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.

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Posted on 17 June 2015, in French Fridays with Dorie and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. YAY for minifying. I just minified the last recipe I will post about for FFWD today. Minify ALL the things! And hey – welcome to the alumni :)

  2. Woo hoo! You made it.
    Glad you got through those last four.

  3. Betsy!!! Congratulations!!!! Well done, my friend. I am in awe of all of you who made it to the finish line. It was fun to read of your final four. So very exciting.

  4. Congratulations Betsy! Your floating island looks perfect – hard to go wrong with the ice cream and caramel sauce. Can’t wait to see your name in the Graduates roster.

  5. Congratulations! I’m so impressed that you made it through every single one. But now you have me craving dessert and I haven’t even had dinner yet. When oh when is that husband going to get home?

  6. Congratulations on finishing all the recipes! All of them look wonderful. I felt a great sense of accomplishment when I made the floating islands, even though I realized it’s not a difficult dessert to make, at all. I love the Swiss chard-stuffed pork loin and I think I liked the matafan, too. The roulade is on my make up list, but I might get to that one this week. The markets are overflowing with blueberries now.

  7. Congratulations on finishing! I think I’ve basically made everything, but still haven’t gotten the post up. Oh well. It’s way too late now but hopefully I’ll get around to it eventually….It’s funny how different people’s tastes are. Those were actually two of my favorite desserts!

  8. Congratulations on finishing! I’m sure you are happy you didn’t leave those handful of recipes unfinished.

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