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Posts tagged ‘Recipe’

No. 277: mille-feuille


It seems like it has been awhile since I did a post on food, but I was reminded yesterday evening when I attended a dessert party (so much for the ole regime, encore), of the sometimes underrated mille-feuille, or thousand leaves pastry.

Also know as the Napoleon, it consists of two layers of crème pâtissière sandwiched between three layers of pâte feuilletée traditionally glazed with a white icing and chocolate stripes. The even more delicious versions are filled with whipped cream and/or jam and lightly dusted with confectioner’s sugar or cocoa, or both.

If you are lucky enough to live in France, comme moi, there is no need to ever attempt to make a mille-feuille chez vous, but for those of you who don’t live in France, here is a très instructive recipe video (complete with happy French café music and crackling puff pastry sounds), so you can taste this yummy French dessert at your house.



chez vous: at your house

comme moi: like me

crème pâtissière: pastry creme

pâte feuilletée: puff pastry


No. 251: French MREs (Meals Ready to Eat)

Here is what I know about the American military’s Ready to Eat Meals or MREs: the military chefs strive to make meals that “don’t just taste good… but last … for three years stored at 80 degrees F (26 degrees C), are capable of withstanding chemical or biological attacks, and (can) survive a 10-story free fall (when packed in a crate of 12).”

American MRE: noodles in butter flavored sauce and toaster pastries

American MRE: chili macaroni

American MRE: chili macaroni

I am assuming that the French Ration de Combat Individuelle Rechauffable (Reheatable Individual Combat Rations) or RCIRs, which a friend of mine in Paris let me take a peak at, have to follow the same rigorous guidelines, as they are NATO approved.

French RCIR: slightly more gourmand...

French RCIR: slightly more gourmand…

Whatever the circumstances, you’ve got to love the French’s dedication to meal planning. I don’t know what the rest of the brave soldiers serving their countries are eating tonight, but somewhere in the world, some French soldiers are eating rillettes de saumon préparé en Bretagne (salmon pâté from Brittany).

rillettes de saumon préparé en Bretagne, along with some other very French eats...

rillettes de saumon préparé en Bretagne, along with some other very French eats…




SALMON RILLETTESFood and Wine Magazine – Anna Zepaltas

            ACTIVE: 30 MIN

            TOTAL TIME: 1 HR 45 MIN

            SERVINGS: MAKES 2 CUPS



.    1/2 pound center-cut, skinless salmon fillet

.    1 tablespoon anise-flavored liqueur, such as Pernod

.    Salt

.    Freshly ground white pepper

.    1 celery rib

.    1 leek, halved lengthwise

.    1 small onion, quartered lengthwise

.    1 bay leaf

.    1 teaspoon black peppercorns

.    1 cup dry white wine

.    4 cups water

.    5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

.    1 large shallot, minced (1/4 cup)

.    1/2 tablespoon sour cream

.    1/4 pound skinless hot-smoked salmon, flaked

.    2 tablespoons snipped chives

.    1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

.    1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

.    1/4 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika

.    Toasted baguette slices, for serving



  1. On a plate, sprinkle the salmon with the anise liqueur and season with salt and white pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, bring the celery, leek, onion, bay leaf, peppercorns, wine and water to a boil. Simmer for 25 minutes.
  3. Add the salmon to the pan, cover and remove from the heat; let stand for 10 minutes. Remove the salmon, picking off any peppercorns, and refrigerate until chilled, about 45 minutes. Flake the salmon.
  4. In a skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the shallot and cook over moderate heat until softened. Let cool.
  5. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter until smooth. Whisk in the sour cream. Add the cooled shallot, along with the poached and smoked salmon, chives, lemon juice, olive oil and paprika and stir until combined. Season the rillettes with salt and white pepper. Serve with toasted baguette slices.


The rillettes can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Pack into a crock and press a sheet of plastic wrap onto the surface.  Pour melted butter over the top to seal in freshness. 



No. 249-250: An Ode to Estragon and Chicken Tarragon


estragon_french_tarragon.jpg Before your mind starts to wander to the widely debated female hormone that’s fluctuation can send us femmes d’un certain âge spiraling through rapid mood swings, drop the final “e” and add an “o” and you will realize my ode is to the terrific, tried and true French herb, tarragon, not the natural chemical so essential to the female of the species.

There are so many sensory delights at the French markets, and quite a few that I am completely nutty for, and estragon is certainly one of them. Prior to moving to France, I had rarely cooked with tarragon, and I had certainly never cooked or eaten fresh from the market or garden tarragon. Now I can’t seem to get through a day without it.

I throw it in so many different dishes, that the last time I served a couscous salad with chopped up green flecks, a guest asked what it was, and then another replied, “hmmm…tastes like Nancy, must be tarragon.”



Maybe too much of a good thing can be too much, but I am not quite ready to say that about my beloved estragon. I’m always looking for uses for my favorite window box friend.

To refresh you memory, tarragon is the herb known for its anise-like flavor and scent. Its longish, green leaves are slender and tender and heavenly scented. This delicate yet tasty herb is wonderful with eggs, salads, cheese, and fish and makes the elegant and mouth-watering Tarragon Chicken Fricassée my new favorite dish.

Lucky for all of us, my friend Marie-Françoise just taught me how to make this old-fashioned French recipe. Give it a go, you won’t be sorry.



Tarragon Chicken Fricassée (Serves 4)

From the kitchen of Marie-Françoise



6 large free-range chicken thighs (or legs)

4 shallots (or fresh spring onions), finely chopped

3.5 oz. almond powder

1.5 oz. butter, divided

1 Tbsp. l’huile d’arachide (peanut oil)

½-1 cup dry white wine

½ cube chicken bullion

5 oz. crème fraîche

2 bunches fresh tarragon, washed, spun, and finely chopped

salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. In a medium saucepan, heat half of the butter and oil. Add the chicken thighs and brown both sides until golden. Remove from the pan and rest on a plate. Discard the fat and wipe the pan clean.
  2. In the same pan, heat the remaining butter and oil over medium heat and add the finely chopped shallots. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often to avoid coloring. When soft and translucent, set aside.
  3. Return the chicken to the pan, add the wine, bullion cube, and shallots. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and cook covered over low heat for 45 minutes. (You may have to add some water if the sauce looks too thick.)
  4. After 45 minutes, set the chicken aside on a warm plate. Sieve the sauce for a “cleaner” result, or for a true French bistro experience, do not sieve. If sieved, rewarm the sauce and add the almond powder. Cook for 2-3 minutes over medium heat. Add the crème fraîche at the last-minute and incorporate into to the sauce stirring constantly. Do not over cook. You don’t want the crème to “turn”.
  5. Add the chicken and the finely chopped tarragon. Serve immediately with white rice.


estragon: tarragon—and a few tips—smell your herbs before buying, they should have a clean, fresh scent, and keep it fresh for up to five days by wrapping it in a just damp paper towel and sealing it in a plastic.

femmes d’un certain âge: women of a certain/unknown age


No. 145-146: Monsieur Parmentier and One French Woman’s Secret

When the modest pomme de terre arrived in Europe via the Andes Mountains in the 1500s, much like corn in modern day France, they were used only to feed hogs. They were also thought to cause leprosy.

However, in 1772, Monsieur Parmentier, a chemist by training, seeing the benefits of nourishing the famished masses with this compact carbohydrate, came up with a peculiar plot to trick the French into eating this humble tuber.

His plan? To plant a field of potatoes in the outskirts of Paris. His trick? To have arm guards watch over the crops in the daylight, and leave them unprotected when the sun went down. Convinced that the crop in the mysterious field must be valuable, the curious Parisians began to steal the potatoes under the cover of darkness and realized they were pretty darn good for dinner (and lunch and breakfast, I assume).

These days, I can’t imagine French cooking without potatoes. So many French dishes feature or are complimented by these earth apples, and parmentier, pronounced par-maan-tyé, is now used as an adjective to refer to mashed or boiled potatoes in some recipes.

I first became interested in Monsieur Parmentier when my friend Hélène served a delicious Parmentier de Confit de Canard at one of her winetasting. After several months of bugging her for the recipe, she invited a few of us over for a quick cooking lesson from a busy French woman’s kitchen.

This is when I discovered that French women are full of all sorts of secrets and shortcuts that make them seem super human in the kitchen when, in fact, they are mere mortals. In less than 2 hours we had prepared, cooked and eaten a perfect and delicious Parmentier de Confit de Canard accompanied by a fresh green salad and a lovely bottle of wine.

So what is the secret? A couple of hints:  you won’t find the answer at the butcher’s, but you will find it at your local super marché; no need to head to the milkman’s—no butter, milk or crème fraîche required.

Now keep this on the low down, but the answer comes in a tin.

Only in France can you find a large can of duck legs perfectly preserved in their fat. Add one of Monsieur Parmentier jewels per person, and some garlic powder, and voilà! Parmentier de Confit de Canard Express.


Parmentier de Confit de Canard: a dish similar to shepherd’s pie, consisting of a layer of shredded roasted duck legs topped with a layer of mashed potatoes baked briefly at a high temperature to form a golden brown crust on top.

pomme de terre: potatoes; literally earth apples

super marché: supermarket