Video Time: French Dinner Party

Pin It Let me start off by saying the tart featured in this video is really, really good. The husband loved it, the friends loved it, and I loved it so much that I'm making it again tomorrow, for Easter dinner.

Also, this video has spent a long-time in the editing room (also known as the Rules house in HP), and I'm pretty sure our friends forgot about it and how adorable they look dancing to "Zou Bisou Bisou". Thanks friends, for busting out the dance moves, your French phrases and hearty appetites.

Also, also, this was a fun one to shoot, so... enjoy.

Mustard Tart via bonappetempt.com and originally via Around My French Table

For dough (Makes one 9- to 9 1/2-inch tart shell)
Note: The dough should chill for at least 3 hours.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 large egg

For tart
3 thin carrots, trimmed and peeled
3 thin leeks, white and light green parts only, cut lengthwise in half and washed
2 rosemary sprigs
3 large eggs
6 tablespoons creme fraiche or heavy cream
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, or to taste
2 tablespoons grainy mustard, preferably French, or to taste
Salt, preferably fleur de sel, and freshly ground white pepper
1 9- to 91/2-inch tart shell made from Tart Dough, partially baked and cooled

ice water, as needed

For dough
To make the dough in a food processor: Put the flour, sugar, and salt in the processor and whir a few times to blend. Scatter the bits of butter over the flour and pulse several times, until the butter is coarsely mixed into the flour. Beat the egg with the ice water (I used a couple of tablespoons) and pour it into the bowl in 3 small additions, whirring after each one. (Don't overdo it -- the dough shouldn't form a ball or ride on the blade.) You'll have a moist, malleable dough that will hold together when pinched. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it into a ball (if the dough doesn't come together easily, push it, a few spoonfuls at a time, under the heel of your hand or knead it lightly), and flatten it into a disk.

To make the dough by hand: Put the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Drop in the bits of butter and, using your hands or a pastry blender, work the butter into the flour until it is evenly distributed. You'll have large and small butter bits, and that's fine -- uniformity isn't a virtue here. Beat the egg and water together, drizzle over the dough, and, using a fork, toss the dough until it is evenly moistened. Reach into the bowl and, using your fingertips, mix and knead the dough until it comes together. Turn it out onto a work surface, gather it into a ball (if the dough doesn't come together easily, push it, a few spoonfuls at a time, under the heel of your hand or knead it some more), and flatten it into a disk.

Chill the dough for at least 3 hours. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.)

When you're ready to make the tart shell, butter a 9- to 9 1/2-inch fluted tart pan (I used a regular springform pan) with a removable bottom (butter it even if it's nonstick).

Roll out the dough, making sure to lift and turn the dough and reflour the counter often. The rolled-out dough should be about 1/4 inch thick and at least 12 inches in diameter.

Transfer the dough to the tart pan, easing it into the pan without stretching it. (What you stretch now will shrink in the oven later.) Press the dough against the bottom and up the sides of the pan. If you'd like to reinforce the sides of the crust, you can fold some of the excess dough over, so that you have a double thickness around the sides. Using the back of a table knife, trim the dough even with the top of the pan. Prick the base of the crust in several places with a fork.

Chill or freeze the dough for at least 1 hour before baking.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Press a piece of buttered foil (or use nonstick foil) against the crust's surface. If you'd like, you can fill the covered crust with rice or dried beans (Dorie says the beans will be inedible after this but I used lentils and then totally made a soup with them.) to keep the dough flat, but this isn't really necessary if the crust is well chilled. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper and put the tart pan on the sheet.

To partially bake the crust: Bake for 20 minutes, then very carefully remove the foil (with the rice or beans). Return the crust to the oven and bake for another 3 to 5 minutes, or until it is lightly golden. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and allow the crust to cool before you fill it.

For tart
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.

Cut the carrots and leeks into slender bâtons or sticks: First cut the carrots lengthwise in half, then place the halves cut side down on the cutting board and cut crosswise in half or cut into chunks about 3 inches long. Cut the pieces into 1/ 8- to 1/4-inch-thick matchsticks. If your carrots were fat and you think your matchsticks don't look svelte enough, cut them lengthwise in half. Cut the leeks in the same way.

Fit a steamer basket into a saucepan. Pour in enough water to come almost up to the steamer, cover, and bring to a boil. Drop the carrots, leeks, and 1 rosemary sprig into the basket, cover, and steam until the vegetables are tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain the vegetables and pat them dry; discard the rosemary sprig.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs together with the creme fraîche or heavy cream. Add the mustards, season with salt and white pepper -- mustard has a tendency to be salty, so proceed accordingly -- and whisk to blend. Taste and see if you want to add a little more of one or the other mustards.

Put the tart pan on the lined baking sheet and pour the filling into the crust. Arrange the vegetables over the filling -- they can go in any which way, but they're attractive arranged in spokes coming out from the center of the tart. Top with the remaining rosemary sprig and give the vegetables a sprinkling of salt and a couple of turns of the pepper mill.

Bake the tart for about 30 minutes, or until it is uniformly puffed and lightly browned here and there and a knife inserted into the center of the custard comes out clean. Transfer the tart to a cooling rack and let it rest for 5 minutes before removing the sides of the pan.

Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature (or lightly chilled).


Welcome Spring

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This is what's called a lazy post, where I show you a bunch of pictures and tell you a lot has happened since my last post. And that is true -- I've bought a new door mat and new shoes, made several delicious meals, watched our yard bloom, implemented the first round of Spring cleaning, received a new magazine subscription, and oh yeah... got a new job. 
 Bringing garden flowers indoors. Trader Joe's flowers might be a bargain, but these were free!
I also reupholstered the dinning room chairs. Only took me seven years.
 Steak and potatoes are best eaten sitting on the floor at the coffee table, while watching Treme.
 Ice cream date at Carmela's in Pasadena. Honey-lavender and dark chocolate.
We planted ranunculus again.
Jumbo shrimp fried rice.
There was snow in the mountains one day, and 80 degree weather the next. I got a chance to work on my pre-Hawaii tan.
 Tofu steaks, mustard greens and bulgogi.
My anniversary gift arrived.
 A little celebrating at Baco Mercat.
Hello new job.


V-Day Spent with Seafood at Home

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As I solemn and stubborn 14-year-old, I once declared to the husband, who at that point was the guy following me around from class to class, that I hated ALL holidays. That's right. ALL. I'm not sure why. I've always liked Easter, unless it fell on my birthday, and New Year's was always fun. We played card games for money and drank cognac with the adults. I was probably just trying to live up to my Russian absolutist reputation, and the husband took me seriously. Because that's what you do at 14 when you're trying to court a very serious girl.

So, the husband set out to make the holidays special for me. It started with a Christmas gift, The Stranger by Camus. I had literally just graduated from Sweet Valley High to Dostoevsky. With my English up to speed, I didn't waste much time, and Camus quickly won my heart.

Then came Valentine's Day and I was gifted my first flower. A pretty red rose in a blue vase. Slowly, I started warming up to the skinny dude with the floppy hair. When St. Patrick's Day rolled around, and I received my first four-leaf clover (a tradition the husband regrets ever starting (I don't blame him)), I was completely smitten. Ever since those teenage years, we've always done something to celebrate Valentine's Day and St. Patty's. Despite all the Hallmarkness attached to these holidays, we usually spend them at home or with friends, enjoying good food and each other.

Last month, we celebrated Valentine's Day with a low-key dinner at home -- mahi mahi, cauliflower steaks, oysters and wine. The husband even put a shirt on for dinner. That's how you know it's a special day.
We don't spend money on cards. Not when you can save that cash and buy more oysters.


Cornish Game Hens and Vegetables, French-Style

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I may have some exciting news. I think, pretty soon, another video may be making its debut. Currently, my director, cameraman and editor is busy doing his thing, and then occasionally spending time working on the video. If all goes well, and it's not too embarrassing (who am I kidding, even if it is highly embarrassing), this little video will be up this week.

The hens featured on this post were in preparation for the dinner we filmed. I usually don't mind trying new recipes for dinner parties, but I'd like to give the main a course a test run. For the actual dinner party, I roasted two large chickens, French-style. What does this mean? Well, according to me, French-style means with herbs de provence. Not the pre-made stuff you buy at the store, but the stuff you make at home, with pre-made ingredients you buy at the store.

To be on the safe side, a week before our dinner, we tested roasting cornish game hens, French-style. And we loved them. So we assumed our guests would also love the chickens. We were right. Both birds were juicy with subtle flavors of lemon and lavender. Ooo la la.

I would love to share my herbs de provence recipe with you, BUT, I just can't. I kind of make this stuff on the fly, going with my gut and how I feel that particular day. I do want to say there are great recipes online, and you can start there and improvise yourself. Along with the most common herbs and of course lavender, my version includes tarragon, fennel seeds and bay leaf.

I used the same roasting method for most of my poultry as I do for my Thanksgiving turkey -- 500 degrees first few minutes (in this case 15 to sear in the juices and get the browning going), then lower to 350 and bake until done, about 30 more minutes. I also stuffed each bird with half a lemon, onion and garlic. You can add vegetables to the pan, after you lower the temperature. In this instance we had celery root, baby potatoes and carrots, tossed with thyme and olive oil. There were also French green beans sauteed with butter, garlic and thyme. Enjoy with a tall glass of pilsner, and your favorite person!