French Friday’s with Dorie: Hachis Parmentier and Roast Brussels Sprouts

Today’s post is part of French Friday’s with Dorie, a sort of group cooking club in which each Friday a bunch of bloggers post about their experiences making a recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s new cookbook, Around My French Table.

I first heard about this new group cooking endeavor from Serene at BlogHer Food and thought I should give it a try. I’m not great about sticking to a schedule, but I like the idea of being forced to cook with butter and cream and other French staples that I often stay away from at least once a week. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that I’m a huge fan of Dorie’s and one of my highlights from BlogHer Food was getting to meet her. She couldn’t have been nicer about my coming up to her like a crazed fan and spent at least 20 minutes chatting with me! She’s truly a wonderful and inspiring person – and her recipes are delicious.

For my first recipe from Around My French Table, I made Hachis Parmentier, a shepherd’s pie-type dish. The main recipe calls for stewing beef, but I didn’t have time for that this week so I took Dorie’s short-cut version and used ground beef instead. I made a few small changes, but mostly I stuck to the recipe: subbed Yukon gold potatoes for Idaho, used half-and-half instead of heavy cream, and added a bit more butter to the potatoes than the recipe called for (I just couldn’t help myself!).

I loved the dish, although there’s no way I could eat like this on a regular basis. It was filling and incredibly satisfying, although I am glad I thought to make a vegetable to go with it to balance some of the richness.

And what was that side dish? Thanks for asking – it was oven-roasted Brussels sprouts, very simply made and they cooked right alongside the hachis parmentier.

If you want the recipe for hachis parmentier, buy the book – I promise you won’t regret it. Since it arrived last week, I’ve been staying up late reading the cookbook like a novel and dreaming about the recipes! (Sadly, I’m not exaggerating). If you want the recipe for my easy roast Brussels sprouts, here you go:

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Afraid of Baking Bread? “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” to the Rescue

Caramelized Onion and Herb Dinner Rolls

Caramelized Onion and Herb Dinner Rolls

The time has come to be brutally honest with you, my dear readers. The fact remains that even though I’m a chef, there are still recipes or cooking methods that intimidate me. The obvious is anything that has to do with molecular gastronomy. I’m completely befuzzled by those techniques. Another is less obvious: baking bread.

Shocking but true. And this is after I spent half a session in culinary school baking bread in a very controlled environment, which I think gave me a false sense of bread security so that when I attempted it on my own I failed miserably. I’ve been to embarrassed to share most of these sobs stories with you.

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It took a while, but I finally mustered the courage to try again. The saga started at BlogHer Food in September when during a photography session the woman sitting next to me stood up to ask a question. She said her name and the whole room gasped; I felt like I’d been sitting next to a celebrity for the past 45 minutes and had no idea.

It turned out this “celebrity” was Zoë Francois, and I quickly learned that she had co-authored an amazing book titled Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Throughout the weekend people kept telling me I just had to check out this book and that it could cure my Achilles heel.

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Back at home I purchased the book but was still afraid to cook from it. If this book couldn’t cure me then I would be a seriously hopeless case. It was a lot of pressure to put on one book, and on me. And then, when I finally did decide to cook from it, I realized that nearly every recipe required a steam tray set on a lower oven rack.

PROBLEM! Sadly, I only have one oven rack in an oven that is probably older than me, thus impossible to find a replacement part. Aside from this one major flaw, it’s actually a pretty good oven: heats quickly, keeps accurate temperature, and has an old-school rotating clock that kept my young cousins entertained for a good five minutes. But, there was nowhere for me to place that essential steaming tray.

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Luckily, Zoë is an active tweeter and sent me a link with tips on baking without steam. Now, there was nothing stopping me.

I chose a recipe – Caramelized Onion and Herb Dinner Rolls – which required the dough from a different recipe – European Peasant Bread. And I have to say the bread turned out great! I made six dinner rolls and one loaf of bread from half a recipe of dough. And it was easy.

European Peasant Bread

European Peasant Bread

Turns out word on the street – or blogosphere – was right, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day simplified bread baking so that even I was successful. If you’re in any way inclined to bake your own bread, this book is a must-have!

European Peasant Bread

European Peasant Bread

Here are the recipes, which have not been adapted:

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By the Book: Quick Shrimp & Pea Omelette from The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook

Quick Omelette with Shrimp & Peas

Quick Omelette with Shrimp & Peas

Welcome to the first official installment of By the Book on Foodie Reflections! This is where I will prepare a recipe from a cookbook and write about it. Pretty simple, eh? There’s no official schedule to these posts but at least it’s a step in the right direction as I slowly work my way through the ever-growing piles of cookbooks taking over my apartment.

A few things to note: 1) Some of the cookbooks were given to me, others I purchased because I was interested in them; and 2) I’m a little commitment phobic so there’s no schedule or day of the week for these posts — yet. The point is to have fun and celebrate the work that so many amazing cooks put years of blood, sweat and tears into.

First up is The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook by one of the most bubbly food bloggers I’ve come across: Jaden Hair of the blog Steamy Kitchen. I was fortunate to receive a certificate for a copy of her book a few months ago, and was thrilled when it arrived in the mail last week.

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I tore apart the package and immediately dove into the book looking for a recipe to try. The only problem was that I needed to pick just one to start with and there were SO many that jumped out at me. In the end I went with the Quick Omelette with Shrimp and Peas for two reasons: 1) it was quick to make – I mean the word is even in the title; and 2) I was freaking hungry!

Oh, this omelette did not disappoint. It was filling and satisfying, not mention a little salty but in a good way, and a little sweet from the peas. Plus I felt energized from all the protein but not weighed down at all, a good thing as this was lunch afterall.

Now, I just have to choose what to make next.

Here’s the recipe:

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“Quick” Boeuf Bourguignon

Boeuf Bourguignon

Boeuf Bourguignon

Like everyone who saw Julie & Julia when it premiered in August, I sat in the movie theater with my mouth watering over the boeuf bourguignon, a rich, beef stew featured in the movie. The only problem was it was August, and the dish was a rich, beef stew, not exactly light summer fare.

So I made a mental note to revisit boeuf bourguignon when the weather became cooler. And then, when the weather did turn cold a few weeks ago, the dish completely slipped my mind. That is until Saturday when Chris from Pantry Raid posted about her experiences making Julia Child’s boeuf bourguignon.

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And just like that I had to make it. The only problem was Julia’s version was a bit too “potchked,” or fussy, for me at that moment. And it took too long, about 4 hours, and I was getting hungry. So instead I turned to a source I knew Julia would approve of, a new book I’d won by participating in a Julia Child blog contest: The Pleasures of Cooking for One, by Judith Jones, the editor of Mastering the Art of French Cooking who is credited with introducing Julia Child to America. There’s even a great scene in the movie where Judith’s character makes Julia’s recipe for boeuf bourguignon, propelling her to publish the book. Let’s just say this is a woman who knows her boeuf bourguignon.

I really love the concept of this book. Like the title suggests, it’s about cooking for one and using leftovers to create other meals. Many of the recipes are a bit too old-fashioned for my tastes, like minced chicken on toast, but there are also some great ideas that have inspired me to approach about my cooking differently, especially because like Judith I often cook for one.

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Judith’s version of boeuf bourguignon is less fussy than Julia’s with no straining or cleaning of the pot involved, fewer ingredients, and takes about half the time. It also makes a much smaller portion, although I did go ahead and double the recipe because I’m a huge fan of leftovers.

The recipe was fantastic. In just two hours I had a wonderfully rich, tender, and fragrant dish that warmed me and my apartment. The only significant change I made was to simmer the cooking liquid separately at the end to make it more flavorful and give the finished dish a better mouthfeel because a thickened broth clings better to the meat.

Boeuf Bourguignon

Boeuf Bourguignon

Here’s the recipe:

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The Flavor Bible: Ultimate Guide to Recipe-Free Cooking Celebrates 1 Year Anniversary

Seared Sea Scallops with Purple Asparagus, White Wine Sauce & Balsamic Glaze Dark Chocolate Cheesecake with Cherry Mousse Mint Pea Soup with Greek YogurtCreamy Mushroom Polenta Peach Almond Milk Ice Cream sm Stuffed Ball Zucchini

Today is the 1st birthday of my favorite cookbook, The Flavor Bible, which is actually a reference book/guide to ingredients and flavors. It’s a book I use constantly that has had a tremendous influence on my cooking. In fact, I’m not including a new recipe in this post as there is evidence of The Flavor Bible all over the blog: Dark Chocolate Cheesecake with Cherry Mousse, Mediterranean Stuffed Ball Zucchini with Lamb, Seared Sea Scallops with Purple Asparagus, White Wine Sauce and Balsamic Glaze, and so many more.

Already a fan of their previous books Culinary Artistry and What to Drink with What You Eat, I was excited last October when I found out Page and Dornenburg were going to be signing copies of their latest book at the Green City Farmer’s Market. I got there early and was so excited and a little anxious about meeting them. They were role models for me, afterall. It turns out I was being silly as they were two of the nicest writers I’d ever met.

Luckily, there wasn’t a line so they had a few minutes to chat and it wound up being a very interesting conversation, at least for me. It started when I shook hands with Page and she immediately asked if I was “in the industry,” which I am. She then asked if I was a pastry chef or baker, which I’m not, although this encounter was during my pretzel bread phase. I asked Page how she knew, and she said it was because of my grip and that part of my hand was stronger than most. She explained that assessing peoples’ handshakes was something she did on the book tour to keep herself entertained. Let’s just say that I now pay more attention to handshakes when meeting new people.

Since then the The Flavor Bible has been invaluable to me, spending more time off my bookshelf then any other book. I’d classify it as an intermediate level book for cooks because it’s important to have a strong cooking background in order to use it effectively.

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