The Joy of Cooking

You might remember the movie Julie and Julia where the main character decided to work her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking making each and every recipe from the beginning of the book to the end. For me the movie was a mildly diverting bit of entertainment. I liked the parts played by Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci as Paul and Julia Child and chuckled at Streep’s portrayal of Julia’s rough start at the Cordon Bleu.

I’ve toyed with the idea of doing the same thing but stopped myself because, honestly, Julia’s recipes aren’t a great fit for us in our household. Number 1 reason: Marty probably wouldn’t eat even half of the recipes. He’s a meat and potatoes guy and I’m not exaggerating. I mean, sincerely meat and potatoes and that’s it. His food color palette is white and brown with yellow as an accent. For example: a plain dry hamburger, nothing on it but meat and cheddar cheese – the yellow).

For fun I’m going to cook my way through whatever chapter of Joy of Cooking and whatever recipes in those chapters that appeal to me.  I’m not as gung-ho as Julie. I get to choose what I want!

Chapter One: Sandwiches, Wraps, and Pizza

Two Roast Beef Sandwiches

Sandwich #1: Beef with romaine lettuce, sliced Beefsteak tomatoes, stone ground mustard and mayonnaise. The simple recipe: layer all ingredients on the bread of your choice. Add chips of any kind on the side.

I’m making these two sandwiches with my homemade no knead sourdough bread made with a heritage wheat known as Red Fife. It will be a combination of Red Fife and ordinary unbleached bread flour. Red Fife, to me, is a heavier grain as compared to, say Sonora white (which is a whole grain and not a refined product as the name implies) is lighter ,and produces a lighter finished bread. I’m glad I cut the red fife with white flour. It would have been very heavy if I hadn’t.

Red Fife no knead sourdough

3 cups flour (1-1/2 c red fife and 1-1/2 c unbleached bread flour)

1-1/4 t salt

¼ t active dry yeast

1-1/2 to 1-3/4 c cool water

Coarse cornmeal for dusting the pot.

A 3-quart cast iron pot with metal lid (enamel is ok. Must be sturdy.)

Combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly. Add 1-1/2 c water and stir. Add remaining water as needed until you have a thoroughly mixed, wet, sticky mass of dough. This dough will not be like any other bread. It will be much wetter and not form a ball. Cover bowl with wax paper or plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 12 to 18 hours. I’m not picky about how long I let it sit. I, for sure, let it sit the 12 hours but sometimes I let it sit for longer than 18.

After the hours have passed, your dough should be spotted with bubbles and more than doubled in size. It might have an alcohol smell to it but don’t mind that. It will burn off in baking. This is just a bit of sourdough fermentation.

Dust a clean surface with bread flour and using your fingers or scrapers scrape the dough loose from sides of bowl and turn onto surface in one piece. The dough will be loose and sticky. Don’t add any more flour. Just dust the top lightly with flour and cover with a clean cloth that doesn’t shed fiber. Linen or smooth cotton is good. Let dough rise another 1 – 2 hours.

About 30 minutes before the second rise is done, place a cast iron pot without the lid on the rack in the lower third of oven. I use a 3-quart Creuset enamel iron pot that has a metal knob.  I replaced the wooden one with a metal one because the wooden one blackened and threatened to burn. Heat to 475 degrees.

Once oven has reached 475 degrees remove the pot using heavy duty potholders and sprinkle a teaspoon of cornmeal in the bottom. Uncover the dough and using scrapers or your hands shape the dough into kind of a ball and then lift carefully, plop the dough ball into the pot. Don’t worry about the shape. It will form itself.

Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes uncover and bake for an additional 15 minutes until loaf is brown but not burned. Remove from the pot by turning it over. It should come right out. Cool on a rack for a minimum of an hour. This is the hard part for Marty. He wants to cut into it right away and I’ve chastised him every time because if you cut into it while it’s still really hot it will not cut properly. It must lose some moisture. He hates this waiting part. Hot bread with butter is good so I sympathize but the cooling time completes the process. Look at it as an exercise in the delaying of gratification.

Sandwich #2: Beef with red onion marmalade and thousand island dressing – Layer roast beef on the bread of your choice slathered with onion marmalade and thousand island dressing.

Red Onion marmalade recipe

I really liked the idea of onion marmalade.  My friend Lynn makes the most outstanding onion confit at Thanksgiving so this it right up that alley. But when I made this and tasted it I was not sure I was going to like it on a sandwich. It had a decidedly onion flavor and was a little bit sharp. Much to my delight and surprise the finished sandwich was outstanding so I was very happy. I wanted to eat two!

Combine in a medium non-reactive saucepan over low heat:

3-1/2 large red onions, halved and cut into ¼ inch thick slices

1/3 c dry red wine

1/3 c red wine vinegar

¼ c packed light brown sugar

¼ c mild honey

Cook, stirring until sugar is dissolved, then simmer, stirring often, the until consistency of marmalade, about 30 minutes.

Stir in

1 T orange juice

1 T lemon juice

Continue to cook, stirring, until juices are absorbed. Let cool. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks. Serve at room temperature.

4 thoughts on “The Joy of Cooking”

  1. Pretty cool , Renee! Susan bakes bread the no-knead way, too; she uses an enameled, Martha Stewart cast iron pot that was on sale and has had excellent results. Will enjoy future recipes and results from you. –Tom Haight

  2. Your bread and your sandwiches look delicious!!! Great idea to cook through a favorite cookbook. I’m looking forward to following along 🙂

    1. “Joy” includes everything so to avoid being prosaic I’m going to pick and choose recipes I don’t already know by heart. I’m moving on to ham sandwiches next.

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