Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Frivolous Nutmeg Fix- The Julie and Julia Movie (A Blog-Blast to the Past!)

Hi!  So this is a little something I stumbled upon when I was browsing through the archives of my Myspace weblog- written some 3 years ago when I was a ridiculous newbie in New York celebrating my mid 20s.  It was written in the lovely confines of my yellow studio apartment in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn.  My mini fridge was my companion, and a hot plate my secret weapon.  I lived like a monk (I think), but enjoyed the simple life nonetheless.  There was enough chaos trying to get used to the city as it was.  I must say I'm a little humored by the random $%it that went on in my head, and quite certainly nothing has changed (ha!).  Please forgive the past me, I didn't care about editing or flow back then.  Enjoy!   Xxx, LA

My Frivolous Nutmeg Fix- The Julie and Julia Movie
Current mood:hungry

Dear Reader,

Not too long ago, I saw the movie Julie and Julia with the girls, and that same night (by sheer coincidence of course) we entertained ourselves with an extremely sensational French dinner. "Julie and Julia" is about the life of Julia Child written in tandum by a chef-fan of hers, Julie (...I forgot her last name). Julie, one frustrated day after work, decides to start a project to cook at least one recipe from Julia Child's book, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", for a year. That's roughly over 500 recipes for 365 days. That whole year, each day, she writes a blog about her adventures. It puts a strain on her diet, her marriage, her job, and mental stability. She also gets mis-understood by Julia Child herself over a midnight phone call. In the end she learns to bone a duck and is chased by magazine companies, publishers, and movie producers, all inspired by her blog. She realizes after a whole year of cooking, loving/hating her life, and eating, the Julia Child in her mind was the one who inspired her all along.

I don't consider myself a follower, and I've always written or mentally reflected on my cooking. It's one of my many passions. In fact, I think I spend more money on food and have more fun in grocery stores than I do in clothing stores. Why? Am I a normal female? Of course not, but then again, please my dear Reader, define "Normal"! I don't know if I'm good at it. I'm certainly not formally trained....that is, if you consider your mother and television a form of proper training...

This evening, with much respect to the culinary world, I'd like to write about a recipe I saw in the movie which I rendered into my own version. I "rendered (it) into my own version" because I didn't have butter (SHOCKER!!). =) In the movie, almost every recipe of Julia Child had butter. The recipe is Poached Eggs with Hollandaise Sauce over Toast paired with Asparagus.

The Experiment

The first thing I did the morning after watching that hilarious movie “Julie and Julia” was search my mini-fridge for eggs and bread. It was a craving. Two days prior, I had returned from a trip to the Philippines, so my mini had absolutely nothing except for eggs (thank goodness), moldy celery, parmesean cheese, a water filter/pitcher, a box of carrot soup, and no butter.....of all things! I also realized that my freezer tray was not only purged of its usual mountainous collection of frost, but all its contents, and anything perishable, was thrown away by my landlord. I was then reminded I DID have butter, but that along with a serious bunch of fruit and vegetables were tossed.....except for the celery!!

I started my task of making poached eggs with toast and hollandaise sauce.....rendered my own way...with no butter. It seemed that butter was the key ingredient for Hollandaise sauce. On the other hand, I had no desire to put on a pair of jeans, a bra, and flip-flops to the corner market to spend the Boerum Hill price of $7.00 on bread, butter, and the way, I think asparagus was out of season. I did, however, have a box of carrot soup which contained a small amount of butter; and I did also have a leftover roll of white bread from my flight back from the Philippines!

Here we go! I poached two eggs, which was easy-shmeezy. The salted water with egg whites was saved for a Chinese Velvet Egg Soup which would be made for dinner that evening. While all this was happening, I halved the roll, cut off the rounded end, and popped all three pieces in the toaster oven. I cracked another egg, poured the whites in the eggy-salty broth, and whisked the yolk in a small bowl. In another small bowl, I heated roughly 1/3 cup of the carrot soup and a teaspoon of rice vinegar (yes rice vinegar....that's all I had, sorry).....

*Side Note: I thought to myself as I was doing all this that a sauce was a sauce was a sauce....Salted butter is traditionally used in Hollandaise Sauce to provide moisture, fat, and an oily texture to carry the egg yolk. Vinegar was traditionally added to give the sauce a little zest, extra moisture, and a chemical-thickening agent for the butter and egg. Once the butter and vinegar are heated together under medium-low heat, the cream in the butter curdles and thickens. When the egg yolk (once whisked) is added gradually to the butter mixture under low heat, that also thickens, and PRESTO! You have Hollandaise sauce!

Now (with the "sauce is a sauce" concept), since I had no butter, I heated the carrot soup (which was already thick from the butter, cream, and carrot starch) together with vinegar. Once hot, I gradually stirred in the whisked egg yolk under low heat and removed it from the hot plate. At this point, the toast was done, so I spread out the toast, and placed the poached eggs. Next, I took the toasted round end, sliced it into four strips and saved them for later.

I checked the carrot-hollandaise sauce. It was thick, but tasted like it needed a kick. I added a little sage, thyme, oregano, rosemary, and parmesean cheese.....still it lacked that kick. Finally, took a sniff of the carrots in the bowl and thought of Christmas and nutmeg!! I usually added nutmeg to carrots to bring out the sweet root flavor. I added the spice, taste-checked it, and it was perfect!!

The (still hot) poached eggs were topped with the carrot-nutmeg hollandaise sauce. Two strips of toasted rounds were arranged on top of each for some architecture. Very satisfied, I dashed a little more parmesean and herbal seasoning for aesthetic, and....DONE!!!! Poached Eggs with Hollandaise Sauce (sans the asparagus)!


I normally eat every meal with some sort of vegetable. (What about the asparagus!?) I gave myself the excuse that I was still trying to get over the stomach flu, which was contracted from my trip to the Philippines....Ex-nay on the fiber-nay! However, I also was not supposed to be eating cream and butter....tisk tisk! To be even more evil, I had that very delicious French dinner the night before (Crimini Mushrooms in a cream sauce, served over a French puff-pastry....oh OH!)....Oh well! =)

Seated at my fold-out table, I sliced a piece and sampled the flavors and textures. The toasted bread crunched and moistened nicely with the warm creamy poached egg. The parmesean cheese was carried through by the egg sauce, then a kick of zesty herb, and finally finished with the carrot and nutmeg! At the end of everything, it was the nutmeg that saved the day! Who knew! It took me fifteen minutes to finish. I was thinking about the various ways I could have made this...perhaps leave out the herbs and just use nutmeg and cloves?.....

After having just two poached eggs and 8 ounces of water, I was full! That was curious....

*Side Note: I recalled a book I had read- "French Women Don't Get Fat" by Miriele Guiliano. I mentioned her in one of my previous blogs. Basically, she emphasizes that portion control is a great factor to keeping slim. Additionally, using quality ingredients and meditating on food helps maximize the impact of the meal. To be frank, it means slowing down, eating less (you'll feel 80% full, but you're actually 100%), and thinking about your food so you'll feel more satisfied. Having a conversation and some wine also helps. ;)

I'm sure you've also heard that it usually takes your stomach 20 minutes to realize it's full. With that in mind, I realized I did just that. I meditated on my food for 15 minutes, drank my water (with my vitamins- a contradiction on French gastronomy- but I won't tell if you don't!...I'll explain this in another blog), and washed my dishes. All together this took 25 minutes and I was not hungry.

In the End

In the end, I could have used better-quality ingredients. I also could have just put on some jeans, a bra, flip-flops, and spent that $7.00 to ensure a balanced meal. Then again, everyone has days like that right? It's not a crime to be lazy. It's also not a crime to prepare whatever is in your mini-fridge right?
I think I now have a frivolous nutmeg fix. My next experiment will include nutmeg in a Bolognese Ragu sauce. I got the inspiration from a book I'm currently reading called "Heat" by Bill Buford. I don't feel afraid of adding cloves and lime either! Read the book. You'll love it! If not, you'll at least feel a craving for authentic Italian food. I did.

To me, cooking means being adventurous- to try everything and anything to create an exciting meal or stick to budget. It means scientific experimentation and human guinea pigs. I suppose many have died from these excursions, but thankfully we have great masters to teach us the ways. In a sense, we're being humanitarians- we work hard to save people's lives! In Julie's case, it was her vision of Julia Child who helped her get past rough times. I hope I don't kill anyone in the future with my culinary experiments. If I had, I guess you wouldn't be able to tell me now would you?

As always, thanks for reading! It surely means a lot to me, and I hope I had entertained or lightened your day in one way or another. I'll write to you later!

Lesley Ann

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