I flew over mid-December to teach a couple of classes in Portland, which exhibited huge support (Merci, Portland) for the fine points of French cooking. Fiona flew in from her home in Utrecht, Holland, and Joe followed on her heels from Annapolis, Maryland. Yes, we are spread all over the map, so occasions to be together are more rare, thus more magical.
Every day was a highlight, as siblings and friends gathered round, from the inimitable family friend David Kobos (he brought fine coffee to Portland in the 1970’s) who recited Jabez Dawz and Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out with such skill, alacrity and humor that we were all doubled over in laughter and delight.
I was also able to re-live the fine “sun’s over the yardarm” ritual, so well known from my parents’ generation. Thanks to Charles Malody (he wrote How to Drink Well: The Essential Social Grace which will be in book stores in 2019) and his wife Karen, who hosted us, I sampled a new cocktail each night, my favorite being a tart, herbal wonder based on the Jasmine, called Beauty on a Razor’s Edge
After such an inspirational time, I’ve compiled a “best of” from 2018, to share with you. I’d love to hear your best ofs; too.
Best Thing: My children are healthy and thriving
‘Next Best Thing: Publication of FRENCH GRILL
Third Best Thing: getting a contract for PLAT DU JOUR
Fourth Best Thing: I’m back living in Paris part-time
Best Quote, from my mother: “My new motto: Stand Tall, Be Still, Watch for Signs” (lifted from Standing Bear in the Craig Johnson mysteries).
Best What’s App from Fiona: “Here’s a photo from under the microscope of the gastropods I’m studying.”
Best Family Event of the Year: Joe’s graduation from St. Johns College, Annapolis!
Best Question/Response from Joe: “Mom, what’s an easy dessert I can take to friends’ on Friday? “ To the response of “Flourless chocolate cake from FRENCH GRILL” he says: “That’s the perfect dessert, Mom, thanks. I’m probably just going to buy one, tbh.”
Best Throwback Dish: Beef Wellington, made by my brother John Herrmann
Best Books: The Sympathizer, by Viet Than Nguyen and Dans Les Forets de Sibérie by Sylvain Tesson
Best view: out my apartment window over the roofs of Paris
Best recipe: impossible to qualify, but I’m going to share a delicious one here which will be part of the PLAT DU JOUR Collection, for Lamb Parmentier (Note: anything with the word Parmentier has potatoes in it, thanks to Auguste Parmentier who introduced the tuber to the French in the 1800’s.)
I wish you all a wonderful 2019. I will be giving more classes in Paris as the year progresses, so please stay tuned. Meanwhile, classes in Louviers are on and wonderful. Sign up for the tastiest time of your life!
PARMENTIER D’AGNEAU - LAMB WITH MASHED POTATOES
This recipe makes enough for 8 rounds. You will have leftover mashed potatoes, most likely; don’t worry, they keep and reheat perfectly.
Equipment: six to eight 3-1/2cm (9-inches) metal rounds, for presentation; parchment paper; baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Or, if you prefer, a medium-sized baking dish.
One2 pound (1kg)lamb shoulderboned, with bones if possible,
4carrotspeeled and diced
½ celery stalkstrings removed, diced
10branches fresh thyme
2bay leavesLaurus nobilis
4cloves garliccut in half, green germ removed
One recipefor mashed potatoessee recipe
Cut the lamb shoulder into 1-inch (2.5cm) pieces. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, and when the oil is hot, add the meat, season lightly with salt and pepper, and brown on all sides. This will take 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the lamb from the pan and add the vegetables. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, which will take about 6 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 325F (163C).
Return the lamb to the pan and stir. Add the thyme, bay leaves, and the garlic cloves to the meat and vegetables, along with the shoulder bone(s), and enough water to cover. When the water comes to a boil, remove it from the heat, cover, and place the pot in the center of the oven. Bake until the lamb and the vegetables are tender through. Remove it from the oven and when it is cool enough to handle, go through the pieces of lamb with your fingers, shredding them.
Place a strainer over a bowl, and tip the lamb into it, to drain. Keep the juices, which you will transfer to a small saucepan.
Increase the oven temperature to 450F (235C).
Line the metal rounds with parchment paper. Trim the paper so that it is flush with the edges of the round. Set the rounds on the prepared baking sheet. Place ¾ cup of the lamb and vegetable mixture inside each round and press on it firmly. Top each round with half cup of mashed potatoes, pressing it gently into the lamb and smoothing the edges. The potatoes will rise above the edge of the metal rounds, which is fine.
Place the baking sheet with the rounds in the center of the oven. Bake until the potatoes begin to turn golden on top and the meat and potatoes are hot through, which will take about 15 minutes.
Heat any sauces from the lamb over low heat.
Remove the rounds from the oven. Using a metal spatula, slide it under each round and transfer to the center of a warmed dinner plate. Surround the timbales with sauce, evenly dividing it among the plates. Serve immediately.
2 pounds (1kg)starchy potatoes such as russetspeeled and diced
2teaspoonscoarse sea salt
4tablespoons (60g)unsalted butter
¼cup (60ml)crème fraîche
Freshly ground nutmegto taste
1. Peel the potatoes and cut them into large chunks. Place them in a medium-sized saucepan and cover them by 1-inch (2.5cm) water. Add 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt. Bring the water to a boil over medium high heat and cook until the potaotes are tender, for about 20 minutes.
2. Drain the potatoes, reserving the cooking liquid. Return the potatoes to the saucepan with the butter and the creme fraîche, and mash the potatoes, using a potato masher or a fork. You want the potatoes smooth but not elastic, the way they can become if you mash them in a machine. Add more butter and cream if you like or, if they are too thick you can also add potato cooking water. Season the puree to taste with salt and pepper , and serve.