a very French dinner

it was French night at supper club

It was French night at Supper Club.

salmon rillettes

herbed goat cheese tart

We started off with two different French aperitifs: Lillet Blanc and Pastis. There were salmon rillettes made by Linda, topped with pink peppercorns and served with cornichons and caperberries. Georgiann’s herbed goat cheese tart was a great success, made with Gothberg Farms chevre. If there hadn’t been so much good food to come I could have happily made a meal out of just these two dishes.

first course

Our first sit-down course was made by Jenise: a delicate vegetable terrine and a small pastry that turned out to contain a mushroom stuffed with foie gras. Good lord.

vegetable terrine

While the foie gras pastry was rich, salty and knock-your-socks-off good, the terrine was beautifully subtle as well as gorgeous to look at. One layer had pureed watercress, and another had mushroom duxelles to connect it to the pastries. Carrots and snap peas adorned the center. It was served on a light salad with a shallot dressing, I think.

crevettes a la provencale

The next course, made by Roger while we ate our terrine, was crevettes a la provencale: prawns on a bed of tomatoes and olives. A nice change of flavor from the first course, bold and rustic, it went well with the French red country wines that had been opened and led us into the main course.

untrussing the chickens

the main course

This was chicken ballotine, roasted beets, and petatou. Linda and Mike made the ballotine, boning out two whole chickens and stuffing them with bacon, spinach, croutons and gruyere, then tying and roasting them. A real showpiece of a dish, it was fun to look at as well as eat. Georgiann did the beets, which were tossed with champagne-raspberry vinegar and orange juice. And Jon made the petatou, which was a major production but well worth it.

petatoupetatou

We found the petatou recipe in Tony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook (a hilarious read as well as a great reference for classic bistro cooking) . Essentially a potato and olive salad topped with goat cheese and broiled, it made a fabulous side dish with the chicken. It was enriched with reduced cream and egg yolk, which helped bind the potatoes together for molding, but I can see that it would be wonderful simply made up to the point of adding the cream and served as a cold salad instead of the broiled timbales. This was one of the most delicious things we’ve ever done with potatoes – I’ve copied out the recipe below if you’d like to try it yourself.

carrots

Linda also made some carrots with olives, from a Jacques Pepin recipe. Like everything else on the table, it was beautiful.

dessert wine

Finally, everyone found room for a slice of my tarte tatin, which we washed down with pineau de charentes and coffee. Apparently I ate my slice without even considering taking a picture, but I did do a post on it a while back. This version was made with an extra-short buttery pie crust and Jonagold apples. There were no leftovers.

molding the petatou

Petatou

From the Les Halles Cookbook by Anthony Bourdain. The recipe claims it makes four servings, but we doubled it and (using a 2″ biscuit cutter) got close to 15 servings. Depends on what you’re using for a mold and how tall you make them, I suppose. Leftovers are delightful.

  • 2 pounds red potatoes
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 pound nicoise olives, drained, pitted and chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 4 oz fresh goat cheese (chevre)

Cut the potatoes in half, place in a pot and cover with water. Add 2 Tbsp of salt and bring to a boil. Cook the potatoes until tender (about 20 min), drain and cool. Remove the skins and dice the potatoes, putting them into a large bowl. Add the olives, thyme, olive oil, and the vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste and toss gently.

Put the cream in a small pan and bring to a boil – watch out, it boils over fast! Reduce it by half, stirring to prevent scorching. In another bowl, lightly beat the egg yolk. When the cream is ready, beat it into the egg, whisking constantly. Add all but 4 Tbsp of this mixture to the potatoes.

Preheat the broiler. Using a biscuit cutter or other ring mold, form the potato mixture into cylinders and arrange them on a baking sheet. Cut the goat cheese into circles and lay a piece on each potato tower. Drizzle the remaining cream mixture over the top, and broil until golden brown. Serve with parsley oil (below).

Parsley oil (for garnish)

  • 2 Tbsp parsley leaves
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

Chop the parsley quite fine, and put it in a bowl or jar with the olive oil. Stir or shake well. Spoon around or over the finished petatous before serving.

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best latkes ever

latkes

I know everyone and their mother probably has a recipe for potato pancakes, but I recently discovered a new method for making them and it’s SO GOOD. And since Hanukkah, that celebration of fried food, begins tomorrow, it seemed like a fine time to mention it.

onion & taters

The secret is onion – quite a lot of onion, too. Really, it makes a huge difference! Mitchell Davis, author of the very useful book Kitchen Sense, attributes the technique to his mother, and I was amazed the first time I tried it. You grate the onion alternately with the potato so its juices coat the potato shreds and keep them from browning. Then it all gets mixed together with egg and matzo meal and fried slowly, producing a savory pancake with a perfectly crunchy outside and a soft sweet interior. I’ve made them two or three times now, and they are the very best latkes I’ve ever eaten. A little horseradish creme fraiche doesn’t hurt, either.

And by the way, today marks the end of another National Blog Posting Month – I made it all 30 days! Daily posting is not likely to continue, but we’ll see where inspiration leads me. As always, thanks for reading!

Recipe after the jump…

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octopus hash

baby octopus

I would probably never have thought of making this if it weren’t for the “Tom’s Big Breakfast” at Lola in Seattle. A happy plateful of eggs, potatoes, peppers and octopus, I found it surprisingly delicious. So when we left Gretchen’s the other night with a container of leftover boiled potatoes and steamed baby octopus, I knew that we were going to have octopus hash for breakfast.

octopus hash with an egg

Since the leftovers were all cooked, all I needed to do was roughly chop the potatoes and toss them into a nonstick pan with a little butter and oil, letting them get good and crusty, then stir in the chopped octopus near the end to heat through. With fried eggs on top and a dab of mayonnaise mixed with habañero sauce, the result was extremely good. And very filling.

We gave the octopus heads to the cats. They all thought we were trying to poison them except Mickey, who scarfed everything we gave him. He has excellent taste.

potato love

weighing

Some people like chocolate, so I hear. The sort of people who say “eat dessert first,” and mean it. The sort of people who really would rather have something sweet than almost anything else. I am not one of those people. I like potatoes. The saltier, the better, but chances are good that if it is made of potatoes, I will probably like it. Potato chips are one of the finest things life has to offer, in my opinion (and I am vindicated in my opinion by the Parsi food pyramid). I am also very fond of small yellow potatoes roasted until they are creamy inside and crusty outside. But I don’t complain about potatoes bathed in heavy cream, herbs and cheese. Nope.

Yes, I was on a low-carb diet at one time. No, it didn’t stick. For obvious reasons. And this is why I walk several miles a day. To avoid being potato-shaped as well as potato-obsessed. Anyway…

dinner

We made scalloped potatoes a few days ago, for a celebratory dinner at home. We pulled out two pretty beef tenderloin steaks, threw together a Caesar salad, and tried a new potato recipe out of America’s Test Kitchen, which was still open from making challah the previous evening. The whole dinner was wonderful, but these potatoes really clinched it for me.

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chips & egg

chips & egg

This is kind of embarrassing, but I can’t deny (and you’ll know this if you’ve been reading for a while) that I will put a fried egg on almost anything. And when you think about it, French fries aren’t that different from hashbrowns, right?

I don’t usually bring leftover French fries home, but these were special fries. We had lunch at Nell Thorn last weekend, after spending a quiet Sunday morning in La Conner checking out some of the Art’s Alive exhibits. Thinking we’d be restrained and share an order (after downing some incredible oyster shooters), we asked for a single Nell burger with fries and a side salad. Unfortunately for our good intentions, the kitchen cut the burger neatly in half, put each on its own plate and filled in the space around it with fries. And these are Nell Thorn fries, done with local potatoes and herbs and served with spicy house-made ketchup. We ate far too many, then just had to take the rest home. And, of course, ate them for breakfast. What would you have done?

gearing up for the Fourth

dinner

‘Tis the weekend for barbecued ribs and potato salad. And it actually looks like the weather is going to be beautiful for the Fourth of July, can you believe it? Of course, the mosquitoes have been hellish this week. We’ll have to smoke them out with the grill.

warm potato salad

Or just plan on hunkering inside and eating lots of potato salad. We’ll see how it goes.

What’s on your Fourth of July menu?

feeling Irish

lunch

St. Patrick’s Day is coming right up! For us, this week generally means playing several musical gigs in a row, driving across a variety of high mountain passes in snowstorms, and drinking a lot of wine, but I realize that this isn’t most people’s idea of the holiday. However, to get in the mood in advance this year (and to provide photos for an article I was writing), I made up a batch of Irish soda bread and some beef stew to go with it. And damn if that wasn’t the best beef stew I have ever made! The bread wasn’t bad, either.

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burger and fries

dinner

This was a total afterthought kind of dinner, but so remarkably tasty that we sat and looked sadly at our empty plates after we finished. Plain pan seared hamburger patties, topped with red pepper cheese (on Jon’s) or feta (on mine), with a bit of tapenade that was left over from a Gretchen’s class, and some extraordinarily tasty oven fries. I wanted more!

goat cheese mashed potatoes

 goat cheese mashed potatoes

One of our new (to us) cookbooks was beginning to pine away from lack of use, and we decided we must make something from it. As it turned out, we managed three different dishes from the book in one meal: not all exactly as written, but definitely inspired by. As a result, we’ve decided that Greg Malouf is a genius. These recipes are from Artichoke to Za’atar (I prefer its UK title, Arabesque)- now we have to get to work on Turquoise. And I really must get hold of a copy of Saha.

fennel salad
breaded lamb chop
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like IKEA but better

dinner

One of the great pleasures of homeownership has been having an excuse to go to IKEA regularly over the years. As our friend Joe used to say, they pump some sort of gas into those places that makes you have hallucinations of wealth (“Two ninety-nine for a set of six toilet brushes! I’ll take ten of them!”) but the experience as a whole is ridiculously fun. Sometimes we’ll sit on the Ektorp sofas or the Poäng chairs for hours, watching the people shove their way through with lists and screaming children and anxious expressions. Now that’s entertainment.

The key component of a day trip to IKEA is, of course, the cafeteria and the Swedish meatballs. There are other foods available there, but at least one person in the shopping party has to get the meatballs. Sometimes we get one of the big meatball platters to share. It comes with boiled potatoes, lots of gravy, and lingonberry sauce, and you can get a glass of sparkling lingonberry juice as well. Eaten at little plastic McDonald’s-style tables, it’s still a tasty and filling meal, and makes you feel like you’ve been somewhere different. Continue reading