Mendiants (December 2011)
The traditional ingredients are:
- whole hazelnuts
- slivered almonds
- dried figs, cut in small pieces
- dark raisins
If you want to branch out a bit, you could use fruit other than figs, such as dried
apricots, dried cranberries, and crystallized ginger or fruit peel (orange or lemon). And if you don’t like hazelnuts, try pistachios or walnuts (either whole if you’re making
big mendiants, or walnut pieces for smaller ones). The trick is to mix and match the colors, shapes and textures. Prepare the toppings in advance. If you’re using many, you
can use a muffin tin to organize them.
You’ll need a work surface to drop the chocolate on. A marble slab is very professional, but not absolutely
necessary. A smooth, cool surface will do. Or even parchment paper. But NOT plastic wrap or aluminum foil.
- Cut your chocolate into smallish pieces and melt it in a bowl set over a small saucepan of hot water on low
heat (a bain-marie). Stir it while it melts. Don’t take the microwave shortcut because that often gives the chocolate a dull color and a mealy consistency.
- When the
chocolate is melted, take it off the heat. Let it cool until it feels pleasantly warm to your finger. That’s the right temperature. Drop small spoonfuls onto your surface. Shape
them into round disks.
- After you’ve made a few, and while the chocolate is still soft, decorate them with the nuts and fruit, so they stick to the surface. Before making more,
check the temperature of the remaining chocolate. If it’s gotten too cold and started to set, just put it back over the saucepan of hot water and stir for a bit.
you’ve finished a batch, let it rest until the chocolate is completely set. Then you can lift the mendiants carefully off the sheet. Meanwhile you can make another batch.
Makes about 80 pieces
Some people go all high-tech about melting chocolate and have special
chocolate-making thermometers. If you’re that way, you’ll want the chocolate to reach 120°F (50°C). Bring the temperature down quickly over an ice bath to 80°F (27°C), then
warm it back up to 88°F (31°C). That’s "The Right Way". But you can pretty much do it with the naked eye and a fingertip. The only thing you may lose is a bit of sheen to
Poulet sauté chasseur (November 2011)
- 1 frying chicken (2½-3 lbs), cut in pieces
- 3/4 lb ripe tomatoes (about 1 c of pulp)
- 2 T fresh tarragon leaves, minced
- 3/4 lb fresh mushrooms, sliced
- 2 T olive oil
- 2 T butter
- 2 T shallots, minced
- 2 T flour or 1 T of cornstarch
- 1 c dry white wine
- ½ c chicken stock
- salt & freshly ground pepper
- If you have fresh tomatoes just brimming with flavor, scald them in boiling water for 2 minutes and rinse in
cold water until you can handle them. Then peel and seed them, and cut them into coarse pieces. If you use canned tomatoes, drain off the juice and cut the tomatoes into large pieces.
(You can use the juice to flavor soups or in cooking rice.)
- Salt and pepper the chicken pieces. Then sauté them in the oil and butter in a heavy Dutch oven until they’re
browned on both sides. Remove to a dish and cover them.
- Put the mushrooms in the same Dutch oven and cook them for 3 minutes. Add in the shallots, cover and simmer for 5 minutes,
stirring with a wooden spoon from time to time. Add the flour or cornstarch and stir well for a minute. Add the wine and stock, plus the tomatoes and tarragon (except for a sprinkling to
decorate with at the end). Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.
- Lay the chicken on top of the sauce and bring it back to a boil. Cover and let simmer on low heat for 20-25 minutes,
checking that the sauce isn’t drying out. If needed, add a bit of water, wine or stock.
- Remove the chicken to a serving platter and, if necessary, reduce the sauce over high
heat, stirring constantly. Pour the sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with the rest of the minced tarragon.
Accompany with steamed potatoes, rice or pasta
Pair with a dry white wine, maybe the same one you used in the chicken.
Civet de lapin (October 2011)
- one rabbit, cut up into pieces (as you would a chicken)
- 5 or 6 carrots, cut into round slices
- ½ bottle of good red wine
- a slice of thick-cut bacon, diced
- a large onion, diced
- 4-6 cloves of garlic, depending on size
- 1 T flour
- 2 or 3 sprigs of fresh thyme (or 1 t dried)
- 2 bay leaves
- 5 or 6 large sprigs of parsley (or 2 t dried)
- 1 T olive oil
- Heat the olive oil. Sauté the bacon and the onion. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
- Brown the
rabbit on both sides. Once it’s browned, add the flour and cook for one minute, stirring. Add the bay leaves, thyme and parsley.
- Pour in the half bottle of wine and the
equivalent of a half bottle of hot water. Bring back to a boil, then lower the heat, cover and let simmer for about an hour.
- Add the carrots and cook until both they and the rabbit
If you need another vegetable, try steamed potatoes or rice or macaroni.
Serve with a full-bodied red wine.
Olives à la provençale (September 2011)
Cut the following in a brunoise cut (i.e. diced fine):
- onion, and
Mix them with 3 pounds of black and green olives.
Add 1 tsp each of:
plus a few grains of aniseed.
Cover with olive oil and the juice of a large lemon and let macerate for one week.
Obviously you may not want 3 pounds of olives. - remember, this is a recipe of
restaurant proportions - but you can cut it down any way you like. And you can share it with friends. Over a glass of something.
Tourte tomates et fourme (August 2011)
- a ready-made pie crust (preferably with the least sugar)
- 4 oz of fourme cheese (or another light-veined blue cheese)
- spicy mustard
- Preheat the oven to 300° F (150°C). Prick the pie crusts and place some dry beans in it to keep it from
buckling. Cook it until it’s golden brown. Take out the beans.
- Spread mustard thickly but evenly over the bottom of the pie crust.
- Cut the fourme cheese into thin slices
and lay them out to cover the pie crust. Or sprinkle the crumbled cheese evenly.
- Slice the tomatoes thin and lay them out over the cheese.
- Grind some fresh pepper over the top.
(No salt; these cheeses are salty enough!)
- Put the tourte back in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
Serve with a full-bodied red wine, like a Côtes-du-Rhône, Gigondas, Saint-Joseph or
Rougets la crème d’olives (July 2011)
(Reran April, 2014)
- 20 small green pitted olives
- 1 c (25 cl) heavy cream
- 2 T olive oil, and a bit more to sauté the fish
- ½ lb (200 g) spinach, washed and stems removed
- 4 rouget fillets
- salt & pepper
- fresh marjoram (or if you don’t have any, oregano)
- clove of garlic
- Warm the cream without bringing it to a boil. Add the olives and continue to warm
for 2-3 minutes. Put the cream, olives and 2 T of olive oil in a mixer or food processor and mix well. Add pepper (and salt, if necessary). Keep this sauce warm.
- Sweat the spinach in
a little olive oil, stirring it with a fork on which you’ve speared a clove of garlic. When the spinach is soft, strain off any liquid.
- Salt and pepper the rouget fillets. Brown them lightly, first on the skin side so they stay flat while cooking. When they’re just crispy, turn them over. Place a few marjoram leaves on each fillet. When the second side is crispy, turn them over again.
- Spread the spinach on a serving dish and lay the rouget fillets on top. Then pour the olive cream around the fillets.
This can be accompanied by rice or boiled potatoes if a second vegetable is desired.
Serve with a chilled dry sauvignon blanc or rosé wine.
Gratin de fraises (June 2011)
- 1 pound (400 g) strawberries
- 2 eggs
- ½ c (100 g) powdered sugar
- 3½ oz (100 g) crème fraîche, which is 1/3 c
- 1 t natural vanilla extract
- 3 or 4 mint leaves
- Wash the strawberries and remove the stems. (Don’t ever remove the stems first or water gets inside and
waters down the taste.) Cut the largest ones in two, or even three. Distribute them into 4 ovenproof ramekins.
- Whisk the eggs and sugar together until they turn pale yellow. Then
stir in the crème fraîche and vanilla and mix well. Wash the mint leaves and pat them dry, then slice them into fine strips and stir them in.
- Pour the mixture over the strawberries
and put the ramekins into a preheated 350°F (180°C) oven for 15 minutes.
- Serve hot.
Preparation time: 10 min
Cooking time: 15 min
You could use sour cream for the crème fraîche if you absolutely have to, but as its name indicates it will
give a more sour taste than with crème fraîche.
Save any strawberries that are left over after filling the ramekins for something
else that’s delicious.
Riz au lait (May 2011)
- 1 1/3 c (250 g) short-grained white rice (arborio is good)
- 1 liter milk (that’s a quart and a splash)
- 1/3 c (70 g) sugar
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1 egg yolk
- ½ c (10 cl) heavy cream
- 6 oz (150 g) blueberries
- zest of one lemon
- pinch of salt
- Blanch the rice for 2-3 minutes in a large quantity of boiling water. Drain the rice.
- Rinse the saucepan
but don’t wipe it so that the milk won’t stick to it. Put the rice back in the saucepan and pour the milk over it. Split the vanilla bean, scrape out the vanilla with the tip
of a knife and stir it into the milk, along with a pinch of salt. Let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the sugar and let it continue to simmer for 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat and let it stand for 5 more minutes.
- In a bowl, mix the egg yolk, cream and lemon zest. Stir it into the rice and milk.
- Fill individual parfait glasses with
a layer of riz au lait, then a layer of blueberries, then a layer of riz au lait. Top with a sprinkling of blueberries and serve warm or cold.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
Gigot d’agneau aux haricots blancs (April 2011)
If you don’t want to do a balancing act between cooking the beans and the lamb at the same time,
especially if you have guests, you can make the beans ahead of time. For the flageolets, you can substitute lima beans or navy beans; for the haricots blancs, try white
beans or Great Northerns.
If you’re starting from dry beans (1 pound), you’ll have to soak the beans the night before. First sort them to
remove any stones, then rinse them well. Put them in a bowl large enough for the beans to triple in size. Add plenty of cold water, even a bit more than you think is necessary. Let them
soak overnight. In the morning, remove any beans that are floating. Drain and rinse the rest. Then put the drained beans in a big pot and cover with fresh cold water. DO NOT ADD SALT. But
do add one onion, cut up and sauteed, and about 3-4 cloves of peeled garlic. Bring to a boil, then immediately turn down to a low simmer. Let simmer for 1 hour, partially covered, then
check if they’re soft enough. If not, simmer until they’re the desired softness and only then add salt to stop them from getting much softer.
If, on the other hand, you’re working with beans that are already cooked, you’ll still need to jazz them up. In a
skillet, heat some olive oil. Sauté the onion until it begins to turn golden at the edges, then add garlic (minced or crushed) and continue cooking until the garlic is just turning gold.
Add the beans to the garlic and onion and heat them through, stirring gently. Then when they’re warm, turn the heat off and let them sit while the flavors come together. Reheat
gently when you take the lamb out of the oven.
Now for the leg of lamb. A 6-pound leg will serve 8. Have your butcher cut off most but not all of the outer fat . In America,
people seem to like to have the bone removed, but in France it’s generally left in for more flavor. Your call.
Preheat the oven to 450°F
If you’re a garlic fiend, this is where you make little incisions in the leg of lamb and slip in slivers of garlic. If
not, just roast it as is. In both cases, season with salt and pepper and rub with olive oil. You can also rub it with 1 T of chopped fresh rosemary (2 t dry) and 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
(2 t dry) if you want more of a herb flavor.
Roast the lamb in a roasting pan. Turn and baste it every 5 minutes for 15 minutes until it’s light brown all over. Then
lower the temperature to 350°F and let cook until it’s done to your taste. Rare would be 1 to 1 1/4 hrs (meat temp 125-130°), medium 1 1/4 to 1 ½ hr (145-150°F). More cooked than
that is a waste of good lamb.
Remove the leg of lamb to the serving platter and cover with tin foil to let it rest 15 minutes to seal in the juices. Remove
any excess fat from the roasting pan and season the remaining juices with additional salt and pepper, if needed. Strain out any fresh thyme and rosemary when pouring into a gravy boat.
Serve with the beans and a green side salad.
Pair with a light but full-bodied red wine, such as a Beaujolais, Chinon or Graves.
If your budget makes a leg of lamb too expensive, try 3 pounds of lamb shoulder. Cut it into large
pieces, salt and pepper, and brown in a heavy saucepan (10-15 min). Then add one chopped onion and some minced or crushed garlic to taste, a cup of white wine and a cup of water, a large
can of crushed tomatoes, a bay leaf, 4 sprigs of thyme (or 2 t dry), 1 T chopped fresh rosemary (or 2 t dry) and cook, covered, for about 1½ hr. When ready to serve, add the drained beans
and simmer together 5 min. To finish, you can place it under the broiler for a few minutes until it’s lightly browned on top, if you want.
Bar au cresson (March 2011)
- 1 bunch watercress
- 3 T (40 g) butter
- 1 large leek, julienned (white part only)
- 1 medium-sized onion, julienned
- 2 c (½ l) heavy cream
- 1 sea bass per person (or one for two, if large), cleaned and filleted
- Wash the watercress. Cut off the stems, but keep them. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Sweat the leek and
onion, without browning them. Add the watercress stems. Sweat them over low heat for about 5-6 minutes.
- Add the heavy cream. Heat until it starts to bubble, then take off the burner
immediately. Cover and let stand for 20 minutes.
- Bring 3 quarts of heavily salted water to a boil. (The salt will help the watercress stay bright green.) Trim any thick filaments
from the watercress leaves. Put the watercress in the water and let boil uncovered for 8-10 minutes. Drain and plunge into iced water. When the watercress is cool, squeeze it hard to
remove as much water as possible.
- Remove the watercress stems from the cream and strain the liquid through a fine sieve or cheesecloth. Run the boiled watercress leaves through a
food processor. Add half of the cream. Mix. Add the rest of the cream. Mix well.
- Preheat the oven to 275°F (140°C). Butter an ovenproof dish. Salt and pepper the bass. Cook it, skin
side down for 10-12 minutes, with a dab of butter on the top. Turn it over and leave it for 2-3 minutes in the dish but OUTSIDE of the oven.
- When the fish comes out of the oven,
start reheating the cream sauce.
- Plate the bass in a deep dish. Add the cream around it, but NOT on top. Sprinkle a little fleur-de-sel salt on the bass.
Serve with boiled potatoes or white rice, accompanied by a meursault wine.
Iles flottantes la crème anglaise et aux fruits confits (February 2011)
- 1 3/4 c (4 dl) milk
- 4 eggs
- 1 T orange zest
- 1 T (10 g) butter
- 4 candied apricots
- 2 candied mandarine oranges
- 2 T orange liqueur
- 1 t lemon juice
- 2/3 c (140 g) granulated sugar
- confectioner’s sugar
- Remove the zest from an orange. Put it in the milk and bring to a boil. Then let cool a bit.
the eggs. Beat the yolks until they form a ribbon. Add 1/4 c (40 g) of the sugar and mix well.
- Add a bit of the cooled milk into the eggs. When you’re sure the eggs
haven’t become scrambled eggs, add the rest of the milk. Rinse out the saucepan and pour the milk back in. As you warm the milk back up, stir with a wooden spoon. DO NOT LET IT
BOIL. Take it off the heat as soon as the first small bubbles appear and pour it into a bowl placed over ice cubes. Stir it as it cools. (You’ll know the crème anglaise is done when it coats the back of the wooden spoon. Run your finger over the coated spoon - if it draws a clear line, the crème is done; if the line is runny, you need to cook it a little longer.)
- Dice the candied fruits into small pieces. Add 1 T of orange liqueur, mix and let stand. (You can use prepared candied fruits but they often are a bit rubbery. Fresh candied fruits taste much better, but aren’t available everywhere.).
- Add 1 t of lemon juice and a pinch of salt to the egg whites and beat them slowly for about 1 minute. Then
turn the egg beater up to about half speed and add in a good 1/4 c (50 g) of the sugar. When the whites start to get stiff, add in the remainder of the sugar. Turn the egg beater up to
full speed and beat until the whites are very stiff.
- Butter the ramekins and sprinkle them with sugar, tapping out any extra. Put them in the refrigerator for about half an
- Fill the ramekins one-third and create a hollow in the center of the stiffened whites. Fill the hollow with some candied fruit. Then cover with the rest of the egg whites.
Put the ramekins in an ovenproof dish and fill the dish with water to 3/4 of the height of the ramekin. Heat on the stove until the water starts to bubble. Cover and place in an oven
preheated to 320° F (160° C) for 15 minutes. Let cool before you take them out of the ramekins.
- Unmold the islands and place one in the middle of each dessert plate. Add 1 T of orange liqueur to the cooled crème and mix well. Pour it around the island. Decorate with a few pieces of candied fruit and sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar. You can also add your own final touches, like a sprig of mint.
You can make your own candied fruit peel, if you have the time. It’s really fun.
Using a vegetable peeler, remove wide strips of zest from the citrus fruits. (Be careful to remove only the
surface and not the white pith underneath, or else trim it off afterward.) Slice the zest into 1/4"-wide julienne strips. In a saucepan, cover the strips with 2 cups of water, bring
to a boil and cook for 10 seconds. Drain in a strainer and rinse the strips under cold water.
Put the zest strips back in the saucepan, along with 1/3 cup of sugar and 2/3 cup of water. Bring to a boil and
cook, uncovered, until the mixture starts to thicken (about 8 min). At this point, the syrup should be a bit gooey and the zest strips should be almost transparent.
Spread 1/3 cup of sugar on a tray. Add the strips and toss, making sure each strip
is coated with sugar. Transfer the strips to a plate; let stand for at least half an hour, until dry. Shake off any excess sugar. You can keep them in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed
Endives braisées (January 2011)
- Endive, the equivalent of 2 or 3 per person, depending on size
- Salted butter
- Granulated sugar
- Trim the base of the endive, removing any damaged or wilted leaves. Rinse and drain well.
- Cook the
endives whole in salted boiling water until they’re somewhat soft, testing the base with a knife. Drain.
- Cut large endives lengthwise, leaving small ones whole, and put them in
a large frying pan (top of the stove) or a baking dish (in the oven). Dot with butter and sprinkle lightly with granulated sugar. Cook until caramelized.
Serve with any roast or grilled meat, accompanied by a hearty red wine.