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Entries in French cooking (5)


Fricasse'e de Poulet/Old Fashioned Chicken Fricasse'e

In the past fifteen years due to the presence of the internet and the fact that I've moved twice, I've pared my cookbook collection from over one hundred volumes to about fifteen.  Of those fifteen volumes, I actually ever use two.  One is a 1969 copy of The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook with its stained up quaint looking red gingham cover and collection of comfort foods whose ingredients call for modern day No No ingredients such as real butter and whole milk and sour cream and the criminal of all, heavy cream.  The other cookbook is The Cook's Encyclopedia of French Cooking by Carole Clements and Elizabeth Wolfe - Cohen.  In spite of it's hefty title, it's a slim volume of everyday French recipes using everyday fresh ingredients.  It's my cooking Bible.  From it, I've learned to understand the conceptual framework of what makes superior food...fresh ingredients, quality meats, quality herbs and spices, a process that becomes a lifelong blueprint. And, the simple premise that if one does that, the taste of those things sings to the palate.  One is satisfied and sated with smaller quantity of food, smaller portions suffice and the French eat everything yet stay thin.  Truly this works, this simple concept of less is more.  This recipe is from my French Bible.
Fricasse'e de Poulet/Old Fashioned Chicken Fricassee
Serves 4 - 6
2.5 - 3 lbs. chicken pieces
4 T butter (1/2 stick)
2 T vegetable oil
4T flour
1.5 C dry white wine
3 C chicken stock
bouquet garni or herbes de provence or use a mixture of fresh or dried tarragon, basil, oregano, bay leaf and marjoram
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 tsp lemon juice
1 pkg button m
Mushrooms either white or my favorite Baby Bellas
1 large onion cut into wedges
1/2 C water
2 tsp sugar
1/2 C heavy cream
salt and pepper
Wash and dry chicken.  Melt half the butter with the oil in a large heavy flameproof casserole or cast iron pot over medium heat.  Add half the chicken pieces cook, turning once, 10 minutes until golden.  Transfer to plate.  Cook the rest of pieces.
Return chicken to pan.  Sprinkle with flour, turning pieces to coat.  Cook over low heat for about four minutes, turning occasionally.
Pour in the wine; add the chicken broth.  Bring to a boil.  Push chicken pieces to one side and scrape bottom of pan, stirring until well blended.
Bring the liquid to a boil, add herbs/spices and season with salt and pepper.  Cover and simmer over medium heat for 25-30 minutes until the chicken is tender and juices run clear when thickest part of chicken is pierced with a knife. 
Meanwhile, in frying pan melt remaining butter over medium heat, add mushrooms and lemon juice and cook 3-4 minutes until mushrooms are golden. Transfer mushrooms to a bowl, add onions. water and sugar to pan, swirling to dissolve sugar. Simmer for 10 minutes until just tender.  Pour the onions and any cooking juices into the bowl with the mushrooms.
After chicken is cooked, remove it to a deep serving dish and cover with foil.  Add onions, mushrooms to chicken. Add any cooking juice from cooking the vegetables to the pan used to cook chicken.   Bring to a boil. and boil, stirring constantly until the sauce is reduced by half. 
Whisk cream into sauce and cook for two minutes   Add mushrooms and onions, cook 2 minutes more. Pour sauce over chicken and serve.

Salade de Carottes Rapees

We had two other couples over for dinner on Wednesday evening. Both couples are longtime friends, one couple neighbors and the others old friends from husband's time in Washington D.C.. I had vowed a simple summer dinner and I kept my promise. Costco provided two rotisserie chickens. All I had to do was provide a starter, sides and dessert. Since I had sworn not to knock myself out, I pulled a big container of Cream of Tortilla Soup from the freezer. It freezes wonderfully and is, if anything, even better after freezing. OK, what else? What else indeed. How about the no-fail sure to please everyoneTarte a la Oignon.  I had bought a new tart pan, a rectangular one and wanted to try it out.  I had a gorgeous head of leaf lettuce and also some really expensive, but wonderful Jersey tomatoes, a true luxury here in south Florida.  I decided to get some fresh mozzarella, snip some fresh basil from my little herb garden and offer up a summer salad of all those ingredients.  I felt like I wanted something else, some true harbinger of summer.  I wanted color.  I personally find color and texture of food so important.  I began thinking of all the wonderful summer meals I've had in France and I experienced an epiphany...Salade de Carottes Rapees!!  This is a national dish of France, right up there with crepes and coq au vin.  It has everything I was desiring, color, texture, summer freshness and simplicity.  Salade de Carottes Rapees is shredded, dressed down carrots and is served absolutely everywhere in France.  It is national, not regional and versions can even be found in clear plastic containers in every charcuterie and hyper marche.  Some versions contain rasins.  I avoid them.  Too much of a reminder of the years I spent keeping rabbits.  There was no recipe for Shredded Carrot Salad in my little French cookbook/bible so I closed my eyes tightly and whispered, doing my best Dorothy in the Wizard of OZ imitation"There's no place like France...There's no place like France" and voila'! I became inspired.  I begged husband to peel seven organic carrots.  Then, I kissed the Cuisinart processor gently and lovingly and shoved those carrots against the shredding disk...abracacadabra...thirty seconds later the foundation for Salade de Carottes Rapees.  The rest wasn't nearly so mechanical and scientific.  It was all taste and adjust and use what I found on hand.  Here's what I did to the best of my recollection...

Salade de Carottes Rapees

7 fresh carrots, organic preferred, peeled and shredded

3 large spoonfuls of high quality olive oil (I used my salad set spoon so the bowl of it is probably more than a tablespoon.  In the salads, it's proportion of oil to acid that's important, not the amounts)

1 and a little bit more salad spoonful of fresh lemon juice

1/2 handful fresh mint

1/2 handful flat leaf parsley

1/2 cup sliced almonds


freshly ground pepper

That's it, really.  Dress, taste, adjust, repeat until you're happy with it.  So simple.  So incredibly good.  It add such color to a summer meal.

A note about fresh spices....

 Fresh spices are so easy to have on hand.  I just plant all of mine in a big planter I keep on the side patio.  It is a veritable cornucopia of the one pot I have sage, tarragon, mint, parsley, thyme, basil and for good measure, a single dwarf yellow pepper plant stuck in the middle.  All the spices love each other and jumple together happily.  I  love grabbing handfuls as needed when I'm cooking.




I Am; Therefore I Cook.../Cassoulet


I am determined that I can cook everything in the travel trailer that I cook at home. I said cook, not bake. I haven’t tackled baking yet. We’ve become friendly with a Canadian couple who are Full-timers. They live in a large motor home and follow the sun. Last week, friends of theirs who also have a motor home drove down from Toronto. We planned a dinner for the six of us. I said I’d do main course and salad if they’d do pre-dinner nibbles, bread and dessert. Cassoulet is a nice, easy dinner. Unfortunately, the dutch oven I usually make it in is too big for the trailer’s teeny oven. I turned to my new best friend, the crock pot. Actually, the only thing I did differently was to toss everything into the crock pot rather than the dutch oven and bake. This meal serves 6-8. The meal was a huge hit.  The Canadians loved it.
1 lb dried white beans (I use Cannellini)
1.5 lbs sausages (I used Johnsonville Bit O’ Garlic Irish Sausages as I cannot find French garlic sausages here)
1.5 lbs (all together NOT each) lamb and pork stew chunks
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 or 4 gloves garlic, minced
2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1-14oz can chicken broth
bouquet garni (I use 2 small pre-made ones)
1/2 cup bread crumbs
salt & pepper
Rinse beans.  Cover with cold water and bring to a boil.  Boil for 10 minutes.  Drain.  Again cover with water, bring to a boil and boil for 30 minutes or so until just tender.  Remove beans with slotted spoon and set aside.  Save bean cooking liquid.
Prick sausages, cook in large frying pan until very well browned, remove and remove all but a little grease to cook stew meat in; reserve grease
cook stew meat in same pan until well browned, remove.

Add onion and garlic,  brown, stir in tomatoes, cook 2-3 minutes...Add
broth, bring to a boil,  skim off fat if necessary.

Spoon 1/3 of beans (use slotted spoon to remove bean cooking
water) into large casserole dish, top with 1/3 of meat and vegetable.
Continue  layering ending with bean layer.
Pour broth over top and tuck in bouquet garni.  Add enough bean juice to just cover if needed.  Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 2 hours.  Uncover, sprinkle with breadcrumbs, bake
20 minutes more or until browned. 
OR… all in crock pot, cover and cook on high 1 hour. Turn to low and cook 5-6 hours. Uncover, sprinkle top with breadcrumbs, cook on high 20 minutes longer.
**Cook's Note:
This is basic peasant food.  In France, it is often take-out food in small villages.  The charcuteries (butcher shops) will sell hot cassoulets in stoneware covered pots.  A small deposit is paid on the pot and refunded when it is cleaned and returned.  This is how and where I disovered cassoulet.  It doesn't matter which sausages are used nor which chunked meat, beef, lamb, veal.  Every recipe is just a framework for the cook's creativity, the fresh ingredients at hand or in season and the grocery budget.  This I believe, don't you?


Creme Caramel

I recently became determined to make a crème caramel as good as my friend Edith’s.Edith is French so has a genetic DNA gene-strand encoded advantage.  Not to be easily dissuaded, I scoured recipes and combined two that ummm…I dunno, just felt “right.”Husband and I always have big discussions about “intuitive” cooks vs. “cooks.”He contends that I am an intuitive cook which he tries to explain as sort of like being able to draw or paint.I think it’s just more a matter of lots of experience and an analytical mind.Who knows?If I do say so myself, my crème caramel was as good as if not slightly smoother than Edith’s …shhhhhh….I took photos as I went along.

Swirl caramelized sugar (1 cup sugar, 4T water, bring to a boil and boil for about 5 mins until it turns a beautiful golden brown) around glass bowl 5 eggs (I always use jumbo eggs)and1/4 cup sugar Wisk eggs with 1/4cupsugar, add 1 cup milk and 1 cup heavy cream, 2 tsp PURE vanilla extract (you cannot cook French and be a cheap cook! Why do you think French food is so good?) Bring the egg, sugar, milk, cream, vanilla mixture just to a boil and remove for heat. Use a good quality heavy pan and stir often. Cover and let sit for 20 minutes. Place bowl of carmelized sugar into a roasting pan and fill with boiling water to halfway up the sides of the bowl. Pour the slightly cooled milk mixture into bowl with carmelized sugar. Cover with foil. Pop into a preheated 325 oven for about 40 minutes. I have a convection oven so your time may vary. That's why it has that big fan in the back...see?I could not exist without my convection oven. Check for doness by inserting thin blade knife 2 inces from rim. Knife should come out clean. Do not overcook. Cool for 30 minutes. Place in refrigerator for at least six hours or overnight. Remove from bowl by placing a plate over top of bowl and CAREFULLY flipping the whole kit and kaboodle over. Or if just for family and presentation isn't your thing (we can't all be as uptight as I am) just serve it out of the bowl in which it was cooked. VOILA'!!!!!!!!! NOTE: THIS WAS INCREDIBLY EASY TO MAKE...sort of like sex, once you get past the mystery excitement of it all when you're young, you realize that it was much ado about nothing (don't you love Shakespeare mixed in with sex talk and cooking recipes?)


Alsatian Raspberry Tart

This is my husband's very favorite dessert. I have adapted it from a recipe for an Alsatian Plum Tart (Tarte aux Prunes Alsacienne). I have never made it with plums. The first time I made it was out of necessity. I had raspberries that needed to be used. I didn't have Kirsch, but I did have some VSOP Brandy brought back from a trip to France. I experimented with what I had on hand. Since that initial foray into Alsatian tart making, I have made the tart with blueberries, using orange marmalade to baste the partially baked tart shell. I've also used peaches and peach jam for basting. It is delicious everytime. This is a very easy recipe that garners raves from family and guests alike.

Alsatian Raspberry Tart



enough raspberries to cover the bottom of a 9" tart/quiche pan

1/4 cup of a nice brandy or Kirsch (I often use apricot brandy)

 pastry to fit 9" pan For the Custard Filling

2 tablespoons jam of your choice


2 Extra Large or Jumbo eggs

1/4 cup superfine sugar (or regular sugar)

3/4 heavy whipping cream

grated rind of half a lemon (or 2 tablespoons lemon juice)

1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla


Mix fruit with brandy and sugar and let sit.
Line pie plate with crust of your choice. Prick all over with fork and line with foil. Add a layer of pie weights or dried beans or 2 inches or so of rice. Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes until slightly dry and set. Remove foil and weights.
Brush base of pasty with jam and bake for 5 minutes more. Remove pastry shell from oven and transfer to wire rack. Reduce oven to 350 degrees. Let cool five minutes. Using slotted spoon, line shell with fruit.
To make custard, beat eggs and sugar until well combined, then beat in the cream, lemon juice and vanilla. Add any juice left from fruit.
Pour custard over fruit.
At this poit, I put the tart pan on a baking sheet. This avoids a messy oven floor.
Bake about 30-35 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Serve the tart warm or at room temperature.

** I add the sugar to the fruit because I prefer the tart a bit sweeter. Adjust sugar to suit your own dietary needs or taste.

2 tablespoons sugar**