un dîner français

>> August 17, 2009

because i'm a slightly masochistic overachiever, i only got 10 days at home between my internship and going back to school to help with orientation. i kept these 10 days as open as possible, allowing plenty of time to lay on the couch, read, and coach my mom at the gym (my parents joined the new fitness center! i'm proud!).

but laying around on the couch gets boring, and i inevitably turn to the kitchen, use up my mom's ingredients, and fill the fridge with food. my mom and dad work all day (both at home, usually), and i like to make them dinner so they can relax.

last monday, i decided to take them on a trip back to my second favorite meal of the summer (et voila was easier to duplicate; nora would have been significantly more pricey): steamed mussels in white wine with crusty bread, lettuce soup, and crepes (i had macarons at the restaurant, but i didnt feel like fighting the august humidity in pennsylvania).

all four components of this meal were new adventures in cooking for me, and i was excited for the challenge. with the help of many of my trusty online food "friends" (i clearly do not actually know any of these people), the dinner was mostly a success.

a dinner from france: french bread

i started with mark bitman's recipe for french bread from how to cook everything. the recipe couldn't have been easier. i may have overcooked it slightly, so be careful with that. french bread should be crusty, but my dad had to cut it for me. once it was dunked in the soup and mussel broth, however, it basically melted in our mouths.

washing big boston lettuce

the soup was inspired directly by the first course v and i had at et voila. it wasn't on the menu, but as soon as the waitress described the dish, we both looked at eachother and decided instantly we had to try it. mine didn't turn out quite as vibrantly green (it's in the background of the bread above), and i think a foodmill would have produced a better texture than the immersion blender (still my favorite kitchen tool!). regardless, the flavor was spot-on.

a dinner from france: mussels with white wine

but the pièce de résistance was the mussels (click for recipe). thank you, my idol ina garten, for not letting me down. wegmans had 2-lb bags on sale for $5, and i took advantage of the ridiculously expensive vile of saffron threads in my mom's spice cabinet (yes, most college kids steal liquor from their parents... i steal saffron). they were cooked perfectly, and we only lost one to an early death. the little bits of shallot, tomatoes, and garlic stuck to the juicy mussels, and the wine and saffron mixed together for an extremely savory, vibrantly orange, tangy broth.


a dinner from france: crepes

we celebrated the bounty of delicious summer berries by wrapping them up in a not-too-sweet blanket of pastry, topped with a drizzle of honey and dusted with powdered sugar. no need for any whipped cream or pastry filling... just ripe blackberries, strawberries, and blueberries. a very simple ending to an elegant dinner.

i'm hoping to be able to enjoy this meal (or something like it) IN france next summer... the stars are aligning and making my dream trip even more closer to reality. the psu scheduling gods have smiled upon me, and there is a french 001 class being offered monday-thursday afternoons in the spring: NO FRIDAY CLASSES! i'm signing up.

and even better than speaking the language, i'll be able to EAT!! (runs around the room excitedly) i've been holding out on this news, not wanting to jinx my sensitive system, but.....
i can eat dairy again!!! the first sign came from the malted milk martini, strawberry tirimisu, and pounds of chocolate i inhaled at the bw 10th anniversary party at coco sala at the beginning of the month. it was further supported by the addition of laughing cow cheese to my sandwiches, trader joe's lobster ravioli (in the sauce, may i add), queso dip at mangos, sour cream and onion potato chips, and cream cheese with my smoked salmon. no side effects. i feel fabulous... and, to add to the excitement, i've gained at least 10 pounds since may and don't have to go see dr. parkman again for a WHOLE YEAR!

i'm going to complete the test with a taste of creamery ice cream. cross your fingers, please!

potage de pere tranquille

1 large head boston lettuce
4-6 cups chicken stock
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 cup milk or cream
salt and pepper

carefully separate and wash the lettuce leaves and slice into ribbons. in a large soup pot, cover the lettuce with chicken stock and bring to a boil. meanwhile, tie the thyme sprigs together with kitchen twine (may wrap in cheesecloth). reduce the heat on the soup, add the thyme sprig, and simmer until the leaves are tender, about 20 minutes.

take soup off of heat and remove the thyme bouquet. puree (food processor, blender, immersion blender, or food mill) in batches until no stringy pieces of lettuce remain. return to pot and season with salt and pepper. stir in the milk or cream and cook until warmed through. serve warm or chilled with crusty bread or croutons.



Me! August 17, 2009 at 9:52 PM  

wow that looks like a wonderful dinner. You can come to my house and make that any time you want! I'll even buy some saffron! I am glad you feel the same way about online blogger 'friends'. I think it's kinda creepy to meet people, even if you've read their blog and all. You never know....

PS I find your profile especially amusing because I work in a manufacturing plant that specializes in plastics

talat August 18, 2009 at 1:19 PM  

What a gorgeous meal. I love seafood, especially moules marinieres (mussels). I made a four-course French meal i honor of Julia Child, come check it out at http://www.phamfatale.com/id_401/title_Four-Course-Julia-Child-Inspired-French-Meal-in-Honor-of-the-Movie-Julie-and-Julia/

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