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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Frugal Cooking with Julia Child

Although the great JC is usually associated with traditional French cooking--time-consuming and exacting--she does have a frugal side that emerges in the books after the chef d'oeuvre for which she is known.

In From Julia Child's Kitchen (1975), she has this gem. (And PLEASE: Don't buy the book--apparently out of print--for such a ridiculous sum. Get it from the library or via interlibrary loan!).

Julia recounts a conversation she had with a fan during the "1972 Meat Boycott." I have no recollection of this event, since I was in college and too poor to buy meat anyway. I suppose meat went up dramatically during the inflationary 70s (?). A man told her that he and his wife had moved to cheaper meat cuts and that, instead of just broiling steak, they were having stews or stuffed cabbage and even . . . more fresh vegetables. Maybe, he said, they were getting to be gourmets.

Julia opines (and what a wonderful writer she is): Certainly the road to gourmetude is not paved with steaks and chops, nor with mountains of foie gras and truffles, nor even with great wads of cash, though there is nothing wrong with any of these, particularly the cash. Wonders can be done with the simplest of ingredients, and indeed the genius shows forth his true qualities when faced with humble means.

She follows with a recipe, based on one by Richard Olney, for a ragout made of whatever veggies are at hand (she uses onions, garlic, artichoke, rutabaga, parsnip, carrot, potato, Plus others--all optional except the first two), plus--if you have them--chicken hearts and gizzards.

She says "proportions are of little importance," which is good, since I don't feel like typing out the whole recipe! Did you all get a squeam attack when you got to the chicken hearts and gizzards?

I admit to a bit of squeam myself. Last time I looked, chicken gizzards and hearts were around a dollar for 20 oz. Humble, indeed. Tomorrow, another recipe using this ingredient.

Olney, by the way, is a rather over-the-top writer, whose style and persona do not appeal to me. I do own some of his cookbooks nonetheless.


materfamilias said...

I often used to cook up chicken hearts when I was economising in the mid/late 70s as a young mom. I quite like their neat size and texture, as opposed to other sorts of offal which I'm not as keen on. I haven't seen them in the butcher case at my local grocery store for eons, though, along with other economic choices -- perhaps because most folk no longer know how to cook them, having got used to easier/choicer cuts. Time to retrench, perhaps?

Duchesse said...

We've served chicken hearts in creams sauce over egg noodles, and my sons loved it. (But not to guests, whom I am guessing would squeam out.) I never liked gizzards, but chicken livers are sinfully rich and very, very good, too.

My mother would grind up everything- she kept a meat grinder at the ready and there's another vanished implement-and make timbales.

Pearl said...

Buy a roast chicken and the inner parts come along--generally cheap and filling, easily cooked into ragout or whatever. Delicious!

Shelley said...

My mom loved fried chicken innards - which me and my Dad happy left for her. I've since learned to love beans and ham - her other favourite and even calf or lamb's liver (with enough bacon and onion). There used to be a guy, Jeff Smith, I think his name was, called The Frugal Gourmet. I keep meaning to grab some of his cookbooks. I gather he turned out not to be a nice person and rather fell out of fashion. I shall make a note to try chicken hearts again.

Frugal Scholar said...

@mater--You're more adventurous than I am. There is a move--nose to tail cooking--that seeks to use all parts of the animal.

@Duchesse--You too. My son recently asked us to dig out our old meat grinder. He has lots of friends who hunt--the favorite South Louisiana pastime.

@Pearl--So often, I buy the breasts or the thighs. So much better to get the whole bird.

@Shelley--Lamb liver! I think that would be hard to find here--even lamb is seldom seen here. Yeah--Jeff Smith got in trouble.I remember.