Saturday, September 14, 2013

my week of living like julia - part three

For me, the end of August was two things. One: time off to celebrate my anniversary with Stephen. Two: my chance to Live Like Julia - in which I chose one of ten rules spelled out in Karen Karbo's new book Julia Child Rules: Lessons on Savoring Life, and lived that rule for one week. My chosen rule was Cooking means never saying you're sorry. For that one week I pledged to [try my damnedest to] never apologize.

And that's what I did. I tried my damnedest. You can see most of that damned trying here and here.

Actually, trying your damnedest can pay off. By day, Stephen and I worked on our wedding scrapbook, and I didn't apologize for my work. At night, it was movies and food, and I didn't apologize for my cooking, although that's because I didn't cook. Thursday, August 29th, the second to last day, there was a bit of cooking, but Stephen did it.

No apologies.

I love that I chose rule number eight because that chapter also contains this word of advice: "Find yourself a Paul Child" - Julia's lovely husband who played production assistant for tapings of Julia's shoestring-budget television show The French Chef, doing dishes, even "shovel[ing] the snow off the fire escape before lugging in the pots and pans they'd brought from their own kitchen."

"Reader," Karen Karbo writes, "I wish I could offer concrete advice on how to find and land your own Paul Child, a guy who will effortlessly switch roles with you if and when your career suddenly takes off, becoming in a matter of a few short months the wife to you that you once were to him, but I fear it’s mostly a matter of luck."

Well, I've been lucky.

Stephen hasn't had to do any role-switching on account of my budding chef or television career, but I've definitely been lucky to find a husband who's my kind of wife. Lucky I can be his kind of husband. And all vice versa.

I had to cap this Live Like Julia week with something special for him. My cold was going away and now that I'd spent a week eradicating my over-apologizing ways, it would be the perfect test: to see if I could cook a fancy French dinner for him and not apologize for it. A grand task. I am not a cook. I'm also a vegetarian and Stephen tries to stay dairy-free and wheat-free, so some substitutions would have to be made. So without apologies, I give you:

Coq au Vin à la Julia Child [by way of the internet and some improvisation on my part]

  • 1 pkg. bacon "ends and pieces" that you finally find while aimlessly wandering the meat case at the grocery store because you don't know that bacon is kept the same aisle as bologna and hotdogs
  • 1/3 pkg. freezer-burnt fake bacon you've had in your ice box for a very long time
  • 3 lbs. chicken breasts
  • 2 meatless chicken cutlets
  • 2 yellow onions [Some recipes say 1 yellow onion and some recipes say 12 to 24 small white onions, so you get 2 yellow onions for good measure, and it's the right decision.]
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 tsp. thyme
  • 2 cups red wine [Avoid bold, heavily-oaked varietals like Cabernet. Instead, you go with a cheap, thin Pinot Noir called Flip Flop.]
  • 2 cups broth
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 3 tbsp. flour
  • 10 oz. sliced mushrooms [You choose morels because your husband is fussy about mushrooms - and you add some golden shiitakes for yourself.]
  • Salt and pepper to taste
*Some recipes call for adding cognac and then setting the kitchen on fire, but you decide against it.


1.  Find supposed Julia Child Coq au Vin recipe online and then, just before leaving for the store to get ingredients, notice, at the bottom of your printout, one review: "This recipe was costly and time-consuming. The results were revolting." Quickly find two more supposed Julia Child Coq au Vin recipes online [there are many and they are all different]. Take all three to the store just in case.

2.  Give yourself a goodly amount of time for cooking since, even though the recipes say this will take an hour and forty minutes, you don't want to trust yourself.

3.  Put morels in bowl and cover with hot water. Soak until soft, then remove from water. Set aside in a pretty place and take picture.

4.  Chop one third of one yellow onion until you cry. Leave kitchen and get on computer. Surf facebook until you recover. Return to kitchen. Chop one third of one yellow onion until you cry. Leave kitchen and get on computer. Surf facebook until you recover. Repeat.

5.  Fry bacon over medium heat, then place on paper towels to drain. Keep the bacon grease in the pot. Fry fake bacon in separate pan. Remove before its neon red color turns brown. Add olive oil because there will be no grease left in that pot.

6. Strain the water from the morels and realize you can use it [along with Better Than Bouillon] to make your stock. You are a genius. Gain a nicely-inflated sense of self.

7.  Turn heat to high and sear chicken until golden brown on both sides. Stick the meatless cutlets in their separate pan. Don't they look lovely? Take picture.

8.  Add onions, garlic, bay leaves and thyme. Sauté six minutes, then add broth and red wine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and let simmer for thirty minutes. Remember you're supposed to be doing the same thing to your pot of frozen meatless pellets and rush to catch up.

9.  After thirty minutes, remove chicken [and in turn now-unfrozen meatless pellets] and place in oven-safe dish and put in oven to warm while you work on the sauce. Realize you were supposed to have preheated the oven to 250 degrees somewhere along the line.

10.  Into the red wine sauce in each pot, stir 1 tbsp.butter [or Smart Balance since your husband tries to avoid dairy] and 1.5 tbsp. flour [since you forget that your husband also tries to avoid wheat]. Bring to a boil and stir constantly. Add mushrooms, bacon [and fake bacon] pieces, salt and pepper and cook for 10 to 12 minutes.

11.  Place chicken back in sauce and serve with braised asparagus and a good salad.

Yield: there's nothing wrong with lots of leftovers.

Outcome: satisfied husband.

Time as stated in recipe: 1 hr. 40 min.

Time in actuality: 3 1/2 hours. Not including making the salad and asparagus. No apologies.


  1. Well done. And very well eaten. And as for husbands, wives, and which and whom is what, I think "well matched" is sufficient to explain us. xo

  2. Yay! That's a very pretty meal! It frequently takes me twice as long as a recipe says. I'm slow at chopping (although I don't usually have to take a break with onions -- I think it was Julia Child who gave me that secret, use a sharp knife and the juices splash around less).

  3. Yes! If only we'd had any knives around that were sharper than poster board.

  4. Love your sense of humor. "Chop one third of one yellow onion until you cry. Leave kitchen and get on computer. Surf facebook until you recover." This is an entertaining recipe. You could write a book for his and her, similar but not the same, side-by-side cooking for couples with different food needs.

  5. Thanks, Deb. Wow, I kind of love that idea!

  6. I have been reading the other posts for the Live Like Julia project since I did one as well and I have to say this was freaking hysterical!! I loved " set aside in a pretty place, take a picture" ha ha! Love it!

  7. Thanks so much, Shanna. Just checked out your post. You certainly are a blow torch! Lovely pictures. Glad you weren't afraid to burn down your kitchen!