French in a Flash: Dijon Pork Paillard with Spinach and Flower Salad

RECIPE: Dijon Pork Paillard
Dijon Pork Paillard

Dijon Pork Paillard

It was Voltaire who told us to tend our gardens. I prefer to eat mine…

Have spring flowers for dinner tonight in this week’s French in a Flash for Serious Eats: Dijon Pork Paillard with Spinach and Flowers.

Bon app!

Dijon Pork Paillard
serves 4

Dijon Pork PaillardIngredients

  • 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 clove garlic, grated
  • 1 tablespoon grain mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon crème fraîche
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 thin-cut pork chops
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon
  • 1 1/2 cups panko
  • 1 1/2 cups baguette crumbs
  • Olive oil for pan frying
  • 5 ounces prewashed baby spinach
  • 3/4 ounce edible flowers

Procedure

  1. First, prepare the salad dressing. In a jar, combine the vinegar, olive oil, garlic, grain mustard, honey, crème fraiche, and salt and pepper. Twist on the cap and shake vigorously.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  3. Pound the pork chops by placing them between two pieces of plastic wrap and smacking them repeatedly with a rolling pin until they are about 1/2-inch thick. Season well with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
  4. Set up your breading station by putting the flour in one pan. The eggs and Dijon mustard should be beaten together with salt and pepper in the second pan. The panko and baguette crumbs should be tossed together in the third pan. Pass the pounded pork pieces lightly through all three stations, shaking off any excess.
  5. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat and add just enough oil to coat the bottom and rise up 1/4-inch or so--enough to shallow fry.
  6. Cook the pork about three minutes on each side, until golden. Transfer to a baking sheet, and finish cooking for 5 minutes in the oven.
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Categories: 30 Minutes, Eat, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Meat, Recipes, Salad, Series, Soup & Salad
 

Vive French Revolution!

RECIPE: Rose Cream-Filled Birthday Cupcakes with White Chocolate Ganache

Raspberry Rose Cupcake

Raspberry Rose Cupcake with White Chocolate

Happy 1st Birthday, French Revolution!

French history is full of important dates. The 14 juillet, the start of the French Revolution, is, of course, most famous. Less widely acknowledged and less widely celebrated is the equally important 13 avril, today, the start of this French Revolution. Today, révolutionnaires, amis, is the first anniversary of this blog.

History is all about facts. Let us compare these two momentous events in French history, and see what we find. The French Revolution started with the storming of the Bastille, where prisoners lived on nothing but bread and water, resulting in the overturn of the ancien régime. Frankly, if the bread had been good Parisian baguette, and the water had been Volvic, I would have been just as happy living out my days behind the barricaded stone walls. This French Revolution began with the storming of my mother’s kitchen, and I like to think it toppled the ancien régime as well—the one that says French food is tedious, intimidating, and terrifying.

Speaking of the Terror, more than 20,000 people met with Madame Guillotine over the course of the original French Revolution. In this last year of our French Revolution, 10,000 people have joined in slicing the heads of lettuces, gouging the eyes of potatoes, and shucking ears of corn. Positively gruesome…or delicious, depending on which revolution you decided to participate in.

For the original French revolutionaries, their work centered around three things: liberté, egalité, fraternité. For us, révolutionnaires, it is more like carrots, celery, onions—the triumvirate of any self-respecting mirepoix. For them, it was the Sans Culottes. For us, eggs en cocotte. For them, it was peasants and royalty. For us, it is peasant food, like brisket bourguignon, and royales, like a raspberry rose royale champagne cocktail. For them, it was bleu, blanc, et rouge. For us, it is blueberries, fromage blanc, and vin rouge. Quel tricoleur!

Marie Antoinette declared: “Let them eat cake.” Well, I say: “Let us eat cake!” Birthday cake, in the form of cupcakes filled with rose-scented crème, painted with white chocolate ganache, and crowned with fresh raspberries. In France, on the 14 juillet, the dark night is lit with the booming sparkle of feu d’artifice. In America, on April 13, a dark room is lit with the gently hissing flame of a single birthday candle. Both leave me oohing and ahhing, with surprise, and delight.

The French Revolution lasted ten years. In retrospect, the first year started it all—namely, ending the bread-and-water diet of the Bastille prisoners, and introducing brioche to the peasantry (or, at least, a suggestion thereof). But much more was yet to come. Thanks for joining me this first year—I’ve had the time of my life.

Vive la Revolution!

Rose Cream-Filled Birthday Cupcakes with White Chocolate Ganache

Cupcake Ingredients

  • 1 box Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Classic White Cake mix
  • 1 1/3 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 egg whites

Rose Crème Ingredients

  • 1 cup cream
  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoons rose extract

White Chocolate Ganache Ingredients

  • 12 ounces white chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup cream

Garnish

  • 20 raspberries, and maybe a birthday candle

Procedure

  1. Prepare the cupcake batter according to package directions. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes in a muffin tin lined with cupcake papers. Allow to cool on a cooling rack until absolutely room temperature.
  2. Meanwhile, make the rose cream. In a stand mixer, beat the cream on high until it starts to take shape. Add the sugar and rose extract—1 teaspoon for a hint of rose, 1 ½ teaspoons for a hit of rose. Beat until stiff, and spoon into a piping bag fitted with a simple, narrow tip.
  3. Then make the ganache by heating the chocolate chips and cream in a double boiler until just smooth and melted.
  4. Take each cool cupcake and stab the pastry tip down almost to the bottom (there must be a bit of violence in any Revolutionary cupcake). Fill with the rose cream. Then top each cupcake with white chocolate ganache and allow it to harden. Crown with a raspberry in the center.
  5. Let them eat cake!
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French in a Flash: Choucroute Nouvelle

RECIPE: Choucroute Nouvelle
Choucroute Nouvelle

Choucroute Nouvelle

Some things in life were never meant to be updated. A rewritten version of Great Expectations, for example, would fall far short of the original. Nothing is quite as lovely and elegant as the original Coco Chanel tweed suit. The Plaza hotel in New York, now renovated, cannot hold a candle to the original elegance of The Plaza of old. Perfect the first time, such things age gracefully.

Other things, like iPhones and Prius-es and Choucroute usually improve with every generation. Normally, my renovation of classic French dishes is inspired by how much I adore the original version. Occasionally, it is my distaste for the original version that goads me into developing the, say, Second Generation of Choucroute. It’s a rare thing, but it happens.

In this week’s French in a Flash, I recount an episode of when my father and I took Mr. English to Chez X (our favorite uptown French restaurant despite the events of that evening), so that I might impress him with a lovely French dinner. He ordered the choucroute, a crock pot steaming with sauerkraut, sausages, and par-boiled bits of pale ham. It was awful.

Choucroute Nouvelle Ingredients

Sausage and Savoy Cabbage

In honor of Mr. English’s 25th birthday, and in yet another attempt to impress him, I reinvented it, and brought some twenty-first century youth to an ancient dish. The sauerkraut is replaced with braised Savoy cabbage, topped with a melange of sausages, steamed in traditional Alsatian Riesling and crisped in butter. Whole grain mustard and a thick pan gravy (Mr. English’s favorite) finish the dish. Voila! Choucroute Nouvelle. As always, the whole post, article and recette, can be found at Serious Eats. Bon app!

Choucroute Nouvelle
serves 4

Choucroute NouvelleChoucroute Ingredients

  • 12 links assorted large sausages
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • About 1 bottle Riesling
  • Salt and pepper

Choucroute Procedure

  1. Melt the butter in a sauté pan with high sides on medium heat.  Arrange the sausages in the pan, and brown for 2 minutes, until a little crust appears on the bottom sides.  While they’re cooking, use the point of a sharp knife to stab each sausage three times along its length, leaving little nostrils for the sausages to “breathe” through while they cook.  At the end of the 2 minutes, flip the sausages and create the same holes on the reverse side.
  2. Add enough Riesling to cover the sausages about 2/3 the way up.  You don’t need to wait for the other side to brown.  Reserve at least ¼ cup of the wine, but chances are, you won’t even need that much.  Season the cooking liquid with salt and pepper.  Flip the sausages every so often as they cook.
  3. Allow most of the wine to boil off.  After about 40 minutes, there will be very little liquid left, and it will be stained with sausage juices and thick.  The sausages will begin to brown, so knock the heat down to medium.
  4. When the sausages are crisp and golden on both sides, remove them from the pan to a plate.  Add in the ¼ cup of Riesling you reserved earlier, and whisk the pan sauce.
  5. Plate the choucroute by mounding the braised Savoy cabbage in a large, wide bowl.  Then slice all the sausages in half on a angle and arrange them on top.  Pour the pan sauce down over the whole thing, and garnish with fresh flat leaf parsley.  Serve with Dijon mustard and cornichons.

Mustard-Braised Cabbage Ingredients

  • 1 head Savoy cabbage, quartered, cored, and cut into ½-inch strips
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Riesling
  • 1 ½ tablespoons butter, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 20 chives, quartered
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
  • Salt and pepper

Mustard-Braised Cabbage Procedure

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add the apple cider vinegar, Riesling, and a handful of salt.
  2. Add the cabbage to the water, and blanch for 3 minutes.  Drain, and run until cold water.
  3. In the same pot, that is now dry, put the heat on low, and add 1 ½ tablespoon butter and the olive oil.  When the butter is melted, add the chives, parsley, and cabbage, and raise the heat to medium-high.  Season with salt and cracked black pepper.  Simmer for 5 minutes until most of the excess water has evaporated.  Stir in the mustard.
  4. Put the braised cabbage in a large bowl, and top with the remaining tablespoon of butter.  Top with the sausages.
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BBC Recipe: Spring Vegetables with Crème Fraîche and Chives

RECIPE: Spring Vegetables with Crème Fraîche and Chives
Spring Vegetables with Crème Fraîche and Chives

Spring Vegetables with Crème Fraîche and Chives

Mother’s Day is the harbinger of spring, so to go with our Norman Apple Cornish Hens, I make a whole brood of light, creamy spring vegetables. Your mother always made you eat your vegetables, so now’s your time to make her eat hers. I’m sure she won’t mind.

Just like we didn’t make any old roast chicken, but made poussins, so we are not serving them with any old boiled vegetables. Instead, you want to select a cornucopia of springtime colors and flavors—think Primavera when you go shopping. Feel free to change things up as well. The list I compiled in the ingredients were available to me that day, but just keep in mind that you want roughly one kilo of baby vegetables. From there, you could use sugar snaps and asparagus tips, or baby zucchini and Chantenay carrots. The more variety, the more interest. This dish is finished with a sprinkling of spring chives and a dollop of luxurious crème fraîche. It is unusual and festive and super easy.

Spring Vegetables with Crème Fraîche and Chives
serves 4

Spring Vegetables with Crème Fraîche and ChivesIngredients

  • 1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 9 ounces/258 grams baby or Chantenay carrots
  • 9 ounces/258 grams baby zucchini/courgette
  • 7 ounces/201 grams baby yellow squash
  • 5 ¼ ounces/150 grams haricots verts
  • 4 3/8 ounces/125 grams spring peas
  • 1 cup water
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2-3 tablespoons crème fraîche
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives

Procedure

  1. Melt the butter in a large sauté pan. Add the carrots, and toss to coat. Add the water, and season with salt and pepper. Simmer the carrots for 4 minutes.
  2. Add in all the other vegetables, season a bit more, and toss. By the time the water has evaporated, the vegetables will be tender. If they aren’t, simply add a bit more water until they are.
  3. Stir in the crème fraîche and fresh chives, and serve immediately.
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BBC Recipe: Norman Apple Hens

RECIPE: Norman Apple Hens

 

Norman Apple Hens

Norman Apple Hens

The BBC recipes are now available! I’ll publish them as they are released…

My master’s degree from Oxford is in English literature, so it’s no surprise that sometimes in my cooking I wax poetic and get a bit punny with my food. For Mother’s Day, I do just that, preparing Cornish Hens with Spring Vegetables (as in Mother hen, Baby vegetables). Then I added sweet roasted pearl onions, for what little girl didn’t wear her mother’s pearls growing up? If you can’t be a bit precious on Mother’s Day, when can you?

I use the Cornish Game Hens (use Poussins or Coquelets in the UK) because Mother’s Day dinner should be comforting but still a bit dainty and dressed up. Think of all the roast chickens your mother has made for you. Tell her that it was her roast that inspired you, but you wanted to make it special by making miniature, individual birds, and giving them a fancy French makeover. These hens are flavored with the apple and bacon and thyme of Normandy. The birds marinate and tenderize overnight in dry Norman apple cider, are wrapped in rich unsmoked bacon, and fired under Calvados, Norman apple brandy. There is a very delicate sweetness that moistens the meat from the liquors, and the thyme and bacon give an unmistakable earthy woodsiness to the birds. These are your mother’s Sunday roast chicken, but so much more special and thoughtful, just like mom.

Norman Apple Hens
serves 4

Norman Apple Hensingredients

  • 4 Cornish game hens
  • 2 cups Norman apple cider, known as dry cidre bouché
  • 3 stems thyme, plus 6 stems
  • 10 ounces/283 grams pearl onions, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 slices pancetta, or unsmoked streaky bacon
  • ¼ cup Calvados

procedure

  1. The night before you want to cook these, cut the back bone out of each hen so that they have been “butterflied.” Simply sit each bird on its bottom, and run a sharp knife down along either side of its backbone, effectively removing it. Or, just ask your butcher to take care of it for you. Place the four hens in a large sealable plastic storage bag, and add in 2 cups of Norman apple cider (drink the rest!), and 3 stems of thyme. Place the bag into a bowl, and set in the fridge over night.
  2. The day after, when you are ready to make the meal, take the hens out of the fridge to take the chill off, and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F/218 degrees C.
  3. If you can buy your pearl onions frozen and already peeled, then do it. If you can’t, here’s how to peel them without all the fuss. Trim their tops and bottoms off, and put them in boiling water for 2 minutes. Run them under cool water so that you can handle them, and pop them out of their outer layers.
  4. Toss the pearl onions with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with aluminum foil. Drain the birds of the marinade, and pat them dry with paper towel. Rub the birds with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, both the top and under sides, and season with salt and pepper. Nest each bird, cut side down, on the baking sheet, and scatter the seasoned pearl onions around them.
  6. On top of each bird, sprinkle some of the leaves from 6 stems of thyme, and place 1 slice of pancetta over the center of the breast. If you can’t find sliced pancetta, and are using unsmoked bacon, you’ll want to cut the bacon in half and drape the two halves over the bird.
  7. Cover the birds with aluminum foil, and roast for 20 minutes. Then remove the foil, and roast another 25 minutes. The internal temperature should be about 180 degrees F/82 degrees C.
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Categories: 60 Minutes, BBC Radio Recipes, Eat, Main Courses, Poultry, Recipes, Series
 

French in a Flash: 80-Cent Citrus Corn-Muffin Madeleines with Raspberry Confiture

RECIPE: 80-Cent Citrus Corn-Muffin Madeleines with Raspberry Confiture
Raspberry Corn Madeleines

Raspberry Corn Madeleines

As I wrote last month, Madeleines are to me the quintessential decadent breakfast of my childhood. But our tough times require us to rework decadent into everyday. These Madeleines are made from 49-cent Jiffy corn muffin mix, scented with the zests of orange and lemon, and stuffed with good raspberry jam. They have the distinct French shape with an unmistakable American flavor and ingenuity. Maybe tough times aren’t so hard to swallow after all…

Especially if you wash them down with a glass of cold milk or dunk them in your morning coffee.

As always, the full recipe and the full article text for this week’s French in a Flash is on Serious Eats! Bon app!

Corn Madeleine Back

80-Cent Citrus Corn-Muffin Madeleines with Raspberry Confiture

Raspberry Corn MadeleinesIngredients

  • 1 box Jiffy corn muffin mix
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • Zest of 1/2 orange
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup good quality raspberry jam or preserves (recommended: Bonne Maman)

Procedure

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the corn muffin mix, egg, milk, and citrus zests. Allow to sit for 4 minutes. Then stir again quickly just before dolloping it into the Madeleine pans.
  3. Spray one 12-madeleine pan with nonstick cooking spray, or grease lightly with vegetable oil or butter. Spoon one overflowing tablespoon full of batter into each shell mold. Bake for 8 minutes.
  4. After 8 minutes in the oven, pull the madeleines out. Using a pastry bag filled with the raspberry jam, and a tip that is narrow enough to poke a precise hold in the madeleines, but wide enough not to get blocked up by seeds, stab a hole halfway into the center of each madeleine, and pipe the jam in slowly just until the jam fills the hole and starts coming out around the top of the madeleine. Little bullet holes for bleeding hearts. Bake 2 to 4 more minutes—2 minutes until done; 4 minutes until golden and crisp.
  5. Now you have some traditional French cakes flavored with a dash of American ingenuity. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool, or eat warm with extra jam and a cold glass of milk. Parfait!

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Breakfast & Brunch, Cheap, Easy, Eat, French in a Flash, Pastries, Recipes, Series, Vegetarian
 

Muscat Musketeer

Muscat Grapes

Muscat Grapes and Muscat Wine

I know we’re in the middle of a recession, but if I have one culinary extravagance, it’s fruit. I’d rather spend $2 on a pear that’s perfect, than $1 on a pear that’s hard as rock or mushy as meal and have to throw it away. Isn’t that devastating?! I even have a fruit dealer at my local market who can pick the perfect pear or pomegranate or plum or pomelo every time (he also, coincidentally, knocks some of the price off for me–thanks!).

Three years ago, my “dealer” introduced me to my latest addiction. I was at the market picking up my daily bread and cheese, and I wanted something to go with it. He smiled a grim little grin, like he knew he was letting me in for it. He plucked a perfect, plump grape, a lighter shade of pale green blushing Victorian rose. I popped it in my mouth, and my knees felt weak. Love at first bite. I knew at that moment that it was no apple in the Garden of Eden; there is only one fruit worth falling for, and it is the Muscat grape. The only catch? They were over $10 per pound. I actually saved up for grapes.

Now, April doesn’t mean rain showers. It doesn’t mean daffodils. It means that tiny window of Muscat grape eating is here again, and I’ve been eating them at a rate of about a bunch per day for the last week. Why? Because it seems that even Muscat grape stock is down! They’re selling at Whole Foods for just $2.99 per pound; only 50 cents more than regular unreliable sweet-tart green table grapes.

They taste of sweet flowers and what I imagine ambrosia must have tasted like. Sweet and fresh and fragrant. And you can wash them down with a glass of muscat dessert wine (made in France!).

The Musketeers were all for one, and one for all. I’m all for one thing too: Muscat! A Muscateer pour toujours!

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