August 28, 2009

"Braised Cucumbers are a Revelation!"

Let's face it, we all come to adulthood with food issues that are unresolved from our childhood. Mrs. Vino is no different. I hate cucumbers.

They are bitter, slimy, watery and gross - at least that's what I thought as a child. And, I'll confess that my opinion hasn't changed much since then. Not even when faced with a Martini made with cucumbers and basil (at Chiopinot in SLO)did I relent.

Please understand that Mrs. Vino LOVES vegetables. Since I have been getting my Cal Poly Organic Farm Harvest Box, I have embraced Kale. I have a crush on Kohlrabi. I now call Collard greens my friends. But in the last two harvest boxes, I received a veritable cornucopia of cucumbers and I have remained . . . cool. . . towards them.

So, when I was watching Julie & Julia (AWESOME MOVIE) and Amy Adams exclaimed "Braised Cucumbers are a revelation!" I said quietly to myself "you have GOT to be kidding." In my opinion the only thing worse than a raw cucumber was a slimy cooked cucumber. Gro--ooo---ooo--se.

But Mrs. Vino is always advising you to "taste outside the box" and it was time to take a dose of her own medicine. I couldn't seem to give away my veggie drawer full of cukes. And, I certainly couldn't throw away good vegetables (not even cucumbers). So I decided to see if Braised Cucumbers are, in fact, a revelation.

Turns out they are.

I started with Julia Child's recipe for Concombres au Beurre (OK, they are actually BAKED cucumbers). I had several different varieties of cucumbers in my drawer, but I decided not to discriminate. I seeded them all and hacked them all into 1" pieces. My entire kitchen smelled like the cucumber room spray from Bath and Body Works (why anyone would want their rooms to smell like cucumbers is beyond me). Not off to a good start. I soaked the cukes in vinegar, salt and sugar for an hour and things got a little better. The vinegar really tones down the cucumber smell.

But the real revelation came when the cucumbers started to cook. First, you toss the cukes with melted butter (this IS a Julia Child recipe, after all). Then stick them in the oven at 375 for an hour. Who on earth would put cucumbers in a 375 degree oven for an hour. They should have ended up as slimy little bits stuck to the bottom of the baking dish.

They didn't.

About 15 minutes into the cooking, Mr. Vino came into the kitchen to find out what the heavenly smell was. The cucumbers smelled AMAZING. I couldn't believe it. When I brought them to the table, I was still slightly skeptical. These were CUCUMBERS, after all. At the first taste, Mr. Vino and I both sighed heavily. Heavenly. Rich. Silky. Not at all bitter or slimy. Buttery (of course). Firm to the tooth. Between the two of us, we ate the whole dish (that was 6 cucumbers between the two of us).

Just goes to show you, there are no absolutes when it comes to anything having to do with food. That's why our moms tell us: Try it. You don't have to eat it if you don't like it, but you do have to try it.

So today I challenge you to try something you think you hate, but haven't tasted in a while. And, I'll eat my own words (along with the baked cucumbers): Cucumbers are NOT gross (at least not always).

Concombre au Beurre (Mastering the Art of French Cooking) 6 cucumbers about 8" long
2 T white vinegar
1 1/2 t. salt
pinch of sugar
3 T melted butter (we miss you, Julia)
1/2 t. of dill or basil (I used dill)
3 minced green onions
Pepper to taste

Peel the cukes, cut themin half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon. Cut into strips that are about 1" x 2". I cut mine lengthwise into 4 strips, then into 2" pieces. Toss the cucumbers in a bowl with vinegar, salt and sugar and let them stand for 30 minutes to an hour. Drain them and dry them with a towel.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put the cukes in a baking dish with the butter, herbs,onions and pepper. Set, uncovered, in the middle of the preheated oven for 1 hour--stirring or tossing 2 or 3 times during the couse of cooking. Cucumbers are done when they are just starting to have a hint of brown color, and they are tender with still a touch of crispness.

1 comment:

  1. Finally saw J & J last night; I loved it! Definitely Oscar worthy performance and production design wise!
    Thank you Mrs. Vino for your refreshing post on the exclaimed cucumber dish, including the recipe. I will definitely give it a try before the summer cucs have withered.

    (I am surprised people have had such a hard time sourcing the recipe, it is right there in my mother's edition of MTAOFC. If its been edited out, I'm sure it will be in the next edition...)
    Bon App├ętit!


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