Franglais: Boursin Smashed Potatoes

RECIPE: Boursin Smashed Potatoes
Boursin Smashed Potatoes

Boursin Smashed Potatoes

This is one of those recipes I love–effortless, but addictive.

Get the whole story at The Huffington Post.

This is a back pocket recipe.  Think of all the things that live in your back pocket.  You wallet.  Your iPhone.  Maybe a comb, if you’re the Fonz.  Back pocket items are the bare bones of necessity.  When you need to pay, when you need to communicate, when you need to comb your incredibly slick hair, you reach for the back pocket.  This recipe is like that.  When you need to eat, it’s there, ready, willing and able.

If you’ve never had Boursin, know two things about it: you can find it any supermarket, and it tastes amazing.  It’s a soft, crumbly Gournay cheese, spiked most commonly with garlic and fines herbes, which are the soft herbs like chives, parsley, chervil, and tarragon.  Its savoriness is its greatest quality—it is so overwhelmingly and delightfully flavorful, tempered by a slight tang, almost of a chèvre.  Normally, I stuff it messily into a crusty baguette (which I highly recommend you do as well), but this week it plays an Oscar-winning role in creating the world’s best smashed potatoes. Continue reading

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Cheap, Easy, Eat, Franglais, Recipes, Series, Sides, Starches, Vegetarian
 

The Secret Ingredient (Mango Chutney): Cheddar and Chutney Toasties

RECIPE: Cheddar and Chutney Toasties
Cheddar and Chutney Toasties

Cheddar and Chutney Toasties

I proudly declare this month’s Secret Ingredient over in my column on Serious Eats to be Mango Chutney.  It used to be something I despised, but after all my time in the UK with Mr. English, I have found, and I think you’ll agree, that the sweet jammy vinegariness of this gorgeous, chunky condiment makes it like nothing else.

Get the whole story on Serious Eats.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then I don’t feel so bad about being a copy-cat. Around the corner from where my English boyfriend grew up is a recently reinvigorated gastropub. The beers and ciders are to be expected; but the foie gras toastie, less so.

If you’re wondering what a “toastie” could be, it’s just a cutesy English name for a grilled cheese sandwich. At this gastropub, the toasties are all stuffed with melting, oozing English cheddar, and a variety of accents: foie gras, for example; spring onions; or, my favorite, mango chutney.

Mango chutney, a chunky condiment from India and Pakistan that is found everywhere in the UK, is made from raw, green mangoes, which explains some of that tart, almost citrusy flavor. Mango chutney is sweet, but also quite savory, with whole spices, and tart, with vinegar. The combination is perfect with melting cheese. The sweetness of the fruit works in that same way of cheese plates with grapes, and the tartness cuts through the fattiness of the cheese. The chutney and the cheddar, squeezed together between two crusty toasted slices of bread, is the perfect snack. And I don’t have to walk around the corner to the pub.

Cheddar and Chutney Toasties
makes 1 sandwich (multiply at will)

Cheddar and Chutney ToastiesINGREDIENTS

  • Unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 slices white sandwich bread
  • 2 teaspoons mango chutney*
  • 1/4 cup shredded mature white cheddar cheese

PROCEDURE

Lightly butter one side of the bread. Smear the unbuttered side of each slice of bread with 1 teaspoon mango chutney. Pile the cheese in the center of one slice of bread, with the butter on the outside of the sandwich, and top with the other slice of bread, also butter side out.

Heat a wide saute pan over medium-low heat. Toast the sandwich for 4 minutes on the first side, or until the bread is golden and crisp and the cheese begins to melt. Use a spatula to flip the sandwich over, and toast another 4 minutes. The cheese should be totally melted. Cut the sandwich in half on the diagonal, and serve immediately.

NOTES

Buy good chutney.  Cheap chutney can be very vinegary, and not nice.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Bread & Butter, Cheap, Easy, Eat, Recipes, Sandwiches, Series, The Secret Ingredient, Vegetarian
 

French in a Flash: Tricolore Berry Meringue Creams

RECIPE: Tricolore Berry Meringue Creams
Tricolor Meringue Creams

Tricolor Meringue Creams

Get the whole story on Serious Eats.

Today is Bastille Day!  A veritable fête.  In the States, I always toast La France with an early evening pétanque game on the beach, and a twilit grill or picnic.  If I’m lucky enough to be in France—something worth celebrating on its own—it’s down to the fireworks show.

By way of a bit of history, on this day in 1789, brave French people stormed the Bastille prison, an uprising that contributed to the fall of the French monarchy and the establishment of the republic that France is today.  I often joke that culinarily speaking, France was never in a bad place.  Whether you were eating the bread and water of the Bastille (what is better than French bread and French water?) or Marie Antoinette’s cakes (to quote Ina, how bad can that be?), you were eating well.  Of course, that’s not really true, and in all seriousness, it is a very proud day, hoisted up by the triumvirate of ideologies that is still so powerful in France today: liberty, equality, and brotherhood, symbolized by the blue, white, and red of the French flag.

This sweet, simple dessert is only appropriate in the heyday of summer and its sweet, plump berries, coinciding just perfectly with Le Quatorze.  The white of the meringue (store bought, of course—it is to hot and humid to deal with homemade meringue) and French vanilla whipped cream stand for egalité.  The blueberries for liberté.  And the raspberries and currants for fraternité.  A fun, jaunty little tribute to Le Tricolore on this great summer fête.

Two Berry Meringue NestsMeringue Nests, French Vanilla Cream

Tricolore Berry Meringue Creams
serves 4

Tricolor Meringue CreamsINGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup heavy cream, very cold
  • The seeds from 1 vanilla bean
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 4 bought meringue nests, about 3.5 inches in diameter
  • 20 raspberries
  • 25 to 30 blueberries
  • 4 stems red currants

PROCEDURE

In a large bowl, add the cream and the vanilla seeds.  Whisk until stiff.  Stir in the sugar.

Arrange the meringue nests on a platter.  Fill each with a quarter of the vanilla cream.

Arrange the berries on top.  To make them look their best, arrange the raspberries first: a cluster of 3 opposite a cluster of 2.  Fill in the gaps with the blueberries, and top with a strand of red currants.  Serve right away, although these will keep okay covered with plastic wrap in the fridge for about an hour.

 

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Desserts, Easy, Eat, French in a Flash, Fruit, Recipes, Series, Vegetarian
 

Bastille Day Postcard

View of the Sea

Near Nice

Happy Quatorze!  I have just landed in the South of France, and this is the view from my window.  I am so excited for what this weekend has in store!  I will, of course, dutifully share photos and menus.  Bises

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Categories: Côte d'Azur, Voyages
 

Franglais: Merguez Baguettes

RECIPE: Merguez Baguettes
Merguez Baguette

Merguez Baguette

Get the whole story on The Huffington Post.

When it comes to French food, we always think of the ivory tower.  Not the gutter.  Charlottes and tians and soufflés are all well and good, but give me the choice between haute cuisine and a hole in the wall off a well-trod avenue, and there’s no comparison.  Hole in the wall, s’il vous plaît!

I am a French street-food-oholic.  Actually, I eat plenty of hotdogs and pretzels off the streets of New York.  So maybe it has nothing to do with provenance.  But French street food is spectacular.  I plan trips around the crêpe stuffed with bubbling, elastic Gruyère that I get to go from L’Avant Comptoir near Odéon in Paris.  In Nice, there are zucchini flower beignets and chickpea pancakes called socca.  And in the South, Pan Bagnat, giant and perfect tuna sandwiches that I take to share at the beach.  Gauffres, or really Belgian waffles, under an avalanche of sugar.  And of course, the omnipresent ice cream cones that parade around the country.  But the one that takes Marie Antoinette’s cake is possibly the world’s greatest sandwich: Merguez Frites.

Hold onto your berets.  It’s a baguette, stuffed with hot, smoky Moroccan lamb sausages flavored with garlic, harissa, chilis, cumin, coriander, and the kitchen sink.  And then stuffed into the baguette with the grill-charred sausages is a solid helping of frites.  Crunchy, salty, and ridiculous.  You can get the baguette slathered with garlic mayo, extra harissa, even ketchup.  It is so gluttonous, and so spicy, and so good.  Greasy and dirty in that too-much-lo mein way that everyone loves.  It makes a New York hotdog, heretofore my yardstick of perfection (with deli mustard), look measly.  It’s a heart stopper, in more ways than one.  And it’s worth it.

I love doing cookouts for Bastille Day (this Thursday, July 14th).  Instead of throwing some all American hotdogs on the grill, I give my grill a French accent.  I throw some Merguez sausages, long and lean, on the grill until black and hot and smoky.  I stuff them in an olive oil-seared baguette, with piquillo peppers, garlic-yogurt-mayo sauce, and a salad of cilantro.  Serve with some harissa for those that like it hot, or some grill lemons.  It is so different and so spectacular, you don’t need to make anything else.  Just buy some good French beers and call it a day.  Or a fête.

Merguez Baguette, ClosedMerguez Baguette, Cut

Merguez Baguettes
serves 4

Merguez BaguetteINGREDIENTS

  • 6 tablespoons Greek yogurt
  • 6 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 clove garlic, grated
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 8-inch baguette rolls, sliced horizontally like an open book
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 12 links Merguez sausage
  • 12 jarred, roasted piquillo peppers, halved
  • 1/2 cup torn cilantro leaves
  • Harissa (optional)

PROCEDURE

Preheat a grill—wood burning, charcoal, or gas.  In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, mayonnaise, garlic, and salt to taste.  Set aside.

Drizzle the cut surface of the baguette rolls lightly with olive oil.  Place cut side down on the grill until lightly toasted—about 1 minute.  Set the rolls aside, and place the Merguez on the grill, turning occasionally until the sausages are charred and cooked through—about 6 minutes.

While the sausages are grilling, assemble the sandwiches.  Slather as much of the garlic yogurt sauce on the bread as you like.  If you like it hot (like really hot), squirt some harissa onto the buns.  Scatter the piquillo peppers on the bread, and the leaves of cilantro.  As soon as the Merguez are cooked, pile 3 into each sandwich, fold the sandwich shut, and cut in half on a diagonal.  Serve immediately.

NOTES

You can find Merguez at gourmet stores, Kosher markets, and Middle Easter grocers.

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

An Interview with French Food at Home’s Laura Calder: Part II

KS: What was the first meal you remember eating?

LC: Fried potato skins.  My mother used to bake potato skins, and these are organic of course, they have to be.  You eat your potato flesh and then you have the skin.  She used to fry that with butter and it was absolutely delicious.

KS: What would be your death row dinner?

LC: Oh boy, I don’t think I’d be able to eat frankly, but… I think it would have to be something family-orientated, one of my mother’s soups.  My mother’s very good at, you know, hearty kinds of soups, so something like fish chowder or a beef stew.  Maybe a big beef stew.

KS: What food reminds you of your grandmother?

LC: Baked beans, baked homemade bread, biscuits and that kind of thing, and definitely all the fish chowder and corn chowder and beef stew with dumplings in it.  English cakes, you know, those English cookies with the thumbprint and the jam in them.

KS: What do you make when you are in love?

LC: I make everything, I cook like crazy, and preferably with the person I’m in love with.  Cook like a demon and eat it.  You work up appetite for another round.

KS: And what about when you’re out of love?

LC: The way I cook on the show is the way I cook for myself.  I don’t cook differently for me than I do for when people are coming over.  I cook, I don’t cook for other people.  I cook for me and whoever gets to eat.

KS: If there were a dish that was made à la Calder, what would be the recipe, something that’s signature you?

LC: Oh well there would definitely be orange and lemon zest in it.  Because people are always joking they know when I’ve been in their house because there’s not a skin left on an orange in the house.  I’m always running around with a zester putting it on everything.  So that’s kind of a touch.  And then anything that I serve, [it’s by] putting a big platter on the table.  If I can put it on a platter on the table, I do, and even if I have individually portioned things, like say a little pot de crème, I put them all on one platter and then put them out.  I can’t stand the little individual things.  It drives me nuts.

KS: The last question, what is your favourite restaurant in Paris?

LC: Actually, I don’t eat out very much at all.  I always used to say my preference is to go eat at someone’s house in Paris.

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Categories: People
 

Writing for a Great New Travel Site: Fathom

FathomFathom is a phenomenal new travel site founded by (in the spirit of full disclosure) my first editor Jeralyn Gerba and Pavia Rosati.  It’s set to fill the space between those flash sale mania sites full of luxury, and the unreliability of TripAdvisor.  Vetted travelers, from veterinarians to celebrities, send in “postcards” from the fabulous places they have been, and the cards, along with additional expertise, are turned into guides the rest of us can use to plan a trip that is interesting, stress-free, and quality.  In short, it’s a way to always have a friend in Paris to tell you where to stay, where to eat, and what to order.  I’ve started writing for them, and here is a peak at a few of the postcards I’ve sent in:

Fathom OctopiA Merry Band of Greek Tourists

Where to stay on the Greek island of Paros, and how to book the ideal boat trip full of sea-swimming and octopus-grilling while you’re there

French Quarter on a Dime

Where to stay in Saint Germain when you’re not made of a million

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Categories: Finds, Voyages