RESOURCES FOR DAILY FRENCH KITCHEN –
When you subscribe, information like this will be much more in-depth and will, I hope, answer any questions you might have, clarify any things you’ve always wanted to know, and increase your general culinary knowledge. This is just a sampling of what I want to do for you!
I recommend French wines in general, because they’re Old World wines which focus more on terroir and the soul of the person who makes them, than on what can be done to the juice from grapes in a laboratory (a characteristic of New World Wines).
Iroulegy: wines from the French Basque country that are generally sprightly, floral, rich and well made yet rustic and almost, almost feminine because of their finesse. They’re gorgeous with many foods, particularly Basque specialties which, like the wine, tend to be hearty yet refined. The Iroulegy AOC is a tiny area…so not many wines come from there. If you cannot find an Iroulegy, try instead a lighter wine from the Languedoc, southwest France.
Sauvignon Blanc (French preferred): one of the finest grapes in France, most typically from the Loire Valley but it can be grown in many places, Sauvignon Blanc is lean, can be flinty, can sometimes be floral, has a range of delicate flavors that can blossom into richness, which means it goes as well with fish as it does with chicken, or veal, or a variety of cheeses and sausages. It’s so versatile.
Microbrew: generally small production, local brews which, like wines, reflect the nature and tastes of the producer.
Piment d’Espelette (capsicum annum): a deep red, elongated yet chubby pepper with a peppery finish, this pepper is the basis of Basque cuisine. It’s so flavorful that it’s hard to find a perfect substitute. The best I’ve found is hot paprika.
Turmeric (curcuma longa): there are so many health benefits ascribed to this vivid yellow root (claims include reducing effects of arthritis to treating ringworm) that it’s easy to forget its deliciously buzzy flavor. Turmeric is one of the basic ingredients in most curries, and its warm, bright flavor enhances everything from rice to steamed cauliflower. It’s great added to bread dough, sprinkled on salad or any vegetable, and added to soups.
Mache (Valerianella locusta) – called corn salad or lamb’s lettuce in English – one of the glories of the French winter. A dark green that grows in a whorl, each plant is a tender, violette-scented mouthful. Makes a fantastic salad and very pretty garnish.
Baguette or Bread – no French meal is complete without bread on the table, so I often call for baguette or bread. I realize that not everyone is French, and not everyone has the bread love in their DNA. Consider this ingredient a suggestion.
WHAT I MEAN WHEN I SAY:
Let’s Go/Allez-Y! – These both mean let’s get cookin’, but what I want it to imply is that you need to tie your hair back, put on an apron and slip a cotton tea towel through your apron strings so you have it on hand to use as a hot pad, and check that you remembered to put on your closed-toed shoes (a safety measure, in case a knife slips out of your hand, or you drop something).
Warm the plates – you can set plates, bowls, or whatever you’ll serve the dish on in an oven with the pilot light on; put them in the microwave; set them at the back of the stove.
When I call for garlic – I want you to check for the green germ inside the garlic – if it’s there, remove it. It won’t hurt you, but it’s tough.
When I call for bay leaves – I want you to buy a bay tree, Laurus nobilis – they grow well in most climates, and the fresh leaves are amazing. You can buy dried Turkish leaves, which are also good, but nothing is better than fresh!
When I call for fish – I want you to check with Seafood Watch (there will be a link for you) so you can find out which fish is the best to buy at the moment; then rinse the fish and check it for bones. Rinsing takes away any potential “fishy” aroma from beautiful fish that might have sat in a fragrant spot, and removing bones makes everyone at the table relax. Check for bones by running your finger over the fish against the grain, then use tweezers to remove what you find. Always serve bread with fish, in case you missed a bone and it lodges in someone’s throat; the bread will get it out of the way.
Get out your equipment – I mean just that. Get it all out before you get started, or at least make sure you know where it is. This will save you sooo much time!
When I call for baguette – because I’m French, I feel that a meal isn’t a meal without baguette. I realize that not everyone feels this way. As with everything to do with this site, you’ll do as you like, and if you want to ignore my request for you to get a baguette, that’s up to you!
When I encourage you to read the paper – your day is busy; sometimes, though, you’re waiting for a dish to finish cooking, the kids are doing their homework and eureka! you find yourself with nothing immediate to occupy you. I just want to remind you that you’re allowed to sit and read the paper, near the dish that is cooking so if you need to stir, you can stir.
When I call for flat-leaf parsley – here’s how you store it – like a bouquet of flowers, in the refrigerator.
When a recipe calls for meat or fowl, I say “Take it out of the refrigerator the minute you walk into the kitchen” – because meat and fowl cook more evenly when they’re at room temperature.