Before moving this site to a new platform, I experimented with a topic last year to see how it would be perceived. Each month would get its own region and we would take a look at all things from that region. We’re revisiting FRANCE and all things FRENCH to start off Diary of a Perfectionist Wannabe’s relaunch since it was so popular last year. We’ll take a look at French food, arts, culture, photography, books, etc. all throughout this month.
Each week we’ll be showcasing a cookbook and divvying up a few of the recipes from the book. This week’s French recipes are from Laura Calder’s book French Food at Home.
For those just starting out learning how to cook French food, it can seem a little daunting. As James Peterson writes, you could end up using every single pot and pan in your arsenal just to make one meal.
Calder makes the different processes of making French food a little easier.
For instance, this fabulous Honey Hen recipe with Lemon Pasta was so good, you’re not going to want to share it.
1 chicken (3 pounds), cut into 8 pieces
Salt and Pepper
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard*
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence
Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Melt the honey in a saucepan and whisk in the mustard and herbs. Pour over the chicken pieces in a baking dish, and roll them around to coat well.
Bake, turning occasionally, until the meat is cooked through, well browned, and veiled in its dripping hot sauce, 40 to 45 minutes.*[*Cooking times may vary.]
This is one of my favorite, easy and simple pasta recipes from Laura Calder.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Grated zest of 4 to 5 lemons*
1 cup heavy cream
1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
Salt and Pepper
Lemon juice to taste
1/2 pound fresh egg pasta
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. While you wait, melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in the lemon zest. Pour over the cream and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the cheese, stirring to melt. Season with salt and pepper. Add lemon juice to taste.
Cook the pasta. Drain, return to the pot, and toss with the sauce. Divide among four serving plates, garnish as you like, and serve immediately.*[Note: This dish must be eaten hot. When it goes cold, it basically turns into cold butter and pasta noodles.]
If you’re like me, it’s a little difficult to get through an entire loaf of French bread. Instead of tossing the bread out when it starts to go stale, Toast Soup is the answer.
6 slices smoky bacon*
4 cups chicken stock
About 8 cups cubed French bread (roughly 1 loaf)
2 cups milk, more if needed
2 teaspoons sherry or balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard**
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
Fry the bacon until cooked but not necessarily crisp. Pour over the stock, bring to a boil, turn off the heat, cover, and let infuse about an hour.
Meanwhile, toast the bread on a baking sheet in the oven until quite dark, but not burnt. Transfer to a large saucepan.
Strain the stock over the toast, reserving the bacon. Add the milk, vinegar, and mustard and purée until very smooth with an immersion blender.* Taste before seasoning with salt and pepper.
Cut the bacon into slivers and refry until crispish. Reheat the soup, whisking in the cold butter at the last minute to give it gloss. Serve piping hot with the bacon bits scattered over.[*Note: For added texture, do not purée all of the bread in the soup. Leave a few pieces as is, but purée the majority of the soup.]
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Laura Calder’s book is one of my favorites. It’s a great beginner’s book into learning how to cook French food. She makes things simple because creating an elaborate French dinner can seem absolutely terrifying. The recipes are easy to intermediate and everything tastes absolutely wonderful.