Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Where's the Boeuf? (Yes, I know that was terrible.)

I can cook. I have made entire Thanksgiving dinners, I am a whiz at eggplant parmesan, my shepherd's pie is a delight but I was feeling limited in what I was able to produce. So, as many of you know, I took a big step last week and tried something new. A multi-step recipe that required real attention and skill. And I did it. Have I mastered the art of French cooking? No. But I came that much closer the other night.

I spent the better part of a month worrying about cooking up the boeuf bourguignon (god, I wish that were easier to spell) and as of last Friday night, I served it, people ate it, they seemed to enjoy it and that was it.

The last several months of my life have been very rote. A typical day goes with me getting up, taking my walk, going home, and sending out resumes while I have "The Young and the Restless" on in the background. (For those of you who used to watch it but haven't in years, you'll be delighted to know that Kay and Jill still hate one another. Since 1974.) Then I tend to worry about my future obsessively for the rest of the day.

Last week was a change of pace and it was nice to stave off the few work rejections that I did get and go shopping. I turned in my coin at the bank and bought items a few at a time. I think that was a psychological thing so it wouldn't look as though I had spent too much money all at once. Always the glutton for punishment, I even walked through the heat and humidity last week to the Fairway down under the viaduct to get the stew meat. And truthfully, I just didn't want to pay for a subway ride to the Fairway on 75th. A friend insisted that I should only go to Fairway, but I'm not sure why that should have been my only option. But I did get my meat and bacon there. Yes, the recipe calls for both bacon and beef. Vegetarians had best stop reading here.

My mind wouldn't rest. While lying in bed on Wednesday night, I was puzzling over what it would be like to cut the bacon from the "rind." I don't think I'd even seen bacon that hadn't been sliced before. The task of separating the bacon from the rind ended up being a lot easier than I thought. The rind is just the skin anyhow. And it all worked out swell. I bought a copy of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" recently but didn't want it to get all messy. perhaps I shouldn't have been so reticent. I always tell my mother that I want her old Betty Crocker cookbook one day, and that things is so splattered by grease and flour and shortening and god knows what else that the book could probably be cooked in the oven and taste good. But I couldn't bring myself to soil my new cookbook. I photocopied the recipe and had it right in front of me as I went step by step, bit by bit over the recipe. There were a few adjustments I had to make - the bacon didn't render out enough fat to brown the meat successfully and in the end, there was no fat to pour out. I started at 1:30 in the afternoon and was done by 7:45 pm. That includes the whole process of cooking in the oven (and frequently checking to make sure it wasn't simmering too much.) Unlike Julie Powell, I did not fall asleep and burn it. Although, my recipe looked a lot different than the one shown in "Julie and Julia."

And as Julia said, the flavors come together much more harmoniously when left overnight. There was barely enough for leftovers when the party was over. That's partly due to a nosy roommate with boundary issues but that's another story entirely.

So what do I tackle next?

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