Since getting backed on my kickstarter cookbook project I have been in full panic mode. I have so much work to do to finish the book in time to get it to Torrey Douglass, our phenomenal book designer, to get it to our publisher, to get it to those of you who graciously bought copies and backed my project. A rather shameless plug for my book is right here:bit.ly/KickstartSunshine. You are encouraged to still back my kickstarter campaign as we have set a stretch goal to cover a possible book tour. Many thanks….
I have been so buried trying to finish writing/photographing my Provencal cookbook on classic and reimagined dishes from the South of France. The amount of work required is staggering and sometimes stifles my creativity. I usually head out to the Farmer’s Market in Portland (PDX) for a much needed break and some edible inspiration. Walking through the various farms offerings I was so happy to encounter a plethora of interesting peppers including a mound of fresh Espelettes. It reminded me to add one of my favorite dishes, roasted peppers stuffed with goat cheese and topped with Anchoiade. This is a photographic rich post with few words as they all seem to be saved for my book. More information on my book can be found at: bit.ly/KickstartSunshine…
No one is born a great cook, one learns by doing. – Julia Child
My mother came from an upper middle class family that lived in the south of France. The extent of her food education before meeting my father was learned by eating in restaurants like Oustau de Baumaniere in Provence, Pieds de Cochon in Paris or having her father’s cook Mémé make dinner nightly. When my mother came to America and first married my father she didn’t know how to cook. Ironically, she learned by reading Julia Child’s seminal book ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’. Through Julia, she was reunited with her mother culture and proudly fed us a different meal every single night (my father’s requirement). My first moments in the kitchen, hanging on my mother’s cliched apron strings, were spent pretending to be a more French version of Julia. I grow up adoring Julia and watching her TV shows. Today, I still love her and reference her books on a daily basis. …
pas·sion: a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something
I have been involved in quite a few heated discussions surrounding food in my life. I have successfully argued and disproved the myth of Catherine di Medici; whether Italian truffles are better/worse than Perigord truffles and even who has better rib tips, Hecky’s in Evanston or Lem’s on 75th street in Chicago. I am very passionate and deeply opinionated about subjects I hold dear. Controversy is not something I shy from. Nor am I troubled by my penchant for digging my heels in and relentlessly fighting till I turn blue in the face, maybe even purple. I am decidedly stubborn. Strangely I have noticed this seems to be a recurring trait of people with French blood cursing through their veins. Recently I was involved in an internet flare up on a favorite food writing board. The conversation heatedly broke into two opposing camps, the romantics and the scientists, with each side passionately arguing their points. Perhaps more accurately for my overly literal friends hellbent on reducing life to a series of experiments and cold numbers, one side argued scientifically. The debate centered around the question, is cooking an act of love or a scientific process.
Cooking is like love — it should be entered into with abandon or not at all.
– Harriet Van Horne
When the weather starts to heat up, my taste buds board a plane and venture to the South of France. Grab a pastis and join me for a taste of Summer. Coastal Provence is an area long renowned for it’s golden sunlight and soul satisfying fare. A cuisine largely rooted in seafood and vegetables with flavorful condiments like rouille and tapenado that enhance everything they touch. The dish tapenade is derived from tapeno, the Provencal word for capers. Charles Meynier, chef of the bygone Marseille restaurant La Maison Doree, invented tapenade in 1880. …
“The first supermarket supposedly appeared on the American landscape in 1946. That is not very long ago. Until then, where was all the food? Dear folks, the food was in homes, gardens, local fields, and forests. It was near kitchens, near tables, near bedsides. It was in the pantry, the cellar, the backyard.” – Joel Salatin
For the past year we have lived more “locally” and ‘in the season’ than ever before. It wasn’t an act of intentional culinarian defiance or even a misguided political statement. It was just the continued evolution of what we have done for the better part of the last decade. Without intending to, our families diet has been hyper seasonal, consuming a wider range of vegetables more intensely. I used to ponder at length why vegetables just tasted so much better in France than here. Eat at almost any restaurant or stop at any town market, buy something and you’ll see and taste what I mean. Zucchini tastes like the perfect zucchini and carrots like the perfect carrot. How could one country do that consistently across the board. Than it hit me like an errant lightning strike on a bright sunny day. Food grown and eaten in due season simply tastes better….
Day Four: More Champagne, Can my Liver Survive this Onslaught?
“If you don’t have passion, you won’t make very good Champagne.”
We arrived back in Epernay with a sense of foreboding a soldier must feel when returning to the scene of a particularly horrendous battle fought only the day before. I had imagined Epernay’s streets haunted by the ghosts of empty bottles from yesterday’s excesses. The bright, relentless sunlight bore a hole through my aching brain….
My dog Lucy came up to our bedroom in the dark of night and gave me the sweetest lick. Her tail wagged hard as she aligned her body close to mine. Beaumont was snuggled so tightly to the left that I couldn’t tell where he ended and I started. He was peacefully snoring, happily dreaming of princesses and far off purple kingdoms. Lucy looked so happy with a twinkle in her eye that just screamed I love you. The three of us were intertwined in the bliss of the moment. It truly was serene, though I still had one foot firmly planted in the realm of the sandman. As I laid between these two sleeping beauties I started thinking what had to be done today. I grabbed my phone to see the time and Lisa woke long enough to ask what’s wrong. The problem was it was 3:30 and I was decidedly up. I walked down stairs, made coffee and dragged a comb through my hair. It’s thrown my rhythm off as I attempt to finish the first section of my book and put some assemblance of order to my life. Rather than labor at the keyboard slightly buzzed on yesterday’s wine I decided to shoot tomorrow’s side dish, Claude Monet’s stuffed onions. I have been reading Monet’s cooking journals and came across his recipe for ‘Oignons blanc farcis’, stuffed white onions. Something about the classic simplicity struck me. Have these with a great glass of wine and a green salad!
Panisses have gained a lot of popularity since I first started cooking them in restaurants over 15 years ago. Cooking panisses is a lot like the process off making fried polenta. You start by making a thick porridge, cool it off then fry various shapes. Panisses are so yummy to eat, are gluten free and will help you develop great arm muscles if you make them often. Panisses make a wonderful accompaniment to roast chickens, lamb and stews but are best eaten alone. Make a rich dipping sauce like rouille or a spicy harissa flavored aioli to kick it up a notch. But what are Panisses made from?…
The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.~ Marcus Tullius Cicero
One of my favorite regions in America is Northern California. In a lot of ways, the picturesque Anderson Valley of Mendocino reminds me of the South of France and parts of Italy, though in an obscure kind of way. The sun kissed rocky hills and foggy valley floor are home to thousands of acres of grape vines, small organic farms and herds of goats and sheep. Its bucolic small towns nestled among towering redwoods and craggy coastlines bathed in the golden California sunshine are a photographer’s wet dream. Like Peter Mayle’s biographical series ‘A Year in Provence’, Mendocino boasts a unique rhythm governed by it’s own cast of colorful characters that people the region. As an outsider you are viewed with a weary apprehension and often confused for a government official of one kind or another till you integrate . Time is measured not by days, weeks or months but by the seasons.
Gâteau Paris Brest… miam miam. The name alone conjures decadent childhood fantasies of praline flavored cakes I would indulge in on our annual visit to France. We always flew into Paris and stayed a few days before taking the TGV south to Marseille to see my uncles, aunts and cousins. My mother wanted to eat at her favorite restaurants and buy clothes while I craved sweets. Paris is an exciting city to wander through. The beautiful architecture and promenades often blur the lines between the centuries in way you can’t get in a younger country like America. The distinct French approach to style that oozes in everything they do. The highlight was ogling at all the Paris pastry and chocolate shops’ window displays crammed with multi colored displays of macarons, cakes, eclairs and tarts. It evoked the same giddy feeling I got standing outside Marshall Fields or FAO Schwarz at Christmas time. …
Coq au Vin is as synonymous with French culture as hamburgers are with American. It’s a dish I grew up eating quite a bit and still find very soul satisfying and comforting when I’m longing for my mother and France. The sauce is packed with flavor and begs for a starchy vehicle to soak it up. Classically boiled or mashed potatoes are served but I think a creamy spätzle, potato gratin or noodle work better. It’s important to let the raw chicken marinate overnight and let the wine and aromatics fully penetrate. Like all great stews, flavors continue to develop as they sit so resist the urge to eat it immediately. I let mine sit for a day or two. The obvious wine choice is a pinot noir with bright acidity. Birds and Burgs as my my friend Peter often says….
I have written and rewritten this post so many times I am starting to see cross eyed. What started a simple post celebrating a classic French dish, Volaille Demi Deuil, or Chicken in Half Mourning has become an ever expanding education into an important and often untold chapter in the annuals of great cooking. I decided to share a brief version for all the great women Chefs and cooks I have been fortunate to share the ranges with. So often it seems women Chefs feel alone and under appreciated in the kitchen. This story belongs to them, it is their story….
Men talk of killing time, while time quietly kills them.
~ Dion Boucicault
Time and tide wait for no man. Another year has shot by and I have grown even grayer. A good friend has a theory that we are passing through life on a constant paced conveyor belt with events quietly passing us like an endless stream of billboards on a cross country road trip. As a Chef, I used to measure time by the expiration dates on heavy cream cartons. Each container was good for a month and it just seemed a relevant measurement of time given my occupation. As I grew older, my father actually stopped lying about his own age and started lying about mine. Somehow thinking if I was younger he would be younger. Time never slows, it just keeps going on.
February is rapidly approaching and with that comes the annual International Alsace Festival held each year in the scenic Anderson Valley of Northern California. Winemakers from across the globe gather at the Boonville Fairgrounds to share their mostly white varietals with hard to pronounce names like Gewurztraminer, Riesling and Cremant d’Alsace with wine enthusiasts. Lisa and I make the trip to participate in the fun and festivities by conducting a food pairing demo then serving 300 guests bite sized portions of whatever I make. My demo falls during the break between the end of the technical conference and the beginning of the Grand Tasting on Saturday when people’s hunger is peaking….
French Soul Food?
I pondered what soul food meant to me. My initial thoughts conjured savory images of collard green and cornbread filled adventures at Chicago soul food stalwarts like Gladys Luncheonette, Army & Lou’s and Soul Queen eaten to a soundtrack of Don Cornelius’s Soul Train. Even now, decades later, as I sit typing behind my computer keyboard I still can’t just casually say Soul Train (the hippest trip in America) without mimicking the high pitched intro of the program and licking my lips….
Two eggs, side by each, both facing the sun with an orange glass of juice
A Cautionary Fairy Tale of a Life Dedicated to Overindulgence and Excess
There comes a time in all our lives where we need to come to grips and embrace who we are and what we’ve become. Some are forged out of experiencing life changing traumatic events while others reluctantly accept the path they were born into. A bird is a bird and eventually it must fly, to deny the bird flight is is to deny it’s very existence. After 50 years of life on this planet I finally am coming to grips with whom I was born….
‘Street food is about capturing the imagination in one bite.’ ~ Roy Choi
I recently watched an entire season of “The Taste”, ABC’s foray into reality cooking shows, and two episodes really struck a chord and got me thinking about who I am and where I need to go. On episode two (season two), guest mentor Edward Lee described his approach to food in the ‘My Life on a Plate’ segment. I love how he explained fusing Korean and Southern food by finding commonalities and manipulating them. In episode four, Roy Choi said ‘street food is about capturing the imagination in one bite.’ There is a lot of power in that statement. Eating street food is a very different experience than one in a typical white table clothed restaurant. You have no props, no decor, just one bite to win them over….
“I enjoy cooking with wine,
sometimes I even put it in the food I’m cooking.”
~ Julia Child
Today we are preparing three recipes: Soupe au Pistou, Coq au Vin and a warm Figue Tarte Tatin. Soupe au Pistou is the liquid expression of summer’s bounty made with the freshest vegetables of the season and flavored with Pistou, a mixture of basil, garlic and olive oil. Pistou gets its name from the Provencal word pistar, which translates “to grind”. Coq au Vin is a traditional Burgundian dish from the old days. Roosters worked hard all their lives chasing the hens around and grew quite large and tough before they were dispatched. They needed long cooking in generous amounts of liquid to stay moist. Our final dish is a warm Fig Tarte Tatin. Tarte Tatin has been popular worldwide since its birth at Jean Tatin hotel since its creation in the late 1800’s.
Jean Tatin opened his hotel (l’Hotel Tatin) in the 1800’s. In 1888 his two daughters Caroline and Stéphanie took over when he passed away. Caroline managed the books while Stéphanie cooked. From morning to night, she worked in her kitchen. She was a great and gifted cook but not the brightest of people. Her specialty was an apple tart, served perfectly crusty, caramelized and which melted in the mouth.
The sisters were always busy during hunting season and their restaurant was exceedingly popular. One day, Stéphanie, running late because she had been flirting with a handsome hunter, rushed into the kitchen, threw the apples, butter and sugar in a pan and then rushed out to help with the other duties. The odor of caramel filled the kitchen, Stéphanie realized she’d forgotten the apple tart, but what could she do now? She decides to put the pàte brisée on top of the apples, pops the pan in the stove to brown a bit more and then turns it upside down to serve. Raves of delight emanate from the dining room. The story continues a bit from that first day. Curnonsky, the famous gastronome of the time, hears about the Tarte and declares it a marvel. Word of this new gastronomic delight reaches Paris. Maxim’s owner hears about it and he decides he must have the recipe. He supposedly sent a cook/spy, disguised as a gardener, to Lamotte-Beuvron to discover the secret. The spy is successful, brings the recipe back to Maxim’s, and it has been on the menu of that famous restaurant ever since. Our version features fresh California figs which currently are in season.
- 1/4 cup Olive Oil
- 1 Onion, Chopped
- 1 Carrot, Chopped
- 1 Leek, Chopped
- 1 Zucchini, Chopped
- 4 cloves Garlic, Mashed
- 2 Tomatoes, Peeled and Chopped
- 1 cup Great Northern Beans, cooked
- 1 cup Green Beans, Cooked and Chopped
- 2 Potatoes, Peeled and Cubed
- 1 quart Water
- Sea Salt
- Black Pepper
- 1/2 Bay Leaf
- 1 cup Vermicelli, broken into 1″ pieces, Cooked
- 1/2 cup Pesto
- Sauté all vegetables in olive oil.
- Add water and seasonings. Simmer one hour, or until all vegetables are tender.
- Add vermicelli; ladle into hot bowls, and garnish with a spoonful of Pistou and a sprinkling of Parmesan and Gruyere cheeses.
- 3.5 # Chicken
- 1 bottle Red Wine, Burgundy would be traditional
- 2 sprigs fresh Thyme
- ½ Bay Leaf
- 1 c. Flour
- To taste Sea Salt and Black Pepper
- ½ # slab Bacon, cut into ¼ inch pieces
- 1 Tablespoon Garlic
- 1 quart Veal Stock
- ½ pound Button Mushrooms
- ¼ pound Pearl Onions or Cipollinis
- 2 Tablespoons Butter
- Mise en Place:
- Marinate chicken overnight in red wine, thyme and bay leaf.
- Cook bacon pieces in a large pan, reserve.
- Season chicken and dredge in flour.
- Pat chicken dry, sauté in bacon fat till brown and crispy. Remove from pan.
- Add garlic until it perfumes the air, about two minutes.
- Sprinkle pan with 1 or 2 tablespoons of flour.
- Add red wine marinade and veal stock and bring to a boil.
- Return chicken to pan and simmer slow for one hour, or until chicken is tender.
- Add bacon, button mushrooms and pearl onions and simmer 10 minutes more.
- [br]To Serve:
- Reheat coq au vin. Serve with roasted potatoes, pasta cooked in butter or mashed potatoes.
- [br]Yield: 10” tart
- ¾ c. Sugar
- ¼ c. Butter
- 15 Figs cut in half
- 1 Orange, zested
- 1 pinch Cinnamon
- 1 recipe Tarte Tatin Dough
- [br]Tarte Tatin Dough
- 12 oz. All Purpose Flour
- ¾ t. Salt
- 1 t. Baking Powder
- ½ pound unsalted Butter
- ½ c. ice cold Water
- [br]For the Figs
- In a heavy gauged pan, preferably a 10” cast iron pan, caramelize sugar and butter.
- Add zested orange and cinnamon.
- Arrange fig halves in pan.
- Top with dough, tuck in edges around the sides and then bake in a 500˚ oven till the dough is golden brown, about ten to fifteen minutes.
- Let cool slightly then flip over onto plate, dust with powdered sugar and serve immediately.
- [br]Tarte Tatin Dough
- Mix the flour, salt and baking powder together.
- Cut the butter into small cubes and mix into the flour mixture. You’ll know it’s mixed in correctly when it looks like coarse corn meal.
- Add just enough ice cold water to make a dough. You want to be very careful NOT to over mix the dough or else it will be tough. Flour develops gluten which acts very similarly to a muscle. It’s what gives our bread and pastries structure.
- Let the dough rest for one full hour, or overnight.
- Roll the dough out to a 12” circle.
“I have lived all my life in the name of good taste. Now I am to die by the hands of people with bad taste.”
– Madame du Barry
On 14 July, as they do every year, millions of French men and women will celebrate the fall of the Bastille in 1789. The passing years have shown, however, that the guillotine might have better served as a better symbol of the momentous events now recalled as the French Revolution. The truth is that life in the Bastille was simply not all that difficult. In fact, for many of those residing there, the Bastille may have been one of the best pre-revolutionary restaurants of Paris. During his own stay there, the Marquis de Sade passed his time washing down truffled sausages with fine Bordeaux wines. On the day the Bastille was actually liberated, there were only six “prisoners” in attendance. One, imprisoned for failure to pay his debts, insisted on staying in his three room suite long enough to finish his roast pheasant dinner. Another demanded that the crowd help him carry away the more than 50 bottles of wine that he had set aside for his use.
In fact, when the crowd tore down the Bastille, they were unknowingly carrying out a plan for which Louis XVI had already set aside funds. In what may be another interesting footnote to history, of the six liberated prisoners, three were eventually executed by the same people who freed them, two emigrated to America and one, Andre Dubois, harmless but quite insane, went on to become a member of the French senate.
French gastronomes of all classes were concerned with the influence of the revolution on their dining habits. Grimod de la Reyniere, a well known banker and gastronome of the ancien regime considered the Revolution little more than “an unpleasant interlude when austerity had to be simulated and chefs given their notice. If it had lasted”, he wrote, “France might have actually lost the recipe for fricasseed chicken.” One of his chefs, Antoine Broissard took it a bit more seriously. When Broissard discovered that he could not locate any Nantes ducklings to serve for dinner one evening, he hung himself in his kitchen. One of the problems that Reyniere did not dwell upon was that many of France’s most devoted gourmets ended both their revolutionary zeal and their gastronomic endeavors by a meeting with the falling blade of the guillotine.
It may be of some historic interest to know just what many of these people ate just before keeping their appointment with the Widow, as the guillotine was known. Danton, surely the most charming of the revolutionaries and a great gourmet dined on stuffed squab, fresh asparagus and raspberry sorbet before his execution. Robespierre, Danton’s rival but not a man who specially appreciated good food, supped on a thick lentil soup just before his own moment of truth. The Duke of Burgundy dined elegantly on salmon mousse and apple pie and Armond, the Prince of Conde had a light snack of salmon in mousseline sauce. As to the women, the only form of equality between the sexes that the legislators of the revolution believed in was the guillotine which decapitated members of either sex with equal dispatch. Marie Antoinette, Madame Roland and Charlotte Corday, the three most eminent women of the revolution were among its victims.
Marie Antoinette, executed as much for her rudeness to her jailers as for her royal position, sipped Champagne and ate truffled pate de foie gras before she was taken off for her final humiliation. The twenty five year old Charlotte Corday, who had slain the revolutionary leader Marat, declined a final dinner but nibbled on a chocolate éclair while standing on the platform of the guillotine, annoying the executioner somewhat because of what he considered an unnecessary delay in carrying out his duty. Madame Roland, the feminist of the group, dined simply on poached eggs, a small wedge of Brie cheese and an apple. Madame du Barry, the last great courtesan of the royal days, and a woman of elevated taste in food as well as in lovers, is said to have dined on raspberries with fresh cream before being carted off to the guillotine. Du Barry’s final words were: “I have lived all my life in the name of good taste. Now I am to die by the hands of people with bad taste.”
I am celebrating Bastille Day by making my interpretations of a famous last meal from the Bastille, the Marquis de Sade’s Truffled sausages. I am serving them with potato puree and sauteed apples.
- 26 ounces lean Veal
- 9 ounces pork fatback
- 18 grams fine salt
- 2 grams ground white pepper
- 1 gram ground nutmeg
- as much Truffles as you can afford, about four ounces diced fine
- about 5 feet medium hog casing
- Cut the meat and fat into pieces small enough to pass through grinder. Partially freeze.
- Grind the veal using a disk with 3/8″ (10 mm) diameter holes. Grind the fat using a disk with 3/16″ (5 mm) diameter holes.
- Combine the meat and fat with the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Chill thoroughly. Add as much chopped truffles as your budget will allow.
- Soak the casings in cold water until soft. Thoroughly rinse the casing inside and out.
- Set up a sausage stuffer. Fill the bowl of the stuffer with the forcemeat. Be careful not to leave any air pockets in the mixture.
- Slide the casing on the fill tube. Tie a knot at the end of the casing after it is fully on the fill tube.
- Fill the casing with the forcemeat. Do not overfill the casings. Guide the casing along the work surface as it fills.
- Tie a knot at the other end of the filled casing that comes off the stuffing tube. “Massage” the sausage to ensure that it is filled evenly. Twist the filled casing to make 5″ long sausages.
- Place the sausages on a rack and dry for a couple of hours in a refrigerator. Using a fine skewer or needle, puncture the skin over any visible air bubbles and puncture evenly along the length of the sausages.
- Use within a couple of days or wrap tightly and freeze.
- To cook the sausage, poach in 180 °F (82 °C) water until the interior temperature reaches 160 °F (71 °C). Drain and fry briefly in a hot pan to crisp the skin.