I recently saw the movie Julie & Julia, and found myself fired up to learn how to cook like that. My middle daughter loves to cook, and would like to learn how to cook more things, and I can’t cook, so I thought….hey, let’s do this thing! I went out and bought the cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, subscribed to Julie’s blog so I could follow along her same journey, and set about picking the first dish!
(Sidenote: When I say I can’t cook, I’m not exaggerating. My poor family. I’ve been known to ask questions like “how do you reheat pizza without a microwave?” or “what’s a broiler?” or “why is there an oven made just for toast?” As a wedding gift, I actually got the cookbook “How To Boil An Egg”. You get the picture…)
So, I decide to start with this meal (is it a bad sign when you can’t pronounce any of the words for the foods you are about to cook and then eat?):
Filets de Poisson Bercy aux Champignons
In layman’s terms, potato & leek soup with fancy fish.
First, let me say that after cooking this meal, I now understand why French women are skinny.
IT TOOK OVER 4 HOURS TO COOK THAT MEAL!!!!!!!
I was exhausted just reading the instructions, which should have been my first inclination that I was in waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay over my head. Plus, she required using cookware and dishes I had never even heard of, and I spent a fortune just preparing to make the meal. I hadn’t even bought ingredients yet!
Buying the ingredients: Keep in mind that I don’t like talking to strangers, especially in the grocery store. I loathe having someone help me out to my car or load my groceries for me (which is why I avoid Market Street unless my husband is with me). I’d rather spend hours trying to find an ingredient than ask for help. I might have some issues, probably could benefit from some therapy, but that would require talking to strangers…and here we go again. So, I did what any grown woman would do, I waited until my mommy was in town, and decided to drag her all over town to help me. Apparently, those guys behind the meat counter, know some things and can be quite helpful (who knew!).
So, my ingredients are purchased. Bed, Bath & Beyond has a good chunk of my money. We are ready!
First the soup, Potage Parmentier. Actually, I have to say this recipe was fairly easy to follow and not difficult. At one point though, I did look up to find Emily crying, and I thought OMG is cooking with me THAT bad?!?!?!?! Then I realized that it was the leeks. I don’t think I knew that leeks were a type of onion, or I guess they are since Em was Ms. Waterworks during the dicing process. The only other real issue was trying to learn how to use the food mill. I have to say, I’m not a fan. Although, it probably was more user error than anything else. All in all, it was not bad. Anything which lets you add whipping cream or butter can’t be all bad (we went with the butter, next time I’d like to try the cream and OMG…did I just say next time!). It was even a pretty color!
Here is a pic of all the ingredients cut up and ready for cookin’, pretty isn’t it?:
Now let the cooking begin!
After passing thru the food mill
It probably could have used a few more passes through the food mill, and I personally would have liked it served a little warmer, but all in all, it was generally decided that we did a good job, and it was a delicious dish.
Now, moving on to the fish! I believe the recipe called for flounder. Couldn’t find any flounder, so the very helpful guy behind the counter at Sprouts suggested using Orange Roughy. He could have named any fish, or the most expensive fish he had in stock, and I wouldn’t have known the difference, so okay. Orange Roughy it is! Weird name for a fish anyway, and it wasn’t necessarily orange or rough, so I don’t get it. Oh and as an aside, if you buy it frozen, don’t plan on cooking it that day. We were a bit derailed trying to thaw out this fish before we could use it.
Here are my pretty mushrooms (which I don’t even like, but they did look good):
I was too tired trying to get the meal cooked and time everything perfectly, that I didn’t really have time to snap pictures of all the different processes that went into the fish dish. This recipe covered several pages, for the fish itself and for the sauce. Again, anything smothered with cheese, cream and booze, can’t be all bad. Here’s a pic of the final look:
I assume that is what it is supposed to look like, if I could have offered a suggestion to Julia Child or her publishers, it would have been nice to have pics to go along with this recipe. The cooking challenged might have appreciated knowing that at least by sight, the dish was going well and on track. Taste is another thing entirely, which I’ll get to later.
Here are some pics of my helper, hard at work. Grating cheese and stirring and whatever else I asked her to do. I think she learned a few things, although it was probably more fun to watch me run around the kitchen, cursing and muttering under my breath, breaking a sweat, and generally oozing confusion and exhaustion.
After a half-day of prep and cooking, this blasted meal is finally done. I have to admit, I was feeling immense trepidation on how everything would taste, and I had some pretty major critics: my parents, my husband, Emily, the other 3 overly picky kids and myself.
The 3 picky kids: ummm no thank you “where is the peanut butter and jelly and please don’t tell me we are out of bread”.
Emily – co-Chef – she liked it, not sure she would ask for it again, and I think she liked the process better than the outcome, and that was really the point anyway and we had fun (well a sort of fun I suppose).
The Parentals: Dad – it’s really good (he cleaned his plate) and Mom – “I want to bathe in this sauce and the soup is my favorite, very yummy”, she even got seconds of the soup I think, and my mom doesn’t eat as a general rule 🙂
The Husband: I think he nodded, maybe grunted. His plate was clean, so I’ll take that as a good sign.
Myself: After I picked off the mushrooms, I have to say, the fish was excellent. Very rich. Very yummy. I would definitely eat it again. The soup, I wasn’t as big a fan, but it was good. I really don’t like green food.
So that pretty much sums up my first Julia Child experiment. I don’t know how Julie did it over the course of the year. We are trying to plan dish #2, but procrastinating hasn’t been difficult if I’m being honest.
Did it make me love cooking? No. Did I bond with my daughter and did we share an experience? Yes. Does anything else really matter? Nope, I don’t think so.
I wouldn’t have picked this as a way to bond with Emily, but it wasn’t about me, it was about her. It’s easy to find ways to spend time with your kids doing the things you like, but then you miss out on what could be some really awesome opportunities. You end up learning much more about each other when you are both flying blind. Or at least that is how it worked for me.