Friday, August 21, 2009

MtAoFC Part 4 -- Poulet Saute

Hello, Friday!

Last night, I made Poulet Saute (p. 254) and Tomatoes a la Provencale (p. 507) again. But I love those, so I really do make them all the time. So good. So easy.

Yes, yes. So I cooked this stuff after I got home from picking up my fresh food from the Monroe County Farmers Market. Where Jamie Oliver's camera crew was, but not Jamie Oliver. I was disappointed. I even went home at lunchtime to get my cookbook for him to autograph. (That's two celebrity chefs I've missed out on meeting, but that's another story). But I didn't care about getting interviewed for the show. It was too hot and I was wearing cashmere. Poor wardrobe choice for mid-August, I know.

Anyway, the chicken was wonderful. It tasted like it was made out of butter. Probably because of the gratuitous amounts of butter called for, but whatever. And the recipe says you can throw some "green herbs" in the sauce to finish it. My mom gave me a bunch of herbs she had, and the sage looked like it would go bad the soonest, so that's what I used. Besides, sage is a natural match for poultry.

2 1/2 to 3 lbs. cut up chicken
2 Tb butter and 1 Tb oil

Dry each piece of chicken thoroughly. Place a heavy casserole or skillet in over moderately high heat with the butter and oil. When the butter foam has almost subsided, add the chicken pieces skin-side down, as many as will fit in one layer. In 2 - 3 minutes, when the chicken has browned to a nice golden color on one side, turn it to brown on the other side. Regulate heat so that it is always hot but not burning.

Salt and pepper
Optional: 1 to 2 tsp fresh green herbs
2 - 3 Tb butter, if necessary

Season the dark meat with salt, pepper and optional herbs. (The wings and breasts are done later, as they cook faster.) If the browning fat burns, pour it out and add fresh butter. Place over moderate heat. Add dark meats, cover the casserole and cook slowly for 8 to 9 minutes.

Season the white meat, add it to the dark meat, and baste the chicken with the butter in the skillet. Cover and continue cooking for about 15 minutes, turning and basting the chicken 2 or 3 times. The meat is done when the fattest part of the drumstick is tender if pinched and the juices run clear or yellow when the meat is pricked deeply with a fork. Remove the chicken to a hot serving platter. Cover and keep warm.

1 Tb minced shallot or green onion
Optional: 1/2 cup of dry white wine or 1/3 cup of dry vermouth
3/4 to 1 cup of brown chicken stock, canned beef bouillon or canned chicken broth
1 to 2 Tb softened butter
1 to 2 Tb minced green herbs

Remove all but about 2 or 3 tablesppons of fat from the skillet. Add the shallots and cook slowly for 1 minute. Pour in the optional wine and the stock. Raise heat and boil rapidly, scraping up the coagulated saute juices and reducing the liquid to abotu 1/3 cup. Correct seasonings. Off heat and just before serving, swirl in the enrichment of butter and optional herbs.

On a side note, I thought the reason Jamie Oliver's camera crew was at the pick-up was for an American version of "The Naked Chef." No. He is hosting the reality show about how Huntington is the fattest city in America. That is what the filming was for. How fat we West Virginians are. Nice. As I always am, I'll be curious to see how West Virginia is portrayed. At least when I was there yesterday, they weren't interviewing the stupidest people they could find. The girl they interviewed was cute and seemed smart. Maybe it won't be all bad, after all.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Locavores Rejoice!

Two huge bits of news...

First, I don't know if everyone saw the plug I made for the Monroe County Farmers Market back when I was doing the Penny Pinching Pantry Raid. I've been receiving fresh produce and meat and eggs all summer once a week, and I can't be more pleased with the products. They deliver to Charleston once a week for a $5 fee. The product prices aren't too bad compared to Krogers, where I usually shop. The meat is almost exclusively pasture-raised or free range and hormone/antibiotic free. And the produce is mostly organic. (They tell you what products are not.) I could go on and on about the other reasons to get your stuff at a Farmer's Market, like how eating local is more "green" and how its important to support the local economy.

Anyway, onto the news... Today at the pick-up in Charleston, the crew from the tv show, "The Naked Chef" is going to be there to see how the market's delivery service works and interview the people who utilize it. I don't know if Jamie Oliver is going to be there, but I am giddy with excitement that he possibly could be. AND, the show is wanting to do a US version of "The Naked Chef" and they are going to be buying their produce from the Monroe County Farmers Market for the next two months!!!!

I can't say enough about how good the quality of the food is. Eggs--awesome! Salad greens--fabulous!! (And they stay "good" for longer since they are really fresh. I kept a zip lock bag of them in my fridge for well over 2 weeks.) Pork sausage--exquiste!! Anyway, if you want in and you are in the Charleston area, here's the link:

Now, there's nothing wrong with other farmers markets--I still shop at the Capital Market. And, if you already have a farmers market that you use, by all means, keep it up. You know, you can't beat the taste of an almost-too ripe tomato that was picked this morning with a little salt.

Second bit of news, after several phone calls, I found a breeder of heritage turkeys in West Virginia!

Heritage turkeys are the ones that were here when the pilgrims came. What they sell in the grocery store, well, wasn't. The one's they sell in the grocery store are "broad-breasted whites," which have been genetically engineered to be, um, more profitable. They are fully mature in as little as 18 weeks. They have substantially more breast meat, as with keeping with the demands of the American consumer. Their legs are shorter, and their breasts are so large, that if allowed to mature longer than 18 weeks, they wouldn't be able to stand up or walk. Also, because of their physique, they can't reproduce naturally--they can't "do" it. So, all the turkeys that you buy in the store are here because of artificial insemination and if allowed to live past Thanksgiving, would be immobile.

Heritage turkeys are coming back into fashion a bit, with all the publicity of the local food movement, and all. Problem was, I couldn't find a breeder nearby. A quick search on the internet produced several hits of breeders selling them ... 600 miles away. Some required local pick up, and some would fed ex your turkey to you, for a pretty penny--not an option. Finally, after a call to the WV Department of Agriculture, and being transferred to three different offices, and a voicemail later, I found a breeder in Phillippi, White Oak Ridge Farm. They raise only Bronze breeds, their smallest turkeys are around 12 pounds, and last year, they sold them for $2.59 to 2.69 a pound. All are free-range, hormone and antibiotic free. And, I imagine, whatever birds they don't sell, get to "get it on." Yippee! (By the way, the phone number is 304-457-1085, and they begin taking orders for Thanksgiving in September.)

Based on what I've read, cooking a heritage turkey is a little different than a Butterball. There is more dark meat, and moisture content of the meat is much greater. So you don't need to engage in moisture-preserving tricks like brining, bags or obsessive basting. I'm told that heritage turkeys are much more flavorful than standard turkeys, as well as healthier--they have a more natural diet of grass and bugs, which gives them their flavor and makes them lower in saturated fat. Saturated fat fears aside, I found a recipe for a rub for a heritage turkey made from butter, all natural maple syrup and rosemary. I can't wait to cook this bird. Tasty!

Anyway, hopefully I get to meet Jamie Oliver this evening, but I'm not holding my breath. It's probably best I don't since I'll probably act like and idiot and stutter and stammer around like a crazy groupie. And, stay tuned for the turkey wrap-up after Thanksgiving. My family will be the final judge on taste, but I still feel good about buying it, no matter what.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mastering the Art of French Cooking Part 3

Thon A La Provencale (Tuna Steaks with Wine, Tomatoes and Herbs) p.219

I am someone who likes Tuna Steaks rare. As a matter of fact, I don't really care for them unless they are seared. This recipe just didn't deliver for me... Too bad I dropped $10 on 8 oz. of fresh tuna steaks.

The tomato topping for the fish--now that was a different story. De-licious! If I make this again, I am going to skip the step of finishing the seared fish in the oven. The fish was overcooked, and I didn't even leave it in the oven as long as the recipe said! Just a quick sear and top with the tomato sauce next time.

I made Tomates A La Provencale (p. 507) with the tuna steaks. I love these. I've made them a few times since the tomatoes started coming in. They are so easy, and something different (for when you get tired of sliced fresh tomatoes for dinner. You can only eat those so many evenings in a row).

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

On Julie & Julia, cooking and other musings...

Ahh, vacation. Who doesn't love it? And, then you come back to your job. Booo!

Last week while I was wasting away on Myrtle Beach, "West Virginia South", if you will... I made the second installment in my road to Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and saw the movie Julie & Julia.

Monday, I made Coq Au Vin (specifically Coq Au Sauvignon Blanc) on pg. 263, oignons glaces a brun on page 483, and chamignons sautes au beurre on page 513. It. Was. Amazing.

I don't usually cook for other people besides myself and Jeremy. I'd love to, don't get me wrong. But our families don't live within a convenient distance to come over for dinner on a week night, and it always seems like on weekends we are on the go or eating at our families homes. So, it struck me as funny when I was cooking dinner for Jeremy, my mom and my brother. First, I realized very quickly how territorial I am in the kitchen--even when it's not MY kitchen. And, I realized how far I've come as a home cook. I think I am something else now, a bonafide foodie, dare I say.

Here's what I mean. I was shopping for groceries for the week with the fam. I had my list for the Coq Au Vin. I wanted unsalted butter. That is what I cook with 90% of the time when a recipe calls for butter (and ALWAYS bake with). My mom, who's a nurse, God love her, wanted to get the heart-healthy margarine instead. When I put the package of cut-up whole chicken in the cart, she asked why my recipe couldn't be made with boneless skinless chicken instead. Now, I'll be the first one to tell you about eating healthy, but this is different. The recipes are so detailed in their instruction that to venture off that path by signifcantly substituting ingredients would give you something less. Something wrong.

That got me thinking. Julia put such care into the recipes and was so meticulous, this is how the food was intended to be prepared. The cookbook was written over 40 years ago, in a totally different time. Before fast food. Before not having time for dinner. Before transfats. And before people ate because they were lonely, stressed out, bored or whatever. When Julia wrote the cookbook, I think people viewed meals as a time to enjoy what they were eating. Truly enjoy. I once read that Julia never "snacked" or had seconds. That's probably good advice for all of us, let alone those of us who are eating as much butter as the recipes call for...

The Coq au Vin was delicious, and I don't know about Jeremy, my mom or brother, but I truly enjoyed it. As for the onions, we agreed that we could have made a whole meal of those.

As for the movie, I thought it was great. I've read both books, or at least I've read Julie & Julia and part of My Life in France (I read until they had to move to Bonn, and then the book slowed down, but I surmise Julia would agree with that... She hated it when they moved from France). I was really glad some parts of the book made it into the movie, and some parts I wish they would have included... but I realize they had to fit it into 2 hours or so. I would have liked to have seen more of Julie's mom, and her goofy friend. Both had an more influence on Julie than the movie reflects. And the book starts out by Julie finding out she'll have trouble conceiving a child. That was a huge theme in the beginning of the book, and part of what led t to her frustration with her life. And I got the impression from the book that Julie didn't put much thought into cooking before the project, but in the movie, it seems like she already cooks as a hobby when she begins. All of the parts of Julia Child's story in the movie were fantastic. I especially loved the (very limited) part with her sister Dorothy "Dort." Stanley Tucci did a fabulous job--I couldn't think of a person more perfect to play Paul Child when I read he would be filling that role. And Meryl Streep was outstanding as Julia. I read before the movie came out, that when she read for the role, she did the first couple lines in that voice, and they told her the part was hers.

Today, in the paper, I read that MtAoFC is a best seller on both Amazon dot com and Barnes and Noble. As a matter of fact, the publisher ordered an additional 75,000 copies last week, which have already sold out on Amazon. I just wonder what the real Julie Powell thinks of all this, and especially, what Julia would have thought.