Cookbooks I Have Known and Loved

Image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

I read cookbooks the way others read novels. In fact, I can’t remember the last novel that I read. That’s how long it’s been.

But give me a good cookbook and I will be happily amused for hours. And if I find a recipe that aligns with what I have on hand, you will, too. Here’s a glimpse of the ones that live on my bookshelf in no particular order:

French Country Cooking and A Kitchen in France by Mimi Thorrison. The recipes are easy to follow, even if they run on the complex side (the blanquette recipe is a bit complicated, but she did a great job of breaking it down into smaller steps, for example).  Both books are visually stunning thanks to her husband’s photography. Plus, the back story of the house where they live and run a pop-up restaurant in the former is about as French as you can get.

More with Less, written by Doris Janzen Longacre, is a collection of recipes submitted by members of the Mennonite Church. The recipes are basic but delicious and include suggestions to avoid wasting food.

Chocolate and Zucchini by Clotilde Dusoulier contains the recipe for my go-to completely bombproof yogurt cake. It’s the first cake kids learn how to make and can be tweaked with berries or citrus or used as the base for a Victoria sponge. Also check out her recipe for mustard chicken stew.

Indian Every Day by Anjum Anand provides lighter spins on Indian food. Her spinach and chicken will give you new reasons to get up in the morning.

The New Nordic Diet by Trina Hahnnaman put the emphasis on seafood and grains and lower fat ingredients. The cod and shrimp stew and apple crumble will make you forget how healthy you are eating. And try the shower buns. Yum.

Bistro Cooking by Patricia Wells contains my go-to recipes for pesto and pie crust. I love the illustrations in here as well: a combination of lovely line drawings and vintage photos from Parisian bistros.

And my all time favorite for sentimental reasons:

A just past WWII edition of The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer. My parents received it as a wedding present in 1946. It’s falling apart and has to be stored in a plastic bag to keep it together. No matter. I still use her sugar cookie recipe when called upon to make something. Both my parents made notes in the margins and tucked recipes clipped from print publications or handwritten by the grandmas between its covers.

What are yours, Gentle Readers?

 

So Quiche Me and Smile for Me…

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To: John Denver and Mary Travers

From: Fran

Forgive me for the pun. In no way was it intended to detract from or demean one of the great songs of the 1960s. I couldn’t help myself.

Thank you.

Love,

Fran

 

 

Now that the ear worm du jour has been activated, let us discuss quiche.

Let’s start with the crust. If it doesn’t have a crust, it is a baked omelet. It is a frittata. It is not a quiche, I’m afraid. Those have their charms, but I find that I really need a crust when I want quiche. You may use a frozen one for convenience if needs must. Otherwise, I recommend Patricia Well’s recipe for pate brisse from her book Bistro Cooking: 7 tablespoons butter, 1 to 1-1/4 cups all purpose flour (don’t use unbleached–for some reason it just doesn’t work as well), dash salt, and 3 tablespoons of ice water. I have the best results with cutting the butter into the flour and salt with a food processor. If you don’t have one, cut in the butter with a couple of knives. When it looks like sand, add the water gradually. Use just enough to make the butter and flour clump up, but not enough to make it turn into a ball. Place it on a sheet of plastic wrap or parchment paper (preferably the latter), pat it into a disc, and let it chill for an hour or so. Roll it out and line a pie plate or loose-bottomed tart pan with it.

For the filling, I use two or three eggs beaten with a cup of milk. If you want to go full frontal French, use cream. Or whole milk. I use 2% or skim depending on what’s in the house. For cheese, I’ve used cheddar, I’ve used Gruyere, I’ve used plain ol’ supermarket Swiss supercharged with parmesan. Grate the cheese and line the bottom of the shell with it.

Now, you can just pour in the eggs and milk and have a satisfactory product, or you can put cooked broccoli, cooked and drained spinach, sautéed onions or leeks, sautéed mushrooms, leftover bits of bacon or ham or other cooked meats. Scatter those over the cheese and pour on the eggs and milk.

I bake quiche at 350 for at least 45 minutes, or until it’s a lovely shade of brown and the filling doesn’t jiggle. Oh, and for the sake of your sanity, place the filled pie plate on a baking sheet before you put it in the oven, especially if you’re using a loose-bottomed pan. If the crust leaks, or the filling decides to climb over the sides,  it will create a mess. Cleaning a baking sheet is easier than cleaning your oven. Trust me.

Let the quiche cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing into it. It can be served warm or at room temperature. I would do a small green salad or a fruit salad with it. And probably a rose that erred on the crisp side if you’re doing this for lunch or dinner. Even in winter. (I really don’t like white wine, so if you’d rather have that I’d encourage you to obey your tastebuds for a pairing.)

Quiche began, as have many recipes that rose from humble beginnings as a way to use up dairy products, small amounts of vegetables, and bits of meat that may not have constituted a meal on their own to a dish of some glamour and prestige. It can be served in any season and for breakfast,  brunch, lunch, or dinner and be as posh or basic as needed. It’s one of the little black dresses of food.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

French Farmhouse Report for 2/17 with a Movie Review

 

 

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After the scale gave me a tough love motivated lecture, I realized that consuming butter and cream and baguette on a daily basis, even with modest portions, long walks, and no snacks between meals was not working. Full frontal French recipes will be created once a month, or will reflect the cuisine of the Mediterranean region. Progress in dropping the menopause induced pounds will resume shortly.

Let us move on to another pleasurable aspect of French culture: films. You probably don’t know Dominic Abel and Fiona Gordon, so let me introduce you. They are a husband and wife comedy team based in Belgium who specialize in absurdist, slapstick-y comedies that run counter to what comes out of Hollywood these days. They aren’t as well known outside of Europe as they should be. I found them through a review of their film “Lost in Paris” in France Magazine and purchased it via Amazon.

The story goes like this: Fiona, a librarian in a small, remote Canadian town, gets a letter from her Aunt Marthe (Emmanuelle Riva’s last role before her passage). Marthe’s home care aide is trying to get her into assisted care, so Fiona goes to Paris help her aunt. She finds out that Marthe has disappeared. Dom, a homeless man, helps Fiona find Marthe, but not without a tango, several pratfalls, and an unintended swim in the Seine along the way.

I liked the DVD, too. Its features included an interview with Abel and Gordon, an overview of the style of comedy they perform, and influences on their work.

Fans of Mr. Bean and Carol Burnett should like “Lost in Paris.”

I know I did.

 

 

 

French Farmhouse Project Report for 1/12/20

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Well, this last week was not as French as I had hoped would be. We no sooner resolved the issue with my computer when my car hesitated and stalled on acceleration, plus it was making a weird rattling noise.  The dealer, the import mechanic here in town, and Google are at odds with each other regarding the issue. Whatever is going on involves the bearings, but the dispute was over which set and the cause of the hesitating.

In related news, the hunt for the best Prius at the best price is under way.

On the French living front, I made a very French dinner last week: blanquette de poulet with roasted potatoes. It provided an antidote to the car-related chaos as well as the cold weather. The recipe for the blanquette is Mimi Thorisson’s from her book A Kitchen in France. The potatoes are in the book, but not on the website for some reason.

While it is technically a recipe for blanquette de veau, we just aren’t into veal around here. I used chicken legs (remove the skin or it will make a greasy mess). This would probably work well with turkey, too.

Yes, it is rich (I used sour cream, not creme fraiche, and it worked perfectly well). Yes, it is time consuming. Yes, there are a lot of ingredients. But it provided a counterbalance to the stress of the day. And it made the house smell great.

Hubby commented that he felt like he was eating in a high end French restaurant. Not long after that, he dozed off in his chair.

I smiled, knowing my job for the day was done.

Les restes et leures retournees, or Leftovers and Their Returns

Does anyone use leftovers anymore? I wonder about that when I hear about so much food getting tossed. 

I’m not judging anyone. I’m as guilty as anyone else of letting the glass and plastic containers with a couple of bites of this and a morsel of that stack up in the fridge. There are days when having it declared a preserve for endangered single cell life forms is a viable option.  

In Patricia Wells’ Bistrot Cooking, she details some creative uses for leftovers, a/k/a les restes, a la Francaise. A little sauce, a fresh salad, et voila! There’s a perfectly good new meal from the gigot a sept heures (leg of lamb cooked for seven hours) or the roast chicken. 

My own specialties are Thai or Indian curries, soups, and things wrapped in tortillas. Broth and cheese go a long way to stretch the meal while making it good.