Everyone who has been following the blog for a while knows that I rarely make desserts and I never make cake.  There are two reasons for this:  1)  I don’t really like sweets,  2) Cake and pastry making is an exact science and seems tedious and boring to me.  My family has accepted this and when they get tired of the crumbles, panna cottas and mousses I do make, they make their own cake/cookies/pies.


This is so nerve wracking for me!  I lack confidence and am always sure that something will go wrong.  I made this cheesecake because Steve, the fishmonger, has been asking me to make it for over a year.  I imagine he must have had it somewhere in the U.S.  It’s funny, France seems to sell an awful lot of Philadelphia cream cheese.  I don’t know what they do with it but it’s in the supermarkets.  Anyway.  I looked for the easiest, Kraft, old school cheesecake recipe on line and found one that wouldn’t have me jumping through hoops. I’ve never seen graham crackers in France, although they do sell a Dutch cookie called speculoos that is similar but sweeter.  I didn’t want to use those, so I just chose a plain, butter cookie called Petit Beurre.


The gariguettes, the Cadillac of French strawberries, are in season and I reasoned that if I screwed the cake up, I would just top it with the gariguettes and Steve would like it ;)


This turned out okay and I’ll probably make one for the family when they arrive.  Hit the cheesecake link above for the recipe.  The topping is made with about 1 1/2 lbs of strawberries, half made into a compote and the other uncooked half stirred in.


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Petit Sale with Puy Lentils


Someone gave M. Parret a good quality, smoked morteau sausage but he wasn’t quite sure how to prepare it.  I thought it would be a good idea to cook it in a casserole with lentils.  I took the above photo before the casserole went on the flame with broth.  M. Parret threw on a random bunch of herbs for the photo shoot.  Thanks.


I could have cooked the sausage with just the vegetables and lentils but while browsing at Le Village Gourmand, I decided to add some more pork; echine and poitrine (pork shoulder and belly).  I think it would have been better if the shoulder had been salted but it was still good.


I’ve always liked cutting up vegetables.  I guess it’s because I was my mother’s “coupe oignon” from the time she thought it was safe for me to hold a knife.  And clever woman that she was, she always praised me for my indispensable contribution to the meal.  So that’s why ;)


Nobody wants to eat in the house anymore since I bought the little picnic table, even though the sunlight can be brutal.  Still, we’re having a high ole time!  I can’t wait until Jade and my husband arrive.


My posts are backed up.  I hope I remember the recipe correctly, this was very good :)


Petit Sale with Puy Lentils

1 lb piece pork shoulder, salted if possible

1 inch slab smoked bacon

1 large smoked morteau sausage

1 bouquet garni

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, cut into eighths

1/2 large red pepper, diced

2 garlic cloves, slivered

4-5 small carrots, diced

4 cloves

1 thyme sprig

2 fresh bay leaves

1 lb Puy lentils

Place the pork shoulder and bacon in a pot with the bouquet garni, cover with water and simmer for about 45 minutes.  Add the morteau and continue to simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the meats from the pot, cut into bite size chunks and set aside, reserving the broth.

Saute the onion, pepper, garlic cloves and carrots in the olive oil until the onion is soft. Remove from flame and stir in the cloves, thyme and bay leaves.

In a large bowl, mix together the meat, vegetables and lentils, place in a stove top safe tajine, pour the reserved broth over all to cover, bring to a boil, cover with tajine top and simmer for 40-45 minutes.





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After several weeks of rampant excess, I suggested to my co-revellers that because we were going to have petit sale, a porky lentil dish, for lunch tomorrow that we should have a light dinner with refreshing glasses of water as the beverage.  In principle, everyone was in agreement.


It’s the asparagus season and I bought a kilo (2 lbs) of the white variety to roast with herbs and shallots.  Le Parret did mention that this was not the traditional French way to prepare asparagus.  I patiently (not) told him that of course it wasn’t the French way because I was American and he had to expect that it would be different, and that France doesn’t have a patent on food preparation.  The wine-less meal probably had our nerves a little bit on edge :D


Anyway, I served the asparagus with a warm lemon sauce, fresh baguette and butter.   M. Parret thought they were very good, if different, and had 3 helpings.  I counted ;)


For dessert we had succulent, sweet mandarins from Spain.  Yes he asked, but deciding to let sleeping Americans lie, peeled his mandarin and ate it without a murmur.


This was a delicious, fresh and healthy meal.  I don’t know why we looked so sad :D

White Asparagus with Lemon Sauce

2 lbs white asparagus, trimmed and peeled

3 small shallots, thinly sliced

2 tbsp mixed fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, rosemary)

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp olive oil

1/3 cup white wine

1/2 cup cream

1 1/2 tbsp butter

1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp parsley, chopped

In a large bowl, mix the asparagus, shallots, herbs, salt and olive oil together.  Preheat the oven to 450 F, place the asparagus mixture in a roasting pan and roast for about 30 minutes, stirring about 3 times.

In the meantime, make the sauce:  Boil the wine down to half the volume, then add the cream and cook, stirring until the liquid is thick.  Stir in the butter, lemon juice and parsley, continuing to cook for 1-2 minutes.

Place the asparagus on individual plates and pass the sauce.


Posted in American, Cooking, Food and Wine, Recipes, side dish, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Potage Frigidaire


I had 4 small, grumpy looking turnips in the refrigerator and thought it would be best to do something with them today.  How right I was because when I peeled and diced them, they had a sort of woody texture that was not attractive but okay for refrigerator soup.


You can make soup with just about any left over meats by boiling to tenderize and extract the meaty juices, then adding vegetables.  I had some leftover chicken with a little sauce from the cassoulet I made the other day.  This is the kind of recycling I’d like to see my children employ because it makes good economic sense, especially when you are just starting out in life.  But oh no, not them because while they would eat this, it just wouldn’t occur to them that they could make a satisfying 2nd meal from the first.  Blameless, I blame it on their father :D


I also had about 4 tablespoons of leftover peas and carrots that I added to the soup at the end.

Potage Frigidaire

Knob of butter

2 leeks, halved vertically and sliced

3-4 cooked, meaty chicken pieces

2 fresh bay leaves

1 sprig thyme


4 small turnips, diced

4 small carrots, diced

Any likely looking leftover cooked vegetables

Salt and pepper

Sweat the leeks in the butter until they are soft, add the chicken pieces, bay leaves, thyme and cover with water, about 2 inches above the ingredients.  Bring to a boil and simmer until the meat begins to separate from the bone.  Remove the chicken pieces, bone and set the meat aside.

Add the turnips and carrots, bring to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes.   Add the reserved chicken, any leftover vegetables, then season with salt and pepper to taste.






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Les Bonnottes de Noirmoutier


A few days ago I was at someone’s house and accidentally looked at French TV.  There was a news special about France’s most expensive potato at 6.50 Euro per kilo,  Les Bonnottes de Noirmoutier.  They only cultivate 100 tons per year.


Okay, you know I’m game and not easily outraged when it comes to quality food, although I did stutter a bit when I found out they were selling these gourmet potatoes in our Sens farmers’ market at 9.90 Euros per kilo!  In West Africa they always blame highway robbery on the transportation fees.  That must be the case with these potatoes.  After all, Noirmoutier is an island of the Vendee department, about 6 hours away; probably boats, trains and trucks are involved.  Still, maybe I should have Roger mail them to me next time.


Today is Friday, one of the big market days.  After a protracted coffee seance at Le Litteraire this morning, I swung by the market for the good stuff, including fresh peas and new carrots.


I laugh in the face of frozen peas and carrots.  HA HA HA.


What I really wanted was Toulouse sausages but I didn’t find them.  What I did find were some artisanal sausages from Le Village Gourmand and they were exceptional as are all of their products.


Now all I needed was serious eaters.  Ah-ha, there’s one right in front of the house!  Isn’t he cute when he’s impatient :D


I love to prepare food for those who like to eat it!


No poking at the food like there’s an odd, suspicious object on the plate, but instead workman-like fork to mouth action!


So what did we think of the potatoes?  They were good, but so are the potatoes from Le Parret’s garden and those are free  ;)


Pan Fried New Potatoes

1 lb new potatoes, sliced in half

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter



Melt the butter in the olive oil and pan fry the potatoes until brown, crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.  Season with salt and pepper.

Fresh Peas and Carrots

1/2 cup lardons or diced bacon

4 spring onions, thinly slice

1 tbsp butter

4-5 young carrots, diced

3 cups fresh peas, about 2 lbs of unshelled peas

Salt and pepper

Brown and crisp the lardons in a skillet, then add the onions and continue to cook until the onions are soft.  Stir in the butter and set aside.

Boil the carrots in water to just cover for about 5 minutes, then add the peas and continue to cook for another 3 minutes.  Drain, stir in the onions and lardons, then season with salt and pepper.







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Ma Cour


Our house in Sens is the last house on a dead end street.  When we first bought the house, seekers of free parking used to park right up against our door.  After M. Parret remonstrated with the Mayor’s office, the city sent out workers to install yellow things about 4 feet from the front door to prevent poorly raised strangers from blocking ingress/egress to the house and Le Parret supplied an orange cone to prevent others from parking in the space in front of the house.


As both M. Parret and Tonio have garages on the street, we are almost daily loitering outside the house.  Loitering that sometimes turns into sun-downers and light snacks. Last year the sun-downers became pretty much routine while we discussed beautification schemes for the outside of the house.  I had some antique hanging chairs that we brought from the house when we got tired of standing around.  Occasionally  we were joined by neighbors bearing regional wine gifts to share.


The house does have what used to be a perfectly good garden in the back but first my husband’s dog Sheba and then Jessie, the Irish Terrier, trashed it beyond anything we’d like to look at while we have our drinks.  Jessie can’t help it, she’s an IT.


Anyway, over the years Le Parret filled some pots and a rectangular container with herbs for the kitchen.


Mme Parret gave me a cat shaped flower holder for the window and whenever I was in town, I would buy some flowers for it.


Still we weren’t satisfied.  Before I left last year, we discussed small tables with chairs so that we could really relax into happy hour(s), but I had to go to the States before we found anything.  Although the larger project this year is to paint the house exterior and change the windows and shutters, we still like to unwind at the end of the day  ;)


Yesterday we went to Aldi, a kind of grocery store, and found the perfect table!  A small, folding picnic table with benches, on sale for 45 Euros!  Pleased with ourselves, we chilled a few bottles of  Bailly Cremant and were joined by our neighbor Laurent for a celebration. M. Parret brought sausages, ham, beet salad, his creme and cheese from his refrigerator, everyone contributing whatever they had, the street light in front of the house providing soft lighting until we reluctantly called it a night at 11:00 p.m.  So that’s why :)



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Cassoulet Portuguese


This is not really a Portuguese cassoulet or, maybe it is.  I don’t really know, I just made it up because I wanted to make something for my neighbor Tonio to thank him for all the help he has provided in getting me settled back into Sens.  Whatever it is, it was good and Tonio liked it.  Although I did start with spicy Portuguese chorizo  ;)


Because I got this big idea on Tuesday instead of Monday, many of the shops I wanted to visit were closed and the intended pork cassoulet became a chicken cassoulet with not the beans I wanted to use.  I did have fresh oregano, basil and bay leaf and that was good.


I would have liked to sprinkle the chicken with piment d’espelette instead of paprika, but as the chorizo was pretty spicy, I don’t want to hurt the fragile, French stomach of M. You Know Who.  As it was, between heaping fork fulls, “girly man” comments were made :)


For those of you who are new followers of my blog, I am the proud owner of  multiple Emile Henry tajines and I have sorely missed this red one.  Tajine doesn’t have to equal Morocco.  You can cook anything in these babies!


Above is Tonio’s elbow and below is a gratuitous photo of  Tonio’s wife, Chantal, with Le Parret’s cat.


Cassoulet Portuguese

1-2 links spicy Portuguese chorizo, sliced into rounds

6 chicken legs, separated into drumsticks and thighs

Salt and pepper

Smoked paprika

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, sliced

4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup red wine

1 1/2 cup diced tomatoes

1 cup chicken broth

2 cans good quality white beans, drained

2 sprigs fresh oregano leaves

1 sprig fresh basil leaves

2-3 fresh bay leaves

Cook and brown the chorizo slices in a large skillet to extract some of the grease, drain on paper towels and set aside.

Season the chicken with salt, pepper and paprika, then heat the olive oil in a large skillet and brown the chicken pieces.  Place the chicken in the bottom of a tajine.

Add the onion and garlic to the chicken skillet and saute until the onion is soft.  Add the wine and boil for 2-3 minutes until the liquid is reduced by half.  Add the tomatoes, broth, herbs, beans and chorizo then simmer for about 10 minutes.  Pour the sauce over the chicken, cover and cook in a 400 F oven for 45 minutes, remove cover and continue to cook for a further 15 minutes.










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