Thursday, February 28, 2013

It's Thyme To Cook ....

I thought I might try writing a once a week blog post on my disasters adventures with cooking. I have been trying new recipes and trying to move past either making the same old thing, or more common, eating out instead of cooking.

I have always been a mediocre cook. I can make a tasty meal, but nothing that would knock your socks off. One night while looking through a cookbook from Ina Garten that I have owned for years, I came across a page that listed 10 kitchen tools you'll use over and over. (Ina Garten, Family Style, pg. 244). She lists:

Braun electric juicer
Stainless steel mixing bowls
Cuisinart food processor
Parchment Paper
12 x 18 x 1 1/2 inch stainless steel sheet pans
Good quality knives: paring, 8 inch chef's, a serrated blade
Rasp zester
Kitchen Aid electric mixer
Oven thermometer
10 and 12 inch All-Clad saute pans

So I took inventory in my kitchen of the things that I have from her list:

Parchment Paper

Hmmmm, not good. How did I get to be my age without owning any of these things? Furthermore, I don't even know why I have the parchment paper. I have no memory of buying it.

I took this as a sign to buy new cookware, good knives, and perhaps learn to make something really memorable. In short order I purchased the requisite All Clad saute pan and skillet, and a set of Wusthof knives.

All Clad makes the most fantastic pans! They heat evenly and clean up is a snap. However, I didn't realize that cookware could cost so much!

Wusthof knives are unbelievable! I've never owned a good set of knives. These have been worth every bandaid I've needed for cut fingers.

I've never been a big fan of non-stick cookware, but I also bought several Caphalon Nonstick cookware pieces. This braiser pan is large and perfect for braising meat.

I now own several pieces of nice cookware, Ina Garten's "Family Style" cookbook, The Pioneer Woman's "Food from my Frontier" Cookbook, by Ree Drummond, and Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." I grew up watching Julia Child on T.V. every week. So my first attempt at cooking something fabulous was Julia's "Boeuf Bourguignon". Okay, maybe I was a little influenced by my recent viewing of the movie Julie/Julia....

This recipe is found on page 315 in Volume One of Julia's cookbook. It is a two page recipe, not difficult to execute, and uses an entire bottle of red wine (none for the cook). As if making a Julia Child recipe wasn't daunting enough, I had defrosted twice as much beef needed to make this stew (doubling the recipe never occurred to me). So to solve this predicament I made the Pioneer Woman's beef stew too, (page 165, Food from My Frontier) and then had a taste test between the two. A rather ambitious endeavor if I do say so myself. I was still on my All Clad/Wusthof high and forgot for a moment that I wasn't America's Test Kitchen.

As I mentioned, Julia's recipe uses red wine. The Pioneer Woman's recipe uses a bottle of beer. I have never cooked with either (meaning IN a recipe, not as an accompaniment), so that was a new experience. Here is a picture of both stews side by side. Pioneer Woman's is on the left, Julia Child's stew on the right.

Julia Child's recipe was over 4 hours in execution, most of it just simmering in the oven except for this awkward maneuver where you have to pour the liquid that is as hot as boiling lava, from a dutch oven into a separate pan. This was how I accomplished that task:

The Pioneer Woman's stew was placed in the crockpot and just simmered all day long.

Both were delicious, and we ate stew for a week, but the winner was Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon. It had much more depth of flavor and a richer sauce.

These recipes were tasty and pretty easy to do. Julia's was more time consuming, but the end result was worth the effort. I don't think I really busted any culinary chops with these recipes, but I did learn that cooking with wine means more than having a glass while cooking.

Until next time, have fun cooking!

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