Monday, January 20, 2014

Julia Child's "revelation" cucumbers

From Julia Child's French Chef Cookbook, where they are called Concombres persilles, ou a la creme -- parslied or creamed cucumbers. Why not both, I ask? These, I presume, are what Amy Adams as Julie Powell spears with a fork in Julie and Julia, as she raves, "these cucumbers are a revelation." The French Chef Cookbook is not the same as Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but it is drawn from the television show which had its origins in Mastering, which in turn of course inspired Powell's blog and the movie.

But we move on to deliciousness. It's perfectly simple. Think French, and pour on the cream.

To begin, peel 6 cucumbers, cut them in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. (I used only 3 very large cucumbers, reasoning that perhaps the vegetable was grown and harvested smaller in Julia's day, and so today's three equals yesterday's six. We are after all talking about the produce of 50 years ago. The recipe seemed to come out fine.)

Cut the cucumbers into lengthwise strips, and then cut the strips into short pieces. Toss them in a bowl with 2 Tbsp wine vinegar (I used white wine), 1 and 1/2 tsp salt, and a dash of sugar. Let them stand 20 minutes. Drain and dry on paper towels. 

In a large heavy skillet, heat 2 to 3 Tbsp butter. Add the cucumbers and 2 Tbsp minced shallots or scallions -- I used yellow onions, which also seemed fine. Cook everything slowly, tossing frequently, until the cucumbers are "tenderly crisp but not browned."

Meanwhile, simmer 1 cup of heavy cream in a small pan, reducing it by about half. Mince 3 Tbsp parsley.

"Just before serving, toss the cucumbers with the cream and parsley. Turn into a hot dish."

And spear with a fork, and eat, and exclaim. These cucumbers are a revelation. If you want to see Julia herself prepare them, look up her old 1960s-era television show; this recipe, along with a few more for garlic mashed potatoes and a turnip and onion casserole, is a part of the sixty-ninth show, "Vegetables for the birds."

The accompanying wine -- a rich buttery chardonnay, perhaps? Better, a delicious sweet riesling? Your choice. 

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