Franglais: Apple and Cheddar Croque Monsieurs

RECIPE: Apple and Cheddar Croque Monsieurs
Apple Cheddar Croque Monsieur

Apple Cheddar Croque Monsieur

Get the whole story on The Huffington Post.

I was recently in my favorite restaurant in Paris, when I looked down and  noticed something on the menu that I hadn’t before.  Not that it wasn’t there; I just hadn’t noticed it.  The Tuna Niçoise salad was labeled, “à ma façon,” which means, my way.  Tuna salad, my way.  And as it came out again, for the many-eth time, I realized, it was quirky and idiosyncratic and most certainly done to someone’s particulars.  In truth, “my way” is a term I’ve seen quite a few time on French menus, to beg pardon or give warning that something classic might come out slightly artsy—read: better.  Frank Sinatra would be beaming with pride.

Niçoise à Ma Façon

Niçoise à Ma Façon

This sandwich is Croque Monsieur, my way.  On that same trip, I ordered a croque monsieur just before I left.  It was a far cry from the usual open-faced broiled ham-cheese-and-béchamel that it’s “supposed” to be.  Instead, it was two different petite sandwiches, crusts trimmed, the sandwiches cut into dainty tea triangles.  One set was stuffed with Jambon de Bayonne, similar to prosciutto, and Rebluchon cheese, the other with Paris ham and Comté.  So, I can’t feel too bad about doing it my, distinctly American way: a grilled cheese sandwich, filled with smoky ham, a Dijon béchamel, a mix of Gruyère and sharp white cheddar, and window-pane slices of crisp apple.  I like it my way.  It’s my way or the highway, as I see it.

Paris Croque Monsieurs

Paris Croque Monsieurs

Apple and Cheddar Croque Monsieurs
makes 2

Apple Cheddar Croque MonsieurINGREDIENTS

  • ½ tablespoon unsalted butter, plus extra for buttering the bread, room temperature

  • ½ tablespoon all-purpose flour

  • ½ cup milk

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

  • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

  • 1 cup grated sharp white cheddar cheese

  • 1 cup grated Gruyère cheese

  • 4 slices white bread

  • 4 thin slices Black Forest ham

  • ½ Gala apple, thinly sliced


In a small saucepot, melt ½ tablespoon butter over medium heat.  Add the flour, and whisk together.  Cook for 1 minute.  Add the milk, and whisk to combine.  Heat for 5 minutes, stirring often, or until the soft coats a spoon.  Add the mustard, and one quarter of the cheddar and Gruyère.  Whisk to melt.

Butter one side of each slice of bread.  Spread the cheese sauce on the other side of each slice of bread.  Divide the cheese between the bread slices, on top of the cheese sauce.  Then, divide the ham and apple between the slices of bread.  Then, sandwich the croque monsieurs together.  Grill the sandwich in a sauté pan over medium heat.  Cook until the bread is golden bread, and the cheese melted.  Flip over, and do the same on the other side.  Serve immediately.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Bread & Butter, Cheap, Eat, Franglais, Recipes, Sandwiches, Series

Please VOTE for My Recipe in French Glamour!

RECIPE: Noix de Saint-Jacques Gratinées à la Persillade
Noix de Saint-Jacques Gratinées à la Persillade

Noix de Saint-Jacques Gratinées à la Persillade

One of my favorite magazines, French Glamour, is holding a recipe contest.  The winner gets her recipe on the menu of a famous Paris restaurant for one day, and gets the recipe printed in the magazine!  I’ve entered my Noix de Saint-Jacques Gratinées à la Persillade, or Garlic and Parsley Gratin-ed Scallops.  They’re extremely easy, and they taste so good.  I mean, scallops, butter, garlic, parsley, and panko.  How could that not be good?

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Here’s the recipe in English for you!

Noix de Saint-Jacques Gratinées à la Persillade

Noix de Saint-Jacques Gratinées à la PersilladeINGREDIENTS

  • 4 large cloves garlic

  • ¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature

  • 8 U-10 sea scallops, halved horizontally

  • Fine sea salt

  • ¼ cup panko


Preheat the broiler.

In a mini food processor, whiz the garlic to smithereens.  Add the parsley, whizzing to break it up even more.  Then add the butter, and whiz to incorporate.

Lightly spray 4 individual gratin dishes with cooking spray.  Lay 4 scallop halves in a single layer in each dish.  Season with salt.  Place the 4 dishes on a rimmed baking sheet.  Top with one quarter of the butter mixture per dish, then top with one quarter of the panko.  Broil 10 to 12 minutes, until the scallops are opaque and the panko is golden.  Serve immediately with warm, crusty bread.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Easy, Eat, Fish, Individual, Main Courses, Recipes

French in a Flash: Creamed Leeks

RECIPE: Creamed Leeks
Creamed Leeks

Creamed Leeks

Get the whole story on Serious Eats.

Nothing irks me more than the neglected vegetable.  It’s abusive–to the vegetable, for one, and to you, because you’re either missing out on your vegetables altogether, or eating ones that taste like mush.  Neither is acceptable.

I was vegetarian for twelve years, so I get a special thrill when I see vegetables done right.  Creamed leeks is not exactly something new in France, but it was new to me when I first had a bed of them underneath a simply sautéed fillet of fish.
The dish is simple: sliced leeks are sautéed down in a little bit of butter until they are soft, and sweet.  Then, I add cream and a dash of Parmesan (my addition to tradition).  The cream creates that texture that binds all the leeks together, and has that same savory-sweetness of the leeks themselves.  The Parmesan adds that punch of salt to wake it all up.  It’s so simple, but decadent.  And it goes perfectly with everything–under fish, seared chicken breasts, even sliced steak.  Why gild the lily?
Creamed Leeks
serves 4


  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

  • 2 large leeks, washed, and thinly sliced

  • 1/4 cup water

  • Kosher salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

  • 1 tablespoon finely grated Parmesan


In a nonstick sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the leeks and water, season with salt and pepper, cover, and reduce heat to low, cooking until the leeks are soft—10 minutes.  Stir in the cream and Parmesan, and serve.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Cheap, Easy, Eat, French in a Flash, Recipes, Series, Sides, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Working Girl Dinners: Multigrain Cacio e Pepe

RECIPE: Multigrain Cacio e Pepe
Multigrain Cacio e Pepe

Multigrain Cacio e Pepe

There is no denying that there’s something about pasta after a long day.  It’s done in ten minutes, and it fills you up in more ways than one.  There’s something undeniably comforting a too-big bowl of something warm and simple.  This is my healthed-up version of the Italian classic cacio e pepe, which I believe translates to Pecorino and black pepper.  Although, really, what’s in a name?  As long as it tastes good.

The traditional version is made with bavette, kind of like linguine, tossed with Pecorino cheese, and butter, and lots of black pepper.  I used multigrain spaghetti (love Barilla Plus), and add chopped baby arugula.  Both of them add nutrition, but also texture, and great flavor.  I actually prefer this dish with the whole grain pasta.  Its nuttiness goes with the cheese and pepper so perfectly.  The whole thing takes 10 minutes, and one pot.  You don’t even have to cook the sauce.  It’s that easy.

And then you have a big bowl of pasta to bury yourself in.  Warning: it might take even less time to eat than to make.

Multigrain Cacio e Pepe
serves 2

Multigrain Cacio e PepeINGREDIENTS

  • ½ pound multigrain spaghetti or linguine

  • 1 cup finely grated Pecorino

  • 2 tablespoons room temperature unsalted butter

  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper

  • 1 cup baby arugula, roughly copped

  • 2 tablespoons reserved pasta water


Bring a large pot of water to boil, and salt the water.  Cook the pasta according to package instructions.

In a large bowl, mash together cheese, butter, and black pepper.  Add the arugula, and the hot pasta and pasta water.  Toss together, and serve.


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Categories: 15 Minutes, Cheap, Easy, Eat, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, Sides, Starches, Vegetarian, Vegetarian, Watch, Working Girl Dinners

Franglais: Loaded Baked Potato Aligot

RECIPE: Loaded Baked Potato Aligot

I posted a simple aligot, gooey cheesy French mashed potatoes, recipe on Serious Eats a couple of weeks ago to great fanfare.  So, here’s an American-ized version, with all the flavors of a baked potato.

Loaded Baked Potato Aligot

Loaded Baked Potato Aligot

Get the whole story at The Huffington Post.

This is one of those recipes that prove that even if we all have our differences, we can get along. There’s this steak place that I love in New York, and of course, it has the requisite “potato menu.” And just from reading down the list, you get a sense of how entrenched, and staunchly and particularly identifying potatoes are. Here’s some of what they list: Gratin. French, of course. Parmesan Gnocchi. Italian. Loaded Baked. What else? American. Could your preferred potato be more nationally identifying than your passport? Could be.

If you’re as menu-obsessed as I am, you may have guessed: that’s BLT Steak.

Let’s face it. The world is becoming smaller. I just found a place where I can order a blue cheese wedge in London–so I’m pretty sure that cultural culinary availability has caught up with the Internet. It’s charming that at least our potatoes still speak to where we come from, but it’s also time for them to join the information age. Merge a bit. Catch on to the fusion trend that seemed to hit the rest of food about a decade ago.

If BLT had Aligot on the menu, it would fall pretty close to Gratin, in the French section. Aligot is mashed potatoes whipped up with so much cheese that the potatoes actually acquire this elasticity–think about when you pull apart a grilled mozzarella sandwich. Now mash that image into some potatoes. Delish, comforting, gut busting, and perfect. Traditionally, they’re made with a tomme cheese, maybe some garlic, and a bit of crème fraîche. Nothing wrong with that.

But just to have a little fun, this is a mashed potato mash up of that strictly bordered potato menu: Aligot, with a hint of American flavor. Instead of crème fraîche, I use sour cream. Easier to find, and cheaper anyway. Instead of tomme or cantal, a sharp white cheddar. The elasticity suffers a bit, but the flavor is excellent. And instead of garlic, snipped fresh springy chives. All the flavors of a baked potato, loaded into an Aligot mash. If you wanted to gild the lily, I’m not opposed to some homemade bacon bits. Just a tad gluttonous.

Finally, potatoes have dual citizenship.

Loaded Baked Potato Aligot
serves 2 to 3

Loaded Baked Potato AligotINGREDIENTS

  • 4 large Yukon Gold potatoes

  • ¼ cup sour cream

  • ½ cup half and half

  • 1 tablespoon snipped chives

  • 1½ cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese

  • Salt and pepper


Peel and dice the potatoes.  Place in a large pot and cover with 2 inches cold water.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Salt the water, and reduce heat to medium.  Cook until fork tender.  Drain.

Add the sour cream and half and half to the pot.  Pass the potatoes through a ricer into the sour cream mixture.  Beat together with a wooden spoon.  Then, beat in the cheese in handfuls, and finally the chives.  Season with salt and pepper.


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Categories: 30 Minutes, Cheap, Easy, Eat, Franglais, Recipes, Series, Sides, Starches, Vegetarian

French in a Flash: So-Easy Red Pistou Salmon

RECIPE: Red Pistou Salmon
Red Pistou Salmon

Red Pistou Salmon

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

I find there’s something in the sturdiness of salmon that makes it a good dance partner.  And by that I mean, it stands up both to the wet-noodle waltzers that don’t lead, that don’t add anything really, that let the salmon shine on its own.  And to the aggressive, step-on-your-toes partners that are so strong they overwhelm the salmon with their own domineering flavors.  Salmon still shines, even if that strong, specific flavor is slightly eclipsed by something stronger still. Continue reading

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Cheap, Easy, Eat, Fish, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Recipes, Series

I Love Raclette: Kappacasein

Raclette 1

I can really relate to mice.  If I were standing in front of a mousetrap and I had to make the choice between cheese and certain gory death, or no cheese….  Well, in the presence of cheese I don’t think I’d be of sound enough mind to make the right decision.

I have found my mousetrap.  Raclette.  Amazingly, I had never had it before.  But I’d heard of the famous “melted cheese” depot at Borough Market here in London.  They serve “the best” grilled cheeses made with the famous Montgomery cheddar, and raclette.  Which is raclette cheese broiled on a special machine until it bubbles and melts and goos and pools.  Then, the man scrapes the melted puddle all over a pile of smashed potatoes, served with sharp little cornichons to clean the fattiness from your mouth between bites.  If this plate of raclette was on a giant Kerrytrap, there would be no way I could resist.  I’d be toast.  Sandwiched into a delicious grilled cheese.

Raclette 2

What I like about the raclette is that it’s especially pungent–not overwhelmingly so, and not in that piquant way that something soft and stinky like Camembert might be.  But it’s a melting cheese that still packs a punch, and smells distinctively toasty and nutty.  It’s the kind of food that in the absence of a down blanket, chicken noodle soup, and a friend who loves you, will banish any woe to splitsville.

And while the whole apparatus for the raclette may seem like something of a cruel and unusual cheesy torture device, I love that it keeps raclette special.  I have to crave it, think it, want it, and then go for it.  I can’t make it at home (although I intend to do a little testing with my broiler) without investing in an expensive raclette machine.  Frankly, I’d rather get on the subway, spend 5 pounds, and just enjoy the rarity, specialness, and decadence of it.  Mr. English took our little plate into the churchyard just beyond the fence to the market, and engaged in the most competitve cheese eating contest London has ever witnessed.  It’s warmness, the heartiness, and the consistency, both in the sense of the melted gooey cheese and in the sense of the plate of one classic, unadulterated thing, that makes you want your fair share of raclette.

I love when something so simple, so humble, so pure, so unpretending is just so damn perfect.  It’s like an effortless beauty that turns heads with no makeup.  Cheese, potatoes.  Nothing more, and nothing less.

Raclette 3


According to the Kappacasein webpage, they are no longer trading at Borough Market, which comes as something of a shock.  Follow the link for their new location.

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Categories: Finds, London, Voyages