Tag Archives: French

Pommes Annas

“The potato, like man, was not meant to dwell alone.” – NY Times food columnist, Sheila Hibben

Potatoes aren’t the first food that comes to mind when you think “romance”.  I mean, you can’t dip a potato in chocolate.  BUT- when the potato is elevated by adding it’s soul mate, butter, then things start to get a little more amorous.   Which leads us to the traditional French side dish, Pommes Annas.

Legend says the dish is named for one of the coquettes of Paris in the late 19th century.  Leave it to the French to make potatoes sexy.

Pommes Annas has 4 ingredients: potatoes, butter, salt and pepper.   The thinly sliced potatoes get layered in a pan and baked, forming a “cake” of delicious buttery potatoes.   A sexy coquette inspired potato dish seemed perfect for our Valentine’s dinner.

Step one is to peel and thinly slice the potatoes.

Pommes Annas

Sliced potatoes....not sexy.

The sliced potatoes now get layered in your pan.  The classic French method uses a special copper pan, which of course I am without. (Feel free to remedy that, Handsome Husband)  But, an ovenproof skillet is a common substitute and that I did have.  A little melted butter goes in the pan and the potatoes get layered in pretty circles with some salt and pepper.

The pan goes over heat to start forming a “crust” on the bottom layer of potatoes.   The remaining melted butter gets poured over the layered potatoes:

pommes annas

Just a splash/stick of butter

The potato cake cooks on the stove top for several minutes, pressing down to help the cake form and shaking occasionally so it doesn’t stick to the pan.  Although, I don’t know how anything could stick to a pan that has 8 tablespoons of butter in it….

pommes annas

A potato cake in the making

After sauteing and pressing down for 10 minutes or so, cover the whole thing, and into the oven it goes:

pommes annas in the oven

Let's see how this turns out.....

Every once in a while, I’d reach in and shake the pan again, just to make sure the potatoes weren’t sticking.  Again…there was a lot of butter in there.  But wouldn’t you know it….

They stuck.

So much for the power of 8 tablespoons of butter.  I don’t even have a picture of the “pommes annas” (quotes intentional) because it was basically a pile of buttered potato slices. Not terribly sexy.

UNFORESEEN BONUS:  Although a failure by French standards, this recipe still yeilded a pile of buttery potoatoes.  And who doesn’t like buttery potatoes? Not moi.  We ate them all with our Valentine’s fondue.

So, my apologies to the coquette Anna (whoever you are) for ruining your potato namesake.  Some of us just don’t have that same j’nes se quoi.

xoxo Flyover Foodie

Advertisements

A Bowl of Nostalgia

“Only the pure of heart can make good soup.” – Beethoven

A few years ago I was lucky enough to spend a summer studying in France.  I like to think of this as the summer I ate my way around Europe.  And like most adventures in eating, I stumbled across something I loved and will forever associate with that summer: soupe de poisson.

It’s basically a French fish soup very similar to bouillabaisse.     It’s thick and garlicky, with a fish flavor that’s hearty but not heavy. There are dozens if not hundreds of versions, but I was hoping to find one close to what I remembered.  But first I had to track down a recipe…

Handsome Husband bought me a vintage copy of Larousse’s Gastronomique (first English version!) which had about 25 versions of fish stew/bouillabaisse in it.  Then I found this recipe from good ol’ Martha.  And this guide from, of all places, Country Living.

The methods and main ingredients were the same in all three of these sources.  So I figured I could follow that and tweak the ingredients to get the flavor I was looking for.   Annnnd, we’re off:

 

Tomatoes, onions, leeks, garlic, and bay leaf

 

The first round of ingredients go into the pot: tomatoes, leeks, onions, garlic, fennel, pepper, and saffron.  Let them soften and sweat for about 5 minutes.  Next add the fish, wine, and water to the pot and bring to a boil.  Let it simmer and make your kitchen smell delicious.

While the soup is simmering and reducing, slice up some thin slices of baguette and toast just slightly.  Prepare the rouille.  Rouille is a mixture of mayo, garlic, red pepper, and saffron.   Can I just mention that I LOVE that the French have multiple versions of “fancy mayonnaise”?  Genius.

The next step involves straining all the solids out of the soup.   You have to really push the soup through a sieve to get all the liquid out:

 

Straining out all the solids

 

I then did a quick mix with an immersion blender, to ensure it was really smooth.

 

Immersion blender....Best. Tool. Ever.

 

Now we’re ready to serve!   Ladle the soup into bowls, smear a little of the rouille on a slice of baguette, and float it on the soup.  Sprinkle a little Parmesan and VOILA!

 

Ahhhhhh! Just how the French intended!

 

A little chilled white from the Loire Valley and you’re all set. The soup is filling, without being heavy and it does have a fish flavor, but its not “fishy”.  I think for most of us in flyover country, its a really unexpected “seafood” dish and not what most poeple think of when they imagine French food.

UNFORESEEN BONUS: The recipes seemed much more surmountable that than making bouillabaisse!  Which, most aficionados will tell you takes hours if not days to make properly.    And you get to eat rouille (aka fancy mayonnaise)…which is DELICIOUS.

The best compliment

Plus, during dinner, you can regale your fellow diners with the tale. of the night in Nice when you got ketchup on your post-bar kebab and began a tradition called “The Throwing of the Kebab”.

I’m pretty sure they still celebrate it in France.

xoxo Flyover Foodie

Coq Au Vin

“Why not make daily pleasure out of daily necessity?” – author Peter Mayle

Coq au vin, contrary to my initial impression, is not “fancy” French food.  It actually developed as a way to use the old rooster (the um, coq) in a dish after he was past his prime on the farm.  It’s actually an old and rustic dish and much more of a everyday dish than a fancy indulgence.

And, unlike the soufflé, it won’t judge you for not being able to speak French or asking directions to the Eiffel Tour.  It’s friendly French.

While the traditional recipe calls for a rooster, most contemporary ones, including the recipe I used, substitute a chicken.  Although, I kept thinking of Tom Colicchico on Top Chef in an episode where he kept saying that Casey had NOT made coq au vin because she used a chicken.  Sorry, Tom, but our flyover grocery was out of rooster.

Start by cooking your bacon in the bottom of a large, heavy pot or a dutch oven.  Remove the bacon after its cooked and put the chicken pieces in.  I bought chicken quarters and then broke them down.  Tip: Chicken quarters are insanely inexpensive, so if you get comfortable cutting up chicken, you can be very budget savvy.

The chicken gets browned and removed and in go your chopped veggies to brown in all that yummy flavor.  After the carrots, celery, and garlic are browned the chicken and bacon go back in the pot with the chicken stock, thyme, and dry, red wine.

Half a bottle of dry red wine.

Cooking with wine....a lot of wine.

At this point in the recipe, you can cover the pot and put it in the oven for 30 minutes.  BUT- I didn’t do this.  I just let it simmer away on the top of the stove on low heat while the liquid reduced and let the chicken cook in a bath of wine. See?  So much more easy going than a soufflé!

A bath of wine. Which sounds terribly relaxing.

Continue reading

Facing Possible Deflation: The Souffle

“The only thing that will make a soufflé fall is if it knows you are afraid of it.” – James Beard, American chef and food writer

For a long time I knew two things about soufflés: 1. they are French; 2. they are likely to break your heart.

They come out of the oven full of steam and beauty and then quickly deflate, dashing all hope of impressing your guests.  They will seem exotic and beautiful, then pretend not to speak English to make you feel foolish.  They are considered a finicky dish prone to failure, thus scaring off plenty of cooks.

I don’t know the details, but I remember my mom’s story about laboring over a soufflé for guests, only to be thwarted while it was cooling.  She swore them off.  And thus, the fear was passed on to the next generation.

BUT– my stalwart American Flyover eaters, we shan’t be shaken from our quest.  Even by the French.

We’re going to prove the skeptics (and my mom) wrong and create a soufflé.  I found this recipe in my Barefoot in Paris cookbook by Ina Garten and it seemed straightforward and delicious.  Also, it had tips and detailed instructions, which will be vital in this crusade.

My trust accomplices for this mission

You start by making a sauce on the stove top with butter and flour, slowly add in hot milk, salt, nutmeg, cayenne, and pepper.  Now remove from heat and whisk in egg yolks one at a time.  Whew- we’re already on the heat, off the heat, on again.

Technical term: peaks that stand on their own.

Now the cheeses, Parmesan and Blue, get added and everything goes in a 2nd bowl.

Next a step most of us recognize: beating egg whites.  Do this with your mixer until they make lovely peaks.  Note that the recipe says “glossy” peaks.  I’m not sure how to judge glossiness in food.  I usually just go for peaks-that-stand-on-their-own.

Folding in egg whites...with a certain je ne sais quoi.

Now take these lovely French peaks and slowly fold them in with the cheese/egg/seasoning mixture gently.  This part was sort of amazing…I mean, I could feel how light everything was getting as I was mixing it together.  There is undoubtedly a sexy French word for this phenomenon.

Now spoon this into a soufflé dish that’s been buttered and sprinkled with Parmesan.  Take your spatula and draw a ring in the mixture on the top of the soufflé.  This helps it to rise as well as form that little puff on the top that makes it look, oh-so soufflé.

Then into the 375° oven for 35 minutes.  This part is CRITICAL.  Even more critical than knowing how to say “without ketchup” while in France.   Ok, here goes:  DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN.  DON’T DO IT.  No, not even a peek.

Turn on your oven light and make sure nothing has turned en flambé, but otherwise leave it alone.  The steam in the oven is vital to your success and opening the door releases all of it.  So leave it alone and wait.  If you were French, now is when you would have a cigarette.

Nothing on fire...no reason to open the door.

After about 35 minutes the soufflé will be brown on top and puffed up.  When you take it out, make sure people are watching, because, my god is it beautiful.

Like an impressionist painting you can eat.

Serve it with a big spoon and enjoy.  Other than cotton candy, it will be the lightest thing you have ever eaten.  I think I squealed, “It’s like eating buttery cheese air!”.

Les incompetents.

Handsome Husband and I ate the souffle with nothing but a glass of white wine.  Which may be part of the reason we ended up with this:

Vivé la France!

xoxo Flyover Foodie

p.s. Lest you be concerned, I adore the country of France and its lovely, snobbish people and devotion to food.  The Flyover Household has great memories in France and just this week we were scheming a way to get back there!