ffwd – lamb and dried apricot tagine

This dish is a wonderful departure from other braises that are so perfect for this time of year. Not only is it lamb vs. beef, but it includes a combination of warming spices and dried apricots for a bit of sweetness that contributes to a wonderful combination of flavors that is so satisfying. There is a mixture of spices including coriander, saffron, cinnamon, ginger, red pepper flakes and cumin along with salt and pepper. Of course garlic and onions and the lamb and dried apricots. Rounding the recipe out, some canned diced tomatoes and a bit of chicken broth.100_3751

I used slices from a leg of lamb because that was what was most convenient. Perhaps even a bit too lean, but that eliminates steps down the road. The lamb gets cut into chunks and browned in a bit of olive oil – it takes a few shifts in the pan to brown all of the meat without crowding. Once that’s complete, the onions and garlic are added for their turn in the pan, stirring up all of the browned bits on the bottom.


Next, the tomatoes get added along with some broth, and that gets to simmer for a bit along with the spices.

100_3756100_3757And then, the lamb and apricots are added on top, the whole thing covered tightly and then popped into a 325 degree oven for a nice long simmer.


After about an hour or so (mine was longer – I was working and got sidetracked!), the dish comes out, gets a good stir and is ready to serve with your choice of something to take advantage of the lovely sauce. I chose rice. Toppings are toasted almonds and a bit of cilantro (no, I didn’t get that far, but there’s another meal where I can try that out).


This is such an aromatic, yummy, warming dish. The flavor combination is different, but so delicious, and not a stretch at all. It was terrific with the rice, though I’m sure if your preference was some other grain, seed or starch, it would be nice too. This was a fun dish to make. You can find out what other people thought of the recipe by checking the French Fridays with Dorie site.


Cranberry Spice Cake

Before I’d ever really heard of Dorie Greenspan, before I had seen the cookbook Around my French Table, or been introduced to French Fridays with Dorie, there was this cake. This amazing cranberry spice cake that I found in Bon Appetit magazine and it was Dorie’s recipe. Look how gorgeous the official photo looks! Well, I’ve been baking this cake at this time of year since the recipe appeared in 2008. It is the perfect cake for taking to a party, or simply having a slice with a cup of coffee (lately, I know people who have been eating it for breakfast!)


The recipe is fairly simple and straightforward. Butter, sugar, almond meal (I think this might have been my first use of it all those years ago – thanks again Dorie!), flour, etc. and then – Chinese Five Spice! Another revelation – and one of the best uses for that spice blend. Also, the recipe uses yogurt for tangy-ness and both dried and fresh cranberries.


The steps are fairly typical for any cake – creamed butter and sugar, the additions of the other ingredients, and then a stir-in of the cranberries and nuts.


The batter gets spread into a prepared bundt pan. I love using the vintage one that I’ve had for years. It was someone’s grandma’s – maybe my ex’s? But I still love it with its wonderful shape.


Then this gets baked for about 70 minutes in a 350 degree oven, you can test it with a toothpick or needle to see if it comes out clean. The cake turns a lovely golden color, and provides a delightful spicy aroma as it bakes.

IMG_0874Leave in the pan to cool for 10 minutes and turn out to completely cool on a wire rack.100_3748

To be honest, I never bother with the glaze. I’m sure it would be terrific with its hint of orange, but I think this cake is perfect as it is. Though for dessert, a little ice cream wouldn’t go amiss!


Hopefully you’ll try out this wonderful confection when you’re looking for something simple, yet fancy. So much simpler than cookies or pastries, but a big step up from other bundt-style cakes. And the perfect flavor combinations for this time of year!

CCC – chestnut & sage soup, twice-baked potatoes – the November recipes

At this time of year, things seem to get very busy. I’ve been working a lot, some of it on a new project out of the country, so between that and hosting Thanksgiving (weekend!), I have missed out on a few recipes. That said, I did get to a couple, and I’m happy I did.

At first blush, the chestnut and sage soup  was a little too reminiscent of a number of beige-looking soups I’ve made over the past couple of years. But I was determined to try it because every time I use chestnuts in soup, I love the result. And in this version – there’s sage. And I think that nothing says fall like sage. Interestingly, some of it gets crisped up in a bit of olive or other oil.


The soup is simple enough, vegetable broth and a few other things, along with some cooked chestnuts. I was able to find them prepared, so it turned into a quick soup. I used the immersion blender, but if I had more time I think it would turn out better (that is, much smoother) if I used a regular blender. I also added a dollop of cream and a drizzle of the sage oil along with the sage leaves. I wished I’d made more!


It may not be much to look at, but this was a wonderful soup. And I totally loved the crisped sage leaves. I need to make them again, and find different ways to use them. So very good.

The other recipe I completed this month was for twice-baked potatoes. To be honest, I did make them to serve alongside something not-vegetarian-at-all, but these would make a delicious meal on their own, or with some shredded and sauteed squash (as I did here). They are simplicity itself. A baked potato, with the flesh scooped out, and combined with green onions, butter and sour cream, placed back in their shells and topped with some cheese. Then baked to heat through.


I ended up using a fairly “pedestrian” cheese, but it was lovely combined with the soothing potatoes. Individual servings of anything are always fun, and these do make for a nice presentation, though of course, some truly flavorful cheeses would be great, or even some different seasonings. But these were delicious as they were.


You can find all of the Cottage Cooking Club results here. I’m sure that there are some wonderful dishes I missed, and I can’t wait to read through all of the results!

beatrix’s red kuri soup (an around my french table recipe)

Originally posted on dulceshome:

Red kuri soup. Red curry soup?… actually, both sound delicious. I love, love squash soups. I have a couple that I often make during the fall and holidays, so I was excited to see one in Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook around my french table. But when I read the recipe, I was a bit disconcerted – I’d never heard of or seen a red kuri squash. It sounded great – no peeling? really? Unfortunately no picture of the squash in question either.

Fast forward a year (!), and when I was in one of our local markets – there it was! a sign for red kuri squash! But… none to be found in the bin. There’s a Whole Foods in my neighborhood, so I thought that since the squash is actually available in the US (at Bashas no less!), it’s probably there. On my trip in, I did find the…

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TWD – Palats de Dames, Lille Style

100_3715This is my first post in the baking group Tuesdays with Dorie, now commencing baking through Dorie Greenspan’s new book Baking Chez Moi. I had baked a couple of times with the group when they started baking through the book Baking with Julia. But it didn’t really stick. I’d had the book for years, had never used it, and while the recipes were good, not really my thing. As the French Fridays with Dorie group approaches the few remaining recipes from Around my French Table, we’re joining forces with the Tuesday group, since we are all still fans of Dorie Greenspan after all these years and enjoy our online community so much.

That’s a long introduction to this recipe. In fact, I made these a couple of weeks ago, as part of a virtual birthday celebration for Dorie, as well as marking our 4th year as the Friday group, and the publication of the new book. It was a fitting recipe to start with, much like when we began with gougeres all those years ago. I was happy to prepare more, they are so delicious.

This is a simple almost-batter that really accentuates the flavors of vanilla and butter. This batter needs to be chilled for at least an hour before forming into cookies. The easiest way I found was to use a small cookie scoop as Dorie suggested. I still needed to roll them into more perfect balls, so that they would keep their appropriate shape. They also need to be pretty small. And when they are baked, you should just barely see a bit of browning around the edges.


Once cooled, the cookies are dipped in a confectioners sugar glaze. I wanted a bit of embellishment, so thought some fall sprinkles would be in order. To me, the least messy way to glaze them was to place the racks over the top of one of my cookie sheets with parchment still in place, then dip each cooking into the glaze and set it on the rack and then top with the sprinkles. This made for pretty easy clean up, since the parchment caught every drip and sprinkle, so could be rolled up and tossed.


I couldn’t help attempting some photographs that took advantage of the beautiful dappled light, as well as the lovely nasturtiums in the garden. I have been so enamoured by Andrea’s photos (of The Kitchen Lioness), that I just had to try something different. Anyone who has read my blog knows that I’m a bit behind the curve on photography, but these seemed to deserve a pretty presentation.


These are certainly a recipe that I was happy to make again, and one that I’ll think of when looking for something simple but lovely for a cookie tray. They are exceptional with an espresso or a cup of tea. And they do lend themselves to embellishment of any variety. Certainly perfect on a beautiful fall day.


I know that we will all enjoy baking through our new book, and I’m really looking forward to “meeting” new friends in this group as well. Every recipe looks fabulous, so there will be lots of sweet treats in our futures!!

ffwd – (faux) jerusalem artichoke soup

The fact is, I haven’t been able to find Jerusalem artichokes. I know I’m not alone, though others are so well-organized that they order them ahead. Not me. From the beginning of French Fridays with Dorie, for some reason, I always think that I should cook the recipe the same week that that it is due to be posted. My most successful months, I probably haven’t done that, but I can’t really get that “rule” out of my head. This past week I was out of the country, only getting home late on Thursday, so this was indeed a French Friday.

When I did my research on line, potatoes were suggested as a substitute. So I chose potatoes and thought I’d add some artichoke hearts for a little more flavor (though not fresh… that would have been better, but more time consuming – this was another between-conference calls-recipe for me) The ingredients are straightforward, the afore mentioned potatoes and artichokes, plus leek, onion, celery and garlic. Then a little chicken stock.


The ingredients are prepped, with a couple of different rounds of sauteing – aromatics first, other vegetables second, then the broth is added to bring it all together.


The mixture is turned into a smooth soup with an immersion blender – it does get quite creamy. The original recipe suggests a parsley coulis, but I didn’t have time – maybe for the leftovers. I used the suggested truffle oil instead.


To be honest, this was yet another nondescript, beige soup. Maybe I’ll be able to doctor it up? Some parmesan? Some herbs (sage, thyme??) or pesto? Hopefully it’s gotten better in the refrigerator overnight! Not bad, just not memorable. If you would like to see how other Doristas’ soups turned out, you can check them out here.



A French Thanksgiving – 2009

The summer of 2009 ended up being an intersection of sorts. I had read the book Julie and Julia and had been introduced to a world that, for me, had not even existed – an individual person blogging! And cooking through an entire cookbook as a project!! The following year, I started blogging myself when I joined the group French Fridays with Dorie. Before that happened, however, We had a French adventure of our own.

In August of 2009, we went to see the movie Julie and Julia based on the book, and the idea was born – a “Julia” Thanksgiving. You see, since the mid-80s, I’ve been creating Thanksgiving menus for our family gatherings. They always include quintessential elements, but the menus change from year to year – some bringing back childhood favorites, others a departure. This was going to be a “big” year, all of my brothers and their families would gather with us. It was going to be an all-out feast.

I had a number of Julia Child cookbooks – of course notably Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Not every recipe is from that book, but the lion’s share are, or at least they are a riff on something that I thought Julia might make. I also always send out a document with the menu and recipes (the entire menu and recipes are linked). It’s fun to think ahead, and since not everyone can get together every year it’s also fun to share.


The real stars of the show were the canards, the potatoes and the dressing. Even with a French menu, the sides steal the show. This was an all-day affair to put this together, and there was a lot of help – though to be honest, the ducks were really a one-person dish.


It was a beautiful fall day, so my sisters-in-law were able to enjoy the sunshine while prepping potatoes.

Others spent time chopping pecans, baking pies and tarts, and prepping the massive amount of garlic for the potatoes. I can always count on my sous chefs; brother Clark, and nieces Kelsey and Jillian. Chris can be counted on for a grilled turkey

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The soup as a starter was a hit. and the meal itself was amazing. It was worth all of the effort to make the potatoes – and don’t be put off by the amount of garlic. Simmered and with the butter and cream. Divine!

The duck was a challenge to make, but so much fun. I’ve de-boned what seems like a zillion birds over the years, but ducks aren’t meaty, so not quite as forgiving as a turkey, but it all worked out. The bird itself is steeped in cognac and port, the filling is a savory meat filling (really, it is a terrine), with more booze and lots of spices. Finally, the duck is encased in pastry and baked. We needed two (!) to serve the crowd, and we planned on serving them warm, though classically I think it’s really served cold. Of course, being Thanksgiving, we had to throw in a bit of flourish with fall leaves decorating the pastry crust.


We made a couple of kinds of pie as well – an apple galette and pumpkin praline pie – I thought that the praline would add just enough the right note of “French”.


I don’t have pictures of it, but the dressing was fabulous – a mixture of mushrooms along with herbs and brioche. There were plenty of shenanigans, along with a lot of help. A true family effort.


And of course, we had to have some French table settings too.


We had such a fun time and even with the massive quantities, I think we went through most of the food (plenty of young appetites ready for a great meal after a hike!) it was all so delicious.

So, this was my start down the French Friday path.  We had such a great time making this absolutely amazing meal. And it wouldn’t be long before I started my own blog. So, Thanksgiving and blogging collided. As we wind down cooking through Around My French Table, I thought I’d share with you the menu for this amazing meal. Maybe you’ll find something to inspire your own French Thanksgiving – Julia style.