This weekend while having lunch at Het Hert (great, little restaurant in Naarden, by the way), my husband and I discussed our vacation plans. Every year the same question arises: “Duras or something else?” — in France, obviously. We have been visiting Duras every summer since 2009 and every time we fall in love with the village and surrounding area even more. Driving into Duras always feels like coming home. So much so, that I’ve even joked about having lived there in a past life. We love that place so much. But we also love all the other villages and cities in the area. Like Miramont, Sainte-Foy-la-Grande, Monségur, Issigeac, Soumensac, Marmande and Bergerac. And of course places like Saint-Émilion, Bordeaux and Arcachon, which are a little further away and well worth the drive.
So, as you may have guessed, it didn’t take long for us to decide that this summer it was going to be Duras, for the ninth time! We rented a beautiful house from one of our friends there and I am already looking forward to August! Our hotels for overnight stops in Vierzon and Orléans have also been booked. Yay!
But first, plenty of other things to look forward to — like our trip to Le Touquet-Paris-Plage in April and working on my cookbook. Most of my days are spent immersed in studying, writing about and practicing French cuisine. Yesterday I made a lovely Flan Parisien (hurray for the new oven — which came in a week late, but still). For lunch, I quickly threw together a Salade Lyonnaise. Of course, I could not find frisée salad (something to do with it being Sunday and living in a Dutch suburb), so I had to settle for romaine, which wasn’t a bad alternative. I wrote a very rough recipe, which I am sharing with you today. The full (and improved recipe) will be in my book — more about that in due time!
Have a great week!
- 1 1/2 tbsps red wine vinegar
- 4 tbsps sunflower oil
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1/2 tsp dried chervil
- 1/2 dried parsley
- Fleur de sel & freshly cracked pepper
- 6 handfuls of crisp lettuce leaves
- knob of butter
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 100g lardons
- 1/4 baguette, cubed
- 3 tbsps white wine vinegar
- 3 fresh eggs
In a large bowl, whisk the vinegar, oil, mustard, dried herbs and salt and pepper to make a dressing. Reserve 1 1/2 tbsp of the dressing and toss the lettuce leaves in the rest, making sure they are coated with the dressing. Divide over 3 plates. Melt the butter in a frying pan and gently sauté the shallots. Add the bacon, increase the heat and cook for about 5 minutes. Stir in the cubed bread and toss for another five minutes. In the meantime, bring a large pan of water to a simmer for the eggs. Add the vinegar and stir with a whisk to create a whirlpool effect. Add each egg one by one to the water and poach for 2 1/2 – 3 1/2 minutes, depending on their size. Add the reserved dressing to the bread and bacon, give it a final stir and divide over the salad. Top with the poached egg, season with a little salt and serve.
One winter, when we had lunch at brasserie Le Commerce — what was to become one of our favorite restaurants in Autun, the kind frequented mostly by locals — I started with a cocotte of snails in a garlicky cream sauce. They were so good! The sauce was thick and velvety and I mopped it up with thick chunks of bread. As though that wasn’t enough cream and calories, for my main course, I chose the blanquette de veau à l’ancienne. It was my first time trying this classic French dish and I absolutely fell in love with it. Tender chunks of veal blanketed in a smooth, mild sauce with a side of fluffy, white rice. The epitome of comfort food! Every time we go back on a wine trip through Bourgogne, we always stop at Le Commerce and you can be sure that I will order blanquette de veau.
Oddly enough, it has taken me way too long to try my hand at my own version. But last night, I proudly served a blanquette de veau that was heaven on earth. Make this dish on a cold, winter night. I promise you, the first bite will feel like falling in love.
Blanquette de veau à l’ancienne
- 700g veal shoulder, cubed
- 1 ½ L water
- 1 onion, peeled and studded with 2 cloves
- 2 carrots, peeled and in large chunks
- 1 leek, in large chunks
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 tsp mixed peppercorns
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- pinch of nutmeg
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsps butter
- 225g mushrooms, small ones halved, large ones quartered
- 6 small shallots, halved
- 30g butter
- 30g flour
- 1 egg yolk
- 100ml crème fraîche
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- rice, to serve
- parsley, to garnish
Rinse the veal really well under cold running water. Place the chunks in a large heavy-bottomed casserole and cover with the water. Bring to the boil, lower the heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes. Skim off any scum and then stir in the onion, carrots, leek, bay leaf, garlic, peppercorns, thyme, nutmeg and salt. Cover and cook gently for 2 hours. About 20 minutes towards the end of the cooking time, get your rice going. In a large saucepan, gently fry the mushrooms (they should not color) in 1 tbsp of the butter for 5 minutes and set aside in a bowl. Soften the shallots in the other tbsp of butter. Do this gently too, nothing should color in this dish. Drain the meat and vegetables, making sure to reserve 500ml of the stock. Reserve the meat and the carrots. In the saucepan where you fried the mushrooms and shallots, melt the butter over a medium heat and whisk in the flour. Add the hot stock while whisking. Once the sauce is thick, cook for 5 minutes gently. Return the meat and carrots to the pan. Also add in the mushrooms and shallots. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Whisk the egg yolk, crème fraîche and lemon juice (this is called a liaison) in a small bowl. Add this to the sauce while stirring well with a wooden spoon. The dish should be barely simmering. Leave on the heat for 5 more minutes while stirring occasionally. Serve with rice and a sprinkle of parsley.
My oven is no more. Last week as I was recipe testing, I noticed that the thermostat light did not go off to indicate the oven had reached the right temperature. I also noticed that my food was either coloring too quickly or not cooking well at all. We looked into getting it repaired, but ultimately decided on buying a new one, which is exciting because it’s really pretty! It’ll be installed on Thursday and I can hardly wait!
But what to do when it’s Friday and you want to make a nice dessert for the family?! My solution came to me in the form of French (OK, English too!) inspiration: a beautiful trifle made with French madeleines, cherries, sweetened cream and dark chocolate!
Enjoy and have a delicious weekend!
PS: Oh, and I think this will make a great Valentine’s Day dessert, too! Should you want to make your own madeleines, check out my recipe here.
French Madeleine & Cherry Trifle
- 100ml crème fraîche d’Isigny
- 2 sachet vanilla sugar (8g)
- 125ml cream
- 1 small jar cherries in syrup, drained (you will need 4 tbsps of the syrup and 6 tbsps of the cherries)
- 6 Bonne Maman madeleines, chopped (I chopped each one into 8 pieces)
- dark chocolate
Put the crème fraîche in a bowl and loosen it with a fork. Whip the cream with the vanilla sugar until stiff. Fold the whipped cream through the crème fraîche. Place the chopped madeleines in a shallow dish and drizzle with the 4 tbsps of cherry syrup. To assemble the dessert, place a layer of madeleine bits in each glass. Top with 1 tbsp of cherries and half of the cream. Grate in some dark chocolate and repeat with one more layer, ending with the grated chocolate.
Boy, it sure is cold out there! The kind of chill that cuts right through even the thickest of coats and leaves you wishing you could hibernate until spring, in front of the fire and with endless mugs of hot chocolate.
I am always in awe of people who start diets during the month of January. How can you live on cold salads and grilled chicken when the only thing your body screams is “FEED ME COMFORT FOOD!!” Not for me. Well, I’ve never believed in making new year’s resolutions to begin with. I think it’s only setting yourself up for failure.
Much more sensible to eat according to the seasons, if you ask me — and the winter season demands hearty food! Those who want the best of both worlds can make the following recipe. My rosé fricassée is warming enough to satisfy any winter craving, yet light enough if served with mashed cauliflower instead of the recommended mashed potatoes or buttered noodles. I’d stick with the last two though, if I were you.
- knob of butter
- 1 tbsp mild olive oil
- 4 chicken quarters
- fleur de sel
- freshly grated pepper
- 6 shallots, quartered
- 1 tbsp flour
- 300ml rosé wine
- 325ml strong chicken stock
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 bouquet garni
- 250g white mushrooms, quartered
Melt the butter with the olive oil in a wide, heavy-bottomed casserole and brown the chicken on both sides, seasoning it well. This should take about 8 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan, place on a dish and cover with foil. Carefully drain most of the fat. Lower the heat, add the shallots and flour and stir while cooking for about 2 minutes. Turn up the heat and add the wine, leaving it to bubble for a few minutes. Now also add in the stock. Stir in the mustard and drop in the bouquet garni. Return the chicken to the pan, adding any juices left on the plate. Lower the heat, place the lid on the pan, and cook the chicken for 30-35 minutes. Add the mushrooms, and cook with the lid slightly ajar for an additional ten minutes. Serve with mashed potatoes, thick egg noodles or garlicky cauliflower purée.