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Potage Parmentier

One of my guilty pleasures is a good food memoir. Some of my favorites include A Homemade Life, The Sharper The Knife, the Less you Cry, Trail of Crumbs, Home Cooking, Julie & Julia, Julia Child’s “My Life in France”, and A Pig in Provence.  Now that I am food blogging, I’m trying to convince Ryan that I NEED to buy/read more food memoirs – you know – for “research purposes.” I’ve pretty much gone through the selection at my local library. I’m hot on the trail for The Sweet Life in Paris,  The Gastronomy of Marriage: A Memoir of Food and Love, and I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti.

In the spirit of food blogging, I decided to make a nice pot of Potage Parmentier. Sorry for another soup post, but I thought this one was particularly fitting since it is the dish that inspires Julie Powell (author of “Julie and Julia”) to start her famous, year-long cooking project/blog on “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” I grabbed some potato, leeks, and a nice multigrain baguette at the Farmer’s Market in Rittenhouse Square yesterday for today’s featured menu item. Ryan’s away, I am restless, and I need a little afternoon project. I love the idea of having the apartment to myself and always think I will relish the solitude, but by the 2nd day I’m usually missing him. My former single self is appalled by the mere notion of this. Don’t get me wrong, I made use of this “me time” by going through my whole closet, trying on outfits, reading my InStyle, watching some Sex and the City reruns and doing as little else as possible.

julia

Julia Child’s Potage Parmentier (or Leek and Potato Soup)

• 4-5 medium potatoes, sliced or diced

• 3-4 large thinly sliced leeks

• 2 quarts (4 cups) of water • kosher salt to taste

• 4 T. softened butter or 4-6 T. whipping cream

After slicing the leeks, soak them in a large bowl of water for a few minutes to remove the dirt and grit. Once you have thoroughly cleaned the leeks, place them in a large pot with the potatoes, water and salt. Bring to a boil and simmer for 45 – 50 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. **I use the immersion blender to get this soup to a nice thick consistency.

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If at first you don’t succeed…

Why do I like to cook? Well, until about two years ago I didn’t. Quite frankly, I wasn’t any good at it and I had the feedback to prove it. From a botched batch of lemon bars to the most inedible tray of chicken wings you’ve ever seen in your life, my friends and family have been quite vocal in their dislike of my cooking.   Even after a lot of practice, I still make quite a few meals that are just not that great, but I learn from the process and I enjoy it. I suppose that is what matters.

If you know me, you know that I can be anxious and easily stressed. Cooking gives me an outlet for this. And when I stress over cooking, I just drink wine – preferably pinot noir.  I tend to set unrealistic expectations for myself when it comes to cooking, which is pointless since my husband will rarely criticize anything I make for him. He may criticize my cleaning,  the way I dry dishes, the method I use to pull the shades up in our living room, how I water the plants,  how I turn our computer off, etc. (Note:  these are actual complaints.) Trust me,  I could go on – honestly I could go on forever  because I am married to the most particular person since…well ironically…since my father.  While this subject alone could be put me in therapy for years, it fuels my love of cooking because:  1) it never gets boring; 2) it always allows for imperfection and 3) it consistently gives me something to be better at than Ryan.   

A few months ago we had a cook-off – Top Chef style. The ingredient: scallops. The challenge: create the best dish. True to form, Ryan was overconfident and tackled too many dishes and when things got crazed in the kitchen he just started throwing sundried pesto over everything (including Greek yogurt and kiwi). I love him dearly but it was one of the worst meals I’ve ever had. Mine was pretty good, but honestly it didn’t need to be that good to win. But to be fair, Ryan excels at making egg sandwiches. He fries up a couple of eggs, throws them on a grilled bagel, adds cheese and some mixture of butter and ketchup and mayo – which somehow results in a damn fine egg sandwich.

Ryan just asked me if I was writing something for my blog. Yes, I am and it is partially about you my sweet husband. This is about to cross my lips when he asks me if I know what tomorrow is.  My friend Patty’s birthday? Bruce Springsteen’s birthday? (no wait that is Wednesday).  As he rolls his eyes, he says “It’s the first day of Fall, Cheri” and hands me an iced sugar cookie in the shape of a squirrel. Sometimes being married is really great.

squirrel

Weekend Rituals

There’s a little gem in Philadelphia called Café Lutecia. It’s located in Fitler Square, which is kind of like the Upper East Side of Manhattan (in my opinion at least). Once we come into an extra $500,000 we will definitely be buying a house in this part of the city. I discovered this little Parisian café a couple of years ago when Ryan and I moved in together.

Since then, it has become a weekend ritual. Owned by a lovely French couple, Café Lutecia simmers the best soup in the city, hearty and elegant quiches, and a great variety of cold and/or toasted baguette sandwiches, including a Croque Monsieur – the famous French “ham and cheese” sandwich. You can usually find us there eating soup – whether its 90 degrees or 30 degrees – as early as 10 a.m. on Saturdays because we simply can’t wait any longer than that.

menu

This weekend, I had quite possibly the most delicious bowl of soup of my life. If you recall, I shared a recipe for lentil soup in my last post (the one that caused the bowl licking). Let’s just say if I wasn’t in public I would have absolutely licked this bowl clean. It was a Green Lentil Curry Soup with Coconut Milk. A perfect blend of spicy and sweet. Out of this world! It is my mission to get my hands on this recipe – so keep reading.

In lieu of this recipe, I’d like to share two of my favorite non-soup dishes at Café Lutecia – a goat cheese, spinach quiche and the Parisian sandwich. I’ve duplicated these to the best of my ability. You’ll find that these are perfect for brunch, a light dinner, and any occasion you want to create a little hint of the City of Lights in the comfort of your own home. Or of course you can stop by 23rd and Lombard and do your own taste testing. We’ll be at the corner table…

Goat Cheese & Spinach Quiche

Food and Wine Magazine

INGREDIENTS

PASTRY

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons ice water

FILLING

  • 1 pound spinach, large stems discarded, leaves rinsed but not dried
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup milk (I use soy)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2-pound goat cheese log, cut into seven 1/3-inch rounds

DIRECTIONS

MAKE THE PASTRY: In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Lightly beat the egg with the water and sprinkle over the flour mixture. Stir with a fork to lightly blend, then squeeze gently until a dough forms. Pat into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 350°. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry to a 14-inch round about 1/8 inch thick. Fit the round into a 12-inch tart pan with a removable bottom and trim the overhang. Refrigerate the shell for at least 20 minutes.  Line the tart shell with foil and fill with pie weights or rice. Bake until the pastry is firm, about 30 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and bake for about 10 minutes longer, or until golden brown. Transfer the shell to a rack to cool.

MAKE THE FILLING: Heat a large skillet. Add a large handful of the spinach and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until wilted. Transfer to a colander set over a bowl. Repeat until all of the spinach has been cooked; let cool. Squeeze the spinach dry and coarsely chop it. Toss the spinach with the garlic and spread it in the cooled pastry shell. In a medium bowl, whisk the milk with the cream, eggs, egg yolks, salt and pepper. Arrange the goat cheese rounds on the spinach. Pour the custard into the shell and bake for about 40 minutes, or until just set. Transfer the quiche to a rack to cool slightly. Cut into wedges and serve.

Parisian Baguette Sandwich

• Baguette, Broccoli, Mushrooms, Herbs de Provence, Swiss chese, Bechamel sauce

Slice baguette. Assemble broccoli, mushrooms, and swiss cheese. Season with herbs de provence (to your liking) and top with béchamel sauce. Toast in oven for 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees. Bechamel sauce is a key ingredient in the famous Croque Monsieur sandwich – a Paris staple. You can literally find it on every menu – and in almost every bakery – in Paris. Here is an easy recipe for béchamel courtesy of Mario Batali.

Bechamel Sauce

Ingredients

• 5 tablespoons butter

• 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

• 4 cups milk

• 2 teaspoons salt

• 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Directions

In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture turns a light, golden sandy color, about 6 to 7 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan until just about to boil. Add the hot milk to the butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Season with salt and nutmeg, and set aside until ready to use.

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