the cover

Denial. It’s usually bandied about in such a negative context, but I happen to think that denial is unfairly maligned. As part of my work I’ve attended many courses on Organizational Change and Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s 5 Stages of Grief is often one of the classic models to be discussed. After studying the effects of death and dying on her psychiatric patients, Kübler-Ross posited that most humans faced with a significant life change will go through at least 2 of the 5 Stages of Grief, namely: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Now, some of you will probably try to remind me that this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe, Chicken in a Pot, is our LAST ONE. In which case, I would refer you to the above, no, it’s not, I’m in denial, we still have 4 more weeks to go. Plenty of time to work through the remaining stages!

I will, however, ever so bravely acknowledge that this week’s recipe is the last in Dorie’s Chicken and Duck chapter (see, I’m making slow progress into acceptance) and I have to say that it has been among my favorites. Did I just say that last week when we finished the fish chapter? Entirely possible, I loved pretty much all of the recipes from both. Dorie’s Lazy Chicken is made at least once a month in my house, her Chicken Basquaise got my fussy husband to eat bell peppers, and I now not only know what the word spatchcock means, I also use the technique on a fairly regular basis with absolutely delicious results.

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On the surface, Dorie’s Chicken in a Pot looks like it’s closely related to my favorite Lazy Chicken recipe, in that both are cooked in a pot with a lid instead of in a roasting pan, and both have a generous dose of root veggies thrown in to keep the chicken company. But upon closer inspection (which didn’t happen for me until I actually started cooking the thing) the two recipes are actually quite different. In her Chicken in a Pot recipe, Dorie has us browning the whole chicken, adding a generous amount of liquid, and then sealing the whole thing off with an airtight seal of dough. Oh, and holy garlic! Vampires will be giving my place a wide berth for years to come after using 4 entire bulbs in this one little recipe.

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As you can see, my supposedly airtight seal sprang a leak, but otherwise this recipe came together as promised. The chicken was juicy and delicious and with the veggies thrown in, made for a wonderful one-pot meal. I did find that browning the whole chicken was a bit unwieldy, and would likely stick with chicken pieces in the future. Otherwise, this was a fun recipe and a new technique to add to my arsenal.

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Still in denail here, we will have to wait until later to say our goodbyes.

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seafood pot au feu

Pot au Feu, where have you been all my life?

Somehow in many years of visiting France (heck, even living there for a while), visiting French restaurants, and generally nosing around for all things good to eat, Pot au Feu did not cross my path until I started cooking through Dorie Greenspan’s Around my French Table. Her first recipe, Warm Weather Pot au Feu, had me instantly hooked and I have repeated this recipe many, many times. In fact, I made it just a few weeks ago for visiting family and they even asked for the recipe to take home with them.

This time around Dorie has us making Seafood Pot au Feu. Like her Warm Weather version, this one has us layering the flavors into the broth by adding the ingredients one at a time. I halved the recipe and couldn’t find any mussels (not that I looked particularly hard), but otherwise followed Dorie’s instructions. Okay, okay, if I’m really being honest, I also used store-bought aioli. Hey, it was a busy week!

Like the Warm Weather version, I loved this dish. It looks so simple, but the underlying flavor in the broth and veggies is anything but. And it’s these simple yet nutritious recipes which I get the most excited about, because these are the ones which I know I can use again and again.

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So, last fish recipe in the book. I know that there are some fish haters out there but I absolutely loved this chapter and would be hard pressed to pick a favorite, though, those curried mussels were just amazing. I’m going to try not to dwell on the fact that we only have one recipe left, and will instead start reviewing my favorites to figure out which ones I’m going to tackle again for our last month.

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cheesecake tart

This week’s recipe, Cheesecake Tart, is our last dessert at French Fridays with Dorie:-( My husband, our resident sweet tooth, has gone into full mourning.

As I may have mentioned before, there are some general differences between American cake and German cake. Now, it’s always dangerous to generalize and any statement I make here could be easily argued by the experts on either side of the Atlantic, but I’m going to dare to make one anyway. In general, American cake is sweeter and richer than its German counterpart, and cheesecake seems to be the perfect example of that difference. American cheesecake is made with cream cheese and no small amount of sugar. German cheesecake is made with quark (the equivalent of French Fromage Blanc and I’ve yet to find a reasonable translation into english) and with much less sugar. The resulting cake is drier and, rather obviously, less sweet. My German husband prefers the German version and I prefer the American version, and I have noticed that these preferences seem to hold true across cultural lines in my social circle as well. I have in fact made American cheesecake for friends here in Germany and most declare it “too rich”, as if such a thing could possible be!

Which brings us to this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe, Cheesecake Tart, made with Fromage Blanc. It would seem that German cheesecake and French cheesecake have some similarities, so I decided to invite some German friends to judge for themselves.

I used one of Dorie’s Bonne Idees and swapped out the raisins for dried apricots and was delighted to discover that, aside from the ever dreaded pie dough, this tart was a cinch to pull together.

The end result was a huge hit with my husband and our guests. They raved! I served it with the first fresh strawberries of the season and a bowl of whipped cream. I’ll have to admit that the slice of tart in the picture is a stunt double, because I completely forgot to pull out the camera while our guests were here. Thankfully we had one lone slice leftover (but no more berries) so that I could still take one quick shot for posterity.

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As for me, I liked it. The filling was thin enough that the dryness was not the dominant texture and the apricots added a hit of sweetness. So, an all around winner.

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sardine escabeche

Sardine what now?

This week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe sent me straight to google to try to get a hint as to what the heck we were supposed to be making. Somehow escabeche has never crossed my plate before and, if I’m being completely honest, Dorie’s description and ensuing recipe was not getting my culinary juices flowing.

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But let’s face it, this is hardly the first time I’ve gone into a Dorie recipe with a bit of skepticism, and from what I’ve seen on the ingredients list for next week’s tart, it will not be the last. Still, I didn’t hit my first real stumbling block until I hit the fish market, when my normally accommodating fish guy said that they would be happy to clean the little sardines for me, but that I would need to fillet them myself at home. For me the answer was clear and started to order shrimp instead. For my husband, however, the answer was also clear, the recipe is called “sardine escabeche” and so that is what we were going to make. He offered to do the filleting work and I was sold. But we bought a few extras just in case:-)

I can report that my husband did a great job, and that meant we got to snack on the extras as they came out of the frying pan. A pinch of salt and a spritz of lemon = delicious! There may or may not have even been some semi-serious discussions of stopping right there and enjoying dinner.

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Instead, one day later we unwrapped our fish and had our first bite. My husband’s comment, “did we really just spend all of that effort to make our fresh sardines taste like they came out of a can?” pretty much sums it up. They were a little acidic and neither of us were loving them.

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Not one to waste food, we braced ourselves for a second serving on day 2. And you know what? The flavor was completely different. The vinegar had mellowed and the fish were actually quite tasty. We thoroughly enjoyed our dinner and might even be willing to expend the effort again.

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pork roast with mangoes and lychees

Pork may well be my culinary nemesis. As I may or may not have complained about again, and again, and yet again, I can just never seem to hit that two-second window of cooking time between raw and bone dry. Dorie has tried her darndest to teach me how to deal with it, but alas, her valiant efforts seem to have been mostly in vain.

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But take heart, this is at least the last pork recipe in Around my French Table and I’m not one to throw in the towel just before crossing the finish line. So last week we made Dorie’s Pork with Mangoes and Lychees. And, as if that wasn’t enough complaining, as I was sticking the pot in the oven, I may or may not have voiced a little frustration with Dorie’s penchant for sweet additions to savory dishes. It turns out that I may well have more in common with Howard than previously thought:-)

I checked the meat at 30 minutes… way undercooked.

I checked it again at 40 minutes… WAY overcooked!

Sigh.

Whatever, I was quickly consoled by the fact that the sauce for this dish was crazy good and I had to quickly take back all of my complaints about Dorie’s sweet additions because this sauce was just perfect; it was sweet and slightly thick from the mango, a little salty from the soy sauce, and a hint of spice from the piment d’espelette. I’m not sure that I fully appreciated what the lychees had to offer, but they certainly didn’t detract.

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So, favorite pork recipe in the book? Nope, that title goes hands down to the Cola and Jam Spareribs. But I just might make this week’s recipe again, and THAT, my friends, is just about the highest praise a pork recipe can earn in my kitchen.

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waffles and cream

I feel like my mojo is off these past two weeks.

First of all, last week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe, Waffles and Cream, was a decided miss. HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE? Seriously! I love waffles. I love cream. How could I possibly screw this one up? But I did. My first batch simply curdled in the bowl before I even got a chance and my second batch made it into the waffle iron and came out greasy. Not an endearing trait when it comes to waffles.

To top it all off my husband forgot his years of training and, when I turned my back to look for the camera, started eating the waffle I had just set up for pictures. So, as you can see, with a corner missing…

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Which brings us to this week’s recipe, Salmon Tartar. First off, I should mention that I was super excited about this recipe. I loved every single ingredient in this dish and it sounded like a sure-fire winner going in.

That is, until I did something supremely stupid. After returning from my shopping trip I went straight into the kitchen to start unpacking my groceries. I took all of the perishables out of my bag and started to put them away, and then the phone rang. I’m guessing you can see where this story is going.

Two hours later I returned to the kitchen to find that the salmon was the ONLY item which hadn’t made it into the fridge. It still felt cool to the touch and if I had been planning to serve it cooked, I probably would not have worried about it. But raw? I’ve had food poisoning once in my life before and that it an experience one does not quickly forget, so, what to do?

IMG_3570So, I cooked the darn thing, cubed it up, and otherwise served the recipe as instructed. The entire time grouchy, grouchy, grouchy that I wasn’t getting to try the true tartar. I thought that the end result was good, my husband thought it was okay, not great. So there you have it.

If you happen to run into my mojo, could you please send it back my way? I’m going to need it over the next few weeks.

 

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next-day beef salad

So, the other day I mentioned to my husband that we are in the final countdown at French Fridays with Dorie and that there are now less than 10 recipes left! He looked up with an expression genuine concern and asked, “but, what are we going to eat?” After I recovered from my fit of laughter, I gave his question a bit more consideration. The fact is that this little project has been going on for almost our entire married life, so he’s not fully off to wonder what the heck we’re going to eat if we don’t have Dorie supplying our weekly menu.

But never fear, this week Dorie is still looking out for us. We’ve actually made her Next-Day Beef Salad a few times before, once after the Beef on a String and again after one of my father’s famous Christmas Day standing rib roasts. If only I had bothered to take pictures one of those times, but alas, it turns out that I’m not as organized as I would like to think, and so we had to whip up our own leftovers this time.

This time around I got a bit more liberal with my changes. Among other tweaks, I cut the mayo in half and more than doubled the mustard. I love Maille’s original mustard and find that it’s so smooth and creamy that I can often use it to cut down on the mayo in recipes. Then again, mustard is probably my favorite condiment so it might just be that I’m an addict.

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We’ve enjoyed this recipe each time and will probably make it again in the future when there are leftover bits of beef to be used up. So no worries, dear husband. Even when the project ends, we’ll still have Dorie’s book at our disposal for many meals to come:-)

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