Exploring through "Star" chefs

Yes, I do alot of cooking. More and more I am remembering to write down what I've done when I make something from scratch. (And I am branching out more into making things up, rather than making the tried and true recipes I can do in my sleep.)

And more and more I am making sure I actually cook from the pile of cookbooks I own, not just read them for entertainment and ideas. Last year I had the goal to make at least one new recipe per week. This year I want that number to go up. Alot.

Inspired by Ivonne's Magazine Mondays, as well as her Flavor of the Month, I decided this year to pick a cookbook and make it my own book of the month. My twist is that it was going to be a "famous" cookbook. At least to start.

With that in mind, I treated myself at Christmas to a new cookbook, The Barefoot Contessa in Paris, and made it my goal this month to make a bunch of recipes from the book. With January nearly over, I'm a little late in blogging about my chosen book.

So here goes. This is what I've made, so far.

I had planned on posting about this for the Weekend Cookbook Challenge, since this month's theme was about vegetables. I even had it made in time, but did not get the chance to post - heck I didn't even get the pictures uploaded off my card in time!

Roasted beets (page 150). A terrible picture for such a vibrant vegetable. I had roasted some golden beets on the bbq this summer, so had high hopes for this. I was slightly disappointed. Either Ina gets much bigger beats for her 12 required than I could find, or her salt is much less salty than mine. Because there was too much salt! Once you could get past the salt, the beets were lovely. But it was hard to get past the salt.

I made a note in my book - reduce salt by at least half!

And, no, my children did not eat this. They wouldn't even look at it.

Cauliflower gratin (page 156). Looks pretty. Sounds good. Again, a bit disappointed. I think I needed to cook my cauliflower a bit longer, so they would melt together with the cheese sauce. Better reheated the next day.

I might make this again sometime, as it was quick and simple and a nice change. However I would make sure my cauliflower was a bit more tender before I covered it in the sauce.

No, the children didn't eat this either.

I actually forgot to take a picture prior to this, for the brioche loaves (page 92) I made specifically for this recipe. I served this Pain Perdu (page 208) for dinner to my children one night, even with the icing sugar on it (this was actually my oldest son's plate.) Again, disappointed. My children each dove into their plates with alot of enthusiasm. They both were 3/4 of the way through when they decided they weren't sure they liked it. One didn't like the almonds, the other the icing sugar. Odd, since both those ingredients are usually liked by them.

I had a left over piece for breakfast the next morning and didn't like the almonds either.

So I would make it again, maybe with milk instead of half and half cream, and I likely would leave off the almonds. I'd put them on the side though, so they could be sprinkled on. I think it was simply the way they were attached to the bread that bothered one of the boys.

The brioche dough for the Pain Perdu worried me for a bit, being so sticky after it's overnight rest in the fridge, but turned out two lovely, golden loaves. I immediately froze one for later and had plenty for the french toast. A definite make again bread.

Slightly mixed reviews for the Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic (page 119). (Actually 39 for me, as that is what the 3 bulbs of garlic I had ended up with.) I loved this. I loved the flavor of the garlic, I loved the way it melted into the sauce. I loved the tenderness of the chicken (I used legs and thighs instead of a whole chicken.) My husband, however, could not get past the slight alcohol flavor from the Cognac (I used chicken stock instead of the white wine, which is part of the story of this chicken and why he didn't like it the way I did.)

You see, we do not drink much, if any, alcohol, my husband and I. So I swapped out the wine for stock, and borrowed the Cognac from my neighbour. Who gave me Champagne Cognac. Which I used. Which is not Cognac. And left an odd, background flavor that I found was covered by the garlic, but my husband did not.

Btw, it turns out Champagne Cognac is a blend of two wines, from those two regions of France, rather than brandy, which is what Cognac actually is. I learned this when I asked at the liquor store while searching for some proper cognac and a bottle of red wine. (Not the neighbours fault - she didn't know either.) I had at least one more recipe involving the Cognac and this time wanted the proper stuff.

In the meantime, I will make the chicken again, but will leave out all the alcohol this time.

Beef Bourguignon (page 121), a fancy, French beef stew. Very rich, very flavorful. Very being made again. Even with the full bottle of red wine and the half a cup of brandy that was in it.

One thing I am curious about - has anyone in Ottawa ever seen bags of frozen small whole onions? Because I have 6 grocery stores in a 10 minute driving radius of me (during rush hour) and did not see them in any of those stores. Instead I bought a bag of white pearl onions and peeled them myself.

One word of reminder, mostly to myself - this was so much better the next day, so next time, plan ahead by one day and reheat it for dinner.

This is the last recipe I have managed to make so far, Lemon Chicken with Croutons (page 110). I used 2 smaller chickens instead of the 4-5 pound bird Ina suggests, filling up my roasting pan. For my croutons I took out that extra loaf of brioche and cubed it up. Not a great choice as it was a bit too sweet for the chicken. A good sour dough would be better, but Marvin was not quite ready to be made into a loaf just then.

Nothing amazing about the chicken, though it wasn't bad. I certainly didn't taste any lemon, even with the sauce poured over it. Made lots of chicken though, so I had left overs for another meal, and bones in the freezer for stock. And both my children enjoyed the chicken - my youngest ate 2 wings and asked for more.

Still a few more things I want to make from this book before I am done with it, including Croque Monsieur (page 48) and Creme Brulee (page 222). If nothing else, I have explored a few more recipes.

Now, off to get ready for my Daring Baker's post - hint, hint, this one was actually a bit (GASPS!) controversial!


creampuff said...

You've been a busy bee! Everything looks delicious!

Anonymous said...

a couple of my favourites from that book are the roasted shallots, goat cheese tart, and the plum cake tatin. the croque monsieur was also excellent. thanks for posting about your trials- a couple of the ones you mentioned are ones i've wanted to try as well (chicken with 40 cloves & brioche.) i didn't have much luck with the eggplant gratin, but i've chalked that one up to my inexperience with eating eggplant- i want to love it, but it just hasn't happened yet. keep up the great cooking and telling about it. i don't have much time these days for cooking so i'm living vacariously through my favourite blog spots!

Anonymous said...

Whenever I roast a chicken, I typically follow Nigella Lawson's recipe that includes roasting it w/ a cut lemon in the cavity and then, after it comes out of the oven, squeezing a fresh lemon half over the whole thing. That gives it a good kick.