FFwD: Roasted Salmon and Lentils

Oh what a joyful dinner! Darling son is home for spring break and it was so special to have all four of us around the table enjoying a great dinner and each other.  Preparing this meal gave me something to do other than worry about son driving home as wind, thunderstorms, and tornadoes moved through the area between his college and home.  Just as I finished the clean-up after preparing everything but the salmon I heard the rattle of keys in the door and was able to release a big sigh of relief and thanksgiving.

When I saw that we were making Roasted Salmon and Lentils this week I knew I wanted to wait to make it for today.  I’ve told you before that my children tease me about serving chicken every Friday.  I don’t serve it every Friday but it is so frequent that it has become their own special joke.  We all like salmon so I knew this would be well received.

Whole Foods had green lentils but after reading the descriptions in a few other posts I guess they weren’t lentils du Puy.  Dorie’s  instructions were easy to follow but it’s not clear to me why we chopped the vegetables after cooking rather than before and why we are instructed to puree the lentils rather than just mash a few in the broth.  Chopping the cooked onion was just making “a hot mess” as one of my friends would say so I just pureed it in the already dirtied food processor.

The salmon roasted beautifully in a hot oven for 12 minutes.  It came out perfectly. It did look great perched on a bed of lentils.  I did decide to add a small scoop of rice to the plate. Sprinkle with a little chopped parsley and it was ready to eat.

We did all enjoy it.  Well actually, darling daughter ate the salmon but pretty much skipped the lentils but she has never really liked them.  My husband said it was good but maybe a bit bland.  Son cleaned his plate; I think he was just terribly glad to be eating a home cooked meal.

Be sure to check out all the other posts here at French Fridays with Dorie to see how all the other Doristas fared with this recipe from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan.


FFwD:Cheese Topped Onion Soup

      I realized when this recipe was placed on the schedule that not only had I never tried to make French Onion Soup I had in probably never tasted more than a spoonful. My mother hated onions and I don’t believe I ever tasted one until I left home for college. And while I now cook with onions I guess I never thought of making onion soup. My soon to be 21 year-old son (how the years have flown by) adores French Onion Soup and frequently ordered it in restaurants even as a youngster much to the amusement and amazement of the wait staff.

What a great, easy, comfort food recipe for a blustery, cold winter’s night. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your point of view we have been blessed with a week of record breaking high temperatures. So even though hot, steamy soup did not seem a appealing this week I forged ahead when I read in Dorie’s notes that the soup can be kept in the freezer up to 3 months.

Dorie’s recipe calls for 4 or 5 Spanish onions about 4 pounds. Those must be some big French onions because for me four pounds was more like 9 onions. I went by the weight since I always think what people describe as big or small is so subjective. Wish I could say I listened to a book on tape while I whiled away the hour slicing onions but instead I watched the noon news and then an episode of Baking with Julia on the DVDs my husband got for me.

All those onions nearly filled my Dutch oven. Then over a low flame the onions cooked, and cooked, and cooked and, then cooked some more. After 2 hours I sort of lost track.While they cooked down and down I thought they would never begin to brown and certainly never turn “mahogany”. Maybe Dorie and I see mahogany differently. Finally I felt like they were as

dark as they were going to get before they began to crisp and blacken. Dorie explains that the onions turn bitter when they burn but I must admit that my family likes them that way when I cook them down in butter to serve with steaks. At that point I put the onions in the refrigerator to make the soup the next day.

The next day I added the flour, wine, and chicken broth per Dorie’s instructions. I had always assumed that this soup was made with beef broth. After the required cooking time I tasted the broth and onions. I was surprised at how pronounced the wine taste was; it wasn’t at all what I had expected French Onion Soup to taste like. Since I knew we weren’t having this for dinner I only wanted to dish up enough for a taste and a picture. Next week I plan to use some Potato-Rosemary artisan bread that my family loves but for this tasting I used some of the my homemade White Loaves that we are continuing to enjoy. I had a nice piece of Gruyere that I grated over the top. I really must learn to control my broiler as I think I let it get just a little too brown.

My cup of French Onion Soup made a wonderful late afternoon lunch. I still thought the wine taste was a little strong and I might cut back a little next time. It was extremely filling with the bread and cheese and I can’t imagine eating anything else with it served as a first course. If this survives freezing as well as I think it will I will add this to my make ahead repertoire. Did you realize this is one of the few recipes that Dorie hasn’t advised us that it is only good freshly made? I enjoyed my taste. Since I have no memory to check it against I’ll have to wait until next week to find out whether it is a great French Onion Soup. I do know I will have one happy birthday boy next week. So Moose if you are reading this study hard and this is what is waiting for you when you come home.

This post is part of French Fridays with Dorie a dedicated group who cook and blog their way through the recipes in Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table. Be sure to check out all the wonderful posts here to see how all the other Doristas fared this week.

TWD-BWJ Chocolate Truffle Tartlets

     We got off to such a great start with White Loaves but it appears that February 2012 will go down as a “best laid plans” month.  I did start gathering supplies two weeks ago when I went looking for amaretti di Saronno; unable to find those I settled for hazelnut biscotti made by a local family-owned Italian food store.  Making Chocolate Truffle Tartlets actually required following at least two recipes; one for the chocolate crust (pg. 372) and one for the tartlet filling (pg. 382). If you wanted to follow Dorie’s suggestion for a Baker’s Extravaganza there are three additional recipes for Crispy Cocoa Cookies, Expresso Parfait, and Chocolate Waves.  Back in January when I first read the recipe that Baker’s Extravaganza seemed like a wonderful idea but as so often happens life got in the way.

The Chocolate Dough was very easily mixed in the food processor.  Having watched the Baking With Julia episode with David Ogonowski (thanks again Steph and Jen)  I was prepared for how crumbly the dough could be.  I think I rolled the dough a little too thin trying to make four 8″ tarts rather than six 4″ tarts.  One tart shell crumbled after baking; the other three did fine but probably would have been better a little thicker.

The chocolate filling was very easy to put together.  Typical me I made quite a mess trying to cut 6 oz. of bittersweet chocolate off the huge solid block that I had. When I had just enough filling for the three shells I was glad that the one had crumbled.

The baked tartlet has a wonderful fudge-like texture with some small pieces of the biscotti evident.  I think if I had followed Dorie’s direction and used the 4″ pans the layer of filling would have been deeper and probably moister.  The tartlets were good and I would certainly would make them again.  Even without  the Cocoa Cookies and Expresso Parfait everyone here ate a piece and then went back for another.

If you want to see how all the other Doristas did with their Chocolate Truffle Tartlets go here.

FFwD: Nutella Tartine







Nutella spread on bread, Dorie tells us, is a favorite after school snack for French children. She gives us a fancy version suggested by Pierre Herme. She suggests brioche or challah and I really did plan intend to make a brioche loaf but a busy week and attempting to read 300+ blog entries over on TWD-BWJ intervened. Ultimately, I decided to use a few slices of the white loaf I made last week. I removed the crust to satisfy darling daughter and it did seem to dress up what really is just a fancy piece of toast.   The orange marmalade and the sprinkle of salt did cut through the sweetness of the hazelnuts and chocolate. It made for a lovely coffee break this afternoon.

While it might be a little too much for a regular after school snack around our house, I have decided that it will be a good recipe to remember when husband comes in and asks if there is any dessert and there is none.

You can see how the other Doristas did with this recipe at http://www.frenchfridayswithdorie.com/?p=987#comments.

TWD:Baking With Julia-White Loaves












And so it begins.  Today is our first Baking With Julia post.  I’ve been so excited to start.  When we got the recipe schedule I was a little shocked.  I really thought we might start out with something just a little easier.  After all I reasoned you want people to be successful with their first effort.  I had never ever made loaf bread before, nor can I ever remember watching anyone else make it.  I approached this assignment with quite a bit of trepidation.  I even did it early figuring that it would give me time to try again if my loaves were less than successful or not photogenic.  But just look at what I did.  I am more than proud.  I should have known just read the recipe and follow Dorie’s instructions.  She wouldn’t steer me wrong.

I’m certainly glad I had the Kitchen Aid mixer.  I’m totally in awe of our foremothers who kneaded this by hand and baked bread every week.  Even my Kitchen Aid had a little struggle.  It’s an older machine that I inherited from my mother-in-law but with my encouragement and my weight holding it down on the counter when it wanted to bounce off we made it through.  We live in an older house with high ceilings so heating a room to 80 degrees as Dorie suggests to let the dough rise could was a challenge.  As luck would have it our dining room has two heat vents and if the doors are closed it can be the warmest room in the house.  We have a Victorian bread warmer that sits over one of the vents.  It’s basically a metal pedestal with a marble top that sits on top of the vent; the marble gets quite warm so the bread basket can be placed there to stay warm during a meal.  It also worked perfectly as a place for dough to rise.

My dough basically behaved just as described at each step.  I appreciated the warning about the dough breaking down when the butter was added.  It took a couple of readings of the description of the folding as the description is slightly different in the body of the recipe and in the picture caption but once I read it a couple times I realized it was just two ways of saying the same thing.  My loaves rose beautifully I thought but not high beyond the top of the pan.  I did take the loaves out of the pan for the last 5 minutes of baking so my crust is golden all the way around.  The loaves are heavy and they do make quite a thump when struck but the bread was lovely and soft within.

We have totally enjoyed eating this bread.  I don’t think my husband wants me to buy store bread ever again.  Daughter removed the crust but she does this to store bread too.  It made an incredible grilled cheese sandwich.  It makes wonderful toast.  Even PB&J seems special on this bread.While reading blogs on Saturday I discovered NummyKitchens recipe for Bruchetta with Gorgonzola and Honey and since I had just a little piece of Gorgonzola Dolce left from making quiche I decided to try it with this bread. Fabulous!

Thanks to Laura and Jules for picking a winning recipe to get us started and proving to us that we can bake anything.  But please folks let’s wait awhile to bake the wedding cake.  I’m looking forward to seeing how everyone else did.  I’m sure they did great as well.  My goodness, it may take all week to read 300 blogs.

Apple Sharlotka

Saw this lovely apple dessert on Smitten Kitchen recently and it looked so beautiful.  And the recipe is so simple.  It is just thinly sliced, almost chopped, apples piled in a spring pan and a simple batter, just eggs, sugar, flour, no butter, poured over.  I was a little skeptical but then last week I saw that MissBlossomBakes had also made one and hers was just as beautiful.  When friends called and asked us to join them for dinner I thought this was just the thing to make to take.  This was just as easy as Smitten Kitchen described and tasted wonderful.  Mine did have to stay in the oven longer but that is probably my oven’s fault.

If you want a light, fruity dessert this makes a wonderful choice.  It’s not really a cake and not a pie but rather something in between.  Smitten Kitchen says it is a Russian dessert.  I’m certainly adding this to our regular dessert rotation.  Thanks MissBlossomBakes for the encouragement to make this.

FFwD: Gorgonzola-Apple Quiche

 Wow! It’s French Friday time again.  It’s been another busy, roller-coaster week in our household. The high point was celebrating our thirtieth wedding anniversary by surprising my husband with a carriage ride to a restaurant for dinner and then presenting him with a room key to spend the night at the hotel where we spent our wedding night.The low point was racing across town last night to make it to the UrgentOrtho clinic before it closed when darling daughter came home from ice skating lesson with her hand puffed up double size and a huge bruise at the base of her thumb saying she could not move her fingers.  (She’s fine.  It was not broken just badly bruised.)  Between these two points I managed three trips to the high school for various pickups and deliveries, put dinner on the table every night, made our French Friday Quiche, and baked loaf bread for the first time.

I planned to make the quiche for dinner Monday.  I’ve made quiche many times.  In fact I’ve made the one I do so many times that I no longer have to check the recipe except to verify the temperature for the oven.   Of course I hadn’t thought about or read the recipe for the tart shell that Dorie calls for this week.  Who knew this would be a two day process?  I was tempted to revert to the frozen pie shells that I have used for years but since my purpose in joining this group was to get out of my cooking rut and experiment with new recipes I decided to make the shell myself.  I’m so glad I did.  This tart dough recipe may become my go to recipe for pie crust.  It handled beautifully and made a strong and tasty crust.  In the past I’ve had trouble getting a crust to roll out and then transfer without breaking.  Luckily it was strong as I miss read the recipe and removed the shell from the tart pan before filling rather than after baking with filling.  It could have been a disaster but was not.

I used Gorgonzola Dolce that I found at a local Italian pasta shop that has a nice cheese counter.  I read the recipe at least four times to verify that I correctly read  that it only called for 2 oz. of cheese.  All the ingredient amounts seemed small.  The gorgonzola is so creamy that it was difficult to cut or crumble.  I think next time I will freeze the cheese to see if it is easier to crumble.  I used half a Gala apple.  I think when I do again I will use the whole apple and maybe leave the peel on.  I forgot the hazelnuts.

The quiche baked up beautifully but it didn’t puff up very much.  My family liked it but both said they preferred the one I usually make except they liked this crust better.  When we ate it for dinner none of the flavors stood out.  We couldn’t taste the apple at all.  I ate the last slice for lunch today and I loved how I could taste the cheese.  This is definitely a quiche that improves with age.  I think it makes a great lunch or first course but if I make it for dinner I think I will increase the amount of filling.  I served a spring salad with sliced avocado and navel orange alongside the quiche and finished out the meal serving the last of the broth braised fingerling potatoes.

All in all a great week and great recipe. I will certainly make the tart shell again.  While this won’t be my go to quiche I think I will make it again.  I am looking forward to seeing what everyone else did with this recipe.

FFwD: Broth-Braised Potatoes

Our French Friday recipe for this week, Broth-Braised Potatoes, is described by Dorie Greenspan as “energized boiled potatoes”.  All week as I planned my menu and gathered ingredients I could hear the voice of my mother of blessed memory saying “really dear, you need a recipe for boiled potatoes”?  Obviously potatoes by themselves would not a meal make so I decided to create a meal around them to help me build some enthusiasm for this recipe. I knew I wanted to follow Dorie’s bonne idee and braise some fennel.  Finally settled on roasted leg of lamb and asparagus to go with the potatoes and fennel.  I made a gremolata to sprinkle of the lamb and the potatoes. Definitely more of a spring menu but our weather recently as certainly fooled all of us and many of the trees and flowers.

The fingerling potatoes were good but nothing special.  I did boil down the broth and then stirred the potatoes in the syrup which added a little flavor to the skin but not much to the potato itself.  The broth didn’t make much difference to the fennel.

Finished off the dinner with a Vietnamese Baked Banana Cake.  I found the recipe on Almost Bourdain.blogspot. com.  This was a  delicious and very different kind of dessert.  I made it twice this week.  The first one I made (the one we ate) looked a little over brown but tasted wonderful.  The second one I gave to a friend for Lunar New Year and it looked more like the one on the the blog.

I’m looking forward to seeing what all the creative Doristas did with this recipe.

FFwD: Quatre-quarts

        This week’s French Friday with Dorie assignment is a lovely French version of a pound cake.  It was a quick and easy cake to mix up.  Dorie describes this as a cake French mothers bake for their children as an after-school snack.  It seemed to me to be a nice cake for afternoon tea or coffee with a neighbor.

           Not too much to say.  This recipe gave me a chance to use the whisk attachment on the Kitchen Aid that I inherited from my mother-in -law.  I haven’t used the Kitchen Aid much as it seemed more complicated than my Sunbeam mixer and it is a little more difficult to add ingredients or use a spatula with the narrower Kitchen Aid bowl.  Now that I’ve used it a few times it doesn’t seem so complicated.  And wow the bowl sounds like a gong when you hit it with a wooden spatula.

I used vanilla.  As I was gathering ingredients I discovered that I was out of parchment paper and I just couldn’t go to the grocery store again so I used one of my old cake pans that has a moveable piece that helps to loosen the cake from the pan.  While I’m not sure about my oven (note to self: buy an oven thermometer) I did have to leave the cake in the oven for a little over 30 minutes.

So there I was in the late afternoon alone in a quiet house with a cake with one slice cut, dinner organized, the table set, roast chicken for les paresseux in the oven and absolutely nothing that had to be done for at least an hour.  It was a perfect     time to make a cup of tea and sit and just be.  It was a perfect moment of peace and I spent it wondering what everyone else would say about this cake and how you would make it your own.  I can hardly wait to find out what you did.

          I do have a question.  Do you write notes in your cookbook as you complete a recipe?  I find it hard to write in a book (all that early training) but you all have such wonderful ideas and suggestions and I’d like to be able to remember them when I come back to make the recipe again.

FFwD: m. jacques’ armagnac chicken

Hello Doristas. This is my first post as I’m sure you know already.  Actually I made the brioche last week but didn’t post.  Typical me it took me a week to decide on a name for my blog.  By the time the name seemed right it was too late.  I’ve spent entirely too much time trying to figure out how to create a blog and how to post.  Tsimmis  is a Yiddish word I’ve always heard meant “to make a fuss” especially when making food. While trying to come up with a name that felt right I came across a website that defined it as “a tempest in a teapot”.  Well that settled it right there.  My mother and grandmother must have described me a thousand times as being or making a tempest in a teapot.

         First, to gather the ingredients together.  I absolutely have to do this or I will forget to put something in. I did use Armagnac.  Seeing it on the ingredients list reminded me of the night almost thirty years ago during the first year of our marriage when my husband came home lugging a big cardboard box (actually I think there were at least three boxes).  A client who was going out of business gave him a gift of some of the liquor from the store.  We unpacked the boxes of colorful, dusty bottles of liquors most of which we had never heard of.  The bourbon, Irish whiskey, and a few others are long gone but there was that unopened bottle of Armagnac still sitting in the cabinet where I put it all those years ago.  The cork was so dried out it broke when I opened it.  I must say the sip I took did not taste of prunes to me.

I usually prefer recipes that have lots of steps.  M. Jacques’ Armagnac Chicken was certainly not that kind of recipe but of course “tempest” that I am I tried to make it that way.  Put the vegetables and herbs in the pot with a little olive oil , and stir around. Then put in the chicken and pour the Armagnac over the chicken, close the pot and pop in the oven for an hour.  As soon as I closed the oven door I realized I had forgotten to add the prunes so out it all came again to add them.  I think I got side-tracked by trying to take pictures of the process.

The aromas that filled my kitchen were fabulous.  It was a shame that I was home alone but as I was trying to make dessert while the chicken cooked it was probably just as well.  At the end of the hour my chicken was done but just a pale as when it went in the oven.  Since it was going to be awhile until dinnertime and I needed to complete the steps with the sauce, I took the chicken and vegetables out of the pot and returned the chicken to the oven where it browned perfectly.

Since it was still going to be at least an hour before everyone got home for dinner I decided to plate the chicken and vegetables and take the picture before husband and daughter came home.  I don’t think  they would have wanted to wait to eat and I suppose I shouldn’t be taking pictures after the candles are lit.  My chicken carving skills are not such that I would want to demonstrate them at the table either.  So picture taken, the chicken returned to the kitchen to be carved and held until everyone arrived home weary and ravenous.  I must say this held incredibly well.  I’m sure I will make this again as we all enjoyed it and took my ubiquitous Friday night chicken to another level indeed.  Next time I may try it with chicken pieces instead of a whole chicken.

I finished off dinner with bread pudding with lemon sauce made with the brioche loaf from last week.  I don’t think my brioche had quite the right texture but as bread pudding it was wonderful.  A wonderful dinner to end a another week and to start a great new adventure.  Thank you for letting me join you in cooking our way through Around My French Table.  Just reading all your posts has made me a better cook.    Blogging is certainly harder than cooking at this point but my children assure me I can do it.