Carcassonne and Castelnaudary

I want to finish telling you all about my trip to Toulouse before I forget it all.  One day, we drove to Carcassonne.  It was a pretty far drive, but driving there is a bit like the main event.  The hills are rolling–so rolling and gentle that I finally saw why hills are called rolling.  They were covered in a carpet of sunflowers, that spun along in their little bonnets, watching the sun up from the east and down to the west.  In the distance were little wooly specks that could only have been sheep, and up close, the black and white patches of milk cows.  The countryside outside of Toulouse is, for lack of a better word, darling.

Sunflower Field Saverdun

Rolling Hills Saverdun

The hills really roll!

And Carcassonne completed the fairytale.  You could see it from the road.  An old medieval castle, with long upside-down cones for turrets, like a damsel’s hat.  Gray stone, massive.  Gothic dome gateways, crooked cobbled streets, and a million slits from which to loose arrows.  As I got closer, I walked up the main causeway that feet must have marched up for a thousand years, or more.  I saw giant gates, huge outer walls.  It was breathtaking.  And tragically brimming with extremely annoying tourists.  Such a shame, because I had never seen a more beautiful or enchanting castle.  And M. Français says it’s even more majestic lit up from the roadway at night.

Carcassonne 1Carcassonne 2Carcassonne 3 Continue reading

print this post Posted by Kerry | 3 Comments
Share

Categories: Restaurants, Toulouse, Voyages
 

Franglais: My French Filet-Of-Fish

RECIPE: My French Filet O Fish
French Filet O Fish Closed

My Renovated Filet O Fish

I love burgers.  But I hate myself afterwards.  What feels good in the act always leaves me feeling sick, full, and out of control.  So I consider my love of fish sandwiches, fish burgers, I call them, to be a badge of maturity.  They are semi-responsible, quasi-high brow fast food.  And I love them.  I love the crispy edges of the fish.  And the way the salty mayonnaise from the tartare sauce melts and pools in the ravines of the flaky fish flesh.  I love the soft bun.  And the way it inevitably gets soggy and falls apart.  Why do I always think I need bad boy burgers?  This is my love letter to fish sandwiches.  Because, after all, fish sandwiches are kind of like choosing to have a one-night stand with the right person.  Maturity that leads to love, rolled into one perfectly wax paper-wrapped package.

This recipe is a testament that good habits can be far more fun than the bad ones.  I noticed last week that French McDonald’s offers not one, but two, incarnations of the famed Filet-O-Fish.  And, I thought, I can make this better.  A burger alternative that I can feel good eating, and feel good about afterwards.  This is my Frenchified version of a classic fish sandwich.  It’s simple.  I dust a good, flat fish lightly in flour and a mixture of dried fines herbes: chervil, parsley, chives, and tarragon.  The almost sweet, licorice quality of these particular herbs pair beautifully and delicately with the almost sweet, barely salty aspect of the fish.  It’s lovely.  I shallow fry the fish until the edges are crisp as fries, and the fish is golden all over.  Then, I pile the fish with leaves of romaine on toasted baguette, and slather it with a homemade tartare sauce that uses fresh fines herbes to the same sweet, delicate effect, and French cornichon pickles for salt and crunch.  It has all the familiar aspects, the mayonnaise and pickles from the tartare sauce, the bread, the fish.  But I like this delicate version.  Without breading, you can really taste the beautiful fish, and the tarragon and chervil add such a simple, but different, aroma and flavor.  The baguette is crusty, and hearty, in contrast to the almost lacy flavors from the rest of the sandwich.  McDo, take note.  Chances are one bite just might turn this one-dinner stand into a long, loving, and monogamous relationship.

French Filet O Fish Open

An Insider's Peek

This recipe is from my weekly column Franglais on The Huffington Post.  Click HERE for this post.

My French Filet O Fish
serves 2

French Filet O Fish ClosedINGREDIENTS

  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 2 7 to 8-ounce fillets of think white fish, like plaice, boneless and skinless
  • ½ tablespoons dried fines herbes (a mix of dried parsley, chervil, tarragon, and chives)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ a baguette
  • ⅓ cup good French mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons finely diced cornichons
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped chervil (if you can’t find chervil, use parsley)
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped tarragon
  • 1 tablespoon roughly snipped chives
  • 4 leaves of Romaine lettuce

PROCEDURE

Preheat the broiler.  Heat 1 inch of vegetable oil in a nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat.

Season the fish with salt, pepper, and the dried fines herbes.  Dredge the fish in flour, and shake off the excess.  Dip a wooden spoon in the hot oil; if bubbles form around the wood, the oil is hot enough to fry.  Fry the fish 5 to 6 minutes on the first side, then turn over with a fish spatula, and fry another 2 to 3 minutes.  The fish should be crispy and golden on both sides.  Drain on paper towel.

Cut the half baguette in half horizontally, and then in half vertically.  Place the cut bread pieces, cut side up, on a baking sheet, and toast under the broiler until golden.  Set aside.  In a medium bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, mustard, cornichons, and fresh herbs, and season with salt and pepper.  Smear all the pieces of bread with the tartare sauce.  Stack the sandwich with lettuce and crispy fish.  Serve right away.

print this recipe
print this post Posted by Kerry | 4 Comments
Share

Categories: 15 Minutes, Bread & Butter, Eat, Franglais, Recipes, Sandwiches, Series
 

The Secret Ingredient (Dijon Mustard) Part 3: Filet Mignon with Mustard Butter

RECIPE: Filet Mignon with Mustard Butter
Steak with Mustard Butter

Filet Mignon with Mustard Butter

I think, since Dijon mustard is a French invention, that it’s only appropriate to use it in a French preparation.  Steak with butter.  Genius.  Tender, but firm, meat, dripping in rivulets of melting cream-sweet, soft butter, that contrasts but complements the meat in flavor and texture.  Heart stopping in more ways than one.

French steaks are often seared in butter, and one way to serve them is with Beurre Maître d’Hôtel: coins of cold butter, flavored with garlic, parsley, and lemon, left to melt on top of hot seared steaks.  I can’t tell you how simple but perfect it is.  I tried flavoring the butter with mustard, instead of herbs and garlic, and the result is a steak that is flavored not only with the sweet cream of butter, but also with the tangy bite of white wine, and the acidic, spicy whip of both Dijon and whole grain mustards.  Again, simple, but heart stopping.  Maybe even better than the prototype.  I like to serve two little round medallions of tenderloin per person, with simple steamed new potatoes to soak up the butter and the juices that escape from the meat.  Carnally satisfying. Continue reading

print this post Posted by Kerry | 6 Comments
Share

Categories: 15 Minutes, Easy, Eat, Main Courses, Meat, Recipes, Series, The Secret Ingredient
 

French in a Flash: Campanelle with Eggplant Caviar

RECIPE: Campanelle with Eggplant Caviar
Campanelle with Eggplant Caviar

Campanelle with Eggplant Caviar

One thing (one of the many things) I love about France is the way the French Frenchify everything that they can’t already lay claim to.  Last week on my blog, I wrote about how the French have even managed to Frenchify McDonald’s into the one and only McDo.  But aside from colonizing American fast food, the French have a funny little way of smuggling pasta away from the Italians and turning it decidedly French.

In the South of France, pasta is on every menu.  And not surprisingly.  When I was in Menton a few weeks ago, I could walk to Italy.  The Southerners have a huge predilection for tagliatelle, tossed with, truly, very French sauces.  No marinara or pomodoro in sight.  I saw tagliatelle tossed with Roquefort and cream, with mushrooms, with Provençal red pistou instead of the Italian pesto—which inspired my tagliatelle with yellow zucchini flower pistou.  I had penne topped with a huge scoop of leftover ratatouille.  And had ratatouille baked into lasagna, slathered with an oozing, collapsing layer of mozzarella mixed with toasty Gruyère.  The trend seems to be to take French condiments, or in the case of the mushrooms, traditional French flavor combinations like Forestier, and just toss them over pasta.  And it really works.  I love pasta.  With this, it’s like coming back to you home as a child, and realizing that there was a whole attic you had never discovered before where you could play for hours on end without losing an ounce of fascination.

In my next interpretation of this very easy, cheap, and best of all delicious attic foray, I toss campanelle pasta with caviar d’aubergines.  Caviar d’aubergines, or eggplant caviar, isn’t caviar at all, but instead is a garlicky spread, made from charred eggplants, puréed until smooth and thick, and accented with a touch of vinegar, olive oil, and sometimes a bite of chili.  It is so good.  Mr. English and I have a tradition whenever we’re in France, where we buy a container of the stuff premade, and a baguette, and plop down in the nearest pretty place for an immediate picnic.  For this version, I purée roasted garlic, basil, and a touch of chili with the eggplant, and toss it over trumpets of campanelle pasta, studded with toasted little pine nuts and laced with strings of fresh basil.  It’s so unusual, and hearty, and you could even serve it to vegans.  Plus, the one thing I really took to heart when I was in France this summer is how much fun it is to cook seasonally.  There, you don’t have much of a choice: frequenting markets means you make do with what’s on offer.  Eggplant is in season in the late summer, along with basil, so now is the time when this dish is cheapest and best.  Don’t waste another second!

This story and recipe are excerpted from my weekly column French in a Flash on Serious Eats.  Click HERE for this post.

Campanelle with Eggplant Caviar
serves 2 to 4

Campanelle with Eggplant CaviarINGREDIENTS

  • 2 pounds eggplant (about 2 large eggplant)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 head garlic
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for garnish
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 10 leaves basil, plus more for garnish
  • A pinch of chili flakes
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 pound campanelle pasta
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

PROCEDURE

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.  Cut the tops off the eggplant, and cut the eggplant in half lengthwise.  Sprinkle the cut surfaces of the eggplant with 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and leave in a large colander in the sink to drain for 30 minutes.

Cut the top fifth off the head of garlic, and wrap the garlic tightly in foil.  Place the garlic in the oven.

Once the garlic has been in the oven and the eggplant has drained for 30 minutes, pat the eggplant dry and toss the eggplant halves with 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Place the eggplant cut side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Place the eggplant with the garlic in the oven, and roast for 30 minutes (the garlic will roast for a total of 1 hour), until the eggplant flesh is completely soft.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta.  Once the eggplant and garlic have come out of the oven, scoop the flesh away from the skin of the eggplant, and place the flesh in a mesh colander over the sink to remove any excess liquid.  Squeeze the roasted garlic into a food processor, and add the drained eggplant.  Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the vinegar, basil, chili flakes, and salt and pepper to taste.  Run the machine until the eggplant mixture is smooth and velvety.  Set aside.

Cook the pasta until just al dente, and reserve a cup of pasta water before draining.  Add the pasta back to the pot, and add the eggplant caviar, a half a cup at a time, until you’ve dressed the pasta thoroughly, but lightly.  You may add some of the reserved pasta water, spoonful by spoonful, to thin out the sauce if necessary.  Put the hot pasta in a big bowl, and top with the pine nuts, ribbons of fresh basil, and an extra drizzle of olive oil.  Serve right away, next to grilled fish, or on its own.

print this recipe
print this post Posted by Kerry | 3 Comments
Share

Categories: 60 Minutes, Cheap, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, Sides, Starches, Vegetarian, Vegetarian
 

From the Working Girl Vault: Rare Sesame Seared Tuna

RECIPE: Sesame Seared Tuna
Sliced Sesame Tuna with Asian Salad

Sliced Rare Sesame Seared Tuna

This video was shot back in Florida.  More London videos to come in October!

I have a bone-deep weakness for anything that looks hard but is confidentially easy.  In food, in fashion, in any part of life.  It gives me such secret, sneaky thrills.  I love anything that I can be described as artless, or effortless, inadvertently fabulous, or accidentally perfect.  I just sighed as I typed that.  I’m serious.  It’s a little but proud triumph when having a sharp mind on the inside can make the outside look artless, effortless, fabulous, and perfect.  I just sighed again.

This recipe is all those things: artless, effortless, fabulous, and perfect.  I very often order seared sesame tuna when I’m at a restaurant.  And for many years, that’s the only place I ever ate it.  The outside is crusted with nutty, toasted sesame seeds, and the tuna on the inside is cooked ever so slightly more than sushi rare.  It’s light.  You feel healthy eating it.  The texture is so delicate it’s almost lacy, and with soy sauce or ponzu, and some pickled ginger, the flavor is phenomenal.  When I swear to you that seared tuna is the easiest thing on Working Girl Dinners so far, save maybe the Tortellini Soup, you’re no going to believe me.  But it’s artlessly, effortless, fabulously, and perfectly true.

The whole thing is done to restaurant perfection in three minutes, and I like to serve it with a quick Asian pickle (like in the video) or a big Asian salad (like in the photo).  It’s virtuous, but it’s also really impressive.  If you invite your friends over, they won’t believe you made it.  But you can say, artlessly and effortlessly, “Yes, I made this fabulous and perfect tuna all by myself!”

The only thing you need to think about, probably what you are thinking now, is about the tuna.  Go to a good supermarket or a fishmonger or a gourmet store.  You know the one–the one that’s probably slightly more fashionable or expensive than the other one near you.  Ask for tuna steak, sushi grade.  The flesh of the tuna should be red, not gray.  If you have any doubts, ask the person behind the fish counter if they would be happy to eat the tuna raw.  Trust yourself.  You know what fresh fish looks like, just by animal instinct.

Whole Sesame Tuna

Sesame Seared Tuna
serves 2 to 3

Sliced Sesame Tuna with Asian SaladINGREDIENTS FOR THE ASIAN INSTA-PICKLE

  • 1 English cucumber, seeded and sliced thickly on an angle
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 3 teaspoons soy sauce
  • (optional: sliced fresh chilis or scallions)

INGREDIENTS FOR THE TUNA

  • 3/4 pound Ahi tuna steak
  • 4 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons black sesame seeds (or just 6 tablespoons of white sesame seeds!)
  • Vegetable oil
  • Soy sauce or Ponzu sauce

INGREDIENTS FOR THE ASIAN SALAD

  • Mixed greens (eyeball as much as you want and top with veggies accordingly)
  • Shredded carrots
  • Grape tomatoes, halved
  • Yellow pepper, cut very thinly
  • Cucumber, sliced
  • Ginger dressing (recommending: Makoto)

PROCEDURE

If making the Asian Insta-Pickle, toss the cucumber slices with the vinegar and soy sauce (and chili or scallions if using), and set aside to marinate.

Get to work on the fish.  Cut the Ahi tuna steak in half, and roll both halves in the sesame seeds so the seeds coat the entire exterior of the fish.  Pour just enough oil into a wide pan to coat the bottom.  Heat on medium-high until smoking.  Sear tuna 30 to 45 seconds on each of 4 sides.  Slice thinly.  Serve with soy or ponzu sauce.

If making the salad, toss salad and vegetables with ginger dressing, and serve on the side of the tuna.

NOTE

If you are faced with a choice between sesame seeds and toasted sesame seeds, get the UNtoasted ones.

print this recipe
print this post Posted by Kerry | 1 Comment
Share

Categories: 15 Minutes, Easy, Eat, Fish, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, Watch, Working Girl Dinners
 

The Secret Ingredient (Dijon Mustard) Part 2: Warm Green Bean Salad with Shallots and Mustard

RECIPE: Warm Green Bean Salad with Shallots and Mustard

Warm Green Bean Salad with Shallots and Mustard

Warm Green Bean Salad with Shallots and Mustard

Okay, so strictly speaking, this recipe does not use Dijon mustard. But if we change this month’s ingredient to Mustard from Dijon, then this still counts. These green beans make use of old-fashioned mustard (moutarde à l’ancien) from Dijon, and I’ve always loved the name “moutarde à l’ancien” because it makes it sound like it’s the true, original Dijon mustard.

The truth of the matter is, I hardly ever use one without the other. I add a spoonful of Dijon mustard for creaminess, and spice, and then a spoonful of whole grain mustard for texture and visuality. Whole grain mustard from Dijon has a very similar flavor profile to Dijon mustard—the tang and acidity of the wine, the spice of the mustard, but the mustard seeds are left whole, and so it has that crunch, and the beautiful look of being studded with golden mustard seeds.

I was inspired to make my own version of this dish after seeing something similar in a French cooking magazine. Warm blanched haricots verts, tossed in a warm vinaigrette of soft shallots, olive oil, white wine vinegar, and grain mustard. I love that the white wine vinegar serves to enhance the acidity of the white wine within the mustard, giving the salad a new-pickled quality. The shallots, and even the chervil on top, are somewhat sweet, and counter that acidity. It is so good, if you’re looking for a different kind of vegetable, look no further. This is my holy vegetable grail.

The recipe and writing are excerpted from my weekly column The Secret Ingredient on Serious Eats.  Click HERE for this post.

Warm Green Bean Salad with Shallots and Mustard
serves 4

Warm Green Bean Salad with Shallots and MustardINGREDIENTS

  • Kosher salt
  • 7 ounces trimmed haricots verts
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon grain mustard
  • Black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chervil, torn

PROCEDURE

Bring a pot of water to boil, salt the water, and blanch the haricots verts for until tender, about 3 minutes.  Drain.

Put the pot back on medium-low heat, and once the pot is dry, add the oil.  Add the shallots, and sauté, stirring often, until just soft and fragrant, but not golden, about 4 minutes.  Add the vinegar, mustard, and black pepper.  Stir to incorporate all the ingredients.  Add the haricots verts back to the pain, and toss with the warm vinaigrette.  Plate the beans, and top with the chervil.  Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

print this recipe
print this post Posted by Kerry | 1 Comment
Share

Categories: 15 Minutes, Easy, Eat, Recipes, Salad, Series, Sides, Soup & Salad, The Secret Ingredient, Vegetables, Vegetarian
 

French in a Flash: Herby Goat Cheese Ball (with multigrain baguette!)

RECIPE: Herby Goat Cheese
Herby Goat Cheese

Herby Goat Cheese

Right now, all I want to do is eat outside.  Al frescoEn plein air.  It’s summer, but it’s also August, which means summer’s a temporary situation.  And I’m not one to let anything pass, a sample sale or a season, without taking full advantage.

I live on a little garden, and I’ve been making picnic foods for most of my meals.  Taking them outside, sitting on my blanket made out of sweatshirt fleece, and feasting.  This recipe is simple enough, and maybe it’s not the first time you’ve seen something similar, but it’s all I’ve wanted, cold and fresh, accompanied by icy champagne and lazy conversation.

My inspiration was Boursin, a family favorite in our house: a crumbly, creamy cheese studded with fresh herbs and garlic.  I roll fresh chèvre cheese into a round, and roll it in chopped fresh basil, purple basil, mint, parsley, chervil, chives and thyme.  And some grated garlic.  You can use whatever fresh herbs you fancy.  Then, I get a knife, and some multigrain baguette, and get eating.  C’est tout.  Perfect for déjeuner, or dîner, sur l’herbe.

Herbed Goat CheeseThis story and recipe are excerpted from my weekly column French in a Flash on Serious Eats.

Herby Goat Cheese
serves 6 to 8

Herby Goat CheeseINGREDIENTS

  • 9 ounces fresh goat cheese, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh herbs, like parsley, chervil, chives, mint, basil, purple basil
  • 1 small clove garlic, grated
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 multigrain baguette, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds

PROCEDURE

Spray a ramekin with nonstick spray, and line it with plastic wrap.  Smooth the goat cheese into the ramekin, pressing down to form it to the shape of the little bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 1 hour.

Mix the herbs, garlic, salt and pepper.  Unmold the cheese, and press the herb mixture so it sticks on all sides of the cheese.  Set the herbed cheese on a plate, and scatter the multigrain baguette slices all around.  Allow to come to room temperature for 15 minutes, and serve.

print this recipe
print this post Posted by Kerry | Leave a comment
Share

Categories: 15 Minutes, Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Bread & Butter, Dips, Spreads, Preserves, Easy, Eat, For a Crowd, French in a Flash, Recipes, Series, Vegetarian