Here's the report on Week One of the experiment.
I kicked off Project: Evil Chef with James Peterson's Glorious French Food: A Fresh Approach to the French Classics. This is a pretty excellent book; rather than taking a survey approach to the cuisine, he focuses on a small number of dishes, goes into great detail on the most effective ways to cook them, and then lists a few important variations.
The first dish I cooked from here was Beef Stroganoff, which, although a Russian dish (sour cream, y'know), is something that Peterson argues is entirely French in its nature and technique if not its origin. This one turned out incredibly well -- following his directions to the letter resulted in an incredibly light, flavorful and perfectly textured sauce. He also makes a surprising substitution: he calls for heavy cream and lemon juice instead of sour cream, as the latter tends to curdle very quickly when exposed to heat. Sure enough, this worked like a charm, and not only made a great sauce, but also retained its flavor in the leftover phase far longer than Stroganoffs I've made in the past. I served it over buttered fettucine instead of rice or egg noodles, and it was fantastic. The only thing I'd have done differently if I did it over again would be to use a slightly better cut of meat and slice it a bit smaller; and the only alteration I made to his recipe was to add mushrooms. All in all, I'd give this an 8, or "Incredibly Yum-Tastic", on the Deliciometer.
Next up was a Salad Niçoise. Leave it to me to screw up a salad -- this actually didn't turn out too badly, but I was missing one key ingredient (potatoes -- I bought one, but apparently lost it somewhere between the grocery store and home; it's probably decaying in my trunk right now) and had to substitute another one (I had the wrong kind of olives). It was easy to prepare (even more so because I took a couple of lazy shortcuts), but I deviated from the recipe to a degree that the dish suffered for it. What should have been the easiest of the three recipes to prepare turned out to be the worst. However, I'm going to make this again, with the right and complete ingredients, because I think it'll turn out better; his version is much more a Parisian bistro-style than a traditional Nice-style salad. Anyway, I give this one a 6, or "Supra-Mediocre", on the Deliciometer; thaitea, though, might disagree, as she seemed to like it more than I did.
Finally, last night, I made a Quiche Lorraine. I had major performance anxiety over this one, as my record of being utterly incapable of making pastries, or baking things in general, is well-known wherever Evil Chefs meet. As it turned out, this might have been the most successful of the dishes, just in terms of turning out as planned. I used very thick-cut pepper bacon cut into quarter-inch strips, and while I was initially petrified that the milk/egg mixture wouldn't set properly, it ended up being just fine with a little extra cooking time (he recommended 55 minutes, but I went about an hour and 15, making two quiches). A lot of people make quiche with a thick, spongy, omelet-type texture, but in fact, quiche is supposed to be more like a custard, which is precisely how it turned out. The only alteration I made was to sweeten the crust slightly, which actually worked pretty well to counterpoint the saltiness and pepper of the bacon. I was very pleasantly surprised with this, and would give it a 7, or "Atsa Spicy Meat-a-ball", on the Deliciometer only because I'm not that crazy about eggs.