Chili Con Carne


Whenever I hear “chili con carne” I immediately picture a can of probably Hormel chili or a bowl of ketchup sweetened kidney beans on offer at a country diner.  Chili con carne originally meant Mexican spiced beans with meat, not ground but chopped.  My mom made this all the time but we never called it chili con carne, just chili or chili beans with meat.  To us, chili con carne meant that can.  No one we knew ever admitted to eating that😀


The market is fresh bean and pea rich; fava, coco, petit pois, canneberge, wax, Italian flat. I bought some fresh coco beans yesterday to make chili.

Chili Beans with Meat

1/2 cup lardons/diced bacon

2 onions, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 lb ground steak

1/2 lb ground pork

2 heaping tbsp chili powder

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp dried oregano

3 cans diced tomatoes

3-4 cups shelled fresh coco beans

2 1/2 cups water

Lightly brown the lardons, then add the onions and garlic, then saute until the onions are just tender.  Add the steak and pork, then cook until the meats are no longer pink.  Add the chili powder, cumin and oregano, then cook for about 2 minutes.  Add the diced tomatoes, beans and water, bring to a boil and simmer for 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.



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Castelnaudary Cassoulet


The July-August issue of Saveurs magazine has an interesting article on the Midi and in particular the village of Castelnaudary, famous for it’s cassoulet recipe and the locally made Not terra cotta  “cassoule” it is cooked in.


Unfortunately, I didn’t have the cassoule when I made the cassoulet.  After reading the article, I reached out to and ordered the large one that serves 8.  It did not arrive instantaneously and I was in such a rush to make the recipe because I discovered fresh Coco de Paimpol beans in the market!  I thought they weren’t due until August-September!  Happy me:)  In addition, the weather man predicted cooler weather for that day, so I pulled out my really large Emile Henry tajine and proceeded. The authentic recipe is made with dried local beans and doesn’t contain bay leaf, but who cares?  Not me😀


The recipe called for pork couenne or rind and pork bones.  I couldn’t find any the bones or rind in the market, nor did the supermarket butcher have any on hand.  Instead I purchased a piece of pork belly from the supermarket butcher and he cut away the bones from a pork rib roast to help me out.  Nice guy.


At first I was going to use the can of confit duck that the recipe listed but Jean Louis was in the market and he had bags of both confit duck legs with thighs or just the drumstick portion.  He suggested that the drumstick portions would be better for serving individual portions.  I agreed.


I can’t remember where I bought the very good Toulouse sausages!  This time I bought them at the market but they lacked the flavor that I expect from these sausages.  They were okay and looked good after I browned them in the duck fat, but still…..


The weather was cooler but this was a heavy, filling dish and I would never make it again in the summer.  M. Parret loved it and I gave him some to take home for another day, but I think it was overkill.


Pascal Kerleu gifted us with several heads of lettuce from his farm and they were beautiful, even though he has lost thousands of heads due to the extremely hot weather.


A mixed salad of Pascal’s greens was lovely and aided in the digestion of our farm laborer meal.


M. Parret was present, so we had cheese but dessert was out of the question.  This butterfat rich cheese comes from the Lincet store-factory in Saligny, a  few kilometers outside of Sens.  The family has a home in town, not far from our house.


In the authentic recipe this cassoulet, once assembled, cooks in the oven for 3-4 hours. Because the beans were fresh and I found the time in the oven ridiculous, I didn’t do that. Do what you want, but if you are going to cook it in the oven for 3-4 hours, use dried beans to avoid having bean paste instead of individual beans.


Castelnaudary Cassoulet

1 1/2 lb shelled Coco de Paimpol fresh beans

1/2 lb pork belly, skin on, sliced

1/2 -3/4 lb pork bones with a little meat attached

4 carrots, quartered

2 onions, quartered

5 garlic cloves, chopped

3-4 fresh bay leaves

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper


8-10 confit duck drumsticks

8 Toulouse sausages

Bread crumbs

Put the beans, pork belly, pork bones, carrots, onions, garlic, bay leaves, salt and pepper in a large stock pot and cover with water about 2 inches above the ingredients.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 2 hours.  Drain, reserving the broth separately from the vegetables, beans and meat.  Discard the bones.

Degrease the duck by slowly browning it in a large skillet, remove and set aside to drain. Add the sausages to the skillet, brown then set aside to drain.

Assemble the cassoulet by placing half the bean mixture in the bottom of a large tajine. Add a layer of the duck and sausages, then the rest of the beans.  Sprinkle with a generous layer of bread crumbs, then place in a 350 F oven for 2 hours.














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Chez le ‘Monger


We’ve been craving tarbouriech oysters but alas my fishmonger says it’s not the season and if you buy them now, they’re white and poisonous looking inside.  Bleah!


In any case, although there’s no “r” in July, we booked an outdoor table for lunch at L’Ambiance des Halles to eat our third favorite, les huitres de Normandie.  Steve suggested we order the smaller #3 size instead of the larger #4 for the sweeter flavor.  Good thing we booked, the place was packed inside and out!


Those who weren’t eating were buying.  Turbot, redfish and sea bass are on sale:)


I brought butter from home and purchased a baguette from Boulangerie Bezout to accompany the oysters and a very nice bottle of Fourchaume Chablis.


A refreshing, hot weather meal.  Now we just have to wait for the tarbouriech:)





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It’s Too Darn Hot


This annoying and persistent French heat wave is adversely affecting both our appetites and attitudes!  Normally summer weather in Sens consists of moderately warm days and not more than 3-4 days of beastly weather.  I believe we’re now in the 3rd week of Phoenix, Arizona summer temperatures and according to the forecast, we can look forward to more of the same in the coming week.

For lunch on a particularly sweltering day I served crab rolls, beet, cucumber and celeriac salads from Le Village Gourmand.  To that I added cold, rare slices of leftover grilled lamb. That worked but I wish this heat wave would end😦


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Grilled Lamb with Fresh Beans


This is one of my favorite “I really can’t be bothered” ways to cook a leg of lamb and it’s perfection each time!  It makes me feel magical😀


You just take a leg of lamb (New Zealand or whatever you like), aggressively stab it all over with a sharp knife, chop together some herbs (rosemary, thyme, parsley), a couple of garlic cloves, black pepper, then add olive oil and rub the mixture into the lamb.  The best thing is to refrigerate the leg overnight, but if you can’t, who cares?!  Even if you put it immediately on the grill (which I did), the herb flavor won’t be as intense but it’s still there, for crying out loud!


Anyway, sear the leg all over on the hot grill, turn off half the gas on one side or move the charcoals over to one side, place the leg on the cold side, put the top down and roast for 1 hour.  Done!  Have a glass of wine and if you haven’t already, make your beans.


Unwilling and unable to wait for the proper fresh bean season, I inelegantly scraped the remaining 600 grams of canneberge beans from the bin in Carrefour supermarket.  I knew that 600 grams of unshelled beans would not be nearly enough but at least it would be some.


I ate a plate while waiting for the lamb and really didn’t need anything else.  Still, the family also has to eat :)


Leg of lamb always makes marvelous leftovers for sandwiches/hash/chili/soup.  Bon appetit!

Fresh Beans with Lardons

1/4 cup lardons/bacon, diced

3 shallots, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 tbsp butter

1 large tomato, chopped

2-3 fresh bay leaves or 1 dried bay leaf

2 cups chicken broth

2-3 cups shelled fresh beans

Brown the lardons in a medium sized sauce pan.  Add the shallots, garlic and butter, continuing to saute until the shallots are soft.  Add the tomato, bay leaves, chicken broth and shelled beans, bring to a boil, then simmer for 40-50 minutes until the beans are creamy inside but still firm on the outside.







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Bastille Day Celebration 2015


Sunday was M. Parret’s turn to host a celebration of his country’s national holiday, Bastille Day.  He wanted to have little French flags for his table like the American flags I had for July 4th but he searched all over town and couldn’t find them anywhere.  Bizarre.  I guess we Americans are more patriotic?  Or just innate exhibitionists:)


We were a party of 10; Dominique and Pascal, Willy and Toutune, Serge and Serge, myself, my husband, Jade and Le Parret.  We knew it was going to be demanding but we brought experience and enthusiasm to the table.


If we had harbored any hopes of getting home by 5 or 6:00 p.m., we discarded them and began with a magnum of Bailly cremant, fois gras, charcuterie and garden tomatoes ;)


For my contribution to the feast, I made a Basque piperade tart as an entree.  This is the perfect season for this type of tart because of all of the fabulous produce in the market.


I also picked up some Bayonne ham and a fresh goat cheese from my favorite cheese stand.  With these ingredients, I knew I couldn’t go wrong.  Right again😀


For his main course M. Parret chose pan roasted chicken and guinea fowl with garden potatoes and green beans.  So French!


It was a warm day and I have to admit that at this point we started to flag a bit, but after some spirited, petty bickering about canned green beans, we opened another red and refreshed, continued.


Gratuitous Jade photo.  And of course Serge #1.  Whatever😀


It was difficult for me to get this picture of the cheese because some people (nameless) kept trying to serve themselves.  There were whole arms in the pictures!  Sigh.


As usual, in the absence of the “course police”,  I combined my salad course with that of the cheese😉


For dessert the Serges contributed a voluptuous tiramisu, decorated with raspberries and verbena.


Serge #2 did admit that while he was responsible for the decoration, the tiramisu itself was purchased at a patisserie.  Who cares?!  It was rich and delicious, the raspberries the best of the season!


As if we needed more goodness, Dominique made a gorgeous apple tart, one of the best I’ve ever seen and tasted.


I believe we had coffee.

Basque Piperade Tarte

1 pre-rolled short crust pastry sheet

1/2 each, large red and green pepper, diced

1/2 onion, chopped

2 large garlic cloves, chopped

2 tbsp olive oil

1 round zucchini, halved and thinly sliced

2 tomatoes, seeded, halved and sliced

3 eggs, beaten

7-8 ounces Bayonne ham, chopped

7-8 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

2 tbsp fresh chives, chopped

1/2 tsp piment d’espelette

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.   Place the pastry in a pie plate with parchment paper. Stab a few holes in the pastry with a fork and refrigerate until ready to use.

Saute the peppers, onions and garlic in the olive oil until the peppers are crisp tender.   Add the tomatoes and zucchini, then continue to cook until the zucchini is just wilted. Drain and set aside to cool.

Mix the eggs, cheese, piment, ham, and chives together, then add to the cooled vegetables. Pour this mixture into the pastry lined plate and bake for 40-45 minutes. Allow to cool, then remove the finished tart from the pan with the help of the parchment paper.






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Les Haricots Beurre


I love to see the haricots beurres(wax beans) in the market!  That means that fresh coco beans are not far behind.  In fact, I saw a handful of French canneberge (cranberry beans) in the supermarket but there wasn’t enough left to do anything with.  When they arrive in the farmers’ market, the first thing I will make is a cassoulet from Castelnaudary in the Midi region.  Can’t wait!


Les haricots beurres are not M. Parret’s favorites but he has never had them like this.  This was an excellent opportunity to illustrate that diversity in cooking styles is a good thing.  I sort of hammered that point home😀  I think he has changed his mind about these beans:)


I found this recipe in the French Saveurs magazine.  This magazine has been a long time favorite of mine when I am in France because they usually cook what is available in the Farmers’ markets; cherry tomatoes, wax beans, new potatoes, juicy garlic.  The imaginative addition of smoked duck breast is brilliant!

Wax Beans with Smoked Duck Breast

1 lb fresh wax beans, washed and ends trimmed

1lb new potatoes, halved or quartered according to size

Salt and pepper

1 tbsp olive oil

1/4 lb smoked, sliced duck breast

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1/2 lb cherry tomatoes, halved

1 handful parsley, chopped

1 tbsp olive oil

Blanch the beans in boiling water for 10 minutes, drain and set aside.

Mix the potatoes with the salt, pepper and olive oil, then roast in a 400 F oven for 10 minutes.  Stir in the cooked beans, then return to the oven for 10 minutes.  Stir in the duck breast and garlic, then return to the oven for 5 minutes.  Stir in the tomatoes, parsley and tablespoon of olive oil, then serve hot or room temperature.




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