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 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!!

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!

CtBF – Belgian beef stew with beer and spice bread

This is a tale of two recipes. The first recipe is for pain d’epices, which is a honey-spice quick bread. And that is then sliced and slathered with mustard – and is put on top of the beef stew stew to thicken it.

But I digress, the first step is really to make the bread. It’s a simple honey-spice bread. The recipe talks about different honeys creating different flavors. I had a jar of very-flavorful Manuka honey, and used that, supplementing with a bit of mesquite blossom honey. The unusual piece about this bread is that the honey is heated with water, salt and brown sugar, then 1 cup of flour is added and the mixture cooled. Then the remainder of the ingredients (including a healthy amount of cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg and cloves) are combined and baked into a loaf. The recipe says it’s better over time. What I can tell you is that it was delicious when I made it, for sure. It did get a little dryer, but is a really nice tea bread on its own.

The stew itself is fairly straightforward. At least to begin with. The beef is browned – really to caramelize the surface. This is done in a few stages in a large pan. Once that’s done, the vegetables and quite a large amount (2 c!) of bacon are sautéed as well.

The pan then gets deglazed with water, scraping up the browned bits. And the amber ale added. The beef, along with the bacon and onions are added back. Adding thyme, bay leaves cloves and salt, this is all allowed to simmer for an hour or so.

Finally, the semi-crazy part (for my western sensibility). 4 slices of the spice bread are lightly coated with dijon mustard and then laid on top of the stew. Covered and allowed to simmer for another couple of hours (with a stir or two along the way), the stew gets thickened and flavored with all of the spices from the bread. (and of course, why would I take a photo of the most unusual part of the recipe?). The result is an aromatic and flavorful stew with a bit of an unusual flavor combination.

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I served it with a mash of cauliflower and potatoes, some more Belgian lager and of course, some bread – both a crusty loaf and the spice bread.

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I have to say, this was a popular dish. Different for sure, but warming and tasty. Everyone enjoyed the spices in the dish, and the texture of the meat and sauce appealed. With the somewhat lighter mash to go with, it really was a great combination.

I’m not certain that this will replace my “go-to daube” a la Dorie Greenspan, but it was very good, and I wouldn’t mind having it again. Thought the added step of the bread might make it tricky for someone with my lack of meal planning.

I know there are others that have made this dish and posted about it. You can find their links at Cook the Book Fridays!

CtBF|Steak with mustard butter and French fries

Oh my goodness! This was a perfect selection for this past week. Of course it was Valentine’s Day, and it was also my mom’s 85th birthday. So a little festive dinner party was in order.

I loved reading the description – I was in total agreement. Rib-eye. Check. Thinner cut so that a nice crust would form. Check. And then, adding a little chipotle powder to give a little smokey flavor. Yum!

The other twist to this is a mustard butter (au beurre de moutarde). I wasn’t sure about that part, but why not?

I seasoned the steaks with salt and the chipotle as instructed. I missed the parsley or cilantro which would have been good. The steaks sit with the seasoning in the refrigerator from 1-8 hours. That worked with making the mustard butter. The softened butter is combined with dry mustard (I used Coleman’s) and some dijon. When I first mixed it together and tasted it – that worried me. It was terrible. I’m not the biggest mustard fan, but thought that I should trust the recipe. So into the refrigerator it went.

Fast forward, and I browned the steaks in a hot, heavy skillet. I have found that this method does work to create a nice medium-rare steak, particularly if they are bone-in.

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This produced a nice crust, and perfect temperature. The butter didn’t melt as much initially, since it really was chilled – next time I will take it out of the refrigerator earlier.

I didn’t make the frites. I had one of my guests go on a “run” to pick some up while I was finishing the steaks. They weren’t going to be the most important part as far as I was concerned. What was going to make a great side to this was Dorie Greenspan’s Cauliflower-Bacon Gratin. I’ve been wanting to make it again, it’s amazing! And perfect with the steak.

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Paired with 2010 Provenance Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. Perfect!

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This was a terrific meal! The mustard butter really developed a fabulous flavor in the refrigerator – with a bite, but just a great counterpoint to the steak. The meal worked perfectly. I would absolutely make this again. It’s actually very easy and fast, for such a wonderful great result.

Since it was a special day – we did finish off with a cake. I don’t often make layer cakes anymore, but I really thought it would be fun. So a chocolate cake with a salted caramel frosting rounded out our evening’s festivities. Perfect!

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To see what the other members of the Cook the Book Fridays had to say about this recipe, you can check them out here.