Clementine Cake.

Rosy lips above the water
Blowing bubbles mighty fine
But, alas, I was no swimmer,
So I lost my Clementine.

Maybe Clementine had a slice of this dense, nutty-sweet almond cake in her pocket the day she “fell into the foaming brine,” because she sank straight to the bottom, poor thing. This cake is named after the fruit, not the miner’s daughter, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less melodious. And as it bakes, the whole house smells wonderfully of toasty almonds and fresh citrus.

INGREDIENTS

1 3/4 cups raw almonds
6 eggs, whites and yolks separated
1 cup sugar
3 clementines
splash of vanilla extract
1/2 cup powdered sugar, plus more for dusting

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a food processor, blitz almonds to about the consistency of wet sand. A few small chunks are okay.

Combine sugar and egg yolks in a large bowl and beat until they form a pale cream.

Add vanilla, the zest of the 3 clementines, and the juice of one of them (save the other two), and stir until combined.

Then stir in the ground almonds.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.

Take a spoonful of the whites and stir it into the yolk mixture to even out the consistencies a bit.

Then, gently fold in the whites until combined.

Pour into greased spring-form pan and bake for 40 minutes, until cake has set and is golden brown. Cool for 15 minutes before icing.

In a small bowl, stir together powdered sugar and juice of the remaining two clementines, adding more powdered sugar as needed to reach desired consistency. Spoon or drizzle icing over the slightly cooled cake and allow it to soak in. Just before serving, dust cake with powdered sugar. Enjoy a big slice, but wait an hour before going swimming, lest you end up like poor Clementine.

Coq au Vin.

Coq au vin, unlike revenge, is a dish best served hot. It’s a classic in French cuisine, with tender, fall-off-the-bone chicken in a rich, savory wine sauce with a hint of tomato, speckled with mushrooms and shallots and bacon. These flavors are just amazing! It’s a perfect dish for dinner parties, but this time, I’ve made it to have for lunch at work during the week. Lucky me. Totally impressive but actually very simple to execute, this recipe is definitely one worth mastering.

INGREDIENTS

3 lb chicken (I used 4 legs and 2 breasts)
salt and pepper to taste
1 pad butter
olive oil
4 strips bacon, cut into small strips or lardons
3 shallots, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
8 oz. mushrooms, rough chop
1 cup stock, plush a splash (I used homemade chicken stock)
1 cup white wine (I used Chardonnay)
1/2 cup canned crushed tomato
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp flour (thicken with potato flour for a gluten-free sauce)
chopped parsley for garnish

DIRECTIONS

Rinse and pat dry chicken, then season with salt and pepper.

Heat butter and olive oil in Dutch oven or other large soup pot. Working in batches, brown chicken on all sides and then transfer to a plate.

In the same pot, cook the bacon. When the bacon is crisp, add shallots and garlic and cook until soft.

In a separate pan, saute mushrooms in olive oil until soft. Set aside.

Deglaze the chicken pot with a splash or two of stock and stir.

Then place chicken back in the pot. Pour wine and the rest of the stock over the chicken and add mushrooms, crushed tomato, and bay leaves. Cover pot with lid and simmer for half an hour.

When chicken is fork-tender, remove from pot. Remove the bay leaves at this point, too. Place half a cup of the sauce into a small bowl and stir flour into it with a fork. Bring the pot of sauce/gravy to a low boil and whisk the flour-thickened portion into it. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Spoon sauce over chicken and serve with rice or potatoes, and garnish with parsley. Makes for luscious leftovers too!

Upside-Down French Onion Soup.

Named for its backwards assembly, this dreamy dish is similar to your standard French onion soup, except you serve it upside-down! The “croutons” go on the bottom, the soup sits on top, and the cheese goes everywhere. Drool. And if you hate wasting things as much as I do, this is the perfect way to use up the stale leftovers of easy French bread or any other baguette-type bread. With butter, cheese, chicken broth, garlic, and fresh herbs, it’s is the ultimate comfort food. A word of warning, though: while the onion-shallot-garlic trio makes for awesome rich flavor, I discourage anyone from eating this potent soup prior to a date or a job interview, unless the date (or the job) is a garlic farmer. If your date is a garlic farmer, you’re in luck! Because this recipe serves 2.

INGREDIENTS

1 pad butter
olive oil
1/2 small onion, diced
1/2 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme, or 1/2 tbsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
3 cups stock (I used homemade chicken stock)
salt and pepper to taste
2 slices stale French bread (I used easy French bread), cut in halves
chopped parsley and grated gruyere cheese for serving

DIRECTIONS

Over medium flame, heat butter and olive oil in a pot and add onion.

Cook until softened and add garlic and shallot. Cook 2 minutes.

Add thyme and bay leaf and pour in chicken stock. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

After 30 minutes, season with salt and pepper. To serve, place bread in a bowl, spoon soup over it, then garnish with parsley and gruyere. Best served piping hot!

Easy French Bread.

My search for an easy recipe for a perfect loaf of French bread started on my trip to Denver last month. My cousin and I were browsing bread recipes and found them all totally convoluted, intense, and just impractical, so I promised that I’d find out the secret to easy French bread and then share it with her on this blog. Well, I’ve found that secret in another gem from my cooking idol, Laura Calder. I’ve switched up a few things from her original recipe: I added a bit more salt and used half whole wheat flour. A word of caution, though: it might be an easy recipe, but it takes a really long time—you might even say, foreverrrr.

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 tbsp salt
1/4 tsp dry active yeast
1 1/2 cups plus 1/4 cup warm water
additional flour or cornmeal, for dusting

DIRECTIONS

Whisk together flours, salt, and yeast. Stir in 1 1/2 cups warm water, and add the 1/4 cup water if needed. The dough should not be dry, and it’s okay if it’s pretty wet–it should be sticky, rather than a firm dough ball.

Cover the bowl with a tea towel or plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place for at least 12 hours, or at most 24 hours (I let mine sit 16 hours in the oven–keep the oven off, but leave the oven light on).

The dough is ready for the next step when you see little bubbles formed on top, and it will have just about doubled in size. If a brown crust has formed over the top of the dough, just use a spatula to fold it over once or twice to work this crust into the rest of the dough.

Take a tea towel and flour it generously. Place the dough onto the floured towel and turn the dough over so that all sides are floured. Knead it twice, fold the sides underneath it and shape into a dome.

Dust with more flour or cornmeal and wrap dough ball lightly in floured tea towel. Let sit for 2 hours.

Just before 2 hours is up, preheat oven to 450 F with Dutch oven or bread pan inside to heat. The dough ball will have more than doubled in size.

When the oven is preheated, transfer dough, seam side up, into the pan. Shake the sides of the pan to settle dough evenly, and bake for 30 minutes with the lid on.

After 30 minutes have passed, remove lid and let bread finish baking uncovered, about 20 minutes, until nicely browned.

I love this bread with cold butter and orange marmalade, and it makes great garlic bread too. Enjoy it, and be proud of how gorgeous this easy bread turns out!

Sausage and Onion Tart.

I struggle with making my own pastries. It’s so much easier to just buy a pre-made pastry, but I’m one of those people who gets weirded out by any product whose ingredients include things I wouldn’t add if I were making it myself. For example, “distilled monoglycerides” and “soybean oils colored with beta carotene” would never make it into my homemade pastry crust, but they are ingredients in Pepperidge Farm’s frozen puff pastry sheets. Just yuck. So I’ve been on a little journey to learn to make a decent pastry. The added bonus, of course, is that after I make the pastry, I get to use it in a recipe! Here’s one of my favorites so far: an easy pastry crust with simple toppings that makes a great little French lunch tart. Inspired by Laura Calder.

INGREDIENTS:

for pastry crust:
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 stick (8 tbsp) cold butter, cubed
2 egg yolks
pinch of salt
splash of water

for tart:
about 1/2 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
1/2 small onion, sliced thin
4-5 uncooked breakfast sausages, sliced small (or  use bacon instead)
salt, pepper, and chopped parsley to taste

DIRECTIONS

First, the pastry crust. In a food processor, blitz flours and butter until well-combined.

Then add egg yolks, salt, and a small splash of water to help it hold together, and pulse lightly until just combined. Turn out onto wax paper, mold into a ball, wrap tightly in paper, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450 F. Remove chilled dough from fridge and let it warm up for about 5 minutes. On a floured surface, roll it out into a sort of free-form oval shape. Now it gets a bit tricky: carefully transfer to a baking sheet. It’s okay if it falls apart a little bit; I always have to put it back together a bit once it’s onto the pan. No need to be fancy! Just let it be. Par-bake your pastry crust for about 5 minutes, until the edges start to brown. Then remove from oven.

Let the crust cool for 5 minutes. Scoop the yogurt or sour cream onto the crust and carefully spread it out, right to the edges. I like to use my fingers to do this because the crust is so tender, it can fall apart easily. Then strew the onions, sausage, and seasonings over the crust and put it back in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until onions are browning at the edges and sausage is cooked. Let is cool a bit before serving and enjoy!

Butter and Herb New Potatoes.

New potatoes are those little guys you see in spring and summer. They’re not fully grown when they’re harvested, hence the “new.” At a farmer’s market on Saturday morning, I found a whole big basket full of baby marbled potatoes, so I took a few home to cook for dinner. A word to the wise about this recipe: the whole time the potatoes and shallots were browning, I was cursing myself for having no bacon in the house. If you’re lucky enough to have it on hand, USE IT! And don’t you dare feel any food guilt afterward: potatoes, shallots, bacon, butter–that’s the price you pay for authentic French flavor. Just enjoy it.

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cups new potatoes
garlic thyme olive oil
small shallot, diced
thyme
parsley
salt
pepper
pad of cold butter

DIRECTIONS

Wash potatoes thoroughly. Place in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, let boil for  2 minutes, then drain.

Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add potatoes and shallot and cook until browned.

When browned to your liking, remove from heat. Sprinkle lightly with parsley and thyme, and add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in butter until melted. Serve plain, or with sour cream.