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Posts Tagged ‘French’

I started taking French cooking classes at my local community college, and it’s been the calorie-rich highlight of my weeks. Because the course is conducted in German, I not only get to learn the finer points of butter and egg yolks, I can also practice my umlauts. It’s been a great experience, and I wanted to share the highlights with you here. Think of this as French cooking class light: all of the good stuff, none of the overcooked chicken livers.

So far, the dish that has impressed me most was one of the easiest.  I mean, really, who gets excited about lentil soup? Sometimes I feel like despite the massive number of ingredients and herbs I throw in, it’s just uninspiring.

Leave it to the French to elevate the humble brown lentil.

Well, this French lentil soup has taught me the wisdom in keeping it simple. Its flavor is practically the inverse of the time and ingredients involved.  Not only is it easy to make and flavorful, I like it enough that I’d serve it to company. The French must be on to something.  They know a) how to extract the most flavor from a few key ingredients, and b) not to muddle up dishes with too many herbs and competing flavors.

Simple, non?

Without further ado, here’s the recipe.  I’d love to keep talking it up, but it’s a rare sunny day in Berlin, and the sidewalks are calling my name!  I’ll report back with more French hits soon.

-3/4 c. brown lentils (or French green “du Puy” lentils; I’ve made it both ways), rinsed and picked over
-1 sm. onion, chopped
-2 strips bacon, chopped
-2 Tbsp. butter, divided
-2-3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar, divided
-3 1/3 c. vegetable broth, warm
-1/2 bunch fresh parsley
-3 sprigs fresh thyme
-handful of celery tops, optional
-scant 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
-freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. In a medium pot on medium-low heat, sauté the chopped bacon to render some of the fat, about 2 min. Keep the heat low so that the bacon does not get crispy. Add the chopped onion and 1/2 tablespoon butter and sweat until translucent.

2. Add the broth, 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, and the lentils to the pot. Cover and simmer 20 minutes.

3. Add the parsley (whole), thyme sprigs, and celery tops to the pot. Simmer covered 10-15 minutes more, or just until the lentils are tender. Check doneness occasionally to prevent overcooking.

4. In a small saucepan or skillet, brown the remaining 1 1/2 Tbsp. butter. Set aside.  It should be a deep golden brown, but not black. (more…)

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I’m salivating thinking back on this meal (which was admittedly only a few hours ago). Well, I couldn’t wait to share it with you. Tender chunks of beef, slow-braised in a dark beer broth with lots of caramelized onions, shallots, and plenty of herbs. All that, plus tangy mustard and a whiff of wintery spice make this an easy dish to fall in love with.

If you like pot roast, boeuf bourguignon, or beef goulash, you will adore carbonnade. Don’t get me started on how good your house will smell while this simmers on the stove. Sit back and enjoy a glass of Belgian beer while you wait. Salut!

-1 lb. stewing beef, such as chuck roast (avoid pre-packaged stew meat, which tends to be gristly)
-1 Tbsp. flour
-1/2 lb. shallots, peeled and halved (about 5 med.)
-2 small onions, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced thin
-1 Tbsp. butter
-olive oil, as needed
-2 garlic cloves, minced
-1/2 c. vegetable or beef broth
-1/2 pint (300ml) dark Belgian beer, such as Chimay Blue
-1 Tbsp. brown sugar
-3 bay leaves
-leaves of 4 fresh thyme sprigs
-handful of parsley, chopped
-1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
-2 gingersnap cookies plus 1/2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder, or one piece Lebkuchen (German gingerbread)
-1 tsp. Dijon or spicy mustard
-salt and pepper, to taste

1. Trim and slice the beef into 1-in. cubes. Pat dry with paper towels (to ensure your meat browns, not steams). Sprinkle with the flour, salt, and pepper, and toss well to coat.

2. Heat half the butter and a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a deep, thick bottomed pot on medium-high until bubbly.


3. Add half the meat to the pot and allow one side to brown thoroughly.  Do not stir for several minutes until a dark crust forms.  Turn with tongs and brown the remaining sides.  Remove the seared meat to a bowl, leaving the oil behind.

4.  Add more olive oil (if needed) and the remaining beef to the pot. Brown and remove to the bowl.

5.  Add the remaining butter to the pan, reduce the heat, and add the shallots and onions.  Stir and shake regularly until softened, browned, and caramelized all over.  Take care not to burn.

Not there yet…

(more…)

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Have you ever aimed for Hollandaise sauce, but ended up with scrambled eggs or an oily mess? Meet your new best friend:

Photo courtesy of Buy.com

Here is a really simple recipe for making creamy, non-separating, non-curdling Hollandaise sauce—one that doesn’t require a double boiler, egg tempering, or exhaustive whisking. What an improvement. Now, I realize it’s unfair to give you such an easy, fattening recipe as you’re trying to stick to your healthy eating resolutions, but if you put just dab on grilled fish or a bunch of fresh asparagus (don’t send me hate mail because it’s not in season), we can both be happy.

-1/2 cup salted butter (1 stick)
-3 egg yolks
-1 Tbsp. lemon juice (please don’t use that disgusting bottled stuff)
-Dash of cayenne pepper
-salt (you may not much, or any) and pepper (preferrably white) to taste

1.  Melt the butter slowly in a very small pot, being careful not to brown or burn it (or, melt it in one of those liquid measuring cup pitchers in the microwave).

2.  Blend the egg yolks and lemon juice in the blender.

3.  With the blender still on, very carefully and slowly pour in the melted butter.

4.  Blend until your sauce is the consistency of thin mayonnaise.

This can be done ahead, up to the point where you add the butter to the blended egg mixture. When you’re ready to serve, just reheat your butter slightly, so the sauce will be warm. I’d rather not make it fully ahead and then reheat it on the stove— double boilers are a big pain, you might scramble the eggs, and raw eggs sitting around in warm butter just seem like the perfect medium for growing icky bacteria.

Variation: Instead of lemon juice, I usually make a flavored vinegar reduction. Boil 3-4 Tbsp. white or cider vinegar (not balsamic, it will discolor your sauce) with 1 bay leaf, some cracked black pepper, and a pinch of sugar. Reduce to 2 Tbsp. and strain, allow to cool, then proceed as with lemon juice.

p.s. I haven’t tried yet, but I’m sure this recipe could be made in a food processor as well.  The feed tube might even make adding the butter easier.

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