French Food for Families: Day 1 – Coq Au Vin

The Recipe:

Alton Brown’s Coq Au Vin (co-co-vah)

 

The Process:

It’s Alton Brown. I’m not going to pretend I can one-up his cooking prowess. Just follow the recipe (it’s fun to watch the episode as you cook, or before you cook. or both, really). The only thing we really changed is that we use frozen pearl onions instead of fresh. They stew for hours, and have you ever tried to peel those little buggers? No. thanks.

 

The Result:

Presentation:

It's like a more herbal, win-y, flavorful stroganoff. minus the dairy.

Grown-up Thoughts:

  • Ommnomnom.
  • But seriously, broken into two days of prep (one to prep chicken and refrigerate overnight, and another to slow cook in the oven), this dish was pretty simple and mostly a matter of waiting for things to cook. Who says French is a lot of fussy prep work and knife skills?

Kid Thoughts:

  • 8 year old — I liked the meat and noodles.
  • 3 year old — I liked everything we had tonight, but I would only like the noodles again.

Sigh. At least the only thing left on their plates were bones, an itty-bitty pile of mushrooms (paige) and an itty-bitty pile of pearl  onions (alice).

French Food for Families week(ish): starting… now.

The sudden change in weather (moving from early autumn into late autumn always feels like you’ve crossed some sort of invisible line into oktoberfest beers and dressing in layers) has provoked a longing in me for certain, lesser-publicized fall flavors: earthy mushroom, rich caramelized onion, the salty-sweet tang of slow-cooked meats.

As I was putting the meal plan together this week (including rabbit. Rabbit!), I was pleasantly surprised to notice myself instinctively hunting down farm dishes… coq au vin, pork provencale, boeuf bourgingnon.

These also happen to be French dishes. Weird, because I always think French Food is Fancy Food. Got me to thinking: could I pull off an entire week of French dishes? I work full-time, have a family to feed. Would my children starve to death? Would my self-proclaimed Frog Disdainer ™ of a husband allow me to sleep in the house (because, BRR, it gets cold at night these days)?

I think the answers here are: yes, no, and no. Honestly. I think you can cook traditional cuisine with minimal adaptations over the course of a normal, typical fall week, and live to tell the tale.

We start with the coq au vin, and go from there, including:

10/20: coq au vin with garden-fresh broccoli and cauliflower (yep, we’re still pulling produce out of our dirt. Neat, huh?)
10/22: Rabbit with mustard
10/23: Pork Provencale with sage dressing and roasted sweet potato
10/24: lentil soup
10/26: Grilled Chicken with Mustard and Red Pepper, pan roasted potatoes and spinach salad
10/27: Boeuf Bourguignon
10/28: Seared scallops with tarragon and beurre blanc, cous cous, and fall harvest salad

Allons-y… think we can do it? Please follow us as we attempt to feed our family seven french meals over the next week.


salsa = summer

My mother-in-law has brought this for us a few times, and I’m a little more in love with it every time I eat it.

Watermelon Salsa

  • 4 cups chopped watermelon
  • 1 cup chopped cucumber
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallion
  • 1/2 large bell pepper (yellow or orange makes the best presentation), chopped fine
  • 1 large jalapeno, seeded and finely minced
  • 2-3 Tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons minced fresh mint
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

 

Mix the whole works together; chill  and serve. Serve with chips, or on top of a light meat like fish, chicken, or pork. Honestly,  I just eat this stuff by the spoonful.

Weekday Meals: Spring Pizza

A very kind neighbor brought over about a half-pound of morel mushrooms for us this week, which left us both extraordinarily grateful and pondering what the best way to enjoy them might be.

I’m a big fan of the morel in eggs, so I was surprised and intrigued when Dave said he was making pizza.

from L-R: dough, goat cheese, morels, mustard greens, dandelion greens, ramps, and bacon

We used Alton Brown’s pizza crust recipe, pureed the dandilion and mustard greens (a couple of cups worth of greens) with olive oil (a couple of tablespoons), salt and pepper that, and voila – sauce.

Dave sauteed the morels:

oh baby. mushrooms.

crisped up bacon, roasted whole ramps, scattered some thinly sliced ramps and some whole greens, added clumps of goat cheese, then layered it on all on the pizza stone.

Baked for 10  minutes, the result was phenomenal:

Now you understand why I married this man.

We’ll be making this again next ramp season. Five stars.

Minneapolis, Food City.

It’s always busy during May for us. So I’m probably more excited than usual to get to the Mill City Farmer’s Market for the first time this season.

Mill City has been “our market” since we met five years ago. It’s not the biggest, and it’s not the closest to our house, but it’s a fantastic bike ride over the Stone Arch Bridge. The Chef Shack is there. And there’s a ton of really high-quality food to bring home, to boot.

And it offers a list of food that makes my mouth water… case in point, this week’s list of goodies (it’s so helpful that the market is offering a Produce Planner this year!):

  • Asparagus
  • Morels
  • Green garlic
  • Ramps
  • Rhubarb
  • Radishes
  • Arugula
  • Spring salad mix
  • Spinach
  • Nettles
  • Fiddlehead ferns
  • Herbs
  • Salad turnips
  • Dried peppers
  • Baby bok choy

Drool. That is all.

leftovers

One of the conundrums which accompanies hosting the holidays is what to do with all your leftovers.  Sometimes we have a party to rid ourselves of the extra (Leftover Thanksgiving, a hit two years running with our friends).  Sometimes we just give them away (my sister-in-law typically comes over to stock up on weekday lunches on Sunday nights.  Love getting rid of our leftovers that way!)

But sometimes — like this weekend — we just have a lot of leftover food to contend with.

This is a problem for me.  I really can’t stand eating the same thing for more than about 2 days in a row (it’s actually nauseating).  To compound the problem, Dave has an aversion for wasting food (so I can’t just throw stuff out, which is wasteful, yes, but what I would probably do).

What do you do with leftovers?

We had a bunch of ham leftover from the holidays — and roots galore in season right now, so I perused the internet for a little inspiration… and didn’t get a whole lot.  I’m wary of gratins with ham (I’ve been burned before)… but really, REALLY wanted to use up some of this damned ham.  But I don’t like clumpy cheese or watery taters… and that got me to thinking about how AWESOME my dear husband’s mac and cheese (a basic bechamel combined with cooked noodles, shredded cheese, and baked with a breadcrumb topping)… And then I got hungry.

But it also made good sense to apply to ham and taters, so I modified about 6 different recipes, the result of which is follows (and, I think will be going into regular rotation.

Green Toews Ham & Cheese Gratin Hotdish

(serves 6-8)

  • 4 cups diced russet potatoes, skin-on
  • 1 cup finely diced onion
  • 1/2 cup finely diced shallot
  • 2 cloves super-fine minced garlic
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 5 tablespoons flour
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 3/4 teaspoon Coleman’s mustard (really, don’t bother with any other kind)
  • 1 teaspoon paprika (I used half-sharp, but you can use whatever your palate prefers)
  • 1 cup finely-grated Parmesan
  • 1 cup finely-shredded extra-sharp cheddar
  • 2 cups diced cooked ham
  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sautee onion, shallot and garlic in a large saucepan til just softened (you’ll want to use a little olive oil in the bottom of a hot pan to get this process started).  Add potatoes (and more oil if necessary) and cook the aromatics and potatoes together til softened and beginning to brown – about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In another saucepan, melt the butter.  Once melted, add the flour and whisk to create a roux.  Continue whisking til slightly browned.   Slowly stir in milk and whisk constantly til smooth and thick; then add mustard, paprika, salt and pepper to taste (under-salt this as your ham and cheese are going to add plenty to this dish).  Remove from heat and set aside.  (This is basically a bechamel… which I’ll refer to it as going forward).

Grab your lasagna pan (this is a 9×13 pyrex casserole dish, in my house) and toss in the potato/aromatics mixture.  Add ham and stir to combine.  Add shredded cheese and give it another stir. Use a rubber spatula and pour the bechamel over the contents of the pan.  Use the rubber spatula to gently combine.  Top the casserole with bread crumbs.

Bake for 30-40 minutes at 350.  You might want to use the last 5 minutes to broil the top and brown your breadcrumb