around my french table – 6 months on

Some of the recipes I’ve made have been memorable, others not so much. But Dorie Greenspan’s around my french table (her use of capitals…) has proven to be a great cookbook. It’s been interesting on this journey – I’ve found that one of my go-to recipes for the holidays is hers (a wonderful spiced cranberry bundt cake I found on Epicurious), as well as seen multiple articles about Dorie and this cookbook in several magazines. It seems that Dorie is everywhere these days.

But I have to say, rightfully so. I suspect that there’s been a resurgence of interest in French food, but we’re all so busy these days. It’s pretty wonderful to find things that are terrific, easy and require only a few ingredients (most that can be found in my kitchen on a regular basis). I’ve made quite a few recipes from the book outside of those for french fridays with dorie (see above), and several of the ones included multiple times. So I thought now would be a good time for a re-cap. I think I’ll just start at the beginning…

gougeres – I wish I would take the time to make another batch and just freeze most of them. One of my favorites from the book, and one that really delivered by being able to freeze them unbaked, and then pull them out at any time for an amazing appetizer.

mustard batons – this is a recipe for this month. I’ll be happy to make these again. They were shockingly good. Dorie had to struggle to put 4-5 (2 optional) ingredients for these. But they were so good. And they froze uncooked well, to be taken out and baked fresh as needed.

sweet and spicy cocktail nuts – I’ve made these several times, with different variations. My personal favorite was adding some ground chipotle to the mix. But whatever way you make them, a must-have, particularly at the holidays.

savory cheese and chive bread – I would have loved to make this again. Wasn’t a huge favorite with friends when I was “sharing” but I thought it was great. Probably another wonderful holiday-ish thing. Although it would be great for a summer salad dinner…

christine’s simple party soups:  the asparagus version – so simple and wonderful! I used fresh spinach instead of zucchini (it seemed “French” since they are supposed to use what they have on hand), and it was terrific. I love, love vegetable soups, and this was terrific. I want to try the others – red pepper and broccoli.

leek and potato soup – my version was hot and smooth for a rustic lunch during a wreath-making party. This version was good, but I have to admit, there’s something about picking up Mastering the Art of French Cooking and making this. Maybe it’s just more romantic, dunno.

cote d azur cure-all soup – I made this for my sister-in-law who sometimes suffers from sniffles, congestion… not to get too graphic! I have to admit that I saved a little back for myself. She was nice enough to offer some to my brother too – they loved it! I am convinced of its curative properties, almost enough to want to be sick to … nah, forget that! Great, easy…

paris mushroom soup – I’ve made this twice. Once before it was a ffwd recipe, and then again – that time for a dinner party. My guests liked it a lot, but I’m still not convinced. I’m sure there’s a better mushroom soup recipe out there (for me at least!)

spicy vietnamese chicken noodle soup – I loved this so much!! I’ve made it at least twice. I even tracked down some imported Vietnamese noodles once. This is for sure a go-to. It’s wonderful. The real tricks (IMHO) are the condiments – hoisin, chile sauce and a combination of fresh herbs on top – cilantro, basil and mint. That really sends this over the top. I adore the combination of mint and basil along with Asian flavors. This is really a winning recipe!!

chunky beets and icy red onions – ok, so not exactly this (I had a guest that does not eat raw onions and didn’t want to press the issue), but I made (generally) the bon idee salad of beets, arugula, goat cheese along with the vinaigrette. Wonderful. I love beets!

bacon, eggs and asparagus salad – this one wasn’t chosen as part of our ffwd experience (yet), but asparagus is in season, and it just has always looked amazing. It was. I had it as a main course with an extra egg. Even tried it with a bit of parmesan. Good whichever way.

basque potato tortilla – another of the ffwd recipes. I thought it was really pretty good. I made it for another group… just in case anyone was hungry (and it was perfect, since one of my friends has a gluten-free diet). We were, and it really fit the bill. This is the one that my friend declared “totally authentic” – it didn’t hurt that another friend supplied some amazing wine – but that’s totally beside the point.

pumpkin-gorgonzola flans – this is one that I thought I’d like. And I didn’t.

gerard’s mustard tart – I’ve made this twice. Both with tomatoes (I actually had the carrot and leek version at a friend’s). I really (unexpectedly) loved the combination of mustard and tomato. But it required summer tomatoes, so another attempt will have to wait. This is an odd one, but I ended up really liking it and will likely make it again.

spinach and bacon quiche – I don’t even remember what I did – probably not Dorie’s crust. It was only OK. Maybe it was the level of effort. (all of Dorie’s quiche/tarts/etc require a very long duration of effort)

roast chicken for les paresseaux – I’ve made this at least a couple of times. Never have I made Dorie’s “bread trick” work. It’s never going to be my favorite (that’s a guy named Emeril’s tangerine-glazed chicken with fresh rosemary), but it’s really pretty good. Almost impossible to beat a roast chicken…

chicken breasts diable – a nice, creamy mustardy sauce. Who doesn’t have practically all of these things on hand (ok, I admit, only crazy people have cream for no reason, but really…?) In the southwest, we’d consider this a pretty amiable “devil”, but it was nice (I’m beginning to like mustard in food a bit more)

chicken b’stilla – this was pretty good. It even was pretty good re-heated. I did mine as individual bundles. I liked it more than I thought I would. Not sure I’d make it again. But nice enough.

my go-to beef daube – well, my Dad declared that he liked this better than Julia’s Beef Bourguignon. I’m not a fan of this type of dish. But other people are. And they liked this. A lot. For my money, I have a recipe for short ribs with rosemary, wine and little chocolate – yum! I still haven’t tried Dorie’s short ribs yet.

hachis parmentier – I made this for a dinner party and it was a huge hit. Was going to make it again, but things changed. I thought it was surprisingly great. Next time I’ll likely cheat and make the quick version.

fresh orange pork tenderloin – I probably didn’t do a careful rendition of this. Wasn’t anything special, and it probably should have been.

scallops with caramel-orange sauce – I’d kind of like to make these again, when they’re the only thing “special” I’m making. Would definitely work on the sauce a bit, and add the candied orange peel as suggested. But they were definitely a hit.

spiced butter-glazed carrots – this is a great (great) technique. I’ve made this several times, once as a special request. They’re super-good. Cooked in broth, and the finished with a tiny bit of butter – and I like the spice. Yum!

potato gratin – this was really quite good. Creamy, yummy comfort food. Not the “ultimate” potato, but really good.

beggar’s linguine – despite others’ professed love for this dish, I’m still in the “not so much” camp.

gnocchi a la parisienne – this is so over-the-top that I will likely not make this again. That said, this was really good in a guilty-pleasure way, particularly with a little truffle oil or salt – because once it’s this decadent, why not add more?

creamy, cheesy, garlicky rice with spinach – this is really a “lazy” version of risotto. And it’s really, really good. I’ve made it a couple of times. I don’t know who would possibly be able to eat half of this as a main course, but whatever Dorie says!

compote de pommes two ways – essentially a nice applesauce. But it’s good. And really a good reminder that something as simple as applesauce makes a nice dessert.

salted butter break-ups – really a fun little (ok, big) cookie. Nothing to it, but it’s charming because of its shape, and the combination of slightly soft interior and crunchy edges – oh, and the scored top makes it pretty cute. It’s the Gray Salt (sel gris) that makes it special.

speculoos – thin, crispy spice cookies. What fun.

marie-helene’s apple cake – this makes the most of flavorful apples, along with the flavors of butter and a bit of rum. A super easy, super nice light cake. Great as a dessert, but many liked it as a tea cake. I’ve made this a couple of times. Does not disappoint when you’d like a rustic, tasty dessert

caramel-topped semolina cake – not for this American. Not really as terrific as the individual parts, I thought. There was something about it, but not enough for me to make it again.

michel rostang’s double chocolate mousse cake – very yummy! I’ve never gotten that clear division between layers with the double baking, so it’s hard to think it’s important. That said, I even taught a couple of friends to make this. That day I made one with a four-pepper blend (equal parts white, black, cayenne & chipotle) and some Vietnamese cinnamon for a bit of a southwestern spin on the original. Amazing.

coconut friands – I’m a total fan of coconut. Might be my favorite flavor. I mean really, you can’t go wrong. This is a super-simple recipe for almost a macaroon made in a tart shell. So they’re easier. And soft and moist (so maybe you miss that essence of crunch). Would of course be terrific embellished.
I suspect they’d be great frozen. With chocolate. Or nuts…

orange-almond tart – I’ve made this twice. When I made almond flour out of blanched almonds, I finally understood. The first one was great but not perfect. The second one was great but not perfect – each for totally different reasons. Loved the juiciness of the orange contrasting with the creaminess of the filling and crunch of the crust. This one actually needs a glaze though so that the fruit doesn’t end up looking pathetic. If only I had time, I’d make it again…

And I think that takes me to this point in time. All in all, it’s been a fun journey – maybe as much because of my new on-line friends as the food itself. Generally, these are good recipes. Sometimes great. A couple not-so-much. There are still plenty of recipes that I want to try, so I’m looking forward to our next six months.

3 thoughts on “around my french table – 6 months on

  1. Goodness gracious, you've been busy! What a nice recap. It was fun to read and relive all the cooking we've done in the last 6 months. Nice idea!!

  2. That's a wonderful run-down of what the group's been up to and your own explorations. I love your variation for the chocolate cake – I'm going to try it some time.

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