RECIPE: Crispy Cassis Duck

scroll down for these “Chinese” French recipes…

Brie and Avocado Spring Rolls

French Onion Soup Dumplings

Crispy Duck Cassis

It seems that over the course of culinary history, nations east to west, north to south, have all come to apply French techniques of haute cuisine to their native flavors. Think back on the salmon mousse in Japanese restaurants, the asparagus and egg tarts in England that bear an astonishing resemblance to quiche, or the pistachio beurre blanc for that southern catfish near our house in Florida. French culinary techniques are sophisticated and insightful, that they are necessarily applied to all cuisines represented in the United Nations. But today, I’m reversing the usual, and conducting one of my favorite experiments: applying exotic preparations to French ingredients and flavors.

Chinatown is always an adventure. When I was a little girl, although our apartment and Mulberry Street occupied the same small island of Manhattan, going to Chinatown nearly required a passport and a three-hour boarding window. My mother and father and I would get out our old navy blue diesel Mercedes, and I would shimmy onto the perforated tan leather of the backseat, strap myself in, and stick my nose to the window. All the way down the FDR drive, I would stare from left to right, from the dark, coursing waters of the East River and the neon stare of the advertisements on Long Island, back to the gleaming, polished landmarks of the city, the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, Sutton Place. After a few turns around the narrow, haphazard streets of the Lower East Side, the yank of a parking break, the unclick of a seatbelt, and the definitive bang of an old Mercedes door, we had arrived.

One of the most blessed things about New York is that a twenty minute jaunt down along a riverside highway can take you from the staid life of 90-degree corners on the Upper East Side to the tangled, heady and perfumed, sparking maze of Chinatown. It radiated red. From the curling, flaming dragons that seemed to come alive from the flags that marked the restaurants to the pop of the firecrackers at the Chinese New Year, to my young eyes, I had taken some version of the Orient Express. And the food was just as exotic. Every restaurant had its own flock of ducks, plucked and glazed, roasted and crisped, hanging from the neck from the poultry galleys before the windows. We walked in one cold winter night to the sight of two old Chinese women, seated on both sides of a plate of snails, and with one suck, followed by one spit, they chewed their way through the mountain faster than Far Eastern gun powder. My standard order at the time was baby corn with brown sauce—not very adventurous or very Chinese—and though I found the culinary habits of the place positively barbaric, I prided my young ego on the knowledge that I was adventurous and brave and located somewhere entirely too exotic for words.

I miss having Szechuan Hunan Cottage on York Avenue on speed dial. I miss being able to get the Cold Sesame Noodles and Scallion Pancake for lunch for less than five dollars, and have enough food to tide me over for dinner the next night. I miss Ollie’s green dumpling wrappers and the finger-painted mess of spare ribs. Chinese food is so much a part of a New Yorker’s culinary upbringing, that being away from the takeout mainstays of my childhood has relegated me to ceaseless, gnawing hunger—in my heart and in my stomach.

So, this week, I have created three Chinese-inspired French recipes. The first, Brie and Avocado Spring Rolls, keeps the best part of the spring roll intact: the crispy, crunchy shell. Inside, however, is filled with the creamy, mild combination of brie and avocado, and once fried, the little cigars are dipped in a French take on Chinese mustard: a Dijon and sundried tomato crème fraiche. The second recipes comes from a great restaurant on the Lower East Side called the Stanton Social that serves little “tapas” plates from every walk of cuisine. The French Onion Soup Dumplings show how East, in the form of wonton skins, and West, in the form of Gruyere cheese, can coexist in perfect harmony. And the last, Duck Cassis, is a take on the crispy ducks for which Chinatown is famous, but bathed in a rosemary and black currant glaze, and eaten, to allow for a certain amount of indulgent ignorance, without the neck.

Buckle your seat belt, and stick your nose to the window. We’re going down to Chinatown.

Brie and Avocado Eggrolls

Brie and Avocado Eggrolls

Brie and Avocado Spring Rolls

20 spring roll wrappers

135 grams of brie, cut into matchsticks

1 avocado, cut into matchsticks


Vegetable oil for frying

2 tablespoons of crème fraiche

2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard

½ tablespoon of grain mustard

½ tablespoon of sundried tomato paste

  1. Fill a deep pot halfway with vegetable oil, and heat it on medium until it reaches 325 degrees.
  2. Meanwhile, assemble the spring rolls. Use to spring roll wrappers per finished spring roll, lining one simply on top of the other. Fill with avocado and brie, equal parts each, and a sprinkle of salt. Be sure not to overstuff!
  3. To complete the roll, dip your finger in a bowl of water, and wet the edges of the pastry, as though you were licking an envelope to seal it. Then roll it like a burrito, tucking up first the corner nearest you, then the left and right corners in, and finally roll into the familiar cigar shape.
  4. Once you have assembled your rolls, be sure all corners are sealed, and fry them gently in batches until they are crispy and golden, about 4-5 minutes.
  5. Serve with the sauce, made simply by mixing the crème fraiche, mustards, and sundried tomato paste together.

French Onion Soup Dumplings

French Onion Soup Dumplings

French Onion Soup Dumplings

2/3 cup of onions from the bottom of a French onion soup pot (homemade, Whole Foods, a deli, or, if at a loss, try sauteing onions for a long time with instant French Onion Soup mix)

10 store-bought wanton wrappers

4 fresh chopped mint leaves

¾ cup of shredded gruyere cheese

2 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese

1 pat of butter, divided into smaller dots

Snipped chives for garnish

  1. Preheat the broiler.
  2. To assemble the dumplings, take a wanton wrapper in your hand and stuff the middle with about a tablespoon of the onions. Dipping your finger in some water or cool soup, moisten all the wanton’s edges, and then twist them together to form a little dumpling package.
  3. Arrange all ten dumplings, knot-side down, in a small gratin dish that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.
  4. Sprinkle the mint on top, followed by a blanket of the gruyere, and finally the parmesan. Next drop the little dots of butter over the top to help the cheese to bubble and brown.
  5. Broil the dumplings for 5 minutes, or until the cheese is entirely melted, golden, and irresistible.
  6. Snip chives over the top, stick a sophisticated toothpick in each, and serve.


Crispy Cassis Duck
serves 4

Duck CassisIngredients

  • 1 5 ½-pound duck
  • 1 cup of black current jam
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon of rosemary


  1. Cut little holes in the skin of the duck, not going quite down to the meat.
  2. Place the duck in a deep pot and cover with water and a lid. Boil the duck for 45 minutes, allowing some of the fat to escape from beneath its skin.
  3. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
  4. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, heat the jam, butter, garlic, and rosemary together until they become a loose and smooth glaze.
  5. Transfer the duck from the boiling pot to a rack on an oiled roasting pan.
  6. Pat the duck dry with paper towels, season with salt and pepper, and brush with olive oil to get the skin really crispy.
  7. You will roast the duck at 500 degrees for 30 minutes total, but you should baste it with the currant glaze after 20 and 25 minutes. Serve the rest of the glaze as an accompanying sauce.
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Categories: Recipes

You Can Lead a Horse to Water…

RECIPE: La Vie en Rose

At Tortilla Flats, NYC

scroll down for these cocktail recipes…


La Vie en Rose

Kir Royale Glacé

Last Wednesday I attended the opening night of Sex and the City—the movie—appropriately enough, with my girlfriends. As Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte sat around the table, sipping those Jem-pink Cosmopolitans they made famous, one of them asked, “Why did we ever stop drinking these?” Another retorted, “Because everyone else started!” But alas, Cosmos are “an oldie, but a goody.”

It got me thinking about cocktails, probably because while the girls on the screen were drinking like fish in the sea, the girls in the seats were drying up like camels in the dessert. As finals approach, and my dissertation deadline is one week away, I have seated myself comfortably on the wagon, which is hopefully following the road to success.

My first week at Princeton, I was walking across the campus late one night with my best friend, and we ran into a fellow freshman. He was a boy who had clearly spent his entire pre-adult life on the same wagon, following that same long and winding road, and once it had reached success, had tumbled out into a river of vodka…and beer, and whiskey, and possibly champagne. The boy had become so drunk that he walked into a moving police car. It seemed that what he needed to learn at Princeton wouldn’t be taught in lecture—maturity.

I could never sympathize with excessive drinking, because alcohol had never been forbidden to me. French parents wean their children onto wine from the beginning, and when I was five years old, I went up to my mother, intrigued by the ruby liquor before her, and asked if I might taste it. “One finger,” she told me, and so I gingerly dipped one curious, childish finger into her wine and licked it. I promptly fell asleep for twelve hours. And while I would like to say that I never overdid it again, in vino veritas, and I so I can’t tell a lie. But an apple martini has never been forbidden fruit to me, and so what I love about alcohol, which I think may be a bit rare, is not its privileged properties, but its taste—mainly in the forms of Champagne, gin, and whiskey.

As the girls from Sex and the City would tell you, cocktails in New York are a matter of fashion. First there was the tall and fruity and psychedelic trend, like the Cosmopolitan and the Sour Apple Martini, then the cool and classic and understated trend, like Prohibition Punch and the Sidecar. When I left it seemed that Champagne was making a comeback, and now that I’m in England, I’ve discovered the Collins: Elderflower and Mint, Blackberry and Violet.

So this week I offer you three ways to toast. The first is a drink I discovered in Brest when I was fifteen, and hoping to pass as eighteen, at a pub in Bretagne. It is called a Panache, and is an example of how the French, so comfortable with the idea of alcohol consumption, have no problem diluting it—because for the French, like for me, it is about taste, not intoxication. Beer is mixed with ginger ale for a slightly sweet, easier drink for watching the World Cup with your Mr. Big. If you add a slug of grenadine, the Panache becomes a Monaco—perfect for poker night with just the girls. The next recipe is inspired by one of my favorite New York restaurants, often featured in Sex and the City as well—Pastis. La Vie en Rose starts with a sugar cube in the bottom of a Champagne flute, that is then doused in heady rose water, and set to sparkle with a top off of rosé Champagne. And last, I have a reinvention of another “oldie, but goody,” the Kir Royale, with my Kir Royale Glacé. In a champagne flute, I drop a tiny ball of cassis sorbet, tempered with a shot of Absolut Kurant, and finished with a shower of Champagne.

Even if you have a dissertation to write, life is always full of things to toast: great friends, a great city, or even just a great movie. As they say, you can lead a horse to water…

And this is how you make him drink.

Panaché & Monaco

Panaché & Monaco

Panache & Monaco

6 cans of Kronenbourg 1664, or any beer, ice cold

3 cans of ginger ale, ice cold

A good slug of grenadine

Orange slices

  1. Pour the beer and soda into a pitcher for a Panache, and add the grenadine for a Monaco.
  2. For a touch of Parisian glamour, throw in some orange slices.

Kir Royale Glacé

Kir Royale Glacé

Kir Royale Glacé

Cassis, or black currant, sorbet

Absolut Kurant, from the freezer

Champagne, chilled

  1. Pour ½ shot of vodka into the bottom of each champagne flute.
  2. Use a melon baller or a teaspoon to drop one or two balls of sorbet into the flutes as well.
  3. Top each glass with cold champagne.


La Vie en Rose

La Vie en RoseIngredients

  • Pink champagne, chilled
  • Sugar cubes
  • Rosewater


  1. Pour 1 tablespoon, or ½ shot, of rosewater into a champagne flute.
  2. Top with cold pink champagne.
  3. Drop a sugar cube into each and watch them fizz.

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Categories: Cocktails, Drinks, Eat, Recipes

Roman Holiday

RECIPE: Pasta au Chèvre

Eating Pizza in Rome

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Heirloom Tomato Salad with Goat Cheese, Basil, and Mint

Calamari with Harissa Aioli

Pasta au Chevre

There are two things that I do when I need a bit of comfort: watch Audrey Hepburn movies and eat Italian food. Alas, for the sake of efficiency, more than one rainy day a season will find me seated in front of Roman Holiday with a pile of pasta parked neatly in the bowl in my hand as I unceremoniously twirl and chew away.

When my ex-boyfriend got engaged to be married, I was the first of my group to have lost a man so definitively to another woman. To celebrate his, well, celebrated and final departure from our lives, we went, in the spirit of comfort, to Little Italy, for a “Ding, Dong the Warlock is Dead” party. Nothing makes you feel better than tumbling jumbles of fried calamari drenched in happy-yellow lemons or the mellow mouthful of penne vodka when you’re hoping that not all the alcohol escaped from the pan before it made it onto your plate.

But I think the reason Italian food is so comforting is because it is the food of celebration. In an ironic twist, my current boyfriend surprised me for Christmas with a trip to Rome, a city I had visited miserably once before while haplessly and hopelessly attached to “the warlock.” I was thrilled to be able to try Italy again, to be in love in Rome like Audrey, and of course, because it’s me, to taste the food.

Tasting is was certainly not the word of the weekend, because I think the Oxford English Dictionary would list words like “small,” “picayune,” and “dainty” somewhere near it, and I think it was somewhere between the Spanish Steps and the Coliseum that my boyfriend realized that I’m quite the eater. The first night was filet mignon grilled Tuscan style, then risotto with truffles on a sidewalk café. Stracciatelle gelato and lemon granita. All washed down with wine. But the best was walking down the Piazza Navona (he had, at this point, confiscated my guidebook), being hailed by a true Roman, and treated to, who needs a menu, whatever he recommended. We had antipasti and I had spaghetti with shellfish and there was tiramisu and more wine and I don’t remember getting home that night. But I do remember feeling like Lady, sharing a plate of pasta with the roguishly handsome Tramp to the light of candles dripping the hours lingeringly down the side of a wine bottle in wax.

These three recipes are French influences on Italian restaurant classics. The Insalate Caprese is made over with heirloom tomatoes, French goat cheese, opal basil, and mint. The classic calamari fritti is served with a harissa aioli. And for pasta, fresh maccheroni is tossed in a regal but comfortable red sauce tinged pink with goat cheese, parmesan, and crème fraiche.

In just a few months, I found myself a very lucky girl indeed, as I went from Little Italy to a Roman holiday. And while I didn’t cut my hair, or dance on a barge, or cause a fist fight, I can say that my favorite city on this European tour is emphatically, “Rome!”

Goat Cheese Caprese Salad

Goat Cheese Caprese Salad

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Goat Cheese, Basil, and Mint

4 large tomatoes, or the equivalent, in a variety of tomatoes: yellow taxi, zebra, beefsteak

¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

¼ cup of chopped fresh basil leaves, opal (purple) basil if you can find it

¼ cup of chopped fresh mint leaves

5-6 ounces of chevre, crumbled

Salt and pepper

  1. Slice the tomatoes, or halve them if using cherries.
  2. Lay them out on a platter, varying their colors and sizes. Salt them now—this is crucial.
  3. Next scatter the herbs and the cheese, and then lightly season again. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

Calamari with Harissa Aioli

2 pounds of frozen calamari rings, defrosted

Flour for dredging (about 2 cups)

1/4 cup of dried parsley (optional)

Salt and pepper

1 cup of mayonnaise

1 clove of garlic

1 tablespoon of harissa

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

  1. Start by filling a large, deep pan half way up with vegetable oil, over medium heat.
  2. Next, add the mayonnaise, garlic, lemon juice and zest, and harissa to the food processor, and blend it into a smooth rouge aioli.
  3. Plunge the calamari rings into the flour, seasoned with the parsley, salt, and pepper, and shake off the excess.
  4. Working in batches, fry the calamari the hot oil. Test one to see if the oil is hot enough. It should sink, and then rise lightly in a cloud of bubbles.
  5. When the calamari are crisp and golden, about three minutes later, drain them on a stack of paper towels, and dust them with salt.
  6. Serve with the harissa aioli.


Pasta au Chèvre
serves 4

Pasta au ChèvreIngredients

  • 500 grams fresh macaroni
  • 350 grams marinara sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of crème fraîche
  • 75 grams chevre (goat’s cheese)
  • Dusting of fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Cook the fresh pasta according to package directions. Be sure to salt the water, and because fresh pasta cooks so quickly, be sure to taste test it one minute before what the packet recommends. Drain.
  2. Heat the marinara sauce in the pan over medium low heat. Stir in the crème fraîche.
  3. Add the pasta back into the pot and season with salt and pepper. Break up the chevre (make sure it is cold) into the pot, and allow it to melt in chunks into the pasta, but do not incorporate it fully. Stir in a speckling of fresh parsley.
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Categories: 15 Minutes, Eat, Main Courses, Recipes, Sides, Starches, Vegetarian, Vegetarian

Old School

RECIPE: Pain au Chocolat Bread Pudding

Dinner at Pembroke Hall

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Pumpkin Bisque

Porc de Provence

Pain au Chocolat Bread Pudding

Last weekend, my father came to England from New York on a business trip. He took me to dinner at the Ivy in London, and took him to formal hall at my college in Oxford. Separated only by one day, the striking dissimilarity between the two meals was tantamount in my mind, and my mouth, as I sat dissecting my “stewed” steak and plain steamed vegetables on the hard wood bench. If only this were the mustardy endive salad, lamb and spring vegetable stew (the same word really does not apply!), and lavender crème brulée I had experienced only one night before. I sighed.

But as I looked up at my father sitting amongst my college friends, I realized that I had never seen him so animated and he kept exclaiming, “why, this is much better than I thought!” I must admit the hall meal wasn’t as drab or mismatched that night as usual, plus we had reservations at his hotel restaurant later as a parachute plan. But I smiled as I confessed to myself: I love hall! Sitting in a room whose panels have witnessed parliamentary debates, centuries full of generations of eager young scholars who talked only of future hopes, having not yet been infected by the disillusionment that all adults eventually catch like a common cold, being caressed by the warmth of tradition and camaraderie and candlelight. If these walls could talk, what secrets they could tell! As we became as warm and rosy as our wine, and we spilled some on the table along with a handful of stories and grins and gasps, I realized that, fortunately, food is not what hall is all about.

But some Oxford colleges retain Michelin star chefs! And, I have been invited to sit at the high table with the master and the dons and their guests, and the food was exquisite: monkfish brochettes, filet mignon on a pancake of potato with wild mushrooms and spring vegetables, a gingersnap sugar cage catching fresh fruits and sorbet. Now that’s food for thought, commensurate to the conversation that is bantered back and forth across the table like an intellectual food fight.

They shoot the hall scenes of the Harry Potter movies in the hall of a college across the street. We, too, wear gowns, but where is the pumpkin juice, the roasts, the plenty!? I suppose it was all magic, after all.

So this week, in honor of my soon-to-be alma mater, I am reinventing some English Oxford hall classics, which just proves my point that French ingenuity can enliven even the drabbest English cafeteria dish! The secret, that magic, behind cooking for a lot of people, is cooking things that you don’t have to chop extra for, or clean more pots for. Just get a bigger soup pot out, a bigger roasting dish, and a bigger baking pan. These are recipes you can double or triple, and all you have to do is keep pulling things out of the oven with as little trouble as Mary Poppins has pulling a few extra floor lamps out of her carpet tote.

But frankly, some of the warmth of hall is not only from the deep wooden walls or the crowded pews, but from the comfort food that inevitably ends up on the plate. Whether or not the dish is a culinary success varies, but invariably, the dish is hot, slow-cooked, and satisfying, whether the perennial rain or exams be your ailment. Even if I’m cooking for two, with these recipes, at least, I can return epicureanly to this very special school ever after my dissertation is bound and in, a deadline then looms with finality only three short weeks away.

My reinvention of the Oxford hall classic Carrot and Coriander Soup is my Pumpkin Bisque (a bit of an homage to Harry Potter, I suppose), a spiced soup that when, made in greater quantities, does not require much more chopping or baby-sitting on your part.

Instead of the traditional Roast Loin of Pork with Apple Sauce, we will be having my Porc de Provence: a roasted loin of port seared in a crust of herbs de Provence, and roasted with wine and topped with a sweet marmalade of onions. You can make one or nine in the same time, so long as your roasting pan is big enough! Plus, you can make the onions ahead of time. I would serve it with some pencil asparagus and harictos verts, tossed in some olive oil and salt and pepper, and roasted for about 20 minutes in the same oven with the pork.

For dessert, instead of the omnipresent Bread and Butter Pudding, we will be swapping the butter for chocolate and the bread for croissants in my Pain au Chocolate Bread Pudding for a puffed-up, ooey-gooey change. Just don’t forget, when filling your oven, you may need to raise your temperature or increase your cooking time. Just check to be sure the pudding is cooked all the way through, and the pork reaches a temperature of 145 degrees before you take it out of the oven.

Oxford is still beautiful in its old age, and the ancient, crumbling buildings are rejuvenated each year by a remarkable tide of fresh youth. It’s about time my ancient and crumbling hall is rejuvenated by some fresh, young versions of the great Oxonian hall classics. Hear hear!

Pumpkin Bisque

Pumpkin Bisque

Pumpkin Bisque

1 15-ounce can pumpkin

½ onion, diced

1 celery stalk, diced

1 carrot, diced

1 bay leaf

1 cinnamon stick

2 sprigs thyme

1 tablespoon of butter

1 tablespoon of olive oil

½ cup white win

1 quart chicken stock

¼ cup cream

  1. Add the butter and oil to a stock pot over medium-low heat and add the onion, celery, carrot, bay, cinnamon, and thyme.
  2. Allow to soften, and add the wine, and allow to reduce.
  3. Add the pumpkin and stock.
  4. Allow to simmer on low uncovered for 30 minutes.
  5. Carefully using a blender, puree the soup.
  6. Return to pot and stir in the cream. Serve!

Porc de Provence

Porc de Provence

Porc de Provence

1 2-pound pork loin, bound with twine

2 tablespoons of herbes de Provence

10 fresh sage leaves

3 sprigs of fresh rosemary

5 sprigs of fresh thyme

¼ cup of olive oil

¾ cup of dry white wine

¾ cup of chicken stock

1 shallot, halved

1 carrot, halved

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon of butter

2 onions, sliced

½ teaspoon of orange marmalade

1 sprig of fresh thyme

2 tablespoons of olive oil

  1. Start by sautéing the onions. In a large pan, heat the olive oil on medium heat. Add the onions and thyme, salt and pepper.
  2. Reduce the heat to very low and simmer for about 1 hour and 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the marmalade about 1 hour into the cooking.
  4. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  5. Season the pork loin with salt and pepper.
  6. Mix the dried herbs with the olive oil, and massage the rub all over the meat.
  7. Place a pan large enough to sear and roast the meat, and that has a lid, on the stove on medium-high heat, and sear the pork loin on all sides, about 1-2 minutes per side, until a golden crust is formed.
  8. Place the wine and stock and whole fresh herbs in the pan, along with the shallot and carrot, and cover with a lid.
  9. Remove the meat from the pan, and return the pan to medium heat on the stove. Strain the jus of the herbs and vegetables, and place it back on the stove, whisking in the very cold butter to finish the sauce.
  10. After allowing the pork to rest for 10 minutes after coming out of the oven, slice it and pour a bit of the jus over the slices to keep them moist. Top the meat with the sweet onions, and serve the rest of the jus alongside.


Pain au Chocolat Bread Pudding

Pain au Chocolat PuddingIngredients

  • 6 croissants, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2/3 cup of milk
  • 1 1/3 cups of cream
  • ½ teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • ½ cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 4 eggs


  1. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a hand mixer. Beat in the sugar until it is incorporated.
  2. Add the milk and cream, the vanilla and the cinnamon. Beat to combine.
  3. Drop the croissant cubes and chocolate chips into the custard, and allow it to sit for a bit to ensure that the croissants drink up the liquid.
  4. Spray your baking dish with nonstick cooking spray, and tumble the custard-soaked cubes and chocolate into it.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  6. When it comes to temperature, bake the pudding for 45 minutes, until the top is puffed and crisp.
  7. Scoop out a warm mound onto a plate and top with powdered sugar.
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Categories: Chocolate, Desserts, Eat, Recipes

Tout Sweet

RECIPE: Strawberry Rose Macaron Cupcakes

In Buenos Aires

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Champagne Jell-O

Strawberry Rose Macaron Cupcakes

Palmier Jamboree

As a girl in my twenties, I have to admit that dessert commands a certain amount of sacrifice. As I leave behind the last vestiges of childhood, a touch of youthful vim leads to a nostalgic gnaw for sweet. But I cannot eat—or drink—with the same wild abandon and disregard that I took so breathlessly for granted only a few short years ago without seeing certain…alterations. As F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “One cannot both spend and have,” and it seems that in order to have a young, spritely figure, one cannot spend calories without certain adult restraint and comprehension of consequence. To quote a slightly less canonical, but still influential, refrigerator magnet, “Nothing tastes as good as thin feels.”

But deprivation is not me, nor is it French. I believe in living life to the fullest, but when being adult and keeping to a certain “budget,” it means spending wisely. Eating dessert makes me feel free and indulgent and alive…and young. To get the bang for my buck, I don’t want some grown-up dessert that is some master chef’s culinary science fair presentation. I don’t want sobriety in sweet; I want hilarity. I want mischief and whimsy. I crave laughter and frivolity. When I eat something as gloriously tacky as a cone of dulce de leche soft serve McDonald’s ice cream in Argentina, it’s because I absolutely refuse to take myself too seriously, and if I’m going to be young and eat dessert, then I want to feel young and positively silly. To me, that’s a solid investment.

Of course, I don’t mean to glorify immaturity—I’m not talking about opening a pack of Entenmann’s donuts and going to town (although, that powdered sugar mustache will never age for me!). I just mean that if you’re going to have fun, commit to it, in flavor and in presentation. Last week I was at an Italian restaurant in Oxford and I was positively inebriated with love and romance, and lunches like that deserve desserts. I ordered something hardly puerile, but yet distinctly sparkling and fresh and irreverent, like youth: elderflower jelly (that’s Jell-O to we Americans) with fresh summer berries suspended like planets in some sort of half-solidified perfume. It was served in a tea cup, and it was crazy, and it was perfect.

So this week, my recipes are tout sweet, and, to borrow another quote, this time from Nigella Lawson, they are testaments to a bit of “kitsch in the kitchen.” They all match my current musings on my mood: they are childish reinventions of very adult creations. The first is Champagne Jell-O, with a twist. I set champagne infused with sugar and citrus zest with gelatin, pour it into champagne flutes, and serve alongside Biscuits Roses de Reims or long-stem strawberries. It usually takes my friends a moment to realize they can’t drink it. But, it sparkles like champagne, it celebrates like champagne, and like champagne, it will make you as inebriated as I was at my elderflower luncheon.

The next two recipes, Strawberry Rose Macaron Cupcakes and Palmier Jamboree, are both inspired by my favorite bakery in Paris, and in the entire world: Laduree. My mother and I, when in Paris’s St. Germain district, stop by the teahouse nearly every afternoon. She eats one half of a palmier, a giant “elephant ear” of buttery, flakey, crisp, and very sweet puff pastry that she revels in as it regales her in golden shards of crumbs. For me, it has always been and will always be about the macaron. It is not the American coconut glob (I say this with deep affection), but the French wafer of almond flour—crisp as a robin shell on the outside, giving way to chewy sumptuous depths within, all caging such delicate flavors as rose or orange flower, glued together by the cool cream between the sandwiched, Easter-hued halves.

But French Revolution is not about teaching you to make palmiers or macarons from scratch. Puff pastry is difficult and sensitive, rather like a petulant child you have to cajole into behaving. And as I said earlier, I am too young for such mature responsibilities! Macarons depend on the weather, the oven, the artist—I’d rather just pay someone to place them methodically into a box that I can munch through by the Seine. But what I can show you are clever, tongue-in-cheek incarnations of the classics. For the Strawberry Rose Macaron Cupcakes I use (Laduree forgive me!) Duncan Hines cake mix, tinged pink with that Chanel No. 5 of youth (all you need is a drop!)—red food coloring. Rose cream and fresh strawberries give the cupcake a college degree and a whiff of maturity. For the palmiers, I use (again, forgive me!) Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pastry, thawed, and painted with a Technicolor array of jams, sprinkled with starry sugar, and peeled hot and sticky from a Silpat.

I’m trying to grow up, I really am. But I’m still a child at stomach. These desserts cater to an adult palate while giving you that same hysterical sensation of having popsicle juice streaming through your helpless, sticky fingers as you throw your head back and laugh and know that life is fun and gloriously free of consequences. Welcome back to the sweet life.

Champagne Jell-O

2 ½ cups of champagne

1 ½ cups of water

3 ½ tablespoons of sugar

2 packets of unflavored gelatin

4 strips of orange zest

4 strips of lemon zest

  1. First, take the zest you need by peeling the citrus with a vegetable peeler, four times each.
  2. Next, bring the water to a boil and whisk in the sugar, gelatin, and citrus zests.
  3. Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  4. Add the champagne to the cooled mixture, and whisk it all together. Discard the zests.
  5. Pour the mixture into champagne flutes, and refrigerate overnight.
  6. Serve with biscuits roses de Reims, a traditional accompaniment for champagne, or long-stem strawberries.

Palmier Jamboree

Palmier Jamboree

Palmier Jamboree

2 sheets of thawed but cold frozen puff pastry

¼ cup of apricot jam

¼ cup of strawberry jam

¼ cup of blueberry jam

¼ cup of raspberry jam

2 tablespoons of butter, melted

Plenty of granulated sugar for sprinkling—about ¼ cup

  1. Take each sheet of puff pastry and mentally divide it in half: the back half for one flavor of jam, the front half for another.
  2. Paint most of one flavor on the first half, most of a second flavor on the second half.
  3. Now, working opposite your line of division, fold the right and left edges of the pastry over almost so they meet in the middle.
  4. Paint the remaining bit of jam on this layer, keeping the flavors consistent with what is underneath.
  5. Then fold again almost to the center, and then press the two halves together.
  6. Repeat using the second sheet of pastry and the rest of the jams.
  7. Freeze the rolls of pastry and jam for 30 minutes and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  8. Slice the rolls about ½ inch thick into jam-filled palmiers.
  9. Arrange them flat on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper or better yet a Silpat. Cleanup will be next to impossible otherwise.
  10. Brush with butter and sprinkle liberally with sugar.
  11. Bake for about 22 minutes.
  12. Allow to cool on the baking sheets before scraping up and arranging on a plate and eating with reckless abandon.


Strawberry Rose Macaron Cupcakes

Macaron CupcakesIngredients

  • 1 box Duncan Hines white cake mix
  • ½ teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon of almond extract
  • 1 tablespoon of rosewater
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 1/3 cups of water
  • 2 tablespoons of melted, cool butter
  • 4 drops of red food coloring
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon of rosewater
  • 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar
  • 10 strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together all the ingredients for the cupcake batter: the cake mix, vanilla, almond extract, rosewater, egg whites, water, butter, and red food coloring. Mix until the batter is well-incorporated.
  3. Grease a 24-mini-muffin tin with nonstick spray.
  4. Spoon the batter about two-thirds of the way up the sides of the muffin tins. You really do not want these cupcakes to form a cap. You want them to stay a uniform size all over, so you want to leave enough room in each tin for the cupcakes to rise without baking over the rim of each mold. The tin will not require all the batter.
  5. Bake the cupcakes for 20 minutes. Allow them to cool for 15 minutes in the tin, and then on a cooling rack until they are completely cool.
  6. To make the cream filling, beat the cold heavy cream with a hand mixer. Add the rosewater and the little bit of sugar. Beat until you have whipped cream.
  7. To assemble the macarons, slice each cupcake in half horizontally. Lay a couple of strawberry slices on the bottom half, top with a bit of rose cream, and then crown with the top half of the cupcakes. Press down and make the perfect little pink rose-and-strawberry macaron.
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Categories: Desserts, Eat, Recipes

Tapas Fracas

RECIPE: Pink Provençal Sangria

Lunch in Barcelona

scroll down for these recipes…

Crispy Artichoke Hearts

Escarole and Fennel Salad with Manchego and Lemon

Spiced Sausage Skewers with Mint Creme Fraiche

Pink Provençal Sangria

Emerson said that consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds…I say inconsistency is the hobgoblin of small plates! And by inconsistency, I mean variety in a meal, and by hobgoblin, I mean little darling!

By way of confession, I have been known to eat the same Pizza Margherita from Pizza Express three times a week. I return to the same places to eat the same thing, like #28 (Chilli Mushroom Ramen) from Wagamama or the Avocado Bacon Burger from Gourmet Burger Kitchen. Truth be told, perhaps I can be a bit boring in my devotion to reliability.

Luckily, I just traveled back to Barcelona, where the winding medieval streets, sidewalk menageries, seaside Spanish singers, and, of course, the tapas create barriers to boredom that cannot be overstepped. Even though we did return to Taller de Tapas twice (heaven forbid!), the menu was so extensive, that I just had to order something different. I was like Alice in a culinary Wonderland—everything on every menu said “eat me,” and with no commitment, because they all came on plates meant for tea cups (I wonder what the Mad Hatter would have had to say about that!).

My parents always advised me not to sweat the small stuff, not to let little things bother me. I am so glad the Spanish did not have my parents, because they definitely sweat over the small stuff in the kitchen. On two adjoining tapas terraces we witnessed a fight when a passionate waiter lost his cool as former customers chose the neighboring tapas over his own. I thought we would be hand-grenaded by flying marinated baby octopus, but thankfully a resolution was reached in time to save both my outfit and the tasty little tapas.

I think the reason I love tapas is because I can try a little of everything. Today seems to be a day of confessions, and I must confess that I am going through a bit of a quarter-life crisis at 25. There is so much pressure to choose my career, my spouse, and my future…much less my dinner! Last weekend at the Ivy in London, I changed my order three times! I just seems to me if you are going to invest…in a person, in your future, in your meal…you better be damn sure you’re going to like what you get.

If only life were a little bit more like a Spanish restaurant, where all things are approached with passion and conviction, but there is room enough for everything. Metaphorically, there is room for passion and livelihood, friendship and matrimony, success and family. Physically, a Spanish tapas table can squeeze on such a variety as fried calamari, patatas bravas, marinated sardines, grilled asparagus, slow-roasted mountain lamb, seared chorizo, and of course a bottle of Cava or a pitcher of Sangria. If only life offered such ample space for such abundant opportunities. I suppose the Spanish know not only how to eat, but how to live!

What amazed me most was how I felt in Spain: always satisfied! In Mireille Guiliano’s famous book of a few years ago, French Women Don’t Get Fat, which affirmed my every dieting conviction, she argued that variety was indeed the spice of life, literally. She said that if you eat many truly flavorful, not just tasty or preferred, foods, you would feel full and satisfied with less food than if you sat yourself down in front of a mountain of spaghetti and meatballs and ate until the mountain of food had transfigured into the cave of the bowl. I think in a Mediterranean city like Barcelona where you are always walking in that skin-soaking sunshine, you cannot be weighted down by heaps of food. You want to experience satiety without heaviness. Thus, the food is piquant—statement plates. Each one is the diamond brooch, the ruby cocktail ring, a piece in itself.

Tapas are so trendy now, aren’t they? There’s Maria Batali’s Casa Mono in New York that gives a slight Italian twist to the very Spanish menu. Here in Oxford there is Kazbar, a Moroccan tea house that serves little spicy plates. Even the chain All Bar One serves “tapas.” We want the joys of much too much; we want to be able to try everything, to be constantly entertained and amused, never bored, never overly-committed. I couldn’t be more thrilled! Tapas are the perfect thing to serve for just a couple or a crowd. They help you do something with that half a zucchini left over in the fridge, or that scant helping of mustard at the bottom of the jar. If you have a million people over, don’t just make chicken! I don’t happen to like it myself, so it’s just some evil old wives’ tale that “everyone loves chicken.” Don’t be afraid to make a bunch of things. The Spanish tapas are bold, but never complicated. They let the flavors speak for themselves—like plain grilled asparagus that showcased only the asparagus themselves and the simple, omnipresent duet of extra virgin olive oil and Maldon sea salt.

In this week’s French Revolution, I have moved up the Mediterranean coast back to France for Gallic inspiration in the Spanish tapas format. The first recipe, Crispy Artichoke Hearts with Lemon, is influenced by the shaved fried artichoke hearts I saw everywhere in Barcelona. But drenched in lemon, the crisp green hearts leave me feeling very Rosemary Hoyt, as though I had spent the day kissed by the Riviera sun and was dining out-of-doors, my artichokes seasoned by the salty sea breeze. The Escarole and Fennel Salad is studded with precious hazelnuts and velvety oranges, shown to advantage with a coat of olive oil and lemon juice. The sausage takes its cue, certainly, from Spanish chorizo, but I have substituted the French colonial flavors of Moroccan merguez and New Orleans’ andouille, cooled by a creamy mild mint sauce. And finally, no tapas party would be a party without Sangria…I have made mine à la Provence, using Cotes de Provence rosé wine and pink fruits, with club soda adding the final sparkle.

So, my main message this week is: never settle. Try a little bit of everything, and only then, once you have tasted it all, will you be satisfied. Sometimes it’s good to travel—out of America, out of England, even out of France. And once there, over the din of a tapas fracas, perhaps you’ll find just what you were looking for: joie de vivre, or the spice of life.

Crispy Artichoke Hearts

Crispy Artichoke Hearts

Crispy Artichoke Hearts with Lemon

1 9-ounce package of frozen artichokes hearts, thawed

½ cup of buttermilk

¾ cup of panko, or Japanese bread crumbs

1 lemon, cut into 6 wedges

Vegetable oil for frying

A generous sprinkling of salt

  1. Fill a deep pot one third of the way up the side with vegetable oil. Heat the oil on medium heat. You’ll know the oil is ready to fry by placing the butt of a wooden spoon down into oil. Little bubbles should just start to rise.
  2. Sit the artichokes in the buttermilk, then lift each out and allow the excess buttermilk to drip off.
  3. Coat each buttermilked artichoke into the panko.
  4. Fry the artichokes until crisp, and allow to drain on a deck of paper towels or a cooling rack.
  5. Sprinkle with salt while they are still warm and can absorb the flavor.
  6. Serve with the lemon wedges—they make all the difference.
Escarole and Manchego Salad

Escarole and Manchego Salad

Escarole and Fennel Salad with Manchego and Lemon

1 head of escarole, cored and cut into bite-size pieces

1 fennel bulb, trimmed and shaved as thinly you can manage

½ cup of toasted halved hazelnuts

1 cup of grated manchego cheese

4 oranges, supremed

Juice of 1 lemon

¼ cup of olive oil

Salt and pepper

  1. If you don’t already know how to supreme an orange, now is the perfect time to learn. Start by cutting off the top and bottom of the orange. The key is not to remove too much of the flesh, but always to cut down to the flesh. In other words, you are removing the rind and the pith. Sit the orange on its flat bottom and run a paring knife down the sides, removing the unwanted layers in large strips. When you have the naked fruit, take the knife and separate the fleshy segments from the membranes. These segments are now supremes, and you can repeat this surgery on any citrus fruit.
  2. Getting back to the salad, toss everything together simply and serve.
Spicy Sausage Skewers

Spiced Sausage Skewers

Spiced Sausage Skewers with Mint Creme Fraiche

½ cup of crème fraiche

½ cup of Greek yogurt

¼ cup of packed fresh mint leaves

Salt and pepper

600 grams of raw Merguez sausage links

600 grams of raw Andouille sausage links

1 tablespoon of olive oil

  1. Soak 8-12 bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes.
  2. In a blender, whiz together the crème fraiche, yogurt, mint, salt and pepper until it is smooth and pale mint green. Return to the fridge.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and the sausages, and sauté for 20 minutes, turning them over every now and again. The casings should crisp up but not char too deeply.
  4. Allow the sausages to cool, and slice them in 1-inch round discs. Skewer the pieces, alternating merguez and andouille, through the casings so that the uncharred meat of the sausage faces out.
  5. Heat the skillet again over medium high heat. Place the sausage skewers meat side down in the hot skillet, and sauté 3 minutes per side, or until they are charred.
  6. Serve alongside the mint cream and slices of toasted olive bread.

*Note: I usually find normal sized fat sausage links, but these sausages come smaller. If given the option, choose the smaller, and simply use more skewers, and reduce the original cooking time of the whole sausages.


Pink Provençal Sangria


  • 1 bottle chilled rosé wine from Provence
  • 1 good slug of Triple Sec
  • Simple syrup, made of ¼ cup sugar dissolved into ¼ cup of hot water, and allowed to cool
  • 1 liter of seltzer
  • 1 pink lady apple, cored and diced
  • 1 pink grapefruit, sliced
  • 1 cup watermelon balls
  • Handful of raspberries
  • Handful of strawberries, hulled and halved


  1. I like to serve this "prom punch" style, so drop all the fruit into a big glass punch bowl.
  2. Add in the wine, then the Triple Sec, and syrup. You really do not need to let this sit for a day, but you could. Just a few hours, and this is delicious.
  3. Add the seltzer at the last minute. Serve cold.
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Categories: Cocktails, Drinks, Eat, Recipes


RECIPE: Pesto Mussels

At La Tour, NYC

scroll down for these recipes:

Moules Dijonnaise, and frites

Mussels with Saffron, Vermouth, and Harissa, and sweet frites

Moules au Pistou, and grilled garlic peasant bread

My first encounter with those baffling little mussels left me bewitched, bothered, and bewildered. When I was a child, I would gaze horrified as the steaming obsidian pile would be plucked, prodded, and consumed, growing into an equally obsidian if somewhat less steaming pile of shells in an identical bowl sitting across the table from me and in front of a relative as plump and warm as the shellfish themselves. But as sure as we all grow into adults who gain utility bills and inherit crystal champagne flutes, so too do we shed childhood prejudices and inherit our families’ gastronomic sensibilities. At the risk of appearing too hypocritical to my younger and more convictional self, I have changed my mind about the little dark darlings. As a mussel addict, and a young lady, I must admit I find them both as intimidating and mesmerizing as their homonym. I eat mussels in vast portions, and always relish an evening spent besotted by my briny pals. Luckily, however, you don’t need steroids to accomplish the perfect set of mussels.

I am shining the spotlight this week on the mussel because on my recent trip to New York, I walked by my very favorite mussel outpost: La Tour, formerly of Third Avenue and the upper Seventies. There, for something like $18.50, you could get all the moules and frites you could eat, à volonté, in any combination of three traditional sauces: marinière (white wine, garlic, onion, and parsley), provençal (tomato, wine, garlic, and basil), or my personal predilection, à la moutarde (mustard and wine). I have spent many a long and friendly evening perched on one of La Tour’s Parisian banquets drowning in steaming mustard sauce and cool, citrine Sancerre. It was closed!

But necessity is the mother of invention, as I’ve said before, and if La Tour cannot provide, then I must create. In this edition of French Revolution, you’ll find three different ways to prepare mussels, and some little accompaniments for the black pearls. Interestingly, the idea for French Revolution came to me at a mussels restaurant on the beach in Normandy. French food, to me, had always been one of those dichotomies that coexist sensibly only in the minds of far-Eastern contemplatives. On the one hand, it was the Madison Avenue bistro, with five forks of various sizes, uses, and timeliness, straight-backed chairs, waiters who dressed even more expensively than I did, and a menu accessible to me only because I was the daughter of a Parisian mother. On the other hand, I had my Parisian mother to thank for my first impression of French food: casual, traditional, elegant, whimsical, and, surtout, delicious. She would roast duck à l’orange and fry fresh frites that we would then eat with our hands in bed watching old black and white sitcoms. Which of the two was “la vraie cuisine française”?

In Normandy, the origin of the moule-frite fiesta, I was served my large pile of onyx mussels in an equally large and equally onyx cast iron kettle over a lively, waltzing votive flame. Around me was arranged my frites, my salade verte, my baguette, and a smattering of friends, family, and beer—all necessary at such an event. But one thing was missing: my seafood fork. I asked my mother if she had one. No. We both looked around. To me, French food had always been something to eat not with petite cutlery, mais avec les mains! And all around me, there were French people proving my point. Instead of a seafood fork to pluck the little diamonds from the rough, the Normans were using an attached set of shells as pincers. A large half-shell replaced a soup spoon as the utensil for lapping up all the mussels’ delicious winey liquor. Through the shells the Normans plunged, vite, vite, vite, all you can eat. French food can mean gossamer cages of sugar and mother of pearl caviar spoons, but je préfère manger avec les mains!

Mussels make the perfect meal for many reasons. They are cheap, often costing as little as $3 per pound. They are a one-pot wonder. They are cooked to perfection in under ten minutes—including prep time. The French often use them not only as a staple of their own cuisine, but as a canvas on which to demonstrate French technique with exotic flavors like curry or, here, saffron and harissa. They can be eaten delicately and politely with that infamous seafood fork, or eaten greedily with the shells themselves. They are elegant and classic while being simultaneously casual and welcoming. I challenge you to suggest another food so versatile or simple or impressive…or cheap! I think there is nothing better than serving mussels at a formal gathering—there is nothing better to break the ice then passing around the steaming bowl or calling for more bread or frites. Plus, a good working knowledge of mussels will always leave you looking cultured…

Here, I offer three very quick and easy and flavorful renditions of the traditional mussels “stew.” The first is my La Tour favorite, moules à la moutarde, made with two kinds of mustard, white wine, and thyme, and served with matchstick French fries and baguette. I also like to leave a pot of Dijon on the table to dip the bread and frites in. The dish is tangy and creamy and classic. Next is an exotic departure to Morocco, the former protectorate of France that had such an influence on its cuisine. This recipe uses saffron and the red-hot Moroccan red pepper relish harissa, and I like to serve it with something slightly and delightfully different: sweet frites. The last recipe is moules au pistou, or Mussels with Pesto, which is by far the quickest and easiest mussel recipe and is perfect for a summer day. All it requires is mussels, wine, and fresh bought pesto sauce. I like to serve it with garlicky grilled peasant bread.

Some notes to keep in mind when making mussels: When cleaning, de-beard and rinse. Also, a good way to make the mussels spit out any sand they might be ruminating is to soak them in a large bowl of cold water with a tablespoon of flour. Remember, leave sand in an oyster and get a pearl. Leave sand in a mussel and lose a tooth! To be honest, I often disregard both precautions. I generally use 3 pounds of mussels to feed 4 people.

But this rule you cannot disregard: before the mussels are cooked, discard any that are open. After the mussels are cooked, discard any that are closed.

With these recipes, you’ll have no excuse to wrinkle your nose at the little beasts or be as bothered or bewildered as I was. Now get in that kitchen and show off those mussels!

Moules Dijonnaise

Moules Dijonnaise

Moules Dijonnaise

3 pounds of mussels

1-2 tablespoons of olive oil

½ onion, thinly sliced

1 clove of garlic, minced

2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon of whole grain mustard

1 cup of dry white wine
2 sprigs of thyme

2 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Salt and pepper

  1. Heat the olive oil in a wide, deep, heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion, and then the garlic, and a pinch of salt. Sauté until they are translucent and fragrant—just a couple of minutes.
  3. Whisk in the wine and mustards, along with the thyme, which you can leave right on the stems, as long as you remember to fish them out later. Season with a bit more salt and a good bit of freshly cracked black pepper.
  4. Add the mussels, and cover, allowing them to steam open. After 4-6 minutes, they should all have opened. Toss in the verdant shower of parsley, and serve immediately with fresh frites (see below) and hunks of torn warm baguette.


To serve à côté: Frites

2 Idaho potatoes, cut into thick matchsticks

Olive oil and vegetable oil for frying

Course salt

  1. Usually due to necessity, but also for flavor and high cooking temperature, I often mix my oils, using 2 parts vegetable oil to one part olive oil. Fill a large heavy-bottomed pan no more than half way up with this combination of oils, and heat the oil on medium heat until it has reached 350 degrees.
  2. Send in a test pilot: drop in a fry that you will want to snack on to see if the oil is at the correct temperature. If it sinks to the bottom, the oil is too cold. If it fizzles up immediately, the oil is too hot. It should sink and then rise gently, buoyed up by little bubbles of frying oil.
  3. Add the potato matchsticks in batches. You have a choice here: fry once for a great French fry, fry twice for the perfect frite. Between batches, or between first (the blanching stage) and second fries, remove the potatoes to a cooling rack or several layers of paper towel or both.
  4. Dust the hot fries with a wise pinch of salt.

Mussels with Saffron and Harissa

Mussels with Saffron, Vermouth, and Harissa

3 pounds of mussels

¾ cup of dry white wine

¼ cup of dry vermouth

Pinch of saffron

2 shallots, sliced

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 tablespoon of harissa

  1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, wide, heavy-bottomed pan.
  2. Sauté the shallot for less than 1 minute until fragrant.
  3. Pour off the vermouth into a separate glass, take the pan off the heat, and add in the liquor. Return the pan to the heat, and add the wine.
  4. Add in the saffron and the harissa—most harissa is fairly salty so taste before adding extra salt. Let these two bloom in the sauce for 30 seconds.
  5. Add in the mussels and cover, just long enough for the mussels to open—less than five minutes. Serve immediately with sweet potato fries (see below).

To serve à côté: Sweet Frites

2 medium sweet potatoes, cut into thick matchsticks

Vegetable oil and olive oil for frying

Course salt

Follow the same steps as if you were making plain frites (see above), but use the sweet potato instead.

Pesto Mussels


  • 3 pounds of mussels
  • ½ cup of dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons of prepared fresh pesto sauce


  1. Add the pesto and wine to a large, deep pan. Heat them over medium heat until they begin to simmer.
  2. Add the mussels and cover until they have steamed open—about five minutes.
  3. A great way to make this dish more luxurious would be to add just a hint of cream, or, instead, add a selection of halved colorful summer tiny tomatoes (they look like heirloom cherries) to a tablespoon of hot oil before adding the wine and pesto to the pan. Their skin will crackle, and they will erupt a bit, mingling their sweetness and sun-burst texture with the sauce.

Grilled Garlic Peasant Bread Ingredients

  • ½ round of peasant bread
  • Olive oil for drizzling
2-4 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
  • Course salt

Grilled Garlic Peasant Bread Procedure

  1. Preheat a grill pan over medium heat.
  2. Cut the bread into thick slices, and then cut them in half again.
  3. Char the bread lightly on the grill, 2-3 minutes per side.
  4. Rub the hot bread with the cut end of a garlic clove. The garlic will melt into the bread…move onto the next clove as it dissolves away.
  5. Finish the grilled garlic bread with a light drizzling of golden olive oil and a sprinkling of course salt.
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Categories: 15 Minutes, Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Cheap, Easy, Eat, Fish, For a Crowd, Main Courses, Recipes