Madame Royale, le Croque Madame


Madame Royale, le Croque Madame

France plays in the semifinals of the 2018 World Cup Tuesday and I for one cannot wait. Do you need the perfect thing to enjoy for a Tuesday brunch avec Mbappe et Les Bleus? (Besides Champagne of course)  If you have not tried one before I highly suggest you do so immediately. The Croque Madame or the better half of the Croque couple are what is known in France as "fast food" and no this is not your normal grilled cheese sandwich. The essence of the Croque is the ham, béchamel and gruyere or emmental cheese. This marriage of flavors is maybe the greatest thing ever.  The Madame name is given to a Croque Monsieur with a poached egg on top. The richness of the egg yoke with the cheese and béchamel is fantastic and very rich and the thin layer of Dijon mustard inside gives the perfect little zest to make it a perfect meal.

Croque is based on the word croquer meaning " to crunch" and Monsieur & Madame meaning Mr and Mrs sounds so much nicer than just Mr. Crunch. The sandwich can be traced back to the early 1900's when it first appeared in Parisian cafes and became a bistro staple thereafter.  And the béchamel sauce, one of the French “mother sauces” dates back to the 17th century. So really this is a meal for the ladies.

I have adapted and complied the recipe from using a classic béchamel sauce, adding Gruyere and of course some French ham. Also always cut the crusts off the bread, if you don't they get overcooked and take away from the texture of the whole perfect bite.

 Claudine's Croque Madame

Béchamel Sauce

2 tablespoons Butter

3 tablespoons flour

2 cups milk

Salt and pepper

Pinch of nutmeg

Melt butter in a large sauce pan, add flour and whisk for 2 minutes until a light golden color. Slowly add in milk a half cup at a time continue whisking until thick. Remove from heat and add pinch of nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.

Poached Egg

Meanwhile Poach egg and if you can get your hands on a DUCK egg, do it. In bowling water with a tablespoon of white vinegar. Drop eggs in low and to the water, using a slotted spoon move eggs around in the water flipping to evenly cook.

 To finish:

Cut the crusts off the bread, you can use any bread you have, I have used a multi grain bread to a brioche, and they all work. Toast the bread in the oven at 400 degrees for 4 minutes until browned on one side, flip and toast the other side for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the oven and on one slice spread a thin layer of Dijon mustard, top with two thin slices of ham and then with a handful of Gruyere cheese top with other slice of bread and then spoon liberal scoops of Béchamel sauce and the top with remaining Gruyere. Place in oven for 5 minutes, turn on broiler and place under broiler for 3 or 4 minutes until golden brown. Plate up and top with that perfect duck egg.

 C'est Magnifique! Allez les Bleus!



Fricassee de Poulet au Champagne


Fricassee de Poulet au Champagne

(Sauteed chicken in Champagne Cream Sauce)

1 whole chicken

Salt and fresh ground white pepper to taste

2 Tablespoons butter

1 cup white pearl onions

2 cups white or cremini mushrooms

1 Tablespoon shallots, finely chopped

1 Tablespoon flour

Bouquet Garni of parsley, thyme & bay leaf

1 cup Champagne

½ cup heavy cream

Cut the chicken into 10 pieces, or pre cut individual pieces can also be used, just make sure they are still on the bone. Season with salt and pepper

In a large skillet big enough to hold all the chicken on one layer, melt butter over medium heat. Add chicken thighs and drumsticks first, skin side down and brown on all sides.

Remove all chicken and set aside, in same skillet add onions, mushrooms and shallots. Cook stirring for about 3 minutes. Add flour, blend well and cook for two more minutes. Add bouquet garni and Champagne and simmer for 10 minutes.  Turn pieces from time to time, when meat comes away from the bone easily it is done.

Add the cream and bring to a boil and blend well. Cover, remove from the heat and let rest for 5 minutes. Remove bouquet garni and check for seasoning.  Plate and serve.


Coq au Vin- the Queen of French dishes


Coq au Vin- the Queen of French dishes

Along side Boeuf Bourguignon, Coq au Vin might be one of the most iconic recipes of all French cooking. Very similar in preparation, both the chicken and the beef slow cook in the most delicious of French vin rouge.  Julia Child once said "I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food..." You need almost an entire bottle for this recipe, so you should buy 2 bottles of wonderful French wine, one for cooking, one for you. This is Julia Child's recipe, which you can't go wrong with, and unlike Boeuf Bourguignon, Coq au Vin can be made in under 2 hours. 

Bon Appetit!

A 3-to 4-ounce chunk of lean bacon
2 ½ lbs. 3 lbs. cut-up frying chicken
½ tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
¼ cup cognac

3 cups Burgundy or Bordeaux French wine, don't play around here, it has the be French for the love of god, it's Coq au Vin!
1 to 2 cups beef stock or bouillon
1 Tb tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
¼ tsp thyme
1 bay leaf

12 to 24 small white onions
Salt to taste
1 to 2 Tb cooking oil

½ lb. fresh cremini mushrooms
1 Tb butter
½ Tb cooking oil

3 Tb flour
2 Tb softened butter
Remove rind and cut bacon into sticks 1 inch long and ¼ inch across.  Simmer for 10 minutes in 2 quarts of water, drain, rinse in cold water, and dry.  Sauté slowly in the casserole (260 degrees for the electric skillet) with the oil.  When bacon is very lightly browned, remove to a side dish, leaving fat in pan.
Dry chicken thoroughly in a towel.  Brown on all sides in the hot fat (360 degrees).  Season chicken with salt and pepper, return bacon to pan, cover pan, and cook slowly (300 degrees) for 10 minutes, turning chicken once.  Then uncover, pour in cognac, ignite with a lighted match, shake pan back and forth for several seconds until flames subside.
Pour wine into pan, and add just enough bouillon to cover the chicken.  Stir in tomato paste, garlic, and herbs.  Bring to the simmer, then cover and simmer slowly for about 30 minutes, or until chicken meat is tender when pierced with a fork. 
While chicken is cooking, drop onions into boiling water, bring water back to the boil, and let boil for 1 minute.  Drain, shave off to ends of onions, peel carefully, and pierce a deep cross in the root end with a small knife (to keep onions whole during cooking).  Heat oil in a frying pan, add onions, and toss for several minutes until lightly browned (this will be a patchy brown).  Add water to halfway up onions and ¼ to ½ teaspoon salt, cover pan, and simmer slowly for 25 to 30 minutes, or until onions are tender when pierced with a knife.
Trim base of mushroom stems, remove base from stems, wash stems and caps rapidly in cold water and dry in a towel.  Cut caps into quarters, stems into bias chunks (to resemble, roughly, the cut caps).  Heat butter and oil in frying pan; when bubbling hot, toss in mushrooms and sauté over high heat for 4 to 5 minutes until lightly browned. 
When chicken is done, drain out cooking liquid into a saucepan.  Skim off fat and boil down liquid, if necessary, to concentrate flavor.  You should have about 2 ¼ cups.  Remove from heat.  Blend butter and flour together in a saucer; beat into the cooking liquid with wire whip.  Bring to the simmer, stirring, and simmer for a minute or two until sauce has thickened.  Scrape onions and mushrooms into sauce and simmer a minute to blend flavors.  Carefully taste sauce, adding more sat and pepper if you feel it necessary.  Then pour sauce over chicken.  (Chicken is now ready for final reheating, but can be set aside until cool, then covered and refrigerated for a day or two.)

Shortly before serving, bring to the simmer, basting chicken with sauce.  Cover and simmer slowly for 4 to 5 minutes, until chicken is hot through.  (Do not overcook at this point!)



Steak à la Sauce Bordelaise


Steak à la Sauce Bordelaise

Pulling this one out of the archives from the 2010 Tour de French Cuisine, back when I would spend months researching the town that the Tour de France riders would start, ride through or end in and what cuisine they are so well known for. Some were far easier than others, the Bordeaux region being one of the easier with its long list of specialties and one cannot forget about the wine.  

The Bordeaux region is the largest wine region in France, in area and production. Four times that of Alsace, Burgundy and Beaujolais and twice as much as the Loire and Rhone regions and grows all three types of wine, red, white and sweet wines. As the Tour leaves the city of Bordeaux it heads through the Haut-Medoc Noted as the most concentrated and greatest red wine growing area in the world. The gravelly hills slopping towards the River Gironde is the perfect terroir to grow some of the most famous names in wine in the world.

The small village of Labarde marks the beginning of the Margaux appellation and the finest wines of the area. The 18th century Chateau Dauzac is located here and named after Petrus d’Auzac who was given the land from Richard the Lionheart, King of England. Growing mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc and produces a fragrant, soft and excellent wine.

The town of Margaux may be small but its jewel is the Chateau Margaux, arguably one of the most famous names in wine. One of only four vineyards to obtain the Premiur Crus status in 1855 and labeled by Thomas Jefferson as “one of the four vineyards of first quality” The estate dates back to the 12th century and once legend has Edward III, King of England living here in a castle located on top of a high mound over the water in the 14th century. Before the Medoc was drained the area would frequently flood so having a castle on high land was a necessity.  The domaine would pass through many hands over the years but it was during the mid 17th century when the proprietor d’Auledes planted the first vines.

Steak à la Sauce Bordelaise

1 cup red wine
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 shallots, finely diced
1 bay leaf
6 tbsp. Demi-Glace
4  6-oz. filet mignons
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp. canola oil
1 tbsp. chilled unsalted butter, diced
1 tbsp. finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme

1. Make the sauce: In a 2-qt. saucepan, combine wine, thyme, shallots, and bay leaf. Reduce wine over medium-high heat until almost completely evaporated. If using a gas stove, tip pan to ignite wine; this will aid in evaporation. Discard the thyme and bay leaf; stir in demi-glace. Cover, remove from heat, and set aside.

2. Prepare the filets: Heat oven to 500°. Season filets with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a 10" skillet over high heat. Sear steaks, flipping once, until browned, 4–5 minutes. Transfer skillet to oven; roast until steaks are medium rare, 4–5 minutes. Place steaks on a plate; let rest.

3. Sauce the steak: Return saucepan to medium heat. Whisk in butter. Remove saucepan from heat; stir in parsley and season sauce with salt and pepper. Transfer steaks to cutting board; add juices from plate to pan and stir. Spoon 2 tbsp. sauce onto each of 4 plates. Slice steak into 1⁄4"-thick slices; divide between plates. Sprinkle with rosemary and thyme; drizzle each steak with 1 tbsp. sauce. Serve with baby lettuces, if you like. Yields 3⁄4 cup sauce

Pommes de Terre et les Oignons Bordeaux

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 white boiling onions (about 9 ounces total), thinly sliced
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes
2 cups water
1/4 cup crème fraîche or whipping cream
Chopped fresh parsley

 Melt 1 tablespoon butter with oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add potatoes and 2 cups water; bring to boil. Cover and simmer until potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes. Uncover and simmer until almost all water evaporates, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Add crème fraîche and 1 tablespoon butter. Stir gently to blend, being careful not to break up potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Rewarm over low heat before serving.) Sprinkle with parsley.

 Bon Appétit




Sole à la Meunière


Sole à la Meunière

Sole à la  Meunière is a simple exquisite dish that has been made in France for hundreds of years, but may be best known as the first meal Julia Child had when she arrived on her first trip to France. French cooking gets a bad rap of being difficult and only for the top level cooks, but the basis of French cuisine is actually all about using the best ingredients in season and a few simple techniques. Sole à la Meunière  is one of the most simple and easy recipes in all of French cuisine that you can make, 

68 years to the day that I made my 3rd trip to Paris, Julia also arrived on the French soil at Honfleur in Northern France. In 1948 Julia and her husband Paul on assignment for the OSS took a ship across the Atlantic with Paris as their destination that would change her life. Making there way towards Paris they stopped at La Couronne in Rouen where she would have a meal that would forge her entire future in just a few bites that would render her speechless.

In her book, My Life in France, a book that also was the final nail in the coffin of my love of France she said:

Rouen is famous for it's duck dishes, but after consulting he waiter Paul had decided to order the Sole à la Meunière . It arrived whole: a large, flat Dover sole that was perfectly browned in a sputtering butter sauce and sprinkling of chopped parsley on top. The waiter carefully placed the platter in front of us, stepped back and said "Bon Appetit!"  I closed my eyes and inhaled the rising perfume. Then I lifted a forkful of fish to my mouth, took a bite, and chewed slowly. The flesh of the sole was delicate, with a light but distinct taste of the ocean that blended marvelously with the browned butter I chewed slowly and swallowed. It was a morsel of perfection. 

After the meal Julia and Paul "floated out the door into the brilliant sunshine and cool air. Our first lunch in France had been absolute perfection. It was the most exciting meal of my life" 

Later Julia would go onto writing a cookbook that would bring the amazing cuisine of France into every American kitchen and the rest is as we say history. The funny thing is that a dish that left such a huge impression on her is not included in Mastering the Art of French Cooking 1 or even 2. She didn't include it until her 1989 A Way to Cook was released, 28 years after MAOFC was released.

So here it is, you can make this in minutes with only a few ingredients.

4 Dover sole filets, or any other thin firm fish, tilapia also works

fresh ground pepper & salt

Flour for dredging

4 tablespoons clarified butter (melt a stick of butter in a saucepan then with a fine mesh strainer separate the clear butter from the solid and set aside)

2 tablespoons minced parsley

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Lemon wedges

Pat dry the fish, season with salt & pepper and dredge in flour, shaking any excess flour off. In a sauté pan, heat 2 Tablespoons clarified butter, when bubbling add fish. Cook for 2-3 minutes per side until lightly golden brown and the fish spring back when touching. Remove from pan and melt unsalted butter in pan until melted and bubbling.

Plate the fish and sprinkle with parsley and then pour some of the melted butter goodness over the filet.  Serve with a glass of perfect white French wine such as Pouilly-Fume and enjoy.

And don't worry about all that amazing butter, you only live once and wouldn't you rather have a life of amazing French food and wine sitting in a perfect Paris bistro watching the world go by with no other thought in the world than that amazing food in front of you? I know I would and 52 days to Paris.


Le Poulet Crack


Le Poulet Crack

It's loved, it's famous, it's been named CRACK CHICKEN by anybody that has ever had it, but to keep it à la Français, we shall call it Le Poulet Crack. It's quite simple, it's just chicken, lemons, homemade croutons and onions. But it will be the best thing you have ever eaten!

This is an adaptation of the one and only Ina Gartens (the Barefoot Contessa) recipe that is in her amazing book, Barefoot in Paris. Honestly one of the best cookbooks out there, if you could only have two, it would be this one and of course, Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. 

Anyway, back to the Crack. When it comes to this recipe, you need to fight your instinct of "that looks burned" because the crack is not the chicken, it's the croutons and the onions. The Chicken is like the cracker on the cheese plate, merely a vehicle.  Let's get this party started!

1 Chicken-whatever size you want it to be, but maybe personal size when nobody is around and you get it all to yourself. Anybody that has had this, won't judge.

4 large yellow onions, honestly whatever fits in tour roasting pan, cut in half. FILL IT UP

olive oil, salt & pepper

2 lemons

1 cube of butter

a good crusty bread, sourdough, round covered with seeds, anything that is sturdy

Heat the oven to 425

wash and dry the le poulet, shove him full of as many quartered lemons as he can take, and season him with kosher salt and pepper. Meanwhile, melt the magic butter on the stovetop. Peal and slice the yellow onions and place in the bottom of your roasting dish, preferable Le Creuset, because the best and French.  Place the dried stuffed chicken on top and then pour ALL the butter on top of le Poulet.  Cook for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours until the juices run clear.

Meanwhile, while the chicken is cooking, cube up the bread and sauté or bake in a toaster to create croutons. On the stovetop, heat 2 Tbls. olive oil in a large pan, and working in batches toast all sides of croutons until crunchy, set aside and continue in batches until done with the loaf.

Now here comes le crack! When the chicken is finished cooking, check the onions, are they browned and almost black? If not, remove the chicken to a plate, cover with foil and returns the onions to the oven, keep on cooking until they are browned, it's ok and perfectly delicious to keep adding butter.  When the onions are the perfect shade of amazingness (a golden brown) take the croutons and toss them into the buttery onions. (voila.. C'est crack)  Keep on stirring it up so the croutons soak up the buttery chicken goodness. Now place the chicken back on top with any juices... you can take it from there..... and you are very welcome for this life changing moment I just gave you