January 11, 2011

The Real McCo[ok]y

I tried to read Julie & Julia when I heard they were making it into a movie. I got a little past chapter two and gave up. I can’t recall now exactly why I couldn’t stand it, but I remember it had something to do with the author’s spastic personality. When the movie came out, I decided to go see it anyway, even though I hadn’t been that impressed by the book. So, while I didn’t find the “Julie” story line that interesting, I was captivated by the woman who I’d only previously known for her famously high-pitched, sing-song voice. Julie Powell gets all the credit for introducing me to the wonderful world of Julia Child. Last year, my book group read My Life in France, and I really enjoyed Julia’s strong will, her sense of adventure, and her love of full-bodied flavor.

To her credit, the idea of making every single dish in a cookbook, especially one as large as Julia Child’s collection, is quite a task, and one, having completed it, she ought to be very proud of (and of course she is, as we all know). And I must bow to her enthusiasm, as I am incapable of such an undertaking. However, both ladies have inspired me to become a cook—a real cook. Someone who can throw together a nice dinner out of what’s in the fridge in 45 minutes or less and have it actually taste good. And if I can’t get there, I would at least like to be able to follow a recipe, have it turn out, and put a satisfied smile on DH’s face, without having to use any sort of prepackaged necessity. Plus, my goal this year is to be healthier—you know, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, all that nonsense.

So, I’ve made it my goal, in the spirit of Julie & Julia, to cook my way through Weight Watchers All-Time Favorite recipes. Yes, you heard right. It’s certainly not as romantic as Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but hey, it’s a start. I won’t be counting points, but I figure that if any company would truly produce a healthy cookbook, it has to be Weight Watchers, right? Plus, the recipes have to be easy for the cooking-impaired, like me, but there’s still enough of a challenge there as well. I’ve made about a half dozen so far . . . some have turned out, others haven’t, but I feel my prospects brightening. I love to eat, so I oughta learn how to cook. Also, has anyone else tasted of the deliciousness that is searing meat before slow cooking?! It’s awesome.

Today, with all the trepidation with which Julie tackled the deboning of a duck, I tried the same, except with a chicken. A very small chicken, but with many bones. And I have to say, I made a terrible mess. Plus, I looked up nothing before attempting to do this from memory. (I took a cooking class back in college, where I learned what a garlic press was, and that there was such a thing as garlic cloves, where the powder comes from. You can just imagine how much I gleaned from the “taking apart a chicken” lesson.) I got started ripping the chicken apart and realized that I had no idea what I was doing.

And can I just say that anyone who eats meat/poultry should have to do this at some time? It was sort of freaking me out to see this mass of pink that vaguely resembled a being. Well, not quite vaguely enough. The wings moved like arms, the legs moved like legs, I kept expecting it to leap out of my sink and run for the door. I’ve cooked a turkey before (ok fine, helped cook), and pulling out the innards for some reason never bothered me. Maybe because they were already neatly packaged in a plastic bag that you just had to pull out. Not so with this mini-chicken. I had to yank out its guts and twist off its neck! Suddenly I understood my sister’s stint with vegetarianism, which she took up because she didn’t like eating something that once had a brain. But, after I took a deep breath and did my duty, I felt like a woman of the west, rustling up some grub for my young ‘uns. But that’s as far as I go—I won’t be killing and plucking my dinner any time soon.

So, I ended up with two chicken breasts, two tenders (although one was somewhat mangled), two wings, two thighs, and two drummettes (nice way to say legs). And I could sigh with relief. That is how I’m used to seeing a chicken. Nice and pre-sliced, resembling nothing in particular. And I cooked it up with some onions and carrots without another thought.

Seven recipes down, 193 to go. I guess the “Julie” storyline was more interesting to me than I thought, since I’m following in her footsteps. Maybe one day even Julia Child’s legacy could be on the horizon. Here’s hoping!

Someday, live lobster?  Hmmm.

P.S. The Crumbles is currently under construction. Please excuse the mess.


Michael said...

. . . and I'm reaping all of the benefits.

Lauren said...

I just deboned my first chicken a few months ago. My friend happened to have 2 whole chickens brine-ing in her fridge and invited me over. Wow, was it gross at first, finding the joints and twisting things to get pop out. Afterward, I felt like I had jumped a hurdle that day. While I still don't enjoy eating chicken straight off the bone, I feel I conquered that "icky wussi-ness" I had about it, and now the veins and stuff in the chicken aren't near as gross as they used to be.
My goal this month is also about eating better. Mainly Jan is my month that I have committed to Not eating out. At All. and planning and preparing every meal (mainly dinners were my weakness) at home. So far I have 5 weeks of dinners planned out, scheduled, hard copies of each shopping list for each week to print out. This will be the year of House Organization. Starting with the meals.
BTW, I have cooked a lot from the WW 15 minute meals cookbook, and I love them since they are good, and easy! Good luck. SOO enjoyed this post! Miss you!

Lauren said...

whoa, does that other comment need some editing:-)

Cami and Juan said...

Wow, good for you. I plan to never debone a chicken, I'll just say it now. I can barely touch and handle a boneless skinless chicken breast! Please please post your favorite recipes. I love adding some new recipes, especially healthy ones.

Gini said...

I love searing before slow cooking! Soo much tastier. Good goal, Camie!

Karen Thomas said...

i have a copy of "mastering the art of french cooking" when you are ready.

you know i will be making you cook the next time you visit. i will hold shay.

brittani c. said...

By the way, I love Michael's comment.

What a great goal, busy lady! Good luck!