Lunch in Paris: A Review, with Recipes

RECIPE: Artichokes Vinaigrette
Lunch in Paris

Lunch in Paris

The truth is, I never read nonfiction. Fiction is more truthful. There is always some point in the last third of the book, some sentence, that boils the story down into the syrupy sap of truth, and the book hits a cord that resonates in perfect harmony with my life. I can feel it; I know it. Tears spring to my eyes, and I think, “that’s me.” My hair stands on end. I’m electrified by the talent and the humanity and the rawness of it. And I have to shake myself out of it. Truly true stories are rarely so truthful as that.

But Elizabeth Bard’s Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes, was too tempting. A young American in France, telling a love story (always with bawdy potential when it involves the French), WITH recipes? I broke my rule, and I read it.

And immediately, though I never expected it (this is, after all, a memoir), I was hit by the truth. Not like a Mack truck to the head, but like a mirror, placed surreptitiously in my path. So much about Elizabeth was familiar. Her Ivy League education, and her subsequent Odysseus quest to find a career in the morass of her life. In those days that she spent trolling the market, determining which string bean was more delicious, I saw the years I spent after college, writing recipes, selling off little stories, fielding questions from friends of friends screeching, “You still don’t have a job!?” and calls from my grandfather demanding, “Why aren’t you at the office?” This is my office, Grandpa. And my favorite, when one of my oldest friends told me, “Maybe college was your time, and the working world is mine.” It was like in high school, when I was getting straight As and people used to run around the classroom howling “I did better than Kerry Saretsky!” Well, now everyone was howling. Elizabeth, through the pages, was like the only friend I’d ever had who GOT IT.

And her foray into a new country for the man she loved. That I recognized too. The frustration of being an independent, educated New Yorker who could ride the subway from the Bronx to Brooklyn, but couldn’t figure out what kind of laundry detergent was appropriate or how to top up an Oyster card or even which cadence to use when reciting a telephone number (Two numbers at a time? Three? All at once without taking a breath?) Although, the beauty and tenderness and awe with which Elizabeth described Gwendal’s culture was at times so poignant, and had so deeply penetrated her belief system, that I wished Mr. English was M. Français! I laughed at loud as her mother arrived with suitcases full of stuff “you just can’t get in Europe.” More like, we just WON’T get in Europe. Or her cravings for a New York pepperoni slice eaten standing up on a street corner. God, I could go for that right now!

But what I found most profound, and most truthful, is that fact that ex-pats live in a middleworld. Elizabeth describes how she wishes she and Gwendal could live on an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, taking the best parts of France (and there are many) and the best parts of the States (there are also many) and get rid of all the riff raff that now, from having lived without of both cultures, suddenly seemed so clear. I will never become English, just as Elizabeth will never become French. We are both deeply and irrevocably American. But suddenly, you also stand apart from your own countrymen. You’ve been away. Elizabeth missed 9/11. I missed President Obama’s election. These parts of the collective country memory suddenly are no longer yours, and you identify a bit less and criticize, or recognize, a bit more. Elizabeth found herself rolling her eyes at Americans on the Métro who bumbled their French or made silly errors, just as I held my breath when I heard two Southerners order iced tea at Bumpkin in London last summer. The waiter stammered, “I don’t understand. You want me to brew you some tea, and pour it over ice? Would you prefer Earl Grey or English Breakfast?”

Perhaps it is the exhaustion of being an outsider that makes us cringe. Or the memory of home painfully so far away that requires us to keep our own countrymen abroad at an emotional arm’s length. Tired of being tourists to the crowds, and things to be pitied, helped, and babied at home, we force ourselves to grow into our Franco-English doppelgangers. But at the end of the day, you will never live fully in America or fully in France or England again. You will always live somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

Lunch in Paris is not a love story. It is actually not really even about lunch—dinner seems more dominant. It is a story of coming into one’s own, a coming of age tale, a bildungsroman as we call it in lit crit. Elizabeth may move to France for love, but she always knew Gwendal would be there. What she least expects to find in France is herself. Amongst the rows of haricots verts, amidst the lonely times when her greatest company is the two fish she found at the market, and in the silent din of a foreign language swarming around her head, she really begins to think about what she really wants, to dig to the base of it, which we all have to do at one time or another. Lunch in Paris is the truth. It is a story of true things: of how hard your twenties are, when you have to find yourself, your husband, your career, all right now, at the very same time, and everyone wants to know about it, thank you very much. How love can be doubted, difficult, and deep in the same nanosecond. In her quest and her questions I found such a kindred spirit that I felt I had known her for years. Bard’s book shows that life isn’t a one-ingredient recipe, but a delicate balance that, like any good dish, takes years of practice to perfect.

And that is what I loved most about the book: the lack of separation between the recipes and the story. They, like food in our lives, are woven in through thick and thin, weddings and funerals. They are authentic, but also diverse and simple. I appreciated that she made real home recipes, some Moroccan, some light, some from her own Jewish heritage. It is really French home cooking, not French farmhouse cooking. When I finished the book, I set about trying some of her recipes, and created my own little dinner in Paris right at home. I took a few recipes of Elizabeth’s, and a few of mine.

I started with my favorite lunch in Paris in honor of the title: chilled Artichoke Vinaigrette, which I eat every time I am there at a little restaurant whose name I never remember in the Place Dauphine. It is light and refreshing, but the mustard in the vinaigrette is as acerbic as French wit. I like that. I usually wind up dunking my baguette in there too.

Next, I made Kir Violette. Elizabeth gives the recipe for Mayur’s Champagne Cocktail, a kind of violet Kir Royale and French 75 mix. It reminded me of a cocktail I had in Provence last summer at the Hotel La Jabotte in Antibes, a gorgeous mix of Champagne and crème de violette. When I brought bottles of the violet liqueur to take back with me at Nicolas, the French wine dealer, the man behind the counter smiled and exclaimed, you’re going to make some great Kirs with this! And I had never thought of simply adding it to wine and making floral-infused Kirs. So, this recipe is my own, but inspired by Elizabeth, that darling Antibes hotel, and Mr. Merchant at Nicolas. Admittedly, it’s not easy to find crème de violette, but if you do, buy a few bottles for good measure.

Then, I turned to Elizabeth’s recipes. First, pork spareribs glazed in honey and rosemary. They may be from a Paris bistro, but they reminded me intensely of Provence, where rosemary, more even than lavender, is king. The vinegar gave the ribs themselves a slight tang, but then the honey and rosemary gave such a lightly fragranced sweetness to the meat that I found myself wondering why we always cover up our ribs in barbecue sauce or the glaze they use in Chinese restaurants. These are summer—light and Provençal.

And finally, because who can resist this, molten chocolate cakes. In all honesty, it is something I never make at home. But I am going to now! This recipe was so easy, and so ravishing, that I already have plans to rethink the flavors in a thousand different ways. Next is lavender white chocolate. It ate two right out of the oven. Burns were irrelevant in the face of molten chocolate!

Elizabeth, for the story, for the recipes, for the triumph: bravo.

Kir Violette

1 glass dry white wine, chilled

1 dash of crème de violette

Pour a glass of white wine, and then add the dash of crème de violette, and watch the bluish hue invade the glass.

Oven Roasted Pork Ribs with Honey

Travers de Porc au Miel

(by Elizabeth Bard, from Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes)

1/2 cup rosemary honey (or other strong honey)

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed with the back of your knife

1 1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary, or a few sprigs of fresh

4 pounds pork spareribs, cut into individual pieces

Whisk together the honey, oil, vinegar, sea salt, and garlic, and dried rosemary (if using).

Place the ribs in a large zipper-lock plastic bag and pour in the marinade. If using fresh rosemary, add the whole sprigs to the bag. Refrigerate for 1 1/2 hours, turning occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Arrange the spareribs in a single layer in a large roasting pan. In a small saucepan, bring the marinade to a boil. Pour it over the ribs and roast in the oven for 2 to 3 hours, turning once or twice. Remove the ribs from the oven and skim a bit of fat from the sauce.

You can let the ribs rest overnight at this point. Reheat them gently in the sauce.

Yield: Serves 4

Kerry’s Note: After making these, I discovered several things. First, do marinate them for the whole time. Second, use the fresh rosemary for sure, and bruise it before throwing it into the marinade. Third, I lined a rimmed baking sheet with foil and sprayed it with nonstick cooking spray before I turned out the ribs and sauce to bake. They get very sticky, and it’s just really helpful with cleanup. Fourth, you’ll probably want to rotate the ribs a bit when they’re in the oven, and I found just over two hours to be enough. In fact, there wasn’t any sauce left at all: it turned into this fantastic glazy goo. Which is how I like it.

Individual Molten Chocolate Cakes

Moelleux au Chocolat “Kitu”

(by Elizabeth Bard, from Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes)

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter

5 ounces dark chocolate (70 percent cocoa)

A good pinch of coarse sea salt

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon flour

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in the top of a double boiler or in the microwave. Add sea salt.

Meanwhile, beat together the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar with a whisk or an electric beater until light and slightly foamy.

Add the egg mixture to the warm chocolate; whisk quickly to combine. Add flour and stir just to combine. The batter will be quite thick.

The unmolding is the tricky part of these little cakes; the only foolproof solution I’ve found is to use Reynolds foil cupcake liners (paper liners don’t work; they stick). Use 5 or 6 liners stacked together so they’re rigid enough to make a freestanding mold. Make 6 of these molds. (If you can’t find the foil baking cups, use small ramekins, generously buttered.)

Divide the batter evenly among the molds. (You can make the cakes in advance to this point and chill them until you’re ready to bake. But be sure to bring the batter back to room temperature before baking.)

Baking time will depend on your oven; start with 7 minutes for a thin outer shell with a completely molten interior, 8 minutes for a slightly thick crust and a gooey heart.

Yield: Serves 6

Kerry’s Note: I made this with Green & Black’s chocolate and it was excellent. I also made it with salted butter, because it was all I had, left over from a purchasing mistake (I NEVER buy salted butter), and I was lazy. Don’t do that. You can really taste it. I belted the butter and chocolate together in the microwave by placing them in a large bowl, microwaving on high for 15 seconds, stirring, and repeating about 3 or 4 times until just melted. And finally, the batter really will get thick once you add the flour, even though it seems so runny beforehand. Also, instead of using Elizabeth’s cupcake wrapper method, I used silicone cupcake cups, which I sprayed with nonstick cooking spray and lightly floured. After removing the cakes from the oven, I let them sit 2 minutes, and unmolded them with absolute ease.

Artichokes Vinaigrette
serves 4

Artichoke VinaigretteArtichokes

  • 4 artichokes
  • A pot full of water
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • tablespoon flour
  • salt

Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons finely chopped shallot
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/2 cup light olive oil

Procedure

  1. First, busy yourself trimming the artichokes. Holding the globe down on the counter, force all your weight onto the overhanging stem so that it snaps off—this is better than cutting because it removes tough fibers from the heart. And it allows the artichoke to sit up on the plate with excellent posture. But, secretly, I love the stems, so I run a paring knife around them to cut off the tough skin and the ends, and I throw them in the pot as well.
  2. Next, take a serrated knife and cut off the top of the artichoke where all the top leaves meet. Then, take kitchen shears and snip the sharp tip off all the remaining leaves. Intricate, but easy enough, and you’re done.
  3. Put the artichokes and the stems in the water, wine, and flour mixture. Weigh the artichokes down with a plate so they are fully submerged in the water. Cover, and bring to a boil. Add a handful of salt, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cover mostly, leaving a bit of room for steam to escape, or the pot will probably boil over.
  4. Once the water has boiled, simmer for an additional 45 minutes to one hour, or until the leaves come off easily, and are tender enough to eat.
  5. Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette by whisking together all the ingredients except the oil. Then, add the oil a little bit at a time, and whisk to emulsify. I find that using a small whisk really helps the emulsification process.
  6. When the artichokes are tender, remove them gently from the water, and sit them in a bowl upside down. This will allow any excess water to drain away from the flesh of the artichoke.
  7. Refrigerate until cool. Serve with the vinaigrette.
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French in a Flash: Pissaladière Pasta

RECIPE: Pissaladière Pasta
Pissaladière Pasta

Pissaladière Pasta

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

This dish is sacrilege. Pissaladière is a sort of pizza, with a nest of sweet, burnished onions overlaid with a harlequin pattern of crossed anchovies and olive studs, atop a focaccia-like dough. Sicilian-style slices are for sale on the street corners of Nice, and it tastes like Nice: salty like the sea, with a touch of sweetness.

This pasta starts with multigrain spaghetti, because I think the more substantial texture more accurately recalls the chewy pissaladière dough. It also echoes the earthiness of the Provençal flavors of thyme and bay. Then, I incorporate all the flavors of pissaladière: caramelized onions reduced down to a sweet, slithery mess. Eager fillets of anchovy. Niçoise olives. Olive oil. The resulting pasta is tenderly sweet and predominantly sea-salty.

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The Secret Ingredient (Pink Peppercorn) Part III: Lamb au Pink Peppercorn Poivre

RECIPE: Lamb au Pink Peppercorn Poivre
Lamb au Pink Peppercorn Poivre

Lamb au Pink Peppercorn Poivre

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

Some people are talented spoofers. They spoof old books, they spoof old movies, they spoof old politicians. I’m not that funny. I spoof old recipes.

This is a monochrome take on the French classic steak au poivre, a filet crusted in smashed angry black pepper, seared, and served with a sauce of Cognac, and shallots, and cream. Delicious. But strident. This version is more delicate. The lamb is cooked pink as the peppercorns themselves, and the heat of the pink peppercorn, as well as the texture, is more delicate, collapsing into the cream and Cognac like a woman collapsing in a tub after a long day at the office.

There is a tenderness to the dish—both the meat and the spice. And the hue is inimitable. La vie en rose!

Lamb au Pink Peppercorn Poivre
serves 2

Lamb au Pink Peppercorn PoivreIngredients

  • 3/4 pound lamb loin, cut into 2 steaks
  • 2 tablespoons pink peppercorns, coarsely ground and divided
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons light olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Cognac
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon butter, cold

Procedure

Crust the lamb with salt and half the pink peppercorns.

Heat a sauté pan over medium to medium-high heat.  Add the oil, and then sear the lamb, cooking only about 4 to 5 minutes per side, for medium rare to medium.

Remove the lamb to a plate to rest.  Take the pan off the heat, and add the Cognac (stand back!).  Return to the heat and simmer to reduce by half.

Add the cream and the rest of the ground pink peppercorns.  Add any juices that meat has released on the plate, and simmer to thicken.  At the last second, add the cold butter, swirling the pan to gloss the sauce.

Cut thick slices of the lamb loin, and serve the sauce around it.

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French in a Flash: Homemade Merguez Boulettes

RECIPE: Homemade Merguez Boulettes
Merguez Boulettes

Merguez Boulettes

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So long as I’ve had a spoon in my right hand and a fork in my left, Morocco has meant fire. Not just because my Mémé, with her fiery red hair, was born many decades ago in Casablanca (where, photos inform me, her hair was decidedly brown). But because everything that my French-Moroccan family put on my plate had spice, sass, and heat. In Morocco, spice doesn’t only mean chili, although the harissa with which I was anointed is certainly baptism by fire. It means smoky cumin, sweet cinnamon, and allspice. Like my family, Moroccan food is complicated, unruly, exotic, and feisty as hell.

Merguez is a Moroccan sausage that my family, when they left France and moved to America, had to recreate from scratch, because truth be told, there is not exactly a large Moroccan market here in the States. Here you don’t find merguez at every sausage counter as you do in France, and even in other parts of Europe. Even after Morocco ceased being a French protectorate, Moroccan food continues to pervade French restaurants and markets by the sheer force of immigration and cultural proximity.

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The Secret Ingredient (Pink Peppercorn) Part II: Pink Peppercorn Tuna Tartare

RECIPE: Pink Peppercorn Tuna Tartare
Pink Peppercorn Tuna Tartare

Pink Peppercorn Tuna Tartare

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Last week, I may have intimated (and knowingly) that pink peppercorns are a meek relative of the black peppercorn. But, the truth is, pink peppercorns are not peppercorns at all. They are in fact the dried berries of the Baies rose plant, which my sources tell me are grown in Madagascar and imported through France. You’ll often find them in a mixed blend of peppercorns, including black, white, and green. But, beware: they are toxic in large quantities. I love this secret ingredient! So full of danger and mystery. We are definitely living on the edge after March’s month of chamomile.

As I mentioned last week, their texture is that of a hollow Easter Egg: a quick crack and they’re in smithereens. Their flavor is more aromatically peppery than truly spicy. In both flavor and texture, they are softer than the black peppercorn.

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French in a Flash: Veal Stew Forestière

RECIPE: Veal Stew Forestière
Veal Stew Foresière

Veal Stew Foresière

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No one can name a dish like the French. My favorite moments of culinary school were spent sitting, listening to why Creme Dubarry was named after a countess, or which heroic feat inspired what battle-slain chicken. The names of dishes christened regally after landed aristocracy and great victory imbue a sense of grandeur, of pride, even of haughtiness, that accompany such church-mice affairs as cauliflower soup and lowly beef stews.

Forestière is one such name that always reproduces scenes of French legend and lore in my mind as I stand puttering about the stove. Forestière means forestry, or the forester. My stepfather Alain grew up in Normandy, and he always told me high tales of chasing hares through the forest with his dog, getting lost between wooden pillars under a canopy of leaves, and sitting down to a Normandy apple with some bread and Normandy butter on an arched, awaiting root. So whenever I make any dish forestière—a traditional flavoring combination of mushrooms and cream, and most often ham—I am reminded of a beautiful country, hearty, natural, even medieval, where wild boars bristled through the woody stumps and their tame cousins dug for truffles. I find it beautiful, and evocative.

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The Secret Ingredient (Pink Peppercorn) Part I: Pink Peppercorn and Parmesan Gougères

RECIPE: Pink Peppercorn and Parmesan Gougères
Pink Peppercorn and Parmesan Gougères

Pink Peppercorn and Parmesan Gougères

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

Pink peppercorns, which I discovered as poivre rose in cooking school, aren’t really peppercorns at all. Shakespeare may have said a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but poivre rose is really a misnomer. Pepper is hard, and spicy. It makes you sneeze; it is boisterous and strident. But pink peppercorns are like hot, bright birthday balloons, freeze-dried and hollow, that crunch and crumble at the slightest pressure. They are not spicy so much as feisty, like a natural Pop Rock with just a hint of peppery spice—more subtle and delicate, in flavor and texture, than the peppercorns in your pepper mill.

The black peppercorn is the father figure: strong, set in his ways, inveterately hot-tempered. The pink peppercorn is his delicate daughter: beautiful, subtle, refined, unexpected, vivacious, and surprising. Yet, the Pink Lady doesn’t fall far from the tree.

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