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