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bleudauvergne

Cooking with 'The Cooking of Southwest France'

379 posts in this topic

Here are my notes about the "Braised Short Ribs with Prunes":

I finally made this recipe and we had it for dinner last night. It was excellent. It had wonderful flavor, very deep and complex. The prunes, of which I was a little skeptical, worked great with this dish. All in all a winning recipe. That being said I do have a few comments mainly to clarify a few things:

Prep time: about 45 minutes

Cooking time: about 4 total

• The only “problem” with the recipe, and I use this term very loosely since it really did not affect the outcome, is that there was too much solids in relation to the liquid especially during the marinating period. It was impossible to keep ALL solids submerged in six cups of wine. Either the solids should be reduced a little or the liquid increased.

• In the ingredient list you specify a cup of thyme sprigs tied into a bundle…..It was clear to me that you meant to wrap the whole thing in a piece of cheese cloth, but it might not be apparent to everyone who reads it and tying peppercorns in a bundle might be tricky . So just some clarification will be good.

• I did not need to use any lemon juice or verjuice, I thought the acidity was perfect.

• In step 5: 3 hours might be way too long to braise the ribs. Mine were done in two and

• came out very tender. You also might want to move this line “Set aside the skillet without washing for use in the next step” to the end of step 4 since people might already wash it by the time the ribs are being braised (I did).

• In step 6: I love the skimming process you have in here, it works great!!! However, isn’t it a good idea to reduce the sauce in a metal pot instead of the earthen dish that might be used for braising? I used my only clay pot to braise, a Chinese sand pot, but to reduce it I was too worried it might crack so I put the sauce in a metal pot and continued to skim and reduce.

• In step 7: it is a little unclear here. Where did the casserole come from? In step 6 we put everything (ribs and sauce) in a “container”. I assumed you meant to put everything back in the casserole braising dish and that is what I did but the step needs to specify that.

Please let me know if anything I said does not make sense or is not clear. I enjoyed this dish very much and look forward to making it again.

PS: I could find fresh Porcinis so I used regular white mushrooms. I did use the dried Porcini in the marinade though.


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Received my copy of TCOSWF last week but have not had time to read through it. On first glance, it looks really impressive — a must-buy for anyone with the slightest interest in the region and its food.

On the weekend, I celebrated the book's arrival by making the Casserole of Moulard Duck Breasts with Potatoes as Prepared in the Region of the Bigorre: Partially cook duck breasts in a skillet, then set them aside. In a casserole (I used a well-seasoned cast iron chicken fryer), cook thinly sliced sweet onion and diced ventrèche (pancetta) in some of the rendered duck fat. Add peeled and thinly sliced red potatoes, turn them in the fat, press down to form a disk, and cook until the slices begin to brown. Turn and press again, cover and cook over low heat. Repeat, adding a bay leaf. Repeat, adding salt and pepper. Repeat, adding chopped parsley and garlic. Slice the duck breasts crosswise. Place the slices atop the potatoes, season, cover, raise the heat and cook 2 to 3 minutes. As you might expect, this dish was rustic, warming and tailor-made for a bottle of Madiran. It was also easy to put together in under an hour. And it looked almost as good as the photo in the book. The only hitch (and a minor one at that) was that some of the onions were blackened by the end; however, they were easy to pull out.

I had the good fortune to test several recipes for the book in the summer and fall of 2004. The most involved was the traditional confit of duck. Others included the sous-vide duck confit ("confit lite" was how Paula referred to it); duck breasts cooked on a string; an early version of the duck breasts with mulberry cream; two or three potato recipes; and the Salt-Cured Pork Belly with Fresh Fava Bean Ragout. The others I'll discuss in future posts. For now, I'll follow other testers' lead and append a slightly edited version of my comments on that amazing pork belly.

A description of the dish: The recipe comes from Jean-Pierre Moullé, whom many here will know from his days as a chef at Chez Panisse. You start four days out by brining the pork belly in a mixture of water, salt, sugar, bay, allspice, clove and pepper. On the fourth day, you put the belly on a bed of onions, carrots, garlic and fennel in a roasting pan, add sweet wine, cover and braise in a medium oven for 2 hours, then uncover and roast for another 30 minutes. After cooling, you cut the belly into 4-ounce portions, which are then reheated on a grill pan and served atop a ragout of fava beans, artichoke hearts, fennel, pancetta and shallots.

My comments:

First, and most important, I thought the dish was fabulous, as did my guests. The meat was unbelievably succulent and flavourful, easily the best pork belly I've encountered. (Tellingly, one of my guests, an eat-to-live type with a tiny appetite, raved about the dish and actually asked for seconds.) The ragout was the perfect foil, earthy, savoury, subtly complex. In other words, the recipe's a winner and one I'll be making again.

The cooking went smoothly, exactly as you describe, with one exception. That was the skinning of the favas, which I had enlisted two of my guests to help with. The problem was, the beans didn't pop out of their skins as advertised. On reading the recipe, I had wondered whether the favas were to be kept frozen until the last minute; on rereading it, I concluded they probably were; and when I asked my guests for their interpretation, they agreed with frozen but felt that the script was ambiguous. [Paula later confirmed that they were to be peeled while frozen. She also provides an alternate peeling method in the book.]

Anyway, we didn't have time to let the favas defrost so we peeled them while they were frozen, finding that we could warm them in our hands, slit the skin with our fingernails and  then squeeze the beans out by applying pressure at various places around the edge. In other words, it was quite laborious. My two helpers spent about 15 minutes before I sat down to help them for another 10 minutes or so, whence the 50-minute figure in the work times below.

I should mention that my favas (gourganes in Québécois) were locally grown and purchased at the farmers' market, where they're sold only in baskets. A medium-size basket held around 6½ pounds of beans in their shells; that in turn worked out to a generous 4½ cups of shelled beans. Also, I didn't wrap them in freezer-proof paper but put them in a tight-fitting Ziploc freezer bag.

I used an inexpensive Mont St-Croix [a Sauternes-like sweet wine] for cooking the belly.

I made the dish while house-siitting for some vacationing friends. I knew they had a ridged grill pan but, the night of the dinner, couldn't find it. So I fired up their gas barbecue and finished the meat there. It went supremely well; the crust on the meat was first-rate and the slight smokiness added another layer of flavour, so this is something I'll do again. The downside was having to run back and forth between the grill and the stove, where I was finishing up the ragout. Also, with such fatty meat, flare-up is a potential problem on a grill, meaning you have to keep an eye peeled at all times.

Maybe we were big eaters, but after serving four at dinner, I found there was one and a half servings of leftover meat and about two and half servings of leftover ragout. For the first leftover meal, I wrapped the meat in foil and reheated it in the oven and reheated the ragout on the stove. It was good if not quite as scrumptuous as the night before; the meat was drier and the flavour less complex while the ragout was mellower, less vibrant. My vacationing friends got to taste the dregs of the ragout, however, and proclaimed it excellent.

I wondered about wine pairings and so opened two reds by way of experiment: a Clos de la Briderie 2002, Vielles vignes, Touraine-Mesland and a Domaine du Clos du Fief 2002, Juliénas, Michel Tête. Both were excellent but the first — a fruity blend of cabernet franc, cot (malbec) and gamay — achieved real synergy with the food and got the Thunderbird award (first bottle emptied). With hindsight, I can see one of my favourite Gaillac reds, Domaine de la Causse Marine's Pérouzelles, making a fine and more regionally appropriate match.

Work time: 121 minutes

- shelling favas: 15 minutes

- preparing brine: 7 minutes

- turning and drying off belly: 5 minutes

- preparing veggies and belly for roasting: 12 minutes

- browning belly, draining fat: 5 minutes

- skinning favas: 50 minutes

- preparing other ingredients for ragout and garnish: 15 minutes

- cooking ragout and cutting/grilling belly: 10 minutes

- final assembly (on individual plates): 2 minutes

Unattended cooking time for pork: 155 minutes

- cooking under wrap: 120 minutes

- browning: 35 minutes

Unattended cooking time for ragout: 10 minutes


Edited by carswell (log)

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...

Anna, Amazon usually ships things as they are available even with free shipping. Check on your order status, it may be in the mail already! Mine was mailed out yesterday along with Paula's bookl on Mediterranean cooking.

:sad: No, it is still showing a ship date of November 8. I suspect that Amazon.ca won't ship until the order is complete. But thanks anyway.


Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Never call a stomach a tummy without good reason.” William Strunk Jr., The Elements of Style

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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As noted in the first post, I have moved this thread from the France forum to the Cooking forum for further posts on recipes that we prepare from Paula's book. :smile:

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Now that I'm living in Virginia, i.e. ham heaven, I'm wondering if I can substitute the fabulous local salt-cured country hams for the Bayonne? Paula doesn't recommend it, but it seems like it would work. I thought it would be great in the autumn squash soup mentioned upthread. Any opinions?

Steven

Steven,

The recipe I tested included Jambon de Bayonne that was marinated in milk to even out the flavors. I am sure that the same method would help to take the edge off the saltiness of the country ham. In the substitution, I would probably be more worried about aligning the texture of the country ham with the rest of the dish than the flavor. But in the soup, I don't think that this is a big concern.

I'd be happy to taste test for you if you're uncertain about results. :biggrin:


If someone writes a book about restaurants and nobody reads it, will it produce a 10 page thread?

Joe W

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Last week, during my blog, I made the Evening Garlic Soup in the Manner of the Correze.

gallery_6263_35_247862.jpg

My notes from my blog:

Evening Garlic Soup in the Manner of the Correze from Paula Wolfert's brand new The Cooking of Southweat France: Recipes from France's Magnificent Rustic Cuisine , baguette with Hope Butter, and a wedged Brandywine. Note that I got the heel. My kids know better than to take the crustiest parts of the bread!

The soup was spectacular. For something so simple (onions, garlic, chicken broth, a bit of butter or duck fat, two eggs and a bit of red wine vinegar), is was very rich. I wondered if that amount of soup would feed all of us, and it did. Especially good was baguette crusts dipped in the soup! Best of all, once we got home from Diana's parent/teacher conferences, it was only 15 minutes to finish the soup while I got everything else ready.

I noted later that night in my blog that my house was perfumed with the lovely aroma, and I was disappointed the next morening when that aroma had dissipated.

Definitely a must make again. Not only is it simple and fast to make, I always have all of the ingredients on hand.


Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

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:sad: No, it is still showing a ship date of November 8.  I suspect that Amazon.ca won't ship until the order is complete.  But thanks anyway.

Mine only arrived yesterday, despite being ordered on 9/24 and "usually ships within 24 hours" listed. I think Amazon is on a downward spiral and they can forget my holiday dollars. Once it finally came in, they shipped it via DHL, who then delivered it to the post office! Took forever but after glancing at it last night, I'd say it was worth the wait. I haven't been this excited about a book in a long while. As I read the recipes, I can imagine having to think a bit more than usual but nothing looks impossible- my favorite kind of book!


Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

Twitter @RanchoGordo

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My copy won't arrive for a couple of days, and then I'll be out of town for a week, but I can't wait to get started! I have some gorgeous shallots and some duck fat, so I'd like to do that confit. Is it just unpeeled shallots, covered in duck fat, at a very low temp for several hours?

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The Rabbit Compote with Prunes is ridiculously delicious and completely surprising. It is basically a rabbit rillette served with thin slices of buttered bread, but it is just so damned good. The rabbit is just plain delicious and the prunes add a nice contrast. I rarely stoop to licking my plate in public, but this rabbit was just too much temptation.


Edited by fiftydollars (log)

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Now that I'm living in Virginia, i.e. ham heaven, I'm wondering if I can substitute the fabulous local salt-cured country hams for the Bayonne? Paula doesn't recommend it, but it seems like it would work. I thought it would be great in the autumn squash soup mentioned upthread. Any opinions?

Steven

Steven,

The recipe I tested included Jambon de Bayonne that was marinated in milk to even out the flavors. I am sure that the same method would help to take the edge off the saltiness of the country ham. In the substitution, I would probably be more worried about aligning the texture of the country ham with the rest of the dish than the flavor. But in the soup, I don't think that this is a big concern.

I'd be happy to taste test for you if you're uncertain about results. :biggrin:

Thanks, Joe, I'll proceed then. I wish everyone had access to these hams! Imagine going into any of your local supermarkets, even Walmart!, and being able to pick up a whole country ham any time, or, what I usually do, packaged thin slices, for just a few bucks. What I like to do best with the slices is throw them on the grill for a couple minutes per side then make a delicious HLT -- with the ham doing a tasty cameo for the bacon. Amazing!

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The Rabbit Compote with Prunes is ridiculously delicious and completely surprising. It is basically a rabbit rillette served with thin slices of buttered bread, but it is just so damned good. The rabbit is just plain delicious and the prunes add a nice contrast. I rarely stoop to licking my plate in public, but this rabbit was just too much temptation.

This is on my to-do list very very soon....Too bad sorrel is no where to be found now. I was thinking about replacing it with spinach and some extra lemon juice. Any other suggestions?


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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The Rabbit Compote with Prunes is ridiculously delicious and completely surprising. It is basically a rabbit rillette served with thin slices of buttered bread, but it is just so damned good. The rabbit is just plain delicious and the prunes add a nice contrast. I rarely stoop to licking my plate in public, but this rabbit was just too much temptation.

This is on my to-do list very very soon....Too bad sorrel is no where to be found now. I was thinking about replacing it with spinach and some extra lemon juice. Any other suggestions?

Good grief, look at the seasonal differences between Minnesota and Texas. My sorrel plant is huge and I'm trying to work out what to do with it before it freezes (any day now). Think it would keep in a care package? :biggrin:

Barring that - spinach with lemon might be a good substitute. You won't get the inimitable army drab of cooked sorrel, but I doubt you'd miss that part anyway. I'd better look at that recipe.


Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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The Rabbit Compote with Prunes is ridiculously delicious and completely surprising. It is basically a rabbit rillette served with thin slices of buttered bread, but it is just so damned good. The rabbit is just plain delicious and the prunes add a nice contrast. I rarely stoop to licking my plate in public, but this rabbit was just too much temptation.

This is on my to-do list very very soon....Too bad sorrel is no where to be found now. I was thinking about replacing it with spinach and some extra lemon juice. Any other suggestions?

Good grief, look at the seasonal differences between Minnesota and Texas. My sorrel plant is huge and I'm trying to work out what to do with it before it freezes (any day now). Think it would keep in a care package? :biggrin:

Barring that - spinach with lemon might be a good substitute. You won't get the inimitable army drab of cooked sorrel, but I doubt you'd miss that part anyway. I'd better look at that recipe.

Sorrel is not really cooked, just finely shredded and added at the end.


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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We were lucky to attend a special dinner party at Zuni Café last Thursday in honor of the release of Paula Wolfert’s new edition of The Cooking of Southwest France. It was indeed a wonderful evening that I will remember for a long time. But then, the combination of Zuni Café, Judy Rodgers and Paula's dishes is an unbeatable combination.

So, although Judy Rodgers rather than I cooked these recipes, I think they may still serve as inspiration to try some of them oneself. The dinner certainly had that effect on me!

The menu was a combination of Zuni and Wolfert recipes. Listed below were the dishes from “The Cooking of Southwest France” that were offered on the menu:

La Tapina's sardine and potato cake

Duck liver flan with caramel vinegar sauce

Salade aux géssiers de canard: confit of duck gizzards with a salad of mixed chicories

Moules paysannes: steamed mussels with ham, shallots and garlic

Poulet a la Basquaise: sauté of chicken with peppers, ham and tomatoes with "armottes" Compôte de lapin aux pruneaux: Lucien Vanel's compôte of rabbit with prunes

Chocolate Cake with Fleur de Sel

Gauteau Basque

I posted a full review of our dinner and lovely visit with Paula on The Zuni Cafe Thread , but below are my excised comments on the dishes we tried:

“I brought three friends to dinner and between us we tasted all of the cookbook dishes offered except for the mussels and the Poulet a la Basquaise.

The Compote de Lapin aux Pruneaux was excellent. The rabbit ‘compote’ is actually a rillettes-type of preparation in which the cooked rabbit is shredded and then enrobed in mixture of the reduced cooking liquid, cream and shredded sorrel. The prunes were an almost voluptuous accompaniment to the tender rabbit. Buttered, brioche toasts added a nicely contrasting crunch in texture and the frisee provided a bitter counterpoint in flavor. Two of us ordered the rabbit; another had the grilled sea bass with romesco sauce, leeks and sea beans and another, the grilled pork chop with quince apple compote and watercress.

We loved all the “Wolfert” appetizers which we shared between us. First though, we perused Zuni’s extensive oyster list and settled on a plate of exquisite Miyagi and Hama Hama oysters from Washington. I’ve enjoyed Miyagis for a long time but the Hama Hamas are now definitely added into my oyster list rotation. They are smallish, plump oysters with a wonderful hint of cucumber. I’d be hard pressed to choose a favorite between the sardine potato cakes, duck liver flan with caramel vinegar sauce or the chicory salad with confit of duck gizzards… The sardines were so fresh and were excellent with the simply spiced, buttery potatoes. The duck liver flan had a smooth quivering texture and a delicate flavor reminiscent of fois gras; the sauce was a perfect complement. I’ll also be trying to rustle up some duck fat soon in order to make the duck gizzard confit at home to recreate the salad. I brought a bottle of 2003 Storrs Monterey Riverview Vineyard White Riesling. Our waiter thoughtfully chilled the wine in an ice bucket for us. It is a dry Riesling with the famous hint of petrol in the nose and also has a slight sweetness which worked very well with the full flavored duck and sardine appetizers.

Here were the two desserts from the cookbook that were offered on the menu:

Marie-Claude’s Chocolate Cake with Fleur de Sel

Gauteau Basque with Pastry Cream Filling

Rodgers served the Gateau Basque with a warm compote of black cherries on the side which was a happy combination. In her book, Paula calls this variation (with the preserves served in the cake) Bayonne Cake. In addition, this was the nicest Gateau Basque I have had with a tender crumb, delicately flavored pastry cream and a top crust with the perfect amount of crunch. I'm also eager to try this recipe. Somehow I missed tasting the chocolate cake but I can report on appreciative murmurs heard from the other side of the table.

It was wonderful evening!


"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Tonight I made "Autumn Squash Soup with Country Ham & Garlic Croutes" (p. 67) I used local Virginia country ham in lieu of Bayonne. For the squash I baked a hefty butternut. The dish is extremely easy to prepare and very satisfying for a simple fall supper. Along with it I served cheddar biscuits from a recipe out of James Villas's "Biscuit Bliss" book. I highly recommend the soup (and the biscuits).

gallery_33840_1935_33818.jpg

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My copy is on order but will not arrive until mid November.  I combined it with a DVD for hubby to take advantage of the free shipping and the DVD has a November release date.  :sad: So I am hoping that this thread will be rolling for a long time so I can join in when my copy finally arrives.

Perhaps you could borrow the book from your local library until your copy arrives?

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Over on the Adventures in Food forum, there is a current discussion of Civet of Hare, inspired by Paula's new book.


Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

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My copy is on order but will not arrive until mid November.  I combined it with a DVD for hubby to take advantage of the free shipping and the DVD has a November release date.  :sad: So I am hoping that this thread will be rolling for a long time so I can join in when my copy finally arrives.

Perhaps you could borrow the book from your local library until your copy arrives?

Reasonable suggestion but my local branch is closed for renovations until next June! and our library acquires few new cook books and those that they do get usually have holds on them for months and months! :sad: But November fast approaches and it looks like this thread will not die an early death. :biggrin: By the time my book arrives I will have loads of input from eG on which recipes are musts to try.


Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Never call a stomach a tummy without good reason.” William Strunk Jr., The Elements of Style

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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I just got my copy today! I think I might have the dubious distinction of being the first Australian to get a copy of this book.

Paging through it has brought back exactly why I fell in love with classical french food in the first place. Definately on the menu are the Autumn Squash soup and the Garlic soup based on feedback in this thread. I'm going to have to keep an eye out for when ducks go on special!


PS: I am a guy.

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What a lovely soup! a butternut squash soup was requested from me for this years Thanksgiving dinner. So Paula's will probably be it!

This weekend, starting on Thursday, I made the “Rabbit Compote with Prunes”. Like it was mentioned before, this is sort of a rabbit rillete. The bunny is braised in white wine and stock and lots of onions after an overnight soak in the wine and aromatics. It is then shredded and mixed with the reduced braising liquid, cream and sorrel (I used shredded spinach with extra lemon juice since I could not find sorrel). The last step is to pack the meat tight in a bowl and let it sit in the fridge overnight.

The end product is a dome shaped molded rabbit “rillete”. I served it on Sunday night with a light salad with walnut vinaigrette and a few condiments (Dijon, homemade onion jam, cornichons) and slices of freshly baked Piolane bread. It was very delectable, moist with lots of flavor. The tea soaked prunes are definitely a perfect match, they turn kind of jammy and not too sweet, just right with the slightly tangy, savory rabbit meat.

Since the rabbit is tossed with the reduced gelatinous stock/cream mixture, the final dish has the texture of a coarse pate, and holds its shape very well. So next time around I will probably place it in a terrine mold instead of a bowl. It will make for a much nicer presentation, unless there is another reason as to why it needs to be done in a bowl. Paula says the rabbit can sit in the fridge for up to 7 days, I can see why. I also had it for dinner last night and the flavor actually keeps getting better.

Here are some pics of the prep and service of the rabbit.

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E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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I was looking at the recipe for the Compote of Rabbit With Prunes last night and one thing had me scratching my head: the prunes are to be soaked in "1 cup brewed black tea, preferably linden." The only linden "tea" I know is made from the flowers of the linden tree (Tilia europea, I believe), but it's a pale yellow-green tisane, not a black tea. Can anyone provide clarification?

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I was looking at the recipe for the Compote of Rabbit With Prunes last night and one thing had me scratching my head: the prunes are to be soaked in "1 cup brewed black tea, preferably linden." The only linden "tea" I know is made from the flowers of the linden tree (Tilia europea, I believe), but it's a pale yellow-green tisane, not a black tea. Can anyone provide clarification?

Sorry, I cannot help. I used regular loose black tea leaves. Maybe a Linden/black leaves mixture is what she meant?

Elie


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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I was looking at the recipe for the Compote of Rabbit With Prunes last night and one thing had me scratching my head: the prunes are to be soaked in "1 cup brewed black tea, preferably linden." The only linden "tea" I know is made from the flowers of the linden tree (Tilia europea, I believe), but it's a pale yellow-green tisane, not a black tea. Can anyone provide clarification?

Sorry, I cannot help. I used regular loose black tea leaves. Maybe a Linden/black leaves mixture is what she meant?

A lapin agile informs me that linden tisane (herb tea) is the preferred choice but that orange pekoe or other dark tea will do in a pinch.

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Tonight I made "Autumn Squash Soup with Country Ham & Garlic Croutes" (p. 67) I used local Virginia country ham in lieu of Bayonne. For the squash I baked a hefty butternut. The dish is extremely easy to prepare and very satisfying for a simple fall supper.

Completely agree on the soup. Made it last night with 2 small acorn squash and the Bayonne. It was delicious (sorry, no pics).


"If the divine creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony."

~ Fernand Point

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Elie - how much does that rabbit rillette make? Would you say it's enough to fill 6 pyramid molds (the kind used for little cakes)? And what would you like to drink with it? It looks like Lillet, or maybe a Sauternes, would be really nice. Yours looks so good, even though you complained about the presentation, I want some!

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      Le Coucou is the new restaurant (opened for reals last week) collaboration between restaurateur Stephen Starr and Chef Daniel Rose of Spring, a fairly acclaimed restaurant located in Paris. That backstory need not be explained here; suffice to say that Significant Eater and I have had the pleasure of dining at both the tiny Spring 1 (once), and the more ambitious Spring 2 (a number of times), and it was always a fun and delicious time.
       
      Plenty of restaurants open in New York City; often they come with lots and lots of hype. Le Coucou is certainly one of them, as the PR bandwagon got rolling a while ago. And normally we like to give restaurants at least a little while to get their footing, but with this one we just couldn't wait, so off we were to Lafayette Street - on night two of service. I didn't even know if we'd get a table, since we were sans ressies, but we figured we could just grab a cocktail, even if we couldn't have dinner. But arriving early, we were offered a table by the charming Maître D' and lovely hostesses and hosts, though we did have a drink first, in their rather intimate lounge area.
       
      Now, I'd introduced myself and Sig Eater to Daniel at Spring years ago, as a friend of a friend. And again, when we were lucky enough to dine at the new Spring. But here, even before I was seated, Daniel (who had zero idea we were coming to have dinner) was by our side, greeting me by name and with hugs and cheek kisses - you know, that lovely French way. And even though he looked like he wanted nothing more than to pass out on the extremely comfortable banquette, he returned to our table any number of time during our meal, to make sure we were enjoying our dinner, to see if there was anything we'd like him to "whip up." Basically the consummate host.
       
      French has been seeing a serious revival in NYC over the past couple of years, and that makes us happy, as we love French cooking.  I mean, one need look no further than Rebelle, or Racines, or MIMI, or Chevalier, or...well, you get the picture. And here, with classic French technique executed fairly flawlessly, we were in heaven. One of our favorite dishes is a simple Poireaux, poached leeks served in a bracing vinaigrette. Here, chef adds a little something extra, topping the leeks with sweet, roasted hazelnuts. What about fried Delaware eel? Normally, my eel exposure is limited to sushi bars, where the earthy eel get a sweetish topping. At Le Coucou, the Anguilles frites au sarassin are as light as a feather, the eel's buckwheat batter playing well with curried vinaigrette and a subtle brunoise of citrus.
       
      Mimolette is a French cheese that as recently as a few years ago had its import halted by the food police, aka the FDA. It's back, and here it graces Asperges au vinaigre de bois. It's a simple lightly-roasted asparagus salad, made special by a smoked wood vinegar sourced somewhere in the wilds of Canada.

      Asparagus salad
      One of the dishes chef sent to our table was a knockout - a whole sea bream stuffed with lobster - and my guess is the menu is changing daily, because as I look while writing this, it's not on the online menu now. But here's a picture anyway.

      Lobster stuffed sea bream
       A classic of the French culinary canon is Quenelle de brochet. As Julia says in Mastering the Art I, "A quenelle, for those who are not familiar with this delicate triumph of French cooking, is pâte à choux with a purée of raw fish...formed into ovals or cylinders and poached in a seasoned liquid. Served hot in good sauce, quenelles make a distinguished first course. A good quenelle is light as a soufflé..."

      Quenelle de brochet, sauce américaine
      Yes it is. And indeed it was. Our main course, which we shared because we wanted to save room for cheeses, was Bourride, a Provencal fish stew that might be known in places like Nice as bouillabaisse. Here, the fabulous fish fumet is stocked with halibut, mussels, clams, and Santa Barbara spot prawns. Served alongside, toasted baguette slathered with aïoli. Suck the head of those prawns, dip the bread, and pretend you're somewhere other than Chinatown - it's easy enough, once inside, because this is a lovely space.
       
      Our 3-cheese selection (all American) was swoon-worthy to Significant Eater, and served alongside was an accompaniment of 3 different beverages, which I don't really know if everyone gets - or if Daniel was just being extra nice to us.
       
      Speaking of nice, the service staff is super. There was a horde of people working on both the floor and in the kitchen. The front of house people were professional, yet casual. There have a been a few notable restaurant openings this year, where service has been a bit "clumsy." Not here, where everyone is on the same page, and that enhances the experience greatly.
       
      What else can I write? Well, I am sad we didn't get to enjoy dessert - we just ate too damn much, but next time! And while we were unexpectedly treated like old friends, with 3 comped dishes from the kitchen and a couple of glasses of champagne when we sat down at our table, I looked around the restaurant any number of times, and everyone sure looked happy. The wine list is extensive - maybe that's part of the reason? There are tablecloths on the tables. There are comfortable chairs. Reservations are taken. All grown-up stuff. But most of all, once you taste this cooking, I think you're going to be happy as well.
       
      Le Coucou
       
    • By borgr
      I want to leave my sourdough (itself, not baked loaves of sourdough bread) for a while (going abroad) but I do not want it to die, can I leave it in the freezer? do you have other ideas?
    • By Lisa Shock
      The team over at Modernist Cuisine announced today that their next project will be an in-depth exploration of bread. I personally am very excited about this, I had been hoping their next project would be in the baking and pastry realm. Additionally, Francisco Migoya will be head chef and Peter Reinhart will assignments editor for this project which is expected to be a multi-volume affair.
    • By Chris Hennes
      While not a new cookbook by any means, I haven't really had time to dig into this one until now. We've previously discussed the recipes in Jerusalem: A Cookbook, but not much has been said about Plenty. So, here goes...
       
      Chickpea saute with Greek yogurt (p. 211)
       

       
      This was a great way to kick off my time with this book. The flavors were outstanding, particularly the use of the caraway seeds and lemon juice. I used freshly-cooked Rancho Gordo chickpeas, which of course helps! The recipe was not totally trivial, but considering the flavors developed, if you don't count the time to cook the chickpeas it came together very quickly. I highly recommend this dish.
    • By Bickery
      Hey Everyone! I'm kinda new to all this, so excuse any violation of mores.
      Searching google for anything on Mr. Steingarten on the web led me to
      this forum. It appears te me that most of you are food professionals or
      nearly that, while i'm just a 21-yr old student who likes to cook.

      I own both Jeffries books, and i've started putting together a list of
      all the books he sort of recommends in his writing. Thus came an idea
      for this forum, wouldn't it be fun to concoct a list of say 50
      cookbooks from the world over? I everybody, and hopefully mr
      Steingarten along with them, would contribute his or hers favourote
      books, this could be very interesting.

      Due to my limited library on the subject (most cookbooks i've read are
      mom's) i shall begin by contributing my current favourite.

      I shall put it in last place, because i'm sure a lot of you will have
      thing to say on the subject.

      so:

      50. La cucina essentiale - Stefano Cavallini


      I hope a lot of suggestions will follow!

      Yours Truly,

      Rik

      (Host's Note: Thanks to eG member marmish, who has compiled a list of everything mentioned as of the end of July 2009: it can be found here. -CH)
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