Category Archives: French

Moules Mariniere & Roasted Rainbow Fries Recipes


They say Belgian and Northern French people are almost religious about moules -frites (mussels & fries), but so are almost all French Quebecers.  Rain or shine, snow storm or ice storm, none of my friends can pass on a well-prepared bowl of fresh steamy bivalves floating in a cloudy-winy-garlicky broth with French fries and crusty bread on a side. Each time we discover a good place serving this dish, it spawns a new sensation. This particular post, for instance, was inspired by a little gem place in Verdun we discovered recently, the ‘Bistro Entre Ciel et Terre’.
The bistro has opened its doors back in 2011, and within the record time became No. 725 out of 4543 restaurants in Montreal rated on Tripadvisor (as of today), which is a big deal for Montreal (i.e. Jamie Oliver’s Maison Publique is No. 763 on that list), winning also the first prize of the young Entrepreneurs of Verdun in 2013. Once you try their honest food (priced very reasonably) you will know why.

From the Home Burger with Melted Brie and Caramelized Onions garnished with microgreens (which was of a superb quality and tasted so much more than just a ‘lump of ground beef between two buns’); to ideal endorsers of the fans of Les Canadiens – merguez pogos; to their signature dish: Moules Mariniere, the place which is steadily conquering the hearts of many tourists and Montrealers.  

How come I didn’t know about the place? Perhaps I was too much grieving over the death of ‘Mas Cuisine’ in the neighborhood (which re-appeared recently in the Mile End as a new ‘Wilfrid sur Laurier’ brasserie where Michel Ross reunited with chef Suhl). Obviously, the explosion of Griffintown development did not inhibit Verdun’s Chef Georges Nory and he’s bringing his French bistro/Italian trattoria/American diner classics to the new level. The rustic-meets-funky bistro interior adds to the hipster feel, but with only 20+ seats in winter you’d better nip to it fast. I’m definitely coming back.
Bistro Entre Ciel et Terre 
750 rue de L’eglise
Verdun, QC H4G 2M8
(514) 768-0740

The oversized mussels they serve in Bistro are most probably a special order, but don’t shy away from a bag of fresh mussels in IGA, METRO or LOBLAWS if you are ready to make your own Moules Mariniere at home. This recipe of was given to me hush-hush almost 20 years ago by the first French Chef Manou in Kiev (he also happened to originate from Normandy). He often served our diplomatic receptions and each time everyone was particularly smitten by his Moules Mariniere, so I had no choice, but to take a note of his recipe. Now that thousands of the wine steamed mussels recipes are surfing the internet in mass, you are in a privileged position to try, test and select your own favorite version. And, hey, they are very easy to prepare – with all the right ingredients you are basically 30 minutes away from that bowl of goodness.
I had them with these crispy-crunchy rainbow roasted fries, for which I used a regular potato, sweet potato and purple yam (procured in Chinese grocery). These three ‘potatoes’ worked really well together balancing the regular potato crunch with the sweetness of sweet potatoes and balmy  delicate tuber yams, making a healthier match to the plump steamed mussels. Feel free, however, to use any other root vegetable of your choice (carrots, celery root, turnips and parsley are great too).
Here are some killer apps to speed up the healthier roasting fries method while still having a restaurant-style results: (1) parboil the fries before roasting for exactly two minutes uncovered; (2) drain, toss with oil (duck fat you’ve saved from the roasted duck would be a great savory alternative), garlic and herbs of your choice (rosemary always marries great to fries, but so does thyme or tarragon, fresh or dried).
Try to align the cooking process of both (for that you’ll have to begin with fries and proceed with mussels once the fries are in the oven) to have this outstanding meal, which is definitely romantic under any and all circumstances. Don’t forget some crusty baguette to sop that fragrant broth. Enjoy, or should I say with the French sign-song lilt Julia Child was trying to imitate for years, Bon appétit?
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CHEF MANOU’S MOULES MARINIERE
Yields: 2 generous portions
Ingredients:
1 pack of mussels (2 lbs or 910 g), cleaned under the cold running water
3 tbsp ghee (clarified butter) or unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped finely, OR 1 cup of chopped shallots (5-7 shallots)
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
Small pinch of chili flakes (optional)
1 bouquet garni (small bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley, 3-4 branches of fresh thyme and 2-3 bay leaves)
1 ½ cup dry white wine
3-4 branches of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
3-4 green onion branches, chopped
1 ½ cup 10% cream or milk (if milk intolerant, substitute with clam juice)
Instructions:
Clean the mussels under the cold running water removing the beard-strings or barnacles you might find on some with your fingers or paring knife.  Press the shells of any open mussels with your fingers: discard them if they don’t close.
Heat the butter in a large pot or Dutch oven (enough to take all the mussels: the pot has to be half-full) over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and chili flakes and cook for 1 minute until fragrant and onions are translucent. Add bouquet garni and half of white wine. Bring to boil on a high heat and add mussels. Close the pot tightly with the lid and cook for 4 minutes, shaking the pot 3-4 times. Open the lid and add the rest of wine, cream and chopped parsley and scallions. Close the lid back and steam mussels for another minute shaking the pot to help the juices and steam distribute evenly. Remove the pot from heat. Discard bouquet garni.
Divide the mussels into two big (preferably warmed) bowls. Ladle the broth over the shells.  Serve immediately with fries (check the tips on great home-made fries and try the Three Root Fries below for a change and uplifted taste) and, of course, crusty bread to sop up that magical broth. Don’t forget to place some empty bowls for shells and some finger bowls with lemon skin water along to indulge in the dish ‘comme il faut’.  Enjoy!
PS: Discard unopened mussels if any.
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ROASTED RAINBOW HERB & GARLIC FRIES
Yields: 2 portions
Ingredients:
1 big potato (250 g), peeled and cut into matchsticks lengthwise
1 big sweet potato (250 g), peeled and cut into matchsticks lengthwise
1 big purple yam (250 g), peeled and cut into matchsticks lengthwise
3-4 tbsp duck fat or high heat cooking oil
1 tbsp rosemary, dried
3-4 garlic cloves, crushed and coarsely chopped
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 425F.
Cover the fries with cold water in a medium pan. Bring to boil on a high heat and boil for exactly two minutes not covered with lid. Drain the water and toss the fries carefully with fat or oil, garlic and rosemary.  Spread in a single layer into the foil-lined baking sheet. Roast for 10 minutes. Remove the sheet from the oven, flip the fries carefully with spatula and return to the oven for another 15-20 minutes or until crispy and browned (preferably, flipping fries one more time in between to make sure they will not be glued to the foil because of their sugar content).  Season fries with salt and pepper. Serve hot with garlicky aioli sauce on a side for dipping.

My Take on Pissaladière for Sweet November

This is my recent take on the great French classic, Pissaladière.Piss – what?’ Correction: ‘pissala’ (deriving from either Ligurian piscialandreaor Occitan pissaladiera) was a paste made of the salted baby anchovies used in the recipe at the time of its inception when a big part of Southern France was in Italian possession. This explains why it is pizza rather than bread. Despite the fact that you will have a fisherman breath while eating it, pissaladière is an incredibly tasty and addictive meal or snack. Originating from the Nice (yep, from no less than The Côte d’Azur) and relatively unknown few decades ago, pissaladière is slowly but steadily becoming more and more popular all over the world as a unique and comforting kind of pizza, which by its savory characteristics can only come close to the classic French onion soup (although the anchovies and black olives addition in this pizza make a strong salty-savoury punch to otherwise gently sweet caramelized onion in this dish).

Pissaladière is an easy crowd pleaser (specifically for those who like caramelized onions, cheese and olives). Not to mention it’s a very low budget fare, so if your fridge is empty, or you feel destitute for this or that reason, this easy to pull off pizza can comfort you within less than 30 minutes. It is also a great idea for a vegetarian cocktail or potluck party.

I used the fresh goat feta cheese we procured at La Chevriere de Monnoir goat farm because it was so good (gently sweet and moderately salty), it really had to be showcased. I also made two kinds of this pizza: one with anchovies on a side (making it a pure caramelized onion and goat cheese tart) and the one with anchovies in (making it a true pissaladière style). 

It’s November already, the gloomiest month of the year, with its heavy leaden sky, moonless nights, violent gusts of wind and down-pouring torrents of cold rain – all pushing the cheerful October leaves into desolation and death, leaving the trees and hedges sad and homeless.  However, it’s exactly the November sky that makes this month so present, with its infinite vastness and its temper. It becomes a giant canvas that imprints the weather’s mood swings striking the eyes so vividly:

From dull and gray…

To layer cake like colors, changing its ‘high austerity to delight’…

Back to heavy leaden and bright with occasional windows of the light, spanning their beams across the naked fields as if trying to vacuum the last drop of life from the nature…

To peaceful and pastoral again, like in this image taken at the goat farm…

November sky has always been an inspiration to many of great artists depicting it in their masterpieces (although a friend of mine has a theory it was simply because there were no more bugs and mosquitoes to disturb them from their work). Well, I incline to believe it’s inspirational…

Flock of Sheep at Pasture by Aelbert Cuyp, 1655
November in general is inspirational in many ways, including to our appetite, which grows almost proportional to the dropping temperatures, leaving us craving for this or that comfort food. Pissaladière(or French pizza if you want) is one of those fall comfort foods for me.  I always make it in November and it makes my November sweet and cozy. Not surprisingly, after I bought all types of cheese at La Chevriere de Monnoir, I decided to apply one of them to the featured twist. What a wonderful marriage of tastes you have in the result! Salty-sour- tangy-aromatic-crunchy and soooo gently savory sweeet: a real dance the taste buds weary of pumpkin and squash.
Tips for the first time onion caramelizing:  
Slice the onions as thin as possible (sharpening the knife is always a good idea).
Use the scratch-less, non-stick skillet, OR be ready to use much more oil to prevent burning the onions.
Begin with medium-high heat and the minimum amount of oil, lowering the heat progressively as the onions begin to brown.
Do not leave the onions unattended for longer than 2-3 minutes, or they will burn.
Don’t forget to include garlic and thyme (fresh or dried) in the process – these two ingredients are crucial for the final taste result.
A splash of dry wine, brandy or apple cider vinegar in the final minutes would add an extra layer of taste and a nice touch of sourness to the onions.
The layer of onions spread on the pizza should be half as thick as the crust.

As for the pizza dough, which I’ve tried many, and can tell you that this recipe is really foolproof and the best one for me. As long as you have a working yeast, it always, always works, so please take a 
note of it.

Well, thank you all for reading this post. I hope you will have fun making your own pissaladière and my recipe will be of help. For now I’m just going to eat another piece. Oooops, it’s gone in less than a minute. Well tried and tested and highly recommended for your own sweet November. The Enya’s gem song might as well put you in the mood.
Sweet November Everyone!

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PISSALADIERE: CARAMELIZED ONION PIZZA WITH GOAT CHEESE, BLACK OLIVES AND ANCHOVIES
Yields 6 portions
Ingredients:
1 pizza dough (see this recipe for the foolproof homemade pizza dough, OR use store-bought) 
1 tbsp cornmeal for dusting
4 tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzle
2 lbs onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp thyme, fresh or dried
1 big splash of wine, brandy or apple cider vinegar (optional)
Sea salt and pepper to taste
1 handful of pitted black olives, halved
3 oz (2/3 cup) goat cheese feta, crumbled
8 salted anchovies fillets (rinsed and patted dry if baked in) (optional)
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 450F. Place the pizza stone in the middle of the oven (if using). Roll the dough out on a floured surface into a flat round or rectangular shape. Transfer the dough to baking sheet dusted with cornmeal. Cover the dough with plastic or a damp cloth and let it rest for 30 minutes.
In the meantime, heat the 3 tablespoons of oil in a large non-stick skillet to medium-high. Add onions, mix vigorously and lower the heat to medium-low. Sprinkle with thyme. Keep mixing every other minute. Add garlic and mix. Continue cooking for another 20 minutes, stirring every 5-7 minutes until the moisture has evaporated and the onions caramelized to almost a marmalade consistency. Add a splash of wine, brandy or apple cider vinegar. Stir and evaporate for the next 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and set aside.
Remove plastic or cloth from dough, brush with 1 tablespoon of oil and spread the onion mixture, leaving ¾ inch border all around. Arrange cheese, olives and anchovy fillets (if using) over the onions, then slide onto the hot pizza stone (if using) or onto the middle rack of the oven. Bake pizza for 18-20 minutes, or until the crust has browned. Remove from the oven, cut into wedges and serve warm or at the room temperature.

No Ordinary French Toast Strawberry Rhubarb Bake

If you love French toast in its many varieties like I do, you probably know already that a baked version of a French toast with some fresh fruit in it is a Rolls Royce of the toasts. Crunchy and nutty on top, aromatic, tangy, sweet and runny inside, relatively benign in sugar: a real old school culinary gem revisited. And, it’s actually a snap to construct. The most difficult part is to allow the flavours to macerate overnight in the fridge.

Next morning you can cough it up within 45 minutes of baking. And don’t limit yourself to just fresh strawberries and rhubarb. This baked toast will be as delicious with the combinations of blueberries, blackberries and lemon; quince, pear and passion fruit; apples and cranberries, etc. We made it last week-end for the Father’s day.
It’s not unusual for me to be lost in the dish choices when preparing for the event and this time was no different. How I came up with this idea was a bit weird but worked out for good. I wanted to make something special, a one of a kind dish (preferably for breakfast). Driven by a nostalgic desire for simplicity, I tried to reach my inner Escoffier for a quick advice.
The great chef must have been on a sick leave though ‘cause the only answer was: ‘Make a Layer Cake’. That was obviously clueless: ‘Layer Cake? Really? In the middle of summer? For the Father’s Day? Are you kidding me?’ Pause. ‘OK, then bring him to a diner dive’, clearly, Chef Fieri just took the mind shift. ‘Are you serious? Not even a Melba Peach or something for breakfast?’ Then either legendary Monsieur Auguste or the years of legal reasoning kicked in: Melba – Toast – French Toast- Specialty French Toast – Specialty French Toast for a French (Canadian) Father…and Oh, he loves bread…now we are talking… My inner dialogue was interrupted by the patriarch himself: ‘Hey, did you see how much rhubrarb we got this year? And I think it’s ready…’
BINGO, this is gonna be a FRENCH TOAST-RHUBARB-STRAWBERRY-BAKE for breakfast and I can smell it already in my mind. The other day I made crumbs to finish the gluten free rice flour loaf (excellent for topping mixed with nuts, butter and maple syrup or brown sugar) and we always have a baguette or two (feel free to use white gluten free bread if you’re gluten intolerant), eggs and milk in our fridge. Plus locally grown strawberries from a farmers market, and now freshly picked rhubarb – it will be a yummy.
Please note again that this is an overnight dish. But other than that is a real easy-peasy. Rip the one day loaf or baguette into small chunks and spread into 9 by 13 inch baking dish. Chop-chop-chop: strawberries, rhubarb (I always peel the rhubarb stems before chopping them, but apparently it is not a must anymore). Macerate the fruits with sugar and a bit of water – done. 
Next, beat the egg & milk (or substitute) mixture with a bit of sugar, a pinch of ground nutmeg and cinnamon. Pour half of it over the bread chunks. Spread the macerated fruit mix over. Cover with the egg-milk mix and slide the baking into the fridge overnight covered with film to let the flavours marry.
Note: Although totally optional, if you happen to have some Grand Marnier or brandy in your bar, add a splash to the egg-milk mixture for that special French touch of it.
Next morning preheat the oven to 350F, spread the nuts-butter- crumble topping to cover the toast dish and pop into the oven for 45-55 minutes (3 last images in the collage). When the house is filled with the caramelized fruit aroma, the crust is golden brown and crispy, and the body of the toast is still slightly bubbling – it’s ready. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes before cutting. Serve with some extra fresh fruit and whipped cream if you like.
Our French (Canadian) father was smiling mischievously when he stepped into the kitchen next morning … and then the wide grin at the breakfast said it all. The no ordinary French Toast was a huge success.  If you happen to have any leftovers, reheat them in the individual ramekins next morning and they will still taste amazing.

And what do you think happened after this amazing breakfast? Well, may be somewhere around the Beltway fathers go play baseball with their kids all day long, but here in Canada – nah-nah-nah – think more of a ‘Canadian Bacon’ or ‘The Great Outdoors’…

Our father went to fell a tree with a chainsaw. Yep, that’s what he did last week-end. One of the gorgeous fir trees in our backyard has dangerously grown into the foundation of the house threatening that one day (or sooner) it will be either us or the tree residing in the dwelling, so, sadly, we had to let it go. And it was a hell of a job…
The prospect to go fishing next week-end helped to keep the spirits up and the BBQ family dinner with Bourbon Glazed Ribs, roasted new potatoes and chopped salad washed down by copious amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon wrapped the day quite successfully… not without an idea to make the whole next week a Father’s day week.
Cheers to all the great Fathers and I hope some of you will actually try this worthy dish! 
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RHUBARB STRAWBERRY FRENCH TOAST BAKE
Yields: 6-8 portions
Ingredients:
1 baguette or French loaf, day old*
2 cups milk (or mix of yogurt and milk, or 5% or 10% cream, or almond milk depending on your diet)
7 eggs, slightly beaten
1 tbsp sugar or maple syrup
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
Splash of brandy or orange liquor (optional)
Pinch of salt
For Macerated Fruit Coulis
2 cups rhubarb, chopped in ½ inch pieces
2 cups strawberries, chopped in ½ inch pieces
½ cup of sugar, or maple syrup
2 tbsp water
For Nutty Topping Crumble
1 cup white fresh crumbs* (baguette, loaf, white gluten free bread or Panko crumbs)
½ cup melted butter or ghee
¼ cup brown sugar or maple syrup
½ cup slivered almonds or other chopped nuts
½ tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt
Note* Use gluten free loaf and crumbs if you have gluten intolerance
Instructions:
Please note: this is an overnight dish.
Tear one day loaf or baguette into small chunks and spread into 9 by 13 inch baking greased dish. Mix the strawberries, rhubarb, sugar or maple syrup, add 2 tablespoons of water and put over low heat until the mixture bubbles. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Mix the eggs, milk (or substitute), cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar or maple syrup, salt and liquor (if using) with the whisk until well combined. Pour half of the egg mixture over the bread chunks.  Spread the macerated fruit mixture over the bread. Pour the remaining egg mixture over the top. Cover with film and refrigerate overnight.
Next morning preheat the oven to 350F. Mix the crumbs, butter, nuts, sugar, cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Spread the nuts-butter-crumble topping to cover the toast dish. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and crispy, and the body of the toast is still slightly bubbling in the center. Remove from the oven and let it sit for 10-15 minutes before cutting. Serve with some extra fresh fruit and whipped cream if you like.

Candied Citrus Peel: Versatile Cooking Ingredient

One of my grandma’s signature preserves was a gooseberry jam with orange peel – a super delicious treat with a strong citrus identity you can never forget. ‘’Can we use orange peel with anything else?’’, I used to ask my mother repeatedly when a kid and she would say: ‘’I’m not sure, but it makes a good still life subject’’… My mother, folks… She was an artist and a kind of a cook who would think that an orangette is made of an apple slice soaked in Grand Marnier. However, her mantra was stuck in the back of my head; for years I’ve been buying a scentless commercial mixed peel the color of a landfill waste for my baking needs like zombie. Until one day I actually read the label, discovered that the major ingredient was not even a citrus peel but rutabaga + a bunch of chemicals… I found myself peeling oranges and slicing lemons in candied-citrus-peel frenzy. I was stunned how easy and inexpensive the method of making a candied peel was. Stupefied and aghast, I was looking at the results of my own fresh and zesty mixed peel wondering what took me so long to discover this treasure trick to do about the citrus waste.
Whoever made this discovery was a genius. For all I know now, people have been using candied citrus for a long-long time. It’s truly a four-season condiment, which is also extremely versatile in its applications. Who said the candied citrus peel is only for Christmas?
Easter is around the corner with candied fruit panettone, cross buns, kulich and tsoureki. But why waiting for it if you can have it right now in your lemon drizzle, chocolate or bundt cake, Eccles cakes (coming next and the actual reason I’m writing this post), raspberry bar cookies, granolas, and so many more… Not to mention the increasing array of cocktails and simple treats where this vivid essential comes to garnish vodka martini, citrus granita or lemon peel yogurt. Heck, I am even using it tonight to garnish the citrus roast chicken with mashed potatoes for my non-fasting party (we have another snow storm outside, so a citrus granita alone would not help much).
 And, of course, the famous Parisian dessert: les orangettes!
The orange peel candied in syrup infused with peppercorns, anise and vanilla pod and dipped in dark chocolate. Va-va-voom! So art deco and so Josephine Baker dance… 
A little recycling effort and here you are with a cup of coffee and a few of these decadent morsels transcending Canadian winter boundary straight into Paris in spring, somewhere between 6ème Saint-Germain-Des-Prés and La Maison du Chocolat. 
 
Finally, please don’t forget about the candied orange peel it when you make your next chocolate fondue…
As usually, I am saving some of my sweet teeth for the summer when I will have gooseberries back in my garden and will be canning them into my Grandma’s humble gooseberry jam along with these little orange shape-shifters for that one and only citrus kick. 
Not every citrus peel needs to be blanched three times. Below, I am giving you three different recipes for Candied Mixed Citrus Peel, the Orangettes and Candied Meyer Lemon Peel, respectively. Here are some general tips on making a candied citrus peel a success:
         * Boiling the peel and discarding the water 3 times is the key to remove bitterness from orange, lemon, lime and grapefruit peels.
         * Adding a bit of lemon juice to boiling syrup will help to prevent crystallization.
          * You can vary the texture of your future candied peel from soft (boiling for 10 minutes) to caramelized and chewy (additional 10 minutes of boiling).
         * Recycle the remnant citrus-infused syrup in cocktails, lemonade, fresh berries coulis, yogurts, etc.
          * The candied Meyer lemon preserve requires only one pre-boil, because the Meyer lemon’s skin is not as bitter as other citrus (especially when in season).
          * If you wish to make your orangettes version as close to the Parisian version as possible, please do use peppercorns, anise and vanilla pod in the boiling syrup and let your orange peels steep in it for at least few hours upon the end of boiling. As for the chocolate, please use the darkest you can find.
Enjoy your home-candying and I hope you will find this post helpful. À bientôt!

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One year ago: Homemade Chicken Stock;

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CANDIED MIXED PEEL
Ingredients:
2 small oranges, peeled
1 small grapefruit, peeled
1 lemon, peeled
1 lime, peeled
1 ¾   cups white sugar
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 cups water for syrup, plus more for blanching
Instructions:
Peel citrus fruits with the peeler. Reserve the fruits for another use. Slice peels in ¼ inch pieces.  Cover citrus peels with water in a sauce pan, bring to boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain and repeat blanching for two more times to remove the citrus peel bitterness. Drain citrus peel and set aside.  Combine sugar and 2 cups of water in a sauce pan, bring to boil and simmer until sugar has dissolved. Add lemon juice. Stir in citrus peel and simmer for 1 hour. Let cool. Drain. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the peel pieces to dry.  Let dry for 20-24 hours. Store in airtight container. Will keep on the shelf for about a week and for about a month in the fridge. Freezes well for longer shelf life.
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LES ORANGETTES – FRENCH BISTRO STYLE CANDIED ORANGE PEEL
Ingredients:
6-7 oranges peeled
2 cups water + more for blanching
1 ½ cups white sugar
3 tbsp lemon juice
5 peppercorns
1 piece star anise
1 small vanilla pod, pulp and bean
Instructions:
Cut oranges into quarters, peel and remove the pulp and save for another use. Slice the peel into thin strips. Remove the pith from the peels using paring knife.  Cover the peels with water in a sauce pan, bring to boil, simmer for 5 minutes, drain and put into an ice cold bath. Repeat blanching two more times. Place all the remaining ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to boil. Add the thrice blanched peel and bring to boil and simmer for about an hour on a very low heat without the lid. Remove from heat and allow the mix to cool overnight steeping peels in the syrup. Next day, drain the peels, distribute on a cooling rack and let dry for at least 6-7 hours. Store in the airtight container.
To coat in chocolate, melt 100g of the dark bitter-sweet chocolate in bain-marie and using tongs or tweezers dip each peel, coating fully or partially and leave to set on a baking sheet.
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CANDIED MEYER LEMON
Ingredients:
3 Meyer lemons, thinly sliced
2 cups white sugar
2 cups water
2 tbsp lemon juice
¼ cup sugar for sprinkling
Instructions:
Place sliced Meyer lemons in a saucepan and cover with 1 cup of water. Bring to boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside. Combine sugar and 1 cup of water, bring to boil and simmer until sugar has dissolved. Add lemon juice. Stir in sliced lemon and simmer for 45 minutes stirring from time to time. Let cool. Drain. Distribute on wire rack, sprinkle with sugar and let dry for 4-5 hours. Store in airtight container on the shelf for one week, or in the fridge for 2 weeks.

No Fuss Coq Au Vin

”Have you ever tried Coq au Vin?” ”No, but I once let an Italian put his hand up my jumper on the back seat of his Fiat…” Anglophones truly love the play of French words in this dish. But, whatever the jokes are, Coq au Vin (rooster in wine) continues to tickle the taste buds and enthrall the world’s pickiest eaters through the centuries.

And maybe it’s not so bad that this French classic is so ‘’oxymoronic’’ – for sure it helps to create certain gastronomic enigma à propos de complexity of the dish. Which in fact is very simple to make and quite inexpensive if you adjust the ingredients set to create a healthy and easy weeknight meal. In this one I traded rooster for chicken, Burgundy for a good quality dry red wine (Cahors), and pearl onions for a regular yellow onion (the last one is REALLY a good idea when you want to have a quick supper without spending some extra 30 minutes peeling pearl onions). 

I also skipped the roux turning it into a gluten free meal (the sauce turned thick enough without any flour in it and, yes, turned into a gel comme il faut when placed in the fridge). The result: my very FRENCH (Canadian) hubby devoured it in seconds without even noticing there were no pearl onions in it, which are usually a big deal for him.  And if this did not convince you yet, please also note that for a true comfort dish like this, it is VERY low in calories. At different times, I served it with egg or rice noodles, with roasted or mashed potatoes, as well as with potato leek gratin, but my favorite part is just dipping the crusty bread in that savory wine sauce that is so typical in taste to this particular dish. HEAVENLY!
Although many historically attribute the origin of Coq au Vin to Burgundy region of France, rumor has it the Caesar’s cook made it when Romans were battling the Gauls (at that time Romans were very well established in the area of modern Southern France and they really liked local wine). The Gauls sent Caesar a scrawny rooster as a message of defiance. Caesar ordered to cook the rooster in wine and herbs and invited the Gauls to eat it to demonstrating the overwhelming sophistication of the Romans… Or so it goes… But most agree that Coq au Vin existed as a rustic dish long before that and was a way for peasants to recycle an old rooster or an old egg-laying hen by slow cooking in wine and herbs.  
Today Coq au Vin is made with cuts of chicken from hen or capon and has many designations depending on a wine being used: Alsacienne (with Riesling), Nuitonne (with Côte de Nuits), Jurassienne (with Arbois rosé), etc. My twist relates to Quercynoise version and table travels me to the beautiful town of Cahors where I tried Coq au Vin for the first time. It was made with a real cockerel (rooster) and Cahors wine; and included true Quercy-Perigord ingredients: fresh ceps wild mushrooms and duck fat. Needless to say, that a splash of Armagnac flambé was applied to the browning process in this version… The taste of it comes back to me each time I am looking at the pictures or am thinking of that travel…  
Again, this is a speedy version of the Coq au Vin, with no ceps or duck fat in it, but as hearty as the dish can be. The stock, wine, mushroom & bacon sauce imbues chicken and veggies with the iconic flavor during slow cooking transforming any cheapest piece of commercial chicken into a little French culinary voyage. Free range chicken however would deliver much tastier results, but you already know it. 
And, of course, if you are a true admirer of ‘’Mastering the Art of French Cooking’’ and are not looking for any tasty ersatz, I suggest you use Julia Child’s recipe or the version of the host of the Iron Chef of America, both of which are designed to turn you into a real connoisseur of the dish. 
 Cheers to all and happy French cooking!
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NO FUSS COQ AU VIN
Yields 4 servings
Ingredients:
4 slices thick cut bacon, cut into bite size
3 lbs chicken thighs and drums (8+), skin on
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots peeled and cut into cubes
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp. dried thyme
3 tbsp. butter
2 cups button mushrooms, sliced
2 cups dry red wine
6-8 fresh parsley springs, minced
3-4 scallions, minced
¼ kosher salt (or to taste)
¼ freshly ground pepper
Instructions:
In a large skillet, brown bacon bits, remove them to the paper towel and set aside while reserving the bacon grease in the skillet to brown the chicken. Add chicken pieces skin side down and sear them on the medium high heat until golden brown on all sides for about 6-8 minutes each side.  Transfer chicken to the Dutch oven or another casserole dish.  Add onion, garlic, carrots, bay leaves and thyme to skillet and continue sautéing for about 6 minutes or until the onions begin to soften. Transfer the mix to the casserole to cover the chicken pieces. In the still hot skillet, add butter, mushrooms and shallots and cook for 3 minutes. Add wine and broth to the skillet, stirring constantly until the mixture boils and thickens a little bit (5 minutes). Add seasoning, mix well and pour over the chicken in the casserole dish. Simmer or bake for 30-40 minutes at 350F. During the cooking process, carefully skim off and discard any fat from the surface with the spoon. After 30 minutes of simmering, verify the seasoning, add chopped parsley and scallions and give it another 10 minutes of simmer. Serve hot with roasted/mashed potatoes or egg noodles and crusty bread on the side. Enjoy!