Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cooking Class - Ode to Julia!

My friend V and I went to a cooking class two weeks ago on a Friday night at a wonderful cooking school in Frederick, Maryland called The Kitchen Studio Frederick. This particular class was called “Ode to Julia”. We made a few classic French dishes. I have never tried to make Hollandaise sauce before nor have I ever attempted to make a soufflé. It was a really interesting class because our chef/teacher and owner of the school Christine Van Bloem was trained at a French cooking school in New York City so she was the perfect person to teach us a few of the French classics. I learned that there are four basic French sauces that all other French sauces are based on: Hollandaise, Béchamel, Brown Sauce, and tomato sauce. These are the building blocks of classic French, Julia Child, style cooking. I have made tomato sauce many times so that doesn’t scare me but Hollandaise and Béchamel are really “out there” for me. Chef Christine told us that Hollandaise is a “bear” to make, not in those words, exactly. There is an easy but yet excellent recipe for Hollandaise that I will definitely try. It is called Blender Hollandaise. Nothing wrong with using a few shortcuts if you can. We also talked about why she couldn’t have us make Boeuf Bourguignon in a 3 hour class. It wouldn’t work unless we were willing to leave it for her to eat after class! None of us were willing to do that. At the end of each of her classes at The Kitchen Studio Frederick, Christine offers us the meal we have just cooked. I would like to try Boeuf a la Bourguignon sometime but I’ll have to do it on my own.

I stayed away from the soufflé. But I learned that when you pour the hot chocolate mixture into the egg whites you should first pour it into a cool bowl and then add it in small portions so that the two different textures and temperatures of the mixtures can combine slowly. It is very difficult to get it right. That seems to be the most difficult part of a soufflé. We also learned that it isn’t true that soufflé’s will drop if you walk around your house while they are baking or if something drops, etc. That seems to be an “old wives tale.” Good to know! I really wanted to try making a cheese soufflé but now that I know the consistency of a soufflé is more of a custard or pudding, I’m not so sure. I always thought they were more like the consistency of a bread or cake. I don’t know what gave me that idea but I’ll have to rethink my plan to make a soufflé.

The chicken in tarragon cream sauce was pretty easy compared to the soufflé and the hollandaise. I did participate in making this dish. I finally learned how to “butterfly” a chicken breast. Christine thought that would be the best way to thin the chicken breast rather than having us pound chicken breasts all over the kitchen. I agree. It was interesting. It seemed easy but I didn’t really cut it that well. Mine was fairly uneven. The other tip Christine gave us about the chicken is that when you want to sauté anything you must do the sauté in a stainless steel pan. You can’t make a good sauté in a non-stick pan. I’m going to put a 10 or 12-inch stainless steel sauté pan on my Christmas wish list! The chicken does brown beautifully in a stainless steel pan. It was so yummy!

The blender Hollandaise was pretty easy. Only one of the students in class had the chance to actually pour the oil into the blender to make this sauce but we all got a chance to taste it. Having never tried Hollandaise before, I thought it was very rich and tasted mainly of butter. The “other” regular Hollandaise sauce seized up on us. Christine had to rescue it by adding ice cubes. Apparently, this happens fairly frequently and we weren’t the only ones to have our Hollandaise get to that state. She was happy to show us how to “fix” it with the ice cubes and cool it down. I never did taste this Hollandaise but I’m sure it was delicious.

The other thing that we learned was how to poach an egg. I remember that when I was a little girl (many many years ago) I played with an oddly shaped aluminum pan that I was told was an egg poacher. I never knew nor did I ask what the heck a poached egg was but I didn’t like eggs much anyway. Well, all these many years later I learned that you can poach an egg in hot but not boiling water in a shallow pan. You must put some white vinegar in the pan otherwise it won’t work. You break the egg and before you pour it into the water, you stir the water. The egg will swirl in upon itself (or it should) and then you let it cook for 3 to 5 minutes. The eggs they poached that night were all the 3 to 4 minute ones that are “runny”. I decided that I will try making poached eggs with Hollandaise and make my eggs the 5 minute variety so that they are firm. Of course, you know that poached eggs with Hollandaise sauce on top of an English muffin are called Eggs Benedict. There are several stories about the origin of Eggs Benedict. Here are a few that I found on

“In an interview in the "Talk of the Town" column of The New Yorker in 1942, the year before his death, Lemuel Benedict, a retired Wall Street stock broker, claimed that he had wandered into the Waldorf Hotel in 1894 and, hoping to find a cure for his morning hangover, ordered "buttered toast, poached eggs, crisp bacon and a hooker of hollandaise." Oscar Tschirky, the famed maître d'hôtel, was so impressed with the dish that he put it on the breakfast and luncheon menus but substituted ham and a toasted English muffin for the bacon and toast.

Craig Claiborne, in September 1967, wrote a column in The New York Times Magazine about a letter he had received from Edward P. Montgomery, an American then residing in France. In it, Montgomery related that the dish was created by Commodore E.C. Benedict, a banker and yachtsman, who died in 1920 at the age of 86. Montgomery also included a recipe for eggs Benedict, stating that the recipe had been given to him by his mother, who had received it from her brother, who was a friend of the Commodore.

Mabel C. Butler of Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts in a November 1967 letter printed in The New York Times Magazine responded to Montgomery's claim by correcting that the ‘true story, well known to the relations of Mrs. Le Grand Benedict’, of whom she was one, was:

‘Mr. and Mrs. Benedict, when they lived in New York around the turn of the century, dined every Saturday at Delmonico's. One day Mrs. Benedict said to the maitre d' hotel, "Haven't you anything new or different to suggest?" On his reply that he would like to hear something from her, she suggested poached eggs on toasted English muffins with a thin slice of ham, hollandaise sauce and a truffle on top.‘

Another origin of the dish is suggested in Elizabeth David's French Provincial Cooking, where she describes a traditional French dish named œufs bénédictine, consisting of brandade (a puree of refreshed salt cod and potatoes), spread on triangles of fried bread. A poached egg is then set on top and napped with hollandaise. This story would also explain the distinctly French syntax, where the adjective follows, rather than precedes, the noun (although Oysters Rockefeller has the same syntax without needing a Romance-language origin). Still, it is not clear how this dish would have migrated to America, where it became popular. The combination of cod and eggs suggests it was a Lenten or meatless dish, and the use of salt cod suggests it could be as old as the Renaissance, when salt cod became more plentiful.

Mrs. Isabella Beeton's Household Management had recipes in the first edition (1861) for ‘Dutch sauce, for benedict’ (p. 405) and its variant on the following page, ‘Green sauce, or Hollandaise verte’, so it undoubtedly precedes the 20th century claimants above.”

I won’t pretend that I know which story is the true one but they all sound interesting and plausible. I will definitely have to try Eggs Benedict now that I know how to poach an egg!

I want to thank Chef Christine for her wonderful class. I am definitely going to take another class soon. Please check out the classes on her website and sign up. The classes are so much fun!


The Creative Cook

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Potage Parmentier by Julia Child

I probably mentioned that I have recently seen the movie Julie & Julia as well as read the book. I enjoyed both of them and recommend them if you enjoy the culinary arts. It was a fun movie. The book was a bit darker and more intense at times but still a very good read. Julie Powell takes most of the book almost directly from her blog, The Julie / Julia Project. I went online to read her blog and realized it was almost “word for word” the same as the book. Not an issue. Just read the blog or the book, not both. In any event, this movie and book have made me wonder about the recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I by Julia Child that has been sitting in my china cabinet for months. I pulled it out yesterday and decided to make Potage Parmentier for a few reasons:

1. I love potato soup and so does my family;
2. It was one of the first recipes that Julie tried to make; and
3. I had all the ingredients sitting in my cupboard and fridge.

The recipe turned out great but I did make a few alterations. I added some chunks of potato to suit my son’s taste. I didn’t use quite as much salt as Julia recommends. I used a “ricer” instead of a food mill because I own a ricer and do not own a food mill. I’m not sure I even know what a food mill is but I am sure that someone will explain it to me. If I remember correctly, Julie did the same thing in the book. I will probably try a few more recipes at some point. I really want to try making a soufflé. The Boeuf a la Bourguinonne sounds yummy. Crepes are a good thing, at least in my opinion. I have never made a quiche but it would be cool to try making one, I think. Those are the recipes that jump out at me.

On Friday, I am taking a cooking class with a friend of mine that honors Julia Child and her French cooking. I’m anticipating having fun and eating well at that class. I’ll tell you about it the following week.

Last weekend, we drove up to visit some friends of ours who live in New Jersey. Oddly, Julia Child came up in conversation. I guess now that the movie is out she is regaining some popularity. Our host told me that a group of his friends are forming a Julia Child Dinner Club. Each couple is going to make a dinner from Mastering the Art of French Cooking and share it with the rest of the group each month. I begged him to blog about his experiences making those meals but I wasn’t able to convince him. He told me that he isn’t inclined to make any of the organ meat or aspic recipes but that he is interested in making the Pate de Canard en Croute which is Boned Stuffed Duck Baked in a Pastry Crust. That is one of the recipes featured prominently in the movie. He suggested having a butcher bone the duck rather than trying to do it yourself. It makes sense to me. Why bone a duck if you don’t have to?! I guess it makes a better book and movie if you do it yourself and drop the duck on the floor a few times. That certainly would frustrate me. I don’t like handling raw meat all that much.

Potage Parmentier
{Leek or Onion and Potato Soup}
By Julia Child

For about 2 quarts serving 6 to 8 people

3 to 4 cups or 1 lb. peeled potatoes, sliced or diced
3 cups or 1 lb. thinly sliced leeks including the tender green;
Or yellow onions
2 quarts of water
1 Tbs. salt
4 to 6 Tbs. whipping cream
Or 2 to 3 Tbs. softened butter
2 to 3 Tbs. minced parsley or chives

Use a 3 to 4 quart saucepan. Simmer the vegetables, water and salt together, partially covered, for 40 to 50 minutes until the vegetables are tender;

Mash the vegetables in the soup with a fork or pass the soup through a food mill. Correct seasoning. Set aside uncovered until just before serving, then reheat to the simmer.

Off heat and just before serving, stir in the cream or butter by spoonfuls. Pour into a tureen or soup cups and decorate with the herbs.


The Creative Cook

Friday, September 11, 2009

Orecchietti with Peas & Ground Turkey

I bought a bag of orecchiette a few weeks ago and every time I opened my cupboard, I wanted to make it. I just couldn't think if what to make it with. Finally, I decided that it would be nice with peas, ground turkey and marinara sauce. I simply cooked up a pound of ground turkey in some olive oil and threw in some onion that I minced along with some powdered garlic and basil. Then I threw in the frozen peas and let them thaw and cook a bit. After that I put a jar of really good organic marinara sauce into the pot and let it get nice and hot. Meanwhile I cooked the orecchiette for the 11 minutes suggested on the bag. Believe me, this was a really good, quick dinner. My hubby and I both loved it.

In case you didn't know, orecchiette is a type of pasta native to Apulia, whose shape resembles a small ear. In Italian, "ear" is orecchio, so this translates as "little ears". In the Taranto area it is still called by the synonym chiancarelle. An orecchietta is about 2 cm (¾ inch) in size and looks like a small white dome with a thinner center than edge and a rough surface.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Plastic Bag Ice Cream - Coffee Can Ice Cream

Kids absolutely love making ice cream. It doesn't matter how young or how old they are. Homemade ice cream is so yummy and they can make whatever kind of ice cream they like the most. This is a fun activity that isn't actually messy at all even thought it sounds like it would be. It can also be very educational. Read through the different recipes before you pick one to make. I recommend using rock salt. I have used kosher salt and the ice cream didn't come out quite as "icy" as I would have liked.

Plastic Bag Ice Cream Recipe

1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cups crushed ice
4 tablespoons salt
2 quart size Ziploc bags
1 gallon size Ziploc freezer bag

a hand towel or gloves to keep fingers from freezing as well!

Mix the milk, vanilla and sugar together in one of the quart size bags. Seal tightly, allowing as little air to remain in the bag as possible. Too much air left inside may force the bag open during shaking.

Place this bag inside the other quart size bag, again leaving as little air inside as possible and sealing well. By double-bagging, the risk of salt and ice leaking into the ice cream is minimized.

Put the two bags inside the gallon size bag and fill the bag with ice, then sprinkle salt on top. Again let all the air escape and seal the bag.

Wrap the bag in the towel or put your gloves on, and shake and massage the bag, making sure the ice surrounds the cream mixture. Five to eight minutes is adequate time for the mixture to freeze into ice cream.

Tips: Freezer bags work best because they are thicker and less likely to develop small holes, allowing the bags to leak. You can get away with using regular Ziploc bags for the smaller quart sizes, because you are double-bagging. Especially if you plan to do this indoors, we strongly recommend using gallon size freezer bags.

Coffee Can Ice Cream

An alternative to the baggie method is to use coffee cans. The recipe is the same, and may be doubled or tripled because the coffee can will hold more liquid than the baggies. Put the mixture in a standard size coffee can and seal with the plastic lid, then place that can inside a larger "economy size" can. Pack the large can with ice and salt, and seal with the lid. Kids can roll the can back and forth on the ground (outside - the condensation will drip) until the ice cream is set. The time required to set the mixture will vary depending on the number of servings in the can.

What does the salt do? Just like we use salt on icy roads in the winter, salt mixed with ice in this case also causes the ice to melt. When salt comes into contact with ice, the freezing point of the ice is lowered. Water will normally freeze at 32 degrees F. A 10% salt solution freezes at 20 degrees F, and a 20% solution freezes at 2 degrees F. By lowering the temperature at which ice is frozen, we are able to create an environment in which the milk mixture can freeze at a temperature below 32 degrees F into ice cream.

Who invented ice cream? Legend has it that the Roman emperor, Nero, discovered ice cream. Runners brought snow from the mountains to make the first ice cream. In 1846, Nancy Johnson invented the hand-cranked ice cream churn and ice cream surged in popularity. Then, in 1904, ice cream cones were invented at the St. Louis World Exposition. An ice cream vendor ran out of dishes and improvised by rolling up some waffles to make cones.

Plastic Bag Ice Cream

2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup half and half
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup salt (The bigger the granules, the better. Kosher or rock salt works best, but table salt is fine.)
Ice cubes (enough to fill each gallon-size bag about half full)
1 pint-size Ziploc bag
1 gallon-size Ziploc bag

1. Combine the sugar, half and half, and vanilla extract in the pint-size bag and seal it tightly.

2. Place the salt and ice in the gallon-size bag, then place the sealed smaller bag inside as well. Seal the larger bag. Now shake the bags until the mixture hardens (about 5 minutes). Feel the small bag to determine when it's done.

3. Take the smaller bag out of the larger one, add mix-ins, and eat the ice cream right out of the bag. Easy cleanup too! Serves 1.

Ice Cream in a Bag


1/2 cup milk (it doesn't matter what kind, whole, 2%, chocolate, etc.)
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon flavoring

Preparation Steps:

Add ingredients to a pint size zipper freezer bag and zip shut.

Place that bag in a larger (quart or larger) zipper bag and add ice to outside bag until bag is half way full.

Add about 6 Tablespoons salt (rock or regular) to the outer bag.

Zip outer bag shut and shake, turn, toss, and mix the bag.

In about 5-10 minutes you will have cold hands and yummy ice cream.

Flavor suggestions:

Root Beer

If members of the group are allergic to milk, make ices instead! Substitute juice or juice drinks for milk.


Don't double this, it doesn't work.

Suggest ice cream makers wear mittens or gloves. Their hands will get very cold.

Be sure to wipe or rinse all the salt off the small bag before you open it. Otherwise, you will have salty ice cream instead of sweet.


The Creative Cook

Monday, September 7, 2009


This is the recipe for Armpit Fudge. It is fun to make with kids even if they aren't scouts. I think the boys, especially would love it. When my son made it at cub scout camp, all the boys ate it for a treat. You don't have to smoosh it under your arm if you don't want to. It can be messy if you don't double bag it and make sure the bags are sealed. I think you could also make several different varieties like any flavor fudge you would like to eat. I'm thinking key lime or vanilla or even chocolate chip.


Ingredients: (single serve version)
2 oz. powdered sugar (1/2 cup)
1 Tbsp butter
2 tsp cream cheese
dash of vanilla
2 tsp cocoa

Place all ingredients in a sandwich-size plastic zipped bag.

Squeeze out all the air. Squish and smoosh (under the arm!) the bag until all the ingredients are well mixed with a creamy consistency.

Add any favorite flavors or other stuff (raisins, M&M's, peanut butter, chopped nuts, etc). Take out a spoon and enjoy.

ARMPIT FUDGE (group servings)


1 lb. powdered sugar
1 stick (1/4 cup) butter
1 - 3 oz pkg cream cheese
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup cocoa

Mix ingredients in a one-gallon zipper bag until it looks like fudge, then eat!

WARNING!! Make sure the bag is SEALED! I recommend putting it in two Ziploc bags. One sealed and placed seal side down into another baggie.)

This also brings to mind the recipe for ice cream in plastic baggies or coffee cans.


The Creative Cook

Friday, September 4, 2009

Ziploc Omelet

This sounds like such a great idea. I'm wondering why I didn't think of it myself. It never occurred to me until I got this email from my niece. I'm sure tons of people have had this idea before but not me. Even when D made "armpit fudge" in a similar way at cub scout camp, I didn't think, "yes, this is a great way to make an omelet." Actually, I'm not much of an omelet maker myself. When I try making them they usually come out like scrambled eggs with stuff in them. Anyway, I'm definitely going to try this great idea for an omelet.

Ziploc Omelet

This works great!! Good for when all your family is together. The best part is that no one has to wait for their special omelet!!

Have guests write their name on a quart-size Ziploc freezer bag with permanent marker.

Crack 2 eggs (large or extra-large) into the bag (not more than 2) shake to combine them.

Put out a variety of ingredients such as: cheeses, ham, onion, green pepper, tomato, hash browns, salsa, etc.

Each guest adds prepared ingredients of choice to their bag and shake. Make sure to get the air out of the bag and zip it up.

Place the bags into rolling, boiling water for exactly 13 minutes (we did 15 minutes). You can usually cook 6-8 omelets in a large pot. For more, make another pot of boiling water.

Open the bags and the omelet will roll out easily. Be prepared for everyone to be amazed.

Nice to serve with fresh fruit and coffee cake; everyone gets involved in the process and a great conversation piece.

Imagine having these ready the night before, and putting the bag in boiling water while you get ready. And in 15 minutes, you've got a nice omelet for a quick breakfast!!

If anyone tries this, please let me know. I want to know how it works out. I also am going to post the recipe for armpit fudge as soon as I can find it.


The Creative Cook

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

French Onion Soup

Today, I had a really great experience making French Onion Soup. It seems like such a 70's dish but it is so yummy I can forget that it's been around for years. My whole family loves this soup. I'm not sure how it became such a favorite of ours but we are now really particular about our French Onion Soup. That's why I was a bit concerned, considering my recent cooking disasters. I'm happy to say that today was different. I'll admit, this soup was pretty easy and much less risky than some of the other meals I've made recently. I got the basic recipe from a neighbor but I changed it up enough to say it is now my own concoction. I used organic beef and chicken broth and some dry red wine to give it a bit of a kick. You won't be disappointed with this soup!

French Onion Soup

2 (32 oz) boxes Organic Chicken Soup (low sodium)
2 (32 oz) boxes Organic Beef Broth (low sodium)
2 lbs yellow or white onions
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 stick butter
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 cup dry red wine or sherry
cheese slices (Provolone, Swiss and Mozzarella)
thin french bread slices or croutons (optional)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Put the broth in a large stock pot to simmer on medium heat along with the thyme and garlic powder. While the broth is simmering, thinly slice the onions and cut in half. Cook the onions in the butter and olive oil for about 30 minutes or until translucent and lightly browned. Once the onions have cooked, remove them from the pan and then deglaze the pan with the sugar and red wine. After you have deglazed the pan, combine the flour with the onions and cook for another 10 minutes or until thickened. Add the onion mixture into the broth and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour on medium heat. (

Put the soup into individual serving bowls. Place the bowls on a cookie sheet and keep them in a warm (200 degrees) oven while you broil both sides of the french bread slices that have been buttered and sprinkled with garlic. Add thin french bread slices and a slice each of Mozzarella, Provolone and Swiss. Turn the oven up to 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted, brown and bubbly. You may place the bowls under the broiler for no more than 5 minutes.


The Creative Cook