Category Archives: French Fridays with Dorie

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.

IMG_2304

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.

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Celebration Week #2: My Never-Doubt-Dorie Moments {ffwd}

NeverDoubt

As you know, after 4 years, 7 months, and 21 days (thanks to Trevor at SisBoomBlog! for counting), the bloggers with French Fridays with Dorie finished cooking their way through Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table. To celebrate crossing the finish line, we’re spending the next few Fridays reflecting on the experience.

This week’s theme is “My Never-Doubt-Dorie Moment”, meaning the recipe that provided you with an unexpected takeaway, whether a lesson, idea or new technique. With a book of over 300 recipes, choose just one takeaway is not possible. Instead, I’ll share my Top 5 takeaways from Around My French Table (in no particular order).

  1. You CAN make restaurant-worthy food at home. I consider myself a confident and experienced home cook. And yet, prior to embarking on this “cook the book” adventure, there were some dishes that I always ordered in restaurants but never attempted at home. Two of my favorite things to order out are Seared Duck Breasts and Seared Scallops. Little did I know how easy these are to prepare at home. Given Howard’s “fruit in savory dishes” thing, I’ll admit that the sauces in AMFT didn’t have staying power, but now I don’t hesitate to sear duck or scallops in my own kitchen. These have displaced lamb chops as special occasion fare when we want to stay in to celebrate.
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  3. Cooking En Papillote is brilliant. Every time we made something wrapped in foil (or en papillote) and baked it in the oven, I marveled at the result. While I don’t always remember this technique, I should. Vegetables, herbs, and optionally some protein sealed in a package to oven steam to perfection is a quick and easy way to get dinner on the table. The combinations are endless, allowing you to be inspired by what’s seasonal.
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  5. Quiche will never be out of fashion. Tarts, both savory and sweet, are my favorite things to prepare. This includes quiche. I grew up with very custardy quiches based on my mother’s infatuation with Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. As long as you have eggs and milk (oh, and pastry crust), quiche is another one of those things that can be made so many different ways depending on your mood and the contents of your refrigerator. What I really loved about Dorie’s version of quiche is the ratio of custard to “other stuff”. Her recipes made thin, shallow quiches that were chockfull of filling bound with just enough custard to hold it together. These proportions make a quiche that’s perfect for lunch and is my new standard.
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  7. Slice-and-bake cookies can be savory too! I’m a huge fan of slice-and-bake cookies, especially when a few rolls are stashed in the freezer. Instant gratification! Or a great way to impress unexpected guests. I was thrilled to discover several savory versions for baked nibbles. Who would have thought that making less sweet sable dough and adding savory ingredients like oil-cured olives or seaweed could make an unusual and delicious accompaniment to pre-dinner libations? I’ll add the fabulous cheez-it-ish crackers to this category as well.
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  9. Press-in tart dough makes dessert so much easier. As I mentioned, I really love making tarts. The discovery of Dorie’s Sweet Tart Dough added a new dimension to many of my desserts. I love that this dough can be pressed into the pans. Of course, I used this dough when called for in AMFT desserts, but I’ve used it over and over as the base for creations of my own. I particularly like it prebaked for tarts or tartlets filled with fresh fruit, but you can’t go wrong with any sweet filling.

Over these past 4+ years, I seemed to glean something new from each week’s recipe. Many of the dishes were already in my repertoire, but making the same thing from a different recipe is instructive. In some cases, Dorie’s recipe was hands down better in technique, ingredients, and presentation. In other cases, I preferred an aspect of Dorie’s recipe and have now adapted my own to incorporate what I learned. I think that’s one of the great things about a passion for cooking. You are never done learning new tricks.

Note that I haven’t actually finished ALL the recipes in the book yet. This week, I made the lemon barley pilaf. I’m not quite sure how I missed this one the first time around. We enjoyed this simple side dish, an nice alternative to rice, which is studded with colorful vegetables and brightened with some lemon zest. It paired perfectly with roasted chicken thighs and a seasonal favorite, sautéed fiddleheads. I have 5 more recipes to go. Stay tuned to see if I complete them all!

LemonBarleyPilaf

To read about my Dorista friends’ “Never Doubt Dorie” moments, check out their posts here.