Making a Julia Child Recipe

IMG_20140714_174615After reading My Life in France, I was on a Julia Child kick. I decided that I should attempt one of her recipes. My mother owns two of her cookbooks, so I set to work scanning through each one for a recipe. Most of the recipes were pretty clearly over my head, but I found a relatively simple one for Hamburgers a la Française with Sauce Bordelaise. Clearly I still needed a side dish, so I chose White Beans with Herbs. It turns out that it takes forever to cook dry beans. I followed the instructions and boiled them for exactly two minutes and then let them soak for an hour before simmering them for almost two hours. At that point they were just barely cooked, but had enough butter and herbs in them to be pretty tasty.

My main dish didn’t take as long, but was a lot more work. To begin with, the sauce called for four inches of bone marrow. I was very concerned that I wouldn’t be able to find any bone marrow at my local grocery store, but all I had to do was ask at the meat counter. They cut me as much bone as I needed. The meat counter was not the end of the bone marrow struggle, however. My instructions were to use a cleaver to cut the bone in half and remove the marrow in one piece. bone marrow I don’t know what kind of super woman Julia Child was, but there was no way I could cut through this bone with a meat cleaver. I ended up using a spoon and an icepick to dig out all of the marrow from the center of the bone, removing any need to chop it.

I assembled the ingredients for my patties and set to work. Mixing the beef and the egg together with my hands was pretty nasty, but the mess washed off. Once my patties were done and removed to a “hot platter”, I added chopped green onions to my pan and poured in my previously boiled wine and bullion mixture with my hard-earned bone marrow. Once my liquid had reduced in my juicy, fatty pan by about half I added the cornstarch and water. I’m not sure how hot my pan was supposed to be for this, but my cornstarch stayed kind of clumpy. I was too exhausted and hungry by this point to worry too much, and it tasted fine. Finally my burgers and sauce were complete and I could serve them. It was after 8:00, so my family was a bit hungry. We ate the burgers on big iceberg lettuce leaves while the beans finished cooking. They were delicious. The spices and wine sauce mixed so well together. I was quite happy with the result. If I ever attempt to make them again, however, I am skipping the side of beans. The burgers are plenty filling and would be complemented better by a less protein rich side; maybe a mixed greens salad. That would certainly be easier than never-ending beans. In their defense, when my beans were finally cooked they tasted pretty good. All in all, it was a delicious meal, but I learned how much work that much tastiness takes.

Hamburgers a la Française with Sauce Bordelaise

Hamburgers a la Française with Sauce Bordelaise

For 6 medium-sized hamburgers

¾ cup finely minced onions, previously cooked in 2Tb butter

1 ½ lbs. lean ground beef from the neck and plate

2 Tb ground beef suet, beef marrow, or softened butter

1 ½ tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. thyme

1 egg

a big mixing bowl

flour on a plate (about ½ cup)

a heavy skillet

1 Tb butter and 1 Tb oil

a hot serving platter

Place all ingredients except flour, butter, and oil in the mixing bowl and beat to blend thoroughly. Forming hamburgers into cakes. Just before cooking, dredge in flour and shake off excess. Sauté in very hot butter and oil and remove to a hot platter. Keep warm while making the following sauce- 2 to 3 minutes.

Sauce Bordelaise

A 4 inch piece of beef marrow

2 Tb minced shallots or scallions

1 tsp. cornstarch blended with 1 tsp. water

½ cup beef bullion

2/3 cup red wine

salt and pepper

2 Tb minced parsley

Stand bone on one end and split with a clever to expose marrow. Dig out marrow in one piece using a small knife. Then dipping knife in hot water for each cut, slice or dice marrow. Bring bullion and wine to the boil in a small saucepan, remove from heat, add marrow, and set aside. When meat is done, remove to hot platter and pour fat out of frying pan. Stir in shallots or scallions, drain marrow and reserve; add liquid to pan. Boil rapidly, scraping up coagulated sauté juices with wooden spoon. When reduced to about ½ a cup, remove from heat and stir in cornstarch. Simmer 1 minute; add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat, fold in marrow and parsley, and pour over meat.

White Beans with Herbs

1 lb. dry white beans

2 quarts water

1 large onion

1 herb bouquet (6 parsley sprigs, 2 cloves garlic, ¼ tsp. thyme, and 1 bay leaf tied together in washcloth)

2 tsp. salt

1 stick butter

3 or 4 cloves garlic pureed with 1 tsp. salt

5 or 6 Tb minced fresh parsley and/or basil

Bean cooking juices as needed

Salt and pepper

Pick over the beans to be sure there are no stones, wash and drain them, and place in a large kettle. Add the water, cover, and bring to the boil. Boil uncovered for exactly 2 minutes. Cover and let sit for exactly 1 hour. (This takes the place of the old-fashioned overnight soak.)As soon as the beans have had their soak, bring to simmer again, adding the herb bundle and 1-tablespoon salt. Simmer slowly, partially covered, for about 1-½ hours or until the beans are just tender. Melt the butter in a large serving casserole, stir in the garlic and let warm a moment, then fold in the beans and fresh herbs plus a little of the bean cooking juices if you feel them needed. Season carefully to taste.

My Life in France by Julia Child Review

My Life in France

I have known this book existed for a long time, but it was a very spur of the moment decision to read it. As I have been gradually getting better at cooking, I have wanted to learn more about famous chefs. The memoir of one of America’s most famous cooking personalities seemed like a good place to start.

My Life in France tells the story of how Julia Child fell in love with French cooking while her husband was stationed in Paris after World War II. She goes on to study at the Cordon Bleu, and meets Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, and the three of them start a cooking school for Americans in Paris. Through this she discovers her passion for cookbook research and writing, and goes on to become the first ever television chef. It is a story where extreme dedication and zeal meet with enormous amounts of good luck to form the tale of an extraordinary woman. The book read quickly, despite its length. What really amazed me was her work ethic. I can’t imagine sitting down to research, edit, and write a cookbook where every ingredient had to be so carefully measured. Not only that, but each French ingredient, even simple flour, had to be compared with its American counterpart, all while typing on a typewriter and exchanging letters and collaborating with her co-author, Simone Beck. My Millennial brain can hardly fathom how difficult that must have been. The difficulties of a working relationship with a close friend, and the demands of the publishing business were not glossed over either. Throughout the whole story, Julia Child maintains a truly inspiring amount of optimism in the face of hardships, and humility in the light of triumphs. Needless to say, Julia Child has been added to my list of heroes after finishing this book, and I highly recommend it.

Tartuffe at Shakespeare Dallas Review

This past Wednesday I dragged my parents out, packed our lawn chairs and a picnic and went to see Tartuffe at Shakespeare Dallas. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Shakespeare Dallas, they are a theater company who, every summer, puts on plays by Shakespeare and the playwrights he inspired outdoors at Samuel Grand Park.. The casts and crews are made up of professional actors and theatrical designers, and the shows are always top quality. Tartuffe was no exception. This translation of Moliere’s script maintained the rhyming couplet style of the original French play, so it worked well as an accompaniment to Shakespeare. By modernizing the sets and costumes, the design of the show helped to make it more relatable to the audience. My mother and I were especially fond of Elmire and Marianne’s colorful, flouncy dresses. Another favorite design element was the sound design. All of the music added to the bright, hurried atmosphere of the play, while still utilizing classical scores. In particular, the last scene not only had some excellent music that was perfectly comically timed, but also utilized, with the microphones, quite masterfully an echo effect. I was duly impressed. One more impressive aspect was, of course, the acting. All of the actors were hilarious and fully committed to the over-the-top style demanded by the show. From the very sweet, “bless her heart”, Marianne to the sassy, outspoken Dorine, there were a wealth of different characters to root for. For his part, Tartuffe played his role very well. While I loathed the character, I admired the acting. Every actor had created a unique character that was wonderful to watch. Overall, it was a hilarious and well-done show. Going to Shakespeare in the Park is always a highlight of my summer. I highly recommend their shows, which run Tuesday- Sunday nights through July 19, to anyone in the Dallas area. And if you can’t make it out to see the show, the script of Tartuffe is also a hilarious and quick read. I can’t wait to go back to Samuel Grand next week to see Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

Amsterdam Travel Log

I know a lot of people have been asking when I will post about my trip to Amsterdam, so I figured that I should go ahead and get that online.
We awoke to a bright Amsterdam morning on Saturday. Not in any hurry, we had a leisurely brunch in a small café and went to find our ride. We had purchased tickets for the hop on hop off bus, and rode it around to all of Amsterdam’s historic sights. Around lunch we hopped off at the Anne Frank house. Next door was a lovely church where Rembrandt was buried.

Rembrandt's memorial

Rembrandt’s memorial

What we wanted to see the most was the Anne Frank House. I enjoyed the museum, even if the content was rather gloomy. There was a sense of hope, especially in the later exhibits. Afterwards, we set off to find the Skinny Bridge. Our bus tour had mentioned the bridge, only one row thick due to lack of materials while it was being built, but we had been unable to get a good look at it. In what was foreshadowing for many other occasions, we got a bit lost. We quickly discovered that Amsterdam was very small, but incredibly confusing. Despite none-too-shabby map skills we spent a lot of our trip discovering unplanned parts of the city.

The Skinny Bridge

The Skinny Bridge

Some nearby canal houses

Some nearby canal houses

We had been told that the best way to truly experience Amsterdam was to rent bikes. We did just that, with plans for a picnic and bike ride around Vondel Park for lunch. Before that the forecast threatened rain, so we rode over to the Katten Kabinet, a 17th century canal house that had been filled almost entirely with cat artwork.It was a great stop for two cat lovers.

Cat artwork and a live cat!

Cat artwork and a live cat!

The owner's first cat, J. P. Morgan

The owner’s first cat, J. P. Morgan

On our way we also stumbled across Rembrandt Plaza, where they host an art show every Sunday. They also had an impressive array of statues to honor Rembrandt. Stumbling on that was a happy accident.

The art show

The art show

The Rembrandt statues

The Rembrandt statues

We had big plans for lunch. We bought ourselves a lovely picnic at the supermarket and rode our bikes over to Vondel Park. The rain had let up and it was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, so the park was filled with families, dogs, bicyclists, and people rollerblading. We found a lovely lunch spot near a pond, and fed our strawberry ends to some hungry ducks.We spent a relaxing, sun soaked afternoon biking around the park.

Our lunch

Our lunch

Our duck friends

Our duck friends

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Our dinner

For dinner we returned to the Katten Kabinet to the cute café next door, P. King Café. We had gotten tea there earlier, and noticed that they had a dinner menu. This was, surprisingly, a rarity in Amsterdam. If you are looking for coffee, tea, or beer there are cafes on every corner, but a full meal at a reasonable price is harder to find.

It was awesome to get a weekend to relax and explore Amsterdam with one of my best friends. We saw and learned a lot, including some tips for visiting next time.

Tips if you are also planning a trip to Amsterdam:

  • Don’t be too proud to shop at the supermarket.
  • While you are there, buy as many Stroop Waffles as you can carry. They are ambrosia from the gods.
  • Check out the Holland Pass to save time and money on museum entrances. We didn’t learn about this until too late, so we missed most of Amsterdam’s biggest museums.
  • Buy your tickets online for the Anne Frank House, otherwise the line can be quite lengthy.
  • Riding bikes was great, but is not for the amateur cyclist. Bikes are treated exactly the same as cars there, so some skill is required.