French in a Flash: Sea Shells with Creamy Basil-Tarragon Pistou, Crab, and Sweet Peas

RECIPE: Sea Shells with Creamy Basil-Tarragon Pistou, Crab, and Sweet Peas
Shells with Crab and Tarragon Pistou

Shells with Crab and Tarragon Pistou

This week, French in a Flash sets sail, with my dinnertime version of She Sells Sea Shells by the Sea Shore: Sea Shells with Creamy Basil-Tarragon Pistou with Crab and Sweet Peas.

Pistou, as you may have guessed, is the French version of pesto, but without the nuts. I modernize it, and give it sea legs, with tarragon, an anise-y French herb so often paired with crab or shrimp or lobster. Cream and petite pois give it a sweet finish. A glamorous Riviera dinner just got easy peasy. Bon app!

Shells with Crab and Tarragon Pistou Ingredients

Sea Shells with Creamy Basil-Tarragon Pistou, Crab, and Sweet Peas
serves 4

Shells with Crab and Tarragon PistouIngredients

  • 1 pound sea shell pasta
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 ounces basil, the leaves of which will equal about 1 cup packed
  • The leaves from 4 stems tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup thawed frozen petite peas
  • 1 pound jumbo lump crab meat

Procedure

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt it, and add in the pasta shells. Stir, and cook until al dente. Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, make the pistou. Obliterate the garlic clove in the food processor, and then add the basil and tarragon leaves. Pulse to chop. Add in the lemon zest, lemon juice, pepper, and a good amount of salt. Run the machine and drizzle in the olive oil. Decant the pistou to a bowl, and stir in the Parmesan cheese.
  3. Once you've drained the pasta, put the pot back on the stove on low heat. Add in the cream, pistou, peas, and crab meat. Make sure you go through the crab meat to make sure there are no shells, and to break it up a bit. Toss and heat through.
  4. Add the pasta back into the pot, and toss to combine. Serve immediately.
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Categories: 15 Minutes, Easy, Eat, Fish, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Recipes, Sides, Starches
 

French in a Flash: Roquefort and Walnut Stuffed Roasted Pears with Sauterne Syrup

RECIPE: Roquefort and Walnut-Stuffed Roasted Pears with Sauterne Syrup
Roquefort Roasted Pears

Roquefort Roasted Pears

This week’s French in a Flash on SeriousEats.com is Roquefort and Walnut-Stuffed Pears with Sauterne Syrup. The legend behind Roquefort is that a shepherd left his lunch in a cave when he spied a beautiful maiden in the distance. When he returned to his baguette, his cheese had gone bleu. What is more French than old cheese and new romance? And did you know that the Latin name the Romans gave the walnut means Gallic Nut, or Nut from France? In this recipe, I stuff both the woodsy, chunky, crunchy walnuts and the soft, piquant, tie-dyed Roquefort into the cavities of Bosc or Bartlett pears. They roast in the oven until the pears’ flesh is soft and sweet, the nuts are toasted, and the cheese is bubbling. Then over the top I drizzle a simple syrup made from the iconic French dessert wine Sauterne. Serve it for a starter, a lunch, a dessert, or a cheese course, and you look like a hero. No one will ever know all you had to do was stick it in the oven. Bon app!

Roquefort Roasted Pears Ingredients

Roquefort and Walnut-Stuffed Roasted Pears with Sauterne Syrup
makes 1 pear, and enough syrup for 4

Roquefort Roasted PearsPear Ingredients

  • 1 Bosc pear, ripe, but not overly soft, halved and hulled with a melon baller
  • 1/2 teaspoon light olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 ounces Roquefort
  • 1 tablespoon chopped toasted walnuts
  • 1-2 tablespoons Sauterne
  • Thyme, for garnish (optional)

Sauternes Syrup Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Sauterne
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Procedure

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Prepare the pear by slicing it in half and then removing the core with a melon baller. Rub with the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Nestle the pear halves in an individual gratin dish.
  3. Make the filling by combining the Roquefort with the walnuts. Mound into the cavities of the pear halves. Pour 1 or 2 tablespoons of Sauternes in the bottom of the gratin dish.
  4. Bake for 35 minutes, until the pear halves are soft, and the cheese bubbly.
  5. Meanwhile, make the Sauternes syrup by bringing the Sauternes and sugar to a boil. Whisk until the mixture is clear—all the sugar will have dissolved. The process does not take very long at all. Set aside to cool while the pears are cooking. When the pears are ready, simply drizzle with syrup and serve.
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Categories: French in a Flash, Recipes, Series
 

Roses are Red…:The Raspberry Rose Royale

RECIPE: Raspberry Rose Royale
Raspberry Rose Royale

Raspberry Rose Royale

…and how can I be blue, when I’m in England with Mr. English? Most people think 13 is an unlucky number. For me it’s 14. February 14, to be exact. Boyfriends growing up always seemed to disappear sometime in January, and most of my Valentine’s Days were spent stag.

When I think Valentine’s Day, I think pink. I think little-girl Pepe le Peu classmate Valentines and Sweethearts. I think rose petals, and cocktail rings. Frankly, I’m not surprised I never had a boyfriend on Valentine’s Day, nor that I never missed one. It seems much too girly to spend without your girlfriends.

True to my tradition of never spending Valentine’s Day with a boy, Mr. English and I, through a series of accidents, have come to traditionally celebrate on the 13th (did you know 13 is a LUCKY number in France?). Which still leaves pink, roses, and cocktail rings to the 14th. All of them contribute to my ultimate Valentine cocktail: Raspberry Rose Royale, inspired by the bar at the Mandeville Hotel in London (one of our favorite romantic spots). While a Kir Royale uses creme de cassis and regular champagne, this version uses pink champagne, sweetened with raspberry puree, spiked with Framboise, and perfumed with rosewater. With all the pink, and liquor, and romance, it is guaranteed to sweep you off your feet.

BON APP, et BISOUS!

As featured in FrenchEntrée’s 100 French recipes to celebrate 100 issues of FrenchEntrée magazine

Raspberry Rose Royale

Raspberry Rose RoyaleIngredients

  • 4 ounces raspberries, plus 6 raspberries for garnish
  • 3 tablespoons rosewater
  • 4 teaspoons powdered sugar
  • 1 bottle of rosé Champagne, very cold
  • A splash of Framboise, raspberry brandy (optional)
  • Granulated white sugar, for garnish (optional)

Procedure

  1. In a mini food processor, whir together the raspberries, rosewater, and sugar. Then pass the mixture through a sieve to remove any seeds.
In a large pitcher, combine the raspberry-rose puree with a splash of Framboise and the bottle of chilled pink champagne. Stir to combine.
Wet your finger, and run it around the rims of 6 champagne glasses. Dip the wet rims in white sugar to create a little sweet halo. Pour the Raspberry Rose Royale into each flute, and garnish with a raspberry each. Chin chin!
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Categories: Cocktails, Drinks, Eat, Recipes
 

The Perfect Pair: Chocolate & Brie Baguettes

RECIPE: Chocolate and Brie Baguettes
Brie and Chocolate Baguettes

Chocolate and Brie Baguettes

It’s almost Valentine’s Day. Sigh (with a French accent). It’s time to sit and ponder all those perfect pairs, those historic and romantic couples, that have defined love throughout history. Romeo and Juliet. Antony and Cleopatra. Bella Swan and Edward Cullen. Lady, and the Tramp.

Yes, hindsight is twenty/twenty. But what must their contemporaries have said? “Romeo? Juliet? It will never work.” After all, he was a Montague, and she a Capulet. Antony was a Roman; Cleo an Egyptian. Edward a vampire, and Bella a human. Lady was a pure-blood spaniel, and Tramp–well, his name says it all. Perfect pairs to us, but at the time, they must have seemed very unlikely indeed.

Mr. English, for example, is a British scientist, a man who revels in tradition and rationality. And he chose me, an American writer, who lives for potential and actually does happen. Certain things shouldn’t match, but they do. It is a matter of chemistry.

It is chemistry, not reason, that crowns Chocolate and Brie this Valentine’s Day’s perfect pair. He is a dark candy. She is a light cheese. Just like Romeo and Juliet, or me and Mr. English, you may think at first, “That just won’t do.” You’ll just have to take my word for it, but there’s something about the chemistry, and the bit of heat between the sheets of metal on your panini press, that melts the pungent, savory cheese with the sweet, bitter chocolate into nothing short of a culinary orgasm: surprising, overwhelming, wonderful.

These tiny little sandwiches take just minutes to throw together, and make the perfect lover’s snack. Throw together a stack of Chocolate & Brie Baguettes, and offer some of this perfect pair to the other half of your own.

BON APP, et BISOUS!

Brie Chocolate Baguette Ingredients

Chocolate and Brie Baguettes
serves 4

Brie and Chocolate BaguettesIngredients

  • 12 3/4-inch slices baguette
  • Butter for lightly spreading
  • 20 grams/1.25 ounces dark chocolate (I prefer 70% cocoa) or semi-sweet chocolate
  • 92 grams/3 ounces brie

Procedure

  1. Preheat your panini press.
  2. Very lightly butter both sides of each of the 12 baguette slices. When you slice the baguette, do not do it on an angle, but rather straight across for petite rounds. Put the buttered bread in the press for a few minutes, until they are crisp and golden.
  3. Take the baguette toasts out, and divide the chocolate equally onto 6 of the baguette toasts, and the brie onto the other 6. Press each chocolate side together with a brie side, and place the sandwiches back into the panini press for just a minute or two, until the chocolate and brie have heated through and just begun to melt. You don't want to wait for the chocolate and cheese to melt completely, or they'll just run out of the bread.
  4. p.s. If you want something even more decadent this Valentine's, use the same amount of brie and chocolate, but substitute 3 plain croissants for the 12 slices of baguette. The result is a sort of brie-stuffed pain au chocolat.
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Categories: Bread & Butter, Eat, Recipes, Sandwiches
 

French in a Flash: Coeur à la Crème with Strawberry Sauce

RECIPE: Coeur à la Crème
Coeur à la Crème

Coeur à la Crème

Everyone knows that the French are a romantic people; so what better way to celebrate your Valentine then with a French sweet heart? This week’s French in a Flash on SeriousEats.com is Coeur à la Crème, a traditional French dessert of cream and cream cheese, sweetened and flavored with vanilla and lemon, and set to drain until thick, sweet, and creamy in a heart-shaped mold. The red sauce all around is the flourish of a bleeding heart. It’s the best no-bake dessert on the books–decadent, over-the-top, sweet, and a bit irrational and fun, like love.

BON APP, et JOYEUX SAINT VALENTIN!

Coeur à la Crème
serves at least 4

Coeur à la CrèmeIngredients

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 cups heavy cream, cold
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped of its seeds
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 pound frozen whole strawberries
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons sugar

Procedure

  1. Prepare the Coeur à la Crème mold by lining it with 2 paper towels. Use a pastry brush to lightly brush the bit of paper towel that touches the bottom of the mold with water. This will allow you nestle the paper into the shape of the heart more easily.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy—just about 1 minute. Add in the cream, and beat until just before the mixture looks like whipped cream. Add in the sugar, vanilla seeds, and lemon zest, and whip until the mixture does resemble whipped cream.
  3. Decant the cream cheese mixture into the paper towel-lined heart-shaped mold. Fold the excess paper towel over the top, and set the mold inside a shallow bowl to catch the liquid that will drain out. Chill in the fridge overnight.
  4. To make the sauce, put the strawberries, water, lemon juice, and sugar in a sauce pan on high heat, and simmer for 10 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved and the strawberries are soft.
  5. Use a submersion blender, or a regular blender, to puree the sauce. Strain it through a sieve, and cover. Chill until cold.
  6. Invert the creamy heart in a large, shallow bowl. Pour some strawberry sauce all around the outside, so the heart is floating in a pool of red sauce.
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Categories: Desserts, Easy, Eat, French in a Flash, Recipes, Series, Vegetarian
 

French in a Flash: Chilean Sea Bass with Bouillabaisse Broth

RECIPE: Chilean Sea Bass with Bouillabaisse Broth
Sea Bass Bouillabaisse

Sea Bass Bouillabaisse

I want to announce something new and very exciting: I now have a series over at SeriousEats.com, where I just completed my internship, called French in a Flash. It shares a lot of the same philosophy as French Revolution, but more specifically, it takes traditional French ingredients, flavors, and dishes, and transforms them, in the words of a commenter, “with a few short cuts and economies,” into meals that we can make very quickly and simply and easily, but that still present with a lot of chic and finesse. After today, they will be running every Thursday, and I do hope that you will stop by and see what is sur la table.

This week, it is Chilean Sea Bass, seared, and served in a Bouillabaisse broth, perched on a bed of fennel, onions, and tomatoes, studded with rock shrimp and mussels, and stained with saffron. It’s lovely.

So, BON APP à tous, et MERCI!

Chilean Sea Bass with Bouillabaisse Broth
serves 4

Sea Bass BouillabaisseIngredients

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil, plus more for sautéing the fish
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 fennel bulb, thinly sliced, with fronds reserved for garnish
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) petite diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 1/2 cups fish stock
  • 1 teaspoon saffron
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 dozen rock shrimps, peeled and deveined
  • 1 dozen mussels
  • 4 fillets (4- to 6-ounce) Chilean sea bass

Rouille with Baguette Toasts Ingredients

  • 1/2 day-old baguette, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 5 filets roasted red pepper from a jar
  • Salt and pepper

Procedure

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-low heat in a heavy-bottomed, wide pot with sides high enough to contain 3 cups of liquid—I use my risotto pan. When the oil is warm, add the sliced onion and fennel to the pot, and season with salt and pepper. Allow the vegetables to sweat for 2 minutes, and then add in the sliced garlic. Cook the vegetables for another 3 minutes.
  2. Next, add in the can of drained petite diced tomatoes and the white wine. Raise the heat to high, and allow the wine to reduce slightly for about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the fish stock to the pot, and add in the saffron and the bay leaf. When the stock comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and allow the stock to simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. It is this part of the process from which "bouillabaisse" gets its name: the first part of the word means "to boil," and the second, "to lower." The saffron will bloom in the simmering liquid, and will steep like tea in the stock, causing it to turn its trademark marigold color. Season again lightly with salt and pepper.
  4. After 10 minutes have passed, add in the rock shrimp and the mussels, and stir them around in the bouillabaisse broth. They should take no more than 3 minutes to cook; the shrimp will turn from grey to coral in color, and the mussels will open.
  5. While the stock is simmering, cook the sea bass. Begin by seasoning the sea bass well with salt and pepper on both sides. Then cover the bottom of a large nonstick sauté pan with olive oil—a typical pan will require about 2 tablespoons. Heat the oil on medium-high heat, and when the oil starts to shimmer, add the four filets of fish. Cook for about 3-4 minutes per side, until golden.

Rouille with Baguette Toasts Procedure

  1. To toast the baguette, arrange the slices in a single layer on a baking sheet, and run into a 350-degree oven until dry and golden, about 10 minutes, but keep an eye on them!
  2. For the rouille, combine the mayonnaise, garlic, lemon juice and zest, and roasted red pepper in a mini food processor, and season with salt and pepper. Blend until puréed and combined. Rouille, which translates to "rust," because of the color it traditionally takes on from saffron and peppers, can be served alongside the bouillabaisse with these little baguette toasts—perfect for dipping and shoveling in the broth.
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Categories: 30 Minutes, Eat, Fish, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Recipes, Series
 

Mac & Me

This month’s quiz has been my favorite of all. Macarons are, appropriately enough for this Valentine’s week, the loves of my life. They are the ultimate menage a trois (which literally translates, for the dirty-minded, merely as “household of three”), consisting of two almond-based cookie shells sandwiching a filling of cream or jam or ganache or caramel.

Laduree in Paris

Laduree in Paris

The cookies themselves first emerged from the Versailles ovens in the 1700s. The famed cream-filled version that we know today were invented by my favorite Parisian patisserie, Laduree, in the 1800s.

The Macaron Topiary at Laduree

The Macaron Topiary at Laduree

Anyone who has seen Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette knows how these neon and pastel-hued confections can be as adorning to a room as gems are to a person. Opening up a Laduree box stained with mint-green pallor is like lifting the creaking, rusted lid of a pirate’s treasure. Will it be a sapphire-stained lily flavor? The emerald pistachio? The silvery jasmine? The golden cafe? The onyx licorice? The ruby “Diva”?

Laduree MacaronsMacarons are the pictures of prim flamboyance. Never a hair out of place, just the perfect circle and the perfect size. And yet, the ruffle around the base of the cookies, concealing the filling, is the perfect example of the French practice “mettre en valeur,” or to show to advantage. Just as a diving ruffled collar could be unbearably enticing to a lascivious lover, so the ruffled cookie’s edge is almost indecently evocative for a hungry macaron-craver like myself.

The Macaron Counter at Laduree

The Macaron Counter at Laduree

I love to walk up to the counter in Laduree, and just imagine tasting the rainbow. The flavors, beyond being beautiful, are so unusual. They play hard-to-get, if you will. My favorites, for instance, are rose and orange flower, but I’ve seen citronella and gingerbread and lily of the valley and sweet-pea-black-pepper. You lift the little disc to your mouth, and take a bite. The outside cracks with the dainty chip of a robin’s egg. The inside of the cookie yields with the chewy crumble of marzipan-scented cake. And then, just when you’d forgotten all about it, the cream releases any pretense of staying demurely tucked beneath that ruffle. It oozes and explodes out, all around the cookies, in the most obliging and satisfying of fashions. You close your eyes, and smile. Some pleasures, the French know well, are as polite as they are primal–and always perfect.

Le Petit Dejeuner chez Laduree

Le Petit Dejeuner chez Laduree

I know those of you who voted in this month’s poll feel the same way, and I was curious about your favorites. Pistachio was the winner, with chocolate as runner up. But me, I still vote for rose. I attended a class on macarons at Ecole Lenotre this past summer, and if you want that method, click here.

Making Macarons at Ecole Lenotre

Making Macarons at Ecole Lenotre

Be sure to vote in February’s quiz: Which French Delicacies Have You Tried?

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