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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cauliflower - Bacon Gratin (French Fridays with Dorie)

I'm not hugely crazy about cooked cauliflower, although raw cauliflower is my first pick from a plate of crudités. It has a nasty smell while cooking, reminiscent of a bad boarding-house kitchen (if the cook at the bad boarding house was into cauliflower). So, while this cauliflower dish was a good one, I'll admit that my favorite parts were the bacon and cheese. But you really can't have a bacon gratin, can you? There has to be something in there besides bacon, cream, and cheese.

Jim liked watching the cauliflower boil because it turned somersaults.

I bought the makings for this dish without double-checking the recipe. I knew that it called for Gruyere cheese, but somehow, in my feeble brain, that translated to Fontina, and that's what I bought. Although Fontina is definitely not a classic French cheese, it worked quite well.

The sauce, which turned out to be lovely, not only had cream and full-fat milk, but it also had five eggs, which were beaten, one at a time, into the flour. Not surprisingly, the eggs made the sauce custardy, rather than white saucy.

The cauliflower was decent, the sauce was delicious, but it was the bacon that made this dish.

Into the oven it goes,

and out it comes, just 25 minutes later.

We had this as a main course at our house, with just a green salad, so it was an easy weekday dinner. I would probably add a little thyme if I made it again, but it doesn't really need it. I'd also cut the cauliflower pieces a little smaller. All in all, though, I was pretty satisfied with it just the way it was. Although Dorie says it doesn't keep very well, I had it for lunch today, and, although I had to apologize to the people at work for the odiferous cauliflower, it still tasted fine.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Potato Chip Tortilla - French Fridays with Dorie

Would I make this again? If I had to make dinner, and if all I had was a bag of potato chips, some eggs, herbs and spices, I probably would. Otherwise, I'll just call this an interesting experiment, but not one I'd care to repeat.

I was game for the experiment, but I did have a few questions, like "Is this really French?" And "What's wrong with real potatoes?" Dorie says she found the recipe in a French food magazine, so I guess it is more or less French. I never found the answer to the second question.

I have to say that crunching potato chips is easier than slicing potatoes (and I guess that's the answer to the unanswered question).

Here's another question. Why are basil leaves bigger in the winter than in the summer? These were gigantic.

There were a lot of greens in with the eggs, so I did have hopes that the greasy potato chips wouldn't be overwhelming. (And, by the way, I have nothing against grease. I like a fat-dripping hamburger as much as the next person. And doughnuts. And bacon).

I had no piment d'Espelette, so I substituted the suggested cayenne pepper, as well as some smoked paprika, just because I like it. I used a light hand with the spices, but the final product wouldn't have suffered from a heavier one.

I believe this is the first time I've ever cooked potato chips. It looks odd, doesn't it? I was hoping that the potato chips would miraculously turn into potatoes. But the tortilla tasted like a potato chip omelet. Not horrible. (Probably better than a Cheetos omelet would taste). But not great. I'm curious to see how the other bloggers reacted, and if I'm the only chip naysayer. But I'm excited for the cauliflower!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Chard-Stuffed Pork Roast with Matafan - French Fridays with Dorie

It's nice to get back to my house and my kitchen, after trips to Portugal and Morocco. Not that I'm complaining, but as Dorothy says, clicking her ruby slippers, "There's no place like home." And home is especially nice when the oven warms the kitchen and sends out smells of roasting pork.

Contrary to my predictions, the stuffed pork roast was amazingly good, and the matafan - last week's recipe for most people - was a disappointment.

For one thing, the pork roast was seriously easy to make. Just a quick saute of onion, garlic, and chard,

stuffed into a butterflied loin of pork, which is then rubbed with crushed peppercorns and coriander seeds, and tied.

The matafan, on the other hand, requires riced potatoes. Or at least it recommends riced potatoes. I stared at my big potato ricer for about 5 minutes before I got up the spirit to actually do the ricing. It's not hard, really, and there was a time when I was a little smug about including this step whenever I made mashed potatoes. Now digging out the heavy ricer, and - worse- cleaning it after it's gummed up with potatoes makes me more irritable than smug. But I did it.

Ricing is followed by folding in egg whites, another irritating step.

In fairness to the matafan, the ricing and folding aren't really all that difficult. I think I was just disappointed because after doing these extra steps, I was expecting something really amazing, especially because I really, really like potatoes.

And when I took the first bite, and sampled the heavenly light texture, I was very pleased. But as I really tasted, I realized that it was - well, it was pretty boring. An ethereal but tasteless morsel.

Compared to the pork, which was savory, rich, and perfectly balanced, the pancakes didn't carry their weight. Maybe I expected too much of them. Maybe if they were served with creme fraiche and caviar, as suggested, they wouldn't be boring. But if you put creme fraiche and caviar on top of stale saltines, they probably wouldn't be boring either.

Jim said he liked the matafan as much as the pork (or maybe he said he liked the pork as much as the matafan). Either way, he thought they were both winners. I thought the pork was surprisingly good and the matafan surprisingly underwhelming. As I've suspected on so many other occasions, it's all about the expectations.