I feel dumb praising it because I’m sure so many people are already aware of how great and amazing this cookbook is and you’re probably like “Yeah dummy, that’s why it’s a classic!” but I didn’t know until I owned it. It shows you how to do everything! The difference between chopping and dicing vegetables, the different ways to ice a cake, the reasoning behind using certain utensils, and (my favorite part) what to serve alongside your main dishes. This was extremely helpful and I wish more cookbooks did this, especially when you’re dealing with foreign cuisine. If every recipe had done this during my months long project, I would have done a lot less research in putting my meals together. I could have saved so much time! So yes, if you can, add this to your library. It’s most definitely worth it.
For the first night I chose an easy dinner of chicken breasts in cream and veggies of asparagus and carrots. I needed a meal that was easy and quick because that week was a little hectic. The recipe called for boneless chicken breasts but for some reason I bought bone-in chicken breasts. I didn’t think it would make that big of a difference, and it didn’t in terms of flavor, but it might have in cooking time. The recipe said to cook the chicken for a total of eight minutes in the oven at 400 degrees. I was a little skeptical of this because I’ve never had chicken cook so quickly but I tried it anyway. Yeah, eight minutes later, my chicken was still a little pink. Gross. It ended up taking almost twenty minutes for the chicken to be cooked but thankfully it just sat in the oven so I was able to do other things. I looked around online and this seems to a be a common problem so either Julia Childs and the French don’t mind eating undercooked chicken or she and the French have some high powered oven that is not available in the US. Also, the recipe said to cover the chicken in buttered wax paper. I have yet to figure out the purpose of this and I also couldn’t find an explanation in the cookbook so if any of you know the benefit of this, please share.
I didn’t really do anything special with the asparagus, just blanched them and then rolled in butter, but I did follow a recipe in the book for buttered carrots. It wasn’t complicated and it didn’t call for different ingredients but it did involve preparing the carrots in a way I hadn’t done before. I basically boiled the carrots and yes, I have done that before BUT not with sugar water. That sugar water made a huge difference because those carrots came out fantastic! Of course they were sweet but they were so yummy!
This meal was a great way to start French week! The chicken was, of course, creamy and rich and I couldn’t stop eating it. Both of the girls also ate this meal and I think this is when the baby fell in love with carrots because she’s been requesting them ever since. I made a pot roast with potatoes and carrots last night and all she ate were the carrots. I’m expecting lots of orange poop today.