Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Regional Recipes # 4 - France

When you think of French cuisine, do you imagine challenging (to the American palate) foods like escargot and cow brains? Or do budget-breaking delicacies like truffles and goose liver pop into mind? Perhaps you envision delicious but artery-clogging ingredients like butter, whole cream and duck fat. Or maybe you're thinking about long hours of complicated preparations and a sink full of saute pans and souffle dishes.

I'm glad I volunteered to host January's Regional Recipes Roundup of French food because, as it turns out, French cuisine doesn't have to involve any of the above. There's not an offal, frog leg or snail in sight, most of the ingredients used by our contributors are economical and many of these tantalizing recipes can be whipped up on a weeknight.

Even if you don't know the difference between a clafouti and a cobbler or you can't tell Julia Child from Sue Child (my college buddy), I'm confident that you (and even I) can master these French recipes. Two of the entries are Fast and Easy Entrees, three are Slow but Easy Entrees and two are Company-Pleasing Desserts.

Fast and Easy Entrees

This recipe for Scallops and Leeks with Crème Fraîche was submitted by food and cat lover Catherine of Kits Chow. This is just the kind of recipe I love: all three of the basic ingredients are in the title. Throw in butter for sautéing the scallops; garlic, saffron and salt and pepper for flavor and there you have a quick and easy recipe that's elegant enough for company. Catherine serves hers over linguine, but you can subsitute your favorite pasta, rice or French bread.

I’m especially happy to see how simple it is to make your own crème fraîche at home. Sour cream and cream? Who knew?

Pam's Sidewalk Shoes blog isn't just about food. "It's a blog about food, and a little about reading, and some sewing, and I might even knit something," writes Pam in her subhead. What she doesn't mention is that, like Kits Chow, she loves cats (or "chat" in French - pronounced "shah"). Is there a cosmic connection between love for fast and easy French food and an affection for cats?

Pam's submission for Chicken with Tarragon Vinegar Sauce is another dish that's "easy-peasy" enough for weekday cooking but special enough for guests. Pam adapted the recipe from The Bon Appetit Cookbook: Fast Easy Fresh, a book that she says lives up to its title.

Slow but Easy Entrees

One Perfect Bite's Braised Short Ribs Cotes du Rhone

Mary from One Perfect Bite submitted this slow but easy recipe for Braised Short Ribs Cotes du Rhone. She writes, "Its kissing cousin is, of course, beef bourguignonne, but this luxury version produces aromas that will drive you wild." Mary also promises that this is "like no stew you have ever had."

This recipe takes a little more advance preparation than our first two entries, but it looks like it's worth the effort. I'm ready to be driven wild.

Darlene of Blazing Hot Wok, the developer of this Regional Recipes series, created a French country classic, cassoulet. Cassoulet is to the French what macaroni and cheese is to Americans: the perfect comfort food. Darlene calls it "comfort food made for sharing."

Darlene admits that this is not a quick recipe that can be whipped up in a single evening. She worked on this over the course of seven days, but the total prep time was about four hours. After a week of work, I think the cook could use a little comfort.

TS and JS of Eating Club Vancouver had the same dilemma as Darlene of Blazing Hot Wok. Fancy and refined or rustic? They ended up doing both with their Roast Pork Belly with Puy Lentils. JS also used this as an opportunity to perfect "that crackling skin with still soft-and-tender meat."

Even though the pork belly takes several hours to roast, this recipe is simple and very French.

Company-Pleasing Desserts

Ning of Heart and Hearth is another fan of food that's delicious but fast and easy. She wasn't sure if it was possible to find such a dish in the French food category until she discovered this recipe for apple tart (tarte aux pommes in French).

Let's add "beautiful" to that list of adjectives.

Clafoutis Aux Cerises (French Cherry Clafouti) from Wandering Chopsticks

Wandering Chopsticks is a creative Vietnamese cook, but she doesn't limit herself to Asian food. This recipe for French Cherry Clafouti shows off her comfort with French desserts and her willingness to experiment by adapting (and acknowledging) three of the best clafouti recipes in the blog food world.

For this clafouti, she substitutes soy milk for cream and adds a sprinkling of sugar at the end for a beautiful caramelized look. Like the apple tart, this clafouti is fast, easy, delicious and beautiful.

Thank you to all seven contributors for inspiring me with your luscious photographs and well chosen recipes. I think it's time for me to advance beyond fries and a salad named Nicoise. And special thanks to Darlene at Blazing Hot Wok for creating this Regional Recipe event.

The next regional recipe: I just realized that I get to select the next food region. Since my friend Madhuri is giving me my first Indian cooking lesson this Saturday, I pick India.


pasadenapio said...

I love the rusting dishes of the French countryside. Not so much the uber-gourmet dishes. Your photos made my mouth water!

Susan C said...

PIO, I love the rustic dishes too. I'm a (French) country girl. I wish I could credit for the beautiful photos, but the contributors submitted them. I need a lesson.

Wandering Chopsticks said...

Great round-up! Thanks for organizing and taking my late entry. :P I tend to think of French cuisine as difficult too, but I'm glad there was such a range of simple recipes.

Dee said...

Thanks so much for hosting! I'm supposed to be studying for a test right now and have been studying for the last 3 days, so I would have been hard-pressed to do it. Great job!

India!!!! I love Indian food. It's going to hard to decide on a dish.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the lovely round-up! OOooh! India is challenging for me because I have not tried cooking Indian food yet. This is exciting! :)

Anonymous said...

I once went to a french restaurant in Las Vegas back in the 70's. I recall everything being creamed. I guess I'm a little intimidated by French cuisine but I love Julia Child. She's a Pasadena girl.

Good luck with your Indian cooking lesson.

Margaret said...

Wow: Everything looks and sounds so good. But I must protest one thing: No dissing of the Nicoise salad. I've had yours and it is mouthwateringly delicious.

pasadenapio said...

rusting? I meant rustic!!

pam said...

Great roundup! Everything looks so good! I don't cook much food from India, so I'll have to put my thinking cap on.

KC said...

Great roundup, Susan. I can't wait to try the recipes. Thanks for hosting.

PS: You have a great writing style.

TS of eatingclub vancouver said...

Thanks for the round-up! Hmm, India, eh. A challenging one for us! =)

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