CtBF -Smoky barbecue-style pork

Sometimes I’m not overly excited about “French” versions of iconically American recipes. Sometimes they are amazing, and others? Well, I live in the US, so why bother with a dish that is too often defined by the ingredients that are not available? (I’ve stowed plenty of chiles and mass in my suitcase to be fair).

In full transparency, I did read that Cher liked this, so I had advanced knowledge. But I was also coming off of a party where something like this was served, and had guests coming who don’t typically eat meat. Decisions!!

Not wanting to always lag behind my friends, I bought my roast, saw that I had pretty much everything, and put my roast to absorbing all of the flavors in the rub.

Salt, smoked paprika, ancho chile powder, cinnamon, cocoa (was out of cumin…oops) along with some sea salt made for an aromatic and interesting rub!

Fast forward 24 hours, and a quick sauce thrown together (beer, barbecue sauce, red wine vinegar, tomato paste, a bit of soy and a little Sriracha), ready for a slow roast in the oven.

I have had misses on recipes from this book when I haven’t used Dorie Greenspan’s trick of foil and then the lid. Fortunately I remembered this time, so that the several hours of baking didn’t dry out the dish.

The roast gets turned over a few times, whenever you think of it. And ultimately comes out of the oven when it’s tender. I’m sure I roasted mine at 325 degrees for a little over 3 hours.

This turned out to be one of the big Franco-American hits!! The amount of sauce is perfect, the flavors balanced, and it was really easy!!

I’m sure some of this will get portioned out and put in the freezer for some other meals without enough time or too much heat. My friends want the recipe (another sure sign of something good) and I would definitely make this again.

The aroma? Amazing!! A delicious-smelling combination of the smoky paprika, combined with the sweet of the cinnamon and cocoa.

My guests arrived and the admitted carnivore had to taste it… proclaimed delicious! We brought it out again as part of a grazing kind of make-your-own-plate dinner. Paired with a little crusty bread, very yummy indeed.

To find out what others thought about this recipe, you can find links to their posts here.

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 – chicken lady chicken

This chicken, as David describes it, is supposed to be the best of all chickens when purchased from “the chicken lady” in Paris. I can see that. I first started buying rotisserie chickens in Australia because it was so much more practical to do that than heat up the apartment – and they were delicious! I lived on the Gold Coast (on the beach!! I thought it would likely be my only opportunity with the cost of beachside residences in the US). It was a wonderful time filled with scuba diving, and long walks on the beach and amazing sunrises. Oh, and “roast dinners”, and particularly chickens. 

Now, I vascilate between roasting my own, and the immediate satisfaction of a freshly cooked rotisserie chicken. What I find is that the purchased ones are great at them moment. But lack nice texture once cooled. 

Anyway, I was intrigued by the recipe. David suggests that the chicken can be cooked on the grill. The first time I made it – I got a US sized half chicken, and did just that. 


Well, as it turned out, I got it too hot (and the chicken was too big, I think). It was really good, and the not-burned bits of skin were delicious. It was pretty good. 

Since I’d made this early, I decided to try another one – but this time as a beer can chicken. You can almost never go wrong with one – the chicken bastes itself, and it’s difficult to burn since no part of the meat touches the grill. I marinated it again, and put the whole thing together. Did my normal thing on the grill… Um


Well, the honey in the marinade just really is difficult to manage on a grill, no matter what. The marinade actually laquered the skin. Looks better in the photo on the grill than it really was. 

So. I loved the process (even though I don’t often love marinated meats). I thought it was fun and charming, but I suspect that the 2 times that I made this will likely be the last. The chicken was good, we enjoyed it. It was fun to make and experiment with. I suspect others who resorted to their ovens had more success. You can find out what they thought here

I’ll be looking forward to seeing how their chickens turned out – I hope you’ll visit them and see for yourself!

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.

CCC – March Madness

Andrea, our beloved Kitchen Lioness, has offered those of us who often find ourselves without enough time to do everything we want (that would include me!) an opportunity to play catch-up in March. A month offering a chance to make up one or more of the recipes we’ve missed during out 10-month foray cooking through River Cottage Veg.

Perhaps the one recipe I wished most to make was the lettuce, spring onion and cheese tart. Everyone who made it when it was on the list for that month absolutely loved it! Essentially, it’s a quiche, but with browned baby lettuces and spring onions with the filling.

The lettuce is quartered lengthwise to help hold it together, then cooked lightly to get a little nice browning. The spring onions get their turn after the lettuce is removed.

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I decided that I would try making Hugh’s tart dough. I wondered if it would differ from others, and to some extent it did, though it’s all a similar process. Milk steps in for water, but otherwise, generally the same. This was quite a bit thicker and “heavier” for the size, but it was super-easy to work with. I did leave it a bit rustic.

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The shell gets par-baked. At first with foil (and beans or pie weights if I’d had them handy), and then alone. Overall, it was about 30 minutes, which seemed quite a long time, but never fear. Then the vegetables were added, and topped with cheese. A custard of eggs, yolks and milk are added. Sadly, my rough edges had one little spot that was too low – and some filling seeped over the side as it baked.

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The tart bakes for another 35 minutes, until it’s puffed, golden and the eggs are set.

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I’d made mine in a spring-form pan so that I would be able to remove it and have that satisfying straight crust around the edge. Of course, it wasn’t easy to get out of the pan with that spillage – it didn’t help that I was impatient to eat serve it! But it did turn out beautifully and was a huge hit!

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As for the crust? Well it definitely reminded me of “English” crusts I’ve had – encasing delicious meat pies… this was a sturdy crust that would hold up to any filling, and so simple to make and work with. Definitely one to remember to use again.

I also made an orange, carrot and cashew salad. I actually made it to go with the tart. I found some blood oranges that I thought would be pretty. Hmmm.

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The cashews get toasted, the oranges sectioned, carrots turned into matchsticks. There’s really no dressing, just the grated zest, a drizzle of oil and a dash of vinegar- and a bt of cumin, salt and pepper.

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It really was quite pretty. And it wasn’t bad eaten on its own, but not something that will be showing up again.

Another recipe for me was for a lentil and spinach soup. I often make lentil soup. Such an easy, comforting soup for a busy work-day lunch. This one is quite similar to others I’ve made. Onion, garlic, tomatoes, fresh thyme – and of course the lentils and spinach. I was so happy to remember to bring home some herbs from the garden up north! I also had some cooked lentils on hand. I decided to use them instead of from the dry ones – just to use them up.

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Fast forward a bit, and with a shave or Parmesan to add to the flavors, a beautiful bowl of soup is presented.

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My final make-up dish was pasta with greens garlic and chile – the broccoli version. This is an easy, comforting dish – pasta and broccoli get cooked (together at the end of the pasta-cooking), drained and tossed with a bit of garlic-infused oil and Parmesan. What a quick and tasty dish for a quick dinner.

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All in all, a very fun and very, very delicious make-up month! I was so happy to have been able to try a few more dishes that I missed along the way. To find out what the other Cottage Club members made, you can find their wonderful results 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!