Three great French recipes

For this guest-post, I wanted to share three recipes for a French meal – appetizer, main course and dessert. The dessert is a little more elaborate than a typical school night meal, but it is so delicious and summery I couldn’t resist sharing it with you. So here’s your menu, if you choose accept this little challenge of eating like the French for a meal
Cold Sorrel Cucumber Soup

Cooking time: This is fairly quickly made, 10-15 minutes, but does need to chill for a few hours. You can make it the day before or a few hours ahead.

4 slices of bread, crusts removed
1 bulb of fennel, stalks removed, bulb sliced
1 cucumber, peeled and sliced
A large handful of sorrel leaves
1/4 green bell pepper, cored, seeds removed
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp cumin
3/4 cup of cold water + some to soak the bread
1 1/2 tsp salt

Soak the bread in cold water.

Meanwhile, chop all the vegetables.

Drain and squeeze the water out of the soaking bread. Place wet bread in a blender.

Add the fennel and some of the cold water and blend on high until liquefied.

Add the cucumber, sorrel, bell pepper, cumin, vinegar, olive oil, salt and rest of water, blend on high until very smooth.

Place the blender pitcher, covered, in the fridge for a couple of hours at least, until chilled.

When ready to serve, blend it one more time for a few seconds, and pour in bowls.

 Veal Blanquette

Adapted from At Home with French Classics by Richard Grausman, as well as my mother’s recipe.

Cooking time: Ok, I’ll admit this is a bit involved. You should count about 90 minutes to complete this dish, with some downtime while it cooks. But it is well worth it and is even better the next day!


3 pounds of veal shoulder, cut into bite-size cubes
1 onion, studded with 2 cloves
1 large carrot
2 leeks, washed
1 turnip
2 stalks of celery
3/4 lb mushrooms, washed and sliced
1 Bouquet Garni: 1/2 stalk of celery, 2 or 3 sprigs of fresh thyme, 1 bay leaf, 4-5 sprigs of Italian parsley
25 – 30 pearl onions (the easiest is to buy them frozen if you can find them. Otherwise, peel, trim the root end but the onions must stay whole)
2 1/2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground pepper
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 cups (dry) of rice of your choice

Place the veal in a large casserole or Dutch oven and pour 8 cups of cold water over it. Bring to a boil, skimming the foam from the surface frequently.

Meanwhile prepare the bouquet garni: take a piece of celery stalk, cut it in half lengthwise. Place 2 or 3 sprigs of fresh thyme in the hollow of the stalk, cover with 1 bay leaf and 4 or 5 sprigs of Italian parsley. Cover with the other half of the stalk and tie together with kitchen twine (see photo above).

As soon as the water with the veal boils, add the studded onion, the carrot, leeks, turnip, celery and the bouquet garni (all the vegetables go in whole, as they are not meant to stay in the dish, but to give the stock flavor). Reduce the heat* to a gentle simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes.

(*It is important not to let it boil very strongly, or the broth will evaporate and you will not have enough to make the sauce and cook the rice.)

Add the pearl onions (if they’re frozen, just run some cold water over them first) and simmer (still covered) on low for another 35 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and cook for another 10-15 minutes.

Drain the meat and vegetables, reserving the stock. Put the veal, pearl onions and mushrooms in a large saucepan. Discard the bouquet garni.

The remaining vegetables (leeks, celery, turnip, carrot, half of the onion) are typically discarded, but I find that to be a shame. If you have a baby, toddler or young child, mixing all those veggies makes for a very tasty soft puree with lots of vegetables. You can mix in a food processor and place in 2 oz container (or ice-cube tray), and freeze if needed.

Cook the rice in a saucepan or rice cooker, using 2 cups of the stock and 2 cups of water.

Reduce the remaining stock by boiling over high heat (uncovered), until you have about 3 cups left.

In a small saucepan, heat the butter over medium high heat. Add the flour, and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture (called a roux) is pale yellow and frothy, 30 to 40 seconds. Add 2 1/2 cups of the reduced veal stock, and whisk until the sauce thickens and comes to a boil, 2 or 3 minutes.

Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and add salt and pepper. Whisk vigorously for 10 seconds. Simmer gently, whisking from time to time, until the sauce is the consistency of heavy cream, about 5 minutes. Skim off any butter at the surface.

Reduce the remaining 1/2 cup of reserved veal stock over high heat, until only a few teaspoons remain, and whisk that into the sauce. Remove the sauce from heat.

In a small bowl, mix the egg yolks and cream together, and gradually whisk in 1/2 cup of the warm sauce. Then whisk the egg/cream mixture back into the rest of the sauce. Return to the heat, bring to a simmer, whisking constantly. Remove from heat and pour it over the veal, mushrooms and pearl onions, coating them with the sauce.

Serve a portion of rice, with the veal and sauce mixture on top, spoon over some extra sauce. Bon appétit!



Notes:
1. This keeps very well and is known to taste even better the next day. You could even make it (the veal, not so much the rice) a day prior to serving it. Just let cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat in a boiling water bath: by placing the veal in a bowl, and placing that bowl in a larger pan with boiling water over low heat. Stir gently and reheat for about 15-20 minutes.
2. I highly recommend finding veal shoulder, and not settling for veal “stew meat” or other cuts you might find. Shoulder meat is very tender and perfect for this dish, otherwise, the meat might be somewhat chewy.

Cheese

Serve cheese as the French do, towards the end of the meal, with a simple green salad with vinaigrette (1 part vinegar, 3 part oil, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, salt and pepper), to help digest.


Peach Gratin Soufflé

Adapted from Cuisine Actuelle.fr

Cooking time: This takes about 30 minutes total to make, but I swear, it is like a warm cloud of summer in your mouth!

4 ripe peaches
2 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tbsp butter
1 pinch of salt
1 pinch of cream of tartar

In a saucepan, combine the milk and cream. Cut the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the milk cream. Toss in the bean as well. Bring to a light boil, remove from heat and cover, letting the vanilla infuse for about 10 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean.

Meanwhile, peel the peaches, take out the stone and quarter them. Butter a baking dish.
Place the peaches in the dish.

Separate the yolks from the white.

In a large bowl, whisk the yolks with the sugar, add the flour. Then add the milk/cream/vanilla mixture, whisking well. Pour the whole thing back into the saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. It will thicken into a cream consistency. Remove from heat and let the cream cool completely.

(The recipe can be prepared to this point a few hours in advance. Then you just have about 10-15 minutes of prep/cook time before serving. In a French meal, I would start doing this last part while the guests are eating the salad and cheese, chatting and digesting…)

Preheat the broiler at 500°F.

Beat the egg whites with a pinch of cream of tartar until they form peaks. Incorporate gently into the cream, “folding it in” (don’t stir) with a rubber spatula.

Cover the peaches with this mixture. Place in the broiler (in the middle of the oven) for about 5-7 minutes, until golden on top.

Take out of the oven and let it cool down to warm.

Serve warm in bowls with a spoon. (If you have leftovers, you can refrigerate and serve chilled.)

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