I know, a lot of you are probably reading this recipe and wondering if there is a typo. Nope, you are reading it correctly – there are 40 whole cloves of garlic in this dish. This simple roast chicken born in the south of France will quickly become a family favorite. The recipe’s utter simplicity makes it a dish your family will enjoy any day of the week. …
Duck à l’Orange is probably one of the most classic, yet sadly most bastardized dishes of all of French cuisine. Done right, it’s incredible; crunchy skin with incredibly juicy meat offset by a semi-sweet orange sauce. Done wrong, you’ll end up eating fatty rubbery skin, tough meat drowned in an overly sweet sauce.
Versions of duck à l’orange have been around forever. Just this morning I was reading a cookbook written by Louis Eustache Ude in the early 1800s. His version featured roasting a duck with a small bitter orange variety known as ‘bigarade’ in France, or marmalade oranges. The idea was to keep a sweet and sour balance to the sauce. This trend continued in the 1940s and 50s in France. But somewhere during the 1970s and 80s duck à l’orange became known as duck cooked in any method buried under an overly sweet sticky sauce. And then disappeared into the lost annals of great cuisine.
My easy version is a return to the classics. Click here to watch my video recipe.
It is funny how certain languages lend themselves to sounding much sexier when spoken. Say almost anything in French and it sounds poetic, maybe even sultry. Try saying the name of the famous French sandwich Croque Monsieur (croak muh·syur). It sounds so sophisticated, so refined. It may even instill some unfounded desire to raise your pinky like a dandy at the French court.
When you order your first Croque Monsieur in a Parisian bistro you might be surprised to find out that you just ordered is nothing more than a glorified grilled ham and cheese. What will make you laugh even harder is the name ‘Croque Monsieur’ literally translates to ‘Mister Crunchy’. Which sounds much more at home on a neon sign above a diner than at a fancy French bistro.
This might start as a bad joke, but I promise it isn’t. I was making ‘Nun’s Farts’ yesterday, the more colorful name for feather-light deep-fried beignets, and was struck by how diverse the dough actually was. It got me thinking about the differences between how a chef and a home cook approach cooking. Chefs learn to multi-task many different preparations (mise en place) in order to be ready for service on any given day. Home cooks, while they may multi-task to get through their busy days, generally make one dish to feed their entire family. Most home cooks I have watched tend to make each dish from start to finish.
Being the chef taught me to group actions to cut down on time. For instance, having one person chop all the parsley for the entire kitchen rather than five cooks chopping their own. Or the pastry department making all the puff pastry dough even though a cook may need some for an appetizer. At home, this translates a bit differently. Maybe it is by making one preparation one night that can be slightly manipulated to make something different. By concentrating your efforts you will get more done in less time….
When life gives you lemons you might make lemonade. I will always make a French lemon tart instead. I have always been an optimistic kind of person. I definitely see the glass as half full rather than half empty. A silent enemy we cannot see is lurking about. Most of the world’s population is living in some form of quarantine as we search for a solution. And while though we are living in an unprecedented time of fear, I see the opportunity, hope, and resilience. Everyone I know has dug deep into their pantries and old recipe books and begun cooking fabulous meals. An explosion of just-baked loaves of bread, cookies of every kind, and other sweets have filled my social media feeds. Stressful times bring out the very best in people. Make this tart and join the covid-19 resistance.
The other day I sat in my house and noticed I had a bowl full of lemons looking for a new home. Normally they turn into preserved lemons; Greek lemon and egg soup; or as the acid for family favorite chickpea salads and bowls of hummus. Today I added my voice to the choir on social media. (ps – please watch my silly movie on how to make lemon tart at home on YouTube and subscribe while you are there)
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. …
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.
Last weekend I took home an incredible eight-pound wild steelhead trout caught by the local Quinault Indian tribe on the Quinault River and was looking for inspiration in how to cook it. It was a rather large fish for my family of three, so I decided to try a few variations. I combed through old cookbooks, new cookbooks, and deep into the internet before deciding on these three dishes. The first and the subject of today was a classic French preparation usually made with sole called ‘Wild Steelhead Trout à la Dugléré’. The other two were a sauteed Moroccan Steelhead with Green Charmoula on Cauliflower Couscous inspired by chef Mourad in San Francisco; and a Chinese Clay Pot wild Steelhead dish with Bok Choy, Shiitake Mushrooms, Ginger, and Fermented Black Beans. …
Day Six: Endurance of the Stomach
There comes a time on every gastronomical whirlwind when stomach fatigue sets in and you just cannot wield a fork in the name of gluttony any longer. Champion eaters and drinkers alike will certainly understand this dilemma. Years ago, my good friend Peter and I traveled to France on a Michelin starred eating binge. The challenge was ten Michelin restaurants in five days. By the ninth, we had eaten countless variations of foie gras and downed more wine than some small countries consume in a year. I will never forget the sad look of defeat in Peter’s eyes after lunch at La Pyramide. We were standing outside of Guigal’s famous vineyards unable to go any further. Not even one more amuse bouche or sliver of truffles would march past our lips. The flag of gourmandizing was buried there, somewhere among the grapes.
The French always complain it’s their livers. I simply refer to it as Bacchusitis. When I woke up this morning I felt like I was back there with Peter. Sure, it could have been triggered by the second helping of that perfectly stinky unpasteurized Epoisses or maybe the extra-large helping of steak tartar served with quite possibly the best frites known to man. I hit the culinary wall and was thinking I couldn’t go further. I found it humorous that my wife woke up raring to eat. I clearly needed gentle coaxing….
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.
Are you tired of cooking your pork chop the same exact way every time? Here is a quick and easy recipe popular in the South of France made with ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen. All you need is good mustard, olive oil, sage, ground fennel seeds, and obviously some tasty pork chops. I used Tamworth – Hereford mixed pork that was pastured in the Wallowa Valley by Carman Ranch and luckily now you can buy the same pork online.
The Pear Tree of my Youth
Every Fall I make at least one pear and almond galette from the giant pear tree growing in my front yard. The galettes appearance always marks the transition in my head between the ratatouille, pastis and rosés excesses of summertime and the true beginnings of Fall, at least my Fall, and it’s well rooted in my past.
I can still remember with great fondness visiting a gregarious French relative who owned a farm in rural Southwestern France. It was early Fall and he had just foraged for cepes. I remember with surprising clarity his worn leather boots and even the musty smells of an old barn filled with fresh cut hay as he cooked a wonderful Omelette aux cèpes, à la persillade for lunch. 45 years later and I still salivate as I reminisce about tucking into it; the combination of creamy eggs contrasted by crispy bits of garlic, herbs, and mushrooms cooked in golden goose fat.
For dessert, his wife prepared a scrumptious pear and almond galette made from perfectly ripe pears picked that morning from a fruit tree in their yard. There is something timeless and perfect about the combination of almonds and pears that works on so many levels, like textural contrasts of crunchy and soft or the classic salty and sweet marriage. The memory of this day has lingered in my soul since it happened so long ago. The comfort of the warm galette with sweet pears and crunchy almonds is the true sign that Fall is here.
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.
Provencal Artichokes Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Tapenade
When the first artichokes rose from my semi-dormant thistle bed, like Lazarus from the dead, I found excuse enough to search for any leftover rose bottles that may have escaped last summer’s debauchery to celebrate with. I walk out to my garden with nothing more than a simple lunch and a bottle of rosé on my mind. I blankly stared at my artichokes as if somehow they might reveal how they’d like to be prepared. Would it be slow cooked in a barigoule or perhaps just simply steamed with a hollandaise? I stood in my garden for a long time, surrounded by an audience of fava beans, peas, lettuce, and mint who decided to join the debate. My basil, feeling left out and secluded, angrily voiced their opinion….