CtBF lamb shank tagine

This is another braise, so popular in the French cookbooks we have used. Taking a tough cut of meat, adding wonderful flavors, and cooking it a long time – which is great because there is so little active time, and it mostly takes care of itself.

This time, lamb shanks. With a spice rub that needs to marinate for 8-24 hours. They then get browned before adding the aromatics to the mix. A nice pinch of saffron is added next.

Some broth, the lamb shanks added back, and then finally covered, the tagine is ready for the oven.

Over the course of several hours, shanks are turned, dried apricots and raisins are added.

I used my new covered pan, and I imagine it wasn’t a great seal. The sauce really reduced quite a bit. For my 2 shanks, I used the full amount of the other ingredients.

I served this with a couscous mix. It looked pretty!

It was not for us. Smelled good, but while we love lamb, have no bias against sweet and savory combinations, it just wasn’t going to happen. I actually had a pretty thorough fail for the day! I made an apricot tart with garden apricots that I’d frozen. A shocking waste! But. I tried.

As much as we enjoy lamb, I’d not made shanks before. I imagine next time I’d tend toward the white bean, garlic, white wine spectrum. But who knows. I see that others have loved this, so I imagine it’s a personal preference thing. It’s how we learn!!

Chocolate and dried cherry fougasse

When we made a more traditional savory fougasse a few years ago, really enjoyed it. This version has been at the back of my mind since I opened the cookbook.

I enjoy baking bread, so I thought it would be a fun challenge. Like David, I love dried cherries. Chocolate of course, is nice. I swapped toasted pecans for the hazelnuts since that’s what was on hand. And of course there was orange zest that really brightens the other flavors.

This bread uses a more old-fashioned method of starting the yeast with flour and water, plus a bit of sugar, then allowing that to rest for 15 minutes.

The remainder of the flour and a bit of salt are added and the dough gets kneaded before adding the flavorings.

The flavorings get added, but I thought it needed a bit more kneading, so did a few turns by hand. Then the dough rests and rises. My house was a little chilly when I made this, and with all of the additions this didn’t rise until really fluffy.

Once risen, it gets rolled into its iconic leaf shape. Then rises again. Before putting in the oven, a little more olive oil and some gray salt.

The fougasse gets baked until golden.

So. The results? When we first tried this, kind of mixed. Intriguing, but not a favorite. Were told to eat it right after baking, but I took what was left to my book club the following day. I liked it better. My friends liked it! I sent the rest home with them.

I still love the savory version. But I may have to try this again sometime. Maybe a tweak. Maybe not. The texture might have been better if I’d had time to let it rise longer.

But this was very fun to make!! Excited to see what others thought about their breads.

CtBF – White bean, sausage and duck confit casserole, aka Cassoulet

CassouletI’ve always thought of this as a quintessential French dish – much too difficult, time consuming and complicated to make. To be fair, it really does take quite a long time to make, though not necessarily in active time, just duration of effort.

Broken into its parts, there isn’t anything overly complicated. I’ve made hundreds if not thousands of pots of beans. I did not make or eat duck confit before, though I’ve even seen it in WFs. But, my friend Betsy assures me it’s easy and a favorite. We were to make it as a separate recipe a while back, but I missed it – I’ve included it herein.

Slightly complicated was finding the specified ingredients. I live in a small town. We have a Whole Foods, so it’s not Podunk, but it’s not a City either. Pork Belly? They were actually getting some in – the next day. So that was a delay. Unsmoked ham hock? No dice – smoked it was. Duck legs – check the freezer case. And all in all, my meats were all the amount for the full recipe. But as noted above, I’ve cooked a dried bean or two – I went with half of the beans – 1 lb. was more than plenty. So my recipe was heavier on the meat end than the recipe, but no big deal.

The confit. Duck legs are marinated in some spices overnight, in a tight-fitting pan. Not having any idea of what the weight was supposed to be, I just went with what we had.

The legs get roasted very, very slowly, and are supposed to end up with a crispy exterior. Again – having no idea of what I’m doing, doubtful that they were done correctly, but they at least looked pretty! fullsizeoutput_f2f.jpeg

And, that rendered fat made for amazing potatoes!! I did try some by itself. Good. But again, not sure.

On to the other components. The beans get soaked, then cooked slowly until tender and creamy. I’m not at all sure where people live where dried beans cook in less than an hour – surely not here. Mine needed several hours of cooking to be tender. They were delicious on their own, however. Cooked in a classic style with a ham hock bone, some bay leaves and vegetables. I liked the whole or halved carrot – flavored nicely, but didn’t disappear. fullsizeoutput_f39Another step was the pork belly. I felt bad when I made them bring it out and cut me a small piece – so now I need to come up with something to do with the other half. But pork belly is awfully delicious, even if it’s not very good for you! It gets cut up, and then braised until tender.

The other preps are for cutting up the duck legs into pieces, and browning sausages. I got bulk and just formed them for browning.

All of the meats get nestled into the beans, along with the carrots that are diced, some of the ham from the hock, and the onions that are pureed with a bit of the juice from the beans (good trick!). Then there’s more water/stock added – I had some from the pork belly braise so used that. It gets a topping of bread crumbs, and then it’s ready to go into the oven.

The cassoulet is to bake for several hours, with the crust being broken a time or two. I didn’t have enough “crust” to make that an issue, though it did brown nicely. I didn’t have enough time to make this, then refrigerate it, and then re-heat it slowly in the oven for another couple of hours. We had it with some crusty bread to soak up the sauce. And a little Beaujolais Nouveau. A nice country French dinner for a cold winter’s evening!fullsizeoutput_f50

This was delicious. A great, warming meal. Love the flavors – though I’m not 100% certain that they are very different than other bean dishes (maybe it’s a cousin to Hoppin’ John or Red Beans & Rice). I think I would have preferred it a bit more saucy. But altogether delicious, and was of course, delicious left over and re-heated (though not in the oven for a couple of hours). Would I make it again? Maybe in parts. The beans were terrific, and I loved the technique with the onions and the carrots. Definitely to be done over. Liked the rest, very much. But I don’t often have days to put something together. I’d really love to taste some expertly prepared confit!

So, what does a girl do? I have a recipe somewhere that I picked up in the UK for a Cassoulet, it was good. But what I often do, is to make a recipe for Cassoulet Soup that serves 2 (or 3) that I pulled out of Bon Appétit years and years ago.

1 small onion, chopped
3 ounces Kielbasa or other fully cooked smoked sausage, thinly sliced into rounds
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2/3 cup dry white wine
2 c chicken broth or stock
1 15-ounce can cannellini or great northern beans, drained
1-1/2 cups diced leftover cooked goose or other dark poultry meat (chicken thighs are fine)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Sauté onion and Kielbasa in heavy large saucepan over medium heat until onion is soft, and sausage is light brown. Add thyme and stir 1 minute. Add wine and boil until slightly reduced. Add beans, broth, and poultry. Simmer until hot through, and flavors are combined. Garnish with parsley for serving.

I like the idea of adapting my simple soup recipe with some of the techniques that are in this recipe. If I had some duck confit, sure! and the carrots were good. Make a pot of beans, and it’s one of the down-stream makeovers. Maybe some crispy breadcrumbs on top. Sure, it’s not the original, but very tasty.

This was such a fun recipe to make. I’m excited to see how everyone’s dish turned out. You can find out too at Cook the Book Fridays.

CtBF – Potatoes cooked in duck fat

For me, this is like going backwards, writing first about the last recipe in my duck trilogy completed over the past week. But to get duck fat, without buying it from the store, you have to cook some duck (confit). And then you must use said confit in something (like cassoulet). That has to be made on or near New Years because, well, beans.

I have been so stretched out lately that I haven’t been blogging. Cooking for sure, especially with the holidays. I host Thanksgiving and so there are turkeys, stuffing, pies and all manner of things over what has turned into a 4-day party. Christmas too. Cookies of course, but I also made the main meal (prime rib and Yorkshire pudding this year – yum).

And now, while I will not at all be doing the full month (I have 3 trips planned), I’m trying to do the #cook90 challenge. Wherein you cook 3 meals a day for 30 days. I’ve gotten into some bad habits. When I lived in Scottsdale, I’d have an internal debate on my 15 minute drive home. Starting with “I’m tired, I’ll just pick up something”, and ending with “ok, I can make this, and it will be delicious. My commute is from my desk to the kitchen. Not enough time for the internal debate. So I’m going for my version of the challenge.

Has it been almost a decade that some of us have been cooking together!!! I still go back to AMFT from time to time for different things. And David’s book is good. My challenge with it is my family’s French food fatigue. We have a game we play “if you could only eat one type of cuisine for the rest of your life, what would it be?” Most likely? Mexican food (there’s so much more than gloppy cheese!). But Thai, or if you’re willing to accept a region, Southeast Asian, would work. I suspect there might be an Italian vote or two. But French? Nope. So it makes it a little tricky.

That said. I could serve these potatoes on any day and they would be a huge hit and gone in a flash. The duck fat creates the crispy exterior, that is both savory with just a touch of sweetness. In New Orleans, they serve Brabant potatoes with almost everything. Never made them, it seemed too time intensive, but this method. Absolutely!

OK, let’s get to it. There’s a recipe, but you don’t need one. I used russet potatoes, peeled and cut into about a half-inch dice. They get dropped in boiling salted water until they are just on the edge of tender.

The potatoes get drained really well, and if necessary blotted with paper towel. I used 2 medium-large potatoes, about 1 pound. I probably had close to 2 T of the duck fat. It’s heated in a heavy pan, and then the potatoes are added. They get stirred and turned around in the pan until they have a nice golden crust. I skipped the garlic, but that would be great too.

I served these with an omelet and some fresh spinach. Delicious, simple meal.

I will definitely be making this again. And I’m excited to turn over a new cooking leaf! Looking forward to reading about what others thought about this recipe!

CtBF – Potato, feta and basil tortilla

Not something I make often, but I did enjoy the versions I made with French Friday’s. I wasn’t sure about the basil. Well, and not the feta. I’ll admit I did look back at the other recipe, you know, “just in case”.

Easy enough! Potatoes diced. Cooked to barely tender in some good olive oil, and then the green onions added.

I used 8 eggs because they were very large, and my potato was just under a pound. These get whisked with the pimente de esplette, salt, and the chopped basil. Isn’t this so pretty out of the garden? Surprisingly the only basil still here are the purple varieties. Gardening?

The egg mixture gets poured over the top, and then gets topped with some feta crumbles. Cooked fairly gently on the stove for about 20 minutes to create a bottom crust and so that the tortilla is almost set.

Popped into the oven for about 5 minutes at a high temp or under the broiler to just get the top set. Once out of the oven, it gets flipped over (or alternatively slide out of the pan).

This can be served hot, warm, room temperature or cold. Though my preference is warm or room temperature. As part of a tapas spread, or with a glass of crisp rosé.

I’d forgotten how good this is. And makes for lovely leftovers as well.

You can find out what other cooks thought about the recipe here.

CtBF – buttermilk ice cream

This is some of the best ice cream I’ve made. Yes, I just said that.

I decided to get a new ice cream maker because a) it was on sale, b) it’s hot in Arizona so ice cream is good, and c) because everyone, but especially my mom, loves ice cream.

I’ve made quite a number of versions, and even bought David’s The Perfect Scoop. His vanilla custard style was actually my favorite. Up until now. There’s anew favorite in town.

It’s easy! Heat some cream with some sugar and a bit of corn syrup to make it creamier. That’s cooled (supposed to be for 8 hours in the refrigerator, but I cheated and did fewer in the freezer).

The tangy flavor of the buttermilk was fabulous. We had it with berries. I think it could be yummy with many other toppings. I’m even thinking maybe some sweet waffles or maple-something. I guess my idea is not fully baked.

But the texture is beautiful, even the next day. I did set it out for a few minutes to barely soften. Worked perfectly!

This was one of my favorites out of the book. Really delicious!!

CtBF – eggplant caviar

When I was planning on making this, I hoped that my favorite farm stand would have eggplant. At first glance, no. But when it was mentioned, the guy immediately went out and picked a bucketful. Doesn't get fresher than that!!

When I read the recipe, I immediately thought use the grill! So I charred them, then roasted them over indirect heat. No heating up the kitchen!!!

It took a little longer than I thought it would, but was in no hurry.

Once roasted to softness (with a little olive oil and salt), the eggplant is allowed to cool. Then the flesh is scraped from the shells. Then whirred with lemon juice, smoked paprika, salt, I used roasted garlic and some fresh-picked basil. It was temping to use mint as well. I'd love to hear how that turned out if anyone used it. This was really dump and stir, I referenced the recipe, but didn't follow it (honestly not sure how much eggplant I had!). This makes for a very delicious, light spread. It gets a glue of olive oils and a little more smoked paprika for serving. As suggested, I served this with some crostini. A few pickles too. And, since I had a fresh fig from my new tree, I put together another version with ricotta, prosciutto and the fresh figs. All served with some sparkling rosé. It's difficult to beat this as a lovely summer repast. Totally enjoyable, and perfect for a summer afternoon.

You can check out what others thought about this simple but delicious dish, by checking out the Cook the Book Fridays site.