Grilling Their Way Through FRENCH GRILL

Betsy and eileen about to grill
Betsy and Eileen in Normandy

The other day I received an email from Betsy Regnell, whom I met when she and her friend Eileen Doherty came to a class at On Rue Tatin, some many years ago.  Here is what it said:

“Susan,  Eileen and I are working through FRENCH GRILL. We did the grilled bread with smashed tomatoes, the drunken lobster, the polenta with Romesco!  It was all AMAZING!

xo Betsy and Eileen”

Now, I know that a note from either Betsy or Eileen signed “Betsy and Eileen” is only written by one of them – writing emails is about the only thing these gals don’t do together.  But they can easily vouch for each other’s comments and thoughts. Not that they are the same person in any way, BUT…well, they are sort of the same person.  Funny, razor sharp, successful, funny, hilarious, warm with energy to burn, and funny. Did I already say that?

They form the nucleus of a huge group of friends in the DC area, and are constantly planning fun things to do together, most of them revolving around food. So their project to cook their way through FRENCH GRILL is in character. But still. What an honor for me, to be part of the Betsy and Eileen club of hilarity and good times.

I decided to take you along, and we begin what will be a sporadic enterprise.  As I get emails I’ll collect and post them, along with photos as the dishes actually look in the hands of cooks who have one hand on the grill, one hand on the glass.  A couple of notes: Eileen, who speaks French and keeps the entire city of DC on its feet in her communications job, insists on spelling “grill” the French way “grille” and I can just hear her pronounce it: “Greeeeyuh! “  Betsy lives in exclamation points.  Just think, maybe this will become a movie….!


lobster fresh from grill
Drunken lobster
tomatoes from grill
Smashed tomatoes and Grilled Bread

See what the press is saying about FRENCH GRILL!

Drunken Lobster, Grilled Bread with Smashed Tomatoes (p. 105; p. 40)

“Susan – I concur with Bets on all of your recipes! We have enlisted two of our regulars to be guinea pigs for all of your recipes. Now, one is a hard and fast Mainer who only likes his lobster one way, and that way is not flambeed or anything fancy.  Guess what?? We all adored the flambéed lobstah!!!!!  So just when I thought it was impossible to improve upon steamed lobster with lemon and butter (and believe me, I was a sceptic) you taught us all otherwise.  Our dinner was sublime.” Eileen.

Romesco from the grill
Romesco on Polenta with Lobster

Romesco, Summer’s Perfect Sauce  (p.74) and Polenta with Garlic and Olives (p.194)

“Susan!!!  Oh, oh, oh Romesco! You can’t get enough of this stuff…you will want to eat it on  everything,  except maybe ice cream.  Was a perfect accompaniment to the grilled polenta.  The next day I smeared it on a turkey sandwich and the rest of it went with scrambled eggs the following day.  This recipe takes zero time to put together (once you’ve grilled the peppers) and it keeps for days. We’re going to try it with scallops, so we’ll look up a recipe from your GREAT AMERICAN SEAFOOD COOKBOOK,  Susan, and see if we can make a nice marriage! P.S. I want to refigure the recipe so we can make it in half gallon batches. ” Eileen

“Suuusaaaan!!! The grilled polenta recipe looked amazing but scared the heck out of me.  How in the world do you grill polenta?  So of course I just jumped in,  following the recipe and directions exactly.  The polenta cooked in 5 minutes and I poured it on my prepared granite counter.  With my husband in the background asking, “how much longer before dinner is ready?”  I was thinking this was going to take a lot longer than the recipe suggested.  But voila!  It firmed up just like you said it would!!!!  I cut it into squares and put ’em on the grill. So surprisingly easy! (And Rags loved it).”

We served the polenta with the Romesco sauce and it was a huge hit!  The olives make the polenta extra special and you can’t get enough of the Romesco sauce.  Yum!!!

Get Your Copy of FRENCH GRILL 

Twenty Minute Dinner and Grilled Potato Salad (p. 159; p. 199)

“Susan – Going to the Organic Butcher in McLean today to pick up supplies. ?” Betsy

“Susan – This dish lived up to its name….done in 20 minutes so a perfect weeknight dinner.  Starting to realize that what is so great about cooking on the grille is that it feels less like cooking and more like a mini vacation.  What could be better than being outside with a glass of wine in hand smelling all of those great aromas…fabulous.  Bets got fresh sausages from the organic butcher and they were a little chubbier than the ones you suggested….we’re going with yours the next time because we overcooked a wee bit.  Lesson learned – or astuces as you would say – follow Susan’s instructions to the letter!  This dish was so hearty and light all at the same time.  I thought that the sausage would make the dish too heavy for summertime, but it was perfect. This dish on the platter is so pretty and inviting that everyone wanted to just dive in.”

“We used your recipe for basic potatoes version 2 because we wanted to cut them in half and not use skewers…because a.) we didn’t have any, and b.) they reminded me of testicles when left whole ?.   At first I thought “too many onions and herbs for this amount of potatoes”. It isn’t.  The thinly sliced onions soak up in the vinaigrette and the sweetness of the maple syrup blends with the spiciness of the Piment d’Espelette and the licorice flavor of the tarragon – flavors we’ve never had together.  It went perfectly with the sausages too!” Eileen

Betsy and eileen about to grill
Betsy and Eileen in Normandy

Gazpacho (p.57)

“Susan – Fan- (expletive) -tabulous!  Easy as can be…chop and seed goes very quickly and  the longer we let it sit, the better it got.  So even though you want to serve it really cold…warmer brings out the flavors.  In fact, you can taste every single ingredient in this gazpacho! Scrumptious and as a leftover….even better!” Eileen

 The Best Cheeseburger You Ever Ate – Camembert Burgers ([. 135)

“Susan!!! Winner winner chicken dinner!  Some of our guests said, “My God that is a tasty burger!”…”That is a world class burger!”  We agree and here is why we agree…

“First of all, the “chutney” of onions and apples is more delicious than you can imagine. Good God that was fabulous!  The combination of the sweet apple and the tangy onion is so unexpected. But the standout is adding allspice to the burger.   Then the Camembert with the rind on was cheesy and nutty and buttery delicious – the icing on the cake. It is hard to imagine doing a burger any other way than this from now on.” (We cheated on the buns…we bought brioche buns and sorry Susan…we are in Virginia …so we slathered both sides of the bun with Dukes mayo before placing them on the grill).”  Eileen and Betsy

Here is the recipe for the Grilled Bread with Smashed Tomatoes

Grilled bread. The first time I made this for French friends, they couldn’t believe it. How could something so simple and basic be SO GOOD? French is such a bread culture yet bread has its place, and that place is sliced, in a basket, as a support for cheese, a pusher for salad, a sopper for sauce. Grilled? It really takes the Italians for that, and here, I’ve crossed the border and introduced it to France! And just in case you wondered, everyone I know is making it now! Because this is quick, you can make it while the grill is heating, and have it ready for guests when they arrive so they don’t notice that dinner isn’t quite ready! ASTUCE: I brush the bread with oil – not too much – before grilling, then brush it again once it’s off the grill. This avoids flare-ups which might add a not-so-good flavor to the toasted bread. It also keeps the fat level down. I get a wonderful organic bread from the food coop in Louviers that looks as though it was made for a giant – it’s a long, fat loaf studded with grains and made with the greatest blend of spelt and wheat flours. Try and find something similar for this recipe. SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: long tongs, pastry brush PREPARATION TIME: about 4 minutes DIFFICULTY LEVEL: simple
  • 4 1/2-inch; 1.25cm thick slices sourdough or other of your favorite bread
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or to taste
  • 1 to 2 fat cloves garlic peeled
  • 4 ripe tomatoes cut in half
  • Fleur de sel
  1. Build a medium-sized fire in the barbecue. When the coals are red and dusted with ash, speared them in a tight, single layer; they need to emit concentrated heat. Set the grill over the coals.
  2. Brush the slices of bread on each side lightly but thoroughly with olive oil. Set the slices on the grill and toast until they are golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the slices and repeat, until the bread is crisp and toasty and even very dark on the outer edges (if you like really toasted bread the way I do).
  3. Transfer the slices to a cutting board and brush them on one side with oil. Quickly and thoroughly rub them with the garlic cloves on one side. Cut them into serving-sized pieces, then arrange them on a platter. Serve immediately with the tomatoes, with instructions to your guests to smash and rub the cut side of the tomato firmly over the surface of the hot grilled bread then enjoy!

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