A long overdue update

Maintaining a blog is a little more difficult that you’d expect–or at least that’s what I think.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve actually done very minimal amounts of cooking. Mostly because I was working longer hours and fell back on more convenience foods. But my occasional audience was out of town for a number of days on-and-off throughout the month, and I usually find it more inspiring to cook for at least one other person.

During this time, I did manage to go on a cookbook buying spree and I added the following titles to my already large collection:

  • Joy of Cooking (75th Anniversary edition to replace my 1975 edition) by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker and Ethan Becker
  • Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1 (40th Anniversary edition) by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck
  • Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 2 by Julia Child and Simone Beck
  • From Mom with Love… by Pushpa Bhargava
  • Quick & Easy Thai by Nancie McDermott

Not knowing much about French cuisine, and after hearing and reading great things about Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I decided to order it from Amazon. Although I have yet to try a recipe, I think it may be one of the best cookbooks I own. The introductory sections are brilliant. There is a section on kitchen equipment that outlines the basic equipment one needs to be successful at French cooking, and it has been updated over time to include modern conveniences like the food processor and electric mixer. There is also a section to define some common French cooking terms, as well as a section on equivalent measures and temperatures, and a section that outlines basic cutting/knife wielding techniques.

But perhaps the best section is that on ingredients. It’s a mere five pages, but it outlines some American equivalents to French ingredients. For instance, French bacon is unsalted and uncured, and that kind of bacon is nearly impossible to find in the States (actually, I’m not sure if that’s still true, or if that was a 1961 truth). But to achieve the effect of French bacon, American bacon can be blanched prior to use to remove the smoky flavor.

In addition to the introductory sections, I’ve read through several of the recipes, and they’re written in a manner that makes even elaborate sounding dishes accessible to the average home cook.

Just reading through this book prompted me to order the second volume. It adds a chapter on baking (breads, croissants, etc.) and charcuterie (sausages, salted pork and goose, pâtés and terrines) and expands volume one’s chapters on soups, meats, chicken, vegetables and desserts (there are tons of new desserts in the second volume–it’s almost shocking).

It took me nearly a week to pick what to make first, but I’ve decided on the following menu for tomorrow’s meal:

  • Poulet Rôti (Roast Chicken)
  • Gratin Dauphinois (Scalloped Potatoes with Milk, Cheese and a Pinch of Garlic)
  • Frozen Peas (but jazzed up as per a recipe in the book)

I’ll be certain to post the results Wednesday.

So while I’m most excited about the Mastering the Art of French Cooking books, I’m also excited about my other additions. After reading reviews of the 2006 edition of the Joy of Cooking, I decided it may be worth a go. I actually only used my 1975 edition once or twice, and didn’t consider the book to live up to it’s hype. However, the changes made to 75th Anniversary edition definitely mark an improvement, and I look forward to reading through the chapters on nutrition, entertaining, wine and beer and knowing my ingredients. Of course, I look forward to trying the recipes as well.

In addition to those classics, I was interesting in giving a go at some of my favorite ethnic cuisines. I’ve already tried a recipe for Red Curry Chicken with Butternut Squash from the Quick & Easy Thai book. While the curry turned out pretty well, I would have preferred much more spice and a thicker curry sauce–nothing that can’t be fixed with a few simple adjustments.

Lastly, I’m thinking about making a few changes to the blog. While cooking and baking are of great interest to me, I also enjoy wine and traveling. Therefore, I plan on expanding my blog to include wine and travel (although I generally see those being tied back to cooking or food in general).

Sorry for the long post. I hope to be back to regular updates soon.