I have been noticing a trend developing in the South of France: Pick a commonly used ingredient like chickpeas, roasted peppers, sun-dried tomatoes or even basil; make it spreadable, then add the suffix ade and voila, you have a fabulous finger food to serve at your next apéro. …
This Spring I have employed a new strategy in my endless battle of garden warfare against the evil weeds: If you can’t beat them, eat them. Henceforth I shall season the offenders with oil and vinegar rather than spray another deadly concoction of chemicals onto my lawn.
The opposing forces are led by none other than my very own son Beaumont, who unwittingly has unleashed an endless supply of dandelions in my yard. My son is an aficionado of blowing dead dandelions sending millions of dandelion seeds parachuting into my yard, ready to strike.
Quick, before summer gets here I wanted to share an old school French recipe for cooking chicken that I adore. It is no secret to my avid followers that I love the classics, especially as I become one myself. This chicken dish is based on a recipe from the late great Paulette Blanc, mother to another famous chef you may have heard about, Georges Blanc….
‘Plus elle est demeuree sur le feu, meilleure elle est!
(The longer it stays on the fire, the better the daube is)
Daubes are very slow-cooked stews that are found all over rural France, though the best known are from southern France. Traditionally daubes are made with lamb or beef, though one does not need to travel too far to find pork daubes, bull daubes, rabbit daubes, and even octopus daubes. Classically they are cooked in the lingering embers of a wood fire in special potbellied pots called ‘daubieres’ which are mostly made from copper or clay.
The lengthy cooking time combined with the bulbous shape of the cooking vessel creates a convection action where heat from the bottom rises to the top in the form of steam, hits the cooler top, then rains back down over the simmering meat. This action allows the collagen found in braising meats to turn into gelatin and provide a silky mouthfeel to the finished dish.
Many cooks claim it is damn near impossible to make a proper daube without a daubiere, though begrudgingly some will admit it is possible. I was one of those cooks.…
I adore the scene in Anthony Bourdain’s program ‘Parts Unknown’ where he ends up at Daniel Boulud’s father’s house in Lyon preparing a whole roasted squash stuffed with toasted bread, cheese, lardon, and mushrooms that is baked in an old wood-burning oven. The light tension between Daniel and his father as they cook together made me laugh out loud, mostly because it reminded me of basically every single time I have cooked with my own French mother. The episode offers a glimpse into the real side of French home cooking that often gets hidden behind the glamorous image of French gastronomy.
The palate of colors change at my nearby farmers market, bringing out old favorites and a host of new dishes to explore; for this very reason, I offer two variations on a fall menu. One celebrates Indian summer with a grilled calamari and radicchio salad, and lavender honey brushed lamb chops served with a Moroccan couscous and chickpea salad. While the other, a soupe au pistou and daube of pork cheeks gently reminds us of the heartier fare that will soon provide comfort and solace during the darker nights….
We first met Pascal Wagner in front of his small wine cave on a quiet street in sleepy Puligny Montrachet. He was anxiously pacing back and forth, chatting 200 miles an hour on a cell phone, in three different languages, with a client from some far off country. I didn’t want to disturb him but I had just begun braising an AOP Bresse chicken and needed an older white wine worthy of the celebrated bird. With a lit cigarette dangling precariously from the corner of his mouth, he motioned for us to be patient while he disappeared inside. He returned a moment later, still talking on the phone, clutching two fantastic bottles of an older white Meursault (chardonnay)….
One of the most endearing and favorite of all Provencal dishes is Petits Farcis or stuffed vegetables, also known as lu farçum in the Niçard (Nice) dialect. They are the perfect and easy family meal that can be served hot, cold or warm and everyone loves to eat them. Petits Farcis are best made in the summertime when so many great vegetables, like sun-ripened tomatoes, round zucchini, and thin eggplants start to appear in the farmers’ markets but really can be made any time of year….
Perfect for making a weeknight meal feel like a feast, try this one-pan recipe for pork chops with artichokes, ready in under 45 minutes!
Are you getting tired of the same old pork dish and looking for something new? Try my one pan pork chops with artichokes and have your palate revived. I was nosing around an old book on Nicoise cooking and came across this interesting title ‘Poor Man’s Pork Chop with Artichokes’. I was intrigued, what one country defines as poor man’s food, another calls a gourmet delicacy.
Upon deeper inspection, I noticed something else peculiar in the recipe, the addition of cornichon, or small French pickles. I had a hard time visualizing the combination; pork with cornichon is classic, pork with artichokes sounds feasible, but the two mixed together almost sounds like when Reese’s peanut butter cups were invented. It reminded me of my recent pork and pastis post when I combined two different things you would never see in the same pan together to spectacular results.
Trouchia or Omelet?
My garden is now producing more zucchini than I can possibly consume. Each day I walk out to tend to my plants and notice that five more zucchini grew overnight. I have tried disguising them on the dinner table to avoid the inevitable incredulous look of horror from my seven-year-old son Beau who long passed zucchini saturation a few weeks back. Thankfully I remembered Trouchia, this old Nice favorite usually made with Swiss chard.
To properly celebrate the world’s best king salmon and spring, I decided to make a time honored classic from the world’s great cooking duo of all time, the Troisgros brothers. Over fifty years ago, they created escalopes of salmon in a sorrel sauce that revolutionized French cuisine and ushered in a new era of cooking. There is no better dish to honor Columbia River spring run king salmon than this classic….
‘The salty, quivering oysters and the hot sausages work sensationally, both in flavour and texture.’ – Nigel Slater
I readily admit that I grew up a bit of an oyster snob. I never liked anything served with raw oysters other than possibly lemon, and even that was generally frowned upon. I was taught by my mother to savour the purity and simplicity, and taste the ocean in all its unadorned briny splendor.
Then one day I was reading an old French text that mentioned the Bordeaux habit of eating fatty pork sausages with salty oysters, washed down with a big glass of white Bordeaux and I had to give it a go. Lisa, Beau and I drove up to the nearest oyster beds along the Hood Canal in Washington, bought a few dozen blue pool oysters from Hama Hama and a pack of store bought sausages and went to town. The combination of rich, juicy sausages with briny oysters and crisp, fruity wine was a dining revelation. I wondered why I hadn’t tried this before?
People want to reclaim what’s real. Mass tourism is no longer sufficient. ~ Jamie Wong
Culinary Adventures are the new way for travellers to experience a country and connect directly with locals and their culture through the plate. It’s an immersive way to “travel better, on a deeper emotional and more personal level”, explains The Rise of Experiential Travel Report by Skift + Peak.
For years, Lisa and I have brought friends on incredible trips to France to directly experience the real French culture by eating in regular people’s homes, touring food markets and travelling to far off small villages to taste the dishes that made them famous. What we have found is: people want to escape the homogenized trips and experience more adventurous and experiential travel. Mass tourism is dead.
This dish is the result of an unexpected collaboration between two chefs who never met, David Everitt-Matthias and my sous chef Keith Schneider. The flavors and scents spoke of Provence; freshly salted cod, wisps of the citrus, chickpeas and roasted red peppers. Each dish a reflection of a single moment, an edible photograph capturing a mere twinkling of time, locked forever.
I bought Chef Everitt-Matthias’s book ‘Essence’ years before, and had fawned and drooled over the lush photography and original inspiring recipes within. I couldn’t afford a trip to England to eat at his restaurant, so I started reproducing some of the dishes in my own restaurant. I cooked a verbatim copy of one of my favorites, home-salted cod with roasted tomatoes, chickpeas and anchovy dressing, for so long, I began thinking it was my own creation.
Keith Schneider was my last Sous Chef in the professional world who looked remarkably like a young Michael Douglas. He learned to make the best liquid center croquettes on the planet after spending five years sweating in Iron Chef Jose Garces’ kitchens. The first dish he ever cooked for me was a croqueta served with a saffron aioli, I loved it so much I immediately put it on the menu, eventually adding it to the cured cod set.
Gui Gedda had become a mythical character in my unrelenting search for pure, unadulterated Provence cooking. I heard his name mentioned in several publications, always spoken with absolute reverence, but could never really find out a lot of details about him. Chefs referred to him as both the Pope and the Marcel Pagnol of Provencal cuisine. Finding Gui Gedda’s book ‘Cooking School Provence’ was a major find; it felt a bit like finding the holy grail.
Here’s a great project to tackle this weekend with your child; make yummy chocolate profiteroles stuffed with ice cream, then drizzle with caramel and hot chocolate sauce. It’s a fun activity with many little steps for a child to participate in, no matter their age.
In the old days of France, wine grapes were traditionally pressed by feet. The winemakers nicknamed ‘bar rosi’, or pink bottomed, due to the pink color of their feet when they were done squishing the grapes. There is a lovely sculpture by sculptor Noël-Jules Girard in the center of Dijon of a bar rosi, or bareuzai in the traditional dialect of Dijon, treading grapes.
Steak Bareuzai is the true product of the Burgundy region; local Charolais beef cut into thick steaks, spicy mustard grown in nearby fields and milled in Beaune, wild mushrooms hunted for in the damp woods and great red wine that seemingly flows from every winepress of the region. I love the fact that this is so quickly prepared, with no advanced planning other than having the ingredients on hand and perhaps a bottle of wine open. The only controversy seems to be whether or not you finish the sauce with a healthy spoonful of Dijon mustard; some recipes add it and others shun it. I personally add a big spoonful and like the creamy punch good mustard provides.
Cervelle de Canut is a Lyonnaise speciality, which literally translates to ‘silk worker’s brain’. The rather insulting name got its start in the 19th century when Lyon was renowned as the silk weaving capital of France; at the time, there were over 100,000 looms in business which accounted for 75% of Lyon’s industry. Silk workers, known as ‘canuts’, were looked down upon as lowly laborers and revolted against the owners over low wages and exhausting work conditions in 1831 then again in 1834, resulting in a six day siege that ended with 300 being killed and 10,000 laborers deported.
I am not sure if it’s my need for a great story, but bizarre dish names like this inhabit a particularly fond place in my heart. When compared to the Italians, who seemingly dominate the field solely with great pasta names like the macabre strozzapreti, or priest chokers, to the brutally honest, maltagliati, which literally translates to badly cut, the French are rank amateurs. Nonetheless, Lyon seems to have some great dish names.
There are many gastronomic paradises in France, but there is a paradise of paradises — Burgundy. – Curnonsky
Boeuf a la Bourguignonne is perhaps Burgundy’s most iconic dish; a rich beef stew made infamous in America by Julia Child, prepared from marinated beef simmered in local red wine with a calves foot, pearl onions, bacon lardons, herbs and button mushrooms. In truth, cooking proteins this way seems much more a regional style than a one off creation, you will find this combination of flavors taking many forms, from the equally iconic Coq au Vin (chicken in wine) to lesser known dishes like Oeufs en Meurette (eggs poached in red wine with bacon, mushrooms and onions) and Pochouse Bourguignonne, a rustic fish stew made with an assortment of river fish and crayfish simmered in Chambertin with onions, bacon and mushrooms. Technically, meurette is the name for highly flavored red wine sauces from Burgundy, though the word is seldom used in that connotation today.
Beef Bourguignon undoubtedly started life as a humble, peasant dish used to cook tougher pieces of beef, long before becoming a seriously tasty way to eat braised beef at regional restaurants and tables around the world. I have seen a few websites claiming the first appearance is in an Escoffier book, but I would argue the recipe is timeless and was been published several times prior without the word ‘bourguignonne’ added to the title. Most of the older French recipes mention larding the beef and adding a calves foot to the pot to provide a certain unctuousness. Larding, or inserting strips of pork fat into cubes of beef, is the proper way to take tough cooks of beef and make them tender. I certainly would advise adding a calf’s foot if you can find one; try looking in ethnic Asian or Mexican markets where they have a better selection of animal parts than typical mainstream grocery stores.
My top ten list of favorite French dishes to eat at home
I usually steer clear from these sorts of posts, but after a recent long walk in the Columbia Gorge rendered me insatiably starving and seriously contemplating eating my family, I decided to post what I do love, and dreadfully miss most about French food, in a vain attempt to save their lives. Earlier in the week, we had cut every single thing I love dearly about life as part of some satanic ritual known as the ‘new year’s resolution’. Foolishly, we thought adding exercise might reduce our surface circumferences quicker; instead visions of the doomed Donner party haunted my mind….