Chocolate Mousse

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In my lifelong experience with chocolate mousse, thanks to my mother, two versions come to mind. One is thick and dense, almost like soft fudge. The other is like the first, but aerated with whipped cream or egg whites, or both.

My preferred version is the dense one. I mean, if you’re going to eat chocolate, eat chocolate!

This is so easy to make, and the individual servings are pretty.

Chocolate Mousse
About 8 servings
Printable recipe below

6 eggs, at room temperature
12 ounces dark chocolate
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
Splash of cognac
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
Whipped cream to top
Chocolate curls, optional

Separate eggs, placing whites in a large bowl and the yolks in a small bowl. I go the extra mile and separate one egg at a time in a small bowl, and then continue with the remaining eggs. I still have the memory from a million years ago of accidentally having a bit of yolk in my whites, and of course the whites couldn’t be whipped. You never forget these things!

In the top of a double boiler, over hot water (not boiling), melt the chocolate and butter together, stirring constantly. Remember you are melting, not cooking.

Remove the top pan, and gradually pour the melted chocolate and butter into the egg yolks, whisking the whole time. Alternately, add one egg yolk at a time to the pan with the melted chocolate, but it needs to be off of the hot water.

Let the chocolate egg yolk mixture cool for 10-15 minutes, then stir in the cognac and coffee.

The coffee was always my mother’s trick. If you’re ever enjoying something chocolate, but it has some je ne said quoi… it’s probably coffee. It makes chocolate even more magical than it already is.

Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until almost stiff; you don’t want them too dry. Use a whisk or spatula to combine the whipped egg whites with the chocolate mixture. Make sure no white streaks remain.

You don’t have to be too gentle doing the folding. The mousse needs to end up dense, not fluffy. However, the egg whites prevent this mousse from being fudge!

Pour the mousse into a serving bowl, cover tightly and refrigerate for several hours or overnight before serving.

Alternatively, place the mousse in individual serving dishes, which I prefer.

To serve, add some whipped cream, if desired, as well as chocolate curls, if you’re that artsy! If you don’t want to buy Ready Whip in a can, try one of these! They work great!

I served this mousse with cookies a friend’s daughter gifted me, and they were so good with the mousse, even though they ended up looking like tortilla chips!

The mousse can be made ahead of time, but cover tightly because chocolate can absorb refrigerator odors.

I also served the mousse with sherry. Just because. The cookies went really well with the sherry, too!

Salad with Liver

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When I purchased the book, Alpine Cooking, I knew all of the cheesy recipes would jump out at me, like liptauer. What I didn’t expect to entice me was a beautiful green salad topped with sautéed calf liver and fried onions.

Here are some of my own photos from our family’s time visiting the Alps in France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and Austria. Notice we’ve only been there during the warm months!

I rarely cook liver at home. It’s just the two of us, and the “other” won’t eat liver. So if I make a paté or foie gras, we have one friend and a son-in-law who will join in on the feast. Outside of that happening, I have to eat it all myself.

Occasionally I get a hankering for good ‘ole beef liver, served with onions and eggs. It’s fabulous for breakfast.

In the case of this salad, however, I didn’t mind making it and having it all to myself. At least there was some lettuce involved!

Tyrolean Liver Salad
Tiroler Lebersalat

Crispy onions:
2 cups olive oil
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 yellow onions, sliced into very thin rings

Dressing:
1/4 cup white balsamic
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2-3 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup grapeseed oil
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil

Salad:
1 pound calf liver, but into 3/4” slices
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
2/3 cup beef stock
Mixed salad greens (mesclun, baby gem, radicchio) for serving

Line a baking sheet with a layer of paper towels. In a heavy pot or a cast-iron frying pan over medium-high heat, warm the oil until it registers 320 degrees to 340 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. (I used my electric deep fryer.) When the oil is at the correct temperature, dredge 1/4 of the onion rings in the flour mixture, shaking off any excess before transferring to the hot oil. Fry until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes, then transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining onions, working in batches.

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine both vinegars, the salt and sugar and bring to a boil. Stir well to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and whisk in both oils; set aside. (I just shook the ingredients in a jar.)

Generously season the liver with salt and pepper. In a cast-iron pan over high heat, warm the olive oil until it shimmers. Pan-fry the liver slices, turning them over only when you see a nice golden-brown crust forming on the bottom. Stir in the garlic and herbs, followed by the beef stock. Continue to cook over medium heat until the stock has reduced to a sauce consistency and the liver has softened, another minute or so.

Arrange the salad greens on four plates, topping each with a portion of liver.

Spoon the warm dressing over each plate and top with crispy onions. Serve immediately.

The braised liver was tender and very good, surprisingly. I’ve never braised liver, but I also didn’t cook it nearly as long as the recipe suggests.

I served the salads with rye crackers and German Tilsit cheese. Outstanding.

This really is a fun salad. Of course you have to like liver.

I enjoyed the fried onion rings, and included ripe tomatoes just for some color.

And if you’ve never had Tilsit, get some!!!

Chef JP’s Tomato Pie

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A while back I did a post on my favorite green beans. Yes, that’s what I called the post. It’s green beans with shallots, onions, tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and toasted pine nuts, and it’s an exquisite dish. There are so many different ways to prepare green beans, and I’ll try more, but I’ve concluded that this way is my favorite way.

The recipe came from cookbook Sunshine Cuisine, published in 1994, and authored by Chef Jean-Pierre Brehier, who moved from France to Florida and basically fused French and Floridian cuisine, served in his restaurant The Left Bank. I didn’t realize that Sunshine Cuisine had been a James Beard nominated book, and since then he’s written two more cookbooks.

The reason I bring all of this up, is that in my green bean post, I’d lamented the fact that the chef basically disappeared. And he had, temporarily, but thanks to a recent comment on that post, (July, 2020) I was able to find the chef on his YouTube channel, plus it appears he still has his cooking school and website! He’s pictured in the above right photo. Older, but still alive and kicking! You can read his bio on his website here.

And boy is he entertaining! Chef Jean-Pierre Brehier is definitely French, but he sounds like he’s from the Bronx, with a touch of Louisiana Patois! And he kind of yells, in a passionate way. “If you use crap ingredients, you gonna get crap food!”

The first YouTube video I watched was his most recent, making a tomato pie. The tomato slices were layered with breadcrumbs, Havarti, caramelized onions, and pie crust, cooked in a skillet, then turned upside down at the end, during which time he was making the sign of a cross multiple times. Funny guy.

These are photos from the YouTube video:

In the same video he spent about five minutes griping about how he went to 3 stores, and couldn’t find good fresh tomatoes! And his video was posted on July 16th, 2020. “New Jersey tomatoes are the best. But tomatoes in Florida? The worst.” Then he adds that New Jersey tomatoes are probably good because of all the mobsters in the ground, adding that Italian flavor to produce!!! You seriously should watch him.

Chef JP’s Tomato Pie

1 tablespoon sweet Butter
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
6 large Tomatoes cut into slice ¼ inch thick
1 ½ cup fresh Bread Crumbs, mixed with garlic, parsley and fresh thyme
8 slices Mozzarella or Havarti Cheese
1 ½ cup Caramelized Onions
1 prepared Dough
4 ounces Goat Cheese (Frozen for 2 hours)
2 tablespoons Pesto fairly liquid

Preheat Oven to 400°.

Melt butter and the oil in a 10 inch oven proof skillet; add the tomatoes slices evenly to cover the entire surface. Core the tomatoes first.

Top the tomatoes with the fresh bread crumbs.

Then cover with the sliced cheese.

Then top with the caramelized onion.

Finally cover the entire pan with the prepared dough, tucking dough edges against the side of the skillet.

Bake for 25 minutes or until the dough is golden brown.

Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Place a large plate over the pan and invert the tart onto the platter.

Grate the frozen goat cheese.

I didn’t do this part. I wanted to taste the Havarti more. He did also add finely chopped parsley to the top, and I should have done that to make it prettier.

Let the pie rest until warm and serve.

Chef JP did a drizzle of balsamic vinegar on the plate before slicing a piece of pie, and also added a drizzle of pesto mixed with olive oil.

The results were amazing. I also didn’t put a yellow tomato in the middle, I opted for red.

When you cut into the pie you can see the caramelized onions above the crust, the Havarti layer topped with the fresh breadcrumbs, and the tomatoes.

I will definitely be making this pie again next summer.

Corn-Tomato Salad with Tapenade

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Did I need another French cookbook? A resounding NO, but when I read about this one, Dinner in French by Melissa Clark, published in 2020, I knew I would love it.

I love personal stories, so the introduction in this book was a great read. Ms. Clark tells the story about how her Great-Aunt Martha and Uncle Jack “dragged” her parents to Europe, and they fell in love with France. After she and her sister were born, the annual trips to France continued, sometimes renting houses, other times exchanging houses, which allowed them to stay put for a month AT A TIME, in various regions of France.

Ms. Clark writes about her cooking, “It’s all right there, rooted in my New York-Jewish-Francophile DNA. And my cooking ends up playfully and unmistakably French. At our house, the conversation might be in English, but dinner’s in French.”

According to Ms. Clark, “This salad is all about the contrast between the sugar-sweet corn and the salty olive tapenade. Since many commercial tapenade shamefully neglect to include anchovies along with the olives and capers, I like to make my own.” I do as well.

I did learn a trick from the author. She suggests microwaving whole corn cobs, 5 minutes for four. I simply wrapped them in a towel first. What I didn’t expect was that the husk part came off in basically one piece. No corn silk with which to deal. Fabulous trick.

Fresh Corn and Tomato Salad with Tapenade

For the tapenade dressing:
1 1/2 cups pitted Kalamata olives
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon, plus more as needed
2 oil-packed anchovy fillets, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely grated or minced
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the salad:
4 ears fresh corn, cooked, kernels sliced off and reserved
1 pint red cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
3/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
3/4 cup fresh parsley leaves

Flaky sea salt, for serving
Sliced baguette, for serving

Combine the olives, basil, parsley, capers, oil, lemon zest and juice, anchovies, garlic, and pepper in a blender. Pulse to form a coarse paste. Taste, and add more lemon juice if it tastes flat.

Toss the corn kernels, tomatoes, red onions, basil, and parsley together in a large bowl. Fold in just enough tapenade to coat the vegetables.

Sprinkle the salad lightly with flaky sea salt, and serve it with the remaining tapenade and some bread alongside.

There is actually quite of bit of tapenade “dressing” for this salad, so you can always spread it on the bread while enjoying the salad.

I also think white beans would be really good in this salad, along with the corn and tomatoes.

But as it is… fabulous. And a great idea to use tapenade as a base for a dressing. I added a bit more lemon juice.

This salad would be a perfect picnic salad, served alongside grilled chicken, ham sanwiches, or sausages.

Aligot

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Recently I was looking something up on the internet, and came across photos of melted cheese. That is exactly the way to get my attention – melted cheese. It didn’t look quite like raclette or fondue, and I read that it was Aligot. Why have I never heard of this?

Aligot (ah-lee-go) is a specialty of the Auvergne region of central France. It’s not melted cheese. It’s a potato purée beaten with cheese to make a stretchy mixture. Stretchy indeed!

The following photo is from the French cooking blog Papilles et Pupilles.

From a New York Times article, “somewhere between buttery mashed potatoes and pure melted cheese lies aligot, the comforting, cheese-enhanced mashed-potato dish.”

The recipe I’m using is from the book, The Food of France – a journey for food lovers, published in 2001. I was gifted this book but used it mostly as a coffee table book because it’s so beautiful. This recipe and the one from Papilles et Pupilles are very similar.


Aligot
Slightly adapted
Printable recipe below

1 1/2 pounds floury potatoes, cut into even-sized pieces
4 ounces butter
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 ounces cream
10 ounces Cantal, grated

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 20-30 minutes, or until tender. I weighed both the potatoes and cheese to make sure I had the correct ratio, not knowing if it was that critical or not.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat and add the garlic.

Mash the potatoes using a ricer or food mill; don’t use a food processor or they will become fluent.

Place the riced potatoes in the saucepan over gentle heat and add the cream.

Mix together well and then add the cheese, handful by handful, beating vigorously with each addition.

Once the cheese has melted the mixture will be stretchy.

Season with salt and pepper before serving.

It starts out a little lumpy, but indeed, with serious stirring, the potato and cheese mixture becomes smooth.

This dish is meant to be a “backdrop” side dish, so yes, stronger aged cheeses like a cave-aged Gruyere can be used, but I think it’s important to stick with authenticity. By using the proper cheese, aligot is similar to a plain polenta, that lets the sausages, or daube, or coq au vin “shine”.

Serve as quickly as you can, because it does stiffen when cooling.

I served the aligot with sausage and a lightly dressed green salad.

Aligot is basically cheesy mashed potatoes on crack! Crazy good. And a fabulous cheese that I’d never tried before. So much excitement on this end!!!

And now I need to travel to the Auvergne region of France to see what else I’ve been missing.

 

 

Burnt Flour Soup

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While growing up, my mother would occasionally make a simple soup by browning butter and adding flour that burned in the butter. I didn’t know this was how the soup was made as a youngster, I just knew I loved it. She’d always told me it was her mother’s recipe.

Many years ago I asked my mother for the recipe, and she wrote it down. It began like this:

My mother was born and raised in the city of Nancy, in the Provence of Lorraine in northeastern France. Unfortunately, because of the proximity to Germany, my mother experienced WWII first hand as an adolescent, even to the extreme of her family’s home overtaken by Nazi officers.

It was this reason that, after hearing my mother’s literal war stories, especially when it came to the lack of food, I always presumed that her mother’s burnt soup recipe was a classic “peasant” recipe, made with what little butter and flour could be purchased or bartered for at the black market.

Recently I was looking at cookbook called Savoie – The Land, People, and Food of the French Alps, which was published in 1989. (I bought the book after visiting the Savoie and Haute-Savoie regions of France, where I first discovered some of my favorite stinky cheeses, like Reblochon and Raclette.)

But there it was in the cookbook – Burned Flour Soup.

The author, Madeleine Kamman, wrote that the “soup is probably of Germanic origin since it is also a specialty of the southern Alsace and the area of Basel and several other cantons of Switzerland.”

Because Eastern France borders Germany, Switzerland, as well as Italy, it’s probably impossible to pinpoint the exact origin of burned flour soup. It’s a given that it was a peasant recipe, but obviously had a wider range than my mother’s home kitchen in Nancy.

The photo on the left shows the province of Lorraine, the one on the right, Savoie.

I recently asked my mother about the soup, and all that she could remember is that her mother made it.

The cookbook recipe is more involved than what my mother made when I was growing up; I don’t mind the upgrade of bacon and cheese! Here is the recipe from the cookbook.

Soupe À La Farine Brûlée
Or Burned Flour Soup

5 ounce slab bacon, cut into 1/4″ cubes
1 1/2 pounds onions, finely chopped
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 quarts hot water or broth
1 teaspoon Maggi seasoning
Salt
Pepper
1 cup light cream
1/2 pound Tomme, or Gruyère

In a large sauté pan, render the bacon cubes slowly; let them color to a nice golden without crisping. When the bacon is ready, remove it to a plate.

In the bacon fat, slowly sauté the chopped onions until mellow and brown. Mix the bacon into the onions.

In another saucepan, heat the butter well. Add the flour and cook slowly – at least 20 minutes – until nice and dark brown (two shades deeper than a hazelnut shell).

Whisk in the hot water or broth, bring to a boil, and pour over the onions and bacon.

Add Maggi seasoning, salt, and pepper. Simmer approximately 45 minutes, or until tasty and reduced to 5 cups.

Add the cream and mix well.

Serve in hot plates or bowls with a dish of cheese slices “for your guests to help themselves.”

The tomme is to be slivered into the soup.

The Tomme really adds something to the soup. I think I prefer it over Gruyere.

Sadly, though, this is not my mother’s soup. It’s quite different, even though it’s “better” with the upgrades.

The recipe could easily be made with fewer steps, but it was fun to make.

Fresh and dried mushrooms would be an incredible addition, sautéed along with the onions.

 

 

Ratatouille Méridionnale

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Méridionnale is the southern region of France famous for its ratatouille, classic in that it contains tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, onions, and eggplant, but unusual in that it is cooked gently in the oven, not on the stovetop. This is according to Daniel Boulud, in his cookbook, “Café Boulud Cookbook,” published in 1999.

I bought the cookbook after going to Café Boulud in New York City, not once, but twice during the same visit back in 2010. My daughter and I stayed at the Surrey Hotel, located adjacent to the restaurant. I had accompanied my daughter to New York City for a major interview, which all turned out well.

To make our first night easy I’d made a reservation at Café Boulud, and it was so perfect that went went the next day for lunch. The food, the service, the ambiance – all was truly perfection. One thing that I remember is that when you were brought the check, it came with just-out-of-the-oven Madeleines.

The cookbook is uniquely divided into four parts.
1. La Tradition – the traditional dishes of French cooking
2. La Saison – the seasonal specialties of the market
3. Le Voyage – dishes from lands far and near, and
4. Le Potager – vegetarian dishes that celebrate the bounty of the garden.

So many recipes jumped out at me when I first read the book. A roasted chicken stuffed with a Tuscan bread filling that included chicken livers and prosciutto, for example, and veal chops stuffed with fontina and porcini. But I chose this ratatouille recipe, from the “La Tradition” section.

Right now my garden is abundant with most all of the ingredients in this hearty vegetable dish, so there’s no better time than the present to make ratatouille.

Ratatouille Méridionnale

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled, split, and germ removed
1 onion, peeled, trimmed, cut into 1” chunks
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, deveined, cut into 1” chunks
2 yellow bell peppers, as above
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
1 small eggplant, about 4 ounces, trimmed, cut into 1” chunks
1 zucchini, scrubbed, trimmed, cut into 1” chunks
1 yellow squash, scrubbed, trimmed, cut into 1” chunks
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded, cut into 1” chunks
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon thinly sliced basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. In order for the vegetables to retain their distinctive flavors, you will need either to cook them in batches or to cook them in two separate sauté pans.

Warm 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add 1 clove of garlic, the onion, and the chunks of red and yellow pepper. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until the vegetables soften a bit but don’t take on color, about 5 minutes.

Either remove the vegetables and wipe out the pan or, while the peppers are cooking, take another sauté pan and warm the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add the second clove of garlic, the eggplant, zucchini, and squash and cook and stir for 8 to 10 minutes, this time allowing the vegetables to color a bit.

Combine the sautéed vegetables in one large ovenproof sauté pan or baking dish and stir in the tomato paste, tomatoes, thyme, and bay leaves. Cover the pan with a circle of parchment paper, pressing the paper against the vegetables.


Put the pan in the oven and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, stirring the ratatouille every 15 minutes or so.

The ratatouille is done when the vegetables are meltingly tender but still retain their shape. Remove the bay leaves and garlic.

Serve while it’s hot, or when it reaches room temperature. Just before serving, stir in the basil leaves and the squirt of lemon juice.

The ratatouille can be made up to 3 days ahead and kept covered in the refrigerator.

Before serving, bring it to room temperature or warm it gently in a slow oven.

I served the ratatouille with roasted chicken. Simple and delicious.

I was really surprised after all the cooking time as well as stirring that the pieces of vegetables remained intact. I have seen many a ratatouille look like mush.

So it’s for that reason alone that I will make this recipe for ratatouille again. It’s pretty, delicious, and perfect for a glut of ripe vegetables.

My Favorite Green Beans

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Many years ago, I purchased a fairly obscure cookbook written by an unknown chef, at least to me. Sunshine Cuisine was published in 1994.

The book cover states that chef Jean-Pierre Brehier “combines the taste memories of his Provençal childhood (born in Aix-en-Provence) with the Florida-Caribbean influences that weave their way throughout his professional career.”

Also from the book flap, “Chef Jean-Pierre Brehier has trained in some of the best restaurants in the south of France… came to Florida in 1973 and in 1976 became chef-proprietor of the award-winning restaurant The Left Bank in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.”

I googled him and there’s not much information on the chef since 1998, but there is a website called Meet Chef Jean Pierre.

I guess he had a show on the Food Network, and also on PBS, but I’ve never come across him except for this one cookbook. Is anyone familiar with him?

I’ve made quite a few dishes from his cookbook, but one recipe originally stood out to me, and occasionally, I make it. If you know me at all, you know I rarely make the same recipe twice.

The recipe is green beans with tomatoes, Kalamata olives and pine nuts. This recipe alone is the only reason I keep this cookbook, although I have made other good recipes out of it.

Green Beans with Calamata Olives and Toasted Pine Nuts
printable recipe below

1/4 cup pine nuts
1 pound green beans
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 cup minced onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup peeled, seeded, and chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup Calamata olives, pitted and chopped

In a small nonstick frying pan, toast the pine nuts until golden brown. Remove from heat and reserve.

Remove the tips and tails from the green beans and cut them into 1 1/2” lengths. Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil and poach the beans until tender but still firm, about 7 minutes. Drain into a colander.

In a sauté pan, heat the butter and oil and add the beans. Sauté 1 minute, then add the onion and cook until translucent, not brown.

Add the garlic, tomatoes, and olives. Sauté for a couple of minutes.

Add the pine nuts and serve immediately.

There’s just something about this group of ingredients that is spectacular. Of course it helps to love green beans.

The tomatoes and olives plus the crunchy pine nuts are just superb together.

And, with the addition of both onion and garlic, no seasoning is necessary. The olives supply the saltiness.

I’m not sure if it’s Kalamata or Calamata, but this chef spelled the olives with a “C.”

Other appealing recipes in this cookbook:
New Potato and Beet Salad
Risotto with Ginger and Carrot Juice
Roasted Peppers and Chili Sabayon Sauce

 

 

Mes Escargots

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So, I love snails. Shoot me. At least I think I love them. You could probably smother bits of shoe soles in a garlicky butter and parsley sauce, bake them, and serve them with good, crusty bread, and they would be good, too.

I was raised on snails, so they never scared me. Now, honestly, I don’t want to think about them really being snails because, well, snails are icky.

Recently I realized that I’ve never prepared my own L’escargots. And, it was about time to rectify this.

Funny anecdote: Right before we got married, my fiancé and I visited my mother, a couple of weeks before our elopement would occur.

My mother, being who she is, French, wanted to make my future husband happy, so for the first celebratory meal she prepared for us, it began with snails. And, he ate them. He ate other things, too. I guess he really loved me.

Photos below show two times I had l’escargots in France, in Avignon and Tourettes.

Here is a snail dish I had in Aix en Provence – snails on a salad. I’d always enjoyed l’escargots the traditional way, but this salad was superb.

To make snails the traditional way, you need snail shells, and you need snails. Fortunately one doesn’t have to forage in garden for either.

Escargots à la Bourguignonne
based on recipe in Saveur
makes 24

16 tablespoons butter
1/4 minced flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon white wine
1 teaspoon cognac
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
Salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste
24 extra-large snail shells
24 canned extra-large snails
Rock salt
Country bread

In a bowl, whisk together butter, parsley, wine, cognac, garlic, and shallots with a fork. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight to let the flavors meld.

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon of butter mixture into each snail shell.

Push a snail into each shell; fill shells with remaining butter mixture.

Cover bottom of a baking dish with a layer of rock salt to stabilize the snail shells.

Arrange snail shells, butter side up, on the salt and bake until butter sizzles, about 10-12 minutes.

Serve hot with bread.

Alternatively, to prepare l’escargots, you don’t need snail shells, just ceramic dishes with round indentations.

Put a snail and the butter in each indentation, then bake the same way in a hot oven.

You’ll still need a little fork and good bread.

Snails are a wonderful excuse to eat bread soaked in a garlic parsley butter.

 

 

Sauce Vierge

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I’ve mentioned how I plan my personal meals around condiments, and I’m not exaggerating! In fact, a condiment will inspire a whole meal for me. I guess it’s no different than a BBQ lover who sees BBQ sauce and immediately wants brisket, beans, and cole slaw.

Basic condiments like home-made aioli, mustards and ketchups are wonderful, but so are romesco, chimichurri, charmoula, persillade, harissa, chutney, and confit. So many condiments, so little time!

Recently I came across another sauce – Sauce Vierge – that is almost like a marriage of a fresh tomato salsa and persillade, loosely speaking.

I discovered the sauce on Food 52. Sauce Vierge translates to virgin sauce, and was created in 1976 by Michel Guérard, “one of the forces behind the lighter, fresher nouvelle cuisine that sprang up in reaction to cuisine classique, dripping with all its hefty mother sauces.”

I got excited when I read about the sauce, which includes tomato, lemon juice, and fresh herbs, because it’s a perfect sauce to make in the summer. And it’s summer!

Sauce Vierge

4 ripe tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 whole, peeled garlic cloves, lightly smashed
1 freshly squeezed lemon
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Pinch of ground coriander
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs

Peel and seed the tomatoes, then roughly chop and place in a medium bowl.

Add the oil, garlic, lemon, salt, pepper, and coriander.

Then add the fresh herbs. I used chives, basil, tarragon, thyme, and rosemary.

Cover the bowl, and leave to sit at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours. Taste and adjust the seasoning, remove the cloves of garlic, and serve warm or room temperature.

To use the sauce, I grilled tilapia, and served the sauce at room temperature.

I wanted the sauce ingredients to really stand out.

I served the tilapia with boiled potatoes, on which I drizzled some of the herby oil. You can tell I’m not scared of a plate of olive oil!

In reality, is Sauce Vierge a condiment or a sauce? Where does a condiment start and end, and a sauce or paste begin?

My answer is “who cares?!!”

verdict: I will continue to make this sauce/condiment during summer months when I can get my hands on ripe tomatoes. It is exquisite. Over fish it was a great pairing, but I can see this on scallops, chicken, lamb, bread…

Note: Instead of using the ingredients at room temperature, you can alternatively mix the ingredients in a saucepan, and simmer the sauce slowly over low heat for 30 minutes.