French Cooking with a Redneck Twist

Red Red Wine

In lieu of throwing a sweet 16 party for my girls, I gave them the option of traveling to the destination of their choice .  My oldest daughter picked Ireland, and daughter #2 picked Paris, France.  A little over 2 years ago, I purchased THE cooking Bible, according to some.

I wrote a blog about our first experience trying these recipes, before relegating Julia’s masterpiece as a dust collector and occasional door stop.  We will begin our trek to France in 9 short months, so I thought it might be time to try again.  The PTSD I suffered from after the first go-round has abated somewhat, so I’m feeling optimistic.  The first order of business is to purchase the wine.  I’m pretty sure it’s like a French law to drink wine while cooking, and cook with wine while drinking.  Two birds, one stone.  We decided to shop for our ingredients’s (spoken like Teresa from RHONJ) at Market Street because they have an extensive wine selection.  The wine guy (yes, I know there is some fancy name that begins with an S and sounds more sophisticated than wine guy, but I don’t feel like googling the spelling) suggested a $20 bottle of wine that he promised tasted like a $60 bottle of wine.  This guy is totally speaking my language.  Now for the rest of our ingredients’s, which seem less important than the wine purchase.

Tonight’s Menu:

Poulet Roti (roast chicken) 

Gratin Dauphinois

Peas (the frozen kind, two dishes will be more than I can handle)

I glance longingly at the pre-packaged roasted chicken and briefly entertain the idea of grabbing one and my bottle of wine and getting the hell out of dodge, but lucky for everyone reading this, I persevere.  Also, sorry for the blurry picture.  I always feel weird taking pics of things and people in public, I’ve had a couple of really bad experiences (forgetting the flash was on when snapping a mocking pic of a random person for the People of Wal-Mart website), so I’m always very wary and furtive.  I have to wait for the guy stocking the chickens to move away, and then I try to do the snap and drive by move, which as you can see, needs some work.

We make it home with our purchases and I’m already exhausted.  Obviously, I need to be at my peak optimal performance before managing such a feat as tackling Julia Child’s recipes.  So, I decide to start with a nap.  Don’t underestimate the rejuvenating powers of the micro sleep.

Ideally, I thought we should start at 4pm, but my nap runneth over, so it was more like 4:30.  The first order of business was to peel the potatoes.

***a quick note about the potatoes.  The recipe called for “boiling” potatoes.  What the hell is a boiling potato?  There are no labels anywhere in the produce section that say “boiling” potato.  Normally, I would have called my mother to help me solve this mystery, but I’m trying to be a grown up, so naturally I Google it instead.  Apparently, a boiling potato is the same thing as a “red” or “new” potato.  I had to scan through 3 paragraphs describing the difference between a “baking” potato and a “boiling” potato before I actually got to the words “red” and “new”.  I now feel qualified as a food chemist.  Thank you Google.

My elbow is still bothering me (see earlier blogs), so peeling these suckers was an act of torture (and I’m not being as melodramatic as you might think).  They were slippery little boogers too, and kept falling down the garbage disposal.  No worries, I was able to use a fork to fish them back out.  I suppose at some point it should have occurred to me to use the other side of the sink, or put a bowl over the disposal, but…well, it didn’t.

Before the Peeling

We peeled and sliced the potatoes and then let them sit in a bowl of cold water.  I don’t really know why, but if that is what Julia tells you to do, then you do it!

Now, time to prepare the chicken.

I bought the more expensive “smart” chicken with the hopes that perhaps this chicken would prepare itself.  I waited in vain.

Step 1:  Coat the inside of the chicken with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of butter.

Ummm.  You want me to stick  my hand where?  Inside the chicken?  I need more wine.  My daughter and I stare at the chicken for a while before we decide she will salt first, then I will butter (and by we, I mean me).  We decide since we had to become more intimate with the chicken that we should name her first.  I felt bad for Suzy, like maybe we should have bought her dinner before she became the dinner.  I kept apologizing.  It was almost enough to turn me vegetarian again.

Plus, the gagging sounds my daughter made while she salted Suzy’s “cavern” was making the wine curdle in my belly.  I ate a cracker, squared my shoulders and inserted my hand with the tablespoon of butter and rubbed all up inside that chicken….er, I mean Suzy.  If I smoked, I would have had a cigarette afterwards.  Suzy looked pretty satisfied, if I might brag for a quick moment.  I felt like maybe my daughter and I should also have “the talk”, but she quickly shut that down.  I don’t know why.

Step 2:  Truss the chicken

Huh?  Wtf is a mattress needle?  I really need to read these instructions more thoroughly before attempting to make them.

Me:  What’s a mattress needle?

Daughter:  How would I know?

Me:  Well, you are the one that sews!

Daughter:  I don’t sew mattresses!

Me: Just get the biggest needle you have and some thread, we can make this work. 

Picture diagram of the correct way to truss a chicken

Our poor attempt looked like this:

Clearly, it’s not trussed.  Suzy’s cavity is gaping open, and the thread keeps snapping every time I move the damn chicken.

Me:  This is hopeless.  How important do you think trussing the chicken is?

Daughter:  I don’t know.  I have some yarn.  Do you think that will hold better?

Me:  Yeah, that’s a good idea, maybe we should try yarn.

Daughter:  I can attach the yarn to a bobby pin?

Me:  It’s worth a shot.

We kept having to use a knife to poke holes in Suzy because the bobby pin wouldn’t cut through the skin and fat, and the yarn kept shedding, but it actually worked!

No gaping hole Suzy!

Step 3:  Slather with more butter! 

Step 4:  Place in 425 degree oven and baste with yet more butter every 5 minutes for 15 minutes.  Then lower oven temp to 350 degrees, and continue basting with yet more butter every 10 minutes until completed.  Actual cook time:  1 hour and 25 minutes.

Here is Suzy ready for the oven.

Goodbye Suzy. You were a good bird.

Another pic of Suzy, halfway through cooking time:

It smells amazing and I think Suzy is one hot-looking bird, all golden and delicious.  Ok, now it’s getting kinda creepy calling her by name, so from here on out, we go back to the impersonal chicken versus carnivorous human.

While the chicken is cooking, we prepare the potato dish.  It’s pretty simple actually.  I don’t even think I can screw this one up.  You layer the potatoes in the dish and cover with swiss cheese and yet more butter, salt and pepper.

We should have put it in the oven earlier, but since I don’t have two ovens and the cooking temps were vastly different, I juggled the two as best I could.

We took the chicken out of the oven, and let it sit, while I continued basting for about 10 minutes, allowing the potatoes to cook longer.  Then we made the gravy, using the basting juices from the chicken, and yet more butter, salt and pepper.

I almost forgot to pop the peas in the microwave!  I could hear the groans of disappointment from my children that I remembered the peas.  Julia said to serve peas, and I would never argue with Julia!

Here is finished meal, I think we are one step closer to being French!  And I’m pretty soused!

The critics:

Husband – it’s very good dear (ok not the accolades I feel I deserve, but I’ll take it)

Daughter #1 – oh, you made dinner?  Mom, I have plans.  Love you, Bye.

Daughter #2 (sous chef) – I am proud of us mom, but I really hate peas.

Daughter #3 – It tastes like normal chicken, I don’t get it.

Man-Child – I LOVE these peas mom, and this is the best chicken EVER (as he saturates it with ketchup).  I got him to taste one minuscule piece of the potatoes, which he declared were quite good while declining to eat more of them.  Man-child asked if he could wear this to dinner:

 

Of course I said yes because we’re redneck classy like that and it was good to see those exercise bands getting some use.  The shorts tan and no pants added a nice ambience to the meal I thought.

I’m not sure the reactions were worth the 2+ hours of labor, but I’m too busy finishing off this wine and thinking ahead to the cheesecake we got for dessert to really care.  I was also extremely happy that no one found a “hair” from the shedding yarn on their plate!  This was one of her easier recipes.  I might be so inclined to try again…  After my arteries finish unhardening from all the butter…

Everyday I’m Googlin’…

image courtesy of recipeapart.com

WordPress has this feature (and probably all blogging sites do) called “Top Searches”.  It tells me what google searches unearthed my blog for readers.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve been keeping track of these searches, and a disturbing pattern has emerged.

TOP SEVEN MOST DISTURBING AND/OR WEIRD SEARCHES

  1. Men with no penises (umm…women?)
  2. Hairy vaginas (I guess google is cheaper than Hustler?)
  3. Images of fat kids running (why? cyber bullies?)
  4. Fat basset hounds (are there skinny basset hounds?)
  5. Sex with horses (I know this is a fetish….but I just can’t wrap my mind around it, and I lived on a horse farm)
  6. Images of horse dicks (comparison shopping?)
  7. Boys and undies (I really hope this was a potty training search)

If I didn’t know anything about me, I’d wonder what the hell I’m blogging about to generate these kind of searches.  I feel like I need to shower.  People are strange and apparently obsessed with horses.

Reading these searches did remind me of two things.

ONE:

Much to the mortification of my daughters, man-child refuses to close the bathroom door when in use.  Doesn’t matter if he’s pooping or pee’ing, the door is open.  In a perfect world, he would walk around naked.  When he was little, we would let him run around naked after his bath for a few minutes, we called this “naked play time”.  Little did we know, we were raising a future nudist.  A few weeks ago, I walk into MY bathroom, and there is my son, going to the bathroom with the door open.  The conversation went something like this:

Me:  Why are you using my bathroom?  

Man-child:  the toilet downstairs is stopped up and my sisters have their tampons all over the other bathroom…it’s disgusting!

Me:  You make some good points, carry on.

Man-child turns his head to look at me, and where his head goes, his body will follow.  I watch in horror as the arc of urine hovers precariously close to the edge of the toilet seat, and flash forward to an image of me cleaning piss from the walls of my bathroom.

Me:  (screeching) WATCH WHAT YOU ARE DOING!!!!!!!

Man-child:  (looks down and shrugs) Mom, relax.  I’ve got this, been doing it for years.

Me:  Oh right.  This from the 6-year-old boy who performs the walk of shame every morning in his pull-up.

Man-child:  MOM!  We don’t talk about that!!!

Me:  Sorry (not sorry).

Yes, you read that correctly.  My almost 7-year-old son still wears a pull-up at night.  We’ve tried everything.  He will sleep in a pool of his own urine without waking up.  The pull-up seems the lesser of two evils.  I’m open to suggestions if you have any?

TWO: 

On my way back from one of my school meetings last week, I pull up to a red light and there is a bicyclist in front of me.  Normally, I would be really annoyed about being trapped behind a cyclist on a busy street, but I’m making a right turn, so I’m feeling magnanimous today or just tired.  The light turns green, and this male cyclist moves like two inches and then stops.  I can’t turn.  I don’t know what he’s doing, but from the back, it looks like he’s digging around in his man junk.  Maybe he is suffering from some mamel toe (male camel toe) from his skin tight bicycle shorts or something far more disturbing (and those google searches come to mind) but he’s not moving and I still can’t turn.  I shouldn’t say he’s not moving.  He’s moving….his hand…  If he can’t find his manly treasure after this much rooting around, he’s got bigger issues (or smaller).  WTF is he doing????  I decide to turn on the air conditioner in my car, if you watched the video in my last blog, then you are familiar with the sound.  I could just honk my horn, but this method seems more passive-aggressively hostile than openly hostile.  I turn it on.  His hand jerks out of his shorts and business cards and granola bars come flying out.  I don’t see a fanny pack.  Does he have a pocket in his jock strap?  What the hell?  He gives me a dirty look, but he does get out of my way.  I think I run over his granola bars.  I feel kinda bad about that…not really.  It was a long week.  When I get home, it occurs to me I should have taken a pic.  <sigh>

So, GOOGLE….take those two thoughts and do your worst!

This is a short blog today (for me).  I will be posting a special blog tomorrow in honor of Labor Day.  About two years ago, I posted a blog called “The skinny on the French”, here is the link:

http://mybrainonkids.net/2010/03/11/the-skinny-on-the-french/

My daughter and I were inspired after watching the movie Julie & Julia, and we decided to try a few recipes from Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”.  It was featured on WordPress, and is my most viewed blog to date.  It was two years ago, which is about how long it has taken me to recover or forget how hard it was because my daughter and I have decided to try again!

Tonight’s Menu:

Poulet Roti (roast chicken) 

Gratin Dauphinois

Peas (the frozen kind, two dishes will be more than I can handle)

Tomorrow, for your reading pleasure, I will post a blog about our experience complete with pics of the meal and everyone’s reaction.  Should be fun, so stay tuned!