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Just finished a quirky book, Goodbye, Vitamin: A Novel by Rachel Khong. She’s a new writer (newly published, I guess I should say) and this story is about Ruth, a 30+ something, trying to readjust to life without her fiance, who’s dumped her. She goes back home to help with the care of her father, who has Alzheimer’s. Written in a diary style, it jumps all over about her life, her mother, the funny, poignant things her father says on good days, and the nutty stuff he does on not-so-good days, her ex-, and her very quirky friends, too. Then a woman flits through who had had an affair with her father –  you get to observe all the angst from the mom about that. Mostly it’s about her father, as he’s relatively “together” early in the book, but then he disintegrates. Reading that part isn’t fun, although the author is able to lean some humor into it. I’m not sure I recommend the book exactly – I read it through – and felt sad. It doesn’t tie up loose ends – if you want that kind of book – you may not want to read this one.

Also finished Julian Fellowes’s Belgravia. You know Julian Fellowes, the producer and writer of Downton Abbey? He lends his mind to a story about a family or two from the similar time period as Downton, who live in London. There’s some amount of intrigue, romance, observations from within the halls of wealthy Londoners and moderately well off tradesmen and their families. There’s affairs, shady business dealings, an illegitimate child, the comings and goings of the “downstairs” staff too, etc. The characters were well done – I had no trouble keeping all of the people identified. The story is somewhat predictable, but it was interesting clear up to the end.

The Letter by Kathyrn Hughes. It’s a very intricate tale. At first it’s about Tina, a battered wife [at which point I paused and wondered if I wanted to read any further, but I’m glad I did]. She tries to get the courage to leave her husband. Then enters the letter she finds in a suit pocket in the thrift shop where she volunteers. It’s old – sealed and stamped, but never mailed. Then you learn about Crissie, decades earlier, a young pregnant girl who is sent off to Ireland to a distant relative by her father, then to a rigid (meaning horrible) convent [the book takes place mostly in Manchester, England and in rural Ireland]. The letter is addressed to her. Jump forward decades and William, the adopted child Crissie gave up, tries to find his birth mother. William meets Tina in Ireland [a serendipitous moment] as she’s trying to find the woman to whom the letter is addressed. This book is the #2 best seller on Amazon at the moment. It’s a riveting tale and I really enjoyed it.

The Muralist: A Novel by Shapiro. It tells the story of a young woman, an artist, who was part of the U.S.’s WPA mural project from the 1930s-40s (she is fiction, the WPA is not). As with so many artists, even today, they live in abject poverty through much of their lives. This woman, though, had family in France, desperately trying to escape before Hitler’s henchmen rousted them into concentration camps. The story, a bit of a mystery but not of the mystery-genre, is about Alizée Benoit, this young painter, who slightly captivates Eleanor Roosevelt’s help. It also skips into current time when the painter’s great-niece uncovers paintings she believes were painted by her aunt. The painter had disappeared into thin air in 1940, and her relative tries desperately to find out what happened to her. It’s a really good story including such Abstract Expressionist painters as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner well-woven into the narrative. It keeps you guessing right up to the end. A good read. The author also wrote The Art Forger: A Novel a few years ago.

Also recently read News of the World: A Novel by Paulette Jiles. One of my book-reading friends said this is one of the best books she’s ever read in her life. That kind of praise required me to read it and I just LOVED it. It’s about an old man (a widower), who was a former military captain, during the 1800s, who goes from town to town to read out loud the current news of the world (yes, there WAS such a free-lance job.) Newspapers didn’t make it to small towns back then. By chance he’s asked to take a 10-year old girl to East Texas to reunite with relatives. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby (her family was killed in the raid), raised by the Kiowa and as was often the case of such children, she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. And yet, they learn to trust each other on the journey. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!). This book is truly a wonderful read – I didn’t want it to end. The author has a gift of description and the severe dangers and difficulties of an old (wild) west horse and wagon journey. The relationship is tender. Now I’ve got to investigate the author’s other books, of which there are many. Just read this one first!

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Beef, on August 13th, 2007.

I probably should start out this posting with the sentence: I love thyme. It is this recipe that introduced me to its culinary virtues. And I’ve been a frequent user ever since.

My memory served me poorly on this recipe. I’ve been making it for so long, and it’s been written into my old recipe binder for so many years that I didn’t remember who gave it to me. When I did a search for the title (in French), sure enough, I found it. This is Julia Child’s recipe from her first major tome, Mastering the Art of French Cooking (2 Volume Set). I found a write-up about the recipe on the Julia-Julie Project (the young woman who decided to methodically cook the entire contents of Julia’s book in a year, all the while blogging about it, and she subsequently wrote a book based on her blog). I tried to read her blog a couple of years ago (after I read Julia’s memoir, My Life in France  by Julia Child, written by her nephew, which I just loved), but this woman, named Julie, has such a foul mouth I just couldn’t continue. (I’m not even going to insert a link to her site because I disliked it so much.) I don’t understand why people feel they have to use the f and s words in every sentence. (Later note . . . Julie’s website was taken down once work started on the movie, Julie & Julia.)

So, obviously, this isn’t anything original. This has been a staple in my cooking repertoire for 35 years. I’ve even served it to guests (I double the sauce in that case), and whenever I do make these I make extra and freeze at least 4 patties so I can make them just by defrosting. They aren’t difficult. Not in the least, although they do take a bit more time than just making patties from raw meat and cooking them.

Since I haven’t read Julia Child’s take on using minced beef (raw), I don’t know the origin of this either. But she recommends using lean beef, then you ADD butter to the raw meat. Interesting, huh? Most current chefs and cooking magazines recommend using nothing leaner than ground chuck. But, realize that when you cook these, if the cold butter is in the middle, when the heat finally reaches the butter, it melts right into the meat, not out into the pan. That’s what gives the meat it’s richness. But first you saute some onion and butter, cool it, then combine that with egg and thyme to make thick patties. It’s necessary to allow these to chill a little bit (with the egg to hold it together). That’s an important step. Then you dredge them in flour, then fry them up until done to your liking.

You remove them from the pan and set in a warm oven while you make the sauce. Then you drain the fat from the pan, and add wine or broth. I usually use red wine, but have also used sherry. You can also use broth, or white wine for that matter. You deglaze the pan, scraping up any of those pan juices and little sticky parts, until the wine has evaporated some. Remove from heat and add some additional butter, in bits. Pour into a HOT little pitcher to serve at the table. The recipe says pour the sauce on the burgers, but then most of the sauce ends up on the platter, not on the burger, so I prefer a pitcher.

I like serving this with pasta, just simple buttered pasta. Because some of that sauce tastes great with the pasta. Then with a bright colored veg – like broccoli, or green beans perhaps. And a salad. This used to be – back in the days when nobody thought anything of eating beef 3-4 nights a week – a frequent visitor on my regular family menu. Now it’s a treat.
printer-friendly PDF

French Hamburgers

(aka Bifteck Hache a la Lyonnaise)
Recipe: Julia Child, Mastering the Art of French Cooking
, Vol. 1
Servings: 4

BEEF PATTIES:
3/4 c onion — minced
2 tbsp butter
1 1/2 lb lean ground beef
2 tbsp butter — softened
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp thyme
1 whole egg
DREDGING MIXTURE:
1/2 c flour
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp vegetable oil
SAUCE:
1/2 cup red wine — or sherry or port or broth
2 tablespoons butter

1. Cook minced onion slowly for 10 minutes in butter, until tender, but not brown. Pour into a mixing bowl. Add the ground beef, additional butter, and seasonings to the onions and beat just until combined. Form into 4 patties, 3/4 inch thick. Cover with wax paper and chill several hours.
2. Just before sauteing the patties, gently roll them in the flour. In a large, heavy frying pan, melt butter and oil, bring to a moderately high temperature and add patties. Sear them until they’re brown on both sides, then reduce heat until they’re done to your liking. This usually takes longer than I think – about 15 minutes.
3. Remove patties to a heated oven. Pour fat out of the pan and add sherry (or other wine), scraping up the pan juices, until it’s reduced to a thick syrup. Take off the heat and add the butter (allow butter to melt) and serve in a small pitcher to pour over the patties. I often poke holes in the top of each patty (with a fork) so the sauce will ooze down into the meat.
4. Note: the original recipe calls for red wine, white wine, vermouth or beef stock for the sauce. You can use either red wine, sherry or light port or even Madeira.
Per Serving: 766 Calories; 60g Fat (73.4% calories from fat); 34g Protein; 15g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 235mg Cholesterol; 1160mg Sodium.

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  1. Kalyn

    said on August 13th, 2007:

    Hi Carolyn,

    I wondered if you knew that Lisa from Champaign Taste is having a blog event to celebrate Julia Child’s birthday on August 15. This recipe would be perfect for it!

    You would have to edit and add a link to Champaign Taste if you wanted to enter; then just send Lisa the permalink for this entry and she would mention your blog and recipe in the roundup. No pressure, I just thought you might like your recipe to be included.

  2. Carolyn T

    said on August 15th, 2007:

    Thanks, Kalyn. I did read her blog a few weeks ago and had forgotten all about it. Thanks for the reminder. Don’t know if I’ve made it under the deadline or not. We were out of town for 2 days and just sent it this morning. We’ll see.
    Carolyn T

  3. Fully Alive

    said on April 29th, 2016:

    We just finished dinner – the Bifteck Hache a la Lyonnaise along with the Pasta in Tomato Cream Sauce and fresh steamed asparagus. We are rubbing our bellies and smiling. Both were delicious and quite easy. Even better – just a few inexpensive ingredients. Thank you for sharing.

    Debbie

    I’m so glad you enjoyed the dinner! Two of my favorite recipes. Thanks for letting me know . . . carolyn t

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