Category Archives: French

Cassolette

A hearty French Cassolette is the best food to get you through the winter. It requires a bit of work, but you can leave it in the over to finish on its own. This version has a bit extra vegetables with the addition of the baby squash. If you don’t want to use sausage you can use duck legs, chicken legs or thighs or any other meat that will hold up to a braze in the over.

Cassolette:
4 slices bacon, chopped
1 ½ lb pork sausage, cut into chunks
1 large sweet onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic
2 10oz packages of mushrooms
2-3 cups chicken broth
½ cup white wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 lb baby squash, cut into bite size pieces
10 sprigs of thyme
2 – 15 oz cans of white beans
Salt and pepper

In a large cast iron Dutch oven, over medium high heat, cook the bacon until crispy. Remove the bacon and set aside. Add the sausage and let it brown on one side. Stir and let it brown on the other side. Remove the sausage and set aside with the bacon. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Add the onions and garlic to the oil in the pot. Sautee in the oil until clear and translucent. Add the mushrooms and cook until browned. Add the chicken broth, wine and tomato paste. Stir to combine. Add the squash, thyme and beans and stir. Add back in the sausage and bacon. Mix to combine. Season with salt and pepper and taste the broth to make sure it is salty enough. Put the lid on the pot and cook in the over for 1 hour.

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Baby Shower

My great friend Frances is having a baby girl. The crazy thing is that she is due the day after my birthday. So I wanted to make sure that she had a great shower. I designed the invites to match some of the items she is registered for and then did all of the delicious food. It was a great party. My treats combined with all of Frances’ beautiful service wear made for a really impressive table. Everything has sort of a French flair to it, for some reason in my mind all showers should be catered with French foods.

Bacon and Broccoli Mini Quiches

Mini quiches are a classic part food. They are quintessentially French and really easy to eat. They can be made ahead and reheated quickly on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees. Though it would be very easy to buy these in the freezer section, when you make them yourself they are truly exceptionally. These were a huge hit with the father to be.

Bacon and Broccoli Mini Quiches

Crust:
3 cups flour
2 sticks of butter, slightly cooler than room temperature
2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup water

In a large metal bowl, mix all ingredients, except the water with a fork or pastry cutter. The goal is to incorporate the butter until it is the texture of course meal. Slowly sprinkle in the water and quickly mix. Making sure not to put in too much water, briefly kneed the pastry so that it forms a cohesive ball. Pull out about 1 tablespoon of dough and flatten into a round, place it into a mini-muffin pan to form a miniature pie shell.

Filling:
6 eggs
¾ cup milk
2 teaspoons mustard
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 8 oz package shredded cheddar cheese
½ lb thick cut bacon, cooked and crumbled
10 oz bag broccoli, defrosted, drained and chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrease. Beat the eggs, milk, mustard and seasonings with a whisk until well combined.

Fill half of the pastry with broccoli and the other half with cheese. For the broccoli quiches, top them with a bit of the cheese. For the cheese quiches, top them with a bit of the bacon bits. Slowly fill the mini pies with the egg mixture until you can see the egg peaking out of the filling.

Place the molds on top of a baking sheet and bake the pans for 30 minutes or until the tops turn golden brown. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Three Canapés: Tuna Nicoise, Balsamic Steak and Mushroom Goat Cheese

Canapés are always easy to make and look super impressive. I wanted to have a main course that was easy to eat and still had great flavors. These three canapés really invoke the best flavors of France.

Tuna Nicoise Canapés:
2 7oz cans of tuna, drained
½ small onion, minced
1 tablespoon capers, minced
handful of black olives, chopped
handful of haricots verts, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
juice and zest of ½ lemon
salt and pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon anchovy paste
½ teaspoon dijon mustard
bread rounds
lettuce
grape tomatoes, halved

Using a form, mix the tuna, onion, capers, olives, beans, olive oil, lemon, and seasonings in a mixing bowl. Taste the tuna mixture and adjust the seasoning as needed.

Cover the bread rounds with a piece of lettuce. Put a hefty tablespoon of the tuna mixture over the lettuce. Top the tuna with a half of a cherry tomato and serve.

Balsamic Steak Canapés:
1 lb beef tenderloin
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
2 tablespoons olive oil
bread rounds
lettuce
Parmigiano-Reggiano slices or chunks
Aged balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrease. Season the beef with the salt, pepper, garlic and Cajun seasoning. Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet with a metal handle on medium high heat. Sear the beef on all sides, about 3 minutes per side. Insert an electric probe thermometer inter the center of the beef and set the alarm for medium rare. Place the skillet of beef into the oven and cook until the alarm sounds.

Let the cooked beef rest for at least 15 minutes so that the juices redistribute. Slice the beef, against the grain, into thin bite sized piece.

To assemble, cover a piece of bread with a piece of lettuce. Place a piece of beef and Parmigiano on top of the lettuce and drizzle with the balsamic.

Mushroom Goat Cheese Canapés:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
½ medium onion, chopped
1 4oz package of mixed “wild” mushrooms, chopped
1 8oz package of sliced baby bella mushrooms, chopped
½ tablespoon dried thyme
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon bourbon or other brown liquor like cognac
melba toasts
1 8oz log of goat cheese
fresh thyme leaves

Heat the olive oil and garlic in a skillet on medium heat. Before the garlic browns add the minced onion and cook until it turns clear. Add the mushrooms and thyme and cook until browned and soft. Once all of the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are soft and browned add the salt and pepper and liquor. Keep stirring the mushrooms until the liquor is almost evaporated. Taste the mixture and adjust the salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon a hefty tablespoon of mushroom onto the toasts. Add a slice of goat cheese and fresh thyme leaves to the top of the mushrooms and serve.

French with a Vietnamese Twist

My friends Sabrina, Sean and Dave and I have a new tradition of cooking Sunday dinner together. We collaborate (guys vs. girls) and take turns taking the lead. This weekend I was in charge. I had 4 duck breasts in my freezer that where begging to be eaten.

I love to cook French. I’m probably the best at making French and Cajon foods. For some reason I really embody the flavor combinations. But lately I’ve been obsessed with Vietnamese. I guess its homesickness, since I have not seen my mom in a while and I miss all of her cooking (yes she is Vietnamese). So I wanted to make a fusion Vietnamese and French duck.

At first I was going to serve the duck over rice with asparagus on the side. But I felt that white rice was just too boring. Plus Sabrina wanted to make rice pudding for desert, so potatoes where the natural choice. Have you ever had the duck confit at Les Hales restaurant? I’ve had it at both the DC location and the downtown NYC location. At the DC location it came with an amazing side of oven roasted cubed potatoes with truffles and frisée, sort of a salad. First heat the oven to 500 degrees. It is essential to have a hot oven for roasting potatoes. I cut about 10 small red potatoes into 1/4in cubes. (Yes this took a long time, about a half an hour but the oven was nice and hot afterwards.) Toss them with salt, pepper, minced garlic, thyme and olive oil. Place them on the middle rack in the oven. Wash your bunch of frisée, tear it into more bit size pieces and leave it to dry. Mix up a quick dressing for the salad. I added two tablespoons of large grain Dijon mustard to a tiny bit of balsamic dressing, but you could easily make the dressing from scratch with olive oil, red wine vinegar, shallots, salt and pepper. After 30 minutes, give your potatoes a toss and sprinkle them with a few generous tablespoons of truffle oil. Put them back in the oven for 30 minutes. Pull the potatoes out to cool, they will be nice and crispy brown. After letting them sit for 15 minutes, it should be easier to scrape them off of the bottom of the dish. Toss the potatoes with the frisée and the dressing. If you are feeling decadent, shave a black truffle into the mixture before you toss.

The critical aspect was the sauce. I basically combined two classic sauces from both cuisines. Caramelized black pepper pork is a staple Vietnamese dish and the French love a good green peppercorn cream sauce. So I combined both! Go ahead and start to make the sauce when you put the potatoes into the oven.

First off I marinated my duck breasts in a healthy amount of fish sauce. Then I started working on the sauce. Chop up half of a Vidalia onion or else 3 shallots… which ever you have on hand. In a heavy saucepan, put about 1/3 a cup of sugar on medium heat. Just let it sit there, as the sugar will turn a golden brown. If your pan is not heating evenly, you can swirl the unmelted sugar into the browning sugar. Be careful not to get it too dark or let it burn. Pull it off the heat and let it cool a tiny bit. Pour in a few tablespoons of fish sauce, it should bubble in the molten sugar. Ad about a cup of half and half, the shallots and a few tablespoons of green peppercorns (discard the brine if you have jarred peppercorns). Heat this on the stove, stirring with a wooden spoon until the sugar is dissolved from the bottom of the pot. Now let the sauce cook on medium till it gets thicker and reduces. Taste the sauce to make sure it tastes rich, not too sweet and is salty enough. It helps to squish the peppercorns with the back of the spoon to release some of their flavor.

Cooking the duck breast is really easy. Heat a heavy non-stick skillet on the stove top, on medium-high. A cast iron skillet works really well. Place the breasts in the pan skin side down. After 7 minutes check to see that the skin is caramelizing nicely. Once the skin is a golden brown, flip the breast (there will be tons of fat in the pan from the melting fat under the skin) and place a thermometer into one of them, at the thickest part, from the side for maximum surface area. Once the breasts hit 150 degrees, turn the heat off and let the breasts slowly reach 165. Once they hit that, move the breasts to a cutting board to rest for 5 minutes and then slice them.

Sabrina quickly balanced some asparagus and then tossed them in a quick garlic lemon zest butter.

To plate, heap on a generous portion of the potatoes, neatly lay out some asparagus spears and fan out several pieces of the breast. Spoon two generous tablespoons of the sauce over the breasts and serve with a good French style pinot noir.