Monday, March 22, 2010

Valentine's Day

So it's been years since this book was written.  A blog was started and written about the contents of Julia and her inspiring book.  And then a movie.  A movie that ended up being the inspiration for the 2010 Valentine's Day dinner.  Every year, for sometime now, John and I try and have people over to enjoy Valentine's Day together instead of going out and fighting the crowds and paying more for a meal than necessary.  We do not need a day to show our love....we show it to each other every day.  But years ago we started staying home and creating an atmosphere where others, of like mindedness, could join with us.  The theme for this year's dinner was based on the movie Julie and Julia.  One of my friends was at our house for this event a year ago and wanted to know what we were doing this year.   After sharing a couple of glasses of wine that provided liquid courage, I proclaimed that I would make Beoff Bourguignon from the Julia Childs cookbook.  A lofty goal I felt would be challenging enough to inspire great cooking, but not so high that I could not reach it.  So I borrowed the book from our friend and neighbor, (thanks Adam for allowing to cook from this book before you had the chance), and started preparing myself for the experience. Adam's one stipulation was that I had to cook directly from the recipe in the book.  No deviations.  None! Period.
I watched shows about the dish, I read the recipe over and over,  I dreamed about cooking the meal, I walked through it like an Olympic ice skater going through her moves for the performance.  I comforted myself by saying, "I can do this.  I CAN do this.  I can DO this......and if I don't there's is always good friends, good wine and Papa John's pizza delivery."  It saw me through the intimidation factor. 

I red the wine suggestions from the recipe and wondered if these types were even around anymore.  Or if like everything else, there was a "new and improved" wine that would be similar.  I went to my favorite grocery store...Wegmans....and talked to our friend, Scott, who works in the wine section.  I asked him if he had ever heard of  wines called Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone, or Bordeaux-St. Emilion. Scott, being the kind and patient man that he is, smiled knowlingly and took me to the huge section of Cotes du Rhone and St Emiion.  He explained to me, the novice who obviously knows more about Scotch than wine, that these were regions that had produced fine wines for many years.  I acknowledged my own ignorance, thanked him for his time and helpful information and took his suggested bottles home.

I should state that if you have seen the movie, Julie and Julia, then you know that French cooking is not for the diet conscience.  My favorite ingredient is unequivocally ,BUTTER.  I'm talking about good butter.  Real butter.  Not the stuff in a tub that tries to convince you it might have butter in it, but the honest to goodness, melt in your mouth, make anything taste better  ~~ butter. So my favorite ingredient was definitely on the list along with real bacon.  All of these said ingredients required preparation and time.  Well, as it happened to this grandmother of 7, the day of this dinner landed on a day where I would have at least 3 of these grandkids in the house.  The added pressure of caring for, enjoying and entertaining these grandgifts while attempting to pull off the "Beoff" was daunting.  I reminded myself that I had done far more when I had 4 little ones running around, so I forged ahead.  I enlisted their help, which sometimes proved anti-help, and told them about the great meal I was making.  We found french music on my ipod's playlist (Soundtrack to the movie Somethings Got to Give) and moved forward. 

I sauteed the bacon.

I tied the herbs and got them ready.

I browned the beef.  Paying particularly close attention to patting the beef dry before attempting to brown.
I sauteed the veggies.

And then I set the table.  I got out the linen my father gave my mother some 50 years ago.  Linen he acquired in Ireland when he was deployed somewhere with the Marines.  Close inspection of the linen affords you the ability to see shamrocks that looked embossed onto the material.  I lit the candles. I decanted the Cotes du Rhone. I put on the music for the evening
I checked the instructions for the final touches on this meal before placing it in the oven for 31/2 hours.  I was to add 3 cups of wine.  After I carefully measured out the wine and poured it in, I realised that there was enough wine left in the bottle for the cook.  A half of a glass of wine to be exact.  A reward for the hard work and effort put into this meal.  A gift from Julia to me for taking on such a task.  And a gift from the Rhone region.
Our dinner was served and proclaimed a success.  Even Adam, who set the standard of following the recipe word for word, exclaimed he would never order this meal from a restaurant menu as he felt it would fall below the deliciousness this cook had served. 

No meal is complete without dessert.  My friend, Kristen, who had kindly reminded me that this was a party that should happen every year brought our dessert.  She spared nothing and decided to use one Julia's recipes as well.   This chocolate mousse melted in our mouths and was worth the effort it took for her to whisk and whisk and whisk. 
The most important ingredient for any occasion is friends.  I didn't get to have all the women I wanted with me this evening, but had two exceptional pals who make me laugh.  Their husband's joined mine in making this Valentine's Day dinner another success.  The only thing left to say about this meal would be ~

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