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From Alex

I made a discovery this week - the 50% of my lineage that is French is where I should be drawing my culinary exploits from. In our never ending quest to upstage our friends, Lynne and Kirk, we decided to make a French meal for their latest visit to our house. (See the post below for the last meal that they made for us.) Coming into this quest I had little idea of what French food meant, but Sonja had been inspired by the food blogs that she is constantly stalking. Sonja was lent a much loved copy of From Julia Child's Kitchen from someone much wiser than us, and was immediately engrossed in a land of fancy French words that I can't pronounce. For the next couple of days are conversations sounded mostly like this:

Sonja: "Doesn't this sound good: poisson avec des oignons et fromage et steak avec des côtelettes d'agneau et les pommes crêpes et de la crème au beurre?"

Me: "Huh?"

Sonja: "Never mind, doesn't this sound better: ragoût de l'anguille avec le sel et l'ail sur un pain français tomate garnie de fromage de chèvre et vin rouge?"

Me: "Huh?"

Anyway, Sonja finally narrowed down a menu from cook books by Julia Child, Wolfgang Puck, and Ina Garten (yes, the 641.5944 section has been cleared at the local library). After watching and loving several Julia Child episodes from the 60's on Saturday night, we set aside our Sunday afternoon for a cooking extravaganza.

From Sonja

I don't know where I got the French idea. I toyed with several ethnic theme ideas, but I wanted to do something very gourmet for our dinner with Lynne and Kirk. Somehow French food came to mind as being a very elegant cuisine. I started doing some research and immediately became enthralled, especially with Julia Child. (Originally I thought that she was just some old lady with a cooking show, but it turns out she is an incredibly knowledgeable French chef and charming personality! More on my obsession with Julia later).

Anyway, I spent hours narrowing down a menu and finally came up with this meal. Overall, it was the best meal Alex and I have ever cooked, hands down! Each course was really wonderful, and it wasn't too much work to put together (if you have several hours to make a multi-course meal, which we did)! Here are some notes, as well as the recipes:

First course: Tranches d'Aubergine à l'Italienne - Eggplant with Tomato and Cheese


Eggplant recipe

These were incredibly good, and very easy to make! We followed Julia's recipe exactly. We used store bought tomato sauce, but simmered it with onion and garlic to get more flavor. We also used an Italian blend of cheese to top them, which was excellent (I think it included parmesan, mozzarella, asiago and some others).

Second course: Côtes d'Agneau Echalotes - Lamb Chops with Cream of Shallots
Purée de Céleri-Rave - Celery Root Puree

 Lamb recipe
Celery root recipe

I discovered that I am in love with lamb. I have always loved gyros meat, but I didn't know whether it was the lamb or the spices on it that made it so good. I discovered that it was indeed the lamb - it has this amazing, spicy quality all on its own. I will definitely be eating more lamb in the future. This recipe was great - the cream of shallots sauce was excellent and would go well with any meat. We modified Wolfgang's recipe a bit, and we may have reduced the sauce a little too much because it ended up with a lot of shallots and not as much sauce as I thought. It tasted wonderful though - I'd like to make it again.

The celery root puree was great as well. It showed up in several of the French cookbooks I'd been reading and I thought it would be fun to make since I had something like it at my favorite restaurant (R Bistro) a while ago and loved it. I loosely followed Wolfgang Puck's recipe but mashed the celery root and potato instead of pureeing it. It had a wonderful flavor. I think next time I would add less potato (or not add it at all) to have more of the celery flavor. It was a great accompaniment to the lamb.

Third course: Salade d'Epinards et Frisée - Spinach and Frisee Salad



Green salad dressing recipe

I learned in my research that the French have a salad course after the main course, and then a cheese course after that. We combined them and agreed that it was really fun to have salad after the main course - it was a nice palate cleanser and a fun way to enjoy salad (instead of having a salad to get you warmed up for the rest of your meal). This dressing recipe from Ina Garten was awesome - I will definitely be making it again. We served the salad with some crackers and herbed goat cheese.

Fourth course: Crêpes with peaches


Crepes recipe

We had never made crepes before, but we learned that they are very easy to make and fun to eat! We served ours with some peaches that we simmered in sugar and brandy, and then melted some dark chocolate to drizzle over the top. It was great and a fun way to end the meal! I am excited to try out lots of new crepe fillings.

All in all, it was a wonderful meal that we enjoyed thoroughly! I can't believe we actually made it, because cooking has never been a forte of mine. It's neat to start to explore new interests and to enjoy the experience together. Stay tuned for more!