Practice What You Preach

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When speaking to the French about their style of pizza, I’ve always been snobbish and probably annoying, yet honest.  It’s true that their pizza sauce, when there is any, doesn’t have the necessary Italian herbs and aromatics and that their crusts lack the flavor and texture of “normal” American pizzas.  I’ve gone on about this so long that I’ve decided to make a “real” pizza for a select few to demonstrate the difference.  And it’s a good excuse to insert my favorite Barry White song ;)

I had a little “souci” this morning.  I knew that I had yeast, so I didn’t bother shopping for any.  When I looked at the yeast this morning, it had expired three years ago.  Forever hopeful, I put some in hot water with sugar and waited for thirty minutes.  Not a peep!  I finally acknowledged that ‘He was dead Jim’ and trotted off to the local 7-11.

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Here is a gratuitous picture of me kneading :)

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I made the tomato sauce yesterday and forgot to take a picture of it.  For toppings, I chose mozzarella, parmesan, ham, homemade Italian sausage, mushrooms and black olives.

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The French, while consuming some of the richest foods in the world, tend to avoid excess. That’s another reason they get the pizza wrong.  I gave a generous slice to the young electrician working here today and, ignoring the fork (very un-French), he ripped through that baby like Hurricane Katrina!  American exposure is bad for the French.  Obesity could creep upon them as it did us.

Making homemade Italian sausage is easy, you just purchase some ground pork and then add herbs and spices.  You can also add some crushed red pepper for a spicier sausage.

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Homemade Italian Sausage

2 lbs ground pork

3 large cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp paprika

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp ground anise

2 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped

3 tbsp red wine

Mix all ingredients together, fry and place on paper towels to drain before using.

Tomato Sauce

2 large cans of peeled tomatoes

2 large onions, chopped

4 large cloves of garlic, chopped

1/2 cup of red wine

1 teaspoon each rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

2 tbsp olive oil

Saute the onions and garlic in olive oil until soft.   Add the tomatoes, wine, herbs, salt and sugar. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 2 – 3 hours, stirring occasionally,  or until sauce is very thick.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in American, Cooking, Food and Wine, Italian, Main dishes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Fresh Sardine Fillets with Herbs

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Workers have gutted my large upstairs bathroom for a complete renovation.  It gets on my nerves that construction dust covers the whole of my townhouse.  I drink coffee at the cafe for as long as possible, go shopping for things I don’t need and while avoiding the house I don’t cook very much and eat French junk food (really bad).  I limit my glasses of wine to avoid becoming an alcoholic during the renovation.  I’m not very happy now but know that I will like the bathroom.  So….

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Steve, the ‘monger had some very nice, fresh sardines; headed, gutted and butterflied.  I couldn’t resist, even though I knew that the sounds of buzz saws and hammers would be ringing in my ears and probably construction dust adding to the crunchiness of the fish coating.  Whatever.  I’ve made this recipe several times but not with butterflied sardines. It’s always good!

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I used a mixture of potted fresh herbs that were still in good shape after the sometimes below freezing weather; oregano, thyme, dill and a small, surviving bunch of parsley.  Use a normally hot, red pepper for the chilli or not.

Fresh Sardine Fillets with Herbs

1lb fresh medium sardines, headed, gutted and butterflied

1 cup flour or whatever coating you want to use

Peanut oil

2 cloves garlic, slivered

1 small red chilli, sliced

2 tbsp butter

1 handful each; dill, oregano, thyme and a little parsley, chopped

Coat the sardines in the flour and fry in the peanut oil until crisp and golden.  Melt the butter in a pan, then saute the garlic and chilli until aromatic.  Remove from the flame and add the herbs, then pour over the sardines.

 

 

 

Posted in American, Appetizer, Cooking, fish, Food and Wine, Main dishes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , | 37 Comments

French Pork Belly Ribs

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The new French Saveurs magazine is out and loaded with fabulous recipes for Autumn!  I didn’t know what to make first!  I’ll be cooking this “book” and am very excited about their showcasing of meats to “mijoter”  or slow simmer/roast.  I decided to go with the Asian travers de porc or French style ribs.

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Also Elodie and Mylan at the Litteraire cafe are starting to have that sallow, lean and hungry look from eating take out “pizzas” and kebabs.  I told them not to order anything for Tuesday and that I would bring their lunch.  “Hell yeah!”, said Elodie or the French equivalent.  They have eaten with me before :D

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I was a little disappointed in the travers de porc that I unwisely bought at the Carrefour supermarket.  It was mostly pork belly with a portion of ribs vaguely on top.  I know better. The only supermarket butcher that can produce a reasonable travers de porc is at Leclerc. The “ribs” were good but more like pork belly.  This is what happens sometimes when you can’t be bothered.  Also I didn’t think my orange was sweet or flavorful enough.  I bought that at the supermarket also.  Fool!

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Anyway.  I bought some gnocchetti dried pasta and just added the ingredients for Texas Potato Salad.  That always works in a macaroni salad and you could also add a small can of tuna for a stand alone meal.  Really good!

Use baby back ribs if you can find them for the pork, buy a decent orange and increase the sugar if you like.

French Pork Belly Ribs

1 travers de porc, cut into individual ribs

1 bottle (33cl) of Heineken or whatever’s in the house

1/3 cup soy sauce

3 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp orange marmalade

Juice from 1 orange

1/2 onion, minced

3 large garlic cloves, minced

2 inches fresh ginger, grated

Black sesame seeds

Mix the beer, soy sauce, sugar, marmalade, orange juice, onion, garlic and ginger together. Place the ribs in a ziplock bag,  pour the marinade over, squish around and refrigerate overnight.

Place the ribs in a roasting pan and pour over about 1/2 cup of the marinade.  Put the ribs in a 400 F oven and baste turning every 15 minutes for 1 – 1 1/2 hour until tender and golden.  Sprinkle with the sesame seeds.

Posted in Asian, Cooking, Food and Wine, French, Main dishes, Recipes, Salad, side dish | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Autumn Leaves

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The autumn leaves in France don’t have that brash, unrealistic, American defiance of death look.  That “we’ll be back!” shout of color found mostly on the east coast of the United States.  I love the season and am vaguely sorry I’m missing it.

Why the grapefruit?  I don’t know.  I liked the way it looked.  It tasted good.  Yes I’m cooking, but slowly ;)

Posted in American, Food and Wine, Fruit | Tagged , , , , , | 11 Comments

Fresh Coco Bean Chili for Babies

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When I shared my enchiladas with Toutoune and Willy, after the initial “spicy” shock, Toutoune said how much she liked another Mexican food, Chili con Carne.  Now people, everyone’s French palate was stunned by my “enchiladas for babies” and Toutoune has never been to the States, so I wondered where she could have tasted chili con carne and of what ingredients it could have been composed.  Imagining kidney beans, sugar, ketchup and kernels of sweet corn, probably from the French chain restaurant, The Buffalo Grill, I resolved to make a chili for her to taste, realizing that the “hotness” would necessarily have to be toned down, though not the flavor.

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I love the fresh, garden flavors of Mexican cuisine and it’s simple flat breads (tortillas). Mexican food doesn’t necessarily have to been screaming hot; chillies come in all shapes, sizes and vary in pungency (heat) .  These long green chillies from Spain are mild and with the seeds removed have a lightly, spicy bell pepper taste.  I had to add some sriracha to my bowl ;)

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Top up your bowl of red with diced tomatoes, sliced scallions and grated cheese.  If you can’t get fresh beans, soak dried beans overnight, cook for an hour, drain and continue with recipe.

Fresh Coco Bean Chili

1/2 -1 cup smoked lardons or diced country bacon

2 small red onions, chopped

4 garlic cloves, chopped

1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped

2 mild, long green chillies, chopped

1 1/2 lbs ground veal

1 tbsp oregano

1 tbsp cumin

2 tbsp Mexican chili powder

2 fresh bay leaves

3 cans diced tomatoes

4 cups shelled fresh beans

2 cups water

Diced fresh tomatoes, sliced scallions, grated cheese

Warm corn tortillas

In a large pot, brown the lardons, remove and set to drain.  Remove all but 2 tbsp of lardons fat from the pot and add the onions, garlic, bell pepper and chillies, sauteing until just soft.  Add the veal and continue to cook until all the pink has left the meat.

Add the diced tomatoes, oregano, cumin, chili powder and bay leaves to the pot and cook for about 2 minutes.   Stir in the beans and water, bring to a boil, then lower to simmer for about an hour.

Ladle the chili into large bowls and top with tomatoes, scallions and cheese and serve with a warm corn tortilla.

 

 

 

 

Posted in American, Cooking, Food and Wine, Main dishes, Mexican, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

French Fried Red Mullet

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What I really wanted was yellow cornmeal coated cat or buffalo fish fried by my father. But my father died many years ago, there’s no yellow cornmeal in the French supermarkets that I know of and my ‘monger would certainly sneer if I requested the equivalent of Mississippi bottom feeders.  I needed to “encourage myself.”

‘Couraged, I strode into the fish market, pointed at the fresh, pretty red mullets and requested that Steve perform a major gutting and scaling, which he did.

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Boldly, I added a box of the French fish coating to my order.  It’s nothing like yellow cornmeal but mullet is nothing like catfish either.  You can’t always get what you want.

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Back at the house, encouraged already, I fortified myself with a direct swig from the bottle of chilled Veuve Clicquot :D

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Concentration broken, I took a picture of the garden onions and garlic I found at the vide grenier (community yard sale) in Maillot.

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Then another gratuitous picture of Jessie with her rabbit bed that I got for 4 euros.  Such a deal!

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And, in case of deep frying disaster, I took a picture of the prepped plate I also found at the vide grenier.  Finally I fried the fish.  It wasn’t Louisiana wild catfish, but it was good in a “French” fried way.

Deep Fried Red Mullet

4 red mullets, scaled and gutted

Salt, pepper, garlic powder

1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup bread crumbs

Peanut oil for deep frying

Season the mullet with the salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Mix the flour and bread crumbs together, then coat the fish with the mixture.  Heat the oil until very hot and fry the fish until golden and cooked.

 

 

Posted in American, Cooking, fish, Food and Wine, French, Main dishes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Enfant de Supermarche

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I had planned a rant this week and I think it was about knowing where your food comes from, for example a shank of meat.  But I’ve forgotten what I wanted to say and you’ll be sorry when all of us baby boomers are dead and you’ll never learn anything.  You’re asking yourself now, “What’s a baby boomer?”  Case closed :D

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Anyway.  I love shelling fresh beans.  It makes me feel so old school.  To be honest, I didn’t grow up shelling beans; we bought them dried at the supermarket in bags like everybody else.  My mother probably grew up shelling beans but was ashamed to talk about it :)  She came from the South and moved to the West where supermarkets were cool, sophisticated and, at that time, still sold real food.  No way was she going to be labeled “country” by her peers who were all, in reality, country.  Ubiquitous Texas potato salad was only one manifestation.

I love my kitchen in France!  The kitchen in Pennsylvania, while larger and brighter, doesn’t have the same ambiance or maybe feng sui.  It must be situated on the dragon’s eye or somewhere uncomfortable.

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In preparation for a small Sunday lunch, I bought some lamb shanks from the butcher Deneaux.  This is the first time I’ve visited his shop because it’s on the outskirts of town and I’ve been satisfied with the butchers in town.  However, my friend Babou showed me a pamphlet that listed Deneaux as a source for Mont St Michel salt marsh lamb.  Of course I had to go!

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Deneaux has lovely meat!  I did buy a leg and a rack of the Mont St. Michel lamb for later revels, but for Sunday I chose the lamb shanks of normal French lamb because, panicking, I wanted to be sure to make fresh beans again before the season ends.

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I cooked the beans in a traditional French method with rustically smoked bacon and bay leaf, added some brown sugar and mustard and briefly heated them in the oven a l’American.

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I tajine-ed the shanks with onion, shallots, tomatoes and random herbs.  Melt in the mouth perfection!

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We began with a Champagne apertif and a shrimp, avocado and mango cocktail.  I must spend more time at the fishmonger’s!  I’m sure I must be deficient in vitamin B, D or both ;)  This cocktail or salad would be great with some spicy Mexican food.

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Thierry and Arielle brought a 40 year old bottle of Pomerol and we all prayed as Thierry painstakingly pried out the cork.  Not vinegar!  In fact, enjoyably drinkable!

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We took our time as usual, talking politics, children and of course food.  Catherine Marceau, a good neighbor, is going to guide me through the mushroom and truffle season. So excited!  Here in Bourgogne we are lucky to have a “gray” truffle, less expensive at 300-400 euros per kilo than the black truffle at 600-1200 euros per kilo.  The Bourgogne truffle is known to be the only truffle present on French royal tables from before the Middle ages, up until the Renaissance.

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I teasingly threatened not to serve the cheese course and wiped that happy look off Le Parret’s face :D

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M. Parret’s vine peaches are so beautiful.  I love that layer of cherry color just underneath the skin.

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Rich, blushing peach ice cream for desert.  I imagine I’ll continue to make ice cream, no matter the weather, until there’s no more fresh fruit to put inside ;)

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Shrimp, Avocado and Mango Cocktail

1 lb shrimp, shelled, headed and deveined

1 mango, peeled and cut into cubes

1 avocado, peeled and cut into cubes

2 scallions, thinly sliced

1 small bunch cilantro, chopped

1/4 tsp piment d’espelette

3 tbsp lime juice

1 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp olive oil

Place the shrimp, mango, avocado, scallions, cilantro and piment in a large bowl.  Whisk the lime juice, sugar and olive oil together.  Pour over the shrimp mixture and blend well. Refrigerate for an hour and serve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in American, Cooking, Food and Wine, French, Main dishes, Recipes, Seafood | Tagged , , , , , , | 24 Comments