Bistrot du Paradou is simply not a restaurant for everyone. In fact, let me discourage you entirely from eating here – you will hate it. It is an unpretentious, no-frills eatery with no colored gel dots festooning plates or even bizarre culinary fusions poetically listed on a whimsical menu. Actually, there isn’t even a menu; all you get is whatever the chef decides to cook for that day and that’s it. There are no fancy linens, no Riedel stemware, nor imposing sommeliers; there really isn’t even a wine list, just a single open bottle lay waiting on every table. And you had better make reservations or risk not getting a table. …
Sometimes the best dishes are those that you do not really have to think too much about. In fact, I would argue the simplest dishes are always the best dishes. A few days ago I was out in my overgrown, weed-infested garden picking tomatoes wondering what to make with them. I remembered a half-finished jar of olivade and a semi-thawed sheet of all-butter puff pastry sitting in my fridge. And viola, the tomato tart was born.
Secrecy is Everything
We met Johann Pepin at ‘Les Pastras‘, his sprawling organic farm located on a desolate mountain top near the Provencal village of Cadenet under the cloak of secrecy. He cautioned us that “thieves were everywhere”, before instructing us to lock our car doors and gather down below. I must admit I felt a bit uneasy as he slipped a black hood loosely over my head, gently guiding me into the back of an unmarked black van.
Moments later we arrived at the edge of an unnamed field in an unnamed town in an unnamed country for what was surely going to be an epic truffle hunt. Such is the way with truffle hunters where secrecy is everything. …
A Curious Market Tour in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence
We met Ashley, the Queen of Curious Provence, for a quick espresso at Café de la Place, located on the edge of the bustling St. Rémy market. Any possibility of feeling awkward or weird by meeting someone you don’t know was quickly obliterated by Ashley. She was perfectly outgoing and talkative enough to make us feel like we were meeting a long lost friend rather than an unknown tour guide. Within moments of downing our coffee, we were in the thick of the bustling market, weaving through the busy stalls like regular market habitués….
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.