An American Appetite in Princeton Alumni Weekly

PAW Illustration

Illustration by Catherine Meurisse

One of my first writing jobs (you know, the kind that actually pay you) was for Princeton Alumni Weekly, writing alumni profiles.  So when they contacted me last month to write a feature essay on anything I wanted about food, I was over the moon.  I thought to myself, “Now I’ve made it!”

I think my editor expected something foreign and fabulous from an ex-pat alum, who spends her life italicizing French dishes and phrases on this blog.  But it was for the November issue, and as always when that time of year rolls around, my thoughts turned homeward.  Many a weeknight will find me raving around my apartment (or, rather, flat), shouting at Mr. English while we try to put together our Ocado order (that’s British for Fresh Direct), in disbelief over the unavailability of key, essential items.  Half sour pickles.  Jumbo shrimp (seriously).  Thick slabs of steak.  Blue cheese dressing.  Corn bread.  Rainbow cookies.

It feels like such a deprivation that when I go home I plan my meals out months ahead of time, and never miss an opportunity for a real American hot dog, or a giant wedge salad, or a ice-packed shrimp cocktail.

The essay will give you my perspective on why, though I left the States and pursued a love for French cooking, American cuisine is not only my absolute favorite, but also on the rise here across the ocean.  Check it out!

And a huge thank you to Catherine Meurisse who did the fabulous illustration.  It made me feel like a big timer getting a bespoke illustration, and she couldn’t have captured my sentiments more exactly!

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Categories: Finds

Niçoise Toasts with Fresh Tuna and Tomatoes

RECIPE: Niçoise Toasts with Fresh Tuna and Tomatoes
Chunky Niçoise Toasts

Chunky Niçoise Toasts

I could reinvent the Niçoise salad a thousand ways, and have.  But what brings me back to it constantly is how punchy it is.  Big flavors.  Big colors.  Big personalities.  This is not a salad of wallflowers–illustrated perfectly by the fact that lettuce is just an afterthought.  Just thick chunks of tuna, briny olives, emphatic little capers, sun-bright lemon.

And that’s what I’ve reduced it to here.  Fresh tuna steaks roasted with salt and olive oil and cut into chunks.  Sweet grape tomatoes, simply halved.  Green and black olives.  Capers for punch.  Olive oil and lemon.  It makes a simple salad, that turns into the topping on this easy tartine.  The only other embellishment on the grilled bread is a swipe of garlic and a simple basil fromage blanc to anchor everything and bring in that taste of Provence.

The taste, even at this time of year, is so fresh and sun-soaked, you can’t help but feel like the sun must be shining somewhere.  Probably in Nice!

Excerpted from my weekly column French in a Flash on Serious Eats.  Bon app!

Niçoise Toasts with Fresh Tuna and Tomatoes
2 servings

Chunky Niçoise ToastsINGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup packed basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup fromage blanc
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tuna steaks, 4 to 5 ounces each
  • 1 cup halved grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup halved green and black olives
  • 4 teaspoons drained capers in brine
  • 2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 4 1-inch thick slices of rustic bread
  • 1 clove of garlic, halved


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Blitz the basil, fromage blanc, and salt and pepper together in a mini food processor until well combined.  Spoon into a small bowl, and chill until ready to use.

Season the tuna with salt and pepper, and place on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet.  Rub with 2 teaspoons of olive oil on all sides.  Bake for 10 minutes, until cooked through.  Cut into cubes.

In a bowl, mix together the tomatoes, olives, capers, remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and the lemon juice.  Season with salt and pepper, and gently stir in the chunks of tuna.

Grill or toast the bread, and rub it while it is still hot with the cut side of the garlic clove.  Spread some of the basil fromage blanc over the top, and top with the tuna and tomato mixture.  Serve right away.

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Bread & Butter, Easy, Eat, French in a Flash, Recipes, Sandwiches, Series

Thanksgiving for Two (or a Few): Rustic Turkey and Vegetable Pie

RECIPE: Rustic Turkey and Vegetable Pie
Rustic Turkey and Vegetable Pie

Rustic Turkey and Vegetable Pie

I love living with Mr. English, just the two of us.  But because living with Mr. English means living in England, Thanksgiving is pretty much also just the two of us.  Actually, this year, there will be three of us, but you get the picture.  No giant roast bird.  No plethora of pies.  No smorgasbord of sides.  It just doesn’t make sense.

But however nontraditional our Thanksgiving is, I still want it to taste traditional!  Because here in the UK, I work on Thanksgiving Thursday, and then come home eager to celebrate my favorite holiday, I had to come up with something that not only felt traditional and American, but was also easy and simple.

Hence, the turkey pie.  A little British accent in our classic Thanksgiving feast.  I use my food processor to jet-slice celery, carrots, onions, garlic, and mushrooms.  I stew them with ground dark meat turkey, fresh mossy thyme, deeply savory Worcestershire sauce, wine, and stock.  They blip together on the stove for a few minutes, and then I effortless spout them off into a beautiful baking dish, cover with puff pastry I bought at the store, paint it with milk, bake it, and voila.  This gorgeous, puffed, steaming meal full of turkey and vegetables and salty, crunchy pastry emerges from the oven, ready to over-stuff me and Mr. English, or to share with our one Thanksgiving guest.

It tastes like home.  It feels hearty.  It’s classic, if a bit different.  And it’s Thanksgiving for just a few in under an hour.  Not too shabby!

Turkey Pie Vegetables

From my weekly column Dinner for Two on Serious Eats.  Check it out every Friday!

Rustic Turkey and Vegetable Pie
serves 2 to 4

Rustic Turkey and Vegetable PieINGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large carrot
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 to 9 ounces cremini mushrooms
  • 1 pound ground dark meat turkey
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • The leaves from 4 stems of thyme
  • 1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed but cold
  • Milk for brushing


Place 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a cold sauté pan.  Fit the food processor with the thick slicer attachment.  Quickly slice up the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic.  Turn the heat on under the sauté pan, and when the oil shimmers, add the vegetables and season with salt and pepper.  While the vegetables are sweating, slice the mushrooms in the same way on the food processor.

When the vegetables are nice and soft, turn them out into a bowl and set aside.  Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, and when it shimmers, add the ground turkey.  Season with salt and pepper and sauté until the pan is dry and the turkey begins to brown.  Add in the raw mushrooms, and the cooked vegetables.  Stir in the flour to coat everything in the pan.  Add the white wine, and the chicken stock, and Worcestershire sauce, and thyme.  While these cook together for 5 minutes, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Turn out the turkey mixture into your baking vessel: I find one rectangular baking dish to be easiest.  Brush the sides of the dish with milk, and drape the pastry tightly across, pressing gently into the milked sides (this will help the pastry stick).  Cut a slit for the steam to escape in the center of the pastry, and then brush all the pastry lightly with milk.  Place the pie on a rimmed baking dish to catch any spills, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the pastry is puffed and golden.  Serve hot!

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Categories: 60 Minutes, Cheap, Dinner for Two, Easy, Eat, Main Courses, Poultry, Recipes, Series

Turkey ‘au Vin’

RECIPE: Turkey 'au Vin'
Turkey 'au Vin'

Turkey ‘au Vin’

Growing up in a French-American family, Thanksgiving was always a happy confusion.  Apple cider sorbet with our pumpkin pie.  Gratin Dauphinois instead of mashed potatoes.  Haricots verts instead of regular, sturdy green beans.  And we always, whether it’s considered French or not, start the night with a champagne toast and a list of what we are each thankful for.

I have always been thankful for the transatlantic jumble that is that meal.  Because part of what makes Thanksgiving American is that we come from so many different places, to be together with the same ideals.  So it’s very appropriate that we all sit down to some version of turkey and potatoes and pie, but the accent the turkey has is decidedly different across the households that stitched together form our country.

I have to admit, usually it’s our side dishes that are francophone.  Our turkey is pretty is standard: herb-stuffed and butter-rubbed.  So this year, I am inspired by French takes on turkey.  As our celebration this year here in London will only be three people, we don’t need a giant bird.  So I’m concentrating on my favorite part: the legs.  I was blown away by Suzanne Goin’s turkey leg confit in this month’s Bon Appetit.  And I came up with this version of turkey leg “coq” au vin.

I brown off the drumsticks (two will do for four people), and then the little cubes of pancetta.  In go the mushrooms—I use thickly cut Portobello for texture.  Then whole shallots (who can be bothered with pearl onions when there’s a whole holiday to deal with?), slivered garlic, fresh thyme.  Some flour, some cognac, some wine, and some stock later, and the turkey legs blip away in their little bath until the meat falls off the bone three hours later.

The sauce is thick, and sweet, and savory in that way good coq au vin is.  I serve it with mashed potatoes or buttered gnocchi and a big green salad or my warm roasted shredded Brussels sprouts salad.  It’s definitely for a French-American Thanksgiving, but it also works wonders if, like me, you’re only cooking for a few.  That gives you an excuse to experiment.  Another thing to be thankful for!

Coq au Vin Ingredients

Excerpted from my weekly column French in a Flash on Serious Eats.  Bon app!

Turkey 'au Vin'
serves 4

Turkey 'au Vin'INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 turkey legs (about 3 pounds total)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 1/2 oz pancetta cubes
  • 9 ounces Portobello mushrooms
  • 6 shallots, peeled and whole
  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup Cognac
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 10 sprigs of thyme, tied together with kitchen twine


In a very wide nonstick skillet or Dutch oven medium-high heat, add the olive oil.  Season the turkey legs with salt and pepper, and add them to the pan.  Brown the turkey legs on all sides.  Then remove them to a plate, and set off to the side.

Add the pancetta to the hot oil, and cook until just crisp.  Remove the pancetta with a slotted spoon, and place next to the turkey on the plate off to the side.  Add the mushrooms to the hot oil and cook until they dark and shrunken down—just a couple of minutes.  Add the garlic and shallots and stir through for about 15 seconds.  Then add the flour, and stir to coat everything in the pan.  Then, add the Cognac, and stir it into the vegetables and flour.  Then add the turkey and pancetta back into the pot, and follow with the red wine, chicken broth, and little packet of fresh thyme.  Season the pot with salt and pepper, and bring the liquid to a boil.  Then clamp a lid on the top, and simmer everything together for 3 to 4 hours.  After that, take the lid off and continue to simmer until the sauce coats the back of a spoon.  Serve with mashed potatoes, or buttered gnocchi or egg noodles.

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Categories: Eat, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Poultry, Recipes, Series

Warm Roasted Shredded Brussels Sprout Salad

RECIPE: Warm Roasted Shredded Brussels Sprout Salad
Warm Roasted Shredded Brussels Sprouts Salad

Warm Roasted Shredded Brussels Sprouts Salad

Mr. English and I are obsessed with Brussels sprouts–little villains.  They look and act all tough, and give themselves a bad reputation.  But I think you’ll find, Brussels sprouts are fast becoming everyone’s secret favorite vegetable.

I just developed this last weekend as I was testing Thanksgiving recipe for Serious Eats, and I wanted something for us to eat along with them at our weekly Sunday night dinner (when I have a huge recipe-testing weekend, we invite friends over to help clear away the evidence).  Our Thanksgiving this year will only be three people (sad old London!), but I am definitely, definitely making this.

I simply run the Brussels sprouts through the slicer on the food processor (a process of which I have become inordinately fond) and toss them with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Then, I spread them into as thin a layer as I can, and roast them at 400 to 425 degrees just until their edges start to tan, and go all bronzed and crisp–about 6 minutes.  Then, while they’re hot, I add the key splash of cider vinegar.  They are crisp, salty, tangy, luscious.  Killer, killer side dish!

Warm Roasted Shredded Brussels Sprout Salad
serves 4

Warm Roasted Shredded Brussels Sprouts SaladINGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound of Brussels sprouts, shredded
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar


Preheat the oven to a nicely hot 400 degrees.  Toss the sprouts, oil, salt, and pepper together in a large bowl.  Spread the sprouts in an even layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and roast just until the edges start to toast.  You want the sprouts to keep their vibrant green.  About 6 minutes.

While still hot, toss the vinegar into the sprouts.  Serve right away.  I may toss a few toasted flaked almonds in dress it up for Thanksgiving.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Cheap, Easy, Eat, Recipes, Sides, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Mushroom Rigatoni Bolognese with Fresh Mozzarella and Truffle

RECIPE: Mushroom Rigatoni Bolognese with Fresh Mozzarella and Truffle
Chunky Mushroom Bolognese

Chunky Mushroom Bolognese–completely vegetarian–tossed with rigatoni, and topped with cool torn fresh mozzarella and truffle oil.

My best friend is going vegan.  And her new husband decidedly is not.  He’s so un-vegan that when I met him, he refused to eat anything that was green.  He has since started including basil.  A big step.

I developed this recipe for the two of them—my very old and dear friends with whom we often share Sunday night dinner (so, in fact, this really benefits Mr. English and myself just as much).  You can keep it vegan by omitting the torn fresh mozzarella, and you can make it even healthier by using whole grain rigatoni.

The great thing about this recipe is that you can look like a kitchen champ even if you can’t handle a knife.  All you have to do is blitz the veggies—carrot, onion, garlic, and the mushrooms, of course—in the food processor.  Cook them simply in a big pan, and then add store-bought tomato sauce and some dried mushrooms you can find in any supermarket.  Because of all the veggies in the sauce, the sauce takes on that thick, dark, chunky texture of beefy Bolognese.  I toss it with al dente rigatoni, so the sauce can get stuck inside the little tunnels of pasta.  I plate it up, and tear cold fresh mozzarella over the top.  If I’m feeling flush, I’ll add a drizzle of truffle oil. Continue reading

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Dinner for Two, Easy, Eat, Main Courses, Meatless Mondays, Recipes, Series, Sides, Starches, Vegetarian, Vegetarian, Working Girl Dinners

Cheese Papillons (Savory Puff Pastry Butterflies)

RECIPE: Cheesy Papillons
Cheesy Papillons

Cheesy Papillons

Nothing says party to make like puff pastry.  It sounds kind of retro kitsch, but there’s something about that crisp shatter of salty, flaky puff that is so indulgent, it can’t help but be a special occasion.

Instead of cheese straws, which have sort of been what they are forever, I make cheesy papillons—butterflies, or bowties.  I just press sea salt, grated Gruyère, and piment d’Espelette (for heat and some holiday coloring) into store-bought puff pastry, and use a fluted ravioli cutter to slice them into ribbons.  Then, I just twist in the center, and bake.  They puff up to huge, glorious, crispy, salty, cheesy Everests.  I serve them in baskets down the center of the table instead of bread.

I almost never have any of these leftover.  So I stash one away for myself.  It’s the happiest snack for doing the dishes.

Excerpted from my weekly column French in a Flash on Serious Eats.  Bon app!

Cheesy Papillons
makes about 20

Cheesy PapillonsINGREDIENTS

  • 2 puff pastry sheets (total: 17 ounces)
  • Sea salt
  • 2 cups grated Gruyère
  • 1/4 teaspoon piment d’Espelette


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Dust the countertop with some flour.  Unfold the puff pastry, dock lightly with a fork, and season with a generous pinch of sea salt.  Scatter 1 cup of cheese evenly over the top, and use a rolling pin to gently press it into the pastry.  Top with half of the piment d’Espelette.  Repeat with the second sheet of pastry and the remaining ingredients.  Then, use a ravioli cutter to slice the pastry in strips about 1-inch by 3 inches.  Twist each strip in the middle to form a bowtie.  Place, spaced out, on a Silpat-line baking sheet (you may need to do two batches).  Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until puffed and golden.

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Bakery, Bread & Butter, Cheap, Easy, Eat, For a Crowd, French in a Flash, Recipes, Series, Vegetarian