Cote d’Azur cure-all soup

Dorie tells us that this week’s recipe is the French version of chicken noodle soup. Well, at the time that the recipe was announced in late February, I was long overdue for a cure. I had been cruising that middle ground between feeling not quite sick enough to stay home from work and not quite well enough to go in. Every morning after a good night’s sleep I would feel a bit better, and by midway through the day I would feel completely worn out and start thinking about leaving early. By day 7 I gave up and called in sick. That was the day I noticed that the March recipes had been announced and that was when I flipped through the book to read Dorie’s explanation of the restorative properties of this soup. I checked the cupboard and discovered that I was missing garlic and sage. So I dragged myself off the couch and over to the market to buy the missing two ingredients.

Once home, and after a quick nap to recover from the exertion of walking all of 3 blocks to the market and back, I sliced up the garlic (the whole bulb!) and got the soup started. Dorie suggests that the soup could be puréed or left as is. I went with option C and strained out most of the cooked garlic before adding the eggs.

The second the soup was done I poured myself a bowl, slurped it down, and then poured myself another bowl. In that sniffly, achy moment, it was the best soup I had ever tasted.

My husband came home a few hours later and I ever so gently reheated the soup for him in a double broiler. He commented that it was good, but I think he was just being nice to his sick wife, because after only half a bowl I found him in the kitchen prowling around for something else.

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So there you have it, this cure-all soup is perfect for sick people or those trying to keep vampires at bay, but perhaps not so exciting for the perfectly healthy. I warned my husband that he should learn how to make it, because I will now be craving it next time I get sick.

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veal marengo

As my husband polished off his portion and then started in on my plate of this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe, Veal Marengo, I warned him to slow down and savor it, because it was the last stew recipe in the book. Yay! Sorry, I meant that last sentiment to be a quiet inner voice. What can I say, while my fellow Doristas are celebrating a fish-free Friday, I am celebrating the fact that I will be unlikely to face another bowl of stewed meat for many years to come.

My husband, of course, loved this recipe and had no problem finishing both plates. So the score this week is 1 winning stew recipe + 1 appreciative stew lover + 1 “happy that’s done” stew hater. I’m going to call it a win.


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cabbage and foie gras bundles

I’m traveling for work this week and trying to type up this post on my iPad with two index fingers, while snuggled into the hotel bed for warmth while waiting for the heat to kick on. So that should be your hint right there that this will be short (and grammatically interesting from what I’ve seen from my auto-correct so far), but I didn’t want to miss posting about such an unusual recipe.

Knowing that I would be on the road this week, I actually made this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe, Cabbage and Foie Gras bundles, a few weeks ago. The exercise did not get off to a great start. First off, I love foie gras and was pretty darn skeptical that wrapping it up in cabbage leaves and then steaming it was going to add to my enjoyment of this rich little delicacy. But like a good little Dorista I jotted down Dorie’s instructions and set off to the store.

It was there that this recipe was almost completely derailed. I started asking the lady at the poultry counter which of her tasty-looking foie gras terrines (seriously auto-check? “termites”?) was made from whole foie gras and not mousse. She naturally asked how I planned to serve it (a very common question here which usually leads to helpful service and advice), but oh, oh you should have seen the look on her face! Seriously folks, I was almost starting to worry that she might decide not to sell me any of her precious stock, for fear of what I was going to do to it.

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In the end I convinced her and she sent me off with a sad shake of her head. Frankly, at this point I was pretty in agreement with her and my husband apparently too, because he suggested that we split do a half recipe and save the rest for more traditional consumption. I readily agreed.

It was a decision which we both regretted later. Seriously, as unlikely as this dish sounds, we both really enjoyed it. We served it simply with some toasted sourdough and a glass of wine. Delicious! Who knew!

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one fish, two fish, red fish, blue lobster

FFwD324 (11)So, as the lady at my fish market was chasing after my runaway lobster (the little bugger attempted a brazen escape by jumping off the scale and scurrying under the counter) she commented that she had been seeing an awful lot of me lately;-)

It’s true, while the poor fish chapter may have felt a bit neglected in the past, it is now getting quite a workout.

First up, I am catching up with last week’s Vanilla-Braised Lobster recipe. I’ll admit right up front, this New England girl LOVES lobster, but I don’t get to eat a lot of it since moving across the pond because it is even crazier expensive here than in the States. Dorie’s recipe was the perfect excuse to splurge, and not just on the price; three blocks of butter and 2 vanilla beans rounded out this exotic dish! I took her advice and served the braised lobster on a bed of sautéed spinach. What can I say, it was Absolutely Delicious! My husband said that Dorie had redeemed herself after the aspic fiasco:-)

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Two of my favorite stores in Paris, E.Dehillerin and G.Detou, are within easy walking distance of each other. On our last trip I dragged my husband along to both and purchased some pistachio oil and baking chocolate at Detou before heading over to Dehillerin to wander aimlessly up and down the cluttered aisles, all the while wishing that my suitcases were bigger. After an hour or so my husband got antsy and dragged me up to the checkout counter, clutching my sole purchase, a new food mill. Both stores have a rather arcane check out process which involves two separate counters. At the first counter, checkout guy #1 rings up your wares and provides you with a bill, which you then bring to a second counter, so that checkout guy #2 can collect your money and give you a receipt, which you then bring back to #1 to collect your goods. In any case, #2 was apparently feeling feisty that day because he asked me where I lived and looked quite surprised when I told him that I live in Germany. I’m guessing it’s the accent. “Really?” he asked, “Germany? Well, nobody’s perfect.”

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Having only used the food mill once since then, I was admittedly confused and more than a little skeptical when I pulled it out for this week’s recipe, Riviera Fish Soup. Dorie assures us that it can puree an entire fish (bones, skin and all!), as does the YouTube promotional guy who asks, “Did you ever want to puree fruits or vegetables, but you didn’t want to drag out the big food processor, or clean it up later?” Certainly sounds promising.

FFwD092 (12)Well, let me be blunt, YouTube guy lies! Yes, the food processor is not that much fun to clean, but at least it keeps the mess contained. The food mill, on the other hand, produced possibly one of the bigger messes that my little kitchen has ever seen. It took quite some effort to get the whole batch of soup worked through and my husband had to take over early on as I apparently lack the requisite elbow power to get it done. Afterwards I had to give my kitchen a thorough scrub to remove all the bits which had flown about. Days later I was still finding remnants which I somehow missed the first time over.

So, right, the soup. It was delicious, but it felt like quite a journey to get it made and I have decided that this is one dish which is better to order in a restaurant. Luckily I had a few glasses of Pastis to help me through it!

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chicken couscous

No pictures today. Our internet connection has been acting up all week and the act of uploading a picture just seems to be too much. If our internet provider is listening… your days are numbered!

But moving on. Dorie’s Poultry chapter may well be my favorite in the book, which probably says more about my personal preferences than anything else. In fact, the Fish chapter is quickly catching up. But this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe, Chicken Couscous, left me a bit wanting, which again, I think says more about my personal preferences than anything else. My husband and I both agreed though, that the flavors were much improved by the second day and we enjoyed our leftovers more than the original. But still not one which we need to repeat.

I’m off to dinner with my valentine now. We’re trying a new place which is rather difficult to get into, and so instead of fighting the hoards on Valentines Day proper, we decided to celebrate a day early. Which reminds me of something which I read some years ago. Before I go any further I should preface this by saying that I can’t recall the exact source and the whole thing may well be nonsense. In any case, the story went that February 14th is the busiest day of the year for New York City restaurants, which is hardly surprising. But the piece then went on to explain that the second busiest day of the year for New York restaurants is February 13th, because that’s when all the mistresses and manstresses (it’s a word!) get taken out to dinner. So you can bet that tonight I’ll be looking around to see who else is there:-)

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winter ceviche

In trying to figure out how to turn this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe into dinner, my mind wandered back to our recent post-Christmas trip to Miami. I love ceviche and my husband is a rather more recent convert. But I knew that if I served this week’s Winter Ceviche by itself, I would find him prowling around the kitchen shortly afterwards, looking for food.

In Miami we had some of the most amazing Latin American food, including several rounds served as little tasting portions alongside delicious empanadas. So good!


Sadly, it is not so easy to find empanadas on this side of the pond and I’m generally too lazy to make them. But it seems like every culture has a version of dough-wrapped savory treats, and so I went with the Indian version, samosas.

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In fact, the Indian flavors paired well with this non-traditional ceviche, which favors classic european flavors instead of the traditional latin american ones. My husband really enjoyed this dish, which seems rather obvious since his is the European palate which it is meant to cater to. I enjoyed it, but just couldn’t seem to get beyond the nagging feeling that it would be better with a little heat, and maybe a little cilantro instead of the tarragon. Which, I guess, is also a little obvious:-)

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We lost my father-in-law last week. I’m not ready to start to losing parents. I know that it’s the logical order of things and all, but really, I’m just not ready. My oh-so mature reaction has been to call my own parents incessantly to harass them about their own health (which appears to be fine, by the way). They have so far been kindly indulgent of my regular outbursts, but I should probably not be surprised if they start screening all incoming international calls.

Some time before we got the call I had already make last week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe, Croquants. These little cookies were simple, comforting, and sharable. Just what we needed.

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spice-crusted monkfish with mango chatini

Our refrigerator is in a dire state these days. The prime problem seems to be that we have been away from home every weekend since we returned from the States. Which means that I’ve been trying to squeeze these French Fridays with Dorie recipes in during the work week and have been awfully grateful that the line up so far has been for quick dishes.

This week’s recipe was actually for Spice-Crusted Tuna. As you can see from the title, I went a little off course and selected a nice monkfish fillet instead. Otherwise, I stuck strictly to the recipe, even following Dorie’s advice to serve it with mashed potatoes and Mango Chatini.

The only problem I had with this one was that the spice crust stuck to the pan instead of to the fish and I had to scrape it out after the fact in order to get the flavor on my fish. I thought that maybe it was because I didn’t use a spatula to turn the fish. Diane pointed out that it may be because I oiled the fish before adding the spice rub. Either way, I think that I still got the flavor, it just didn’t look quite as photogenic as it might have.

In fact, the flavor was delicious and I particularly enjoyed the combination with the mango chatini. I will absolutely be making the mango again, I have the feeling that this delicious salsa would pair nicely with most white meats.

What can I say, while I’m sorry to see that some Doristas are suffering, I’m absolutely thrilled that we are finally getting around to these fish recipes. I’m one who will usually stear towards the fish dishes over the meat dishes in a restaurants. Not always, sometimes a good steak is all that will satisfy. But my general preferences seem to be holding because so far I note that I have rated the recipes in Dorie’s fish chapter far higher than those from the meat chapter. Keep em coming!

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Curried mussels

To this day I remember my first pot of mussels. It was at Hopleaf Cafe in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood, an old favorite of mine when I lived in the city, which specializes in Belgian food and beer. I can’t even tell you how many times I ordered those delicious mussels, served with a side of perfect fries in a paper cone and garlicy mayo for dipping. And if you think that fries with mayo sounds gross, may I suggest that you hold fast to that opinion and never try them. Because it’s just about the tastiest combo you’ll ever try, and it will be better for your waistline never to discover this fact.

But I digress, that first pot of mussels was a revelation and I was hooked. Since that day I have enjoyed many more mussels in many more restaurants. I have even tried variations with tomato sauces and even Dorie had us making mussels with chorizo. All tasty, but I always come back to the classic preparation.

Until now!


This week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe, Curried Mussels, had me slicing more bread so that I could sop up every last drop of that tasty sauce. We picked a curry powder which had just enough heat to get your attention and we served it with a bottle of sekt, which we also used in the broth. So, so good. My husband and I both agreed that it was our hands down favorite mussel recipe from Around My French Table. We will make it again!

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arman’s caviar in aspic

IMG_3294Phew, well, it’s done, the most dreaded recipe in the book. I feel somehow lighter. In 3+ years of cooking through Around my French Table with the French Fridays with Dorie crew, Arman’s Caviar in Aspic has always lurked in the background as the recipe which I was most dreading. So many delicious recipes, so many rewarding recipes, so many wonderful surprises, and now I’ve survived my first foray into aspic!

I gave a bit of thought to changing up the flavors of this one a bit. If I’m being honest, it was more than a bit. I actually enjoy caviar on occasion, but I was having a hard time embracing the idea of fish flavored aspic. But in the end I couldn’t come up with any brilliant alternatives and decided that I should just stick it out and try the original and see what happens.

IMG_3298Well, not entirely original, because I decided pretty much right off the bat that carving aspic cups was just not going to happen. We all have to know our limitations and my arts and craft skills peaked in kindergarten. Instead I pulled out some schnapps glasses and decided to serve these in little cups with the caviar sitting on top.

What can I say, they were easy, elegant, and I learned something new. But the jelly was too firm and fishy for my tastes and I remain a confirmed aspic skeptic. And heck, if I can survive fishy aspic, I can survive anything! So bring on the raw fish, live lobsters, leftover beef, and whatever the heck escabeche and marengo are. I’m ready!

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