mastering the art of french cooking

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Apr 9

I’m currently in Haiti, where I’m forced to take a hiatus from mastering the art of French cooking. I’m hesitant to buy meat here, and French ingredients are pretty rare in the Haitian marketplace. 

I actually made this back in December, and I must’ve spent less than 30 minutes in the kitchen for it. If you’ve ever had my bœuf bourguignon, you know that I am incapable of rendering chuck roast tender as it should be, even after simmering it for 3+ hours. I was stunned and thrilled when this dish came out perfectly.

It’s an astonishingly simple preparation; sauté the beef, then the onions, then the chicken stock & beer & bouquet garni & brown sugar - and then bake everything together for 2 hours. Thicken the sauce with cornstarch and vinegar, and the result is a meltingly tender chunk of meat with rich layers of flavor. It’s been several months since I’ve had it so I can’t quite describe them well, but I do remember that my eyes widened upon my first bite. Subsequent bites were taken with my eyes closed to try to sort out how it could possibly be so good. 

I will definitely make this again, and I cannot recommend it enough. Do serve it with braised vegetables or parsley egg noodles or something light to balance this out - too much of a good thing quickly becomes a bad thing in this case. It felt positively sinful to eat more than two pieces of beef in a row. 

I’m slowly working my way through the duck recipes because duck is so inexpensive and roasting it gives such delightfully succulent results. Sadly, though, the morning did not start with this canard à l’orange in mind; I was all set to make oie braisée aux marrons (braised goose with chestnut and sausage stuffing). There were 10+ people attending the Christmas party, and it seemed the perfect time to try goose. I had mustered up the courage to tackle the veal & pork stuffing, and I had decided to use bacon fat instead of goose fat. I was not prepared for the price tag on the goose: $112. I blinked in astonishment and looked at the other geese. Even as I struggled to lift one up to check the price, I saw that it would’ve been impossible; each frozen goose required 1-2 days to defrost. I only had 4 hours. Although I love my BKSG, I was not willing to spend $150+ (chestnuts & ground veal included) on only one dish. I might some time later in my life (and with several days notice to properly defrost it). I settled for the duckling and picked up a few navel oranges. Much easier.
In theory, the sauce is simple. Duck stock, orange zest, caramelized red wine and Grand Marnier - not much, really. Unfortunately, duck stock takes about 2 hours to prepare, and the sauce can only be made when the duck is done roasting because you need to scrape the bottom of the roasting pan for more meat juices. I learned to cut oranges so that they’d be skinless, which looks a lot better than what I had attempted last time with the magret de canard à l’orange. In my haste, I simmered the duck stock too long (so there was only a little over a cup instead of 2 cups of duck stock) and put too much cornstarch in; the sauce ended up much thicker than it should’ve been. 
I also erred greatly by roasting the duck at 350 the whole time; I now recognize how essential it is to roast it at 450 preliminary for 15 minutes - to not only properly roast the skin and give it that beautiful color and texture, but also to prevent the duck from sticking to the pan. (I had to do it at 350 because there were other things in the oven at 350). Thankfully, the duck meat came out alright; I doused the duck in the sauce (instead of serving it on the side) because it would’ve looked embarrassing otherwise. 
At this point, there are still a few duck recipes to try (peaches, turnips, red cabbage, chestnut & sausage stuffing and stuffed duck in a crust), but this will probably remain my favorite. Can’t get more classic than this, though I am intrigued by the other ones. :) I think I’ll make this again, properly, before I try the other ones. 

I’m slowly working my way through the duck recipes because duck is so inexpensive and roasting it gives such delightfully succulent results. Sadly, though, the morning did not start with this canard à l’orange in mind; I was all set to make oie braisée aux marrons (braised goose with chestnut and sausage stuffing). There were 10+ people attending the Christmas party, and it seemed the perfect time to try goose. I had mustered up the courage to tackle the veal & pork stuffing, and I had decided to use bacon fat instead of goose fat. I was not prepared for the price tag on the goose: $112. I blinked in astonishment and looked at the other geese. Even as I struggled to lift one up to check the price, I saw that it would’ve been impossible; each frozen goose required 1-2 days to defrost. I only had 4 hours. Although I love my BKSG, I was not willing to spend $150+ (chestnuts & ground veal included) on only one dish. I might some time later in my life (and with several days notice to properly defrost it). I settled for the duckling and picked up a few navel oranges. Much easier.

In theory, the sauce is simple. Duck stock, orange zest, caramelized red wine and Grand Marnier - not much, really. Unfortunately, duck stock takes about 2 hours to prepare, and the sauce can only be made when the duck is done roasting because you need to scrape the bottom of the roasting pan for more meat juices. I learned to cut oranges so that they’d be skinless, which looks a lot better than what I had attempted last time with the magret de canard à l’orange. In my haste, I simmered the duck stock too long (so there was only a little over a cup instead of 2 cups of duck stock) and put too much cornstarch in; the sauce ended up much thicker than it should’ve been. 

I also erred greatly by roasting the duck at 350 the whole time; I now recognize how essential it is to roast it at 450 preliminary for 15 minutes - to not only properly roast the skin and give it that beautiful color and texture, but also to prevent the duck from sticking to the pan. (I had to do it at 350 because there were other things in the oven at 350). Thankfully, the duck meat came out alright; I doused the duck in the sauce (instead of serving it on the side) because it would’ve looked embarrassing otherwise. 

At this point, there are still a few duck recipes to try (peaches, turnips, red cabbage, chestnut & sausage stuffing and stuffed duck in a crust), but this will probably remain my favorite. Can’t get more classic than this, though I am intrigued by the other ones. :) I think I’ll make this again, properly, before I try the other ones. 

I seem to always be cooking in a rush nowadays. I almost forgot to take a picture of this, even. :O 
This meal took almost two hours to prepare, but very little actual hands-on time. (This is not counting the time it took to rehydrate the chestnuts overnight; I shudder to imagine peeling fresh chestnuts from scratch. I definitely should try that some day, though; I’m sure the flavor is palpably different). The chestnuts are braised (steeped in brown stock, butter, cornstarch and port) for almost an hour. The brussels sprouts are baked with the braised chestnuts for 20 minutes. 
I clarified the butter for the chicken breasts, though I think that clarified butter is purchasable at select grocery stores. I’ve always been bad at cooking meat, whether making bœuf bourguignon, steak, pork chops with apples and onions, magret de canard - dry and tough or severely undercooked. Surprisingly, this turned out perfectly - moist, flavorful and just barely cooked. The port sauce was simple and excellent, and I’d definitely make it again. It even looks kind of fancy, but the whole meal was laughably easy to make.
On a side note, I’ve gotten increasingly frustrated by the way that the cookbook is laid out. For this plate, I had to turn to 7 different pages because each recipe refers to another one (“see braised brussels sprouts”). I understand it’s to make the cookbook less redundant and much less shorter than it would’ve been otherwise, but I think I’m going to have to make electronic versions of the things I like or I will go crazy flipping pages repeatedly just to make sure I’m doing it right. 

I seem to always be cooking in a rush nowadays. I almost forgot to take a picture of this, even. :O 

This meal took almost two hours to prepare, but very little actual hands-on time. (This is not counting the time it took to rehydrate the chestnuts overnight; I shudder to imagine peeling fresh chestnuts from scratch. I definitely should try that some day, though; I’m sure the flavor is palpably different). The chestnuts are braised (steeped in brown stock, butter, cornstarch and port) for almost an hour. The brussels sprouts are baked with the braised chestnuts for 20 minutes. 

I clarified the butter for the chicken breasts, though I think that clarified butter is purchasable at select grocery stores. I’ve always been bad at cooking meat, whether making bœuf bourguignon, steak, pork chops with apples and onions, magret de canard - dry and tough or severely undercooked. Surprisingly, this turned out perfectly - moist, flavorful and just barely cooked. The port sauce was simple and excellent, and I’d definitely make it again. It even looks kind of fancy, but the whole meal was laughably easy to make.

On a side note, I’ve gotten increasingly frustrated by the way that the cookbook is laid out. For this plate, I had to turn to 7 different pages because each recipe refers to another one (“see braised brussels sprouts”). I understand it’s to make the cookbook less redundant and much less shorter than it would’ve been otherwise, but I think I’m going to have to make electronic versions of the things I like or I will go crazy flipping pages repeatedly just to make sure I’m doing it right. 

I was originally attending a small Thanksgiving dinner of 5, so I planned to make a duck instead of a turkey. When the group expanded to 7-8, I had hoped to make a roast goose, but the hostess was hesitant about an unknown poultry as the main course. After browsing through the recipes, I was a little relieved because they are rather intimidating. :x I totally forgot that goose liver (which would be in there already) was foie gras. Then again, these geese aren’t fattened by gavage, are they? 

I thought that apple and sausage stuffing would make this Thanksgiving-appropriate, and I always prefer more stuffing/garnish than less, so I used 6 apples (instead of 4-5) and 3/4 lb of pork sausage (instead of 1/2 lb). There was definitely way too much stuffing to “loosely stuff” into the duck, so I would advise against making extra stuffing. Because the person who carved the duck was so good at it, I decided to just leave the stuffing as a side next to the duck. I actually didn’t get to eat much of it (it was pretty much gone by the time I wanted to get more than a bite-size), but what I had was pretty good. o_o

I realized to sauté the ingredients for the duck stock this time, though I left the duck neck in the duck by accident … thankfully, the sauce turned out perfectly. I didn’t season it at all because I thought it was amazing the way it was - bursting with essence of duck. I should’ve put less port in the sauce because it dramatically altered the pure flavor, but it was still good. I doused it generously on the apple and sausage stuffing. 

Overall, this was (again) fairly easy to make; the duck is very low-maintenance and comes out beautifully. The apple and sausage stuffing took a lot longer than I had anticipated; I am not good at peeling, coring and quartering apples with just a knife and a peeler. I guess I should invest in a corer if I plan on making more apple dishes. Mysteriously, there was very little sausage fat that oozed out of the sausages, so I couldn’t really sauté the apples in it. The book made it sound like it would be as copious as bacon fat, but … nope, nothing. I ended up using some bacon fat and butter to help the process. Perhaps I should’ve mashed the sausages up more. 

Sadly, I was in a rush for this recipe as well (prepared in the midst of a 3-cheese fondue, butternut squash soup, magret de canard à l’orange, chocolate mousse and coconut flan), so I only have the final picture. For this set, imagine the following pictures:
duck giblets, onions, carrots and parsley simmering in chicken broth 
cherries steeped in port 
stuffing the duck with onions 
I had quite an adventure looking for duck in New York City on a random Saturday morning; I had confidently depended on the Union Square Greenmarket, where I’ve seen fresh farm duck for sale before. To my horror, Saturday was the one day of the week that Hudson Valley Farms did not make an appearance at USG. No duck was to be had. I tried Dickson’s Farmstand in Chelsea Market by phone, but their duck supply was actually behind; the ducks would not arrive until late afternoon or evening. I later found out that their ducks were not appropriate; they were large ducks, and not the small roasting canetons (ducklings) that I was seeking. Neither Whole Food’s nor Trader Joe’s sell roasting ducks, though Whole Food’s does sell magret de canard (2 breasts) in a box for $13. As I walked dejectedly to Trader Joe’s, I saw a sign for “fresh, organic meat” at Fairway’s, and I stumbled in with wild hope that I tried to suppress. The meat section was all the way at the back of the market, but they had them. Two roast ducklings (weighing just under 5 lbs, as opposed to Julia Child’s recommendation of 5.5 lbs), capon and even goose - wow. I don’t even know what capon is, but I’m definitely going to try some of her goose recipes some time. The duck was only a little more than $20, and the giblets were neatly packaged inside the duck. (Upon conversing with my mother, I learned that I could also obtain fresh duck - as in, pick and slaughter - for $30, 15 minutes away from my house . I’ll consider that for the future). 
Duck acquisition aside, this recipe proceeded very smoothly. I learned why a bulb baster was recommended; the duck oozes juices and fat at a prodigious rate, and it would’ve been so much easier to suck the juices out with a bulb rather than ladle them out awkwardly. In my haste, I didn’t read all of the directions carefully (which I realized when I made roast duck a week later); I had neglected to caramelize the onions, carrots and giblets, and I did not properly truss and prick the duck. I pricked the duck mid-way through roasting so that I could see whether the juices were running a rosy red or a pale, clear yellow (bloody red at that point). I had a mini-emergency in the middle; the saucepan with the cherries were teetering dangerously close to an edge, and fell. On the verge of tears, I stared at the cherries and port on the floor with horror before I realized that they were salvageable if I just … rinsed them off. I don’t know how that affected the lemon juice, sugar and port marinade, but the cherries were palpably port-infused and absolutely delicious in their plump juiciness. I don’t think the sauce came out as well as it could have and the cherry sauce definitely did not coat the meat as a sauce should, but the meat itself was superb. Much less work than a turkey, and roasting allows for excellent, slow temperature control. I definitely would make this again. 

Sadly, I was in a rush for this recipe as well (prepared in the midst of a 3-cheese fondue, butternut squash soup, magret de canard à l’orange, chocolate mousse and coconut flan), so I only have the final picture. For this set, imagine the following pictures:

  • duck giblets, onions, carrots and parsley simmering in chicken broth 
  • cherries steeped in port 
  • stuffing the duck with onions 

I had quite an adventure looking for duck in New York City on a random Saturday morning; I had confidently depended on the Union Square Greenmarket, where I’ve seen fresh farm duck for sale before. To my horror, Saturday was the one day of the week that Hudson Valley Farms did not make an appearance at USG. No duck was to be had. I tried Dickson’s Farmstand in Chelsea Market by phone, but their duck supply was actually behind; the ducks would not arrive until late afternoon or evening. I later found out that their ducks were not appropriate; they were large ducks, and not the small roasting canetons (ducklings) that I was seeking. Neither Whole Food’s nor Trader Joe’s sell roasting ducks, though Whole Food’s does sell magret de canard (2 breasts) in a box for $13. As I walked dejectedly to Trader Joe’s, I saw a sign for “fresh, organic meat” at Fairway’s, and I stumbled in with wild hope that I tried to suppress. The meat section was all the way at the back of the market, but they had them. Two roast ducklings (weighing just under 5 lbs, as opposed to Julia Child’s recommendation of 5.5 lbs), capon and even goose - wow. I don’t even know what capon is, but I’m definitely going to try some of her goose recipes some time. The duck was only a little more than $20, and the giblets were neatly packaged inside the duck. (Upon conversing with my mother, I learned that I could also obtain fresh duck - as in, pick and slaughter - for $30, 15 minutes away from my house . I’ll consider that for the future). 

Duck acquisition aside, this recipe proceeded very smoothly. I learned why a bulb baster was recommended; the duck oozes juices and fat at a prodigious rate, and it would’ve been so much easier to suck the juices out with a bulb rather than ladle them out awkwardly. In my haste, I didn’t read all of the directions carefully (which I realized when I made roast duck a week later); I had neglected to caramelize the onions, carrots and giblets, and I did not properly truss and prick the duck. I pricked the duck mid-way through roasting so that I could see whether the juices were running a rosy red or a pale, clear yellow (bloody red at that point). I had a mini-emergency in the middle; the saucepan with the cherries were teetering dangerously close to an edge, and fell. On the verge of tears, I stared at the cherries and port on the floor with horror before I realized that they were salvageable if I just … rinsed them off. I don’t know how that affected the lemon juice, sugar and port marinade, but the cherries were palpably port-infused and absolutely delicious in their plump juiciness. I don’t think the sauce came out as well as it could have and the cherry sauce definitely did not coat the meat as a sauce should, but the meat itself was superb. Much less work than a turkey, and roasting allows for excellent, slow temperature control. I definitely would make this again. 

This quiche looks exactly like the one I’ve made with Mme Dobel’s recipe, but it brings it to another level. Both are excellent in their subtle eggy flavor, the transcendent blend of mushrooms and leeks, the ease of preparation and the hint of cheese, but Julia Child’s recipe adds port and a pinch of nutmeg. Those two things truly make a difference (though I think it’s mostly the port). 
For this recipe, though, I actually combined her leek quiche (flamiche - I had no idea this even had a separate name) and mushroom quiche. Trader Joe’s sells whites of leek in a 6 oz. pack and mushrooms in a 10 oz. pack, so they add up to 1 lb. pretty easily. I adjusted the proportions of butter, salt and lemon juice, and the recipe is a tiny bit more involved when you’re preparing two sets of ingredients separately. It’s still an incredibly easy recipe, though, and I’ve actually made it twice in the last month. I was actually rushing through the recipe both times, so there are no pictures of the process. :( Imagine tender leeks boiling in a pot and sautéing gently in butter in one picture and mushrooms steeped in port in another. :)

This quiche looks exactly like the one I’ve made with Mme Dobel’s recipe, but it brings it to another level. Both are excellent in their subtle eggy flavor, the transcendent blend of mushrooms and leeks, the ease of preparation and the hint of cheese, but Julia Child’s recipe adds port and a pinch of nutmeg. Those two things truly make a difference (though I think it’s mostly the port). 

For this recipe, though, I actually combined her leek quiche (flamiche - I had no idea this even had a separate name) and mushroom quiche. Trader Joe’s sells whites of leek in a 6 oz. pack and mushrooms in a 10 oz. pack, so they add up to 1 lb. pretty easily. I adjusted the proportions of butter, salt and lemon juice, and the recipe is a tiny bit more involved when you’re preparing two sets of ingredients separately. It’s still an incredibly easy recipe, though, and I’ve actually made it twice in the last month. I was actually rushing through the recipe both times, so there are no pictures of the process. :( Imagine tender leeks boiling in a pot and sautéing gently in butter in one picture and mushrooms steeped in port in another. :)

when i saw the name of this recipe, i immediately thought “cardinal sin.” i knew that wasn’t the actual name because pêche = peach, whereas péché = sin. they’re pronounced completely differently, too. i did wonder, however, if it was a written french pun - that this dessert is so delicious that it’s a sin. maybe? probably not, though, because “cardinal sin” would actually be péché capital. french-american humor. :x 

anyway, this dessert was delightfully simple. it appears that raspberries aren’t in season in the asian markets near me, so i bought blueberries (2 pints for $1!) instead. the peaches looked luscious and firm, and i wanted to just eat them straightaway. i resisted, and i’m glad i did; they look lovely poached. this was my first time poaching fruit, and even though i definitely did NOT do it right, it went quite smoothly. i think i’ll add some grand marnier next time. 

i started off with 1/4 cup of sugar because i thought the 1:2 sugar:berry ratio was a bit high, and it was already pretty sweet. i looked again at the directions, which said “until purée is thick” - and so i added a little more sugar. it turns out that i didn’t really need to do that because it’s not supposed to be that thick. 

i haven’t taken any bites yet (waiting for friends to arrive in half an hour), but i’m excited. i’ve sampled the poaching liquid and the blueberry purée, and they were both excellent. i wish i had some mint to garnish it. 

however it turns out, i know i’m definitely going to make this again. 

_____update

verdict: definitely yummy. i also made a lot of mistakes. lessons: 

  • poach in enough liquid to cover the peaches (so that the peaches will be completely tender, not just partially so).
  • lessen sugar in both the poaching liquid and the compôte.
  • blend the compôte completely.
  • chill the compôtecompletely before pouring on top of the peaches. 

after jenny told me that she had a tomato gouda soup, i knew i had to have it. i had just organized the fridge today, so i knew that we had everything (or i could substitute some things). this isn’t a julia child recipe though. 

  1. sautée 2 small onions in 2 tbsp butter
  2. add two ripe tomatoes and enough tomato sauce to cover the onions in the pot 
  3. add 1 cup of chicken broth & 3/4 cup of vermouth (i got overenthusiastic and then i realized i should stop pouring) to simmer for 40 minutes
  4. add 3/4 cup of heavy cream (at least, i think that’s how much was left in the carton) + some milk 
  5. add shaved / shredded gouda (i decided that using a vegetable peeler was more efficient. maybe. maybe not). 
  6. add thyme / salt / pepper to taste
  7. mix and serve.

i was originally going to purée this, but then i remembered that i also love chunky soups. texture is so fun. :) next time, i’ll use smoked gouda. i really liked the way the soup turned out. 

evidently, i got a bit lazy with the photo-taking. (also a bit desperate because my mom was hungry and i just wanted to do everything quickly. and also it wasn’t that exciting). 

part of the reason why i started late to begin with was that i needed a food processor. we’ve always just made do with a blender, and since i broke it recently, i decided that it was time to invest in one. we trekked out and got a ninja kitchen 1200, which was perfect for the job. i’m excited to use it for nuts and doughs. 

anyway, the vichyssoise went quite smoothly. trader joe’s sells whites of leeks, and i thought yukon gold would provide a nice buttery taste to the soup. it’s an incredibly simple recipe; i just simmered the leeks and potatoes in the white stock and then pulverized them in the food processor. added some heavy cream and parsley, and that’s it. (well, i skipped the crucial “chill” step, but that’ll happen overnight. technically this is a leek & potato potage. i’ll enjoy vichyssoise for lunch tomorrow). 

i’d definitely make this again and experiment with it; i love leeks and potatoes, and the smooth mélange is so comforting. i’ve definitely come to associate leeks with paris, but my first leek soup actually came from a box. i was having dinner with my host family, and it was the appetizer. “c’est super bon!” i had exclaimed. “comment l’avez-vous fait?” my host mom replied “d’une boîte!” i was really confused until she dug up the box from the trashcan. i was utterly bewildered by this concept, and she explained how supermarkets had rows of soups in boxes. i realize now that it’s also an american thing, but i had always grown up with homemade soups. it’s nice to have something like this and know where everything came from. 

jazzed-up chicken stock from a box! i used trader joe’s organic free-range chicken broth and obediently added onions, carrots, celery, parsley springs, a bay leaf, and some thyme. oh and of course, some dry white vermouth. 
i was unimpressed with the final result, but perhaps i would’ve been more impressed if i had sampled the broth before i enthusiastically put everything in. either way, the idea that these vegetables had been simmering merrily for so long reassured me that it’d be a good base for the vichyssoise.

jazzed-up chicken stock from a box! i used trader joe’s organic free-range chicken broth and obediently added onions, carrots, celery, parsley springs, a bay leaf, and some thyme. oh and of course, some dry white vermouth. 

i was unimpressed with the final result, but perhaps i would’ve been more impressed if i had sampled the broth before i enthusiastically put everything in. either way, the idea that these vegetables had been simmering merrily for so long reassured me that it’d be a good base for the vichyssoise.