My First Cookbook

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Reading my first cookbook, Bistro Cooking by Patricia Wells, is like taking a stroll down memory lane…

Among its vintage photos and whimsical illustrations, which I copied as an art student, are recipes from bistros everywhere in France. Once, I made a monkfish soup that ended in disaster because I did not know to remove the membrane from the fillets; they curled up into tight balls, which was appalling (see my post “Mock Turtle Soup”). Long ago, I gave a dinner party with a buffet salade nicoise and used seared, fresh tuna instead of the traditional canned (see my post “Au Plein Air”). I used to serve pears in red wine for a holiday dessert because of their beautiful ruby hue, and give vanilla sugar in decorative jars as a gift. Many classics are included that I have made over the years, such as split pea soup (see my post “‘Pease porridge hot…'”), warm potato salad, and roasted chicken (see my post “Roasted Chicken”). There are discoveries I have made along the way, for instance that French green lentils are the only ones suitable for a lentil salad (see my post “Lentilles du Puy”) and that preparing salt cod is worth the effort (see my post “Salt Cod”). And finally, the variations on potato gratins (see my post “Potato Gratin”) and chocolate cakes (see my post “Gateau au Chocolat”) require trial and error, if for no other reason than to taste them over and over.

Worthy Wines

Eric Asimov lists twenty estimable wines that are less than twenty dollars:
http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/01/21/dining/20-wines-for-under-20-dollars.html?ref=dining&_r=1&referrer=

To Ban or Not to Ban

Foie gras is now legal again in California. Mark Bittman points out that if the treatment of ducks and geese is cruel in the production of this product, so are the conditions of all animals in the U.S. food industry. It is an important perspective that points out hypocrisy in those who will eat chicken and eggs several times a week and judge those who occasionally indulge in this luxury item.
http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/01/14/opinion/let-them-eat-foie-gras.html?referrer=

The Elusive St.-Joseph

Eric Asimov encourages you to explore this expensive and evasive vin rouge from Rhone. Roam, if you want to…
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/07/dining/wine-school-st-joseph.html?smprod=nytcore-iphone&smid=nytcore-iphone-share

King of the Castle

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In the U.S., the “king cake” (see my post “La Galette des Rois”) can run the gamut from pastry cream in a crust to a giant danish with colorful Jackson Pollock-style icing on top. In France, it is simply puff pastry and frangipane. If you want to know what you are getting, why not make your own at home, in your castle? Here are directions from David Lebovitz. And don’t forget to add a feve or charm for the lucky person who gets to be king (or queen) for the day…
http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2014/01/galette-des-rois-kings-cake-recipe/

Salade Lyonnaise

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Here is a warming winter dish that can serve as brunch, lunch, or the last course of a French dinner before cheese and/or dessert. The frisee salad with lardons shown is from Brasserie Lipp in Paris. Hot bacon vinaigrette and seasonal greens make the salade Lyonnaise a no-brainer right now. My favorite part is breaking the yolk of the poached egg on top and watching the viscous golden orb glaze everything…
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/23/dining/23mini.html?ref=dining

Truc (Tip): See my post “Foolproof Poached Eggs” for a different poaching method.

Wine Futures

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Will 2015 be the year Bordeaux becomes a compelling investment category again?

The Wall Street Journal takes stock of wine value in 2015…
http://www.wsj.com/articles/will-2015-be-a-rosy-year-for-wine-1420109412?mod=e2fb

Spreading Their Wings

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A new law in California requires that chickens be able to spread their wings when confined. This animal welfare movement is taking off in other states, as well…
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/01/opinion/mark-bittman-hens-unbound.html?smprod=nytcore-iphone&smid=nytcore-iphone-share

Tart Shell Trick

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For a light and flaky crust on your pie or tart, give it a shot of ice-cold vodka? Instead of water, which binds with wheat flour to add elasticity, alcohol prevents gluten from forming and toughening your dough. (And having some chilled vodka in the freezer during the holidays might come in handy…)
http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2014/12/24/the-scientific-reason-you-should-put-booze-into-your-pies%E2%80%8B/?tid=sm_fb

Truc (Tip): Here is an easy recipe in the food processor: http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/12133-pate-brisee-flaky-sweet-pastry-dough

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