Sassy Southern Cooking with a French Twist

cooking

On French Cheese and Cooking

Not Just for the Cheeseboard Anymore

I’ve been very much indulging my love of all things French lately.  First, there was the decadent pairing of Provencal Roses with McCrady’s five-course lunch two weeks ago (http://hollyherrick.com/2014/11/pink-new-red-white/), where I was reminded that Rose is not just meant for drinking, but also for pairing with foods. Then there was the lovely, heady, and incredibly fragrant array of cheeses presented to me in my home last week by a dedicated team of cheese brand representatives working under the umbrella of The Cheeses of Europe.

Their mission? To spread the word about French cheese as an “affordable luxury.” And, not one that should be relegated exclusively to the cheeseboard. Indeed – many French cheeses (with the exception of a Delice de Bourgogne, and a few others,  with its buttery center and extreme creaminess is best left unadulterated and served on shortbread with a glass of Champagne),  are ideal for cooking.

There I sat like a deleriously happy French cat, sampling cheeses from Isigny Sainte-Mere, French Cheese Club, and Interval Cheeses – a full spread of Brie, Mimolette, butter, Epoisses, Pont l’Eveque, Delice de Bourgogne, Bleu D’Auvergne, Saint Angel, and a first ever sample of airy whipped cheese (which made its way onto my toast every day for a week until it was gone).  Dreams of Bleu d’Auvergne Mornay sauce cloaking a French-inspired lasagna, or a decadent fondue were running through my head, even as my dog Tann Mann worked himself up into a frenzy to fenagle any tidbit he could forage from the table’s edge. French was being spoken, cheese was being savored, and I was feeling very happy and inspired.

Of all the cheeses, the one that spoke the loudest to my culinary inspiration soundboard was the deep orange orb of Mimolette (mee moh LET) cheese from Normandy, France.

This beautiful nutty, salty and sweet changed is aged any where from 3 to 18 months.

This beautiful nutty, salty and sweet changed is aged any where from 3 to 18 months.

It was introduced by Louis XIV (a.k.a. The Sun King) in the 17th century. The colorful King wanted a different kind of cheese and the sun-like, blazing color is creatied by adding annatto from a tree by the same name that is indigenous to South America. Traditionally, the older, aged cheese was cut and brought down into mines and used to “sandwich” meats to feed the mine-workers.

I confessed to my new French cheese friends that I had never made it past the “stinky” cheese section of my favorite local fromagier, goat.sheep.cow, and that I wanted to work specifically with this cheese. Two nights ago, I made a simple grilled cheese, stacking thin slices of young Mimolette with a few threads of fresh mozzarella, basted with a thin spread of mayonnaise and prepared horseradish. Gorgeous! The melted Mimolette is molten and slightly stringy, but still holds its body. That’s why it’s an exellent candidate for the Mac and Mimolette recipe to follow. (Recipe provided by The Cheeses of Europe).

Recipe

Mac and Mimolette

(Serves 2)

French Mac & Cheese Perfection prepared with Mimolette.

French Mac & Cheese Perfection prepared with Mimolette.

Ingredients:

1/2 pound shell pasta

1 cup heavy cream

2 teaspoons sugar

1/4 cup white wine

1 cup grated Mimolette, plus more for sprinkling

1 large tomato, finely chopped.

Preheat oven to 350F. Cook the pasta according to directions. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, gently simmer the cream, sugar, salt and wine for 4 to 5 minutes. Be sure it doesn’t boil or it will become grainy. Add the Mimolette and stir until melted. Stir in the tomato. Mix the pasta into the sauce, then pour into a baking pan.  Sprinkle awith the remaining Mimolette and bake for 10 minutes. Serve hot/warm.

Working French Cheese Into Your Thanksgiving Feast

The recipe above would pair wonderfully with turkey or fowl as a fragrant, wonderful side dish hot out of the oven. Prep it ahead and bake it off while the main course is resting.  If you do opt for a cheese tree to start or finish the meal, do select at least three varieties of cheeses: a melty, soft stinky cheese such as an Epoisses, a mild, fragrant blue, such as Bleu D’Auvergne, and something firm and assertive, such as a Mimolette.  Serve on bread, simple crackers, and surround with fruit.

More Cooking with French Cheese Ideas and Cookbook Giveaway

FRENCHCOOKSOUPS&SAUCESCOVEROne of my favorite recipes in my latest cookbook, The French Cook – Soups & Stews is a fondue-inspired Three-Cheese and Cider Soup with Apples and Four-Spice Croutons, which runs with the nuttiness of Gruyere and Comte cheeses (as well as Parmesan), and then there is my classic, especially delicious version of French Onion Soup, covered with a gooey cloak of Gruyere (pictured below).Write to me in the comment section following this post and tell me why you would like to receive a free, signed copy of the cookbook, and why you love to cook with and eat French cheese. I will select and announce a winner on November 24 and get it to you just in time for the holidays.

Happy cooking and bon appetit! Please not, here in Charleston, most or all of these cheeses can be found at Whole Foods, Costco and goat.sheep.cow.

Holly

French Onion Soup from The French Cook - Soups & Stews. Photo by Chia Chong

French Onion Soup from The French Cook – Soups & Stews. Photo by Chia Chong

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Savory Sweet Potato Flan with Raisins, Bourbon, Maple Syrup and a Touch of Cinnamon

Thanksgiving Thoughts

It’s been a long time since I’ve created and tested a recipe just for the heck of it, heck just for the fun of it. Recently, as I finally looked up from the rubble of completed story and cookbook deadlines and awoke to  Charleston’s  welcome chilly temperatures, falling leaves and fading marshes, I got recipe-inspired. After all, fall is here and Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday, is coming.

Thanksgiving’s always been my favorite holiday because of what it symbolizes, literally and figuratively, both from the past and the present. So many wonderful meals created with love and gratitude for my own family in the past two decades, and by my mother and her family for two decades prior to that. Memories of scrambling around my Aunt Nancy Lally’s kids’ table with eight other kids for her three-bean salad or green jello mold and heaping plate of turkey, are my oldest Thanksgiving souvenirs. More recently,  three day-long cooking bonanzas from my kitchens in Chicago, Minneapolis, Wyoming and later here in Charleston, fill my memory bank.  There have been so many happy days of wafting cinnamon, basting turkeys, and simmering stocks. All of this, of course. to thank God for our mutual blessings and to enjoy time together at the table.

I’m weeping  now reflecting on the many people I shared so many Thanksgiving’s with whom are now deceased or divorced from my life due to the pressures of distance and time.  I’m crying a little, too, because this year I’m not going to be cooking, but instead going to visit my parents in Florida and we are going to go out to eat this year. This is because, a fact I’ve resisted facing for far too long, my parents are just getting too old (hovering near or above 80, respectively) to put up with the physical and emotional stress of putting on a big Thanksgiving hoopla even though Mom offered to do it. I wanted it to keep it simple, for their sake. And, fingers crossed, my darling Michael (whom I call TAO for “The Adorable One”) is coming along to meet them, and my dog TannMann, too. No matter how it goes, I will appreciate my parents more than ever this year. God knows I love them. Wishing you and yours a beautiful Thanksgiving!

Recipe for Your Holiday Table   

Savory Sweet Potato Flan with Raisins, Bourbon, Maple Syrup and a Touch of Cinnamon

(Yields 8 to 10 Servings)

Here’s my new recipe that Thanksgiving inspired. It has the silky/mousse-like texture of a savory flan, boostered by the roasted sweet potato puree that yields a slightly firmer texture reminiscent of spoonbread. It should be firm enough to stand up in a spoon with a gentle jiggle. There is no sugar in this recipe, unless you count the raisins,  one tablespoon of maple syrup, and optional drizzle of honey for final garnish.  It’s truly decadent and surprisingly simple. I’m adding it to my permanent Thanksgiving recipe file and am thinking about it in the context of my next cookbook.

Thanksgiving Roasted Sweet Potato Flan

Thanksgiving Roasted Sweet Potato Flan

Ingredients:

2 large sweet potatoes (about 3/4 pound each)

2 tablespoons bourbon

1 tablespoon real maple syrup

1 teaspoon sea or kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract

3 eggs

2 cups Half & Half

1/2 cup dark raisins

1 tablespoon All-Purpose flour

2 tablespoons butter for greasing the baking casserole

Garnish: 2 strips cooked bacon, crumbled and light drizzle of honey or maple syrup

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Scrub and trim the potatoes. Pierce in several places with a knife or fork. Roast on the center rack until very soft when pierced with a fork (abour 50 minutes to an hour). Remove and allow to cool for comfortable handling. Slice in half horizontally and carefully scoop out the flesh (discarding the skin). Place the potato flesh in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Puree briefly. Add the bourbon, maple syrup, salt, black pepper, cinnamon and vanilla. Puree to combine until soft and fluffy. Set aside.

Meanwhile, fill your tea kettle with water and put over high to bring up to a boil for the flan’s imminent water bath (this is important to moderate the heat for the custard). In a large bowl,  vigorously whisk together the eggs and Half & Half until frothy and completely blended. Whisk in the reserved potato puree. In a small bowl, toss the raisins with the flour until evenly coated. Fold these into the flan mixture, gently.  Butter a 1 1/2 quart casserole (or similarly sized 3″ high baking dish).  Pour the flan mixture into the casserole. Place the casserole in a large, deep roasting pan. When the water in the kettle is boiling, pour into the roasting pan and around the casserole until about half way up the sides of the casserole.

Bake on the center rack until firm, yet bouncy to the touch, about 55 to 60 minutes. Serve hot, tepid or even cold. (Note: The flan will store in the refrigerator, covered for up to 2  days. If desired, reheat, covered, in a 325F oven for about 20 minutes before serving.)

Crumble the bacon over the center of the flan and drizzle with honey before serving, if desired.

Happy Thanksgiving!

PS – Remember to look for big, beautiful changes on my web site soon and be sure to tell your friends about it so they can subscribe for restaurant news, recipes, book signing events, and all things wonderful in Charleston. For signings and event, be sure to visit the events sidebar on the home page. I’ll be in at Southern Season in Richmond, VA on Dec. 7!

 

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HoM Sweet HoM and a Book GiveAway

In search of some of the best burgers in town? Look no further. Here’s the beef from yesterday’s Charleston Permanent Tourist blog:

http://charleston.thepermanenttourist.com/hom-ward-burger-bound/

HoM is the place to be – here’s why:

The Big Mac n' Cheese from HoM.

The Big Mac n’ Cheese from HoM.

Remember, The French Cook – Soups & Stews (Gibbs Smith) by yours truly officially releases in just two weeks on September 1. Read more about the book here by clicking on the chartreuse book cover on my revolving books file on the home page to this website or look for it on Amazon where it is currently available for pre-order. It’s a beautiful book and I think my favorite of my seven cookbooks so far – delicious recipes, gorgeous photography, good, concise writing and beautiful formatting.

Write me here and tell me why you would like a signed copy from me. I’ll select a winner and announce him/her on release day, September 1. Good luck and as always happy and delicious cooking.

The French Cook-Soups and StewsBon appetit!

 

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Farmers Market Meets Iron Chef

Culinary Tours of Charleston hosts a wonderful Farmers Market Tour that concludes with a fabulous five course feast prepared by a local chef.

Here’s the dessert from a tour I took earlier this week – blueberry ice cream over Texas Toast French Toast with Special K crunch coating. Amazing!

TPTFMDESSERTHere’s the full link about the tour from The Permanent Tourist Charleston:

http://charleston.thepermanenttourist.com/farmers-market-meets-iron-chef/

Bon appetit!

 

 

 

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Shrimp, Collards & Grits

I recently came across this beautiful, just-released cookbook by Pat Branning. Actually, Pat a friend and neighbor down in Beaufort was kind enough to send me a signed copy for review.

Shrimp, Collards & Grits by Pat Branning. Cover Art by Ray Ellis.

Shrimp, Collards & Grits by Pat Branning. Cover Art by Ray Ellis.

 

To read about it, please click on this link. Enjoy. It’s a beauty and chock full of luscious art, recipes and writing.

http://charleston.thepermanenttourist.com/for-the-love-of-the-lowcountry/

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