The Mother of all Quiche Recipes

The Mother of all Quiche Recipes

Merry Christmas from me a few days early. I’m giving away my favorite recipe from the Pic Niques chapter of my newly released cookbook, Sunday Best.  I do so because I know the “most wonderful time of the year” is full of office parties, gift exchanges and special luncheons. My Smoked Gruyere Cheese Tart with Spinach and Bacon is the perfect dish for your afternoon party. It pairs well with a deep red French wine…which gives me an idea for a unique Xmas gift. A Francophile foodie basket for the Julia Child in your life!

Use your imagination to add to this basket with the Cabaret Sauvignon.

It needs additional goodies, like French sea salt, Herbs de Provence, Gruyere cheese, balsamic vinegar, and the indispensable cookbook that calls for these treats, SUNDAY BEST DISHES A COOKBOOK FOR PASSIONATE COOKS.

Add a fluted tart pan, and you are well on your way. In my book, I recommend the best and most time tested cooking tools, gadgets, and food stuffs on the market – the ones that have kept me eating well since I started in this business over 30 years ago. I can’t wait to sign your book!  Cheers, and do let me know if you take this fabulous quiche to your next holiday party!

Smoked Gruyere Cheese Tart

with Spinach and Bacon

MAKES 6 TO 8 SERVINGS

1 (9-inch) prepared pie crust

½ pound bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and finely diced, about 1 cup

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 pound fresh spinach leaves, about 4 cups (or substitute with 10 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and drained)

1 teaspoon dried Herbs of Provence

8 ounces smoked Gruyere cheese, grated, about 1 cup

4 large eggs

½ cup heavy whipping cream

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon coarse black pepper

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 400°.  Unroll the pie crust and press into a 9-inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom.  Pierce the bottom of the pie crust with a fork.  Bake until the pie crust is golden, about 9 to 12 minutes.

Cook the bacon in a skillet, over medium high heat, until crisp.  Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.  Pour off the bacon drippings.

Heat the olive oil and butter in the skillet, over medium high heat.  Cook the onion until soft, about 5 minutes.  Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and cook for 4 to 5 minutes more.  The diced onion should be golden and slightly syrupy. Transfer to a bowl. Add the spinach and cook until just wilted, about 5 minutes.  Season with Herbs de Provence and set aside.

Carefully slide the baked tart shell onto a baking sheet.  Sprinkle the bacon onto the bottom of the baked tart shell.  Cover the bacon with grated cheese.  Cover the cheese with the caramelized onion.  Spread the spinach over the top.  Whisk together the eggs and cream, and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.  Carefully pour this mixture over the ingredients in the tart.  Place the baking sheet with tart into the oven.  Bake until the egg mixture puffs and is golden, about 30 minutes.

If not serving immediately, cool the tart to room temperature.  Wrap the tart in plastic wrap and refrigerate.  Bring to room temperature before serving.

 

On Sauces, Saucery & Yummy Chicken Dinners

On Sauces, Saucery & Yummy Chicken Dinners

When I attended a Paris cooking class at the Alain Ducasse school, one of the items we dwelled on was a rich, au jus sauce to drizzle over our very delicate lamb chops. The sauce began with aromatics that we simmered for hours and then mashed through a fine sieve. The final step was swirling rich, creamy butter into the liquid to create a shiny, lush sauce. It was delish!

It’s been a couple of years since that class and in that time, I have managed to create a couple of shortcuts to the very traditional French sauces that allow me to pump up an average weeknight dinner. Even the most boring piece of chicken can become a masterpiece with a flavorful sauce drizzled over the top.

Here’s how I do it. First, I cook the chicken in a saucepan in a bit of olive oil and butter. Butter helps to brown the chicken and create those little brown bits of flavor in the bottom of the pan. I remove the chicken from the pan, and add the flavors I want in the sauce; you can try it yourself using the likes of onions, garlic, fennel, fresh herbs, and maybe some citrus, like lemon or orange. Check out how my combination of flavors looks in this C’est Magnifique photo!

It’s all so simple you don’t need a formal recipe – just let your imagination run wild!

Then I add some wine to the pan, and we’re talkin’ lovely coq au vin. I simmer the wine until it mostly disappears. The ingredients in the pan absorb the wine flavors. Next, I pour in chicken or vegetable broth. I simmer this until the liquid reduces a bit. I use a slotted spoon to remove all the aromatics from the liquid. Now it’s time to thicken the sauce. For chicken, I like to use mustard as a thickener. Just a tablespoon or so thickens the sauce and adds a bold, spicy note. For beef, I like to thicken with tomato paste; for others, I thicken with a bit of flour and butter mixed together. I place the chicken into the sauce and simmer until it is cooked through. A bit of fresh herb on top and voila…. we have a midweek meal fit for a Parisian!!

This is how my chicken turned out that night. See what I mean?

Try some herbal and wine infusions, and let me know how they turned out with that delectable chicken dinner – I’ll post your pictures ;)!

French Fries: A Rated R Love Affair…

French Fries: A Rated R Love Affair…

Ready for a sizzling summer romance?

Her heart pounds as she rounds the corner. She knows that, in just a few short minutes, she’ll be there. She knows that its’s wrong… knows that if she continues this illicit romance, she’ll be shunned by those around her. Yet, it’s that same sense of wickedness that makes this affair even more appetizing. Like a moth to a flame, she continues to her rendezvous. Her nerves are on fire. She can feel… can taste. The anticipation is deliciously unbearable. And then she’s there….

Perhaps this just a tad exaggerated, but let’s face it, the American affair with the French Fry is a pretty salacious one. In honor of French Fries Day on July 13th, it’s a pleasure to share my recipe for The Real Deal Fries with Rustic Ketchup from my book, Sunday Best Dishes (due late this summer in print edition).

I love this recipe because I use good, healthy oil. My love affair is a guiltless one; I can’t speak for those who court fast food restaurant chain fries ; )!! Another plus? This recipe utilizes the authentic French technique of cooking the fry twice to create that crunch on the outside, and pillowy softness on the inside. Add to these fresh fries your own make-at-home ketchup and well, you have ….. an affair to remember!

It It’s like starch and sea salt are coming together as one…I feel faint!

The Real Deal Fries and Home Made Ketchup

If you’re gonna have French fries, you might as well have the best… and these are! The ketchup is full of robust flavors and there is enough for dipping the last morsel of fry. My Sunday Best version of this all-American favorite is just what you’re craving – right now!

MAKES 4 SERVINGS AND 2 CUPS KETCHUP

For ketchup

1 (12-ounce) can tomato paste

½ cup brown sugar

¼ cup red wine vinegar

½ teaspoon hot ground mustard

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon coarse salt, plus more for fries

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon ground allspice

Put the tomato paste, brown sugar, vinegar, mustard, cinnamon, salt, pepper, cloves and allspice into a small pan over low heat. Pour in ¼ cup water. Whisk until smooth. Cook until the sugar melts and the ketchup is warmed through. Set aside and let the flavors blend at room temperature for 1 hour or in the refrigerator overnight.

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For fries

2 large Idaho potatoes, scrubbed

Canola oil for frying

Peel the potatoes.  Cut each potato lengthwise into 4 long slices. Cut each slice into 4 strips. Place the strips into a bowl of cold water for at least 30 minutes or overnight in the fridge. Drain the potatoes through a colander and slide onto a paper towels. Use more towels to blot the potatoes dry. The drier the potatoes, the more they will crisp.

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Pour enough oil to come 1-inch up the side of the skillet. Use a candy thermometer to gauge the oil to 325° Place the fries into the oil and cook for 5 minutes. This step cooks the inside of the potatoes. Transfer the fries to a baking sheet lined with paper towels. These pre-cooked fries will keep in the fridge for several hours until you are ready to serve.

Raise the temperature of the oil to 375°. Place the partially cooked fries in the oil. Cook until golden, about 5 minutes more. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper and serve with ketchup.

Childlike Delight over Beef Bourguignon. My Fast Skillet Version of Julia’s Classic!

Childlike Delight over Beef Bourguignon. My Fast Skillet Version of Julia’s Classic!

A cityscape in Bordeaux…the lush countryside is right around the bend. I promise to get to it after popping into this cafe…

A trip to Bordeaux, France is a journey through vineyards tucked into lush hillsides. Single story stone chateaus haven’t changed since they were built. Sheep roam free, chickens produce eggs with golden yolks and the wine…well, there is the wine…descriptions of which, I’ll save for another time!

French food is artistry on a plate. Each item is perfectly presented. Vegetables are diced precisely the same size – little squares to be exact. Proteins are masterfully portioned. The desserts are too beautiful to eat. And, just when you decide it would be a sin to dive into the plate placed in front of you, you taste… and ah! … you know why you made the trip.

I was the most surprised at a meal we had at the local bistro, Pot-au-feu. We translated the dish to mean “beef stew”, which we recognized as a classic family meal. I expected a thick, rich stew with a fragrant red wine sauce, much like Julia Child’s famous beef bourguignon. But, instead, we ended up devouring a veggie-studded broth, with a slice of tender beef on the top.

Beef Bourguignon at French bistro, Pot-au-feu Beef Bourguignon at French bistro, Pot-au-feu

You can see from the photo above…It looked to be a simple dish, yet nuanced flavors were there in every bite. This is achieved by creating a broth from marrow and oxtail bones, infused with leeks and carrots. It was delicious, but I found myself wanting just a bite or two of the other famous French beef dish – one I vowed to make upon my return home, The Art of French Cooking propped up on my counter…a few shortcuts and modifications, though – sorry, Julia!

Home again, home again. After the jet lag wore off, I was back in my kitchen, cooking up a couple of my French favorites; among the first: a traditional wine-laced beef stew. Mine is a tad easier to make, as I favor the lightening quick stovetop and skillet approach over Julia’s traditional overnight method.

If you’re in the mood for a dish from Bordeaux, try my recipe for a skillet version of Beef Bourguignon, taken from my Sunday Best Dishes book –due out in print this summer!

Skillet Beef Bourguignon

The delectable finished product The delectable finished product

 Normally, the rich taste of beef cooked in wine takes hours, but in this recipe, it’s on your Sunday supper table in minutes. A tender cut of meat, and steaming the veggies before putting them in the sauce is key. Another secret: a little slurry of cornstarch and water gives the sauce a luscious sheen. Serve this dish over Polenta with Asiago Cheese or Creamy Smashed Parmesan Potatoes.

MAKES 6 SERVINGS

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 ounces bacon, cut into pieces (about 4 slices)

3 pounds beef tenderloin, cut into 1-inch cubes

3 large carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces, blanched

1 (10-ounce bag) frozen pearl onions, thawed

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse pepper

1 cup cognac

1 cup red wine

2 cups homemade beef broth, or low sodium beef broth

1 tablespoon corn starch mixed with 2 tablespoons water

3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the bacon and cook until golden and beginning to crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the beef and cook until just browned, about 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. The cubes should be very rare in the center. Transfer the meat and bacon to a bowl.

Turn off the heat. Pour in the cognac. Add the vegetables. Turn on the heat and simmer until most of the liquid disappears. Turn off the heat and pour in the wine. Turn the heat back on and simmer until most of the liquid disappears. Pour in 1 cup beef broth. Reduce until most of the liquid disappears. Pour in the last cup of broth, and reduce until there is about 1 cup liquid remaining in the skillet with the vegetables. This process will take about 10 minutes.

Add the meat back into the sauce. Stir in the cornstarch slurry. Cook until the sauce is smooth and shiny, about 2 minutes. The meat should remain rare to medium-rare. Sprinkle fresh parsley over top.