Poireaux Vinaigrette

11 05 2009

This is one of those ultra-complicated Classic French recipes. 

Leeks + Vinaigrette...

I kid, leeks vinaigrette are every bit as uncomplicated as they sound.  Two ingredients: leeks, vinaigrette.  (Please, trim, halve, and wash your leeks very well before cooking them.  And I’m saying vinaigrette is one ingredient, because counting the oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, etc. as separate ingredients just seems a little nit-picky to me, especially when they are all pantry items.  It’s not like any shopping is required.)  My point is, if you have leeks in the house, you can make this.

Traditionally the leeks for leeks vinaigrette are boiled, but I’ve had some very bad versions of this dish in mediocre cafés, where the soggy, grayish leeks swim in a pool of industrial vinaigrette.  Maybe you have, too.  If so, I urge you to give these a second chance.  I think we’ve all learned some valuable lessons about the comparative merits of boiling and roasting vegetables.  So I roast mine.

... + broiling = delicious side dish

Broil, to be more exact.  I drizzle them with a little vinaigrette (one made with tarragon vinegar and hazelnut oil is nice) both before and after cooking, and voilà, instant side dish!  Don’t tell the French I’m suggesting improvements on their classics, but I bet these would be great on the grill, too, what with summer fast approaching.  Just be judicious with the vinaigrette before cooking – you don’t want drips and flare-ups stealing the show.  And it doesn’t even have to be leeks!  Try this treatment with other seasonally appropriate vegetables – asparagus and green beans are two of my favorite candidates.  Of course, now we’re veering even further away from the original, but it just goes to show that a little technique goes a long way.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Regional French Cuisine: Savoie: Tartiflette

30 03 2009

You didn’t think I could get through Savoie month without discussing Tartiflette, did you?  I’ve made variations on the theme in my kitchen before, but this time, I wanted to try my hand at the real deal.  Using Robuchon’s recipe as a reference, I began by sautéeing lardons and added thinly sliced leeks once the bacon had rendered.  (Onions would be more traditional, but the CSA people keep sending me leeks.)

Bacon and leeks - before

While the leek-bacon mixture cooked, I cut some potatoes (also from the CSA panier – look at me, cooking all local and organic!) into cubes – didn’t bother peeling them – and boiled them until they were tender.  When the leeks were beginning to caramelize, I poured some white wine into the pan and let it cook a few minutes longer until the wine was reduced to a glaze.

Wine-braised leeks and lardons

I scraped this heavenly-smelling concoction over the drained potatoes and stirred gently to coat the potatoes in the bacony, winey goodness.

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Regional French Cuisine: Alsace: Flammekueche

6 02 2009

I bet you’ve all been wondering when I was going to announce the featured region for February, right?  Well, here we are, at the end of the first week, and I give you: Alsace.

Alsace is a small (the smallest in metropolitan France, which is akin to the lower 48, if you know what that means) region in northeastern France, bordering Germany and Switzerland.  The region has bobbled back and forth between France and Germany for most of its history, but has rested with France since 1945.  These days, most Alsatians (people, not dogs) speak French, but the German influence remains prominent in the cuisine of the region.  Pork and charcuterie are a cornerstone of the traditional dishes, and the Germanic history is evident in the wine varietals used and in the high concentration of regional breweries.

Choucroute and flammekueche are the beacons of Alsatian cuisine, and since I’ve already written about choucroute for this blog, I thought I’d try my hand at a flammekueche.  Comprising a thin bread dough spread with crème fraîcheand topped with bacon and onions, flammekueche was traditionally baked among the expiring coals of the day’s bread-baking, giving it a characteristic char on the edges.  Not being fortunate enough to own my own wood-fired oven (someday…), I made do with my stand-by pizza dough, and turning my little oven up as high as it goes.  I also substituted leeks for the onions, since we had just received another lovely batch in the CSA panier.  Simply sweating them in rendered bacon fat before plopping it all onto a round of dough smeared thickly with crème fraîche and topping it with a smattering of grated comté cheese rewarded us with a scrumptious flatbread tart.

Flammekueche, fresh from the oven

I served it with a mâche salad (also from the panier) with a quick vinaigrette.  Looks like those French-Germans know what they’re doing when it comes to hearty winter meals.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Potimarron-Fingerling Gratin

2 12 2008

Celebrating holidays in a foreign country means making certain sacrifices.  As a case in point, I have yet to see anything resembling a fresh cranberry in Paris.  The various American épiceries are fully stocked with jars and cans of cranberry sauce, but if you want to make your own (like I always do) you’re out of luck.  However, as you can probably imagine, the markets of Paris offer up an incredible bounty from which to devise seasonal dishes from locally-grown ingredients.

Naked Chestnut Squash

Like this potimarron.  I forgot to get a picture of it before I stripped it bare, but there’s a good before photo herePotimarron is one of the more commonly seen winter squashes in the Parisian markets, yet somehow I had yet to cook one.  A little research turned up some interesting facts about the potimarron: the thin skin is edible, the name is derived from the French words for “pumpkin” and “chestnut,” and it apparently increases in sweetness and vitamin content the longer you store it (to a point, I’m sure).

Potimarron insides, with paring knife for scale

I purchased the cute little squash about a week before Thanksgiving without any real plan regarding what to do with it.  The same market trip yielded a bag of fingerling potatoes, another impulse buy.  A few days later, when I realized it was high time I start getting my Thanksgiving menu in order, the two supremely seasonal vegetables jumped out at me.

*Peeling not required

Recalling a butternut squash gratin I have made in years past to generally good reviews, I thought I’d riff on the idea, working potatoes into the mix.  The potimarron, taking after its namesake nut, is one of the starchier winter squashes out there.  While this makes it able to hold its own when combined with potatoes, I didn’t want the dish to be too heavy (this was for Thanksgiving, after all).  I figured the tangy sweetness of leeks simmered in hard cider would offset the richness of the squash and potatoes.  Top it all off with my favorite fresh chèvre, and I had just the gratin I was looking for.  I may not have had sweet potatoes as usual, (ed. note: except that I did, on this salad) but it didn’t feel like I was sacrificing a thing. 

Click through for the recipe and Nick’s gorgeous photo.

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Another Meatless Friday

29 02 2008

Ok, this was actually last night’s dinner, but tonight’s dinner is likely to consist of frozen (meatless) pizza, salad, and beer.  However, we had a quintessentially French meal last night that happened to contain no meat, so here it is. 

Eggs

That’s right, hard boiled eggs!  Yum.

Just kidding.  But these very eggs formed the base of a delicious omelette.  Nick got home pretty late last night, so I wanted to make dinner as simple as possible.   I started with two leeks, chopped, rinsed, and sautéed in butter.

Leeks

While the leeks cooked, I combined the eggs in a bowl with salt, pepper, and a little milk, and lightly beat the mixture with a fork.  As soon as the leeks started to get some color, I poured the eggs over the top.

Cooking the Omelette

If I had a proper oven, we’d be having a frittata for sure.  But no, this is France.  We must have omelettes!  So when the eggs were nearly cooked through, I sprinkled on some grated Emmenthal cheese and did my best to fold the thing in half.  (Which I realize is the American way of making omelettes, but how else are you supposed to deal with a six-egg monstrosity?  The French have the good sense not to make their omelettes so freaking huge.)

Omelette in the Pan…

I turned off the stove and let it finish cooking off the radiant heat while I made a quick vinaigrette and rinsed some salad greens.  The vinaigrette was really beautiful and emulsified due to the rather high proportion of Dijon mustard I used, but I got a little cocky and added the oil a bit too fast and next thing I knew, my perfect vinaigrette was broken.  Nick was particularly disappointed by this turn of events, as he had been marveling at my skill only moments before.  Broken or not, the vinaigrette was ready, the omelette was cooked, and dinner was served.

A typically French meal

It tasted even better than I thought it would, and was just the ticket for a late supper.  The bread came from one of my favorite local bakeries: La Boulangerie de Véronique Mauclerc.  More on her at a later date.








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