Monday Night Martha has its roots a couple years back, in a now-defunct book club. The book club had been around for years -- members had come and gone -- and the thing really was on its last leg, when we decided (well, I decided -- it was my pick that month) we should read the book "Julie and Julia" by Julie Powell -- and cook a Julia Child meal.
If you haven't read "Julie and Julia" but you're interested enough in food and cooking to read Chow Bella, you really should go out and grab a copy. I believe a movie's forthcoming, as well. The idea was simple (if difficult to execute): cook every recipe in "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" in a year's time.
I won't tell you what happens. But it's a good read.
Michele (thank the food gods I'd dragged her into the club) and I scoured the book, choosing the easiest recipes, and it was a terrific evening, particularly when Michele rescued my coq au vin from a bland fate.
We left with vows to switch out book club for cooking club -- something that never quite happened, though we still discuss it from time to time. So following holiday recipes (we intend to continue beyond Christmas -- we'll see) and blogging about it was a natural progression and a welcome time to socialize, as Michele mentioned last week.
I'm not proud. I will admit that while I slaved over just one recipe, Michele pretty much single-handedly made the other three (including one involving a candy thermometer -- more to come on that in a later installment, as well as details about our third cook). But mine turned out damn well, I have to say, and even with tripling the recipe.
Yes, tripling. When you only bake a couple times a year, you triple. This can be tricky without a Kitchenaid (I gave it away to a close friend after realizing I'd had the thing for five years and never turned it on -- I'm afraid of it) but it is doable. The key: let the butter get soft enough.
And choose your recipe wisely. Real Simple's recipe for chocolate ginger bars is just that. (And I'm not ALWAYS a fan of the magazine. Early in RS's days, someone slipped in a clever idea for passing off fast food fried chicken as your own -- just drive through Kentucky Fried Chicken and slip the chicken out of the bucket and into a cute basket with a gingham napkin. OK, anyone who's ever tasted KFC knows that just isn't gonna fly. Nothing lamer than a cheater "recipe" that fools no one, unless it's a regift presented to the original giver.)
Ah, but I digress. The recipe was straightforward and the best part is that you can freeze the dou gh in the pan (they recommend lining with parchment; so do I) and take it out to bake later.
I tried it for our office holiday party. Smash hit! Even C.M. Redding of "Spooning" fame raved. -- Amy Silverman