Daily Archives: 17 June 2015

the final four {ffwd}

FinalFour

When the French Fridays group completed the final recipe in Around My French Table last month, I had 6 recipes to make up. As of last week, I was down to four — so close that it seemed ridiculous not to be sure and finish up before the last celebratory week was over. I’m proud to report that as of today — I did it!

Two of the recipes were made back in December 2011, right around the time when I was hosting a huge party to celebrate my 50th birthday. The Swiss chard-stuffed pork loin and matafan (fluffy mashed potato cakes) always seemed like the perfect foundation for a special occasion dinner or to serve to company. For several months afterwards, this pair of recipes was always in the back of my mind, and then I just forgot about them. When I reviewed the list of recipes completed, there they were, just waiting.

Finding ourselves home unexpectedly for dinner last Saturday night, I decided it was now or never. The pork loin is butterflied and stuffed with a slightly spicy mixture of Swiss chard cooked with garlic and onions. The recipe calls for a burst of sweetness in the form of raisins, but someone in my house would object (I’m looking at you, Howard), so I used my standard stand-in for raisins in savory dishes — oil-cured olives — instead. The trickiest part of this dish was tying the stuffed roast. I watched several different videos, but they all went too fast. In the end, I managed something that worked, even if it lacked the elegance of the video’s final product.

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The roasted pork loin looked impressive with its swirl of green. While it rested, I cooked the matafan. These fluffy potato pancakes were completely different from the latkes I make from shredded potatoes. The whipped egg whites made them much lighter, and they easily cooked up in a small amount of butter, rather than the sea of oil that latkes are fried in.

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I rounded out the meal with raw, freshly picked sugar snap peas from our garden. It was a delicious meal, even if we weren’t celebrating anything, except maybe being nearer to completing all the AMFT recipes. I would make the pork roast again, maybe playing around with different fillings, or even trying the same filling to stuff a leg of lamb. The potato pancakes are worth remembering too.

The final two recipes remaining were desserts that I couldn’t get that excited about the first time around. They were desserts that I knew that Howard wouldn’t try. I’ve learned about “minify-ing” or should we call it “Mardi-fying”, but I wasn’t that inspired. Again, it was now or never.

I had a meeting to go to on Monday night, so I motivated myself to make a half-sized Blueberry-Mascarpone Roulade. This is a sponge cake rolled around a whipped cream and mascarpone filling dotted with blueberries that were slightly cooked in a light syrup and topped with a heavy dose of confectioners’ sugar. The stumbling block here is that I’ve never been a big fan of whipped cream.

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I’ll admit that the roulade makes a stunning presentation. My favorite part was the blueberries, or maybe even the syrup, which I’ve been using to flavor seltzer water. With strawberry season upon us, I could see making this with strawberries for a fancy version of strawberry shortcake. The blueberry version was a bit hit with my colleagues at the meeting, but I’m not sure I’d make this one again.

And finally (drum roll please), the last recipe to make was Floating Islands. I was definitely NOT excited about this one. It just isn’t the kind of dessert I eat: meringue served on a sea of crème anglaise topped with ice cream and your choice of caramel or chocolate sauce. Last summer, when I met up with some of the Doristas in New York, I ordered it for dessert just to see what it was. It was OK, but I still wasn’t wow-ed. However, how could I let floating islands stand between me and an “Incomplete” on this project to complete an entire cookbook? So I just sucked it up. I made a half batch of the crème anglaise and a single baby meringue. I topped the island with a scoop of sea salt caramel ice cream and some warmed fleur de sel caramel sauce. Voilà!

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You know what? It wasn’t half bad. I was pleasantly surprised. I impressed myself with the presentation — borderline restaurant worthy. It was a lot of work to serve just one, and given that I know Howard won’t eat it, I’m not sure I’d make it again. I will admit that I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would.

And with that, I have completed all the recipes in Around My French Table. Whew! I don’t know if I thought I really would.

Stay tuned on Friday for my final installment reflecting on this multi-year project that now comes to an end.