le fin

FFwD004 024I joined the French Fridays with Dorie group because I needed something to do. I needed a distraction during a time when I was not working and was dealing with some not so fun medical procedures. Lots of time to sit around worrying is exactly what I did not need in that situation and so, in looking for an escape, I stumbled upon French Fridays with Dorie.

I am not a natural extrovert and the idea of joining a public forum like this one was quite daunting. I hemmed and hawed over it for a few months. The blogs I saw were perfectly edited and filled with beautiful photographs of food made by people who were obviously natural-born chefs. Yes, I know this sounds silly, but like I said, it was a difficult time and this was my thought process. I hemmed and hawed a little more and finally took the plunge.

FFwD034 020FFwD118 053

What I needed was an escape and what I expected was to improve my cooking skills. But as many of you have already said, this journey has proven to be so much more. I have new confidence in the kitchen (the benefit of hanging out with a group of natural-born chefs for 4+ years:-)) and an arsenal of tried and true recipes. So many of Dorie’s recipes have wormed their way into my regular repertoire and a few have even become annual Thanksgiving traditions. I have not yet met the dear lady herself, but one day I hope to be able to thank her in person. Thanks to Dorie, my cupboards are stocked with pistachio oil, cardamom pods, and puff pastry. Thanks to Dorie, I can now spatchcock a chicken and whip up pie dough. And above all, I would thank her for being such a good sport as this rather unruly group of strangers picked their way through her years of hard work. I’m not sure that I would have been able to handle that with as much grace.

FFwD045 033FFWD280 028

In this group I found kindred spirits. At home I am laughed at (not unkindly mind you, but laughed at all the same) for the sheer number of cookbooks on my shelves and the piles of kitchen gadgetry spilling out of my cupboards. In this group, I am among friends. Friends whose cookbook shelves make mine pale in comparison and whose spacious pantries I envy. On a weekly basis I was able to work up the courage to tackle some intimidating new recipes because I knew that this group would be there at the end to support me. You’ve never laughed at my failures, but have instead helped me to learn to laugh at them myself. I can’t thank you enough.

FFwD133 007FFwD342 024

Four year ago I had too much free time and too many worries. Today I’m back at work and life is hectic but good. Four years ago I wasn’t sure if I would feel comfortable in such a group. Today my eyes tear up at the thought of it ending.

A few weeks ago, just after we had finished the very last recipe from Around my French Table, I sat down to put together my menu plan and grocery list for the weekend. And do you know, I had no idea what to make. I seriously sat there for a few minutes, stumped as to what I was going to do without Dorie telling me what to cook and without the Doristas giving me support along the way. But then I remembered that shelf full of cookbooks and all the new recipes I’ve mastered, and life carried on:-)

FFwD186 (12)

This is not goodbye, it is just the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next.

Posted in french fridays with dorie | 18 Comments

play it again Dorie

After 4 plus years of cooking along with the French Friday’s with Dorie crew, we have come to the end and are now reminiscing about all the wonderful food we have cooked together. This week’s challenge is to write about the recipes which we made once from Around my French Table, and then just kept on making again and again.

As with the other challenges, I started by making a list. It was a very long list and in the end I couldn’t pick just one, so decided to do my top 5 again. Am I the only one who thinks about the movie High Fidelity every time we talk about top 5 lists?

Anyway, the ones I’ve made so often that I’ve lost count are:

FFwD432 0031. Apple Cake – I actually made this recipe for the first time before I even joined FFwD and it was likely a contributing factor to my decision to join the group in the first place. At some point along the line it replaced apple pie on my Thanksgiving table. If you asked any of my German friends, they would probably confidently tell you that Apple Cake is a traditional Thanksgiving dessert in America:-)

2. Lazy Chicken – Oh that Lazy Chicken. I make this dish at least once a month during the cooler months. I love it because it’s easy to make and only uses one pot. I love it because it’s a great way to use up whatever’s kicking around in my crisper. I love it because the chicken comes out so juicy and delicious. I love it because it makes leftovers for the next day. And I love it because it also lands on my husband’s Top 5 list. This recipe alone is worth the price of the book.

FFwD200 010

3. Warm Weather Pot-au-Feu – This is the dish I make at least once a month during the warmer months. I never would have made this dish if it were not for this group, not because it sounds bad, but because it sounds boring (which means that it also could have easily landed on my Never Doubt Dorie list). I was stunned by the flavors packed into this recipe the first time we made it and have since made it again and again and again, to absolutely rave reviews. It’s also a guilt-free meal because it’s low in fat and high in veggies:-)

FFwD340 002 FFWD378 006

4. Quinoa Fruit & Nut salad – Here’s another guilt-free recipe which has become a week-night standard in my house. I had long liked the flavor of quinoa, but what I like about this recipe is its fresh taste and the fact that it holds up so well as leftovers.

5. Coconut Friands – This one’s a little different. I really enjoyed these little cakes, but the flavor alone is not what keeps me coming back to this recipe, it’s the fact that it’s also a great way to use up extra egg whites whenever you have leftovers from another recipe.

FFwD456 026

There are more… so many more. I often wonder if I would have enjoyed this adventure as much with another book. Dorie’s recipes were diverse enough to keep me interested and well-tested enough to keep my confidence high. I know the lady’s a baker, but I for one hope that she does another book with savories too. I’m sure we could get the French Fridays with Dorie gang back together for another grand adventure:-)

Posted in favorite recipes, french fridays with dorie | Tagged | 13 Comments

never doubt Dorie

After 4 plus years of cooking along with the French Friday’s with Dorie crew, we have come to the end and are now reminiscing about all the wonderful food we have cooked together. This week’s challenge is to write about a moment when we may have doubted Dorie.

Moi? Doubt Dorie? Surely not.

IMG_2600I would love to be able to say that I never doubted Dorie for a second, but if I’m being completely honest, I went into more than a few of these recipes with a healthy amount of skepticism. In fact, typing the word “skeptical” into my blog’s Search field hits a total of 12 FFwD posts. For most it was for one of two reasons: either it (1) sounded too difficult or used a unfamilar technique or (2) something about the ingredients sounded weird to me. I picked one of each for this week’s post.

First, I was VERY skeptical the week we made Ricotta-Filled Zucchini Blossoms because the recipe sounded fiddley and difficult and like it was never going to hold together and it was going to look like a mess and I was going to have spent all that effort for nothing! Phew, okay, maybe I was a little stressed that week in general, but in all honesty, this is exactly the kind of recipe which I would have normally skipped right over because it just sounded too complicated for my limited kitchen skill set. But Dorie talked me through it and the resulting meal was not only a huge ego boost, but also a reminder that sometimes it’s a good idea to challenge myself in the kitchen. Other contenders here would have been the Blueberry-Mascarpone Roulade, Tuna Confit, and Gnocchi a la Parisienne.


Second up, Beggar’s Linguine was actually one of the easier recipes we ever made, but pasta with dried fruit and nuts sounded… well… nuts! Seriously! As I’ve probably said many times over the course of this journey, there is no way I would have made this recipe if it wasn’t for this group. And as I’ve also said many times by now, I’m so glad that I did! As improbable as it sounds, this combination is delicious and I’ve repeated it a few times since. Other contenders in this category include Sardine Rillettes, Salmon in a Jar, and Gorgonzola-Apple Quiche… yum!

FFwD370 015

I love this week’s assignment because it reminds me of all the amazing recipes which I would have missed if it was not for this group. These recipes are the hidden treasures which are discovered when one really cooks the entire book.

Posted in favorite recipes, french fridays with dorie | Tagged | 15 Comments


Picking a favorite anything always seems an impossible task, there are simply too many variables in life. Trying to pick a favorite recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s Around my French Table is equally impossible. My answer would depend on the season, on the weather, on the occasion, on my mood…

IMG_3731Yesterday was my 4 year anniversary, both as a blogger and as a member of French Fridays with Dorie. I joined the group a little late and my very first post was for Cardamom Rice Pilaf on May 28th, 2011. During the past 4 years I mostly caught up with the recipes which I missed before joining and am finishing up this little adventure with all but 2 checked off. Which two? Olive Fougasse (because I still do not own a standing mixer and am too lazy to do it by hand) and Almond-Orange Tuiles (because I attempted tuiles once in my life using Martha Stewart’s recipe, and once was enough).

FFwD364 013That still leaves 234 recipes from which to pick a favorite. An impossible task really, but I can say that reading back through my old posts to try to pick a favorite has been a fun trip down memory lane. So here they are, in no particular order, my top 5 recipes from French Fridays with Dorie:

1. Gerard’s Mustard Tart – because it reminds me of time spent studying in France, because Dorie has taught me not fear pastry dough like I used to, because I love mustard, because it is elegant simplicity on a plate

IMG_33132. Curried Mussels – because it has the perfect balance of creamy, spicy goodness, because I still can’t stop raving about how good these were, because I never would have discovered this recipe if it wasn’t for this group

3. Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good – because it looks harder to make than it is, because it’s served during my favorite season, because it tastes like comfort food

4. Coeur a la Creme – because anyone whose favorite part of the carrot cake is the cream cheese frosting will not need another reason:-)

FFwD425 027

FFWD280 0295. and finally, Cola and Jam Spareribs – because my husband has been an awfully good sport over the past 4 years, who has (mostly) learned to wait patiently while his food is having its close up, and so one of his favorites should make the list too

Posted in favorite recipes, french fridays with dorie | Tagged | 22 Comments

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.


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.


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.


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

Posted in french fridays with dorie | Tagged , , , | 19 Comments

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.

FFwD308 (4)

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.

Posted in french fridays with dorie | Tagged , , | 17 Comments

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.


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.

Posted in french fridays with dorie | Tagged , , | 17 Comments