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Chris Hennes

Cooking with Dorie Greenspan's "Around my French Table"

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Its interesting - I made that pumpkin recipe this past weekend, didn't like it at all. It felt like much less than the sum of its parts -- and my dinner guests agreed. It smelled amazing, but the pumpkin (a pie pumpkin) was stringy and less flavorful than if I'd used a butternut squash... The bread and cheese somehow just felt soggy, rather than like in a good gruyere bread pudding... I wanted to love it, but instead -- left it on my plate.

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Emily, that's too bad. Maybe it was the pumpkin? Mine wasn't stringy at all. As for the stuffing, I resisted the urge to add a lot of cream or other liquid. Mine seemed somewhat dry when I stuffed the pumpkin, I assumed it would give off some liquid. That worked, it was moist but not soggy.

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I think that the pumpkin is critical...if your pumpkin isn't ideal (ie, watery, stringy, etc...and some times it's hard to tell until you eat it) you'll end up with a decidedly subpar product. I think the filling could easily be stuffed into acorn squash to great effect. I stuffed mine (made it last week) with french bread, prosciutto, lots of garlic, cream, thyme, green onions, and a mixed milk cheese cheese with a texture similar to parm, whose name escapes me at the moment. It was really good, very autumnal. This week I'm making the 20 minute honey glazed duck breasts...I've never cooked duck before so hopefully I don't end up messing up $14 worth of meat!

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I'm slowly digging into this book. I love Greenspan's anecdotes and recipe introductions. A cookbook is much better if it has some sort of narrative or notes with the recipes that tell the author's story.

I've tried 3 recipes so far with many more to come. As should be readily apparent from my comments, I am a somewhat experienced beginning home cook.

I made the gougeres about a month ago and they turned out fantastic. It was my first effort at making puff pastry and it couldn't have been easier. I'm not sure if that means Greenspan's instructions were very good or I just had beginner's luck.

I made the slow-cooked apples on Sunday. While I appreciated the excuse to finally buy a mandoline, I was less impressed with this recipe. The dish was definitely good, but when I think of how much effort it took to make 4 servings of a dessert of this quality that could be wolfed down in seconds, it really wasn't worth it. If I make it again, I'll probably use thicker apple slices (I used 1/16 inch slices this time) which should cut down on the assembly time significantly.

I made chicken diable on Monday night. Someone above mentioned she calls for just the right amount of curry in the recipe, but I don't recall curry being an ingredient. I'm going to have to check the book when I get home from work to see if I missed something critical. The best part of making this dish was when I finished reading the recipe and thought, "Oh, this is just sauteed chicken with a pan sauce!" I was introduced to pan sauces with Pam Anderson's "How to Cook Without a Book" and the experience I got from Anderson's book was very helpful in making Greenspan's dish. I liked the diable sauce as did my fiancee (although she said the sauce looked like barf -- an unfortunately fair observation). Greenspan's recipe didn't say how much to reduce the sauce (basically, move to the next step whenever the sauce starts bubbling again). I went ahead and reduced the sauce a bit since that's how I've made pan sauces in the past. When it was time to check seasoning at the end, it didn't seem quite right, so I whisked in a tablespoon of butter and that did the trick. Overall, I preferred this sauce to the red wine-mustard sauce from "How to Cook Without a Book." The shallots and garlic added nice flavor and texture. I'll definitely be making this again.


Edited by Derek J (log)

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I made this recipe a few weeks ago, and it immediately went into my "keeper" file. This beautiful book is also now on my "wish" list.

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I just found a brand new copy at my library's annual book sale for $10.00...I already have one, but it's on item checked off my "must buy for christmas gift" list.

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Gougeres are not puff pastry.

True, but they are often called "puffs" which is how I interpreted the mention above.

Dorie's recipe is a good one, though calling for a standing mixer to beat in the eggs seems like a lot of unnecessary clean-up work. I've always beaten them in by hand, directly in the pan in which I cooked the dough, using my favorite wooden spoon (and lots of elbow grease) and gotten perfect results.

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Gougeres are not puff pastry.

Then I must be confused. I thought puff pastry is synonymous with pate a choux and that the gougeres are made with pate a choux.

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Gougeres are not puff pastry.

Then I must be confused. I thought puff pastry is synonymous with pate a choux and that the gougeres are made with pate a choux.

Good heavens, yes, you are confused. No relation.

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Derek,

Pâte à choux is used for gougere, cream puffs, etc. and is a batter/paste spooned or piped into shapes before baking.

Pâte Feuilletée (puff pastry) is a multilayered pastry that is rolled into sheets before use. No eggs. A different thing altogether from pâte à choux.

Dorie's book uses puff pastry in a few recipes, but calls for frozen store bought. If you want to understand how it's made, read Julia or other classic texts on French cooking.

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Since there are just two for Christmas dinner I'm making Dorie's Curried Chicken, Peppers and Peas. So simple but so delicious.

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I have been making the Salmon in a Jar for months now, serving it regularly to guests as a starter (often with a small mixture of greens from the garden underneath) to rave reviews. I wonder, though, if it's possible to reuse the olive oil from either the salmon or the potato jar, whether for another batch of the same or for something else? Any ideas?

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That's a recipe I haven't tried, but it sounds like I ought to.

Dorie's introductory notes in the recipe suggest reusing the oils, either for cooking or for a vinaigrette, mayonnaise, etc. I might hesitate to use the oil from the cured salmon unless I planned on cooking with it. Here's a topic that I would read through first: Botulism concerns re infused oils and confit

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Shortly after I wrote my post I re-read the intro notes in the book and saw the answer right there, so sorry for not editing the post in time! And it's because of the botulism fear that I was reluctant to use the oil again.

And you should definitely try the recipe--it's a real winner!

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I cracked this book open again over the weekend and I'm gearing up to start making some more recipes. I tried the pumpkin-gorgonzola flan last night. I'm sad to say it was pretty awful. I think that's due to two factors: (1) the dish just wasn't suited to my tastes/preferences; and (2) I probably used too much salt. The recipe just calls for S&P without any quantification. I've got a good feel for how much seasoning to use with meats, but I was at a loss as to proper seasoning for a blender full of pumpkin, eggs, and cream. The final product was just disappointing until I tried it with the sour cream as recommended. That unleashed something simply awful on my taste buds. I have much higher hopes for the next recipe I'll try on Saturday.

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I made the Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good. I used a relatively small carnival squash from my CSA (2 pounds I think?), and about 1/2 of the stuffing recipe (reducing the relative amount of bread somewhat). The squash did not render any liquid, so the end result was not "bubbly" as she described. For some reason, I expected a softer consistency, almost like a puree. It was soft enough to cut into slices but still maintained some integrity. I thought that it was pretty tasty.

Before

8399954855_d0338d5520_z.jpg

After

8401296014_22e09e6fc5_z.jpg

Note: even with a small squash, there was way too much for 2 people.


Edited by FrogPrincesse (log)

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... I probably used too much salt. The recipe just calls for S&P without any quantification. I've got a good feel for how much seasoning to use with meats, but I was at a loss as to proper seasoning for a blender full of pumpkin, eggs, and cream.

Derek J, when I am faced with this situation I put a little of the mixture in a ramekin, and nuke it in the microwave to cook it. Then I taste it. The microwaved version will not taste exactly like the final dish, but it gets me in the ballpark for seasoning and other adjustments. Also, when seasoning eggs, my rule of thumb is one pinch of salt per raw egg.

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... I probably used too much salt. The recipe just calls for S&P without any quantification. I've got a good feel for how much seasoning to use with meats, but I was at a loss as to proper seasoning for a blender full of pumpkin, eggs, and cream.

Derek J, when I am faced with this situation I put a little of the mixture in a ramekin, and nuke it in the microwave to cook it. Then I taste it. The microwaved version will not taste exactly like the final dish, but it gets me in the ballpark for seasoning and other adjustments. Also, when seasoning eggs, my rule of thumb is one pinch of salt per raw egg.

That is some damn useful advice. Thanks!

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