Tag Archives: Julia Child

Queen of Sheba

Isn’t it lovely when you wake up on a Saturday morning to the scent of freshly brewing coffee and your hubby baking in his boxers? Believe me, I count my lucky stars frequently. It has been a particularly busy past September (hence the long absence). At times, it seemed like no matter how many hours I put in, I could never keep up with pile that kept on building. But thanks to the occasional Saturdays with my hubby baking away, I made it through September with a smile. On this particular Saturday, hubby made me the Queen of Sheba.

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And after my first bite, I did feel like the Queen of Sheba who was given “all her desire, whatsoever she asked” by King Solomon.

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Queen of Sheba is actually a French cake–Reine de Saba–made famous by Julia Child who said that it was the first French cake that she ever tasted. Our recipe was taken from another one of our picture cookbooks simply called French by Carole Clements and Elizabeth Wolf-Cohen. Below is the recipe taken verbatim from this delicious and classic cookbook.

What you’ll need:
2/3 cup whole blanched almonds, lightly toasted
2/3 cup of superfine sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted
3 eggs, separated
2 tbsp almond liqueur (optional)

For the Chocolate Glaze
3/4 cup heavy cream
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp almond liqueur (optional)
chopped toasted almonds to decorate

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter an 8-9 inch spring form pan or deep loose-based cake pan. Line the base with nonstick baking paper and dust the pan lightly with flour.

2) In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process the almonds and 2 tbsp of the sugar until very fine. Transfer to a bowl and sift over the flour. Stir to mix then set aside.

3) In a medium bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer until creamy, then add half of the remaining sugar and beat for about 1-2 minutes until very light and creamy. Gradually beat in the melted chocolate until well blended, then add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition, and beat in the liqueur, if using.

4) In another bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the remaining sugar and beat until the whites are stiff and glossy, but not dry. Fold a quarter of the whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then alternately fold in the almond mixture and the remaining whites in three batches. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Tap the pan gently to release any air bubbles.

5) Bake for 30-35 minutes until the edge is puffed but the center is still soft and wobbly (a skewer inserted about 2 inches for the edge should come out clean). Transfer the cake in its pan to a wire rack to cool for about 15 minutes, then remove the sides of the cake pan and let cool completely. Invert the cake onto an 8 inch cake board and remove the base of the pan and the paper.

6) To make the chocolate glaze, bring the cream to a boil in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Stir gently until the chocolate has melted and is smooth, then beat in the butter and liqueur, if using. Cool for about 20-30 minutes until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally.

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7) Place the cake on a wire rack over a baking sheet and pour over the warm chocolate glaze to cover the top completely. Using a spatula, smooth the glaze around the sides of the cake. Spoon a little of the glaze into a pastry bag fitted with a writing nozzle and use to write whatever you like. Let stand for 5 minutes to set slightly, then carefully press the nuts onto the sides of the cake. Using two long spatulas, transfer the cake to a serving plate and chill until ready to serve.

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Julia Child’s Fricassee de Poulet L’Ancienne

Also known as “Old-fashioned Chicken Fricassee with Wine-flavored Cream Sauce, Onions, and Mushrooms.”

Last night, I attempted a great feat:  to master the art of French cooking as guided by Julia Child.  Well, at least, master one chicken dish by Julia Child.  I was craving something French, as I have been for some weeks now.  And being the ad-influenced consumer that I am (referring to my having seen the Julie & Julia movie recently and read the book — which I didn’t find to be as good as the movie, btw), I pulled our dusty Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume 1 off the shelf and began to read.  Now, I had limited options on what to cook given what was available in our fridge.  I only had two options: chicken or beef.  Since I’ve been eating a lot of red meat lately, I went with the chicken.  I had chicken drumsticks, to be exact.  I wanted to make it up to Hubby since he recently cooked dinner for me and a friend, while we gabbed about people falling in love in their late twenties and settling for the first great guy encounter or waiting for true love to come along (that’s another post for another day).

So back to my chicken.  I didn’t want to just do a simple fry or grill.  I was craving something more complex in taste, but easy to make.  So, page 258 it was:  the location of my first Julia Child recipe excursion.  On initial read, the recipe seems straight-forward.  You saute some vegetables (1 carrot, 1 celery stalk, 1 sliced onion) in 4 tablespoons of butter, then add the chicken, turning every now and then until the chicken is “light golden yellow.”  Then sprinkle the golden yellow chicken on both sides with salt, pepper, and flour.  Cover and cook for another few minutes, turning once.  Then add the 3 cups chicken stock,  1 cup white wine (in my case, I used vermouth, which was an option allowed by the recipe), and an herb bouquet.  The recipe called for parsley, bay leaf, thyme for the herb bouquet, but I used the parsley, thyme, and rosemary since we had those fresh.  After adding these ingredients in the casserole, you bring to a boil, then simmer for 25-30 minutes.  My chicken immersed in delicious liquid looked like this:

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While the chicken is cooking, Julia says you should make the onion and mushroom “garniture,” found on other pages of the book.  To make the onion garniture, you basically take some small white onions (I just sliced an onion), butter, chicken stock, and an herb bouquet and simmer these ingredients for about 40-50 minutes.  To make the mushroom garniture (basically stewed mushrooms), you simmer some mushrooms (I just used the baby bella slices), 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon butter, and 1/3 cup water for about 5 minutes.  The point of making these two dishes is for the sauce.  You add it into the chicken casserole, eventually.  Plus they made great side dishes.  My onion and mushroom garniture looked like this:

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So back to the chicken.  Once the chicken drumsticks are cooked (i.e., tender when pinched. By this point the chicken should easily let your fork slide in when pricked), you need to reduce the liquid to make the sauce.  You basically bring it to a boil and let some of the liquid evaporate, and the sauce starts to thicken.  At this point, you can add the juices from the onion and mushroom garniture.

Once the liquid has reduced and thickened, you need to blend 2 egg yolks and 1/4 cup whipping cream in a bowl, using a wire whip.  This was where I got a little stumped because the recipe stated that I should “add the hot sauce by tablespoonfuls until about a cupful has gone in” my bowl with the blended egg yolks and cream.  So much for “easy to make.”  I decided, after deliberating with Hubby about my options, to take turn off the stove (which had been on high so that I could reduce the liquid into a thick sauce), take out the chicken (onto another dish), and pour the remaining liquid into a measuring cup (the kind with the spout).  This made it easier to “dribble” the hot sauce into the bowl.  Dribbling is important because you don’t want the egg yolks to cook and curdle.

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Once I blended all of the hot sauce into the egg yolk and cream blend, I poured the new mixture into the casserole and let it boil (to further thicken and reduce).  Once the sauce has reduced, you can now eat dinner!

Actually, while the sauce was reducing, I made some spatzle.  Once the spatzle is done and the sauce thickened and reduced, then you can eat dinner.  Put some spatzle on your plate; place a couple of drumsticks on top of the spatzle, pour the sauce over the chicken, garnish with parsley, and lastly, place some mushrooms and onion garniture on the plate.  Complement the dish with a Cotes du Rhone or red Burgundy.

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Like this one: Valreas “Cuvee Prestige” Cotes du Rhone Villages 2007, which we got at our local Trader Joe’s for about $5 or $6 bucks! It was excellent with the meal. On its own, ripe and spicy. With the dish, sweet but dry with a fruity flavor and just enough edge to highlight the vermouth in the dish.

And for its encore presentation on Lavender&Cocoa: Fricasse de Poulet L’ancienne!

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I have to say that making this dish was quite stressful.  There was so much to do, even though the recipe seems straight-forward.  I have never used so many dishes (and pots) while cooking.  Hubby said that I’d get better if I cooked more from the book.  I’m sure, he’s right.  Practice does make for more efficient cooking.  Still, I think I will reserve the next Julia Child recipe I attempt for a weekend…when I have had a more leisurely day.

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Too Bad It’s Not Winter

cause I’m really craving me some Boeuf Bourguignonne (aka beef bourguignon) with a fine glass of red Burgundy. After a long two days, patiently hunting for bargains on the WLYS, Mom and I opted to do other mother-daughter-bonding things today, like go see the new release of “Julie & Julia.” And now…I am craving French food, particularly Boeuf (pronounced like an airy “boof”) Bourguignonne (“yeah, I’m not even going to try that one”). Now I’ve never made the Julia Child recipe, but I have made a pretty decent beef bourguignon in my day.  Oh the delicious scent of beef, pearl onions, carrots, tomato, and herbs all slowly simmering in a beautiful bouquet of red wine…. It even has bacon, too.  Can’t beat that!

Sadly, it’s not Winter, and I can’t even get a fine glass of red Burgundy because I’m in Nashville and it’s Sunday. Meaning: All liquor or wine or any other store selling any sort of alcoholic products are CLOSED! And even more sad is that the Trader Joe’s down here doesn’t sell any wine! My hubby and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE shopping at Trader Joe’s for wine. They have the best selection of inexpensive, yet scrumptious liquid grape (even their own line). So, I’m left to settle with a South Australia Shiraz, a 2008 vintage by Layer Cake (about $16.00 at the Nashville Costco). Mom was told by a friend that it was good, so of course, we had to have a taste. I must say, I’m not that impressed with it at all, and way too overpriced for the quality. It was a bit bitter at first taste, surprising for a Shiraz.  If you ever decide to try it, I’d open it up the night before you want to drink it.  Give it a day or so to open up.  Yes, it takes that long (according to my palette)!

If I did have a red Burgundy, I’d love to have one from a vineyard in Pommard, Beaune, Volnay, Meursault, or Puligny, France. I myself prefer Meursault.  Did you know that a Burgundy can come in red or white?  Yep.  Burgundy is just the name of the region where the wine is made.  In fact, most Burgundy red is made of pinot noir grape, and Burgundy white is made of chardonnay.  I didn’t know this until this past May when my hubby and I went to France for our anniversary (it was lovely).  We decided that since we drink wine practically every day, we might as well learn more about it.  And why not in France? Just a hop, skip, and a jump — so there we went.  We settled for Beaune, France — easily accessible by train from most major cities.  We flew in separately to take advantage of frequent flyer miles.  He in Frankfurt, Germany and I in Geneva, Switzerland.  It was so romantic meeting up on the platform in Lyon, France, where we proceeded to Beaune.  It was as if we were two lovers, long separated by some undesired circumstance.

Beaune is a quaint little town at the center of the Burgundy region.  It is between Dijon (known for its mustard, as you may know) and Autun (I have no idea what gets made here).  We came across a nifty little bike rental shop en route to the hotel from the train station and decided to bike through the vineyards and different towns the following day.  The rental cost us about $50.00 combined, which beats the typical tasting tour price of about $40 buckaroonees per person.  The owner of the bike rental shop was lovely enough to point us to the best vineyards along the way.  And he even gave us recommendations for cheese and bread shops in Beuanne where we could stock up on sustenance before embarking on our bi-cyle excursion.  It was absolutely perfect for wine tasting.  You bike, then drink for a while, then bike again to the next town.  There is a dedicated bike path, so no need to worry about running into any fast-speeding quadri-vehicles.  Here are some images of our trip, perhaps they may inspire you to venture and visit Burgundy soon!

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