ffwd – never doubt Dorie (aka, who knew?)

This second celebratory week for the French Fridays with Dorie group asks the question “what recipe(s) were surprises for you?”. OK, that wasn’t the real question, but when I think about the title – I think about those recipes where I was very quite skeptical, but learned that Dorie knew what she was doing when she wrote about it – and I was happy to have tried it.

There are three recipes that immediately came to mind. The very first recipe I ever tasted in the book was gérard’s mustard tart. My friend Teri, who got me started with this whole blogging adventure, served it at a book club meeting that she hosted. She did indeed make the selfsame tart as in the book. She’s a very skilled baker, and hers looked just like Dorie’s. She also introduced me to the group, since she planned on joining, and thought it would be fun for me too. I had been following her baking/blogging adventures and thought that it would be fun. Her blog certainly informed my concept, including documenting the steps in the process, etc.

To be honest, I didn’t really love, love the original version. It was good. So when it was time to make the tart in October of 2010, I decided that I would take advantage of a different version in the book. The tomato-mustard tart. This is something that I really must make again. I often forget because I think it would be amazing with summer tomatoes. But the mustard, the crème fraîche, the fabulous pastry – all combine with the tomatoes and rosemary combine for an amazing affect! Not in a million years would I have expected to like this so much (of course another benefit was making her tart dough…)

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The photos don’t do it justice, but certainly, this is one of those haunting – “wow that was good” recipes. Thank goodness it will be tomato season soon!

tourteau de chèvre was another surprise. This is a cheesecake of sorts – but one as unlike any American cheesecake as can be imagined. It really is the simplest thing to make – A crust of Dorie’s sweet tart dough, and then just eggs, goat cheese, a bit of sugar, vanilla or orange-flower water, touch of cognac and a bit of cornstarch. I am fairly certain that was my first use of the orange-flower water as well. Another item introduced by our author.

I really was taken aback by just how good this was. Not too sweet, a bit of tang from the goat cheese. I actually made mine with the regular pastry crust, not the sweet version. Either would be terrific. 100_0802

It was fun too, to have a recipe end up looking so much like the photo in the book. So satisfying.

And finally, another recipe that I adored, but didn’t expect to. goat cheese and strawberry tartine. It would never have occurred to me to put together this simple combination – but with such amazing results! We had this with a bit of wine on the patio, but the same idea could be used at any time of day. The sweetness of the strawberries and the tang of the goat cheese are accented with a good-sized grind of black pepper and some Balsamic vinegar.

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It will be fun to see what others thought about this little assignment. There were other surprises for sure, some of them not so pleasant even, but these were at the top of my list. To see what other Doristas thought about their never-doubt-Dorie moments, you can find their links on the French Friday with Dorie website.

ffwd – the “aha” moment (aka, the top 5)

For the next several weeks, the participants in French Fridays with Dorie will be exploring our experiences over the past several years to answer a few interesting questions. This week’s challenge is to “choose your favorite, loved the most, best recipe in FFWD to share this week and tell Why? Also share with us your Top 5 favorites list”.

Not surprisingly, this is turning out to be a difficult task. After hundreds of recipes – there are many choices. One of the most interesting things will be to read about what all of the others chose as well. Since we are a diverse and international group – I hardly think that the lists will be the same (though I suspect a couple will resonate across the board).

And making things a bit more interesting over the next few weeks, there are a couple more challenges – The Never-Doubt-Dorie Moment and The Play-It-Again-Dorie Recipe, prior to our finale and last hurrah! from this particular book. Lots of potential for crossover! And I have to say, that as I look through the recipes, and when we made them, we really came out of the gate at a grand pace! Lots of contenders from 2010 and early 2011! And a warning: some not-so-great photos of some of my top favorites! At least I maybe have learned a bit more the just how to make some great French recipes!

So, on to Candy’s Top Five Six!

#5 – Hachis Parmentier. This was also a candidate for the Play-It-Again-Dorie category. I have made this quite a number of times, always to rave reviews. But this kind of dish, as something French was a revelation. I’ve made it in the different versions, and it still remains a staple. And of course, seeing it on the menu at French restaurants (once within a month or so of its first appearance) sealed it as a resounding favorite.

#4.5 – Creamy Mushrooms and Eggs. I almost forgot this. What an amazing dish! Perfectly cooked mushrooms with shallots, and added cream, with a bit of thyme. Served on toasted Brioche with soft poached eggs. This is a to-die-for dish. Rich yet simple, and utilizes a number of French techniques. Can’t believe I almost missed putting it on the list!!

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#4 – Scallops with Double Carrots. The original recipe called for Monk Fish. None to be had here – but good quality scallops can be found. The sauce created by using carrot juice in addition to carrots themselves – well, it made the dish. Oh, and you can’t go wrong with bacon and scallops either. It was a completely new idea to me to create a sauce that way, and so it was a great lesson learned. So creative! I can’t for the life of me find a photo. Really? Do a search – many images of other Dorista’s versions available!

#3 – Salted Butter Break-Ups. No Dorie Greenspan book would be complete without an amazing dessert recipe. And even more quintessential, a cookie recipe. This recipe for oversized cookies that get broken apart at the table – well it makes for such a charming way of serving (assuming you are not surrounded by unreasonable germaphobes), but it also produces a dramatic, lovely and incredibly delicious cookie! Crunchy parts for those who love that – a bit more chewy for that preference. All in one cookie. Something for everyone!

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#2 – Roasted Salmon and Lentils. I am not a huge fan of salmon (unless I just caught it!), and had never really had any lentils that I liked (or, let’s face it, tried many) until this recipe. Oh. My. Goodness! This recipe single-handedly made me a convert to Lentils de Puy, as well as salmon. It’s that good. The lentils are perfectly seasoned, the salmon cooks perfectly, it’s hearty, healthy and very elegant in a French manner.

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#1 My Favorite, Best Recipe is: Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake. I thought about this a lot. But decided that this typically French apple cake, with it’s marked butter flavor, bursting with apple chunks got my vote. Yes, its relatively simple, but it seemed to embody the idea of a meal around Dorie’s French table.

This was a fun journey back in time to re-visit posts, what I thought, and also, what I thought was good enough to make again. All of these dishes fall well outside of the category One-And-Done. And while I had to rely on the original photos (or none at all!), they all offered something so good, that I was willing to brave the reminder of some pretty poor photography skills!

There is a celebratory air around the French Fridays with Dorie group, you can get a peek into all of the participants’ posts at the site.

ffwd – chicken in the pot: the garlic and lemon version

I’m willing to bet that a lot of the people who started cooking with French Fridays with Dorie were at least partially drawn to the project because of this recipe. This particular dish adorns the cover of Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table – the tome that we have been cooking through together for nearly 5 years.

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When we didn’t make this recipe early on, I assumed that eventually, if the group stayed together, we would make it our last. And in deference to the group – I have never made this particular recipe before.

This week, I have seen a lot of references to this particular recipe as those of us who have cooked together and shared our lives together, at least virtually (though for a lucky few – in person as well), have been making this recipe and talking about it.

I have to say that while I have been sidetracked lately – this time for a good reason (YAY!), I wanted to get to the finish line with all of my friends, even if I’d taken a few detours. Over the next several weeks, the caretakers of our group, the Amazing Mary of Lights on Bright, No Brakes, and the Wonderful Betsy of A Plate Full of Happiness, will challenge us to comment on our journey through both this wonderful book, and incomparable group. But this week is for our final recipe. chicken in the pot: the garlic and lemon version.

I just got back from a trip to Southern California this evening. I have a couple of new guys on my team, and recently (last week!) have several reporting directly to me – so I wanted them to get off on the right foot! And we are working on a very new initiative for my company – so it’s taken a bit of time away from some of my other pursuits. Fortunately, my friend Mary posted this recipe on line, so I could look at her post and see the ingredients. That way I could stop at the store to pick up a few ingredients on my way home from the airport. As I write at about 8pm Thursday evening, my chicken is cooking away in the oven. I don’t say this to make myself sound special or super-dedicated, but to let my fellow Doristas know that they are important to me, and I wanted to get to the finish line at least close as possible to when they did!

So! The chicken!! The big difference about this particular preparation is the sealing of the pot with dough! Dorie often speaks about ensuring that the pot of whatever you’re baking, braising, etc. … is properly sealed. This makes for a spectacular presentation (assuming it turns out like the photo). Otherwise, this is a nice chicken baked with a wonderful compliment of aromatics.

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As you can imagine, I took a couple of shortcuts, but nothing too drastic, I hope! For the preserved lemon, I substituted fresh and skipped the simmer in the sweetened water. That is one of the few “new” things that I’ve been introduced to that I don’t just love – preserved lemons. Probably because I don’t make my own like so many others actually do.

I decided to make my life a little easier as well by making my dish in one pot. I had a bit smaller chicken anyway, and looked at the photo – and realized that the shape of the lid might be important. So I did what I would usually do – and chose my vessel for the end product, and then went out of order. I browned the chicken in some olive oil. Seasoning as I went along (my unfortunate bird spread her limbs a little inelegantly!)

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Once set aside, it was time to brown my vegetables – in the same pot of course. I used 3 heads of garlic (unpeeled, whole cloves), since my bird was smaller. But took advantage of some prepared veggies.

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When browned, I added in the herbs and the peel of one lemon.

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Once that was all together, I put the chicken in the pot, added the juice of the lemon and a good amount of wine. I skipped the broth altogether. And then the final “cheat” was added – store-bought pizza dough instead of the “paste” from the recipe. This was a “Dorie” idea, so I didn’t even feel bad!

My only real challenge with this in retrospect is that my pot was still warm – maybe that was why Dorie suggested using a frying pan to get everything ready, then put into a new pot! Oh well! Tricky to get the dough to stick on the rim, trickier to get a photo!!

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At last however, it was together, popped into the oven and now, the waiting begins. It’s been fun making this recipe, anticipating everyone’s successes and, well, question marks about it. That is one of the most fun things about this group – as we make recipes, we often think of each other (will Cher “go rogue”?, will Liz add red?, the list goes on – I hate to leave someone out!!!), and then knowing that I will get to read my friends’ posts and find out what they loved, what they didn’t, and really, all about their experiences. What fun!!100_4000

Fast forward about an hour at 450 degrees – and here it is! Between the bit of oil on the rim, the pizza dough instead of paste – and maybe importantly the shape of the lid – mine popped off easily – no need for a screwdriver!!

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As I sit here munching this quintessential  Dorie dish, sipping a glass of wine (what else to do with the rest of the bottle? ok, not all this evening!), I think that this dish does represent what I think she was trying to do with this book – make French cooking accessible to the home cook by presenting recipes that one might very well be served at a dinner party or home-cooked meal in France – and particularly one that if you were lucky enough to be invited, Dorie might serve at her very own French Table.

Best dish ever? Not really. I would not put this at the top of my list from the book. That said, comforting, lovingly presented, and delicious in its own right. I do think that it is the perfect last recipe to an extraordinary adventure.

I’m sure that there will be others posting about this recipe, and our wonderful group. You can see all of those links at our French Fridays with Dorie site.

ffwd – salmon tartar and waffles & cream

I’m combining a couple of recipes this week – something I don’t typically do – but, well, it happens! And what different recipes they are.

I was planning on making the waffles last week, but my week got away from me. Something that happens all too frequently these days. I did really want to try them though – one of the French ways of serving waffles. As dessert!

This week’s recipe is for Salmon Tartar. Kind of a layered salmon ceviche with tomatoes and avocados. Sounded pretty delicious, even if raw salmon isn’t my all-time favorite (unless of course I just caught it off the coast of BC).

I thought why not make a French Fridays meal of it? Start with the salmon, which should be light enough to allow for dessert waffles!!100_3951

This turned out to be one of the “fussy” recipes. Three different concoctions to create the layered effect. Two types of herbs, shallots, cherry tomatoes (in 3! slices), lime supremes, zest and juice, along with some sriracha and other seasonings. Salmon, avocado (mine wasn’t nice). Of course, it was made more difficult by tiny portions as well.

I decided to take the idea of layering in a glass. I can think of other glasses that would be even nicer, especially for an appetizer (champagne flutes, shot glasses…). I had the worst time photographing, but it did make for a fun presentation.

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This was quite tasty. Even though I took care in choosing my salmon, this preparation really requires the best, freshest (and I would say leanest – so better wild than farm-raised – something like King salmon would be ideal, though Coho is still a favorite) salmon you can find. I thought that the flavors were great, and loved using the new chives and mint from the garden. But the salmon texture was a bit too soft for my taste, and I did not heed Dorie’s advice – the pistachio oil got away from me… and I used too much. All of that said, this really is a nice dish, and I can think of times when it would be fantastic – I like the idea of salmon tartar “shooters” on a buffet table (chilled of course), or as a small plate starter. About half the size of this serving. Very fun, very beautiful preparation – and if you’re in the Pacific northwest and can get great, really fresh salmon – totally something that would be on the list of preparations.

And now. The Waffles and Cream. One of the things I have found very interesting is the French way of eating some of the items that in America we would serve at breakfast. Now, I can never get with the idea of whipped cream and chocolate or all manner of dessert items on pancakes or waffles for breakfast – despite the prevalence of those dishes in American restaurants. To have something like a “regular” waffle for dessert was interesting. My mom used to make chocolate waffles for company desserts – but nothing like these. I really wanted to try them!

The batter is thinner than typical, and very rich with butter. But the egg whites folded in were not new to me. I’m pretty sure Fanny Farmer and Joy of Cooking recommend that preparation method for home-made waffles – and it does make for a light one! As noted, this recipe has more butter, and some additional sugar – and ends up being quite thin.

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Dorie tells us that it’s ok to have a few lumps of egg white as well, I took her advice (this time!). The waffles are cooked in a Belgian waffle maker (ideally) to provide maximum surface area for crispness, as well as satisfying wells to capture toppings.

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The suggested toppings were whipped cream and caramel sauce, or even ice cream – and maybe some chocolate sauce. Berries of course would be fabulous. I chose whipped cream and salted caramel sauce (store bought but delicious). In any event, a dusting of powdered sugar is suggested.

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I have to say, these were amazing. Very easy to make, and oh so light, but a terrific foil for any kind of topping. The waffles were crisp and light. I certainly think that this could be a great last-minute treat – when you’re looking for something more than just ice cream, but didn’t have time to bake a cake! And I just loved the idea of having this for dessert. The texture was different enough than a waffle served for breakfast, that it really worked. Certainly other flavors could be used as well (lemon poppyseed anyone?).

So a very happy French Friday dinner! If you would like to see how others made these recipes, you can find the waffles and cream, and salmon tartar as linked here.

ffwd – next day beef salad

This week’s French Friday with Dorie recipe is a salad to be made with leftover beef – I think to be exact, the leftover beef from “a Saturday night’s boeuf a la ficelle”. That was one recipe from Around my French Table that I never did get around to trying. But the recipe itself is a combination of ingredients that are readily available in many kitchens, and can be adapted to any leftover beef.

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The “official” ingredient list is long, but largely consisting of the afore-mentioned beef, a couple of kinds of mustard, some mayo, green onions, green olives and pickles, along with some fresh ingredients like apple (!), bell pepper, tomato, and here I have some lightly cooked snap peas.

These ingredients all get prepped and combined. I wanted things to be of a relatively similar size.

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Once combined, mine was stored, along with some fresh spinach on the side.

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And off it went to work with me, where it presented a fabulous lunch at my desk! With a set of construction drawings for a fancy tablecloth it appears!!

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This was a delicious salad. And truth be told, I made this a long time ago (it’s easy to tell, I don’t sit at the same desk, or work for the same company anymore!), but I loved this salad, and I’m delighted for the reminder. The ingredients come together despite the odd-sounding combination of ingredients. Apples! Pickles!! But it really worked. And this is a great salad not just to utilize leftovers, but as a delicious respite – and because of its composition, and easy take-along.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the other members of our French Fridays crew came up with when they were putting this salad together. You can find their delicious links here.

ffwd – croquants

I had never heard of croquants, and not speaking French, the name of this little confection meant nothing to me. After reading the description of the cookie, the ingredients and method, I was intrigued. Yes, very.

You see, croquant means crunchy in French. And the method is crazy-simple. The idea that I might be able to put together a delicious cookie with 4 ingredients, well, I just had to try it. But then, it started to become overcast and then it started to rain. Now, living in the desert southwest, I love the rain, but I also know from years of making candy at Christmastime with my mom and then on my own, meringues and candies need to have a dry day. Alas – today was one!IMG_2622

(this is the view from my driveway in Sedona, I’m not actually there today, but it did look like a “nice day” photo)

The ingredients are: very coarsely chopped nuts (I used almonds and pecans), sugar, egg whites and flour.

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Sugar is added, then the whites, and finally, flour is incorporated into the mixture. Interestingly, the whites are not beaten or whipped, they are incorporated as is – which makes this an amazingly simple recipe.

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The recipe calls for the dough to be placed on parchment-lined baking sheets. And that they are supposed to be rounded/mounded. The perfect time to use my cookie scoop. This one turned out to be the perfect size.

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The cookies are baked in a 400 degree oven. Mine took 12 minutes (turning the sheet halfway through). Since it wasn’t a huge recipe, I baked one sheet at a time, which allowed me to have the (important) cooled sheet for the subsequent batch. Another important point is to ensure that the cookie dough is about 2″ apart. I cheated a little, but then only had to use 2 pans.

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The cookies are to be puffed up and cracked a little and a nice brown. It was nice to see some of the larger pieces of nutmeats showing through the tops. They cool on the pan for about 10 minutes until they can be lifted off. Then the croquants are left to cool completely. I would think that the parchment would be essential in this – or certainly a lining sheet of some kind.

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These are suggested to be served with ice cream, a strong cup of coffee, or even a cup of tea. They are very sweet (in a good way), so I decided for a first taste (or two!) that tea sounded perfect. And it was!

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These really are delicious confections. I loved the flavor of the nuts, and the crunch of the cookie – with just a hint of chewiness inside. I can see making these many times because while they are sweet, they are not particularly rich. And they would make a lovely addition to a cookie tray as well. Finally, they are supposed to keep well for a week or so, which makes them a bit more practical – hopefully they will last long enough so that I can test that theory!

There were many others in our French Fridays with Dorie group who made these as well. You can find their lovely posts here.

ffwd – spice-crusted tuna and scallops

Spice crusted tuna… it sounded like a good recipe, and also a good choice for what has been a busy January. I broke my rule (since I was late making this) and read some of the others’ posts and comments about the recipe. This time it was totally encouraging, since I don’t make a lot of fish, and very rarely tuna. I picked some up frozen (as suggested by Betsy), and I happened to have a few scallops, so I thought they would be good too.

There is a spice mixture that is put together – coriander, white pepper, cardamom, and some fresh ginger. This is crushed (or processed) into a paste to put onto the fish.

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I didn’t seem to have as much as some others, maybe my math was off. This was also suggested to be paired with a mango chatini, which is generally a kind of salsa. I didn’t have any nice mangos, so I went with a fresh pineapple salsa instead.

The fish is quickly browned in a pan over some fairly high heat to get a little caramelization. Still this takes only a few minutes. I cooked mine a bit too long for my taste.

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I served mine with some fresh asparagus and the pineapple salsa. And it made for a colorful, tasty dinner.

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I have to say, the spices were really, really good with the scallops. I think we actually enjoyed them a bit more than the tuna itself, but both were delicious!!

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If you would like to see how the other Doristas prepared their spice crusted tuna, you can find their links here!