Wow! Can you believe it has been nearly four years since I purchased your cookbook and joined French Fridays with Dorie? Some weeks I spend more time with your cookbook than with Sous Chef, and generally have a lot more to show for it.
Since I started reading Around My French Table, I have learned a great many things about cooking and my kitchen. For instance:
- A kitchen without Piment d’Esplette is pretty boring – it enhances most anything.
- If you want to Frenchify a dish, just add Emmenthal or Gruyere cheese.
- Every kitchen should have an 8-inch cake pan and numerous tart and brioche pans.
- Fear has no place in the kitchen (except when using sharp knives or standing over sizzling pork fat): you just have to jump in and try new things. (Oh, wait, that might have been from Julia Child but I will bet you agree.)
- Don’t be afraid to substitute ingredients, or adapt the recipe to your personal tastes. (Bonne Idees rock!) Just have some plan in mind when you do. Serendipity should not be a cooking methodology.
- Though you have tried hard to convince me to love anchovies, I still don’t like them and think they are better used as bait than food.
- Preserved lemons when used properly and in moderation add an awesome layer of flavor.
- Saran wrap does melt in a 225 degree oven when making Tuna Confit, contrary to what your cookbook says.
- I have learned the secret of pastry-making: lots and lots of butter and time.
- Restaurant quality duck can be made at home in less than 30 minutes, making it a delight for weeknight or weekend cooking.
- Read your recipe from start to finish before cooking from it. This applies to anyone’s recipe of course. I just need to remind myself of this axiom from time-to-time.
Possibly the most important lesson was reiterated this past Sunday. Never try to bite off more than you can chew or, to put this into a practical application: NEVER try to make three of your recipes for dinner unless you have an entire day to spend in the kitchen. Sous Chef rudely reminded me of this fact when I tackled Couscous Salad, Tuna Confit with Tomato-Preserved Lemon Salsa, and Roasted Peppers late one Sunday afternoon. Everything seemed so simple on the surface, but facts are facts and I am the world’s slowest slicer, dicer, and chopper. Oh, and add to that list peeling the skin off roasted peppers.
Here in the desert, we generally eat very early to take advantage of the Early Dining Specials and, more importantly, to get back to the Havanese kids as quickly as possible. So slaving in the kitchen until nearly 8:00 pm really threw off our schedules. That was the downside, but the upside was that I really loved the Couscous Salad. It is one of my new favorites and its versatility almost justified my spending most of Sunday afternoon and evening in the kitchen. In many instances, I modify your recipes to suit our preferences or from necessity. In this case, I merely substituted red currants for the raisins, as no raisins were in the pantry, and the result was terrific. The next night we transformed it into a Curried Shrimp Couscous Salad and as a side for our pork the following night. Thanks for introducing me to this wonderful dish that will undoubtedly make many more appearances on our table.
The Tuna Confit was a different story. The confit marinade provided good flavor to the tuna. However, Sous Chef and I decided that we prefer our tuna sushi style or merely seared. Since he is from Los Angeles, Sous Chef has enjoyed fresh fish all his life and during all seasons. As Sous Chef said, “why bother getting a fresh piece of quality tuna only to mask its great flavor with marinade and cook it way beyond rare?” The tuna’s taste and lack of oiliness were as promised, but its dry texture spoke of overcooking when in fact I had faithfully followed the directions. The tuna was nearly saved by the Tomato-Preserved Lemon Salsa that was a real winner and is going to be used with many other dishes. And perhaps the Tuna Confit just begs for cooking sous vide.
Finally, the Roasted Peppers were delicious, but incredibly labor intensive and I’m still scraping the peels off the kitchen floor. When I have time, I am going to do a taste test using quality store bought roasted peppers.
Until next week -Bon Appetit!
The Culinary Diva
Make sure to see what the other Dorista’s did this week by visiting French Fridays with Dorie.