Monthly Archives: November 2011

French Fridays with Dorie: Cook’s Choice

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving. We did. It was a sort of progressive Thanksgiving, dinner and dessert #1 with Howard’s aunt, uncle, and cousin, followed by dessert #2 with our friends next-door. I made this cranberry sauce recipe to bring to dinner and made a pumpkin cake for dessert with the neighbors.

For French Fridays with Dorie this week, Laurie made it “Cook’s Choice”. This cook chose the Lyonnaise Garlic and Herb Cheese, subtitled Boursin’s mama by Dorie, on pages 20-21 of Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table. This was supposed to be a pre-Thanskgiving snack, but I didn’t have time to make it until today, so it was the appetizer for our post-Thanksgiving turkey enchiladas.

Ingredients were promising: ricotta cheese, chopped shallot, minced garlic, fresh herbs, olive oil, and a smidge of vinegar. The ricotta drains overnight to thicken it up before gently folding in the other ingredients, then letting it sit in the refrigerator for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend.

Miraculously, herbs are still growing in my herb garden. I never would have expected to be able to use my own herbs on November 25. We haven’t really had a hard frost yet. The parsley is still going strong, and the chives and chervil must think it is spring because there is new growth.

I really wanted to like this cheese spread, and I might like it better another time with some tweaks. The garlic and shallot flavors weren’t as strong as I expected, and I even added an extra clove of garlic. The cheese tasted mostly of the fresh cheese, not of the aromatics I added. I tried adding more salt, but it still didn’t boost the flavors quite enough. If I try this again, I would double the amount of both the garlic and shallot that I used, maybe the herbs too.

I served the cheese along with black olive tapenade with baguette toasts. Howard experimented by spreading a layer of tapenade on the toast and topped it with the cheese spread which turned out to be a winner idea. The combination of both spreads in each bite made up for the blandness of the cheese spread.

(Update on Sunday: The cheese spread has really improved the longer it sits. Initially, it sat about 4 hours, after which I found it bland. Both yesterday and today, I spread this on toast for breakfast and with a little sprinkle of salt on top, it was perfect. I’m no longer disappointed.)

I’m looking forward to reading the other Dorista’s posts this week because each cook chose their own Dorie recipe. It will give me a preview of other recipes from the book that I haven’t tried yet. If you’re interested you can find those links here.

French Fridays with Dorie: Braised Cardamom-Curry Lamb

This week, for French Fridays with Dorie, there’s another main dish on deck. This time, it’s a one-pot dinner, my favorite kind of thing: braised cardamom-curry lamb.

This hearty stew was perfect for the cold snap that just arrived. The curry flavors in this stew aren’t ones I usually cook with, but I liked the variety it added to the week’s meals.

After the deception I tried to pull with last week’s soup, I didn’t think I would be able to sneak most of the fruity ingredients into the lamb stew. Miraculously, Howard does eat figs, dried or fresh, but I knew the raisins and apples were out. I had to come up with a different plan.

When making stews, I will typically halve the meat and double the vegetables that the recipe calls for. For this recipe, I started with about 2 pounds of lamb shoulder chops I had from our meat CSA. There were more bones than I expected, so I ended up with only about one pound of lamb cubes. As a substitute for the apples, I used a butternut squash cut into one-inch cubes and left out the potatoes.

With its braising time of over an hour plus prep time, this recipe is definitely not after-work-weeknight cooking. I ended up making it last night, but we didn’t eat it yet.. The steps were straightforward, though there was a lot of chopping. First, onions and garlic were slowly cooked with curry and cardamom until they softened. Then, the cubes of lamb were stirred in until lightly browned. Water, honey, figs, mint, and squash were added and then braised in a tightly covered Dutch oven until tender, about an hour for me.

I keep calling this a stew, but braise is more accurate. The meat and vegetables were tender like a stew, but there wasn’t much liquid left in the pot. I tasted a few bites of lamb, squash, and liquid, before I put this away last night. I liked the warm, spicy flavors from the curry and sweet vegetables. We’ll have this for dinner tonight, and I plan serve it over egg noodles with a green salad on the side.

If you’d like to see how other versions of braised lamb came out, check out the links of other creative bloggers’ posts at French Fridays with Dorie. The recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table.

I want to wish a happy Thanksgiving to all my FFwD friends and their loved ones. One of the many things I’m thankful for this year is the opportunity to meet (virtually, anyway) so many other cooks that share my passion for food and cooking. I’m enriched by the experience.