Tarragon Chicken

IMG_3031My neighbor brought me a wonderful gift last week. She knocked on my front door and I opened it to find her smiling and holding out a bunch of sweet-smelling herbs from her garden, all tied up with yellow ribbon. Since tarragon is difficult to grow in this part of Texas I substitute an easier to grow herb, Mexican MInt Marigold, in my own garden so this was a real treat!  Tarragon is called the “King of Herbs” by the French, and with good reason. It is the main flavoring in many of the sauces that form the foundation of classic French cuisine. I understand that Tarragon Chicken was one of Jackie Kennedy’s favorite dishes (Another neighbor years ago gave me a cookbook titled Cooking for Madam, written by the woman who began as nanny and became the Kennedy’s housekeeper and cook.).

Tarragon Chicken

3  large unpeeled garlic cloves

4 small skinless boneless chicken breast halves 

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup chicken broth

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

Heat small cast iron skillet, add garlic and cook, turning occasionally  until browned in spots and tender when pierced with knife tip. Remove to cool.
Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Melt butter in larger skillet. Add chicken and cook until browned and cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to plate but do not clean skillet, as browned bits will be deglazed by wine, adding delicious flavor to sauce.
 Peel garlic. Add garlic and wine to same skillet; cook until reduced by about half, mashing garlic finely with fork, about 1 minute. Add broth and tarragon; simmer until liquid is reduced by about half, 1 to 2 minutes. Add cream and simmer to thicken slightly, about 1 minute. Return chicken to skillet with any accumulated juices. Simmer to heat through, turning occasionally, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate; spoon sauce over. Serve with rice.

Chicken Fricasee

IMG_2762An old fashioned and very French dish, Chicken Fricasee has been called a serving of history! Recipes exist that are said to have been served to Abraham Lincoln. Julia Child and other famous chefs made it. It is not often seen on restaurant menus now, and I had never eaten Chicken Fricasee much less prepared it, but I like saying the name and I was intrigued enough to try it. It was a great success in the Parker house, and has gone on our list of keepers. This is my version, but I found the recipe I started from in Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough’s Ultimate Cookbook. Once more, this was a matter of wanting to use ingredients I already had:  chicken thighs, leeks, and mushrooms! This is a fine entree to serve dinner guests.

Chicken Fricasee

3 Tablespoons butter

2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

4 strips bacon, chopped

2 leeks, trimmed, washed, and sliced

8 ounces brown mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

1 teaspoon dried French tarragon (I used Penzey’s)

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 Tablespoon flour

3 cups white wine

In large heavy soup pot, melt butter, add chicken thighs and brown on both sides, turning occasionally. Do this in batches to avoid crowding.

While chicken is browning, add bacon pieces to an iron skillet, cook until browned Add leeks and stir while cooking about 5 minutes.  Add mushrooms to this mixture, stir and cook until their liquid cooks off, about 5 more minutes.  Sprinkle tarragon, salt, cloves, and pepper over vegetable mixture and stir briefly.  Sprinkle on flour, stir, and cook for a few seconds but do not brown flour. Slowly pour in 1 cup of the wine while and scraping up browned bits from pan. When simmering, add to chicken pieces in large pot while stirring with remaining wine.  Combine well, bring to simmer and allow to continue cooking for 30 minutes, or until chicken meat is very tender. Serve over white rice.

Warm Green Lentil Salad with Shallot Vinaigrette

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I have cooked brown lentils in one of our favorite soups for many years.  When I was experimenting with various Indian foods, I used different colors and kinds of lentils, even grinding them once to make a lentil flour in my attempt to make a good masala dosa.  But when I saw this recipe a few months ago on one of my favorite blogs I knew I wanted to try Green Lentils! These tiny dark green lentils are harder to find, but Whole Foods has them in their bulk food section.

Another attraction to the recipe posted in http://www.backroadjournal.wordpress.com was its billing as a French Bistro meal.  For that recipe, spicy lamb sausages called Merguez  were used, but I used what I could find, which was a lovely Italian spicy sausage.  So maybe my version of the salad is an Italian bistro meal!  Serve with a crusty loaf of bread.  Leftovers can be eaten cold (the flavors have already been soaked up in the lentils and vegetables) or warmed.

Warm Lentil Salad with Shallot Vinaigrette

4 servings, or 2 generous ones!

Shallot Vinaigrette

2  Tbsp. of either sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar

pinch of sea salt (about 1/8 tsp.

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. finely minced shallot

2 tsp.Dijon mustard

1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

Mix vinegar, salt, pepper and the minced shallot.. Let sit for about 5 minutes to soften shallots. Stir in the mustard, then whisk in the oil in a slow, steady stream. Taste and adjust for more oil or more vinegar, salt or mustard if needed.

Lentil Salad

1 or 2 spicy sausages, sliced

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 large onion, diced

1 stalk of celery, diced

1/2 small bulb of fennel, diced (optional)

2 cloves of garlic, minced

3/4 cup green Lentils de Puy, rinsed well

2 cups chicken broth

1 teaspoon dried French Thyme (I use Penzey’s)

1 bay leaf

1 potato (I used Yukon Gold), peeled and diced

1 carrot, peeled and diced (here I used a lovely yellow carrot from the Farmer’s Market)

salt and pepper, to taste

fresh chopped thyme or parsley for garnish if you wish

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, add the sausages and brown until they are a little crispy. Remove from the pan and keep warm. In the same saucepan, add the onions, celery and fennel, sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook about 1 minute. Add the lentils, and broth to cover by about 2 inches. Add thyme, bay leaf, and season with salt and pepper. Raise the heat to medium high, bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Partially cover the pan with a lid and simmer the lentils until they are just tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, cover the diced potatoes and carrots with cold, salted water. Cook over moderately high heat until the potatoes and carrots are tender, about 10 minutes. Drain well and place in a large bowl, toss with a little of the vinaigrette.

When the lentils are done, drain well, place in the bowl with the cooked potatoes and carrots. Discard the bay leaf. Add the rest of the vinaigrette and toss well. Let sit for a few minutes until the vinaigrette is absorbed, taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. If the lentils seem dry, you can drizzle with a little olive oil. To serve, transfer the lentils to individual plates or bowls and top with the sausages.

Be sure to add the vinaigrette while the lentils and vegetables are hot so that they can absorb all the flavors.

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Quiche Lorraine

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This pan of quiche may not look as good as it tastes here due to my blurry picture, but trust me, it is delicious.  This dish is wonderful for brunch, lunch, or supper and pretty on the plate with some asparagus spears and fresh fruit.  It is just as good with bacon subbed for the ham. If you, manage to have any leftover slices can be reheated in the microwave but I prefer to reheat in the oven.  The crust stays crispier.

Quiche Lorraine

6 ounces grated Swiss cheese

2 Tablespoons flour

1 1/2 cups half and half cream

4 eggs, slightly beaten

8 slices thinly sliced ham from the Deli, chopped  or  1 1/2 cups leftover baked ham, chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 unbaked 9 inch pie shell (I use Pillsbury refrigerated crust or make my own)

nutmeg, for sprinkling on top of quiche

Toss grated cheese with flour.  Add cream, eggs, ham, and seasoning; mix well.  Pour into pie crust, dust lightly with nutmeg,   and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until set.  Serves 8. Substituting  crumbled bacon (8 cooked slices) for the ham works well.

 

 

 

Mushroom Quiche

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Quiche is one of those versatile dishes that can be used for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Add to that the fact that ingredients can be swapped out in any number of combinations. The base recipe is milk, cheese, and eggs.  Add your choice of chopped vegetables and/or a variety of meat or seafood.  Make your own crust or use a prepared pie crust. Substitute some or all of the milk with half and half or even heavy cream.

Mushroom Quiche

1 refrigerated pie crust (half of 15-ounce package)

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter

5 cups sliced sliced mushrooms (I used Baby Bellas)

1/2 cup chopped onion

4 large eggs

1 cup whole milk

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated or ground nutmeg plus a pinch for topping

1 teaspoon dried thyme  (I use Penzey’s French Thyme)

1 1/2 cups grated Swiss or Fontina cheese (about 7 ounces)

preparation

Preheat oven to 450°F. Unroll crust completely. Press firmly onto bottom and up sides of 9-inch deep-dish pyrex pie dish. Bake until light golden brown, pressing on sides of crust with back of spoon if crust begins to slide down sides of dish, about 17 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.

Melt butter in heavy skillet.  Add mushrooms; sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté until mushrooms are tender and beginning to brown.

Whisk eggs,, milk,  salt,  pepper, and nutmeg in large bowl to blend. Stir in 1 cup Fontina cheese and sautéed mushrooms, reserving remainder. Pour filling into crust. Sprinkle remaining cheese over the filling and dust with nutmeg.

Bake until  golden brown, and set in center, about 45 minutes. Cool for a few minutes, then cut into wedges.

 

 

French Macarons with Raspberry Buttercream

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My granddaughter Skye, who likes to bake when she is at our house, told me she wanted to make French Macaroons.  I agreed with not a little trepidation, because I know that even professional pastry chefs label this little cookie “tricky.”  The following account of our adventures and first attempt may have you wondering if this was wise, but I assure you we had fun and finished by saying “Next time, we will know…”  And there will be a next time soon!  There are so many recipes and methods for making these little meringue based confections.  Skye likes Rosanna Pansino, a YouTube chef who details her baking videos clearly and always decorates her finished results cleverly.  I like to have a printed ingredient list and directions in front of me.  So we combined efforts.  Skye wrote down directions from her video and we used her handwritten recipe.  Recipe for Raspberry Buttercream follows below. Both recipes are adapted from Rosanna Pansino’s Nerdy Nummies video titled Kirby Macarons!

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French Macarons

Macaron is the French word for macaroon, but not to be confused with the cookie we know as coconut macaroons.  Macarons are one of the most amazing pastries, with hundreds of flavors and fillings. Macarons are made from almond flour and meringue, with even the pros admitting to failure on a regular basis.  Knowing this, we followed instructions closely!

Ingredients:

3 egg whites

2 cups powdered sugar

1/4 cup white sugar

1 cup almond flour

pinch of salt

After assembling the ingredients,
1. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set eggs out to come to room temperature.  Egg whites must be room temperature, so if you have not set the eggs out earlier, put them in a bowl of warm water for at least 10 minutes before separating.

2. Separate eggs, reserving yolks for later use. Beat egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment until whites are foamy; beat in white sugar and continue beating until egg whites are glossy, fluffy, and hold soft peaks. Add salt. If colored macarons are desired, add food coloring.  They will bake into a lighter color, so remember this when adding.

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3. Sift confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a separate bowl, whisk together,  and quickly fold the almond mixture into the egg whites, about 50 strokes.

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4. When batter is mixed enough to flatten immediately into an even disk, spoon into pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip. If you do not have a pastry bag, use a ZipLoc bag with one corner cut.  Pipe the batter onto the baking sheet in 1 to 1/2 inch rounds, leaving space between the disks because they will spread. When baking tray is full, lift it and tap on counter to release bubbles.   Let the piped cookies stand out at room temperature until they form a skin on top, about 30 minutes.

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5. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (140 degrees C).
6. Bake cookies until set but not browned, 25 to 20 minutes; let cookies cool completely before filling.

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Cooks’ Note:  We thought we could grind sliced almonds in the food processor to avoid buying almond flour.  Wrong!  Two batches of almond slices turned into nut butter later, we made a trip to Whole Foods, where we bought almond flour in their bulk grains and flours section.  The second hitch came when we used the wrong kind of ZipLoc bag.  Ours was one of the standup bags, which had an altered corner that did not work well to cut for use as a pastry bag.  Skye did her best, but the mixture did not pipe out smoothly. Next time we will use a different plastic bag or a pastry bag, and we will pipe smaller flatter discs.

Raspberry Buttercream Frosting

1 cup fresh raspberries

1/2 cup butter

3/4 cup powdered sugar

Beat butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy.  Mash raspberries through sieve so that you have juice (no seeds).  Add 2 or 3 Tablespoons and mix into butter and sugar mixture.  Place into pastry bag or Ziploc to pipe onto the flat side of one macaron and place another macaron on top.

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Caution:  We did clean up our cooking aftermath, but what a mess we made!

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Zucchini Galette with Lemon Thyme and Goat Cheese

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Our youngest son’s birthday in mid July was the occasion for a family dinner a couple of weeks ago.  This Zucchini dish was part of a wonderful meal, and it turned out pretty enough to be a table centerpiece!  I used a prepared pie crust instead of making the pastry, so it was very simple to put together, and fun for my granddaughters to help assemble. The combination of goat cheese, lemon zest,  and freshly picked lemon thyme was delicious.

Zucchini Galette with Lemon Thyme and Goat Cheese

1 pepared refrigerated pie crust (not frozen)

5 Medium zucchini squash, ends trimmed, and sliced very thin

2 Tablespoons olive oil

8 ounces goat cheese, softened

1 teaspoon chopped fresh lemon thyme

1 teaspoon lemon zest

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1 ten inch tart pan

Set the pie crust out on counter for 15 minutes, or per package instructions.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Put zucchini rounds into a colander and sprinkle with 2 teaspoon sea salt.  Set the colander over a bowl and toss the zucchini before allowing to drain for about 30 minutes.  Then squeeze the zucchini gently to remove more liquid. Put into a bowl and toss with 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil and a few grinds of black pepper.  In a smaller bowl, mix softened goat cheese with lemon thyme and grated lemon zest.  Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste.

While the zucchini is draining, place pie crust round on floured cloth and roll out to slightly larger, then place in tart pan.

When you are ready to assemble the galette, spread the goat cheese mixture over the pie crust to about 1/2 inch from the edge of crust.  Starting in the center, arrange zucchini rounds in snug, overlapping concentric circles all the way to the edge of the crust. Drizzle with remaining Tablespoon of olive oil.  Bake for about 45 minutes, or until golden brown.

Salmon Souffle

Salmon souffle is (like many of our favorite recipes) a dish with a story. Thirty-seven years ago, my good friend and neighbor Jean Merrill presented me with a gift: a cookbook titled Helen Corbitt’s Potluck.  I see several things that make me smile every time I take it from my shelf in the kitchen. First there’s its tomato red binding with a fanciful line drawing of a cow with some leaves in her mouth on the bottom right corner.  Just inside, the inscription “Mary Ann – thanks for being such a good friend. Love Jean  ’75.”  There’s the same cow from the front on the page.  Only this time she is standing with a pig and a chicken on her back.  The pig has a bottle of wine and a strawberry on its back, and the whole crew is plopped into a huge pot of vegetables labeled POTLUCK.  Not such a remarkable title for a cookbook unless you also know that Helen Corbitt was no everyday cook with her list of dishes to take to church dinners. This feisty chef authored 4 other cookbooks and is best known for her position as Director of Foods for Neiman Marcus and her menus for the Zodiac Room there.  So what makes me laugh when I pick up PotLuck is the unlikely face any recipe in there would actually find itself being called that.   In its pages, this little book has narrative and humour, and treasures from its author.  Poppy-Seed Dressing is one of her best known recipes. I have made  I have made Artichokes and Crab and a wonderful Lemon Rice Soup.  For my nieces bridal luncheon in 1983, I served Helen’s Cold Yogurt Soup.  But the recipe I have used so often that the book opens to its page is this one.  And every time I have made it, I have used leftovers, because the 1 1/2 cups of flaked salmon it calls for is just about right for leftover bits when I grill a salmon fillet.  I think Helen, the queen of sass and souffles,  would have approved.

Salmon Souffle

3 Tablespoons butter

3 Tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon curry powder (we like to use a heaping teaspoon or more)

1 1/2 cups fresh or canned salmon flakes

Pinch of thyme

Salt and pepper

1 cup milk

4 eggs, separated

Melt the butter, add flour and seasonings, and cook until bubbly.  Add milk, bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from stove.  add egg yolks beaten until light and the flaked salmon (no bones or skin). Cool.  Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites.  Pour into a buttered souffle or casserole dish.  Place dish into a larger baking pan and add hot water carefully into the bottom pan (hot water bath).  Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.  Left over chicken or ham works well instead of salmon.

Serve with Bengal Sauce, recipe follows.

Bengal Sauce

1 Tablespoon butter

1 Tablespoon flour

1 cup milk or half and half

Salt

1/2 teaspoon curry powder

2 teaspoons grated coconut

1/4 cup slivered almonds

Melt butter, add flour, cook a few seconds.  Add milk and cook until smooth and thickened.  Add seasonings, coconut and nuts.

When I made this earlier this week, I served Italian plum halves filled with homemade fig chutney which I baked alongside the souffle.

Bouillabaisse

My great great grandparents, Bienvenue and Clarice Augier, lived in the south of France and eventually sailed from the seaport of Marseilles to southern Louisiana with their young daughter Ernestine Matilde, who was my great-grandmother.  I am told that Clarice never learned to speak English and that Ernestine (who lived with my grandmother when I was born) had a prie deau in her room on which she knelt to pray everyday. Other than those facts, I know little about my French ancestry.  I have been to France only once and do not speak the language.  But both language and French cuisine call my name.  I love bouillabaisse, which is simply a hearty seafood stew which was something fishermen living in and around the seaport of Marseilles created by cooking whatever fish and shellfish had not been sold at the market by day’s end.  There are many versions, some much fancier than this, but all seem to have similar seasoning with fennel, thyme, bay, and saffron.  I have used other recipes over the years, but I adapted mine from one found in a lovely healthy food book called Canyon Ranch Cooking by Jeanne Jones.  There are two Canyon Ranch health spas. They must serve delicious food if we can judge by their cookbook.

I prefer to serve this by pouring a ladle full over a piece of crusty bread placed in the bottom of the bowl, but it works well served with French bread on the side.

Bouillabaisse

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, chopped (at least 1 1/2 cups)

1 large or several small leeks, white ends only, sliced very thin

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 or 2 Bay leaves

1 handful fresh basil leaves, julienned

1 teaspoon dried thyme (I use Penzey’s French thyme)

1/4 teaspoon dried fennel seeds, crushed

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads which have been dissolved in a little chicken stock

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

2 cups chicken stock

1 cup dry white wine

1/2 pound firm white fish, cut into bite size pieces

1/2 pound shrimp, shelled and cleaned

Sprigs of fresh thyme for garnish

slices of French bread

Saute onion, leek, and garlic in olive oil until softened.  Add all other ingredients except the fish and shrimp, garnish and bread.  Mix well and simmer covered for 10 to 15 minutes.  add the fish and shrimp and simmer another 3 to 5 minutes, until fish and shrimp are cooked through.  Serve in large bowls over crusty bread slices or with bread on the side.  Garnish with a sprig of thyme.

Cook’s note:  This is a good dish to make with leftover fish if you make it the very next day.  I like to keep shrimp in my freezer (shelled, deveined, and cooked) to use, but fresh is always best. If you do not wish to use wine (or don’t have any on hand), substitute 1 cup of chicken stock plus 2 Tablespoons of any good white vinegar.   Adjust seasonings to taste.  We like some extra heat added, so I add a chopped hot pepper from the garden or a splash of Tabasco.