La cuisine française
French foods are the epitome of decadence with rich flavors and talent when it comes to plating. French food brings to mind fancy restaurants and a special meal you don’t get every day. For every day cooks, it often brings anxiety as it seems unattainable and somewhat unrealistic for a simple meal to feed the family. The good news is, French foods are not near as complex as they used to be and they don’t have to be served fancy at your own dinner table.
The French typically rely heavily on local products from produce all the way to meat. Apples, berries, French green beans, leeks, mushroom and stone fruits like apricots and lychees are all commonly used ingredients. When it comes to meats, the French have various poultry, beef, lamb and veal all readily available year round. They also depend on game meats during hunting season, early autumn through February. Of course, France also has an abundance of artisanal cheeses and wines. It is what they are known for after all.
While they like the local flavors, they also love color and flair. Brilliant colors are obtained naturally by juicing spinach or leeks for greens. Yellow comes from saffron or egg yolk. Red is often cultivated from sunflowers and purple from a European heliotrope. Silver and gold leaf make an especially fancy dish. If you want the epitome of opulence, serve minced swan or peacock mixed with other ingredients and re-stuffed into the skin and feathers of the original bird. While that might make for an interesting dinner table, I think I would have a problem eating minced peacock with the bird staring at me fully feathered.
Luckily for us all, French cuisine does not have to be fancy. I went with a few recipes I could easily cook and had some help in cooking and prep. Thank you Adrian for your assistance in the kitchen this week! Make your grocery list and meet me for French cuisine in an Oklahoma kitchen!
3.5lbs whole chicken, skin on
2 sprigs of thyme
1 sprig of rosemary
1 sprig of sage
1 large clove garlic
Salt and pepper
unsalted butter, softened or melted
Preheat oven to 375°F. If you're going to add herbs on top: remove leaves from thyme, rosemary and sage. Use sharp knife to mince herbs into fine pieces. Use your knife to mince the garlic clove as well before combining minced garlic and herbs together. Temporarily set aside. If using whole herbs, simply preheat your oven and skip the rest of this step. Remove any giblets from inside chicken. Thoroughly pat dry chicken using paper towels. Spread butter over chicken, using a hand to rub butter over entire surface of chicken (including wings and legs). Flip chicken over and repeat on backside. Toss a couple tablespoons inside the cavity as well. Sprinkle salt over breast side of chicken. Then sprinkle 1/4 tsp salt into the inside cavity of chicken, before flipping chicken over and sprinkling salt over backside of chicken. Sprinkle ground pepper over backside of chicken, then flip it over and sprinkle pepper over breast side. If using minced herbs, cover breast side of chicken with herb/garlic mixture. If using whole herbs, simply place herbs and garlic clove inside cavity. Feel free to use twine to tie legs together to keep cavity shut if desired. Slightly grease bottom of 9" by 11" baking dish. Place chicken in dish (breast-side up for pretty presentation, breast down for juicier breast meat), and bake 1 hour and 30 minutes. Loosely cover chicken with foil and let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
Recipe adapted from monpetitfour.com
4oz cream cheese, softened
4 large eggs
¾ cup almond flour
2 Tbsps. granular monk fruit sweetener
¼ cup almond milk
Add all ingredients to blender and pulse until smooth and well combined. Let rest a few minutes. In non-stick 8-10” skillet over medium-low heat, melt just enough butter to cover bottom of pan, maybe a teaspoon-you don’t need much. Once hot, add about 2 tablespoons of batter. Swirl pan to spread batter into thin layer. This is basically a thin pancake. You don’t want it so thin it becomes a cookie. After the first crepe, adjust amount of batter as needed. Cook crepe until edges are slightly hardened and bottom can be loosened with spatula. Flip and cook other side until light golden-brown color is achieved. Repeat process with remaining batter. Fill or top with your favorite fillings. I used sugar free strawberry jam and just a little whipped cream. Serve warm!
Recipe adapted from ruled.me
½ cup milk
½ cup water
¼ tsp salt
½ cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 cup all-purpose flour
sprinkle of nutmeg
pinch of ground pepper
1 cup gruyere cheese, shredded (plus more for sprinkling on top)
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In medium saucepan, heat water, milk, salt and butter over medium heat until mixture is smooth and butter has melted. Temporarily remove pan from heat and stir in flour. Stir flour in until it's completely incorporated. Move pan back to low heat and stir for a minute and a half. This removes excess moisture and helps the pastry puff well. Let dough cool for a minute before adding eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each egg. Be patient with this step. The egg will not seem to want to incorporate. It will but it may seem like it’s not. Just keep going until it does. Add nutmeg and ground pepper and stir. Add cup of shredded cheese and mix until well blended. Let dough rest for 10 minutes. Use tablespoon cookie scooper to place small tablespoon-size mounds of dough onto baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Sprinkle more shredded cheese on top of each mound. Bake gougères for 21-25 minutes, or until they're puffed up and a rich golden color.
Note: If the dough doesn’t want to hold its shape or seems runny in the pan, it has too much moisture. Leave it out on the counter to dry out. Check it every 15 minutes or so until it does hold shape. I don’t have this problem, but have heard it from others. It is important the extra moisture is out of the dough.
Recipe from monpetitfour.com
3 large egg whites
¾ cup confectioners' sugar
½ cup all-purpose flour
6 Tbsps. unsalted real butter, melted
½ tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. salt
ice cream or sorbet
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. In large bowl, using wire whisk, beat egg whites, confectioners' sugar and flour until well blended. Beat in melted butter, vanilla and salt. Drop 1 heaping tablespoon batter onto one end of prepared cookie sheet. Using back of spoon, spread batter to form at least 5-inch round. Repeat to make second cookie. (Do not place more than 2 or 3 cookies on baking sheet. After baking, cookies must be shaped quickly before hardening. I am able to do 3 at a time but you have to move quickly.) Bake cookies 7-10 minutes or until golden around edges. Place 2-3 glasses, each with 2-inch-diameter base, upside down on work surface. Place small piece of parchment paper atop glass to keep cookie from sticking to glass. With spatula, quickly lift 1 hot cookie and gently shape over bottom of glass to resemble an open tulip. Repeat with second cookie. When cookies are cool, about 15 minutes, transfer to wire rack. Repeat Steps 3 and 4 with remaining batter. (Batter will become slightly thicker upon standing.) Store tulipes in single layer in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days. To serve, place tulipes on dessert plates and fill with ice cream or sorbet. I used vanilla ice cream with a chocolate drizzle.
Recipe from delish.com.