Butter Braised Leeks with Parmesan and Thyme

YIELDS | 4 SERVINGS

PREP TIME | 10 MINS

COOK TIME | X MINS

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As soon as the warm weather began to cool, my father Jean would serve us quintessentially French vegetable dishes of braised leeks, cabbage or Belgium endive. Most were prepared in this buttery braised and herbaceous broth and then finished under the broiler. This is fresh country French cuisine at it finest, without the complicated steps and long list of ingredients. Only creamy butter, a little wine, fresh herbs and a hearty handful of grated cheese make this a must have recipe for your fall recipe repertoire.

INGREDIENTS

* 6-8 medium leeks, about 2 lbs, trimmed and rinsed clean

* 
1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc

* 
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth

* 2 Tbsps cold, unsalted butter, cut into slices

* 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

* 1/2 cup parmesan or pecorino or cheese, grated

* Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

INSTRUCTIONS


Step 1. Trim dark-green tops and roots from the leeks then cut in half lengthwise. Remove any tough, bruised outer layers. Hold the leeks to keep them intact and rinse them under running water and drain.

Step 2. In a baking dish or cast iron skillet, arrange the leeks in a single layer, close together, with the cut sides up to absorb and hold the butter and broth.

Step 3. Add the wine to a small pan and boil for a minute and then add the broth and bring to a simmer. turn heat off.

Step 4. Sprinkle the leeks with kosher salt and a few good cranks of freshly ground pepper.

Step 5. Evenly distribute the slices of butter on top of the leeks and sprinkle with the thyme leaves. Pour the wine and broth over the leeks and butter. tightly cover the baking dish or pan with a lid or foil and simmer for 40-45 minutes. Add additional broth if necessary.


Step 6. Uncover and continue simmering for 15-20 minutes or until the leeks are tender and the broth has reduced by half or more.

Preheat broiler to high

Step 7. Sprinkle the leeks with the pecorino or parmesan cheese and broil for 3-5 minutes or until browned and bubbly.

Add additional salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

NOTES

I like to make and serve this dish in a cast-iron skillet. I think it brings a beautiful and rustic flair to the dinner table.

Creamy Feta and Tomato Tart

YIELDS | 4-6 SERVINGS

PREP TIME | 10 MINS

COOK TIME | 15-20 MINS

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Seriously gorgeous, easy to make and a perfect way to highlight summer’s luscious tomatoes. The feta, lemon and garlic make a delicious cream to perfectly compliment the ripe, sweet and slightly acidic tomatoes.

Double Duty Recipe: Stir leftover feta cream into mashed potatoes or add a little more olive oil and drizzle on roasted vegetables or chicken and fish.

INGREDIENTS

• 1 1/2 pound tomatoes, sliced pat dry with paper towels.
• 1 sheet puff pastry, store bought or homemade, thawed. See Pate Brisee (tart dough) recipe below.
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• Zest from one lemon, plus the juice
• 1 cup feta, cubed, be sure to use feta that will melt. Crumbles usually do not melt
• 1-2 Tbsp plus more to drizzle
• Salt and freshly ground pepper
• Basil, thyme leaves or chopped chives for garnish, optional

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 400°
2. On a floured surface, roll out one sheet of puff pastry or dough into a 12” square, if making a circular tart, place the tart pan on top of the dough and trace a knife around the pan leaving 1″ around the pan.
3. Place the sheet on a parchment-lined baking sheet or tart pan of choice.
4. Bake the puff pastry, dough or Pate Brisee for five minutes and then remove from oven. It will be slightly puffed.
5. While the pastry bakes, make the feta spread by adding the feta cubes, garlic, lemon zest and juice to a high speed blender of food processor.
6. Turn the machine on low to medium and drizzle in the olive oil until it reaches a creamy consistency. Add a few cranks of freshly ground pepper and kosher salt to taste.
7. Spread the feta mixture onto the bottom of the tarts and then layer the tomatoes, slightly over lapping them.
8. Sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh black pepper. Bake 20 minutes and until edges are puffed and golden.
9. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes, garnish with basil, thyme leaves or chopped chive and a drizzle of olive oil.

Paste Brisee, makes 2-9″ pies or tarts:
For this recipe, the pastry should be baked blind because we are using using tomatoes which have a high water content. Blind baking will keep the bottom firm and not soggy.

Ingredients

* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 10 Tbsp cold butter cubed
* 2 Tbsp vegetable shortening
* 1 tsp salt
* 1 Tbsp white vinegar
* 6 Tbsp ice water

Instructions

1. In a food processor, combine flour, butter, shortening, and salt. Process to a coarse meal.
2. Add in vinegar and water and process again until dough is moistened and pulls together in a mass.
3. Turn dough out and pat into two discs. Wrap and chill dough 15-30 mins (freezer 10 mins)
4. Roll out or pat the pastry evenly in the bottom and up the sides of an 8-9 inch tart pan, cover with plastic wrap and chill 30 mins or freeze 10

Blind Baking
Preheat oven to 400 degrees

1. Lightly prick the bottom of the pastry crust and press aluminum foil into the crust, fill with pie weights or dry beans
2. Bake for 5 mins then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and continue to bake for 10 mins.
3. Remove the foil and weights and bake 10 minutes more or until lightly golden.

NOTES

If using a circular tart pan, start at the edge of the pan and overlap, right to left as you make your way to the middle of the pan.
If crunched for time consider using a store bought off pastry or pie dough. They work just fine.

Creamy Asparagus Soup

YIELDS | 4-6 SERVINGS

PREP TIME | 10 MINS

COOK TIME | 15 MINS

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Is there an easier and better tasting soup than this French classic? I think not! I love the creamy texture, earthy flavor and beautiful celadon hue. This dish can be prepared a head of time and then garnished before a fancy dinner party. Served warm or cold, it makes for an easy, filling week day meal too.

INGREDIENTS

* 2 leeks, trimmed, coarsely chopped, white and light green parts only
* 2 large shallots, chopped
* 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
* 3/4 teaspoon salt2 tablespoons butter or ghee
* 2 1/2 lbs asparagus, ends trimmed, coarsely chopped. Save a few spears for garnish
* 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
* 1 cup milk of choice plus 1/4 heavy whipping cream, optional
* Pepitas for garnish
* Salt and freshly ground pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Wash chopped leek in a bowl of cold water, then lift out and drain well.
2. In a large pot over medium-low heat, add butter or ghee and cook leeks and shallots until the vegetables soften, about 3-5 minutes.
3. Add asparagus and broth and season with 1/2 tsp salt and a few cranks of freshly ground pepper, cover and simmer until asparagus is tender about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat to cool for a few minutes. Set the pot aside to reheat the soup.
4. Purée soup in batches in a high-speed blender or food processor until the mixture is smooth about 30 seconds or longer depending on your equipment. Pour each batch into one large bowl. Be careful when working with hot liquid. Do not over fill the blender.
5. Strain the mixture through a strainer back into the large pot. Stir in the milk and cream, if using. Add additional salt and pepper to taste and heat over medium low heat until warmed through before serving.
6. Garnish with halved asparagus spears, a swirl of cream and pepitas.

NOTES

Be careful when working with hot liquid. Do not over fill the blender.

Escargot

YIELDS | 2-4 APPETIZER SERVINGS

PREP TIME | 15 MINS

COOK TIME | 6-10X MINS

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As a small child, I fondly remember eating snails. These weren’t any average mollusks mind you, these escargot, were drenched in a garlicky, buttery sauce and dotted with parsley and shallot. This recipe is authentically French and designed for you to experience this dish the same way the French have been making escargot for centuries. Toasted, buttery baguettes and a good white wine are a must.

INGREDIENTS

* 2 garlic cloves, minced
* 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
* 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened plus more to butter baguettes
* 2 teaspoons shallot, minced
* 2 tablespoon fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced plus more for garnish
* Freshly ground pepper
* 1 tablespoon dry sherry or white wine
* 12 snails, see notes
* 1 French baguette, sliced into thin rounds

Special Equipment
Porcelain Escargot Dishes or 12 to sterilized escargot shells

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 450°F.

1. Mince the garlic, shallot and parsley. Place the garlic and shallot in a medium bowl, add 1/2 the salt and mash into a paste.
2. Add the butter, parsley and remaining salt to the garlic shallot mixture and whisk together until well combined.
3. Add the wine or sherry and mix well. Set aside.
4. Meanwhile, slice the baguettes into thin rounds, butter both and place onto a baking sheet. Toast in oven on top rack until golden brown, about 5 minutes but watch to be sure they do not burn, remove and cover with a clean towel to keep warm.
5. Divide the butter, garlic, parsley mixture and place a small scoop on the bottom of each of the rounds in the dish or into the snail shells.
6. Place a snail into each round of the dish or snail shell and top each with the remaining butter, garlic, parsley mixture
7. Bake snails until butter is melted and bubbly, about 4 to 6 minutes. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper.
8. Place the buttery, browned banquette slices on top of the snails (if using dishes), garnish with minced parsley and serve piping hot.

NOTES

I found the perfect porcelain escargot dishes. You can buy them in the Shop on this website.

Bouquet garni

STORY

Make these simple, fragrant and game changing bundles to add to soups, stews and sauces. Bouquet garni or “garnished bundle” as it translates from French to English are bundles or packages of herbs tied together or rolled into a ball and tucked into cheesecloth or even a tea strainer. Bouquet garni is added to broths, stews and liquids to add deep flavor and is removed prior to serving the dish. While there is no one recipe for a bouquet garni most French recipes use thyme, bay leaf, parsley, and often times have the addition of basil, chervil, rosemary and tarragon depending on the protein or liquid it is flavoring.

Pictured here I am making simple bundles of herbs using thyme, rosemary and parsley and a few Italian versions by adding oregano. I make several bouquets at a time, pop a couple into the refrigerator to use for the week and then freeze several to use later in the season. This works especially well during late fall when we have an abundance of herbs that need to be harvested before the deep freeze of winter arrives. These make wonderful hostess gifts too.

Ingredients

* Several bundles of your favorites herbs, rinsed and dried
* Twine,
* Sharp scissors
* Cheese cloth, optional

1. Rinse and dry the herbs well.
2. Separate each herb into piles according to the flavor profile you desire. Use 4-5 sprigs of each herb and group the different herbs together.
3. Cut a piece of string long enough to wrap around the bundle a few times.
4. Wrap the herbs tight enough so they stay in tact during cooking and simmering but not so tight as to rip the delicate sprigs and then tie a knot and snip the ends of the twine off. Be sure to keep about an inch on each side so you can easily grab the bouquet when you are ready to remove it.
5. When the dish is finished cooking or simmering, remove the Bouquet garni with a spoon and wring out any remaining liquid back into the dish.

Here are some flavor combinations to try. The combinations are endless.

* Classic French: thyme, bay leaf and parsley

* Italian: oregano, rosemary, thyme, basil

* Chicken: tarragon, thyme and basil

* Beef: rosemary, thyme, parsley, bay leaf

* Fish: tarragon, lemon balm, thyme

Mussels with Tomato, Wine and Herbs

YIELDS | 4-6 SERVINGS

PREP TIME | 10 MINS

COOK TIME | 15 MINS

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I grew up watching my dad make mussels a few different ways but this Provençal recipe is my favorite. It is my go to recipe when I want a no fuss, yet festive meal. This dish makes a beautiful presentation but it is the taste of the garlicky, herbaceous broth and succulent mussels that create the memories. Bonus: kids tend to like them too. Serve with a crisp green salad, crusty loaf of bread and a good chardonnay. Nothing closer to heaven!

INGREDIENTS

* 5 pounds fresh mussels
* 4 tablespoons olive oil
* 4 plump garlic cloves, minced
* 1 large yellow onion, chopped, about 1 cup.
* 2-28 oz cans whole canned tomatoes, coarsely chopped
* 1-6 oz can tomato paste
* 1 cup dry white wine
* 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes or more to taste
* 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, optional
* 4 sprigs fresh thyme, or 2 teaspoons dried
* 1 sprig fresh rosemary, minced or 1 teaspoon dried, be sure it is finely chopped
* 1 bay leaf
* 1/4 cup tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley plus more for garnish
* 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
* Large loaf of warm, crusty bread, optional but really worth the calories

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Remove beards from the mussels, scrub the mussels and place in a large colander and rinse well. Let drain fully. Discard any mussels that are partially open or have cracked shells.
2. In a large pot or dutch oven with lid, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for 3-4 minutes and then add the garlic and stir for 1 minute more or until fragrant.
3. Add saffron, pepper flakes, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, salt and pepper and stir to blend the flavors. Add the wine and bring to a simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes to cook off some of the alcohol. Add the tomato paste and stir until blended.
4. Bring the heat to medium-high, add the tomatoes and their juices, mussels and parsley and give the mussels and tomato mixture a good stir. Cover and cook until all mussels are opened, about 4-6 minutes, remove from heat but keep covered and let sit for 2-3 more minutes.
5. Pour the mussels into a large serving bowl (or serve in pot). Sprinkle with additional Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve with a warm loaf of crusty bread and a crisp Chardonnay.

NOTES

When our meal was finished and the kitchen was clean, I would scrub the shells and give them to my son, Adam, when he was young. He would plop them into the bath tub and pretend he was at the beach. We did the same thing with clam shells too.