HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JULIA CHILD

It’s Julia Child’s birthday. oooh, Butter cake.

 

Thank you, PBS, you make me happy. I cook along with Julia and learn plenty. Julia says fix your mistakes or learn to live with them. And she does – with savoir faire.

Julia-Child

Julia’s an expert plucker, skinner, and boner. I watch her cut up a chicken, loosen skin from flesh, and pull the bones out of a goose. She stirs two pots at a time and has such a jolly time doing it that I, too, cook with a spoon in each hand. Her humor and appetite for la cuisine francaise is contagious.

As much as she is devoted to the “rules” of French cooking, Julia revels in culinary exploration. Her sense of wonder and inquisitiveness inspire me whenever I reach for a copper pot. As her recipes grow bolder, so do mine – tender escargot bobbling in garlicky butter and musky truffles redolent of earth. Pure Flavorful Heaven. Ouf!

 

But Julia is more than the Master of French Cooking. She is A Writer. No stranger to the arduous writing process, the cut-and-dried business end of publishing, the seven hundred pages that need pruning. Mastering the Art of French Cooking is her labor of love.

 

Julia’s tome needed a good final edit.  So when Julia’s editor said her book was unpublishable – too big, too expensive, too elaborate – she murdered some of her darlings. Tons were ‘killed’ but not discarded. Julia saved those foolproof recipes for subsequent books. Limaces to be used another day.

Don’t slugs sound lovelier in French?

Julia inspires legions of cooks like me who muck about in the kitchen. We do so care what she made for lunch, however daunting it seems.

Some of us cooks also like to play here at WordPress where millions of bloggers inspire legions of writers to hit the publish button.

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photo credit George, The Off Key of Life

 

So today, WWWW is taking a breath, backing away from the stats (yes, we eyeball ours, just like you do ) to introduce you to Friend/Follower #3313, George, at The Off Key of Life. He isn’t cataloguing his pantry shelves or obsessing over finding the perfect microplane. He’s just mucking about with words. Bon Appétit.

Toni 8/15/2015

JULIA, FRENCH COOKING, AND FRIEND #1001

August 1912- August 2004julia-child-0908-05Thursday was Julia Child’s birthday.  Thank you, PBS, you make me happy by keeping her alive. I cook along with her and learn plenty.  Julia says fix your mistakes or learn to live with them.  And she does – with savoir faire.

Julia’s an expert plucker, skinner, and de-boner. I watch her cut up a chicken, loosen skin from flesh, and pull bones out of a goose. She stirs two pots simultaneously and has such a jolly time doing it that I, too, cook with a spoon in each hand.

Her humor and appetite for la cuisine francaise is contagious. As much as she is devoted to the “rules” of French cooking, she revels in culinary exploration.  Her sense of wonder and inquisitiveness inspire me whenever I reach for a copper pot. As her recipes grow bolder, so do mine – tender escargot bobbling in garlicky butter and musky truffles redolent of earth. Pure Flavorful Heaven.  Ouf!

But Julia is more than the Master of French Cooking. She is A Writer. No stranger to the arduous writing process, the cut-and-dried business end of publishing, the seven hundred pages that need pruning. Mastering the Art of French Cooking was her Labor of Love.  Julia’s tome needed a good final edit. As writing teachers remind us, it’s not volume ~ it’s precision.  So when Julia’s editor said her book was unpublishable – too big, too expensive, too elaborate – she murdered some of her darlings. Tons were ‘killed’ but not discarded.  Julia saved those foolproof recipes for subsequent books. Limaces, for another day. (Don’t slugs sound lovelier in French?)

Julia used tons of French phrases ~ it is French cooking, after all.  Writing gurus suggest keeping foreign phrases to a minimum but I fling around Italian words like Julia whips out Charlotte Malakoffs.  What isn’t better with a little brio?

Julia inspires legions of cooks like me who muck about in the kitchen. We do so care what she made for lunch, however daunting it seems. For bloggers, though, writerly inspiration comes from readers.

Today WWWW celebrates the legions of friends we have on WordPress. 

So, Bloggers, take a breath, back away from the stats (yes, we eyeball ours, like just you :)) and add a new chum to your online community. Meet our Newest Friend, #1001, poet Dennis Cardiff. He isn’t cataloguing his pantry shelves or obsessing over finding the perfect microplane.  He’s just mucking about with words. Bon Appétit.

Toni  8/22/2013

FOR THE LOVE OF GNOCCHI

Always start out with a larger pot than what you think you need.   …………………………………………………..~Julia Child

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Thank you, Etruscans, for teaching the Romans to make pasta. In an Etruscan tomb in Italy near Cerveteri, there’s a mural that shows servants in a kitchen mixing water and flour on a large table with all the familiar pasta-making equipment ~ a ladle, a rolling pin, a cutting wheel.

In a fragment of a book from 1300, there is a recipe for gnocchi written in Tuscan dialect.

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Wikipedia claims that the word gnocchi comes from the Italian word nocchio, meaning a knot in wood or from nocca, meaning knuckle. My Italian dictionary, the same one that saw me through Italian I, II and III, gives the English translation as dumpling or blockhead. Blockhead?

The most intoxicating fall cooking is warm, comforting and fresh.

Me and my potato pillows ~ we’re fast friends.

Just like me and my teacher.

It helps to have some kitchen skills. And a Kitchen God. Chef Frank is a guy who loves all things culinary. A pasta chef worth his semolina, he has the chops to teach me how to make gnocchi ~ from scratch.

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The dough rests under a bowl for a while and the family rests on chairs around the table, sharing kitchen wisdom and sweet mouth-memories. We’re here to make gnocchi ~ the Italian pasta that is part of who we are and where we are from.

The ingredients for basic potato gnocchi couldn’t be simpler.

Flour. Potato. Egg. Salt.   (recipe below)

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When hands do the work, it’s like being back in Nonna’s kitchen.

We incorporate the flour as thoroughly as possible without working the gnocchi dough too much, just until it feels like pizza dough. Not a pizza maker? Then squeeze your earlobe gently between two fingers. How sweet is that.

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We form the dough into a log, then take a small hunk, roll it into a rope about 1/2-inch thick and cut it into thimble-sized dumplings.

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I’m not a fan of one-trick-pony kitchen gadgets, but for gnocchi, I make an exception.  Here’s the glamourous new star in my kitchen ~

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A slight nudge with your thumb, a gentle prod and a roll down the board.

 Pinch-me perfect...

Now for the moment of truth. In salted water that’s at a fierce boil, we drop our darlings in a few at a time so they don’t stick together. After only a few minutes, the gnocchi float to the surface. Done…

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… and ready to eat with a butter and thyme sauce.

The result? A meal worthy of a standing ovation.  Unquestionably worth the time and effort required to pull it off.

Be forewarned ~ a second helping is inevitable.  🙂

Toni 10/7/12

HUNGRY?

Gnoccchi Recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis

4 to 6 servings

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1 (1-pound) russet potato

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 large egg, beaten to blend

1/4 cup King Arthur all-purpose flour

1/4 cup shaved Pecorino Romano

Cook the butter in a heavy medium skillet over medium heat until it begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the thyme leaves. Set aside.

My Note:  Chef Frank brought a ricer.  Move over, gnocchi board.

Pierce the potato all over with a fork. Bake. While warm, cut the potato in half and scoop the flesh into a large bowl; discard the skin. Rice the potato, mix in the salt and pepper and egg. Sift the flour over the potato mixture and knead just until blended.

Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll each piece between your palms, then on the work surface into a 1/2-inch-diameter rope (about 20 inches long). Cut the dough into 1-inch pieces. Roll each piece of dough over a gnocchi board with ridges.

My Note: These French mats are perfect for rolling the dough and keeping the gnocchi safe until cooking time.

Cook the gnocchi in a large pot of boiling salted water until the they rise to the surface, about 1 minute. Continue cooking until the gnocchi are tender, about 4 minutes longer. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the gnocchi to the hot thyme-butter in the skillet. Toss to coat.  Spoon the gnocchi and butter sauce into shallow bowls. Top with the Pecorino and serve.