Thursday, September 24, 2009

Julie Is Not Julia

On the Mysterious Chinese Woman's recommendation, I am reading "Julie & Julia." Interesting, but it has some peculiar errors. I already mentioned how Julie got the whole thing about clarifying butter wrong. Now I am reading about her making Riz a l'Indienne, which is basically just plain old cooked rice. And Julie does go on about this for several pages, referring to it as "Bitch Rice" because it is so difficult to make.

Well, maybe it is difficult to make it if you make it like she does.

Julie (not Julia) says "To make Riz a l'Indienne, you must sprinkle a cup and a half of rice into eight quarts of boiling water - which in this age of environmental crisis can be seen as nearly immoral." I am not sure if it is immoral or not, but it sure didn't seem right to me. And I have cooked a lot of rice.

I checked my copy of "Mastering The Art Of French Cooking" and the recipe calls for a cup and a half of rice and 3 cups of water, not eight quarts.

Of course Julie then complains about having to pick out a grain of rice from an enormous pot of boiling water to see if it is done. But, according to the cookbook, when the water is almost absorbed you fork up a few grains and bite it to see if it is done. Not quite the same.

Now, according to Julie, after the rice is done you rinse it in hot water and wrap it in cheesecloth and steam it for half an hour. Huh?! The rice is done already. Why on earth would you steam it for another half an hour. Didn't Julie ever stop to think that none of this made much sense?

According to "Mastering The Art Of French Cooking," once you have cooked the rice you can, if you wish, store it in the refrigerator in a tightly covered container for a day or two. Then, to re-heat the rice you steam it in cheese cloth over simmering water for "several minutes until well heated through." In other words, you only steam the rice if you didn't serve it right after you cooked it. And then you only steam it for a few minutes to re-heat it.

Again, this wouldn't be such a big deal if Julie didn't go on for several pages about how difficult it is to cook Riz a l'Indienne. Well, yeah, if you cooked it like she did. If you follow the real recipe it is a snap.

I never read Julie's blog, so I don't know how much detail she went into regarding her cooking her way through "Mastering The Art Of French Cooking." However, based upon what I have read in her book, I am begining to wonder just how well she followed the recipes.

And, really, how on earth could anyone think you would need eight quarts of water to cook a cup and a half of rice? And then steam it for half-an-hour after it is done? I think Julie should have cut back on those gimlets she seems to love so much.


granola.freeman said...

Just a note: One of the reasons I dropped the Restaurant Management program at SMSU was because of my horrible, terrible, no-good-rotten attempt at clarifying butter. I don't know what I had at the end, but you better believe it wasn't butter.

Bar Man said...

Just heat the butter over a low heat and skim off the scum. Then when it separates use a turkey baster to draw off the clear stuff and strain it through cheesecloth. Piece of cake. Or you can use buy ghee, an Indian clarified butter. Or just don't bother and mix butter with vegetable oil so you can heat it higher..., if you are lazy.

I think, at the end, even Julia Child kind of gave up on the clarified butter and just fell back on the butter and oil mixture.

granola.freeman said...

Oooh, I do enjoy using ghee. Haven't prepared a recipe that has needed clarified butter since my undergrad, but will try again with something tasty...winter is fast approaching (not that I blog about it or anything, slap on the wrist) and I'll need something to keep me busy. :)

berklingaly said...