Last night we had a traditional Southern “vegetable plate” for dinner – collard greens, field peas, fried squash and eggplant, and pepper relish. After informing my husband of the menu, he promptly gave me the “Where’s the beef?” look, which reminded me of this month’s Kitchen Reader‘s book selection, Julie & Julia. In the book Julie Powell recounts her year spent cooking through Julia Child’s classic cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking and blogging about it at the same time. In the early pages of the book Julie recalls one of the first recipes she made from the book, a potato and leek soup, and how her husband Eric told her it was “Really good. And there wasn’t even any meat in it.” And that because he is Texan by birth “the idea of a dinner without animal flesh gets him a little panicky”. But apparently there is no lack of meat dishes in Julia’s cookbook, with recipes ranging from Boeuf Bourguignon to Rognons deVeau (veal kidneys) so he didn’t have to worry about that part of things.
In the middle of something of an identity crisis before turning 30, Julie takes on this cooking challenge with the hope that it might give her life some purpose. The resulting trials and terrors and cursing and crying took her on a roller coaster ride for the next year as she worked to finish her goal, wondering along the way what in the world she was thinking. Her husband, the rest of her family and her friends all wonder the same thing at times throughout the book, and Julie finds herself not only gaining quite a bit of weight, but having to make a few sacrifices, too. Like missing the final episode of her favorite TV series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
“…it’s not so unlike the Bible, except with stunt doubles and better jokes…Also like the Bible, Buffy got a little bloated and Revelation-y toward the end…But still, this was it. The end. You don’t skip out on Revelations, no matter how kind of weird and lame it is. Or maybe you do. But not the last episode of Buffy.” (I must agree.)
But finish she did, and by the end of the challenge Julie finds herself changed from the immature girl in the beginning of the book into someone with confidence and vision. Even though she was devastated to find out that Julia Child didn’t care for what she had done, she persevered and her life was forever changed indirectly by her.
One of Julie’s favorite recipes from the cookbook was Oeufs en Cocotte, or eggs baked in ramekins. Sounding easy enough, I gave it a try. You should, too.
Oeufs en Cocotte
adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child
For each serving:
1. Preheat oven to 375F(187C) degrees.
1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) butter
1 ramekin 2-1/2 to 3 inches (6.3-7.6 cm) in diameter and about 1-1/2 inches (3.8 cm) high
2 tablespoons (30 mL) whipping cream
A pan containing 3/4-inch (1.9 cm) of simmering water
1 or 2 eggs
Butter the ramekin, saving a dot for later. Add 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of cream and set the ramekin in the simmering water over moderate heat. When the cream is hot, break into it one or two eggs. Pour the remaining spoonful of cream over the egg and top with a dot of butter.
Place in the middle level of the hot oven and bake for 7 to 10 minutes. The eggs are done when they are just set but still tremble slightly in the ramekins. They will set a little more when the ramekins are removed, so they should not be overcooked.*
Salt and pepper
Season with salt and pepper, and serve.
(*) The ramekins may remain in the pan of hot water, out of the oven, for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. To prevent overcooking, remove eggs from oven when slightly underdone.