Whirlwind Meal

Whirlwind Meal


veggiesYesterday I welcomed twenty-two Stanford alumni for a spring dinner.  I knew the group had two hours to eat, and was prepared down to the final grain of fleur de sel.   Rather than offer the aperitif in the kitchen, as I usually do, I arranged everything on the dining room table, thinking it would save us some time.

But, of course, a visit to On Rue Tatin isn’t complete without seeing the kitchen, so I welcomed everyone there with flutes of champagne.  Cameras flashed, conversation and laughter eddied around the island, glasses clinked, the mood was high. “We have landed where we are supposed to be,” said one of the guests as she settled on a kitchen stool. “This is it, absolutely.”

Conscious of time, I kept my introductory remarks short so that we could get into the dining room, where the aperitif and the first course, which I’d combined, were waiting in colorful splendor. There were platters of Baptiste’s asparagus and new potatoes, along with the very first batch of green peas and small, new carrots, all blanched then dressed with olive oil and minced tarragon, golden oregano, and a flourish of fleur de sel. I’d rolled strips of smoked Irish salmon around crème fraîche whipped with garden chives and lemon juice, made a luxurious, Calvados-spiked liver pâté, and carefully washed and trimmed radishes, for dipping in salt and eating with buttered baguette.

Conversation didn’t falter as everyone set to, sipping L’Antidote, one of my favorite white wines from Domaine Peyres Roses in Gaillac. I, meanwhile, was watching the clock, and soon was serving the main course of rabbit that had braised with onions, lard fumé (bacon), and sorrel. With that we sipped Impeccable, a delicate red from Domaine Peyres Roses.

(I’d cleared the rabbit with the group organizers before the event, knowing that Americans have a sensibility to furry creatures with big eyes. They were delighted with the choice because it was so French).

Cheeses were fragrant Norman specialties – Camembert, Livarot, Neufchatel – and dessert was rhubarb tourte with cinnamon ice cream.


The clock was ticking, and once the dessert plates were clean my guests were out the door, each with a freshly baked, still warm madeleine. They’d had a whirlwind taste of French cuisine, flavored by all the best the country has to offer.


These little smoked salmon bites are just the thing before dinner in the shadow of Nôtre Dame de Louviers.


Generous ½ cup (125ml) crème fraîche, chilled

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 small bunch fresh chives

Freshly ground black pepper

8 ounces (250g) lox-style smoked salmon, cut into 1-inch (2.5cm) wide strips

Fresh herbs, for garnish


  1. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the crème fraîche with the lemon juice until soft peaks form. Mince all but ten chive tips, and fold the minced chives into the cream, along with black pepper to taste. Place a teaspoon of the cream mixture on the end of a strip of smoked salmon and quickly roll the salmon around the cream. Set the roll, cream showing, on a serving plate and refrigerate. Repeat with the remaining salmon and cream. Garnish the plate with the chive tips and other fresh herbs, such as fennel fronds, and serve.


Appetizers for 6 to 8

This Post Has 14 Comments

    1. Susan

      Well, uh, I thought it was and everyone left sated and happy!

  1. Chris Roberts

    The menu sounds wonderful … Will it be in your anxiously awaiting new cook book …
    Would have loved to have see your table of delights
    Looking forward to trying the salmon appetizer
    Thank you. .

    1. Susan

      Chris, the conundrum of being chef and host is that I don’t take enough pictures, but I will be getting some…some recipes in the new book; some in other books!

  2. Guy

    I now always use your recipe for asparagus ( last time was yesterday evening) and they arewonderful! Thanks. Guy

    1. Susan

      Guy, thank you!!! Where did you get the asparagus?

  3. thegardenofeating

    Those lucky brainiacs! Also, I have the same plate! Just posted a pic to Facebook so you can see 🙂 I am loving your book, by the way.

    1. Susan

      Eve, thanks thanks thanks! Glad you’re enjoying the book. And my plates are really tiny – for….slices of ginger? Mounds of wasabi (they’re Japanese) but EXACTLY the same pattern as yours. So, who gives whom what….?!

  4. Ann Kalar

    What lucky guests were we to enjoy the whirlwind gastronomic delight of Susan’s delicious spring dinner!
    Our Stanford group arrived to the warmest welcome in Susan’s charming 15th Century home in Louviers.
    The delicious aromas of food cooking in the kitchen were memorable as Susan poured glasses of champagne for us. We were instantly enamored with the setting of a dedicated hostess-chef and her assisting close friends. Dinner progressed to the dining room with an amazing spread that Susan has so succinctly described. We loved every bite, including the yummy warm madeleines that were offered to us as we reluctantly departed. I look forward to returning to attend a cooking class with this superb culinary connoisseur.
    Our heartfelt thanks to you, Susan! Ann

    1. Susan

      Ann, Thank you thank you! It was such fun, truly! And I look forward to welcoming you back. In fact, I cannot wait!

  5. Christine

    I love your kitchen! I am about to remodel my kitchen and would love to hear what you consider to be “must haves.” I noticed in the pictures that your island seems to be half marble and half butcher block. Am I correct? What kind of marble is it? Thank you for any hints you might share!

    1. Susan

      hello, Christine! Check through the blog roll – I’ve put there a list of equipment I can’t live without. My favorite marble? The one I found at the builders’ supply house that fit my criteria for color and quantity. My motto for a kitchen? Keep it light, keep it organized, have wood floors where you work, easy on the legs, and the things you drop. Good luck!

  6. Cathy Taylor

    I was one of the lucky people to be at the Stanford dinner!! It was not only DELICIOUS and BEAUTIFULLY PRESENTED, but Susan and her home are about as charming as it gets! I never thought I’d try rabbit….but I must admit…if Susan cooks it, I’ll have it anytime…divine!
    THANK YOU for a memorable, lovely evening, Susan. Sorry it was rushed… I could have stayed for a week! 😉

    1. Susan

      Cathy, you are so sweet! I loved having you, you have to come back, and don’t worry about it being rushed. Next time, we’ll have ALL the time in the world!

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