Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Julie in reverse

Julie & Julia, the award-winning blook by Julie Powell, chronicles an amazing project: a young woman with more energy than sense takes Julia Child completely seriously and lets her own life be turned upside-down. It's a fine, fun read that has led me to some introspection.

I have many, many cookbooks. Most date from the 1970s and early 1980s, when I was in college and single and interested in cooking. I tore recipes out of newspapers on Wednesdays, the day of the grocery ads and the food sections. Some of them I tried, but more of them I stuck in file boxes or between the leaves of cookbooks, apparently randomly. I bought grocery store magazines for their recipes, especially the Christmas issues. I have three or four years of Gourmet magazine (three or four linear feet). The cookbooks and file boxes and magazines have followed me around for decades. Once I finally got married and had a family to care for, though, I was older and tireder. I was not all that interested in cooking. I mean, I don't mind it terribly, but it's a bit of a chore. You do it one evening and next thing you know, it's time to cook dinner again!

It has occurred to me I don't need all these cookbooks. There's only a handful I have used in many years. But surely some are worth keeping for that rainy day that I might decide to spend in the kitchen? So here's what I'm thinking. I'm going to take them down one by one and try a single promising-looking recipe. If it's a winner, the book's a keeper. If it's not worth the trouble, the book is out the door. Let's call this blog entry the first of an occasional series.

The book:

What's Cooking in our National Parks

The recipe:

"Chicken by Candlelight"

16 pieces chicken, assorted
1/4 c. butter
1 T. lemon juice
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1/2 t. paprika
1/2 c. chopped green onions
1/4 c. minced parsley
1 c. dry white table wine
Grape clusters

Place chicken in baking pan, skin side down. Put all remaining ingredients over pieces. Bake in moderate oven (375 degrees) for 1 hour. Turn chicken, skin side up. Continue baking for 30 minutes. Baste and increase temperature to 400 degrees to allow browning and looseness; bake about 30 minutes moore. Pour pan drippings over chicken for serving. Garnish with grape clusters. Good with rice. Yields about 4 servings.

Excellent for romantic setting and special occasions!

The execution:

I halved the recipe for my family of three. I followed the instructions pretty closely even though it seemed like too much cooking time. I forgot to garnish with grape clusters even though I had bought them.

The verdict:

Not worth it. If I were to do it again I would knock off 20-30 minutes of cooking time--it was charred and though the dark meat tasted OK the white meat was dry. The onions and parsley were so far cooked into the sauce that you didn't notice them. But the main thing is that it tasted about the same as a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and was no less expensive to make. Maybe if I had remembered the grape clusters . . .

So this book will be contributed to the PTA Thrift Shop. Bonus: a newspaper clipping, undated, "Kiss-Me Cake stays popular."

No comments: