There’s that icebreaker question, “If you could invite any 3 people, dead or alive, for dinner; who would it be?” My answer is simple. Julia Child, Julia Child and Julia Child. I even know what I’d make, my Osso Bucco and Parmesan Ricotta Gnocchi.
You may think that Julia is the obvious choice for a chef but there is more to my choice than just that. Cooking is a lifetime sport, you never stop learning or playing with your food. There is always room for improvement or a new technique. Julia herself was well into her forties before she enrolled in the Cordon bleu. Which is why she is one of my biggest inspirations.
I am often asked how long I’ve been cooking. I can honestly say I’ve been cooking since I was 2 years old. I finally formalized my education when I was 23. The last few years of writing this blog, with your support and feedback has really fueled my desire to continue my education and to educate you.
Recently, I was given an incredible opportunity to travel to La Pitchoune, Julia and Paul Child’s home in the south of France. I will be going with a small group of women writers and an amazing mentor, for a 10-day retreat. I can’t wait! I feel like a kid anticipating Disneyland. I know when I come back I will have so much more to share with you.
I want to share those recipes with you that I would have cooked for Julia, had I been given the chance. I hope I am posting often from France too, but this should keep you day dreaming while I’m away. As Julia would say “Bon Appétit”!
Rub veal shanks lightly with olive oil , season with salt & pepper and chopped herbs.
Dust each shank shank with seasoned flour and set aside.
Put 1 tablespoon of oil in a large heavy skillet and heat. Do not let the oil smoke. Brown shanks on all sides. You may add small amounts of oil if needed, be careful not to overdo it.
Add the wine, tomatoes and chicken broth. Stir to combine.
Cover pan and reduce heat. Simmer for 45 minutes.
Test for tenderness. Fork should pierce meat easily.
Sauce should be thick. If not , remove meat and hold, let sauce reduce uncovered over low heat.
Remove stems and veins of spinach and wash thoroughly.
Bring a pot of water to a boil and blanch spinach for 1 minute and then drop in ice water to stop cooking.
Squeeze ALL moisture out and let air dry. You want spinach to be bone dry.
Chop spinach fine.
Saute onion and pancetta in butter. Add spinach and saute until dry. Cool until cool to touch.
Mix together remaining ingredients and fold all together.
Flour your hands and form 1" - 2" balls. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with a damp towel. You can hold here for up to 6 hours.
When you are ready to cook: Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil oil and salt the water.
Add the gnocchi a few at a time and cook until puffed and cooked through, about 5-8 minutes. They should rise to the surface. Use a strainer or slotted spoon to remove, GENTLY, from water.
Place in a buttered dish in a single layer. Drizzle with melted butter and sprinkle with parmesan.
Broil for 5 minutes until just browned. They are great served as is or with your favorite tomato sauce.
You can chop and slice the fresh vegetables by hand. I use a food processor and the chopping and slicing blades. This save a lot of time.
While I was in New Orleans, I had the pleasure of doing a walking tour of food and history. We used a company called Tastebud Tours and they were great. Here’s a little food and history lesson for you.
We met at Little Vic’s to start our tour. Lindel was our tour guide and she certainly knew her stuff! She is a native New Orleans who just happens to be ahi story teacher for her day job. It was great to listen to her tell us he history with such passion.
Little Vic’s was chosen for their muffuletino. It their version of a traditional muffuletta. These sandwiches are usually layered with mortadella, salami, mozzarella, ham and provolone topped with an olive spread. Long story short the owner of Central Grocery, in New Orleans, noticed his patron struggling today the ingredients separately while balancing on a rate. They really didn’t have time to relax since they had to get back to work. He suggested slicing the bread open and making a sandwich. The thick braid bread they used proved hard to bite into as a sandwich. The Grocer created a new bread, called muffuletta that had the flavor they were used to but a softer consistency. The olive sale was key because they would often let the sandwich sit in the sun to warm the cheese. A mayonnaise based dressing would spoil but the olive spread just gets better with the heat.
We had a quick history lesson on the difference between a Cajun and Creole. Cajuns are Acadians. They descended from the French settlers. With all the different accents, it got boiled down to Cajun. The Creoles were more descendant from the Spanish settlers and there was a great Caribbean influence, as well.
Next we were off to The Coffee Pot for some authentic jambalaya. It is important to note that the super spicy food often associated with New Orleans cuisine, is not necessarily an accurate representation of what really happens there. The heat is much more subtle and should hit your mouth just at the back of your tongue. The recipe I shared in my previous post I’d from Paul Prudhomme and is a little spicier. It is tomato based.
Next we tried Gumbo. Gumbo originated as an African soup that was cooked up by the slaves in New Orleans. On their day off they would go up to Congo Square to congregate culturally. This is where jazz started, too. Typically, they would bring what they had been given by their owners/employers to throw into the mix. While there are many versions. The African version uses okra as a thickener. We tried both a tomato base and fish based. I personally liked the tomato base better but they are equally great.
We made or way to Johnny’s for Po’ Boys. These sandwiches are traditionally beef,but are a pretty simply composed submarine sandwich. They get there name from a sandwich shop that was owned by two men that used to be streetcar conductors. When the streetcar conductors went on strike in 1929, the former colleagues would come in to the shop and asked if they had a free sandwich for a “poor boy”. Withe dialect in New Orleans it wasn’t long before it was shortened. We were served traditional roast beef Po’ Boys. They were delicious! The line out the door is clearly an indicator of the popularity and reputation of Johnny’s.
Our last stop was at Cafe Beignet, just off Bourbon Street for just that, beignets!! They were delicious.
I hope you have enjoyed this little tour of New Orleans. I did!!!!