Julie and Julia certainly has brought back interest and maybe even, dare I say, a fad for French cooking? Let's call it a trend but without being trendy. After all, French cooking is entirely too complicated and time-consuming to be trendy! Of course, Williams-Sonoma has jumped on the bandwagon as well and has brought us a new cookbook Essentials of French Cooking. Tidbit of information, Chuck Williams was very much influenced by French cooking and it was his love for it combined with his love for Sonoma California that led to the first kitchen store as we know it, Williams-Sonoma. To that end, my local Williams-Sonoma offered a French cooking night or Dinner in Paris as they called it.
The menu consisted of french onion soup, steak frites and creme brulee. Our chef for the evening was Nicole, how very appropriate, and she demonstrated the art of cooking these simple, yet delicious French dishes. The French onion soup she cleverly put in baked biscuit bowls - after separating the dough, cook upside down on a cupcake pan - topped with a french bread slice rubbed with garlic (yum) and Guyere cheese. The combination of sweet onion, beef broth and cheese was truly a savory delight to the taste buds and the touch of garlic on the bread was simply genius. The steaks were lightly seasoned with coarse salt, pepper and thyme. I would have added a little butter (I guess the Julia in me is coming out), and cooked nearly to order in a sear pan. This left wonderful grill marks on the steak as if it had actually been on a grill. Nicole made a lovely sauce with the leftover pan juices, white wine and butter which she poured over the steak. Can you say simple and amazing? The steak was served with pommes frites but unlike typical french fries, these had been twice-fried for a golden crisp and seasoned to taste with coarse salt. While we feasted on this, Nicole brought out the piece de resistance - creme brulee. This light, wonderful custard flavored with vanilla and topped with caramelized sugar truly made the meal. Just make sure you use high quality vanilla and taste as you add - too little vanilla will make the custard bland and the last thing you want is to leave your guests with the taste of bland creme brulee.
By the time we had all cleaned our plates, our tummies were full and we were considering what other delectable french treasures awaited us in the new cookbook. This menu was as simple as it was delicious. French onion soup, steak frites and creme brulee - typically French, wonderfully good. Certainly something to try at home and something to inspire your culinary urge. Essentials of French Cooking might be a good first-step to awaken the french chef that lurks inside of you!
(photo courtesy of Williams-Sonoma)