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David Ross

Your Best French Bistro Dishes

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Hi all. One of my favorite cuisines is dishes that you would find in a French Bistro. It's a natural match for the great ingredients we have in the Pacific Northwest-seafood, wine and hazelnuts to name a few. Here are some recent dishes I did in a French Bistro theme:

Crispy Frogs Legs with a Parsley-Cilantro Sauce

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Moules Marniere-Mussels in White Wine-Saffron Broth

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Those look fantastic - I am inspired to make some entries for this thread using the Atlantic Northeast ingredients over here.

And then I got to thinking . . . I have been to many places in North America with the so-called "French Bistro" thing going on. I have even been to bistros in France, probably not as many as I would like. Yet I am not sure how to best characterized this kind of place and its food, and the "wiki-answer" seems a bit lame to me. It is a wildly popular and possibly distorted expression.

So what do you think as the thread-starter? Care to toss us a few words (and more pictures) for guidance?

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Hmm. Let me think about about getting something more catchy into the title of the thread to get it going and I'll get some more photos posted this weekend. (Got to get through the dreaded 'day job' this week before I can get back into the kitchen).

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Sorry, no photos, but I got a fantastic Tarte a l'Oignon recipe from an egulleter:

Pâte Brisée:

2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces

1/4 to 1/2 c. ice water

1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 8 to 10 seconds.

2. With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube. Pulse until dough holds together without being wet or sticky; be careful not to process more than 30 seconds. To test, squeeze a small amount together: If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

3. Divide dough into two equal balls. Flatten each ball into a disk, and wrap in plastic. Transfer to the refrigerator, and chill at least 1 hour.

Make and assemble tart:

1 recipe pâte brisée (enough for two tarts)

4 large yellow onions, peeled and very thinly sliced

8 oz. bacon, chopped into a medium dice

2 large eggs

1 cup heavy cream

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

pinch of nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

1. Roll out the pâte brisée, and line two 9” removable-bottom tart shell with them. Chill it in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

2. Cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove from the pan and dispose of the extra fat (1 T should remain in the pan). Set the bacon aside.

3. Add the onions to the pan used to cook the bacon and sauté over medium heat until they are lightly golden and tender. Set aside to cool slightly.

4. In a bowl, beat the eggs and cream together. Stir in the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add the onion and bacon to this mixture, stirring to combine.

5. Remove the tart shells from the refrigerator and fill each with half the egg mixture. Bake tarts for 25 minutes, or until the filling is golden brown and set. Serve warm.

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I love bistro food too, but I don't tend to cook that way often. I will be getting the Bouchon book from the library this week, thinking it might inspire more of this type of cooking.

By the way, beautiful photos, David. Lucky for us you figured out the mystery of posting photos!

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Peter-In my mind, a Bistro is a casual style restaurant that serves fresh, regional dishes keeping French technique at the forefront in terms of preparation.

Of course, my definition can be loosely interpreted, as is the term Bistro to describe many restaurants that have Bistro in their name.

If you think that a Bistro must follow strict, French tradition, you'd probably never see a Caesar Salad on the menu-it is reportedly an American invention.

However, if you walked into a restaurant called a Bistro in the Northwest, you'd probably find a Caesar Salad on the menu-maybe with Alder Smoked Salmon- next to more traditional French Bistro dishes like the Mussels in White Wine that I posted below. And I think that's o.k.

Today's restaurant world is so huge it can cater to everyone's tastes-those who will only go to a Bistro that follows only strict French tradition, or a restaurant in Seattle-thousands of miles away from Paris-that is based on the casual French Bistro in terms of technique but uses the great local products of the Northwest.

Many of the products we have in the Northwest would be found at Bistro's throughout France-fresh seafood, shellfish, hazelnuts, raspberries-simple seasonal foods freshly prepared.

Here are a few more dishes I did this last weekend that I think would fit into what we're discussing.

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This is a Dungeness Crab Salad that I tossed with just a bit of olive oil, fresh lemon juice and then some chopped chives. The base is a mousse of fresh asparagus. Sorry, it is from Chile-we won't have the famous Walla Walla asparagus up here for another few weeks. It is just asparagus that is steamed, drained, then pureed in a processor with fresh cream, salt, pepper and a bit of fresh thyme. I then made a roasted tomato vinaigrette-but I don't think that was successful-it isn't anywhere near tomato season and they were watery and bland. Maybe next time I'd use canned tomatoes to make the vinaigrette. In any case, this was a delicious starter.

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A very simple boneless leg of lamb that I spit roasted outside over the old Weber grill using a combination of charcoal and hickory wood. Then just boiled baby Yukon Gold Potatoes and Broccolini tossed in olive oil, butter and garlic. I could stretch this into the Bistro category because I know many Bistro menus have simple grilled meats.

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I usually make Tarte Tatin with fresh apples in Fall-another classic French Bistro dish-but I also love it made with other fruits-in this case Bartlett Pears. The caramel is to die for. I use my own pastry recipe, more like a pie crust dough than the puff pastry used in most recipes.

So maybe I've stretched the French Bistro theme a bit. But I try to stay within the boundaries of French tradition just using ingredients I'm familiar with where I come from. Hope you like the photos.

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That tarte looks divine! My favorite classic is onion soup a la gratinee (good ol' French onion soup). It takes about a half hour to make and you always get the 'yummy' faces at the table.

Fondue and steak frites are always on my bistro list. Escargot as well. Profiteroles with ice cream and chocolate sauce.

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Last week I was watching an old episode of “Cooking with MasterChefs” on the Cooking Channel. The original series, hosted by Julia Child, first appeared on PBS in the early 1990’s. The episode I saw last week featured the home-cooking dishes of Chef Andre Soltner, renowned Chef of the legendary New York French restaurant Lutece. Sadly, Lutece shuttered the doors in 2004, but Chef Soltner still teaches at the French Culinary Institute in New York.

After watching the episode with Chef Soltner, I remembered that I had the companion cookbook to the PBS series and so I thought it would be fitting to re-visit this topic by preparing two of Chef Soltner's favorite Alsatian dishes.

Alsatian Flammekueche-Bacon and Onion Tart with a Crème Fraiche Filling on Puff Pastry-

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Bacheofe, Alsatian Meat Stew-Lamb, Beef, Pork and Pork Feet Cooked with Potatoes and Onions in Riesling.

Preparations for the Bacheofe begin a day in advance by marinating the meats in Riesling and onion, garlic and a bouquet garni-

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The next day, a casserole pot is lined with a layer of potatoes, the marinated meats, a layer of sliced onions and a final layer of potatoes. The strained marinade is poured into the casserole and a cup or so of dry white wine is added-

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The key to cooking the Bacheofe is to create a seal around the casserole with a paste of flour so the lid is locked down and no steam escapes during cooking. I had seen this technique in photographs in old cookbooks, but I hadn’t used it myself so I was a bit unsure that it would work-

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After 3 hours in the oven, the Bacheofe was finished. It takes a sharp paring knife and prying to lift the lid off the casserole, revealing the fragrant scent of the wine and meat stew.

Bacheofe, Alsatian Meat Stew-

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Chef Soltner’s menu ends with a Tarte Citron "Mama"-a Lemon Almond Tart. But seeing that I live in Washington State and that we are in the midst of Apple harvest, one wouldn’t think of preparing a lemon dessert the first week of October. Really, only an Apple Tarte Tatin can be on the menu tonight-

Tarte Tatin-

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You can review our Tarte Tatin topic here. .

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Pork Trotters with Sauce Gribiche

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I made the trotters using the recipe from Keller's Buchon, using hocks only. I plated it as the "Head to Toe" dish is done in the French Laundry. This was quite good. One of my most impressive dishes so far.

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jnash85, that looks beautiful. Can you clarify, for those of us without the French Laundry cookbook, is that half a lemon rind topping the pork? Preserved lemon?

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jnash85, that looks beautiful. Can you clarify, for those of us without the French Laundry cookbook, is that half a lemon rind topping the pork? Preserved lemon?

Its half of a hard boiled egg yolk. The only thing that's missing is a sprig of tarragon.

Beautiful photo. Now that's a dish that would definately turn someone on to "trotters."

This was my first venture into anything like this. It was great, but very heavy. I'm slicing the leftover terrine for tomorrows lunch with a fresh baguette.


Edited by jnash85 (log)

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Well, you've sure done a great job of preserving the shape and vibrant yellow color of the egg yolk. Very nice plating.

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I love any type of "Au Gratin" dish-seafood, potatoes, vegetables. Last night I did a dinner celebrating fresh Pacific Northwest seafood with oysters, sea scallops and Dungeness crab.

The Dungeness Crab season off the coast of Oregon and Washington started the first week of December. It's been a good season so far with high yields of crab and the weather has been agreeable for the fisherman. I buy my Dungeness from a fishmonger who only sources deep-ocean crabs, (rather than crabs out of more shallow bay waters). The water in the deep-ocean is colder, resulting in crabs that are larger with more firm meat than their little bay cousins.

I started with a basic white bechamel sauce of butter, flour (Wondra), milk and cream. Seasoning for the sauce was nutmeg, cayenne, Old Bay and a few dashes of Worcestershire. The nutmeg adds a sweet hint of spice, the cayenne heat, the Worcestershire a tangy note and Old Bay accents the seafood flavor. For this gratin I added Swiss cheese, (sometimes I'll use English Cheddar).

The gratin was baked in a 450 oven for about 15 minutes then run under the broiler for 3-4 minutes. Served on top of buttered baguette slices-

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