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.
Poulet Roti (roast chicken)
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.
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.
Our poor attempt looked like this:
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!
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.
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 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!
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…