French class redux

Seems like we get together less and less but cooking for my fellow former French student colleagues is always a pull out the stops kind of meal. Oeufs mayonnaises is a French classic and a favorite of mine and also of one of our number Jean (en francais, Jeanne). So I put that on the entrée list. Entrée in France is the first course. Le plat, the plate is the second.

Le plat in this case was crevettes vol au vent. Shrimp flying in the wind or some such thing. It is so blessedly fussy, luscious and gorgeous. Les deux plats étaient un spectacle. Et oui, j’ai fait ma propre mayonnaise.

Unfortunately, our fellow Francophile, Jean, however did not make the meal citing other commitments. Who would chose something else over flying shrimp?

Disaster averted, ish

For my French meal I thought to make a creole shrimp soup. The recipe called for frying the shrimp first in creole spices and then adding the vegetables and paprika. Fortunately I tasted the soup for salt and it was outrageously hot. Spicy hot. I could barely stand it. And I know one thing about my fellow French students. Spicy is not on the liste preferée. Pas du tout. I mean, like, they ain’t eatin’ this. As luck would have it I had enough shrimp to recreate the soup without the creole spice. (and enough time) so I took the original spicy soup, added noodles and had that for dinner (made the soup the day before). It was awesome! I mean, OK, it was hot but I can deal when I need to.

Unfortunately the re-made soup was also too hot (maybe it was the paprika but I tasted that to make sure it wasn’t hot and it didn’t seem to me to be). I mean, I didn’t think the soup was hot at all but the class, well, I can be as dramatic as the next person but they’re all up for Academy Awards for their supporting roles in spicy soup ingestion. Gasping, gagging, choking and wheezing while clutching their throats like they’d consumed Draino. I gave them a standing ovation.

Fine. I had it for lunch the next day and it was exquise.

Cassoulet, or, why do the French have to be so complicated?

1. Beans, soak over night, discard water, add fresh, simmer for 3 hours with an onion, an entire head of garlic and a fresh pork hock

2. Remove duck legs from confit and reserve fat 

3.  Sauté duck legs and garlic sausage in duck fat, remove meat from duck legs

4.  Sauté pork shoulder in duck fat and rendered fat from garlic sausage

5. Add cooked garlic, tomato paste and bean simmering liquid to sautéed pork with a bouquet garni of thyme

6. Let everything rest to cool, preferably overnight

7. Assemble cassoulet layering beans, duck, pork hock meat, pork shoulder meat and garlic sausage covering with tomato sauce and now gelatinous bean liquid let rest, preferably overnight 

8. Discard the thyme, cover and roast for an hour at 350° uncover, gently combine layers and add bread crumbs to cover (bread crumbs sautéed in butter) continue to roast uncovered for another hour

(Three days later) Worth it. 

When life hands you cherries

Don’t pit them with a white shirt on.

It was French class and I was making tartelettes aux fruits for dessert. It would have been tartelettes aux fraises but I didn’t have enough, as often seems to be the case with my garden. I used my raspberry crop (in its entirety) and supplemented with cherries. You couldn’t even taste the raspberries anyway.

I topped them with cherry cream, creme de cerise. And I managed to get the mint garnish on the plate which is rare for me. Usually I find the mint/chives/tiny tomatoes/lemon wedges on the counter in the morning having served the meal ungarnished. 

Seven hour lamb

Generally speaking, I am not that good at following recipes. I prefer to think of recipes as vague reference points or guidelines rather than hard and fast rules and I can get really far afield when I cook. But for a recent French dinner I bought a $70 butterflied leg of lamb (don’t know why I think that a leg of lamb is REALLY quintessentially French, but I do) and I wasn’t gonna tempt fate (ruin a fabulous piece of meat). I found a recipe(from my physical therapist, actually) and followed it exactly. Right down to measuring my rosemary, peeling all the goddam garlic, shoving the scores of slivers into holes I poked in the meat and rubbing the marinade onto the thing by hand (which I hate).

From there is was a 24 hour marination and then a 7 hour turn in the oven with frequent basting. I hate basting. But it was worth it. Unfortunately I didn’t take pictures after I sliced it to serve. Falling apart goodness swathed with garlic and rosemary. I’m usually too frantic to get it on the table.

Enfin, c’étais fabuleux, même si je le dis moi-même. 

Soupe aux champignons avec boulettes de poulet

This is a recipe from an old Gourmet magazine. Actually a diet recipe. Ground chicken mixed with cooked ground mushrooms.. It’s not hard (OK, yes, it is hard in the sense that it’s putzy but it’s not hard in the sense that the ingredients are not exacting) and it’s really really delicious.

I made this for my French class hence Soupe aux champignons avec boulettes de poulet. It’s not really French. Mushroom soup with little balls of chicken. As it were. 

You can put a chive an any goddam thing and make it fancy.

Craquelins si faciles

You have got to make these crackers. They are amazingly good and spectacularly easy. Better than Triscuits.

I made this particular batch for my French class dinner although I neglected to make their presence known on my carte du jour. Which is unfortunate because I like making up faux-french sounding phrases for the amusement/annoyance of my fellow francophiles and and of course for the embellishment of the menu. The more elaborate and foo-foo the frenchier.

Recipe follows.

So Freaking Easy Crackers

(Craquelins si faciles, in French)

Originally Morine’s Cheese Puffs but these are not puffy

and I have modified the recipe

Oven 450 degrees

1 cup flour, I imagine rice flour works…

2 cups shredded cheese 

(melting-kind-of-cheese, cheddar, Monterey Jack, whatever.

 I like to grate my own cheese but in this case I 

used a bag of pre-shredded “Mexican” cheese)

1.5 sticks melted butter

1 tsp Cayenne pepper (or not)

I added garlic powder and thyme 

but you could add nearly anything, 

even fucking anchovies if you were a horrible person. 

Mix and put TB sized balls on a baking sheet spaced apart, 

they spread a little

Bake at 450 for 12-15 mins.


A big plus here is that you can make the dough in advance and 

keep it in the refrigerator or you can bake them in advance too.

Sur l’ardoise

For a recent dinner with my French class I made this menu. In most restaurants in France, the day’s specials, if not the entire menu, is on a black board. An ardoise. So I presented the menu similarly. Burratta, a soft fresh mozzarella (see here if you don’t know what it is, and if you don’t, you’re missing out) on roasted cherry tomatoes with basil and garlic on toast. Asparagus and artichoke salad, pasta alla Norma and key lime tarts. None of it was very French at all. But the menu looked it anyway.