August 9, 2009

The Main Attraction

Dinner was Poulets Grilles A La Diable and Haricots Verts A La Provencale. In a word, Wow!

Choosing a main course was the most difficult and disappointing part of the whole process. While I was just getting familiar with Mastering the Art of French Cooking and trying to figure out what French cooking is all about anyway, I found this lead-in in Julia's chapter on sauces: Sauces are the splendor and glory of French cooking. I thumbed through the sauce recipes and found that most of them rely on wine as an ingredient, and that meant that most are out of bounds because of dietary restrictions. Either I was going to play fast and loose with French cooking, or I was going to have to search out a menu that didn't include alcohol as an ingredient. I was able to do the latter.

The green beans were a real revelation. Flavored with peeled, seeded tomatoes, onions, garlic, tarragon, and parsley, they retained a nice crunch and were a really surprising combination of flavors. Right now, I'd vote against serving solo vegetables and look for more combinations like this.

The chicken was a more complex preparation than I'm used too—browning, adding a mustard-green onion sauce, and then a bread crumb coating before final broiling. The bread crumbs were probably the most unusual menu element and even though they provided an interesting texture, I think I kept them under the broiler a bit too long. But the chicken itself was remarkably moist and tasty, so I'd definitely make this again.

Besides making a dinner I really enjoyed, I was left with a real sense of accomplishment. I didn't know I could experiment with those techniques or ingredients and wind up with something so good. I definitely want to do the bread again, and I considered several other main courses I think I should work with, too. All this time later, and Julia is still winning converts. Thanks, Julia, and thanks, Julie, for reviving my interest in a chef and a cookbook I've never tried seriously before.