Julie & Julia, and Me

Stanley Tucci as "Paul Child" and Meryl Streep as "Julia Child"

Stanley Tucci as "Paul Child" and Meryl Streep as "Julia Child"

Last night I, along with every other foodie in America, went to see Julie & Julia. I loved the movie, but then, it was hard not to. I loved that look of satisfaction on Meryl Streep’s face as she triumphantly grinned at the bird-beak of meringue that hung smugly from her balloon whisk. I loved the frenzy over Sole Meuniere. I loved the night cap of mignonette and oyster shooters. I loved it because I was salivating, and dying to be back in Paris. I loved it because they got it right, and because it celebrated what I love most in all the world: French food.

As I drove home, I got to feeling ashamed. Over several things. I’ve been so busy with cooking school, and writing my column, that I haven’t spent the time I should have been spending on this blog, the blog that, like Julie in the movie, was started by my boyfriend and which started it all for me. So, readers, I apologize for that. But I was also ashamed because I, who preach the gospel of easy French food for American cooks, have never read or seen one recipe by the grande dame herself, Julia Child. I didn’t know that my “bon app” signature is just slang for Julia’s valedictory “bon appetit”! I didn’t even realize the extent to which I should have known all of this.

Julie and JuliaI always write how here in America, we hold French food up as the gold (butter gold) standard. That even provincial French cooking achieves the effortless elegance of a svelte, scarved Parisian woman. It is a passion that consumes me, and which I happily consume. But I have never really been influenced by the woman who changed everything, I now realize, and who made what I do possible, relatable, and I hope, to someone out there, important or inspiring or just sweet fun.

In some ways, I think the lack of influence is a good thing. Julia and I do very different things. We both may have started at the Cordon Bleu, but, from what I understand, she perfected French traditional cooking, where as I interpret the food on which I was raised into what I hope is something a bit tongue-in-cheek and even more accessible, in a world which has changed, as far as I can tell, very dramatically in the last forty or so years. But now I am fascinated, charmed, and beguiled. I ordered the DVDs and Mastering the Art of French Cooking on Amazon last night, and I am salivating again just thinking about its arrival.

I’ll let you know when they get here. Until then, bon app mes amis!

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Categories: People

French in a Flash: Citrus Oreillettes

RECIPE: Citrus Oreillettes
Citrus Oreillettes

Citrus Oreillettes

In love, a man whispers sweet nothings into a girl’s ear. In food, I like to fry up some sweet nothings to crackle into my man’s mouth.

This week’s French in a Flash over on Serious Eats is Citrus Oreillettes. Oreillettes are deep fried shards of pastry, snowballed in powdered sugar. They are light as air, but I still managed to eat my weight in them in Provence this past spring. For my easy, renovated version, I fry wonton skins for just seconds, and then toss them around in a brown paper bag filled with powdered sugar, a pinch of salt, and the colorful confetti zests of lemon, lime, and orange. I’d like to say that I’ve learnt restraint over the summer, but, I can’t. The four of us finished the entire batch watching late night TV in bed. And so I fell asleep on a cloud of powdered sugar. Very sweet dreams.

Some of my column readers have commented that they want to try cinnamon or savory versions with cumin or paprika or chili. You could even try Parmesan or fresh vanilla. Let me know what you come up with…


For the full story and recipe, click here. Bon app!

Citrus Oreillettes
serves a crowd

Citrus OreillettesIngredients

  • Vegetable oil for frying

  • 1 cup powdered sugar

  • The zest of 1 orange, 1 lemon, and 1 lime

  • Pinch of salt

  • 24 wonton wrappers (about half a pack)


  1. Heat about 1 to 2 inches of vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet, or saucepan, to 325°F.

  2. Cut the wonton wrappers into triangles by slicing them in half across the diagonal. Fry a few of them at a time, about 4 or 5 depending on the size of your pan, for about 10 to 20 seconds per side, until they are just turning golden. They will harden and even darken a touch when you remove them to a paper towel to drain.

  3. Pile up the oreillettes on a plate, and top with more freshly grated orange, lemon, and lime zest. Serve with tea or aperitifs in the afternoon.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Desserts, Eat, French in a Flash, Recipes, Series

French in a Flash: Rustic Roast Duck with New Potatoes, Sugar Snaps, and Spring Onions

RECIPE: Rustic Roast Duck with New Potatoes, Sugar Snaps, and Spring Onions
Roast Duck Legs

Roast Duck Legs with Potatoes, Green Onions, and Sugar Snaps

Last week’s French in a Flash on Serious Eats is the dish I make for Mr. English when it’s been a long day. It’s so hearty and earthy, but you hardly have to lift a finger. Plus, duck makes it feel like a special occasion, which dinner always is with Mr. English. I crust the duck skin in salt and herbes de Provence, sear it to crisp it, and then perch it on a nest of soft-crisp new potatoes, roasted sweet sugar snaps, and garden-fresh green onions. The vegetables bathe in the melting fat of the duck, and the duck stays crisp and juicy and hot.

We curl up on the couch and pretend that we live in a French farmhouse with a roaring fire. C’est si bon.

For the recipe and full story, click here.

Rustic Roast Duck with New Potatoes, Sugar Snaps, and Spring Onions
serves 2

Roast Duck LegsIngredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds Jersey Royal potatoes, or other small boiling potatoes, sliced in thirds

  • 1/2 pound sugar snap peas

  • 7 scallions, trimmed and cut in thirds

  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus 1 teaspoon

  • 2 duck legs, thighs attached

  • Herbes de Provence

  • Salt and pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

  2. Prepare the vegetables by slicing the potatoes and scallions into thirds. In a roasting pan, toss together the potatoes with the fresh thyme, 1 scant tablespoon olive oil, and salt and pepper. Put into the oven to begin softening.

  3. Meanwhile, prepare the duck. Trim the duck of any excess fat, and reserve. Rub both duck legs with 1 teaspoon of olive oil total, just to give it a light coating.

  4. Sprinkle the duck liberally on both sides with herbes de Provence, and season well with salt and pepper.

  5. Heat a sauté pan on medium-high heat, and add in the reserved duck fat so that it begins to render. Place the duck legs skin side down into the hot pan, and sear just about 4 minutes until the skin is nice and golden. Flip the duck, and sear another minute.

  6. Open the oven, and toss the scallions and sugar snap peas in with the potatoes, coating the green vegetables with the seasoned potato oil. Place the duck legs skin side up on the bed of vegetables, and roast for 30-35 minutes, or just until the juices run clear. Garnish with stems of fresh thyme.

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Categories: 60 Minutes, Easy, Eat, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Poultry, Recipes, Series

Moroccan Carrot Salad

RECIPE: Moroccan Carrot Salad

Moroccan Carrot SaladKitchen Caravan recorded my first ever cooking shows, and now they’ve allowed me to contribute a recipe to their Moroccan collection this month. Meme has always made a traditional Moroccan carrot salad for big family dinners, where thick copper penny slices of carrot are boiled and then tossed with ground cumin, salt, and lemon juice. It’s delicious. But, I wanted to give it a bit of a facelift. So, I created ribbons of carrot and just blanched them until still crisp, but not raw, and created a vinaigrette with whole cumin seeds and citrus and honey. Whole cilantro leaves finish it off. It’s refreshing and light, but exotic. I hope you try it! Here’s the link to the recipe.

Moroccan Carrot Salad
serves 4 to 6

Moroccan Carrot SaladIngredients

  • 10 medium carrots, stripped into ribbons with a vegetable peeler

  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds, toasted for 20 seconds in a hot dry pan

  • Juice of 1 lemon

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

  • ¾ teaspoon honey

  • Salt and pepper

  • Cilantro to taste


  1. Use a Y-peeler to strip an already peeled and trimmed carrot again and again into thin ribbons.

  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and salt it. Blanch the carrots ribbons for 45 seconds, then drain, and set aside.

  3. Quickly whiz together the cumin vinaigrette by combining the cumin seeds, lemon juice, olive oil, honey, and salt and pepper in the blender. Blend until the dressing emulsifies and the cumin seeds are broken up into shards.

  4. Toss the warm, dry carrots ribbons lightly with as much vinaigrette as needed. Place in whole cilantro leaves to taste.

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Categories: Eat, Kitchen Caravan, Recipes, Salad, Series, Soup & Salad

French in a Flash: Eggplant Tian

RECIPE: Eggplant Tian
Eggplant Tian

Eggplant Tian

My father eats Eggplant Parmigiana every Sunday night. And who doesn’t love a crispy Napoleon of crunchy, creamy fried eggplant, chunky-runny sauce, and gummy, salty Mozzarella cheese. It’s impossible to resist.

It wasn’t until I went to Italy and France when I was twenty-two that I realized there was another way to make our Sunday night favorite. My South-of-France Eggplant Tian for this week’s French in a Flash on Serious Eats is Eggplant Parmigiana built from bricks of roasted eggplant, fresh, light sauce, summer thyme and basil, and a mix of Mozzarella, Gruyere, and Parmesan cheeses. Despite the cheese, the dish is lighter, more flavorful, and somehow more satisfying than the Little Italy original. Sometimes you have to look far and wide to find true love. As always, the full article and recipe are here. Bon app!

Eggplant Tian

Eggplant Tian

Eggplant TianIngredients

  • 20 grams (3/4 ounce) of basil, plus 10 grams

  • 2 stems of thyme, plus 2 stems, plus extra for garnish

  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

  • 3 medium to large eggplant, cut into 1/4-inch slices (about 60 slices in all)

  • 1 cup light tomato basil sauce, homemade or store-bought

  • 1 ball (125 grams) fresh mozzarella cheese, finely diced

  • 2/3 cup shredded Gruyere

  • 1/3 cup shredded Parmesan

  • Toasted pine nuts for garnish

  • Salt and pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.

  2. Make a simple herb oil for the eggplant by whirling together the basil leaves and 2 stems of thyme in a food processor with 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, and pepper.

  3. Toss the eggplant slices together with the herb oil so they are all equally coated. Spread into an even, if slightly overlapping layer, on two large baking sheets. Roast for 10-12 minutes, until the eggplant softens and begins to tan in the oven. Set aside.

  4. Turn the oven down to 375°F.

  5. You will create 4 layers of eggplant, so divide your eggplant accordingly. Begin by covering the bottom of the dish in a single, slightly overlapping layer of eggplant. Season with salt and pepper. Coat lightly with 1/4 of the tomato sauce. Then, tear on a few remaining basil leaves and thyme leaves. Then 1/3 of the mozzarella.

  6. Create another layer of eggplant, following with salt and pepper, tomato sauce, fresh herbs, mozzarella. Do it all once again, then place your final layer of eggplant. Brush on the last bit of tomato sauce. Then cover the whole tian with the mixture of Gruyere and Parmesan.

  7. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, until the eggplant is soft and steaming, and the cheese is nutty and brown on top. Allow to stand 5 minutes before cutting into little eggplant Napoleon tower.

  8. Top with torn bits of fresh basil and thyme, and a scattering of toasted pine nuts.

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Categories: Eat, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, Sides, Vegetables, Vegetarian, Vegetarian

French in a Flash: Trout en Papillotte

RECIPE: Trout en Papillote
Trout en Papillote

Trout en Papillote

When I was growing up, Meme would sing me this lullaby about how the fish swim in the sea, and the birds fly through the air. But when I bought Rusty, my goldfish, in college, I learned that with the help of some planes, trains, and automobiles, fish can travel however they like.

For this week’s French in a Flash on Serious Eats, I write about Rusty’s bravery, and the late-learned lesson that just because you’re a fish doesn’t mean you have to just stay in the water. The recipe is trout en papillotte, a whole trout, stuffed with woody herbs and citrus and butter, and roasted in a packet made of parchment that, if you’re hungry, is just as fun to tear open as a birthday present. Click here, as always, for the full story and recipe. Bon app!


Rusty, 2005

Trout en Papillote
serves 2

Trout en PapilloteIngredients

  • 2 butterflied whole trout

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

  • 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced

  • 2 teaspoons butter

  • 6 sprigs thyme

  • 6 sprigs rosemary

  • 4 slices lemon, plus extra lemon juice for drizzling

  • A handful of watercress or pea shoots

  • Salt and pepper

  • Two large rectangles of parchment paper


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

  2. Rub the trout outside and in with olive oil to coat. The more thoroughly you do this, the less likely the fish will be to stick to the parchment. Season them each inside and out with salt and pepper.

  3. Open the trout up like a book, and stick 3 thyme and 3 rosemary bookmarks in the center. Add in 1 teaspoon of butter for good measure. Close the book--your place is saved for later. Place two slices of lemon on top of each trout.

  4. Prepare the packages by tossing the fennel with 1 teaspoon of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Divide in half, and place a small mound in the middle of each sheet of parchment. Lay a trout on top of each fennel mountain. Then seal the package. Bring the edges of parchment parallel to the length of the fish up, and fold and fold and fold again until the fold rests sealed against the fish. Then folds the ends up like a Christmas gift, and fold under. All the folds will seal in the steam and the flavor.

  5. Bake the trout for 15 minutes.

  6. Meanwhile, toss the watercress or pea shoots with a touch of olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. When the packages come out of the oven, cut them open at the table, and top with a bit of greenery.

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Eat, Fish, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Recipes, Series

How Humpty Dumpty Lost His Head: Eggland’s Best, and the French Revolution

RECIPE: Strawberries with Champagne Sabayon
Strawberries with Champagne Sabayon

Strawberries with Champagne Sabayon

You may remember that recently I entered my little savory crustless quiches with fines herbes and chevre into the Eggland’s Best blogger recipe contest.

The night of the dinner to announce the winner, I was sitting rather nervously munching down grapes, waiting for the big reveal. The French-speaking man at Eggland’s Best began introducing the winning recipe.

“This recipe,” he boomed across the room, “comes from 1789.” He smiled towards me. I felt my heart sink. My recipe hadn’t come from 1789. But a historical recipe; how fascinating!

Then I looked up. He was still looking at me, and his smile turned to confusion. He began to look like he was wondering whether or not I was crazy. Then, whether or not I was stupid. I kicked myself under the table. 1789! The French Revolution! I jumped up, shaking and embarrassed. Me and my little quiches had won!

Strawberries with Champagne Sabayon

Today is Bastille Day here in Paris. A cause for celebration, especially here on French Revolution. Eggland’s Best has invited me to be this month’s guest contributor. I write about the black and white toile wallpaper in my bathroom at maman’s house, and about the little French peasant characters I have named that have stood, for better or worse, silent on the walls of my bathroom for nearly a decade. Marie-Louise, as I call her, has a basket of eggs in her hand, and is surrounded by a little knots of gabbling toile ducks and chickens, just outside her straw-roofed house that hiccups sweet smoke from the pipe chimney.

What I write about in this guest post is how the egg can be so many things, an ultimate Proteus of French cuisine. “My first recipe for Eggland’s Best, Mini Crustless Quiches with Fines Herbes and Chèvre, comes straight from Marie-Louise’s pot-bellied stove: rustic, hearty, wholesome, like sunshine. The second, Garden Strawberries with Champagne Sabayon, comes from the Manor House up the hill: refined, delicate, elegant, like moonlight.” I hope you will try the Strawberries with Champagne Sabayon recipe, not only because it’s delicious, but also because it is the perfect illustration of the tenets I set about when I started this blog: that French food can be elegant and luscious and honest, but so simple to make. And after all the hours I’ve been spending in a French cooking school, learning the ancien regime, I could use a friendly reminder of the culinary revolution today as well.

And there is no better way to celebrate Bastille Day than with champagne, nor France in the summertime than with strawberries.

Strawberries with Champagne Sabayon
serves 8

Strawberries with Champagne SabayonIngredients

  • 4 Eggland’s Best egg yolks

  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • Pinch of salt

  • 3 tablespoons champagne

  • 2 pints fresh strawberries


  1. In a large bowl, beat together the egg yolks, sugar, and salt with a hand mixer for about 1 minute, until the mixture becomes pale yellow.

  2. Set the mixture in its bowl over a pot of simmering water, careful that only the steam and not the water itself makes contact with the bowl.  Continue mixing with the hand mixer for 4 minutes.  The mixture should double in volume.

  3. Add the champagne, and mix another 2 minutes.  Spoon over the berries.

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Categories: Desserts, Eat, Fruit, Recipes