Archive for the ‘French’ Category

Gratins make anything better. A nice cheesy, crunchy crust on top of any vegetable is an improvement. I also love that you can make gratins ahead of time and finish the cooking in the oven, so you can leave the kitchen and entertain guests. And of course this makes them perfect for the holidays, when half my meal is made ahead of time so it’s no stress and I can focus on a few key things that require attention.

Parsnip Gratin

1 pound parsnips, sliced into thin discs

1/2 cup hazelnuts

1 strip bacon, cut into small batons (optional)

1 shallot, minced

2 tablespoons thyme

1 cup milk

1/2 cup grated gruyere

1/2 cup grated cheddar

2 tablespoons grated parmesan

1 slice bread, crumbled or ground into big breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons butter

If using bacon, render it in a frying pan until crisp. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate. Add the shallots to the pan and soften, about 2 minutes. Remove to a bowl and combine with the parsnips, half the hazelnuts, most of the cheddar and gruyere, milk, bacon, and the thyme. Stir together and pour into a baking dish.

Combine the parmesan, remaining gruyere and cheddar, and breadcrumbs in a separate bowl and drizzle with a teaspoon of olive oil. Sprinkle over the top of the parsnips along with the remaining hazelnuts. Dot the top with little pieces of the butter.

Bake at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until the top gets brown and crispy. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.

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Fruit tarts are probably my favorite dessert ever. I remember birthdays when I wanted a fruit tart instead of cake. This one has a flaky crust and pastry cream that isn’t too heavy. Plus, I found some delicious strawberries at the farmers market. I thought about just strewing them on top stems and all because they were so beautiful, but who wants to de-stem strawberries as they eat a tart? It’s one thing to create beautiful pictures, but my goal is to make food I want to eat above all. So, standard strawberry formation.

I love when the summer fruit starts coming in, there are endless desserts to make. When they look this pretty, you can’t go wrong!

Strawberry Tart

1 quart strawberries, hulled and halved

1 1/4 cups whole milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 9-inch pie crust from this recipe

Roll out the dough into a round large enough to fit into your tart shell with some excess. Don’t pull it because it will shrink more, just coax it into the corners and cut off any excess. Place a piece of buttered foil into the shell and put dry beans or rice into it to hold the shape while it bakes (it’s called blind baking). Bake at 375 for 10 minutes and then remove the beans and prick with a fork to allow air out if it puffs up. Bake for another 20 minutes until it starts to brown. Remove and cool.

For the pastry cream, bring the milk to a boil. In a bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, and cornstarch with a whisk. Slowly add a bit of the hot milk and whisk vigorously to temper the eggs. Pour into the remaining milk in the pan and continue to whisk until it thickens, about 10 minutes. Pour through a strainer if you wish, and add the vanilla and any additional flavorings you wish (cognac or brandy are nice). Add the butter and whisk until incorporated and melted. Refrigerate until cool.

Pour the pastry cream into the cooled shell. Arrange the strawberries however you want on top. Optional, you can heat some apricot jam with a little water until a little runny and brush it over the top.

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This is a perfect quick spring dish– I came home from work late and made it in 15 minutes. (That’s also why there are no “after” pictures– in those few minutes it got dark out.) You can do this with any kind of fish or any toppings you want (although it works better with less watery toppings).

I combine blanched fresh favas with farmstand grape tomatoes and some herbes de provence on a nice flounder fillet and fold the parchment into a pouch. It goes in the oven for a few minutes, and voila! You could be in the south of France. Or in my kitchen.

Flounder in Cartoccio

1 flounder fillet

a handful of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

a handful of favas, blanched with the skins removed

1 teaspoon herbes de provence

1 tablespoon white wine

1 round of parchment or foil

Place the flounder on one half of the parchment so that you will be able to fold it over into a semi-circle with a couple inches extra around. Sprinkle the tomatoes and favas over the top. Season with some salt, pepper and the herbes de provence. Start folding from one edge of the semi-circle, repeating all the way around to seal the pouch. Just before the final fold, pour the wine in and seal the edge. Make sure the liquid is distributed. Bake at 375 for 10-15 minutes until the fish is fragrant and cooked through.

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Baccala alla Vicentina - Meatballs&Milkshakes

I must say, this is definitely a fantastic recipe so I’m not surprised it came from Babbo. It’s also incredibly easy, and on a night when I’m doing 7 fishes, the fact that it’s entirely make-ahead is a huge plus. In effect, this is the same dish that Spanish and French cuisines call Brandada or Brandade. It was so good that everyone wanted seconds and thirds. I will definitely be making this at other times of the year, because it’s too good not to. And because it’s such a simple recipe, it really makes sense to make the fresh breadcrumbs because they make such a difference in the final dish.

Baccala alla Vicentina

1 pound salt cod, reconstituted by soaking for 1-3 days in several changes of water

2 anchovies

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1.5 cups milk

2 cloves garlic

5 red creamer potatoes or 3 Yukon gold potatoes

1/4 cup white wine

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1 cup toasted fresh breadcrumbs

Cut the drained cod into pieces and put in a pan with the milk, wine, garlic, anchovies, potatoes, and a bit of the olive oil. Simmer for an hour, until the cod and the potatoes have softened.

Using an immersion blender, blend the cooked mixture into a paste while drizzling in the remaining olive oil. It should be like the consistency of oatmeal, so you may need to add more or less olive oil depending on how much of the liquid cooked off. Stir in the parsley. Spread into a baking dish and top with the toasted breadcrumbs. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes or so, until the top is browned. You can serve with crostini or toast, or just eat it plain.

Baccala alla Vicentina - Meatballs&Milkshakes

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I don’t talk up my own food very often, but I have to say that this stew was really killer. You can call it beef stew or beef bourgignon or brasato al chianti, but it’s all very similar. The meat was just falling apart and tender with delicious carrots and flavorful gravy. I served it with some egg noodles, but I think it would also go really well with some polenta. The key is in the browning of the meat–you MUST brown the meat well. And don’t try to cut the cooking time, it will not be as succulent and fork tender. Yum. I want more of this.

The Ultimate Beef Stew

1 pound beef chuck, cubed

4 carrots, chopped in large pieces

1 onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, whole

1 sprig rosemary

4 sprigs sage

5 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2-3/4 of a bottle chianti

1 tablespoon sugar

Dry the meat well with a paper towel and season with salt. Brown in a very hot pan with a couple tablespoons of olive oil. DON”T move them until they get a nice dark sear–they should look like a delicious steak. Brown on all sides and remove to a plate.

Add the onion, carrot, and garlic and saute until softened. Add the tomato paste, sugar, rosemary, and sage. Add the meat back in. Pour in enough wine to almost cover the meat. Simmer very low for 2 hours or until the meat is falling apart. Serve on egg noodles or polenta. Leftovers are even better!

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Mussels are great and so versatile. Plus, they cook so quickly that they’re perfect for a weeknight meal. A big pot of mussels and some garlic bread, maybe some roasted veggies on the side and you have a fantastic dinner in under 30 minutes. Just make sure you don’t cook any that stay open after a squeeze or eat any that don’t open after you cook them. I like to put them in a bowl of cold water for a few minutes to get rid of any grit, some people add some flour to make them give up their grit.

Garlic bread is a must to sop up the delicious broth, so just spread some butter mashed together with some chopped garlic over the bread. You can include any chopped green herbs you have lying around too, it makes a nice herbed garlic bread. Bake for a few minutes at 375 until it starts to brown and get crunchy.

Mussels with Garlic, Shallot, and White Wine

1 bag of mussels, about 2 pounds usually, picked over

1 shallot, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup white wine

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Saute the garlic and shallot in the olive oil for a few minutes until softened. Add the mussels and the white wine and cover. Let them steam for about 5-6 minutes until the mussels have all opened. Off the heat, add the butter and parsley and stir through. Serve with the garlic bread for dipping.

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I recently realized that I actually really like parsnips. Who knew? I’ve pretty much only been doing this with them though. But it’s a great fall recipe and it can be made into a really elegant dinner with some seared scallops or some steak slices on top. I usually make a healthier version of this with much less butter and cream, but here’s the full holiday version and you can cut it down as you see fit. Enjoy!

Parsnip Puree

1 pound or about 6 parsnips, washed and cut into 1-2 inch pieces

6 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons dark sesame oil

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1.5 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup parsnip cooking water

1/2 cup cream

Cook the parsnips in salted boiling water until a knife goes through easily but they are not falling apart yet. About 20 minutes. Drain them reserving about a cup of the cooking water. Put the parsnips into a blender with 1/4 cup of the cooking water and the butter and blend. Be careful to allow a little air through the top of the blender, because you have hot veggies in there and you don’t want the steam to build up.

Add the rest of the ingredients and blend to combine. You want to use as little liquid as possible while allowing your blender to actually blend the ingredients. You may want to reserve more of the cooking liquid and cream at first, and just add them if you need it to make the blender move. Also, depending on how salted your cooking liquid was, you may need to season with more or less salt.

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