Posts Tagged With: Julia Childs

292/365: National Seafood Bisque Day*

It would be shellfish of me not to remind you about today’s food holiday. October 19 is National Seafood Bisque Day!

Alternatively, you could celebrate National Oatmeal Muffin Day. No offense to oatmeal or muffins, but why would you? A rich, hearty, and delicious seafood bisque sounds about a million times more appealing, especially as the weather is turning colder. Besides, this will enable us to use up the last of our crab from the wedding.

A bisque is a smooth, creamy soup based on a strained broth made with crustacean shells – typically shrimp, crab, or lobster. The name of this French classic is believed to have come from the Bay of Biscay, though bis cuites (“twice cooked”) also applies to the preparation of a typical bisque, in which the crustaceans are generally sauteed in their shells first, before being simmered in a broth of wine and other ingredients and then strained. Cream is then added, and the soup is thickened with a roux, though in the past rice was commonly used, or even the pulverized crustacean shells themselves. When cooking a bisque, Julia Childs instructs, “Do not wash anything off until the soup is done because you will be using the same utensils repeatedly and you don’t want any marvelous tidbits of flavor losing themselves down the drain.” Marvelous tidbits of flavor, come baaaack!!!

We’ve been very fortunate with the timing of many of these food holidays. I guess we picked a good year to take on this project, because it seems the toughest challenges have fallen on either Friday nights when we could go out, or weekends, when we are able to invest the time in cooking a tricky meal from scratch. I know this has been the case with Peking duck, escargot, and rum punch, among others, and today is no exception. Besides the Dungeness crab from our wedding, Tara added shrimp and  made a wonderful seafood bisque that was hot, creamy, and loaded with delicious flavor.

National Seafood Bisque Day

Categories: Seafood, Soup | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

252/365: National Steak au Poivre Day*

September is moo-ving right along, and the food celebrations continue. The 9th is National Steak au Poivre Day!

It’s also National Wienerschnitzel Day and National I Love Food Day. All of these choices sound celebration-worthy. This blog exists because we love food, so in that regard we’re celebrating our love of the edible all year long. We debated going with wienerschnitzel – there’s a great German restaurant right here in town – but I was intrigued by Steak au Poivre, so we decided to give that one a whirl.

Setting food on fire is always fun!

Setting food on fire is always fun!

So what the heck is Steak au Poivre, besides difficult to pronounce? (It’s ah-pwav-er, but you have to roll your tongue and arch your back and hold your breath while reciting the alphabet backwards skipping every other letter). Just call it “pepper steak” instead. This French dish is made with steak (Julia Childs said,  “This famous dish usually calls for individual tenderloin or loin strip steaks, but other cuts may be used if they are of top quality and tender”) steak coated with cracked peppercorns that form a crust, and then cooked in a hot skillet with butter and oil. It’s served with a pan sauce containing cognac and heavy cream. Yum!

Steak au Poivre is a descendant of Steak Diane, though its exact origins aren’t clear. Several chefs claim to have invented the dish in the 1920s and ’30s, but it was already a specialty at the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo in 1910. Evidence suggests it may actually have royal origins: Leopold I, king of Belgium, was a skilled cook who came up with a recipe for beefsteak and peppercorns that certainly resembles modern-day Steak au Poivre.

To celebrate, we turned to the man who mixes science and food: Alton Brown. His recipe for Steak au Poivre looked remarkably simple – and it was! There’s nothing difficult about making this dish; it’s all about the flavors. And these were delicious: the sauce was earthy and creamy, the steak itself, peppered to perfection. We really enjoyed this meal!

National Steak au Poivre Day

Categories: Beef | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

149/365: National Coq Au Vin Day. Again.

May 29 is National Coq au Vin Day! Again.

For some reason, there are a few duplicate food holidays. I don’t get it: with so many great foods left uncelebrated – can you believe there’s no National Ketchup Day, for instance?! – it’s weird that some foods get more than multiple holidays. Especially something so random and specific as National Coq au Vin Day, which is also celebrated on March 22nd. We just encountered this with wine over the weekend, as there is both a National Wine Day and a National Drink Wine Day. It goes without saying that you’re going to drink it, right? What other option do you have, other than inserting an IV tube full of chardonnay into a vein? Which, come to think of it, would save you the trouble of pouring…

Anyway. The only explanation that I can come up with is, one of the Coq au Vin holidays is listed as a “National” day, and the other isn’t. What is especially frustrating is that I busted my ass in March, recreating Julia Childs’ signature dish for the challenge. And equally annoying? March 22nd was also National Water Day, which we chose to skip because, well, how hard is it to pour yourself a glass of water? That was before we realized there was a second National Coq au Vin Day, though.

As delicious as the dish was the first time around – and it was really good, one of our favorite food challenges to date – it was very time-consuming and required a ton of prep work. I just didn’t have it in me to do it again on a weeknight, so I turned to Trader Joe’s for help this time. They’ve got a frozen Coq au Vin that looked decent enough in the picture on the box. And most importantly, required virtually no prep other than preheating the oven and sticking it in there. So, if you want the history of Coq au Vin again, click on my link above.

And the Trader Joe’s version of this classic French dish? It was passable…but barely. After having that delicious homemade Coq au Vin last time, there was no way this could be anything other than a letdown. But, hey…at least it didn’t take a lot of work!

Coq au Vin

Categories: Poultry | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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