Friday, April 6, 2012

Asparagus and Bits of Bacon - French Fridays with Dorie

I'd heard about French Fridays with Dorie a while ago from the fantastic Food Librarian blog and was intimidated by the idea. Cook-alongs? Every week? And French food? No Way.

But dear ole hubs gave me a French cooking class for my birthday. Rather than running from the kitchen in tears, I was inspired and enlightened that day. Maybe it was the wine I had. Perhaps it was the butter and Cognac-induced endorphins. In any case, the next week I found Dorie's cookbook, Around My French Table, on sale and I immediately signed up to participate in FFwD.

This week's recipe, my first, was Asparagus and Bits of Bacon. Only 5 ingredients and basic cooking skills required. I decided to make a main dish from the cookbook to go with it, and chose Bistrot Paul Bert Pepper Steak. Another simple recipe with a minimum of ingredients.

But do you know what happens when you get cocky? This.

Yes, that asparagus cost almost $14.
I went to Whole Paycheck Foods and spent too much money. Well, duh, right?

I told dear ole hubs that it's pretty bad when you spend almost $200 at the grocery store and yet you can carry all the groceries in the house in one trip. 

Did I say $200?!! Yes, I did. This is why.

That Bistrot Paul Bert Pepper Steak?
The pressure to cook VERY well is now apparent. 

Did I happen to mention that I'm not a good cook? I often over-cook (ie, burn) whatever I'm trying to make. Dry, rubbery chicken breasts? Check. Soggy vegetable stir-fry? Always. Nearly burned the house down making baked potatoes? Uh-huh. I've set off the smoke alarm more times than I care to admit. And if it's not over-cooked, it's under-cooked. Don't ask my sisters about the microwave sausage incident. No, really, DON'T.

I only made one substitution for the asparagus recipe, using blood orange olive oil instead of nut oil. I prepped the asparagus as Dorie suggests, by peeling the bottom of the stalks. The recipe came together quickly and easily, although I think I could have used twice the amount of bacon with no harm done. Come on, it's BACON, right? More is always better. Onions, on the other hand...well, you can see the picture at the top. Too many onions for this dish. Will have to cut back next time.

And the pepper steak? The hardest part was crushing the peppercorns without a mortar and pestle (pro Dorie tip: wrap in towel, crush with knife handle). I was also a little apprehensive about lighting the brandy on fire in my kitchen (see aforementioned "nearly burning down the house" comment). However, when it came time for that step, my pan was so hot that the brandy immediately burned off. I was so disappointed that I added more alcohol to the pan and tried again. No big flames, just tiny licks around the edges. Oh well.

It all ended up being quite delicious. I was just happy that I didn't ruin our $70 home-cooked meal. 

No, my math's not off. I, of course, needed a nice wine to go with dinner.

The verdict: Asparagus and Bits of Bacon - grade: A, will make again, with slight modifications
Bistrot Paul Bert Pepper Steak - grade: A+, will definitely make again

Thanks for reading, and happy eats!


  1. Welcome aboard!
    FFwD has definitely been a learning expercience for all of us (even the season cooks admit to having picked up a trick or two). When I fist started cooking, the ONLY thing, I could do was eggs and ramen noodles with Dinty Moor beef stew :-)
    Glad this dinner was a hit for you. That steak was really lovely, wasn't it?

    1. Hi Cher! Thanks for welcoming me to the group. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that my cooking skills will improve even a little bit. I know my husband is too. ;)

      And yes, that steak was beyond words. I could almost bathe in that brandy cream sauce!

  2. Welcome to the group. You'll enjoy it, and your cooking will improve, I promise. Your feast looks like a special meal. Glad it made high grades. The blood orange oil sounds interesting.

    1. Thank you, Betsy! I really appreciate your coming by to read and comment. My mind is blown from hearing from people other than my family!

      I like how you came to the opposite conclusion about the bacon. (IMHO, BACON and CHEESE make everything better!) I went back to the recipe and I realized I missed an important word - THICK! I think that would've made all the difference. Trial and error, I guess, right?

  3. Welcome to FFWD! Okay, that Juan Gil is a terrific wine, it also gets rave reviews from Parker, etc.- and I think it is nearly impossible to get out of good market for under $200.

    1. It's very difficult to spend less than $200 on groceries. I find that when I do, I end up not buying enough food to get us through the week! I guess we eat a lot here.