garbure from the supermarket

The problem with Fridays is that I’m always hungry. Here’s the deal, my husband and I do our weekly grocery shopping on Saturday morning. This is no coincidence. German shops tend to have idyllic opening hours (for the shopkeepers anyway) and basically Saturday morning is the only time when my work schedule and their opening hours don’t clash. Our usual routine is to cook a big meal on Sunday night and then survive off leftovers and whatever else we bought for as long as possible. This usually gets us through Wednesday. By Thursday we’re down to bread & cheese or take-out. By Friday the cupboards are bare and we go out to eat.

So why am I always hungry on Fridays? Because I usually come home from work a little earlier and then check up on French Fridays with Dorie while I’m waiting for my husband to get home so that we can go to eat. And here I sit, writing and reading and drooling over all the delicious posts. Remembering how tasty the recipe was, mentally planning what I’m going to order when we finally make it to the restaurant. And re-checking the fridge, because surely some scrap of cheese must have escaped notice the last time I checked.

That should give you an idea of my current state as I type up this week’s recipe, Garbure from the Supermarket. And since we’re on the subject of supermarkets, do any of you shop at a supermarket which stocks duck confit? Because if so, I want to live where you do. The title of this recipe gave me the false impression that it was one of those dishes made with easy to find ingredients. Not so! I had to settle for a duck leg in the end.

Good lord, just listed to all that whining! Okay, I’m done now. The garbure was not an easy recipe to shop for and it took some time to get together once home too. But the end result was darn tasty. It’s a big, meaty pot of rib-sticking goodness. The phrase “French chili” actually came to my mind when I was making it. And, if we hadn’t thrown half of it in the freezer, I would probably still have plenty to keep my hunger at bay tonight.


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Today it’s two February French Fridays (on a Sunday) for the price of one. Yeah, I’m running a little behind this month.

First up, this past week’s recipe, Butter and rum Crepes. Now, maybe it’s the Vermonter in me, but I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to pancakes. Butter and maple syrup is the gold standard (real maple syrup in case there was ever any question). I occasionally enjoy nuts or fresh fruit thrown into the mix. And my favorite crepe topping is sugar and fresh lemon juice. It may not stand out to you when reviewing the menu at a crepe stand (my husband usually goes for nutella), but I assure you that it’s delicious. All of those fussed up custard filled this and chocolate & ice cream topped that, doesn’t interest me at all. It’s breakfast, not a bloody ice cream sundae.


So, rum crepes filled with lemon curd and topped with a citrus butter sauce? Sounded a little fussy to me. And it was. Especially to make. But the lemon curd was a big hit. I wasn’t a big fan of it on my crepes. But I absolutely LOVED it mixed into my yogurt. That I will make again. The crepes and the sauce, not so much.


Next, a recipe from earlier in the month, Boeuf a la Ficelle, or Beef on a String. A classic example of how just about anything sounds fancier in French. I mean, who is going to order “beef on a string” off of a restaurant menu?

The prep for this one made the crepes look easy by comparison. First we had to make our own beef broth. Mine was a bit bland because my bones didn’t have much marrow in them and I had to beef it up a bit (no pun intended) with some demi glace. Next time I’ll either pay closer attention or take the lazy route and buy some at the store. Next, we cooked a pile of veggies and finally a full beef tenderloin in the broth. The whole idea sounded weird. Really weird.

But it didn’t taste weird. It tasted delicious! The meat was perfectly done and the veggies and broth rounded out the meal nicely. We enjoyed the leftovers the second day and then on the third day I made Dorie’s Next-Day Beef Salad. Also delicious! Looking forward to making that one again when it comes up on the FFwD roster.


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fondu and all-white salad

No, not together.

Last week I was high up in the mountains, enjoying a week of cheese, cheese, and more cheese. Seriously. The local specialties in the French Alps are Fondu (bread dipped in melted cheese), Raclette (bread and/or potatoes topped with melted cheese), Tartiflette (potato & melted cheese casserole), baked Mont d’Or (more cheese)… let’s just say, not a vacation destination for the lactose intolerant.

Luckily for me, I can tolerate pretty much anything. Unluckily for me, the weather was not ideal for skiing:-( Which meant that we had quite a bit of free time to kill. The television in our rental was all in French. The internet connection got progressively worse as the week wore on. But take a look at our kitchen! It was easily twice as large and much better equipped than my little kitchen here in Frankfurt. So, what did we do? We learned to make fondu.


The first attempt was not a success. I followed a very basic recipe from David Lebovitz and, while the flavor was good, it never really came together into the right consistency. The second time I asked for some advice from the lady selling me the cheese and added the cheese to the pot slowly, one handful at a time. And, oh my! The fondu was perfect! Creamy, delicious, perfect!


But, after a week of too little skiing and too much cheese, I was very happy to return to find that this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe, Helene’s All-White Salad, was high on vegetables and low on dairy. My husband, however, was less enthused. I believe, “looks interesting” was his comment. And then he asked what else we were going to have for dinner. Sheesh! Tough crowd.

In order to make the salad more husband-compliant, I used endives instead of the dreaded celery and added a poached chicken breast to beef it up a bit. Still white-ish and still delicious. Even the husband thought so.


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Paris Brest

Oh how I love the pastry shops in France. The windows are loaded up with temping goodies and I often find myself, nose pressed up against the glass, leaving drool marks as I consider my options.

Eclairs and Macarons get all the attention but there are more. So many more! Just think about all the mille-feuille and religous and St. Honore and lemon tarts and fruit tarts and chocolate tarts… oh, I’m feeling out of breath, I’ll just let a few of the pictures I have taken over the years tell the story…

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Sigh. Where am I? Oh yes, French Fridays with Dorie. Dorie, it seems, has been trying to convince me that one can enjoy these delectable treats without paying for a plane ticket (or a train ticket, as the case may be). She has had us working with choux pastry in several recipes and even taught me to make eclairs (much to my husband’s delight). But with this week’s recipe, Paris Brest, I seem to have met my match. I can almost hear the Parisian pastry chefs laughing at me from over here. “Oh she thinks she’s so smart, thinks she doesn’t need us anymore, well, this recipe will show her!

Okay, maybe that’s just my overactive imagination. But any dreams I may have had about being one of those home cooks who can whip up fancy french pastry in my own oven came crashing down this week. You can read the details on the FFwD P&Q page. Basically, I had the wrong size pastry tip and/or made too many rings and, as Mardi pointed out, this caused the dough not to rise up in the oven. In fact, not only did it not rise, but it then deflated even further once I removed it to the oven. There was no way I was going to be able to cut that thing in half.

Again, sigh. After much deliberation I went at the thing at a bit of an angle and did the best I could to assemble it into something resembling a Paris Brest. I’ve decided to steal Mardi’s word “rustic” this week and go with it.

As for taste, it was good. Very good. I didn’t love the texture of the custard after adding the candied almonds. But my tasters LOVED it and were very impressed by my fancy skills. Little did they know.

At the end of the day, I consider the week a victory. I tacked a challenging dish and it was a “rustic” success. But I think that I’ll be just as happy to leave such recipes to the experts in the future.


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moules mariniere

I have a love-hate relationship with my induction stove. Have these caught on in the US? I discovered them first in Germany, but that may have had more to do with the timing of my transatlantic move than anything else.

In any case, when I first moved over here and started apartment hunting with my future husband, we sat down and made a list of must-have and nice-to-have features for our future home. I had a gas stove (or at least a hookup for one) on my Must-Have list. My husband took one look at my list and told me that it wasn’t going to happen. Actually, he took the axe to most of of the items my list. I seem to recall that air conditioning was similarly struck down. And thank goodness, because if he hadn’t adjusted my expectations we would still be looking for an apartment 7 years later. Finding an apartment in Frankfurt is no easy task. Finding one with a gas stove and air conditioning would be a miracle. We don’t have a single friend who has either.

So, no gas stove. What to do? Plan A was to keep the kitchen well stocked with alcohol and drink away my sorrows at having to cook on the hated electric. My husband took a more pragmatic approach and introduced me to the concept of induction stoves.

I won’t bore you with the science of how induction works, but the benefit over electric is that it heats up and cools down very quickly. Which I love. What I do not love is how sensitive the damn thing is. Cleaning it with a damp spong sends it into a fit of error messages. And every once in a while, not often enough to keep me vigilant, but just often enough to keep my loyalties with gas, the thing will just turn itself off. No warning messages, no alarms, just off.

All of which is a very long introduction to this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe, Moules Mariniere. I LOVE mussels and moules mariniere is THE classic recipe. I have made this recipe more times than I can count. My standard is from Anthony Bourdain, but really, one recipe for moules is usually much like another.

I prepped my mussels, sauteed some savories, threw the mussels into the pot, clamped down the lid, and turned my back to slice up some bread. Mussels cook very quickly and so I didn’t go far. I even turned around at some point to give the pot a good shake. I’m not even sure exactly when the stove decided to turn itself off. All I know is that when the timer went off and I opened the lid to check on them, most had only partially opened. At this point I noticed that my heat had gone out, so I turned it back on and tried again. But apparently it was too late and they didn’t open any further:-(

The ones which open were tasty and I’ve learned my lesson not to turn my back on mussels. I’m sure I’ll eat these again soon. But I didn’t love the lemon so I’ll probably be going back to Anthony.


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3 simple soups

As you may have heard, I was a bit confused last week and made the soups instead of the baked apples. Oops. Not sure why, but there I was on Sunday night, trying to drum up the energy to make three (count them 3!) soups. I had all of the ingredients on hand, but it had been a very busy weekend and when dinner time rolled around I was just too tired and couldn’t be bothered. I headed into the kitchen thinking that I would pull a leftover soup out of the freezer and save the Dorie recipe for another night.

Upon entering the kitchen I noticed that Dorie’s book was lying on the kitchen table, already open to this week’s recipe. Apparently I hadn’t bothered to put it away after making my grocery list. Out of either curiosity or procrastination I started reading the recipe and noticed that, while I might not have the energy to make all three soups, making one seemed like hardly more effort than reheating frozen soup. Seriously!

And it wasn’t. I opened two jars of stock and brought them to a boil. Roughly chopped a zucchini, opened a bag of frozen peas (no asparagus to be found around these parts this time of year) and cooked them in the stock for 10 minutes. A quick blitz in the blender. Done! I think I was in the kitchen for no longer than 15 minutes and we had steaming bowls of tasty soup for dinner.

The next night I made the broccoli and red pepper soups after I got home from work and found them to be equally satisfying. All three recipes checked the all important Easy, Quick, and Nutritious boxes for me. In fact, this week was an important reminder that foundation recipes, by which I mean the most basic form of any recipe, can be really quite satisfying. I could have dug around in my fridge and added cream or chopped ham or fresh herbs, or all of the above, and no doubt these additions would have been delicious. But the soups were also perfectly good on their own, without any refinement.

And maybe I’m the only one, but I take comfort in the idea that after a long day, if I come home to only a few limp veggies in the crisper, or even just some forgotten bags in the freezer, I can still feed the ones I love. It may not be fancy, but it’s better than frozen pizza, and I like to keep my expectations low. I’m pretty sure that it’s the secret to a happy life:-)

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baked apples

I don’t know where my brain is this week. This past weekend I made the party soups. At some point earlier in the week I realized that I was off and we were actually making Baked Apples. So I bought the ingredients for apples and somehow managed to squeeze them in after work. And what did I do last night? I sat down a wrote a post for next week’s party soups. Where is my brain?! Well, I guess I won’t need it next week because I’ve already and made and written the post for the recipe.

So here I am, trying to squeeze in my post for the Baked Apples before Friday turns into Saturday in my time zone. It’s not going well so far.

First I had to check Facebook and find out what everyone was up to. Then I had to catch up on yesterday’s Jon Stewart. And then I started thinking about my Baked Apples. But the trouble with trying to blog about food is that it tends to make you hungry. Especially if it’s dinner time and your husband is running late. So I wandered into the kitchen to find a snack. And there is was, one sad-looking leftover baked apple which appears to have passed its sell by date. Which I guess also sums up how I felt about this week’s recipe. Because, if I’m letting leftovers moulder, it means that we didn’t love it.

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