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How I successfully made a Julia Child dinner

Moms are busy. Kids, pets, football practice, dance class, piano lessons, grocery shopping, doctor’s appointments, laundry, house cleaning, bill paying, and if you are like me, you work too! :) I work from home, so my schedule is flexible, allowing me to bake and make things from scratch, a luxury I do appreciate, considering I worked outside of the home for many years. I’ve been working at home for 12 years now, so I have a schedule pretty well nailed down, but there’s always someone who needs to go somewhere, etc, etc. So making a long and drawn out time consuming meal that you have never made before isn’t easy, but it’s definitely doable. You just have to be able to juggle and do some work arounds. Will I be tackling this again any time soon? Probably not, LOL, but I am definitely glad I did it. I learned a few things and everything was wonderful, except for my choice of beef cut. :-P So, on with the show.
I decided I wanted to try and make a meal from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. This is a pretty big feat considering I’ve only just opened the book for the very first time last week. 
I chose:
Steak au Poivre 
[Pepper Steak with Brandy Sauce] 

Gratin Dauphinois 
[Scalloped Potatoes with Milk, Cheese and a Pinch of Garlic]

Haricots Verts a la Provencale 
[Green Beans with Tomatoes, Garlic and Herbs]
(Recipes are at the end of this post)
I would say the only disappointing part of this meal was choosing chuck steak. The book did list chuck steak as a type of steak that can be pan broiled. I should have known better when it was listed alongside T-Bone, Porterhouse, Rib Steak and Tenderloin Butt. Chuck steak is a tougher cut and really needs a 2-3 day marinade to soften it up, or it needs to be braised for a few hours in the oven. Oh well, live and learn! I will say though that the flavor was fantastic, and even though the steak was tough, I worked at it steadily and cut thin pieces, dipping them into the remaining sauce and enjoying every bite. I will make all of these dishes again, just probably not all together due to the time commitment. 
If you don’t want to read all of my flibber flabber below, the moral of the story is basically this: prepare. Cut things ahead of time, measure out ingredients, get your pans and dishes ready, etc. If you don’t mind reading about my day, then let’s move on! ;-)
Early in the day I took the steaks out of the fridge to bring them to room temperature. Once they were at room temp, I cracked the peppercorns and rubbed them into the steaks, then covered the meat with waxed paper. 
After reading through the recipe I realized I was going to need some cognac. I didn’t want to spend a whopping amount of money on a large bottle, so I called a wine shop close by who happened to have the little airplane bottles for $4.00 each. That store is located right across the street from one of my designated stops for that day, so I decided to stop there later.
Needed to run out and pick up a pair of shorts for daughter’s new job and some football gear for youngest two sons or they can’t participate in practice that night. Ok, so off we go to the closest sporting goods store, 20 minutes away. Finished with that, time to head home again.
Came home and went about my daily schedule. As lunch time approached I knew I had quite a bit to do in the afternoon, so I prepared the green beans by snapping the ends off and rinsing them in cold water. 

Next I blanched the green beans as instructed, then covered them and placed them in the fridge for later.
Now 17 year old son needs a ride somewhere and I have magically run out of potatoes. I cannot make scalloped potatoes without POTATOES! So off to the store I go and drop off son on the way. 
Next I prepared the tomatoes to be cooked with the green beans. You boil some water, drop the tomato in the water for ten seconds, then remove and peel the skins off. 

Cut out the stem area, then slice the tomato in half, but not through the stem area, the other way. Place a sieve over a bowl or measuring cup and gently squeeze the tomato to release its seeds and juice. The juice will drain into the cup and the seeds will remain the sieve. Once the tomatoes are juiced and deseeded, chop them up.
There was some sliced onion needed as well, so I decided to go ahead and do that too. 
Oh rats, time to drive daughter to work. She works right across the street from the wine shop, so ran in and bought the little bottles of cognac.
Took a look at the recipe for the potato dish and decided to get the swiss cheese prepared. Supposed to use shredded, but I had slices, so I just cut them up into small pieces. Peeled the potatoes and sliced them thin, covered in water so they wouldn’t brown because…
…oh crap! Look at the time! It’s time to take the younger boys and the neighbor boy to football practice. Getting close to dinner time now, so starting to get a little nervous. Get boys all geared up and into the car. Head down and pick up neighbor boy.
Ok now picture this. There are 3 boys, between the age of 10 and 12, in the back of the car. They are all discussing their gear and I start to hear this tapping sound coming from all three of them. They are all tapping on their protective cups. LOL! 
Ok dropped them off and back home to get all involved in the whirlwind of dinner. Peeling and slicing the potatoes is done, so I measured out herbs, milk and butter. Milk has to be boiled too.
The potatoes have to go in first as they take the longest. So layer the potatoes and other ingredients, supposed to bring to a simmer on stove top, but I don’t have a casserole that is stove top safe. :-/ So, I added the liquid and pushed them into the oven. There, those are out of the way. :-D
Now it’s on to the green beans. First you cook the onions slowly in the olive oil, then you add the tomatoes, juice, garlic and herbs. 
You are supposed to make an herb bouquet but I don’t have any cheesecloth. I decided just to add them in. That simmers 30 minutes. Meanwhile you are supposed to blanch the green beans, but I already did that, so I just removed them from the fridge to get the chill off. 
Now it’s time to get the steaks started. Saute the steaks in hot oil and butter. The fun part is making the sauce. So delicious! While the steaks were cooking I continued with the green beans.
After the tomato mixture had simmered for 30 minutes, it was time to add the green beans and cover the pan, slowly simmering for ten minutes. Then you toss in the added herbs from the recipe and correct the seasoning if needed. 
After you remove the steaks to a warmed platter, you pour the fat from the skillet. Next you add the butter and shallots, cook slowly for a minute. Then you add the stock and boil it down rapidly over high heat, scraping down pan. 

Now add the cognac and boil a couple of minutes to evaporate the alcohol. Remove it from the heat and swirl in the butter, half a tablespoon at a time. 
THE VERDICT
Steak – Fabulous flavor, absolutely marvelous. Horrible choice in the cut. Do not make this with chuck steak, use a more tender piece such as top sirloin, T-bone, or Porterhouse. The sauce for this is outstanding.
Potatoes – Marvelous, marvelous. I was afraid I wouldn’t like this with the swiss cheese, but it was so very good! Because I skipped the step of boiling on the stovetop first while in the casserole, they could have used a few more minutes in the oven. But still very good.
Green Beans – I am definitely making these again. They smelled so good and tasted even better. Such a wonderful flavor, though ironically it seemed very Italian to me, not French.
Overall this was a complete success, disregarding the cut of beef. :-P I’m loving this book and can’t believe I’ve steered away from it for so long. So many great things to make!
RECIPES
Steak au Poivre 
[Pepper Steak with Brandy Sauce] 

Julia states that she doesn’t care for the flaming version of this dish. She says “it is too reminiscent of restaurant show-off cooking for tourists.” Instead of disguising the flavor of the meat with alcohol and pepper, she works the cognac into the sauce and allows the meat flavor to come through as it should. 
2 tbsp of a mixture of several kinds of peppercorns, or white peppercorns
2 – 2.5 lbs steak, 3/4 – 1 inch thick
1.5 tbsp butter
1.5 tbsp oil
Crush the peppercorns roughly with a pestle or bottom of a bottle. Dry the steaks on paper towels, Rub and press the crushed peppercorns into both sides of the meat. Cover with waxed paper. Let stand at least 30 minutes, 2 or 3 hours are even better. This lets the flavor of the pepper penetrate the meat.
Place butter and oil in skillet over medium high heat until the butter foam begins to subside. Saute the steak on one side for 3-4 minutes, turn and saute the other side for medium rare, longer if you wish. Remove to a warm platter, season with salt and keep warm while you make the sauce. 
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp minced shallots
1/2 cup beef stock
1/3 cup cognac
3-4 tbsp softened butter
Pour the fat out of the skillet. Add the butter and shallots, cook slowly for one minute. Pour in the stock, boil down rapidly over high heat while scraping the pan. Add cognac, boil rapidly a minute or two more to evaporate alcohol. Remove from heat and swirl in the butter, half a tablespoon at a time. 
Gratin Dauphinois 
[Scalloped Potatoes with Milk, Cheese and a Pinch of Garlic]

2 lbs boiling potatoes (red or white)
fireproof baking/serving dish, 10″ diameter
1/2 clove unpeeled garlic
4 tbsp butter
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 cup grated Swiss cheese
1 cup boiling milk
Preheat oven to 425 F. Peel the potatoes and slice them 1/8 inch thick. Place in cold water, drain when ready to use. 
Rub the baking dish with the cut garlic. Smear the inside of the dish with 1 tablespoon of butter. Drain potatoes and dry with towel. Spread half of them in the bottom of the dish. Divide over them half the salt, pepper, cheese, and butter. Arrange remaining potatoes over the first layer and season them. Spread on the rest of the cheese and divide the butter over it. pour on the boiling milk. Set baking dish over heat, and when simmering place in upper third of preheated oven. Bake 20-30 minutes or until potatoes are tender, milk has been absorbed, and the top is nicely browned. 


Haricots Verts a la Provencale 
[Green Beans with Tomatoes, Garlic and Herbs]
NOTE: I cut this recipe down to 1/3 of these instructions.
2 cups thinly sliced onions
1/2 cup olive oil
Cook the onions slowly in the olive oil until tender but not browned, about ten minutes.
4-6 firm, ripe, red tomatoes peeled, seeded, juiced and chopped
2-4 cloves mashed garlic
medium herb bouquet with cloves: 4 parsley sprigs, 1/2 bay leaf, 1/2 tsp thyme, and 2 cloves tied in cheesecloth
3/4 cup liquid (juice from tomatoes, plus water if needed or water only)
salt and pepper to taste
Add the ingredients above, simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the herb bouquet.
3 lbs green beans
salt and pepper
1/4 cup chopped parsley, or a mixture of green herbs such as basil, savory, and tarragon plus parsley
While the tomatoes are cooking, blanch the beans in 7-8 quarts of boiling water. Drain them 3-4 minutes before they are tender. Toss them into the pan with the tomatoes and onions. Cover and simmer slowly for 8-10 minutes, tossing, occasionally, until they are tender. Most of the liquid should have evaporated by this time; if not, uncover, raise heat, and boil it off rapidly, tossing the beans. Correct seasoning, toss in the herbs, and serve. 
Me

12 Responses to How I successfully made a Julia Child dinner

  1. 1
    Jacque says:

    Wow, congratulations! How exciting for you. Your segment looks great and the hosts seem very nice.

    The bavarian cream looks wonderfully light and delish!

  2. 2
    jillbert says:

    Your meal looks like it was a huge success! I like how you explained how you worked on it throughout the day – planning and being organized helps a lot!

    I think it's so great that Julia Child is getting so much attention now. I'd love to try some of her recipes.

  3. 3
    Katrina says:

    Please invite me over for dinner!

    Looks delish. Note taken about the cut of beef.

    My husband is taking me to see J&J tonight!

  4. 4
    Barbara Bakes says:

    Great job! Pepper steak is one of my favorites. I'll have to try it at home!

  5. 5
    margot says:

    Wow, those photos are really making me hungry! Great job fitting in such an impressive meal with a busy schedule. I'm off to see Julie and Julia now right now!

  6. 6
    Clueless_Cook says:

    All the dishes in your dinner look scrumptious. What a way to take on french cooking! I love it.

  7. 7
    pinkstripes says:

    Everything looks great! I'm a big scalloped potato fan and would love to try this recipe soon.

  8. 8
    Kayte says:

    You are so right on having kids and cooking through the day…I swear, I never make anything from start to finish in one sitting as far as meals go…it's always a little here, a little there, and somehow it all magically comes together at mealtime! Your dishes all look great. Nice to know about the cut of meat, so thank you for that, it was nice of you to be the guinea pig…LOL. I could eat that whole dish of potatoes the way you have it presented. Wonderful! Laughing about the boys and the tapping…I have boys, and I am here to tell you, they are just different than girls! LOL. Tip for you passed on to me by someone else: if you don't have cheesecloth, you can put your herbs in a teaball and put it in with the cooking and then take it out! I have done that a lot of times now and it does work…imparts the flavor and then out it all comes.

  9. 9
    Jackie says:

    Hi

    Is this the orginal instructions for the scalloped potatoes in the book without any changes, or is this the instructions you did with the original recipe.

  10. 10
    Amanda says:

    Hi Jackie! The recipe as printed above is from the book. In my notes I stated that I didn't cook them on the stove top as directed, but I did include the instructions to do so. :) They were wonderful!

  11. 11

    [...] was an all day affair. Similar to when I put together a dinner from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. This time I used a marinade I found [...]

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    [...] Mad Men Premiere! Julia Child’s Steak au Poivre, Haricot Verts a la Provencale & Gratin Savoyard [...]

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