Monthly Archives: 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.

Celebration Week #3: Play-It-Again Dorie {ffwd}

Spaetzle

As we (too) rapidly approach the end of the French Fridays with Dorie group’s celebration of the multi-year journey cooking through Around My French Table, this week’s reflection is about the recipe in the book that I’ve made the most often, in other words, “The Repeater”. Over the past several years, as I tried one new recipe a week from the same book, there are several recipes that have landed my arsenal of regular recipes. In trying to pick the one that makes it onto the menu more than any other, the winner has to be Späetzle.

If you were following my blog back when I made späetzle for the very first time back in January 2013, bear with me while I repeat this story. When Howard and I got married (we’re talking 1991), a blank recipe was enclosed in the invitations to my wedding shower. Each guest was asked to share a favorite recipe which were collected into a beautiful wooden recipe box. This box still sits on my counter today, with all these treasured recipes inside, along with over 20 years accumulation of others.

My Recipe Box

My Recipe Box

Around this time, my mother had just moved to Germany. Rather than sharing an old family recipe, her card was for something I’d never heard of: späetzle. Along with the recipe, she gave me a späetzle press. At the time we got married, we lived in a tiny apartment and the reality of merging two households into one space meant that most of the shower and wedding gifts were going to stay in their boxes for a while.

SpaetzlePress

A couple of years later, we moved to our house (the same one where we live today). Many of the gifts were unpacked and put to use, but the späetzle maker stayed in the basement. When I browsed my recipe box, from time to time, I’d linger on the späetzle card, but would move on to another tried-and-true favorite.

Fast forward over 20 years. The “Dorie” recipe of the week was for späetzle. So I unearthed the späetzle maker from the basement and went to work. What a revelation! These homemade noodles were so much easier to make that Italian pasta. And you could make them ahead and just reheat them.

Since the very first time, I learned that many of my friends and family adore späetzle. Why didn’t they share the secret with me long ago? Späetzle makes an impressive side dish for a dinner party. Thanks to my German-born friend Sabine, I’ve learned it goes perfectly with schnitzel made from chicken or pork. I’ve also made several späetzle casseroles from Melissa Clark recipes using various combinations of caramelized onions, kielbasa, and melty cheese, a sort of German mac-and-cheese. No matter how you dress it up, or not, späetzle is a real crowd pleaser.

So thank you Dorie and French Fridays for inspiring me to finally make späetzle. Every time I make it even though I make Dorie’s recipe, it reminds me of my mother (who is now gone). The recipes are similar, though not exactly the same. The differences don’t seem worth trying (Mom’s uses less flour and milk) because I like the texture of Dorie’s, so there.

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I only regret that I lost nearly 22 years of späetzle enjoyment. The recipe can be found here on Epicurious so you can start enjoying your own späetzle now!

I forgot to take a photo again, but last night, I met up with Cher for dinner in Boston. It was Friday, so, naturally, we ate at a French bistro, Bastille Kitchen. We had such a nice evening catching up. The time flew by!

Also, I put another missed recipe behind me. I finally made Gnocchi à la Parisienne. Speaking of international variations on mac-and-cheese, this is the French version. Briefly boiled choux pastry is layered with béchamel and Gruyere cheese and baked until puffed and bubbly. I didn’t use a deep enough dish so there was some smoking from the buttery goodness that bubbled onto the oven floor, but other than that, this was delicious! It reminded me of a cross between mac-and-cheese and a breakfast strata. Despite Dorie’s warnings to the contrary, the leftovers weren’t half bad either. (Four more recipes to go!)

Parisian Gnocchi

To check out the other Dorista’s “Repeater” recipes, check out their links here. Stay tuned for my final tribute to Around My French Table and French Fridays with Dorie next week.