French Bistro Dinner

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The other night we had a "French" bistro dinner. That would be: a cheese plate that had a bit of blue cheese (which was actually from King Island Dairy in Australia, not France, but who is checking), some apricot jam (that actually was from Paris, from Laudrée to be exact), some fresh cracked walnuts and a French baguette to start. Next, we nibbled on some Pomme Frites al Forno (but this time made with grapeseed oil instead of the usual olive oil, which resulted in a crispier fry since it has a higher smoking point, but all agreed it resulted in a fry with a slight bitter flavor, very slight though). For the main course, a light salad of mixed greens with a shallot vinaigrette, roasted asparagus, shaved Parmesan and a poached egg. And for dessert - Parisian chocolates! Yum! Though perhaps not as wonderful as actually being in Paris and let's say picnicing along side the Seine, pretending to be in France with a French bistro dinner was still very fun too.

Note: These recipes (or a version of them) did appear on Mon Petit Plat, but I thought it would be nice to share them again.

Pommes Frites al Forno

Serves 4

Pommes Frites, translates to “French Fries” in French, and al Forno translates to “from the oven” in Italian. This dish is not the collaboration between two culinary rivals, but the name I give to my version of oven fries. I love the skinny French (actually Belgium) style of fries. (There are certainly some opposing opinions to both the origin of the fry and the best way to make them. Rather than get in the middle of any sort of controversy, my version of fries is deemed International- being both French and Italian.) Since I am not fond of deep-frying at home, I instead cut potatoes into thin strips and bake them in the oven, resulting in a healthier version of the skinny “European” style fry. I also like to sometimes swap out sweet potatoes for white potatoes. I serve my fries with a few easy to make dipping sauces, though one can never go wrong with classic ketchup. However, the proper accompaniment for French Fries is yet an entire other International debate…

3 medium russet potatoes
coarse salt
about 1/4 cup olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Cover 2 large sheet pans with parchment paper.

Peel the potatoes and immediately place in a large bowl of water. With a sharp knife, cut each potato in half and then into 1/4 of an inch strips. Cut each strip into1/4 inch thick pieces, so that you have long, skinny potato slices. (If the potatoes start to turn brown, place them in a large bowl filled with cold water. Drain well and pat dry with a towel.) Place the potatoes on the sheet pans spread evenly apart and toss with oil and salt, or not (see cooking note below), being careful not to over crowd the pan. Bake until crisp and golden brown, flipping half way through, about 30-40 minutes total.

Cooking Note on Successful Oven Fries: After many and many batches of oven baked French Fries I have found that roasting the potatoes without salt results in a crispier fry. Why? Because, salt brings out moisture, which results in a soggy fry. I also make sure that the potato slices have plenty of room on the baking sheet to help them get nice and crisp.

Variation: Substitute (white) sweet potatoes or yams in place of the russet potatoes.

Spring Green Salad with Roasted Asparagus, Parmesan and a Poached Egg

Serves 2

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced shallots
1/2 teaspoon mustard
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
pinch of fresh ground pepper
pinch of salt

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
1 teaspoon olive oil
6 cups spring greens (like arugula, mache, beet greens), washed
1 teaspoon vinegar
2 fresh eggs
fresh ground pepper
large chunk of Parmesan cheese, for shaving

To make the dressing, whisk together the lemon juice, shallots, mustard and white wine vinegar. Slowly whisk in the olive oil and add the salt and pepper. Toss the greens with dressing. Divide the greens onto two plates.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. On a baking sheet lined with parchment toss together the asparagus with the teaspoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Roast until tender and crisp, about 10 minutes. Set aside and let cool for 2 minutes; then divide the asparagus and place atop the salad greens.

Meanwhile, bring a small pot of water to a simmer (not a boil). Add the vinegar to the water. Crack each egg into its own small bowl. Stir the water with a spoon to create a swirl effect and gently add the first raw egg to the water. Add the second egg immediately. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, depending on how runny you want your yolk; then remove the first egg with a slotted spoon and place atop the salad greens and asparagus. Place the second egg atop the second salad. Shave a bit of Parmesan over the salads and serve immediately.


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