Friday, February 18, 2011

Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon

If the premise behind posting this recipe was a real-life assignment in a college or school, I would have failed.Or been thrown out of school. Well, OK, not that serious, but I probably would be in detention for a while. Herein is a lesson on How Not To Be a Good Member of a An Otherwise Earnest Little Food Blogging Group:
  1. The very charming Simran of the equally charming food book club This Books Makes Me Cook announces that the book "Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously" by former blogger Julie Powell as a contender for the May book choice.
  2. Yes, May 2010. Lets do a little fact check. Star Date Now: February 2011.
  3. Back up to May of last year. Sulk, because I don't want to read this book. Because I watched the MOVIE version THREE times. And I didn't like it. All.Three.Times.
  4. Secretly conspire to NOT have the book chosen by trying to buy out the other book club members. Fail at mission as the book is overwhelmingly chosen.
  5. How can someone watch a movie THREE times if they didn't like it, you ask. Easy. Be stuck on a three-stop-layover aeroplane where this was the ONLY movie available to watch. Three times over.
  6. Except for the two hours you squeezed your head between the gaps in the seat in front to spy on what was playing on the other passengers mobile DVD. No I didn't. Really. It was cartoons.
  7. And you start mimicking Julia's shrill accent to the flight attendant when they come around with peanuts...."Bon Appetit!"
  8. For an excruciating 15 hours of flight time which feels like 67 years after adding two kids to the mix, and this is the ONLY movie that you get to watch can make someone feel a tad "underwhelmed" when asked to review the book that sprouted the movie. So I read My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prudhomme (her auto biography) instead.
  9. And in case anyone wants to do a psychological analysis of my deep-seated resentment. The answer is quite simply Jealousy. Yes, I'm jealous of blogger Julie Powell. That she got to blog way back in 2002 when some of us were not even born. Oh wait, I mean some of our blogs were not even born. And then she comes up with this great idea to cook all of Julia Childs recipes. And then she gets the book deal. And then she gets the movie deal. And then Meryl Streep. Oh my. Meryl Streep!!! I'm JEALOUS.
  10. Have an overwhelming urge to try Boeuf Bourguignon - a stew of beef in red wine with mushrooms, pearl onions and bacon (pronounced BUH-YOF BOOR-GWEE-NYON (heh heh, that's me pulling a Dictionary sounding thingy heh heh)) because it
    • factors so prominently in the Julie and Julia Project (movie/book/blog) - its the dish Julie Powell slaves over, burns to a crisp because she gets drunk and/or falls asleep and finishes perfectly the next day only to be stood up by her important journalist dinner guest
    • gained notoriety amongst cooking circles as the quintessential French recipe captured absolutely perfectly by Julia Childs
    • has a lot of bulleted steps, which I seem to be a fan of
  11. Host a Valentines Day pot-luck and pick the theme FRANCE for your unsuspecting guests, and decide "This is it! This is the time to try this dish, once and for all!".
  12. I did like this dish, and I thought it was worth the effort (see the mixed reviews from my powerful critics a.k.a. my family, below).
So in a nutshell, in the time it could have taken to, I dunno, maybe birth a child (9 months exactly May 2010 - Feb 2011), I finally made Boeuf Bourguignon, all three components of it
  • beef stewed in red wine with onion, carrots and bacon
  • sauteed mushrooms in butter
  • brown braised pearl onions and 3 hour cook time later I present it to you, along with these pointers and reviews from my critics a.k.a. the Family.

Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon Recipe - Completely sourced from her publisher's website Knopf Doubleday. I copied the entire recipe, so I am not cutting and pasting it here, instead I'm adding my pointers and the mixed reviews from my critics.
  1. This dish takes some time. Be prepared. It's mainly cooking time, but there are a couple of prep steps, the most time-consuming being the searing of the beef prior to cooking it in the stew.
  2. The recipe calls for the searing to be done in small batches to get the right crust. Of course, I cheated by using my largest non-stick pan so I could get more done, and possibly paid the price by not quite getting the crust that a cast iron or steel skillet would have given you. But then I had less clean-up. *snicker*.
  3. Bacon needs to be sliced, boiled and then fried in butter. Julia? WT? I know, heaven help her. But she lived to be 91, so she must have known some s^*t. This process, though completely weird to me, removes all the salt from the bacon.
  4. Two of the three components are basted pearl onions and sauteed mushrooms, they taste really good as individual dishes, and I questioned why they needed to be thrown into the powerful stew and lose their identity. I used frozen pearl onions and defrosted them prior to cooking. Here is the odd thing, two days later, when I was reheating leftovers, the onions still stood out in the stew. Julia. You are one smart cookie. 
Now the reviews:
  • My mom preferred the stew straight out of the oven, bubbling with heat. I preferred it a day or two later, re-heated of course, I felt the flavors had really become pronounced over time. This is a really rich stew with meat that becomes fork tender after the long cook time. I also like the fact that there are quite a few vegetables included in it.
  • My dad thought I had cooked the beef in cough medication. He didn't like the strong wine flavor. This critique has issues of its own.
  • The dish was almost finished by all the guests, they must have liked it?
  • I didn't give it to The Kids - Too Much Wine I thought...
  • The Husband Who May Have Been On His Crackberry/Blackberry The Entire 3-4 Hours That The Dish Took To Make:
  • Me: How Is it. Its BUH-YOF BOOR-GWEE-NYON. It's Julia Childs. It's this really long recipe. It's the one from the annoying movie we watched. Remember, the one with the lady that I am so jealous of. How is it? What do you think? Do you think it needs salt? It's got a bottle of wine in there.... a WHOLE bottle.
  • THWMHBOHCTE3-4HTTDTTM: Good. Good. good-good-good. Needs a little salt.
  • Me: How is that possible! It has BACON in it! And stock! How can it need more salt???!!!
  • THWMHBOHCTE3-4HTTDTTM: Good. Good. good-good-good. Needs a little salt.
  • Me: I think I am going to stick my head in the oven now.
  • THWMHBOHCTE3-4HTTDTTM: Good. Good. good-good-good. Needs a little salt.
This is a long recipe, but do not despair. It only took me 9 months...errr.. 3 hours to do.
Julia ChildsObituary from USA Today

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sayyadieh - Lebanese Fish and Rice with Onion Sauce

One of my favorite Mediterranean restaurants in Houston is Fadi's. The food and the quality is impeccable and I never turn down an offer to have lunch there. My husband attended a party recently and had a to-go box of a fish and rice dish that he brought home for the rest of us to sample (read GORGE on). I have never had this particular dish at the restaurant and couldn't place it on their menu - it definitely was not paella - it was some kind of simple rice pilaf, with pieces of cooked white fish fillets on top. But it was rich, buttery and heavenly!

On my next trip to the library, I ransacked all the Mediterranean cookbooks I could find to see if there was a recipe that sounded the same - and I found this recipe for Sayyadieh in Claudia Roden's cookbook Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey, and Lebanon. She describes a rice dish cooked in an onion broth and served with pan-sauteed fish.  That sounded about right, and I set to work reproducing the recipe to suit our palettes at home.

While the final outcome was not exactly what we had sampled from Fadi's restaurant, it still comes in close and is definitely a keeper chez nous. There are three components to the dish - first onions are caramelized and blended into a broth. Rice is then cooked in the broth and served with sauteed fish, and the two served together with any remaining onion gravy.

Sayyadieh - recipe adapted from Claudia Roden's Arabesque

4 fish fillets - use any firm, (preferably) white fish fillets, skinned and de-boned. (I used salmon!)
1 heaped teaspoon ginger-garlic paste
salt and pepper to taste
juice of 1/2 lemon

1. Rub the ginger-garlic paste, salt and pepper over the fish fillets and add lemon juice. Slice the fillets into pieces to facilitate cooking.
2. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet, and pan/shallow fry the fillets till done (add oil as needed). Remove from pan and reserve.

Onion Sauce
3 large yellow onions - sliced
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 fish/chicken/vegetable boullion cubes
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp allspice, 7-spice or garam masala powder
4 1/2 cups boiling water
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat about 2 Tbsp of the oil in a large skillet, add onions, reduce heat to medium-low and cover skillet. Let the onions cook till they become soft and translucent. Occasionally stir.
2. Remove lid and let the onions caramelize and attain a deep brown color. Do not burn, so keep stirring frequently.
3. Remove the onions from the pan, add to a food processor or blender and add a cup of boiling water and puree the onions.
4. Return the puree to the skillet, add the remaining water and add all remaining spice seasonings and boullion cubes and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer the mixture for 10 minutes on medium heat. Pour out the onion sauce and reserve.

1 1/2 cups Basmati rice, rinsed and soaked in water for about 30 minutes
Onion sauce prepared above
Splash of oil

1. Add oil to the skillet used to fry fish and heat. Drain the soaked rice, and add to the skillet. Stir fry the rice until you see the grains getting dry, about 2 minutes.
2. Pour 2 1/2 cups onion sauce into the rice and let the mixture come to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover the skillet with a tight-fitting lid and let the rice cook for approx 15 minutes. Different brands of Basmati rice have different cook times, so make sure you keep an eye on the rice. It may be best to use a non-stick pan to avoid the bottom layer of the rice from burning. Try not to stir the rice as it cooks as it can cause the mixture to become clumpy or break the grains.
3. Remove the rice from heat after it is cooked to your liking. Arrange the rice on a platter with the fish on top and garnish with toasted pine nuts or slivered almonds. Serve with the remaining reheated onion sauce or drizzle the sauce on top of the rice.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Copycat Recipe - California Pizza Kitchen's BBQ Chicken Pizza

Hello! Happy New Year! We are close to the end of January and here I am fresh off my resolutionary agenda, which included "I MUST BLOG MORE" in the list ;-)

I'm back this time with a super easy pizza recipe that you can whip up in no time if you have a craving for pizza.
Or something hot out of the oven. Preferably topped with a lot of gooey cheese.

California Pizza Kitchen is a chain restaurant known for their incredibly thin pizza crusts and varied toppings with a distinctive California flair. The BBQ chicken pizza claims top honors as one of their most popular items  ever since it was introduced in CPK's first restaurant in Beverly Hills in 1985. Here is a quick and easy way to create it at home.

The following cast of characters are what you will need on hand (adapted from "America's Most Wanted Recipes"):

- Pizza dough - either go the store-bought route or whip up a batch of your own. I will admit I was always wary of store bought pizza dough after one particularly crappy cardboard-like experience in the past, and so I always preferred to make my own pizza dough, but I was recently surprised at the quality of the store-bought dough on hand at groceries now. Go for the freezer dough rather than the dried out-on-the-shelf brands.
- 2 cups cooked and cubed chicken - Again, if you have cooked chicken on hand, grab that, or use deli chicken, rotisserie chicken leftovers - anything that vaguely resembles chicken will do or quickly saute 1 boneless chicken breast in a splash of oil till cooked through.
- 1/2 cup BBQ sauce and a little extra for drizzling - whatever brand you have on hand. I got a bottle of free BBQ Memphis sauce on a recent grocery expedition, and this was my turn to try it out.
- 1 cup shredded mozarella cheese
- 2 Tbsp shredded Gouda cheese - I didn't have any, I substituted Monterrey Jack cheese
- 1/2 small red onion - sliced thin. I didn't have that either, I used regular yellow onions.
- 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro - chopped

1. Toss cooked chicken in half of the the BBQ sauce. Heat in a skillet over medium heat until the chicken is thoroughly coated and the sauce has reduced slightly and become thicker (about 3 minutes).
2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. (If using store bought dough, use temperature on package).
3. Prepare pizza crust or follow directions to prepare store-bought pizza dough. Form the pizza dough into a circle and place on a baking sheet or pizza pan.
4. Spread remaining BBQ sauce over pizza crust. Top with chicken, cheese and onions.
5. Bake for 10 minutes or until crust is crisp and golden.
6. Sprinkle cilantro over pizza before serving. (Another option is to bake the cilantro with the pizza, but I personally found that it dried out the cilantro too much).