It is almost a little spring like out there today but in March I was loving me some winter one pot braising… a bird, some cabbage and root veggies in the oven all afternoon. You don’t want that in July; you want it in March! I forget about pesto salads and grilled fish and break out the smoked meats and the 5 qt casserole.
In Africa they fed me pintade occasionally. En anglais it is called a guinea hen, and it is an expensive game bird here in the USA. (sigh) Look at this picture you can’t even tell it is in there! I don’t see the cabbage either… (sigh) I did rather cover it with chopped parsley.
It is really mostly dark meat-like and definitely a little greasy and then you add the bacon and sausage too. You will need some good crusty bread to soak it all up. Wine should be served and I suggest using a bad French accent during the entire meal just for fun.
My recipe is a little vague you can find a better one on the interwebs I am sure. I made only one bird so this was a 1/2 recipe, technically speaking; it is still a lot for one person so there are leftovers in my freezer for some upcoming rainy April day when I don’t feel like cooking.
Preheat to 350 degrees F
1 guinea hen – rinsed, dried, salt and peppered, trussed
1 cabbage cut into wedges
In a casserole heat a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil. Brown the bird. Remove the bird.
Put 2 pieces of bacon on the bottom of the casserole, then 1/2 the cabbage wedges, salt and pepper
Then the hen and surround with 2 carrots peeled and cut into sticks, and the remaining cabbage wedges.
Pour in 1 cup of chicken broth and 1/2 cup dry white wine and add an onion studded with 1 whole clove and a bouquet garni
Top with the other 2 slices of bacon.
Cover and braise for 1.25 to 1.5 hours
10 minutes before the end add some smoked sausage, sliced (about 5 oz)
garnish with fresh chopped parsley
This is a killer recipe…whole fish, twigs, European liquor that Americans tend to ignore and setting things on fire! Loup Flambe au Fenouil
I have only attempted to flambe something on one other occasion, and so was expecting a similar fiery inferno…especially because this one had tinder! I didn’t really have the “dried wild fennel twigs” that Ms. Willam calls for so those are just regular fennel stalks that I dried. The directions said to warm the Pernod, and well, I warmed the alcohol right out of it! Then I wasn’t having much luck getting it to light, so Rob tried it and finally I just poured some alcohol fresh from the bottle, not warmed, and he got it lit. Yay! The fennel stalks burned a little…but it was pretty tame so I’m not sure if we got the full flambe flavor.
I do love cooking whole fish (this is grilled bass) and I love fennel and anise flavors so it was quite delicious. While I had the grill going I also grilled some eggplant, zucchini and fennel bulb to go along with the fish. It all felt a little like a summer meal in Provence, even in these sunny but frigid late winter days. Full disclosure. I have never been to Provence.
On a side note. Never go to the grocery store hungry, and especially not the grocery store next-door to possibly the best banh mi place in Chicago. Double especially when you know you must go home and eat leftover pesto pasta with potatoes and green beans. Because even though this pasta is very delicious, it won’t seem quite as good today because you were dreaming about banh mi. Just saying.
I have purchased a very expensive crepe pan. I had buyers remorse while I was buying it. It isn’t like I make crepes all the time! Of course my every previous attempt at making crepes had failed miserably and I didn’t really want a repeat of that.
These are actually Galettes Bretonnes au Sarrasin (Breton buckwheat galettes). I just could not find any buckwheat flour. Yet I had just purchased a very expensive crepe pan! There is no way that I was giving up. I found it at the 4th store.
And guess what. My over-priced-Danish-non-stick-crepe-pan and a small offset spatula for spreading the batter did something amazing…it allowed me to successfully make crepes! Not perfect ones by any means but at least they are recognizably crepes and not pancakes or chunks of mostly cooked dough. I wrapped the stack in plastic wrap and put them in the fridge.
Every evening last week, I would pull a couple out, throw one back on the crepe pan, top it with shredded Gruyere, sliced ham, some leftover broccoli, an egg… various things I found in my fridge and heated it up. It is nice to re-live that feeling of success every night after a long often frustrating day at the work AND get a fast, easy, delicious dinner.
Galettes Bretonnes au Sarrasin (per Ann Willan)
1 3/4 cup buckwheat flour
1 3/4 cup unbleached white flour
2 tsp salt
1. Sift into a bowl
2 cups milk
2. Make a well in the dry ingredients add 1 cup of the milk. Whisk to a paste. Add 2nd cup of milk stir well. Cover and let rest at room temp for 30-40 minutes
2 cups water
3. Now beat in the water. Beat in more milk if necessary to get a “consistency of light cream” (I’m not sure I know what that is… thin enough to make a crepe I guess)
1/4 cup of clarified butter
4. Stir into batter
5. Heat the crepe pan until it is really hot, add some batter spread with palette knife. Cook 30-60 seconds until lightly browned and flip remove and stack on a plate. (The recipe called for another 1/4 cup of clarified butter for greasing the pan between each crepe but with my nonstick pan that was not necessary.)
…and it comes out gray. And then you add lentils which are greenish-gray. Mushy gray food. You’re hungry now, aren’t you? The thing is that it is really quite delicious which is why you should call it petit sale aux lentilles rather than boiled pork with green-gray mush. Actually maybe that is the British version :) The parsley really helps to make it look more attractive luckily.
So, don’t judge a meal before you taste it. Which is actually odd because appearance and definitely aroma are decent indicators of flavor. Okay…not always, lots of pretty food in restaurants barely tastes like anything. Baked goods can smell delicious and taste nasty and fish sauce, ahhh… that most noxious of condiments that makes everything taste better…okay maybe not baked goods or petit sale aux lentilles, but you know what I mean.
Okay this recipe requires brining the pork shoulder for a couple days and them simmering it for an hour and a half. So one of those where the work itself is minimal but a multi-day commitment is required. There is no instant gratification here. You have to plan and once you start you have to finish. You really can’t put 2lbs of raw pork shoulder in a brine in your fridge and then change you mind about cooking it.
- I was not able to find curing salt which I read helps with the gray meat thing; makes it pink, I think.
- I find that I love “studding” whole onions with whole cloves, making bouquet garni in little muslin bags and any recipe that calls for juniper berries.
- I bought some actual green lentils from France. I think this does make a difference. They are smaller and firmer than your standard grocery store lentils. And although I really love lentils, I have a bad habit of overcooking them that I am working to overcome.
I made flamiche with stinky French cheese. Flamiche is a kind of a bready tart or quiche. It can also be made with leeks… but I could not find any leeks that week.
I used the rolling pin my aunt gave me for xmas, that had been my great grandmother’s rolling pin. Flamiche is common in northern France and Belgium. So I pretend that this is not the first flamiche this rolling pin has made. That great grandma Rose, whose family was Luxembourger, really the same group of people… there where the border moved and meant little to nothing…so I pretend that her mother Anna who was born in Belgium a few miles from the modern Luxembourg and French borders once taught my great grandmother Rose to make the same or a very similar recipe in a kitchen somewhere in New Belgium, Wisconsin. It may have been difficult though, because I have never seen stinky French-style cheese, or leeks or anything like flamiche in Wisconsin. I pretend anyway.
As unhappy as I was about my whole Pottery Barn experience (that cabinet still smells chemically inside) and as much as I realize it was still really my money….I feel kind of like I have been given a present of a very wonderful and expensive kind. The merchandise card they gave me was also good at William-Sonoma with which I purchased Le Crueset in aubergine (eggplant)! Do I need to say more? Can you feel the joy?
I had to make some carbonnade de boeuf and drink lots of Ommegang Belgian abbey ale!
…designed to visually represent one’s glaring inadequacies. Kind of the way a chart, table or info-graphic of your love life would.
Rationalizations (for the cover recipe, not my love life):
- “I don’t think the goat cheese that I found at whole foods was quite the right kind. I need to go to France”
- “I marinated it in all walnut oil. It is expensive and was not worth it. I should have used olive oil.”
- “My under-the-stove apartment broiler is crap.”
- “I used whole wheat bread for the croute which is per the recipe but what was I thinking? French people don’t eat whole wheat bread!”
- “That frisee on the plate is much prettier than my laziness-baby spinach out of a bag.”
Recipe for Salade de Fromage de Chèvre Mariné