Friday, February 27, 2015

Riviera Fish Soup

Per Nana~
Okay, now I have to make a trip back to France.
 I ran out of my stash of Pastis. 
Is that a good enough excuse ? We think so......
Preparing this week's recipe of Riviera Fish Soup I used fresh cod 
instead of the Red Snapper that Dorie suggested. It smelled so delicious 
after just the first five minutes of cooking that I was already to dig in.  
I told Jim that I didn't want to puree the soup since it looked so good as is. 
Due to last week's miserable weather I used up all the little onions from 
the last recipe and in place of the fennel I used leeks. It worked, but I am sure
 that the fennel would have been a much better match with the pastis. 
The soup was quite good, perfect on a cold wintery day,
 but I am not sure I would make it again. 
Per Tricia~
I also came up with a substitute for the Red Snapper since my grocery 
store was out, and I went with Tilapia.  Not being a fan of fish, I didn't 
expect to enjoy this recipe. Down to my hubby and myself as taste testers
 I did the math to make a half portion. 
 I was pleasantly surprised at how delicious the recipe smelled while 
being prepared and was quite excited to give it a taste test. 
Like Nana, I also thought the soup looked wonderful when the cooking was
 finished on the stove and I hesitated to grind it all up, per the recipe. 
I split the difference and kept half of it "chunky" while putting the rest into
 the Cuisinart. The verdict is that we liked the texture of the chunky version
 better, but since I tend to like my soups ground finely (esp vegetable ones) 
I was happy to have tried the comparison. We were surprised that the distinct 
aroma of the fennel and Pernod did not end up with an overwhelmingly anise
 flavor - it was actually quite subtle. My hubby did not add any additional 
seasonings but I gave my bowl a few hits of Tabasco sauce for even more heat.
While not all are on "team anise", I personally have wonderful memories
 of my first sips of the sweet liquor Anisette while sitting on my Italian 
grandfather's knee. I was very lucky to have grown up with big Sunday 
family meals where there were many courses and no rush to finish.   Dessert 
always included fruit, among other options, and while I am sure there was a 
cookie or two involved in the ritual, my memories focus on the fork full
 of melon slice that I would enjoy while hoping for a sip of Anisette. 
Another fond memory involves a 2007 trip to Paris when my folks joined us 
as we took our young sons along on my husband's  business trip.  My folks 
were phenomenal tour guides and whizzed us all around the "City of Lights". 
I love this picture of my family ! (sans poor working hubby !)
With hubby at work, the rest of us explored the famed "Rue de Rivoli" and 
Louvre while  Grandpa- who had "been there, done that" reported he would 
catch up with us later. We later circled back to locate him and I will never 
forget my younger son's squeals of disbelief as he reported where he had 
found Grandpa. While peeking in the window of the fancy Hotel Regina, 
he spied Grandpa sitting on the fancy velvet settee in the marble lounge, 
enjoying a cocktail and snacks ! My son could not imagine being inside 
such fancy place, let alone sitting there and looking quite at home....
Pastis for Grandpa, Kir Royale for Nana and coffee for me. The boys only wanted the chips...
 And the drink ? 
Of course he was simply enjoying his afternoon Pastis :) 
We all went in to join him and enjoyed quite the moment and quite the memory ~

Happy French Friday ~

Monday, February 23, 2015

Pink Grapefruit Tart ~ Baking Chez Moi

Per Nana~
This recipe called for a few adjustments on my part because of the grapefruit, 
the one fruit that we can not eat because of the medications we both take,
 so I used blood oranges instead. The lemon-almond cream came together nicely. 
I prepared it a day ahead to chill. For some reason I thought the crémeux was going
 to be difficult but once I started it, it came together well - even after I accidentally
 dropped the thermometer in the saucepan while trying to stir. Not easy....
I substituted orange juice for the grapefruit, used Mandarin Napoléon brandy 
instead of Campari and that's where I made my mistake. Since grapefruit is quite
 tart it would have offset the sweetness of the almond cream, but using OJ with 
the brandy made it unbelievably sweet. As nice as it turned out, I found that 
my flavoring was totally off. 
I enjoyed the technique of making the crémeux, something I had not done 
before, and I followed Dorie's instructions exactly while making the 
tart dough. The dough came out perfectly and was very easy to work with. 

Per Tricia~
Expectations got me on this one. 
I expected the taste to be interesting but not necessarily over the top good. 
I was wrong - it was truly outstanding. 
I also expected that since this was a tart, and not a buche de noel or croquembouche, 
it would not be too complicated or require much preparation.
still using my son's rock collection as pie weights ~
 Boy, was I wrong. 
Very thick, the filling was not easy to get off the whisk.....
While you can make the several parts over several days, I planned to knock it 
all out on a quiet Sunday. It took the majority of that day. While I did enjoy 
doing this once, I do not plan on devoting that amount of time to a single 
pastry again. If I am spending hours in the kitchen on a non holiday, I am 
hoping to at least have a few weeknight dinners ready to go.  That said, this
 dessert  dinners definitely made the fridge a happy place:) My husband stopped 
asking if I was "still making that same dessert"...and simply said "wow".
My laziness time management issues aside, this was a delicious and 
"company worthy" dessert. I could easily understand why Dorie was
 so taken with it when she enjoyed it in Paris. 
It also reminded me of how much I enjoy pink grapefruit
 and I have already picked up a few more to savor as 
I wait for this cold weather to end. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Vanilla-Butter-Braised Lobster

Per Nana~
In this week's recipe Dorie calls for a whole lobster, but I used two lobster 
tails instead.  Unfortunately, a 4 oz tail does not have a great deal of "meat" 
so I decided to make this an appetizer followed by a cheese omelet.

 I found the process of preparing the clarified butter very time consuming but 
the end result was tasty.  I served it over a bit of sautéed spinach.  
I can't honestly say that I would make this recipe again but I am glad that
 I did prepare it today. It is always interesting to try new flavors - 
sometimes they work for you and sometimes they don't. 
Per Tricia~

This was phenomenal. PHENOMENAL.
My husband was looking forward to the vanilla addition all along but I
 personally could not wrap my head around the flavors until I tasted it. 

The aroma was far stronger than the actual flavor. It was a lovely combination 
that I would simply never have considered if not for "Around My French Table"
 by Dorie Greenspan. Thank you Dorie !  
While this makes a lovely main course we enjoyed it in a different way... 
adding it to a family treat night when I made Baked Brie en Croûte with 
Apple Compote after we had enjoyed an early steak dinner with my younger son.  
I have made and frozen the apple compote successfully so I just have to take a 
portion out and assemble the brie and puff pastry when we are in the mood for 
this delicious treat.  It is fabulous for company too as well. 
Needless to say, it felt like a very special occasion even though it was simply
 a Sunday night. I will absolutely be repeating this lobster and likely will
 reconsider whether I make it without vanilla ever again. Yes, it was THAT good. 
And no, I could not bring myself to cook the whole live 
lobsters so I chickened out and got the tails only. 

Williams-Sonoma Baked Brie En Croûte:

This appetizer can be made up to 2 weeks in advance. Assemble the pastry, cheese and apple compote, but don't brush the dough with the egg wash. Instead, wrap the pastry tightly with plastic wrap and freeze until ready to bake. Then brush the frozen pastry with the egg wash and bake in a 350°F oven for 45 to 50 minutes.


  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter 
  • 2 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and
      cut into 1/2-inch dice 
  • 1/4 cup sugar 
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cardamom 
  • 1 round Brie cheese, 6 to 8 oz. and about 4 1/2
      inches wide, slightly chilled 
  • 10-inch round of puff pastry dough, rolled out to
      1/4-inch thickness 
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 Tbs. water 
  • Plain water crackers for serving


In a 2-quart sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the apples and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the apples are tender and have released most of their liquid, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the sugar and cardamom, stir to dissolve and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated, 12 to 15 minutes more. Remove from the heat and let the apple compote cool to room temperature.

Preheat an 
oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

With a sharp knife, cut the cheese in half horizontally. On a clean work surface, place one half of the cheese, sliced side up, and evenly spread 1/2 cup of the apple compote over it. Set the other half, sliced side down, over the compote and spread 1/2 cup compote over the top.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and set the cheese in the center of the dough. Fold the dough up over the sides of the cheese, pleating the upper edges to fit snugly around the cheese. Pinch the dough together in the center to seal. Brush the dough evenly with the egg wash and place on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake until the pastry is golden all over and crisp, 40 to 45 minutes. Let it rest for 5 minutes, then transfer to a platter along with a sharp knife and the crackers. Serve any remaining compote alongside.
Serves 6 to 8.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Chicken Couscous

Per Nana ~
A perfect dish for this East Coast weather. With the combination of spices 
called for, I did not think I would enjoy the recipe at all, but as the chicken 
started to cook with the spices the aroma was so enticing.  
I used boneless skinless chicken thighs (that's all I had in the freezer)
 and they worked perfectly. The cooking method was so easy, and 
the selection of vegetables blended well together. 
I served Israeli couscous with the chicken and it was so very delicious. 
Per Tricia ~
This was not a combination of ingredients I would have aimed for (saffron
cinnamon, turmeric, etc), but frankly I was happy to have a week 
off all the fish recipes we have plowing through as we complete the book :) 

It was also a warm, comfort food sort of meal which was appreciated
 amidst all the snow. I will not likely prepare this one again, but that is
 just for my own family's tastes and not because the recipe was not lovely. 
The spices are just not to our preference. I am very curious about the hot
 harissa sauce and while I was not able to get it this week, I am planning
 to track it down and try it out.  I may even attempt a homemade version....
Happy French  Sunday! 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Marquise au Chocolat - Baking Chez Moi

Per Nana ~
The selection for this week, Marquise au Chocolat, is such an impressive recipe. 
Simple to make, elegant, a perfect dessert which can be prepared ahead. 
 I think for a lovely dinner it could be sliced, returned to the freezer 
until needed, then decorated accordingly before serving. 

After reading all the chatter about eggs, to be safe, I decided to use pasteurized 
eggs. The only supermarket in our area that carried Davidson's (P) eggs was 
Shop Rite and since I knew that Tricia would need them also, I decided to get them. 

As with Dorie's other recipes that we have completed, this was not difficult to 
make, although I must admit, I had more dirty dishes and spatulas in the sink 
than ever.  Jim was very disappointed that it was going into the freezer 
overnight, but he thought it was well worth it when I finally served it. 
He could not stop raving about it. 

The only problem I found was trying to smooth the plastic wrap into the corners
 of the loaf pan. I would have preferred a more square effect rather than the
 rounded corners I ended up with. That said, it was delicious all the same.

Per Tricia ~
This book truly is phenomenal. 
We have genuinely enjoyed each recipe so far, it is simply a 
matter of flavors and difficulty level. This one was a snap. 

I even cut corners by microwaving the chocolate 
and butter rather than using a double boiler. 

The most challenging skill set involved (aside from finding the eggs which I 
did not have to worry about with "Nana's Delivery Service" ) the ability to Saran 
wrap set up properly in the pan and sadly, I could stand to improve a bit in 
this area. That said, it affected nothing but aesthetics. 

My husband was happy with this recipe before it hit the freezer, since he got to 
lick the bowl.  The frozen mousse is delicious and sweet without being too much. 

I especially like the idea that it simply goes back into the freezer, so there is not 
the guilt or issues of having too much dessert that is in danger of spoiling. 
Note that few desserts have that worry in my house, but the freezer at least
 makes a great hiding spot...sometimes for me, sometime from me :)
I plan to improve my molding/Saran wrap work and absolutely make this for 
company. It looks great when served, can be made ahead of time and played 
around with via toppings at the table- just like all fun desserts. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Winter Ceviche & Simplest Breton Soup

Winter Ceviche
Per Nana~
Since we are on the last leg of the journey through Dorie Greenspan's 
wonderful cookbook, Around My French Table, I did not want to miss
 making another recipe (too many recipes to make up as it is). 

As I have mentioned before, I do not eat raw seafood but decided to 
prepare a small portion of this recipe.  I decided to buy only three scallops 
but wasn't sure I had the nerve to ask for such a small quantity.  
At $19.00 per pound, however,  it turned out easy. 
I prepared the recipe as per Dorie's instructions and it was the prettiest 
dish I have seen. As for the three little scallops.....after taking all the photos
 I sautéed them in butter. Delicious.
Per Tricia~
Evidently I have inherited a "non appreciation" of raw seafood from my parents. 
Luckily I also got a great tip from Nana about sautéing the scallops too :)  
Prepping the ingredients was like a bit of summer added to a cold winter day. 
My kitchen smelled amazing with the citrus juice and zest. 
My taste testers were all out of the house this week which was  shame because 
they would have loved this. I "dug deep" to take a slice  sliver before throwing
 them into the frying pan... and the flavors were lovely and quite refreshing.
 The texture remains the issue for me (and a bit of time in the pan resolves that). 
I will say that this ceviche and similar recipes from AMFT have truly shocked 
me with how much I enjoy the mixture of tropical, seafood and onion/shallot. 
It was a delicious combination that balanced sweet and savory, soft and crunchy.

Breton Soup
Per Nana~
This recipe brought back memories of a trip Jim and I made a few years 
ago when we visited  Bretagne, France. In the late afternoon, after visiting 
Quimper (famous for faïence pottery since 1690) we stopped in a small
 fishing village called Pont de Albe on the coast.
We sat at a small outdoor cafe and enjoyed our usual, Kir Royale and 
Pastis, while watching the fishing boats coming in with their daily catch. 
People were waiting around to purchase whatever looked good for dinner.  
We were amazed by all the activity in such a small village.
As for this soup, it was delicious, even without using any mussels. 
 I used fresh cod, potatoes, onions, shallots and leeks. When I 
prepared the vinaigrette with the shallot I thought it would be too 
strong, but it was delicious and perfectly complimented the soup. 
Jim has already requested a repeat of this recipe and even suggested it 
would make a great new addition to our Feast of the Seven Fishes. 
Per Tricia~
I made this soup a few weeks back on a particularly cold winter day.  
Even though I am not a fan of mussels, I had to admit it was gorgeous 
dish when prepared and smelled fantastic. Talk about comfort food. 
My husband and younger son were home to be taste testers.

My son commented that he liked it, but would have LOVED it if
  it had a cream base. My husband preferred the broth as prepared. 

I fished out the mussels and enjoyed the novelty of a new soup on a cold day.  
And one more fish recipe being done from the book...... 

Happy French Friday ~