Friday, December 12, 2008

Omeletes as Julia's "Dinner in half a minute!"

Maybe this is what got me on this obsession with fast French food: Julia's intro to the first show of hers.

I remember so well: "How about dinner in half a minute?!"

So that about says it all.

I make an omelet almost every morning for breakfast, though usually with egg substitute (terrible name for egg whites--I like Eggbeaters so much better, the name and the product). Now in my new Calphalon ten inch omelet pan they go much like above.

And the variations are endless. My favorite is the dessert omelet, mentioned famously in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. Their cook goes a little crazy one evening and makes a meal of hors d'ouvres, capped with a jam omelet for dessert. Why not?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Queue de boeuf --Ox tail stew

This is so fun and easy to make. The bones in the tail give this a richness that reminds me of eating beef cheeks in that sweet restaurant in DC, where John and Jen and I went last year. There is nothing like abats. Joyce loved this dish. But it needs a bone plate, like fish.

Julia does not mention queue de boeuf. But it's very much like the tongue recipes or the many beef braises or stews she gives (a la mode). This is where very peasant french cuisine meets bourgeoisie french cuisine. And some nice frozen peas help, microwaved three minutes with butter, salt and pepper, covered.

for 3-4 persons
  • onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 12 peppercorns
  • 3-4 pounds ox tail
  • 3-4 carrots
  • 3.4 parsnips
  • 1 bottle red wine
  • herbs de province
  • 1 teaspoon Kitchen Magic

  • 1/3 cup port, white wine, brandy or water
  • 3 tablespoons Wondra
  • fresh herbs for garnish
  1. Place the first group of ingredients in a slow cooker and turn on low. Cook for 8-10 hours.
  2. Strain the juices in a fat separator and allow the fat to rise to the top. Mix the wine or stock and the Wondra in a small sauce pan. Slowly add the warm stock to the Wondra mixture, stirring over medium heat until the sauce is thickened.
  3. Place 1/4 of the beef and the vegetables on each plate. Spoon the sauce over each plate. Garnish with the chopped herbs.

Les Saint Jaques (ou crevettes) en bouillebaisse

Julia gives a lovely little recipe for scallops or shrimp with Provencal flavors. II 37. I add a little Pernod for that Provence alcoholic licorice flavor (a hint of fresh tarragon in summer will do as well or better).

And I use canned "fire-roasted" diced tomatoes with garlic, which they didn't have in Julia's day. I have no more need to justify using the occasional canned product than Julia needed for canned tomato paste or stock. There. But it's almost as quick in high summer tomato season to chop up some big fresh ones, cutting away as much of the peel as is convenient.

Good bread is always good with soup. Couscous, orzo, or reheated rice, will work too, and can be prepared in the same or less time than the stew.

Serves 4 as a main, or 6 as a starter

1/4 cup olive oil
1 and 1/2 cups (combined) yellow onions, scallions, and/or leeks, all sliced very thin.
2 large garlic cloves
2 tablespoons fresh herbs or 2 teaspoons herbs de Provence.
1 can (14 ounce) fire roasted tomatoes with garlic, drained, reserving the liquid
3 cups liquid (tomato liquid, clam juice, white wine, or water)
1 pound scallops and/or shrimp (deveined and, if you wish, peeled)
(optional: 1 tablespoon Pernod, Ricard, or other licorice-flavored liqueur)
(optional: Cajun seasoning or pepper flakes)
(Aioli sauce)
  1. Heat a fait-tout over high heat and add the olive oil and onions (or leeks) and garlic mashed in a press. Chop and add the herbs. Reduce the heat to medium and cook three minutes, covered.
  2. Add the drained canned diced tomatoes and the liquid. Cover and boil for three minutes.
  3. Add the shrimp and/or scallops, and the optional Pernod. Season with salt and pepper and Cajun seasoning or red pepper flakes, to taste. Boil two minutes, covered.
  4. Serve in soup bowls, garnished with fresh herbs used in the sauce and/or aioli. Can be served as a simple stew or over over rice, orzo, or couscous.

Poulet bourride

I had forgotten about Bourride, that simple Provencal stew of most anything, crowned with rouille, until I walked into French Roast just before midnight, on our last trip to New York for the New Yorker Festival. French Roast is a neighborhood restaurant/coffee shop on West 11th and 6th Avenue, by the hotel where we always stay, The Larchmont. And it stays open 24/7. We had been going so hard we hadn't had dinner, and the seafood bourride was the daily special on Fridays, and it was superb. Tons of shellfish swimming in an autumn gold sauce.

This is a really fast adaptation of Julia's recipe for chicken bourride (MAFC II 263). But much, much lighter, because I use light aioli, which has become my all purpose sauce in the summer. I use chicken breasts instead of Julia's poached chicken, but you could make this even faster by buying a roasted chicken on the way home from work.
  • 1 cup white wine and/or chicken stock
  • (optional: 1 tablespoon Pernod, Ricard, or other licorice-flavored liqueur)
  • 1 and 1/2 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons fresh herbs or 2 teaspoons herbs de Provence.
  • (optional: Cajun seasoning or pepper flakes)
  • 1 bunch scallions sliced very thinly, whites and some green.
  • (optional: a zuchinni cut into 1/2 inch chunks, or asparagus or thin green beans cut in 2" pieces.)
  • 1 can (14 ounce) fire roasted tomatoes with garlic, drained, reserving the liquid
  • 1/2 cup aoili sauce
  1. In a fait-tout, heat wine (and/or stock) over high heat, covered.
  2. Cut half breast lengthwise into three or four long strips--lamelles. Season with salt, pepper, herbs de province, and Cajun seasoning (optional). Place them in the pan, cover again.
  3. Stir in a diced tomato (fresh, with skin on, or canned), very thinly sliced scallions (white and some green), and adjust the heat to keep simmering. The chicken lamelles should be pinkish inside at the thickest part (poke and peek).
  4. Spoon into bowls or deep plates, spoon some aeoli onto each and and garnish with herbs.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Rillettes de saumon--salmon spread

I first had this in Tours, as I started my bike trip along the Loire last summer. It was a little tourist restaurant called Roi something. On the Rue du Grand Marché just off the vieux carré.

The salmon at the best places comes from the Loire, where there has been an effort to help the Atlantic salmon spawn far up the what is the longest river in France. The river system is beautifully clear (compared to Iowa especially). I could look down from the grand gallery at Chenonceau, the chateau the spans the Cher (a Loire tributary) and snap a pic of the fish in the afternoon light below. The story is that during WWI, soldiers taken there to recover from their wounds fished from their hospital beds in the river below.

The charcutiers compete as much on the salmon rillettes as they do on their pork rillettes (pork meat and fat melted into a spread). And I had several versions of both during my five days on the bike.

This is great on a buffet, with bread or crackers, but also as a first course.

Serves 12 as a first course on crackers or bread.
  • 8 ounces smoked salmon (thin sliced Scottish style)
  • 8 ounces cooked salmon (leftover, or microwaved 3 minutes)
  • 3 ounces European-style butter (e.g., Plugra)
  • 6 ounces creme fraiche (recipe below)
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon chopped dill and more for garnish.
  1. Soften the butter in the microwave (about 7 seconds on high). Mince the dill.
  2. Cut the smoked salmon into thin strips lengthwise, then cut crosswise into small dice. Roughly chop the fresh salmon.
  3. With a fork or whisk, toss the salmons, softened butter, creme fraiche, lemon juice, dill, and freshly ground pepper until it is lightly combined.
  4. Put in ramekins or a bowl. Garnish with additional dill. Refrigerate for two hours if possible.

Creme fraiche: If you can't buy this in a market, you can make it overnight. In a microwave, warm a 1/2 pint carton of heavy cream slightly (110 degrees, for those who must be precise). Pour 1 tablespoon buttermilk into the carton of heavy cream. Shake and leave out about 24 hours, or until the cream has thickened (check it every eight hours or so). Then refrigerate.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Oeufs durs / Hard (and not so) boiled eggs

Pomaine says to keep boiled eggs around. I do. Despite my doctor's bad about my cholesterol. So I eat 2 or 3 a week. Perfect snack. So says also my favorite (now) French food blogger
"In France, an old tradition was to be able to find hard boiled eggs on counters in cafés or at bistrots and troquets." And so also in bars and movie theaters here. I remember at the Broncho we had a big jar of pickles and a twin jar of pickled eggs.

This also makes a very fancy first course, like the one with creme fraiche and caviar right (with a Parmesian crisp--see below)

I do an eight minute egg (for a US large, refrigerated). The yolk comes out firm but moist, not dry an crumbly, like the 10 minute eggs of my childhood.

If you like them soft you can buy an egg topper and take the tops off. But to peel, quickly, just run cold water over them and then crack the top and bottom on the counter, then roll to crack the rest--and the peel comes off in seconds.

The quick and easy thing from Julia is Oeuf dur mayonnaise. She said--and I remember this so well--that no one needs more of an appetizer than this. So true.

But here is one of an infinite number of fancy things to do:
  1. Put a halved egg on a bed of tapenade (store bought or see the sauces entry).
  2. Douse with Red Pepper Aioli.
  3. Between the halves put a Parmesan crisp made on a Silpat.
The Parmesian crisp is so easy to make.
  1. Preheat the oven to 425.
  2. Put a Silpat on a baking sheet. Using the fine holes, grate Parmesan, Romano, or other hard cheese to make a rough disk four inches round. The cheese does not have to cover the circle. Lighter cheese will make a lacier crisp.
  3. Bake for about 4 minutes or until just golden.
  4. Remove the sheet from the oven and let cool half a minute or more.
  5. Using a thin spatula, carefully remove the disks and cool on a rack or paper towels--or simply put on the food warm!

 Garnishing roast salmon, with caviar in half of the halves and the yolk chopped for sprinkling on the salmon

 Mayonnaise with chopped herbs, and a little cayenne.

 With red pepper aioli and capers.

With 10 minute ratatouille.
Of course the most beautiful is perhaps the simplest: Just cut them in half, add salt and pepper, and put them on a plate with summer tomatoes.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Côtes de porc poelées: And the tragedy of the other white meat

The other white meat is dry and tasteless, as everyone who cares about the taste of pork knows now, except Big Pork. And I live in Iowa, the largest pork producing state in the USA. When they bred out the fat, the bred out the taste, and texture too. Shame. But what to do?

In the last few years a few Iowa producers have met the white tablecloth restaurant demand by producing "heirloom" pork. Very expensive and slow to order. But often available from the crunchy granolas at Wheatsfield. It's heaven, cooked very slowly. And fairly forgiving even when it's cooked quickly, as it's full of fat (love alliteration). But there's no getting around it takes more than 10 minutes.

But what to do quickly? Tender juicy pork chops in 10 minutes flat?

Yesterday at Fareway they had a cut of pork I've never had: pork rib eye. Cut from the small end of the loin. Marbled, just like a beef rib eye. It's seasoned with pepper and Cookie's at the store. So tender you can flatten them from their inch thickness to 3/4 inch with your palm. Little five-ounce boneless beauties for a dollar each.

So now it's possible to make Julia's Côtes de porc poelées (MAFC I 366) in 10 minutes flat, and have deep pork flavor in a fork tender boneless chop.

Serves 2

2 five-ounce boneless pork rib eye chops, flattened to 3/4 inches.
1 tablespoon olive oil or bacon drippings
[Optional vegetable garnish: zuchinni in 3/8 inch slices, asparagus, crinkle cut carrots, etc.]
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar (cheap is fine)
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup red or white wine
1/4 cup balsamic roast gravy (see my boef a la mode recipe on this blog)
  1. Heat a large skillet on high. Pat dry and season the chops (if they are not already seasoned)
  2. Add the oil and saute the chops for four minutes (and the optional vegetables)
  3. Turn the chops and cook another four minutes (and the vegetables as necessary)
  4. Remove the chops to a plate and cover (and the optional vegetables as necessary)
  5. Add the vinegar and honey (or wine and gravy) and stir rapidly, scraping up all coagulated juices. Reduce slightly over high heat. Taste for seasoning and pour it over the cops and serve


Côtes de porc Nénette (MAFC I 387)
  1. Complete steps 1-3 of the master recipe above.
  2. While the pork is cooking, beat together 3/4 cups whipping cream or crême fraiche, one and one-half teaspoons dry English mustard, and one tablespoon tomato paste.
  3. Microwave the mixture on high for two minutes, covered lightly with a paper napkin.
  4. Remove the pork from the pan and stir in the cream mixture, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom, until the sauce has thickened slightly, about one minute.
  5. Stir in the one tablespoon chopped basil, parsley, or cilantro, and pour the sauce over the chops.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Galette aux poires

I have always loved to make Julia's free form tarts (MAFC II 454, 457), because you can make them any shape. I made strawberry for Mary's graduation open house. A great day.

They are in the oven in 10 minutes with pre-rolled-out pie crust, your own or store-bought. Don't get the kind that are already in pie pan. They are dry and horrible. Get the kind where the dough is rolled out into a round and then rolled up in waxed paper.

A corer makes cutting up the pears (or apples) short work.

Cooking spray
1/2 (15-ounce) package refrigerated pie dough (such as Pillsbury) OR 1 sheet Pepperidge Farms puff pastry thawed in advance (yes, cheating) OR your own dough made in advance.
3 firm Bartlett or D'Anjou pears, peeled, cored and cut into 8 slices (a corer is essential for speed)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 400°.
  1. Slice and core the pears. Cut the slices into 3/4 inch pieces.
  2. Toss with the sugar, flour, and lemon juice. Grate nutmeg on them (or use ground).
  3. Unfold the pastry and place it on a sheet pan or pie pan.
  4. Add the pear mixture to the center. Then fold the edges around and pinch the edges secure
  5. Bake at 400 for 25 minutes or until the crust is golden and the pears done. (The filling may leak slightly during cooking). Cool galette on a wire rack.


There are infinite variations, both in the fruit and the shape of the tart. Here I give filling for two rhubarb tarts. We planted rhubarb when we moved here twenty-some years ago, and the plants still give us a favorite tart filling. Maddie loves to make these, even though our uncle Chris calls it "sour celery."

Rhubarb Galette

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • 1/2 pound rhubarb, sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small piece

Strawberry Rhubarb Galette

  • 2 1/2 cups sliced strawberries
  • 1 cup chopped rhubarb
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Tranches de jambon Moranville

I know that Julia braises a whole ham (MAFC I 391). But hey, I grew up on fried ham. So this is country fried French.

The secret is of course good ham. And we have that in Iowa. It's not as good as Kentucky, those southern smoked hams. But damned good, especially if you can get some old genes (heirloom) pork.

For 4 people

1 to 1.5 pound excellent smoked ham, cut 3/8 to 1/2 inch thick
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon brandy
1/4 cup Madeira OR port
1 shallot or scallion white, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup creme fraiche OR no-fat sour cream
1/2 cup pot roast gravy OR 1/2 cup beef stock mixed with 1 tablespoon Wondra
1 tablespoon chopped parsley or scallion greens
  1. Heat a large skillet on medium high and add the olive oil and butter. Warm the oven.
  2. Add the ham, cut into 4-5 ounce portions and patted dry. Saute until the edges begin to blacken, about 3 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, mince the shallot or scallion and chop the parsley or scallion green. Mix the liquids.
  4. When the ham is browned, remove it to a plate, cover with another plate, and place in the warm oven.
  5. Add the shallot to the skillet and cook 30 seconds.
  6. Add the wine, gravy or stock, brandy, tomato paste, and cream. Stir until smooth.
  7. Pour any accumulated juices from the ham into the sauce, then distribute the ham onto four plates and pour on the sauce. Garnish with parsley or scallion greens.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Roasted salmon

This is so quick. Season a fillet of salmon (five minutes tops). Put it in the oven (twelve minutes tops). While it's cooking make a sauce, a vegetable, a starter, a dessert, or a phone call. And it comes out really moist and tender.

This is my favorite entree for a big buffet or pot luck. It's possible to make twice or three times this amount in almost the same time. People just dig in.

There are a thousand seasonings and sauce possible, but here's my standard.

Serves 4-6 as a main course, 10-12 as a starter or buffet item.
  • 1 fillet of salmon (1.5 to 1.75 pounds)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon herbs de province
  • Cajun seasoning (or ground cayenne)
  • sea salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • [optional: capers and sliced lemon]
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 (375 for 1.75 pounds or larger)
  2. Dust a cookie sheet with sea salt and place the fish on it skin side down.
  3. Using a garlic press, crush the garlic onto the fish and rub it in (hands are good here)
  4. Using a pastry brush, coat the fish with mustard.
  5. Dust with herbs and seasonings.
  6. Bake for 12 minutes.
  7. Sauce (see below) or simply garnish with capers and lemon slices
I like a a warm vinaigrette made by combining 1-2 cloves minced garlic with 4 tablespoons olive oil and lemon juice (salt and pepper), then heating until it the garlic is fragrant (don't burn it!). But there are an infinite number of sauces possible.

with tapenade
with aioli (right)
olive oil, garlic, and lemon

with asparagus
with green beans
with zucchini sliced thinly (right)
with shaved Brussels sprouts (right)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Blancs de poulet a la crème et aux champignons

I love this recipe from Julia. It's so tender, melt in your mouth. And so so fast--as long as the breast pieces are a reasonable size. In these Tyson days, two breasts will feed four people. (Chicken is sold by the pound but bought by the piece, which means they make the damned chickens as big as possible.)

The big 10 ounce US chicken breasts need to be cut into fifths, to produce 10 two-ounce pieces--and nothing over one and 1/2 inches or they won't cook through properly. I put them into my fait-tout along with the wine, stock, lemon juice, and butter, covered them with waxed paper, and they cook fast enough on medium.

Use creme fraiche or heavy cream. The no-fat sour cream produces a weak sauce, but OK for dieting.

One pound boneless chicken breasts cut into pieces no more than 1 and 1/2 inches thick (about two large breasts)
1 tablespoon butter
1 lemon
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 tablespoon chicken stock or beef stock (or gravy from a chicken or beef stew)
2 tablespoons white wine or dry vermouth
2 tablespoons chopped scallion or 1 tablespoon minced shallot
1/4 cup  heavy cream
(waxed paper)
  1. Heat a covered fait-tout on high (thaw the stock in the microwave on high if necessary)
  2. Grate some lemon rind onto the breast pieces, about 1 teaspoon. Squeeze lemon juice on them. Salt and paper lightly, and toss.
  3. In the fait-tout, add butter, stock, scallions, mushrooms, wine, and breast pieces.
  4. Cover with waxed paper and reduce heat to medium.
  5. Cover the fait-tout and simmer for 5 minutes, shaking occasionally or turning once if necessary.They are done when they are slightly springy to the touch (poke and peek at the biggest one to check). Do not overcook. They will cook a bit more when removed from the pan.
  6. Raise the heat to high and remove the chicken to a warming oven or or platter, covered by the waxed paper.
  7. Add the cream and stir till blended, boiling down the sauce until very slightly thickened. Check seasoning.
  8. Pour the sauce over the chicken and garnish with chopped scallion greens or herbs.
  • Substitute champagne, cognac, scotch, bourbon, or Pernod for the wine.
  • Add asparagus tips with the chicken, instead of the mushrooms.
  • Add very thin green beans, broccoli, or cauliflower in the first step.
  • Add a teaspoon of curry powder and use brandy instead of wine.
Joyce really liked them. But to me they don't have that perfect consistency of the oven poeled ones Julia does.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Boeuf a la Mode: Braised Beef with Balsamic Wine Sauce

For my brother-in-law's birthday, on a Sunday night, this Sunday roast is fun. It also leaves the morning free for Mass and the Sunday Times.

It also makes a good stock to freeze and use for steaks and so on. And good good leftovers (see below)

5 minutes. Serves 6-12. [MAFC I 309]

3-4 lb beef roast, such as boneless chuck
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup red wine
1 packet dry onion soup mix
  1. Spray crock-pot with cooking spray.
  2. Place roast on bottom and sprinkle with soup mix.
  3. Pour balsamic vinegar and wine over roast.
  4. OPTIONAL: parsnips, turnips, and/or carrots peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces
  5. Cover and cook on LOW for 7-8 hours.
For a more elegant sauce (another 5 minutes)
  1. Strain the sauce through a seive into a saucepan
  2. Mix 4 tablespoons Wondra with two tablespoons brandy and two tablespoons port.
  3. Stir it into the sauce and stir over high heat until thickened and smooth. Strain into a sauce boat
  4. Turn the roast (and vegetables) out onto a serving plate, and pour some of the sauce over it. Garnish with parsley.
For a less elegant sauce
  1. Take the leftover beef, add some leftover vegetables, and some Dijon mustard or mayonnaise. Heat or not.
  2. Enjoy in a sunny corner.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

3 mousses au chocolat: légère, Julia's & 5-minute

Here is chocolate mousse three ways. I made it for Valentine's day yesterday, and I realized I can make Julia's version in 10 minutes, with some fancy footwork. And I even do a 5-minute version sometimes that feeds a crowd very fast. But my favorite is a light one that was inspired by Julia's. I give all three here.

I invented the light version for a dinner party my daughter gave for five of her teenage friends, years ago. She wanted me to make chocolate mousse. And I remembered back 35 years ago when I first made it from Julia. I loved the orange flavor (MAFC I p. 604). And it was this recipe (and TV episode) that taught me to beat and fold in egg whites. I had few of the ingredients and no time. So I made a light version for the girls.

I serve this in little 3-ounce cordial glasses. A fun treat rather than a big chocolate dig-in. Nobody complains except kids. And you can haul out the leftovers and let them fight over them.

Chocolate is always an issue in a small town. The other day, I picked up a bar of Hershey's Special Dark chocolate in the baking chocolate section, then noticed the same bar in the candy section (conveniently placed next to the express lane at Fareway) for almost exactly half the price. It worked fine. Of course you can buy the fanciest chocolate you can. If time is money, then this recipe is a bargain no matter how expensive the chocolate is.

The 5-minute version is heavier because you don't take time to beat the egg whites. But hey, it tastes really good. And it's not all that heavy. The guys at the shelter love it. So here they are: light, Julia's shortened, and 5-minute. (By the way, the Valentine's day menu yesterday was Caviar deviled eggs with Parmesan crisps, rib-eye steaks fry-broiled, roasted winter vegetables (potatoes, parsnips, carrots, Brussels sprouts), Maytag blue cheese with olive oil and pepper)

Mousse au chocolat légère

Serves 4-6

8 ounces excellent semi-sweet or milk chocolate
1 teaspoon Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
4 egg whites
  1. Separate the eggs, placing the whites in a clean metal mixing bowl and reserving the yolks for another use (they freeze fine).
  2. Break the chocolate into pieces in a microwave safe plastic bowl. Add the orange liqueur and microwave on medium for about 35 seconds, or until just melted.
  3. With a hand mixer, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks (MAFC I pp. 159-160).
  4. With a spatula, stir 1/4 of the whites into the chocolate. Then turn the chocolate mixture into the egg white bowl and carefully fold the whites and the chocolate together (MAFC I pp. 160-161)

VARIATION: Mousseline au chocolat; Mayonaise au chocolat; Fondant au chocolat

This is the original recipe from MAFC1 p. 604 speeded up. The ingredients from Julia's recipe are the same. A fast operator can have this ready to chill in 10 minutes, and two hours later, about dessert time, it's ready.

Serves 6-8

6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips or baking chocolate broken into bits with a kinfe
1/3 cup powdered sugar
4 Tb strong coffee
1/4 cup orange liqueur
6 ounces unsalted butter (one and one half sticks)
4 eggs
optional: 1/4 cup finely diced, glazed orange peel (candied)
1 can compressed whipped cream
  1. Run warm water in a large bowl or sink while you separate the eggs, putting the whites in a clean mixing bowl. Float it on the warm water.
  2. Put the coffee and orange liqueur in the microwave on high for one minute, until very hot but not boiling
  3. Place the chocolate and sugar in a blender and blend on high for 15 seconds.
  4. Add the hot liquid and blend 15 seconds or until smooth.
  5. Add the butter, cut into 1/2 inch slices, and the egg yolks. Blend on high for 15 seconds.
  6. Using a hand mixer, beat the yolks with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form.
  7. Pour the chocolate mixture into the egg whites and fold the c
  8. Pour into elegant serving bowls, wine glasses, flutes, or ramekins and refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.
  9. Garnish with the whipped cream and optional candied orange peel or chocolates.

VARIATION: Blender chocolate mousse in 5 minutes
Serves 8-10

Here's the one I did for the Emergency Residence Project on 1/14/11. I made it in 5 minutes, with time to chop the pistachios.

1 (12 ounce) package semisweet chocolate chips (Hershey's Special Dark is good)
1/2 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1 cup hot cream (160 degrees F/71 degrees C)
1/4 cup strong coffee, heated
1/4 cup orange liqueur
[optional] whipped cream pressurized, pistachios
  1. Open the cream carton and put it in the microwave on high for one minute.
  2. Put the chocolate chips and the sugar in a blender and blend on high for 10 seconds.
  3. Add the hot milk, hot coffee, and orange liqueur and blend on high for two minutes.
  4. As it is blending, add the eggs one at a time through the top hole.
  5. Pour into a glass serving bowl, individual glasses, bowls, or ramekins, and refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.
  6. Garnish with whipped cream and/or chopped pistachios

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Eggs cocotte in 5 flat

This is a super fast version (5 minutes flat) of a French (and Julia) classic: eggs baked in a ramekin (MAFC I p. 123). This is capable of infinite variations, and a great way to use bits of elegant leftovers. And you can also save those last few tablespoons of some great sauce and substitute it for the cream. The best is an idea I took from The Café here in town: Green Eggs and Ham.

2 persons

2 large eggs
cooking spray or butter
crème fraîche OR cream OR sour cream OR no-fat sour cream
salt and fresh ground pepper

  1. Spray (or butter) two four-ounce ramekins.
  2. Put a tablespoon of cream (etc.) and/or other goodies in each.
  3. Carefully break an egg in each.
  4. With a pin or the point of a sharp knife, delicately pierce the yellow without spilling the yolk.
  5. Add a tiny pinch of salt and pepper to each.
  6. Microwave 35 seconds on high power for one, 1 minute for two, 2 minutes for four. Times vary with the microwave and the ramekins. The egg white should be white, but the yolk runny. Shaking the ramekin will give a good hint. Don't overcook or the whites can be rubbery.
  • Green eggs and ham: A tablespoon of diced ham on the bottom. a tablespoon of pesto on top.
  • Aux fines herbes: Add one half teaspoon of mixed fresh herbs to the cream, and a sprinkling as garnish.
  • A la russe: a tablespoon of sour cream on the bottom; a teaspoon of caviar (or red lumpfish roe) and very finely chopped red onion on top after cooking
  • Provencal: a tablespoon of tapenade on the bottom; a tablespoon of aioli on top, and a sprinkling of herbs.
  • Ecosse: Sour cream and smoked salmon in the bottom. Dill to garnish.
  • Home grown tomato slice on the bottom

Ramequins fondants au chocolat

I always wanted to find an elegant 10 minute chocolate dessert for romantic evenings (Valentine's Day) or big dinner parties when I am too busy with other things to bake one of Julia's French cakes. This is it. The most popular recipe on the most popular French recipe site, And very popular with my Valentine (the chocolates Right are from her, the homemade card from our sweet Maddie).

They are a lot like lava cake, which my daughter buys in a mix for her 'bring your own lobster' parties (because as a student she worked in a Boston fish house where they served little lava cakes--where and learned to kill, cook and dismember one with skill and grace, which she justly loves to show off).

These can be served hot or warm or cold, molded or unmolded (they have to cool about 10 minutes before they are stable enough to unmold). After they've been baked they can be reheated in a microwave to restore that melty goodness. And the batter can be made ahead or even frozen so you are never without a chocolate dessert.

I used to just use a bar of Hershey's Special Dark, which is much cheaper ($1.19) than the same chocolate in the baking section. It's divided into 16 pieces, so I use 12 for the batter and four (each broken in two) for the chocolate centers). It's not the best chocolate but full of value for money. But now I think what the hell, buy the best on the shelf, which at Fareway turns out to be Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bar.

5 minutes prep. 12 minutes baking [MAFC I 677]

6 ounces dark chocolate, bitter-sweet (the better the chocolate the better the dish)
3 large eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1 ounce (1/8 stick) butter
1 tablespoon flour
  1. Preheat the oven to 410.
  2. Over low heat, melt the butter and four ounces of the chocolate, stirring constantly until the mixture is thick and smooth. (Or microwave on 'defrost' for 3 minutes)
  3. In a mixing bowl, with a wire whip, beat the eggs, the sugar, and the flour until well combined and slightly frothy, about one minute.
  4. Mix in the chocolate.
  5. Pour 1/3 of the batter into individual ramekins. Place one half of a one-ounce chocolate square in each. Then add the rest of the batter.
  6. Bake the ramekins for 12 minutes, NO MORE!
  7. OPTIONAL: Carefully unmold and dust them with powdered sugar and/or garnish with berries or toasted nuts OR place on a bed of custard or whipped cream. Ice cream is also good.

Reasonable wines with this are semi-dry Bergerac or Monbazillac.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Aioli light--sauce, dip, garnish, whatever

This is an all-purpose sauce and dip. It has almost no calories. It tastes like it will make you fat. It's not the real thing, which has of course real mayonnaise and that deep down fat slip on the tongue (see MAFC I 92). This is a different food, really. But still loaded with garlic--which can be halved or doubled or tripled or whatever your tongue and stomach can stand. I use it all the time.

I use it mostly as a dip for crudites or shrimp, and keep the ingredients for it always in the pantry. If I'm asked to bring appetizers, I'll just pick up some cut vegetables and pre-cooked shrimp, and do this in 5 minutes flat.

But it has many uses because it's so colorful and flavorful (and keeps for weeks). I put it in a squeeze bottle and use it for decorating plates (like baked salmon). I dilute it with stock or drippings or wine to make sauces.

At party we had here recently for one of my wife's colleagues who was retiring, the guest of honor raved about the dip and ate bunches. When she asked me about it and learned it was light, she asked for the recipe.

5 minutes

5 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 4-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained
2 cups no-fat mayonnaise

  1. Peel the garlic cloves (see below) and, in a blender, puree them for about 5 seconds.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until combined.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Brie with jam

I love to cook for our play reading group. Appetizer, first act, main, second act, dessert. And lots of wine and, well, hams.

I was totally behind in planning and time, so I swung by Fareway on the way home and picked up an 8 ounce brie and some crackers, slathered some apricot jam from our "handsome tumbler" on it. And then when I got to our host's--nuked it for 90 seconds and that's it.

Olives, pecans from Joanie's tree, toasted, and it's a party.

Brie with Khalua.
Brie with any kind of jam
Brie wrapped in puff pastry and baked (courtesy of Jason and Shawnda).

Friday, January 11, 2008

Bargemen's Beef a la Plagiariste

I want to test here the notion that two wrongs make a right. I have plagiarized Modern, which plagiarized some internet site that plagiarized a cookbook I heard about but can't remember the name of or author of. The recipe is, if I recall right, from the bargemen of the Rhone river, painted in all their romantic simplicity by van Gogh. And it's so simple and so meaty. And the best part is the marrow.

I am neither a militant carnivore, nor militant plagiarist, though I have sympathies with both. One of the best meals I ever had was at St. John Bread and Wine in the East End of London, where they serve abats and all thats. I love very basic meats roasted or braised until it falls off the bone.

I also think that recipes like this one--ancient, earthy, local, simple--defy the concept of plagiarism. On the other hand, some enterprising American must have gone to the wilds of France to bring back the details of this great dish. And it must have appeared in some beauti
fully illustrated cookbook. And then it was purloined by some plagiarist to the internet, and ceaselessly re-stolen to this day. And yes, by me. And if someone will tell me where it is, I will credit it, chapter and verse, then change my recipe slightly so it is not plagiarism. This is why Creative Commons must be the rule for foodies. This preparation, though, I found elsewhere and have brazenly copied it. It's from the Rhone area of France and it's very hearty.

  • 4 slices beef shank, bone-in, fat trimmed
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 2 lbs. onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • salt & freshly ground pepper

To accompany the meat:
  • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled. . . .
  • 5 parsley sprigs
  • 4 oil-packed anchovy fillets, patted dry

  1. Preheat oven to 300° F.
  2. Smear the oil on the bottom of a dutch oven that is large enough to hold the shanks in one layer.
  3. Spread half of the onions on the bottom, sprinkle with salt. Put the shanks on top of the onions.
  4. Season the shanks with salt and pepper and add the thyme sprigs. Top with the remaining onions. Sprinkle on some more salt.
  5. Cover tightly and place in the oven. Braise for 3 hours
  6. In a food processor, process the anchovies, garlic and parsley into a paste. Spoon into a serving bowl.

To serve:

Transfer the shanks & onions to a serving bowl. Degrease the pan juices and pour them over the meat. Serve accompanied by the anchovy paste."

A note on time and temperature:
The beef in the photo above was taken direct from the freezer and put put frozen solid, with the onions and thyme, into the oven at 215 degrees at 7:45 am and taken out at 7:30 pm. 12 hours. It was delicious. This recipe is hard to mess up, except perhaps by cooking at too high a temperature for too short a time. I did thicken the juices with a tablespoon of Wondra dissolved in a tablespoon of brandy, while I chopped the garlic and parseley. Five minutes.

Van Gogh - Coal Barges on the Rhone River

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Salmon with Sorrel (or Spinach)

The great Lyon chef Pierre Troigros has for four decades made a jeweled salmon with sorrel--a dish that started the French food revolution, really. This has similar flavors using similar ingredients. The presentation is much less elegant (here is what Martha Stewart does with Pierre's marvel). As for the taste, judge for yourself.

Sorrel is amazingly easy to grow. I planted some 20 years ago in the herb garden, and it's still going strong, from April to November. Just a few torn leaves give a salad a lemony tartness. And a chiffonade makes a great garnish. It makes me feel like I really can garden.

Serves four

1 tablespoon peanut oil
4 salmon fillets or steaks (4-6 ounces each)
4 ounces sorrel (or spinach), washed and dried in advance
2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions or shallots
1/2 cup white wine or vermouth
1/2 cup fish stock or clam juice
1 cup creme fraiche (or heavy cream or low- or non-fat sour cream)
4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick)
1 tablespoon lemon juice (the juice of about 1/2 lemon)
salt and pepper
  1. Heat a 'fait tout' (Dutch oven) or large skillet on high (ideally one with a glass cover) and add the peanut oil. Salt and pepper the filets on the top (skinless) side.
  2. Saute the filets, skin side up, for one minute on each side or until lightly colored. Remove to a plate and cover
  3. Add the wine, stock, cream, scallions and lemon juice (use less if you use sorrel). Boil for four minutes.
  4. Lower heat, add sorrel or spinach and cook for one minute, then off heat and swirl in the butter, in bits.
  5. Pour the sauce around the fish and serve.

Salmon Provencal

4 salmon filets or steaks (4-6 ounces each)
8 ounces spinach (or sorrel), washed
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup white wine
2/3 cup nonfat sour cream (or 1/4 cup heavy cream or creme fraiche)
1 lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
Cajun seasoning
Herbs de Provence
  1. Heat a 'fait tout' (Dutch oven) on high (ideally one with a glass cover) and add the olive oil.
  2. Using a garlic press, smear the top (skinless) side of the filets with garlic. Sprinkle with herbs and Cajun seasoning. Salt and pepper.
  3. Saute the filets, skin side up, for two minutes or until lightly colored.
  4. Add the spinach (or sorrel) and the wine. Cover and steam for four minutes.
  5. Remove the filets and spinach (or sorrel) to a plate(s).
  6. Add the cream or sour cream, and squeeze one tablespoon lemon juice in, holding the seeds back. Stir rapidly, boiling, until the sauce thickens slightly.
  7. Pour the sauce around the fish and over the spinach (or sorrel). Serve with lemon wedges.


Saumon saute beurre blanc

  1. skin side down. Remove to a warm plate.
  2. Add the spinach and scallions. Cover, and melt for two minutes, tossing frequently.
    Add salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Remove to a warm plate.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon chopped scallions and 1/4 cup white wine (or red wine or champagne). Boil one minute or until reduced almost to a syrup.
  4. Off heat, and swirl in 2 tablespoons butter, cut into bits.
  5. Nap the salmon with the sauce, and garnish with green scallions or parseley.