I just finished My Life In France by Julia Child and was inspired to create one of her dishes. Unfortunately, I don’t own Mastering the Art of French Cooking and it’s a tad pricy for me to run out and buy right now (especially if you subscribe to Regina Scrambling’s recent article in Slate about the book :http://www.slate.com/id/2226512/). Luckily, a quick google led me to a PDF excerpt from the book on Knopf-Double Day’s website (http://cooking.knopfdoubleday.com/2009/08/03/julia-childs-ratatouille-recipe/). The recipe was for her Ratatouille and looked relatively simple. I mean, Julia wouldn’t lead me down the wrong path….right?The thing about ratatouille is that it is pretty involved, lots of chopping and cooking vegetables one kind at a time, But that wasn’t too much of a hassle. Plus, I like how she organizes the recipe, you’re taken through one step at a time and one ingredient at a time. It helps with the timing. However, I was a little shocked that it was just veggies and olive oil. I mean, there’s tomato pulp involved (which I messed up, more on that later), but I thought ratatouille was a little more stew-like.
I think the problem I had with the recipe is that I’m a cooking novice, so my prep skils are minimum. This killed me with the tomatoes, where Julai tells you to peel, seed, and juice them. I should have just peeled the skin off with my fingers, but I tried a peeler instead, which just ended in frustration. I seeded the tomatoes, but that took away some of the juice too. I ended up just throwing chopped up tomato in, which didn’t yield the liquid you’d need later.
My other problem was with the presentation of the veggies. I’ve seen some ratatouille dishes that looks too pretty to eat. Mine looked like a mishmash of sauteed veggies, which is what it tasted like too. I didn’t feel transported or touched by greatness, I felt like I had spent an hour making cut up veggies sauteed in olive oil. I had underseasoned, the eggplant soaked up too much olive oil, and everythign else was a bland mess. I had failed Julia with my first attempt at her cooking.
Oh well, I think she would have said that knowing what I knew now from making this dish, I could try again and do a better job of it. I think that’s the important thing about my self-taught cooking lessons here, it’s not so much about the recipes that go wonderfully, it’s learning from the one that are a mess. I still raise my glass to you, Julia, but I think it may take me a while to work up to your Boeuf Bourguignon.