Posts Tagged ‘french’

I may get fire bombed for this, but I find the French to be the epitome of civilization. I say this, of course, as a generalization because 1) I come from a French background, 2) I know there are counter culture within the French culture that play against this, and 3) the French are generally portrayed as nasty, nasty people. But when I first tasted Domaine DuPage French Style Country Ale, I couldn’t help but be transported to the French countryside where the elderly are respected, the villagers are cordial to each other, and there isn’t a need for anything fussy.

Domaine DuPage pours a deep orange-red, almost the color of a perfect sunset. There was very little carbonation rising from the glass resulting in very little foam. The aroma indicated a fresh, clean taste, with very little overwhelming hop or fruit flavor. My first taste was mystical as described above, but it was the middle of the glass that helped me to see what this ale really was all about. If you think about the French countryside and the life of its inhabitants, you have to first block out all of your misconceptions of the French and everything you have ever heard about Parisians (they are what give the French a bad name). French country life is a humble life, simple, but full of life and daily appreciation for seeing the sun every morning. This ale captures that by putting its floral hop flavors out in front and backing this up with the taste of fresh baked bread and orchard fruits such as apple and pear. While none of these may rise to the top at any given time, they work together in harmony to create a pleasant embrace.

This particular beer may be brewed and bottle in Midwestern USA, but it captures perfectly the essence of what I only imagine is French countryside life. It’s like seeing an old friend after so many years and picking up right where you left off or like spending an entire day taking a stroll through the fields and rolling hills without a care in the world as to who may be calling your cell phone or what’s the latest gossip. This is a simple beer that has the power to remind all of us what we’re missing when life gets a little bit too much.

Domaine DuPage is an easy drinking beer that does not take it’s toll given the moderate 5.4% ABV. A six pack will run you around $9 and I do hope Two Brothers get more distribution so other parts of the country can experience their superb quality beers. As everyday drinking beers goes, this is a wonderful beer that I highly recommend.

Grade: A

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Are pork chops as American as apple pie? I seem to think so. I grew up putting chops in large plastic bags and pouring Shake and Bake over them.

“It’s shake and bake. And I helped!”

My mom usually paired pork chops with mashed potatoes and applesauce. Each meal using pork chops I eat as an adult brings back those happy memories.

The United States consumes around 9 million metric tons of pork every year, not even close to China which consumes more than 50 million metric tons. In other parts of the world, pork is strictly forbidden. Religion, being the dominant international cultural force that it is, has played a large role in pork consumption. It is mentioned in the book of Deuteronomy (14:8):

“And the pig, because it possesses split hooves and does not bring up its cud — from its flesh you may not eat.”

It is also is forbidden according to Islamic dietary laws:

He has forbidden you only the Maitah (dead animals), and blood, and the flesh of swine, and that which is slaughtered as a sacrifice for others than God (or has been slaughtered for idols)” 

Chapter (Sura) 2 – Verse (Ayat) 173 Al-Baqara (The Cow)

So for my Islamic and Kosher readers, this one may not apply to you, but you could easily substitute chicken or turkey.

I’m going to attempt to reconcile my French roots in this recipe by smothering my American cut pork chops with a French sauce. Sauce Robert (pronounced row-bear) is as ancient as it comes to French cuisine dating back to the 17th century. The earliest documented recipe is found in the journals of the cook for Henry IV. If it’s good enough for royalty, I think it’s worth a try.

Ingredients (Serves 2)

  • 2 thick cut pork chops
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1c thickened beef stock
  • 1/4c white wine
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • parsley, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Allow pork to come to room temperature. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in an oven safe skillet over high heat. Season pork chops with salt and pepper. Place in pan for 2 minutes or until chops are seared and pleasantly browned. Turn chops over and place in oven for 15 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.

2. With an oven mitt (the pan is super hot now), take the pan out of the oven and place back on the stove. Remove the pork chops and allow to rest on a cutting board. Cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.

3. Turn the heat up to high. Pour in white wine and scrape up any brown bits left on pan. Allow liquid to reduce by half. Place shallots in the pan and cook for 30 seconds. Place thickened beef stock, dijon mustard, and sugar in the pan. Whisk together. Turn the heat down to simmer for at least 5 minutes. This will allow the flavors to blend together.

4. Before serving, turn off the heat. Place the butter in the pan and swirl until melted. Serve pork chops over a bed of rice. Generously pour Robert sauce over and garnish with parsley.

I come from a long line of Frenchmen. In fact, my dad has traced our lineage to 17th century France when our ancestors boarded a boat and travelled across the Atlantic ocean on their way to Canada. They settled in Acadia (Nova Scotia/New Brunswick areas) and stayed there for a couple of centuries until they were forced out by the British and emigrated to the United States. Some went down south and wound up in Louisiana where the Cajun culture was started, and others settled in Northern New England.

I don’t embrace much of my ancestral culture, and speak no semblance of understandable French, but I do know a few phrases that are held near and dear to my heart and remind me of home. So from my family to yours and everyone around the world

Joyeux Noel

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Adventures in Food will be on vacation and will return in the new year with all new recipes, ideas, rantings of a mad-man, and plenty more Mircrobrew Mondays. Eat well my friends.

Literally translated, a Croque Monsieur means “Crunchy Mister” or “Crispy Mister.” Truth be told, no one actually knows how the sandwich got its name or when it was first conceived. Essentially, this a ham and cheese melt that you could get at any local diner, but scaled up by melting the cheese on the outside of the bread as well as the inside.

This version updates the classic hot ham and cheese by topping the entire sandwich with mornay sauce (béchamel with cheese) and sauteed mushrooms, and baking the entire thing in the oven. Mornay sauce is a white sauce with parmesan cheese mixed into it. It’s delicious on pasta as well, so be sure to make extra for later.

Mornay Sauce Ingredients (makes 2 cups)

  • 1 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1 1/2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 c whole milk
  • 2 bay leaf
  • 1/2 c Parmesan cheese
  • Pinch of nutmeg

Croque Monsieur Ingredients (makes 4 sandwiches)

  • 1/2 lb ham slices
  • 1/4 lb swiss cheese, sliced
  • 1/4 lb gruyere cheese
  • 6 oz crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 tbsp butter at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese
  • 1 loaf crusty bread

1. Start by heating the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat (5 on the dial). Add the flour to the butter and continously whisk until the mixture becomes a pale golden brown. In cooking, this is called a roux (pronounced like Winne the Poo’s young kangaroo friend).

2. Mix the milk into the roux and whisk until combined. Add the bay leaf and turn the heat up to medium high. Whisk until the mixture begins to thicken. Do not boil or you will have a milky mess and will cry over spilled milk. Turn the heat down to simmer (a 2 on the dial) for 10 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Meanwhile, heat some oil in a saute pan over medium high heat (7 on the dial). Add the mushrooms to the oil and saute until the mushrooms have released most of their juices and reduced in size. Set aside to cool.

4. Slice the bread into 1/3″ pieces. Butter the bread on one side and toast in a pan. You can also toast this much bread under the broiler. I have issues with the broiler and tend to burn things quickly, but if you have skill, this is a much quicker way.

5. The sauce should be done by now. A skin may have formed on the top. If this has happened, just whisk the skin into the mixture. Turn the heat off and mix the nutmeg and parmesan cheese into the sauce. Set aside.

6. Build your sandwich. Start with the bread, toasted side down. Top with ham, then swiss cheese, and then top with a second piece of bread, toasted side up. Press down on the sandwich to compress. Top the bread with enough mornay sauce to make you happy, then add the mushroom on top. Top the whole thing with the gruyere cheese.

Note: I used an inferior deli sliced gruyere here; a small block of gruyere grated would work better. You’ll can see in the picture below that the deli gruyere keeps it’s shape, while grated will melt together and ooze all over your bread.

7. Bake the whole sandwich in the oven for 10 minutes or until the cheeses have melted and the top begins to bubble and brown.

8. Serve with sweet gherkins and whole grain mustard.

Meringue, strawberries, and orange liqueur. Oh yeah.

The equivalent to this dessert in the US would be strawberry shortcake. The primary difference is we substitute the cake or biscuit with a homemade meringue cookie. Meringue is nothing more than egg whites and sugar that are dried in the oven slowly over a long period of time. What results is a crispy shell that is perfect to fill with macerated strawberries flavored with orange liqueur. The dessert can be made well ahead of time and assembled quickly when it is time to serve.

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs, whites only
  • 1 lb strawberries, sliced
  • 1 c heavy cream
  • 3/4 c tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp Grand Marnier or other orange flavored liqueur
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1. Place the strawberries in a bowl. Add 2 tbsp sugar and the Grand Marnier to the bowl and stir to combine. You can mash some of the strawberries with a fork for added texture. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator.

2. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Place the egg whites in a bowl. With a hand mixer, beat the egg whites until you get medium-stiff peaks. Then, slowly add 1/2 c + 2 tbsp sugar while mixing the egg whites until glossy and stiff.

3. Place the meringue in a pastry bag and pipe spirals on a silicone mat covered sheet pan. Once you have a spiral, go back over the outer edge and make two more vertical layers. Place the sheet pan in the oven for 3 hours.

Note: If you do not have a pastry bag, you can also drop mounds of meringue onto the sheet pan and use the back of a spoon to make a well in the middle. If you do not have a silicone mat, place a piece of parchment paper on the bottom of the sheet pan.

4. Take the meringue out of the oven. The cookies will immediately start to do their best imitations of Rice Krispies. If some of the cookies are still soft, don’t worry, they’ll harden quickly. Set on a cooling rack for at least one hour.

5. When ready to serve, place the heavy cream, vanilla extract, and two tbsp sugar in a bowl. Using a hand mixer, whip the cream until it has reached a desired consistency.

5. To serve, place a meringue cookie in the middle of a plate. Spoon some strawberries into the well and place a dollop of whipped cream on the side. Spoon some of the liquid from the strawberries around the cookie. Enjoy.

When trying to figure out how to best draw ratatouille for the climatic showdown with the food critic in Ratatouille, director Brad Byrd relied on his food advisor, Thomas Keller, for inspiration. When asked how he would serve this dish to a world famous food critic, Keller came up with a fan shaped design (seen right). However, traditional ratatouille calls for vegetables to be fried and then baked. Other recipes rough chop and saute all the vegetables together and serve like a stew or inside a crepe. This tradition changed in 1976 when a French chef named Michel Guérard developed a layering technique for presentation purposes. Using this technique, Keller developed this variation and named it after the Turkish dish, İmam bayıldı, which is like ratatouille stuffed inside an eggplant. As a side note, translated to English, the Turkish dish means “the imam (spiritual leader) fainted”. The story goes that the Imam’s wife served this dish and it was so delicious that he fainted. That’s good cooking!

The preparation for this dish comes in two parts. The first is a piperade which will serve as the base for the dish and flavor the vegetables sitting on top. The second is the ratatouille itself. The main challenge, however, comes not from the preparation, but from the presentation. Gravity is your enemy here and the picture above is virtually impossible if you accept the laws of physics. Given that I live in reality, and my guess is so do you, you may want to serve this family style alongside a heaping bowl of couscous or polenta.

Ingredients (Piperade)

  • 1/2 red pepper
  • 1/2 orange pepper
  • 1/2 yellow pepper
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 12 oz tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp Herbs de Provence

Ingredients (Ratatouille)

  • 1 zucchini (4 to 5 ounces)
  • 1 yellow summer squash (4 to 5 ounces)
  • 1 small eggplant (4 to 5 ounces)
  • 4 roma tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp Herbs de Provence
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the pepper halves cut side down on a foil lined baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes until skins give way. Set aside to cool. Once cool enough to handle, dice the peppers fine. Turn the oven down to 275 degrees.

2. Cut the tomatoes and half. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and pulp into a small bowl. Squeeze the pulp and seeds to get as much juice out as possible. Throw away the seeds. Diced the tomato into cubes.

3. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium low heat (a 3 or 4 on the dial). Place the onion and garlic into the pan and cook until soft, but not browned. Add the tomatoes, bay leaf, and Herbs de Provence. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook until the liquid has all but evaporated (about 10 minutes). Add the peppers to the pan and simmer until soft.

4. Reserve 1 tbsp of the piperade. This is to be used to make an accompanying vinaigrette just before serving. Place the rest of the piperade in the bottom of an 8 inch skillet or baking dish.

5. Slice the zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, and roma tomatoes into thin slices. The thinner they are, the easier it will be to layer them in the baking dish. The goal is to make everything the same size. About 1/16 of an inch would be perfect.

6. Arrange 8 slices down the center of the dish first on top of the piperade, alternating in whatever pattern you’d like. Keeping the same pattern, continue to arrange slices around the outside of the center strip allowing about 1/4 inch of each slice to be seen. Continue until you have filled the dish. All slices may not be necessary. Top with olive oil and Herbs de Provence.

7. Cover with aluminum foil and place in the oven for 2 hours. Make sure the edges are sealed well or the vegetables will turn to mush.

8. Uncover and continue to cook for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, if there is excess liquid (as in the juices cover the vegetables completely) in the baking dish, set on the stove over medium heat and reduce. For additional color, place the pan under the broiler until brown.

9. If you would like to make an accompanying vinaigrette, mix the 1 tbsp reserved piperade with 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste.

10. Serve the byaldi hot on top of some couscous or polenta. Garnish with the vinaigrette.

The Savoie region of France (seen on the map in red) is credited with the creation of tartiflette. Traditionally, this dish is made by building layers of sliced potatoes and sandwiching bacon lardons between. This is finished by covering the whole thing with white wine and an entire wheel of locally made reblochon cheese on top. How could this possibly be bad for you?

Reblochon (also from Savoie) is a soft cheese that is made from unpasteurized cow’s milk. Given the susceptibility of raw milk and the possibility of pathogens hitching a ride across the ocean, the US government does not allow this (or any unpasteurized cheese aged less than 60 days) to be imported. However, those crafty French refuse to let one little customs blockade stop them. Fromage de Savoie is virtually the same as reblochon except it’s made from pasteurized milk. However, even this may be very difficult to find, so substitute your favorite soft cheese like brie or camembert. If you have a Whole Foods near you, head to their cheese counter. The selection is amazing and their staff is extremely helpful.

I have taken the liberty to make several other substitutions from my French ancestors. I’ve substituted the lardons with smoked salmon and brie for the reblochon. I’ve also added gruyere for its nutty flavor. As you read through the recipe, you will notice that salt plays no part of this dish as the salmon and cheese bring all the seasoning you could ever need.

Ingredients (Serves 8 Appetizers; 4 entrees)

  • 5 – 6 medium Yukon gold potatoes
  • 8 oz smoked salmon
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1/4 lb brie (substitute camembert if you prefer)
  • 1/4 lb Gruyère
  • 1/3 c dry white wine

1. Boil the potatoes with their skins on in a large pot of water. This will ensure that the outside does not overcook and lose its shape. When the potatoes can be pierced easily, but still put up some resistance, they are done. This should take about 30 minutes.

2. While the potatoes are cooling, slice the onion thin and add to a saute pan with a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat (a 7 on the dial). Saute until caramelized.

3. When the potatoes have cooled and can be handled easily, remove their skins. If you rub your thumb over the skin, it should remove easily. Use a spoon to remove any black spots. Slice the potatoes evenly into 1/4″ slices. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

4. Lightly butter a glass baking dish. In the dish, arrange a layer of potatoes on the bottom, overlapping the potatoes. Top this with the onions and then the smoked salmon pieces on top.

Note: When cooked, smoked salmon brings a more subtle note to the dish than bacon would. It’s also a hundred times healthier.

5. Arrange a layer of potatoes on top of the salmon. Then layer the slices of gruyère over the potatoes. You do not want to completely cover everything as we want to leave room for the brie to melt into the potatoes. Pour the wine on top of the potato slices.

6. Top this with hunks of brie. My preference if to have the white rind facing up. This will allow the creamy brie to melt throughout the dish.

7. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes until the cheese has melted. Turn the heat up to 425 degrees and remove the aluminum foil. Cook for an additional 15 minutes or until the top has browned.

8. This dish can be made as an appetizer or served with a crunchy salad for an entree.

Wine Pairings

A Savoie region dish deserves a Savioe region wine. In the French section of your wine store, look for bottles marked “Vin de Savoie.” Two bottles I can recommend are:

2009 Domaine Eugene Carrel Vin de Savoie Jongieux.


2009 Chignin de Savoie Domaine G. Belioz.


If your wine store has a limited supply of Savoie region wine, pair this dish with a Sauvignon Blanc.