Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Julia Child Mania/A Very Good Meal

This is going to sound silly, but I'm about to compare myself to Julia Child.

Julia was 6'2", I am 6'0". She was a newlywed living in a strange place where she knew no one, brought there because of her husband's job. I, as a newlywed, stayed in a small college town where I knew practically no one, because of my husband's job. She learned to cook for her husband, and I learned to cook for mine. She married a very nice man. I married a very nice man.

OK. I'll admit it. I have been excited for the premier of the film Julie & Julia for months. Maybe a year. Whenever it was that the local movie theater tacked up the enigmatic poster: two eggs--one brown, one white--a title, and the names of two of my favorite actresses against a black background. Back then I had no idea what it was about, but I didn't need to know. I didn't know anything about Julia Child, either. I knew she cooked, but in my mind her image was scrambled in with Miss Manners, Sara Moulton, and a series of other indistinguishable domestic icons. I most certainly didn't know who Julie Powell was. All I knew was that Meryl Streep plus Amy Adams had to equal bliss.

Of course, I was right--though contrary to my initial hopes, the actresses never appear onscreen together. Still, their stories and personalities complement each other. I've read lots of reviews that say Meryl overpowered Amy, that Amy was less fun to watch, but I have to disagree. I thought their performances were like oil and vinegar: very different, very enjoyable on their own, but together--divine.

But I digress. I was talking about my relation to Julia. While we're at it, my relation to Julie. The three of us, we all have that one thing in common; we all married very nice men.

For example, I didn't have to drag Ian to go see Julie & Julia. He specifically asked me not to see it Friday afternoon while he was at work, but to wait until Saturday when we could see it together. And you know what? He really enjoyed the movie. He is (have I mentioned this?) an engineer, which is basically just math and science, and Julia's approach to cooking was very scientific. He was fascinated by her theories on mayonnaise--heating the bowl and whatnot--and her exclamations about "scientific workability". We shall have to perform some science/cooking experiments of our own sometime.

Of course, after watching such a food-fest as Julie & Julia, we had to come home and cook. (This was Saturday, but I didn't want to miss writing about it--the meal was just too good. Though I also saw Julie & Julia by myself yesterday and then felt compelled to buy a loaf of French bread an pick at its crust the whole walk home before eating several pieces slathered with cheese.)

Our dinner: Greek-marinated steak (sirloin--yum) with grilled onions and homemade crostini with a goat cheese spread.

The goat cheese was leftover from the shrimp risotto I made last week, and we had some roasted red peppers lying around, garlic (a staple at our house), some cream cheese, some dried herbs. Inspired by the movie, Ian fried the bread in a pan with olive oil (I usually drizzle a little olive oil, hit the bread with some salt and pepper and bake it in the oven or the toaster oven)--one of the first dishes we see Amy Adams cook is a mouthwatering bruschetta that her husband eats so lustily you think he might need a nap afterward. Ours was not quite so incredible, but still very good--especially given the fact that we were winging it with the goat cheese spread--and the crostini provided an excellent nosh to tide us over until the steak and onions marinated.

We are, apparently, incredible marinade-forgetters.

The steaks were supposed to marinate for 8-24 hours. Yowza! We fumbled around. We'd bought feta specifically for this dish (you sprinkle it on top of the steak...get a bite of steak, feta, and onion, and you're in heaven)...was there any way to make a rub with similar flavors? No. Could we just do something different? Noooo! We had to have the steaks. So, long story short, Ian jabbed at those suckers with a fork until it looked like they'd had enough, I whipped up the marinade, and they spent 3-4 hours soaking in their juices instead of the 8-24. They still turned out well, but if you can, you must try this recipe and you must let it marinate for the proper amount of time. It comes from a book my favorite aunt gave Ian when they came out for the wedding:

Betty Crocker, Grilling Made Easy: 200 Sure-Fire Recipes From America's Most Trusted Kitchens; 2005, Wiley Publishing, Inc. ISBN: 0-7645-7453-1

It might not be a recipe Julia Child would ever have tried (though oeufs en gelee is a recipe I would never try, so we're even), but man alive is it good. And that's why we cook, right? Why we spend so many hours mastering the art of it. Good food is, to those who appreciate it, a joy.

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