Fraunch Fries, Fraunch Dressing, Fraunch Bread, ....
All spring we've been watching bike racing on OLN
Sunday afternoons/evenings. (Well, until last week usually just Jeff watched while I scrambled to get a little more homework done before the end of the weekend). This week they were showing the end of the Dauphine Libere, one of the last tune-up races before la Tour de France. In honor of the French race, I thought that I'd make a lovely simple but elegant French meal: perfectly roasted chicken, fresh green beans, a light Burgundy, and crepes Suzette.
For recipes I turned to the master: Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I've been making sauces, quiches, omelets and souffles for 20 years, so I wasn't intimidated by Ms. Julia or her book.
I read the section on roasting chicken, which reads something along the lines of "you can always tell a good cook by her perfectly roasted chicken, which requires skill and great patience..." That sounded a little trickier than I was thinking, but I'd made chicken before. We've roasted a number of turkeys as well, most of which have turned out pretty well. How hard could this little chicken be? Julia's recipe required stuffing the bird and turning it every 5-10 minutes for the first 1/2 hour or so. That wasn't going to happen. I cooked it breast-side down for the first 45 minutes and then flipped it on its back. She then described how to know when the chicken was done: by the sound and the look of the bird. Right. I used a timer and a meat thermometer.
Green beans were easy: I've steamed them dozens of times, we're focused on simple, so no recipe necessary.
I was most worried about the crepes. I've made crepes for my mother many times, but she has an electric crepe maker. I had a feeling it would be much trickier using a normal pan. The recipe also involved flambe, which seemed a little dangerous, but fun.
I made the crepes first, as they could be made in advance. I used one of our nice stainless skillets, which worked beautifully after the first 1 or 2 (even Julia said that the first one was really just to test the temperature of the pan). While I was not about to pull out a second pan and have two going at once (Julia says that with just a little practice you can easily make 24 in under a half hour), I made pretty good time. Soon (less than a half hour, in fact), I had about a dozen lovely crepes.
We put the bird in the oven and I had several adventures with the orange butter for the crepe sauce (there are times when you should take the recipe literally, and times you shouldn't). After turning the bird, we insterted the thermometers which quickly climbed in temperature. After a few minutes it had reached the done temperature after only an hour in the oven. I had thought it would take at least another 20 minutes, but if the thermometer said done, who were we to argue? I started the beans while letting the chicken rest. After about 5 minutes, Jeff started cutting up the chicken and noticed that it was looking a little bloody. Hmmm... The French may like their chicken medium rare, but I don't. Back into the oven it went and the beans were turned off. We cooked the chicken for another 20 minutes and then started the beans again. By the time dinner hit the table, it was almost 8 o'clock (we'd been shooting for 7), the beans were overcooked and the chicken was still a little pink around the edges (we saved those for microwavable leftovers). But the wine was good (I substituted Oregon Pinot for the Burgandy) and we had beautiful crepes to look forward to!
The crepe recipe involved making the crepes, making an orange butter with sugar, zest, juice, and liquor, dipping the crepes in the melted butter in a chafing dish (why I was instructed to be so careful about whipping the butter when it was just going to be melted is a mystery), pouring on some liquor, and then lighting on fire. I didn't have a chafing dish, so used a saute pan. I turned it off after placing the crepes in it, afraid of mass conflaguration, so the liquor/butter mixture wasn't hot enough to light on fire. I turned on the burner, heated the crepes/sause combo to boiling and tried again to light the dish. This time we did see some flames, but just a few as I quickly let them burn out rather than keeping it going until all the alcohol was cooked off. We piled the crepes on our plates, which were very pretty, but tasted a little too strongly of alcohol and got quickly soggy.
So much for cooking with Julia. I'm usually a pretty successful cook, although I think that's because I usually cook the same things over and over. Chalk this one down to a good experience and a lesson in never trying more than one new dish at a time.