In my last post, I mentioned that something I have been looking forward to is Meg of Grow and Resist and Oh Briggsy‘s Cook the Books Cookbook Challenge. They are co-hosting a year long cookbook challenge, where they pick a cookbook a month to cook from. I love blog challenges and they sold me on it with their amazing, interesting and unique cookbook choices.
The January cookbook is Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan. It’s a beautiful cookbook with gorgeous photography and it’s French home-cooking so nothing seems too technical. It’s just my speed. I am so excited to cook from it, for so many reasons. One reason being, that I have never cooked French food before. Another reason is that I don’t have a lot of experience cooking meat, since I was a vegetarian from ages thirteen to twenty-four. Then I went to Italy, and did as the Romans do, and ate proscuitto and it was all over after that. I still never really learned how to cook meat though. I am still picky about what meat I eat. I like it to be organic, antibiotic and hormone free, if possible and someone else has to make it for me (Matt mostly).
I found myself with a night free for the first time in awhile, and Matt has been doing most of the cooking lately, so I owe him some meals. I figured it was a good time to crack into Around my French Table and put a meal together from it!
I brought the cookbook with me to Trader Joe’s and picked out the recipes based on what I knew I could get there. I apologize if this post looks like a Trader Joe’s ad, but I seriously heart them. I am a gal on a budget and shopping at Trader Joe’s allows me to eat like I want to, without sending me to the poor house. I truly hope I do not find out something awful about why they are so cheap, but until then, I am going to continue shopping there.
The recipes I picked are Chicken Breast Diable (page 217), Garlicky Crumb-Coated Broccoli (page 334) and Creamy, Cheesy, Garlicky Rice with Spinach (page 380).
The only ingredient I did not have to buy at Trader Joe’s, that is from my garden was the garlic.
This is already all that is left of the garlic braid I made back in September!
The Chicken Breast Diable recipe called for Dijon mustard, preferably French. And look! Trader Joe’s had it, product of France!
I have mentioned before that I am a “Lactard” (lactose intolerant). “Lactard” may be offensive to some (as it sounds like another word we’re not supposed to say anymore), but I prefer saying that to Lactose Intolerant. I feel like I might as well be screaming, “Milk gives me diarrhea!”, when I say “lactose intolerant”. At least Lactard is funny enough to maybe distract a little from the diarrhea image. Those are my reasons behind it anyway.
So I always have to find dairy alternatives when a recipe calls for milk, cheese or heavy cream. You might think that, with French cooking, this would be quite a challenge. Again, that just happens to be something I am up for. Plus, I am pretty familiar with the substitutions by now. I have found that soy creamer works great as a substitute for half and half. It has the right thickness and taste and I use it in quiches a lot.
I am not even totally lactarded. I guess you could say I am just mildy lactarded, because I have found that I can eat sheep and goat cheese, just not cow’s milk cheese. If you are confused by this, my understanding is that it’s the protein in cow’s milk dairy that is what people, who are lactose intolerant, have a hard time digesting. The proteins in goat and sheep cheese are easier to digest, so many people who can’t eat cow’s milk cheese, can eat sheep or goat cheese.
Those of you with iron stomachs were probably totally bored by that info. Those of you that do have problems with dairy (and are maybe in denial about it and eat it anyway, like I was for years or think you can’t have any kind of cheese at all, like I was for years after I cut out cow’s milk) may have been enlightened a little. Your welcome.
The recipe for Creamy, Cheesy, Garlicky Rice with Spinach called for Gruyere, Emmenthal or Swiss Cheese. Yet another reason I love Trader Joe’s, they have a great selection of sheep, goat and lactose-free cheese (not the gross soy cheese that won’t melt… ick). I bought a goat Gouda to use, that I have used many times in mac and cheese.
The book really emphasizes serving everything right away, because as Briggsy mentioned in her post, the French like food served hot. Which is great, because so do I, but since I was making three dishes, I knew something would have to go in the oven on warm. I figured the rice would take the longest to cook and probably fare the best in the oven aftewards, so I decided to start with the Creamy, Cheesy, Garlicky Rice with Spinach.
The recipe says you can prepare the spinach ahead of time, since it just needs to be cooked until wilted and then drained and chopped. Next time I will do that, because I may have overcooked the risotto a little, because I was still prepping the spinach.
I got the chicken started next. This would be the moment of truth. Could I successfully cook a couple of chicken breasts? I think I have always shied away from it, because it seemed so stressful, with it needing to be cooked all the way through and not be burnt on the outside. I almost did mess it up too. I had the heat on way too high. I always forget that medium-low is more like medium in our cast iron skillet, so the first side browned up super fast. I was worried that the other side would do the same and it would be all raw in the middle, so I turned the heat down and was patient and it ended up working out. The recipe says to cook the chicken and then put it in the oven on warm while you make the sauce, so I figured I could do the broccoli at the same time and then it would be all done.
The recipe for the Crumb-Coated Broccoli says you can steam the broccoli several hours ahead, so I had done that, and prepped all the ingredients (minus the parsley, I never have been a fan), so this dish was the easiest of the three to put together.
One thing I noticed for all the recipes, since they all had garlic in them, is that they all say to remove the germ from the garlic. I figured that the author explained that somewhere in the book and I found it on page 71. Apparently it makes garlic less bitter. It’s also the same reason it said to rinse the shallots for the chicken dish I made. Huh, never heard of either of those methods before!
The final plate
So how did it all taste? So good! I had never cooked risotto before, and I loved the texture and cheesiness of it, so I can’t wait to play around with risotto with other ingredients. I will definitely make the broccoli again too, but next time I think I will put less lemon zest in. I hate when lemon overpowers a dish and it kind of did in this one. The chicken was definitely the winner though. Matt even gave it his seal of approval and he is the chicken master. Plus, I would be honest and say if it sucked and it didn’t. The sauce for the chicken was what really made it so good. It had soy creamer, shallots, garlic, white wine, Dijon mustard and Worcestershire sauce in it. Yum. Oh and it was my first time cooking with dry white wine too. Where have I been? Whole new worlds have just been opened up to me!
If time allows this month, Flower and I are going to cook from this book together some night and maybe have some friends join us and be our taste testers. I am glad I opted to buy this book too, since I can see myself cooking many things from it. Thanks Meg and Briggsy for picking it and for coming up with such a fun idea!