Dorie Greenspan's new cookbook invites the world to gather 'round her French table


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Lots of people want to eat at Dorie Greenspan's table.

Her cookbook, "Around My French Table," due out in October, is one of the most-buzzed-about books of the fall.

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, it's subtitled "More Than 300 Recipes From My Home to Yours."

But it should be from "my homes to yours" because Ms. Greenspan divides her time between her kitchens in New York City, Westbrook, Conn., and Paris.

Over the past two decades, the food writer and now blogger (doriegreenspan.com.) has written 10 cookbooks, including 2006's "Baking From My Home to Yours." Her other titles include "Baking With Julia" (the companion to Julia Child's TV show won a James Beard award) and "Desserts by Pierre Herme," the Parisian master. She also contributes to Parade and other periodicals.

This fall she's going to be all over the place publicizing "Around My French Table." But it pretty much sells itself as a collection of delicious and doable recipes, delightfully and passionately written.

She shares in the introduction her journey from her first trip to Paris as a newlywed to stopping work on her doctorate in gerontology so she could start cooking professionally, through her years of being "truly bicontinental."

"I fell in love with the city because it fit all my girlish ideas of what it was supposed to be, but I stayed in love with all of France because of its food and its people."

These recipes, "a record of my time in France," she describes as "elbows-on-the table food," easy to shop for and to make and to enjoy.

With each recipe, she gives tips on serving and storing as well as a "Bonne idee" -- a good idea that adds a little touch or twist. The good idea for the accompanying Armagnac Chicken recipe is:

"Armagnac and prunes are a classic combination in France. If you'd like, you can toss 8 to 12 prunes, pitted or not, into the pot along with the herbs. If your prunes are pitted and soft, they might pretty much melt during the cooking, but they'll make a sweet, lovely addition to the mix."

I enjoyed the informative and entertaining little sidebars she sprinkles throughout, such as the one on Armagnac, a spirit I happen to also love for baking and for drinking: "It is made from three types of white grapes -- Folle Blanche, Ugni Blanc and Colombard -- and aged in oak casks in Gascony, the region in Southwest France best known as home to the Three Musketeers. It's enjoyed most often, just as Cognac is, as a digestive after dinner."

Cheers, Ms. Greenspan, and thank you for having us at your table.

M. Jacques' Armagnac Chicken

PG Tested

"This recipe, une petite merveille (a little marvel), as the French would say, was given to me years ago by Jacques Drout, the maitre d' hotel at the famous Le Dome brasserie in Paris and an inspired home cook," Dorie Greenspan writes. "I've been making it regularly ever since. It's one of those remarkable dishes that is at once comforting, yet more sophisticated than you'd expect (or really have any right to demand, given the basic ingredients and even more basic cooking method)."

She shares the story about how easy it is: "One Christmas, after getting the bird into the oven, I took a leisurely mid-meal walk with my friends," and continues: "When it's done, you pull the pot out of the oven, lift the lid and admire how golden and gorgeous the chicken is, stir in some water, and march to the dining room. Of course, you'll be pleasantly dizzy by the time you get there -- the combination of pride and a deeply aromatic sauce can do that -- but you'll be delighted to serve the chicken with its tender roasted vegetables and that sauce. Oh, that sauce: It's just a little sweet and really rather complex -- you've got the chicken and vegetable juices, of course, but it's the soft, pruney flavor of the Armagnac that's so intriguing. That you made it by stirring the pan juices with water is just another of this dish's marveilles."

I made this even simpler by not bothering to skim the fat or add the water to the sauce. The dish was lovely nonetheless, including as leftovers."

-- Bob Batz Jr.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 8 small thin-skinned potatoes, scrubbed and halved lengthwise
  • 3 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, trimmed, peeled, and thickly sliced on the diagonal
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 thyme sprig
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 chicken, about 3 1/2 pounds, preferably organic, trussed (or wings turned under and feet tied together with kitchen string), and at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup Armagnac (cognac or brandy)
  • 1 cup water

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 450 degrees. You'll need a heavy casserole with a tight-fitting cover, one large enough to hold the chicken snugly but still leave room for the vegetables. (I use an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven.)

Put the casserole over medium heat and pour in the oil. When it's warm, toss in the vegetables and turn them around in the oil until they glisten, a minute or 2; season with salt and white pepper. Stir in the herbs and push everything toward the sides of the pot to make way for the chicken. Rub the chicken all over with salt and white pepper, nestle it in the pot and pour the Armagnac around the bird. Leave the pot on the heat for a minute to warm the Armagnac, then cover it tightly. If your lid is shaky, cover the pot with a piece of aluminum foil and then put the cover in place.

Slide the casserole into the oven and let it roast undisturbed for 60 minutes. Transfer the pot to the stove and carefully remove the lid and the foil, if you used it -- make sure to open the lid away from you, because there will be a lot of steam. After admiring the beautifully browned chicken, very carefully transfer it to a warm platter or, better yet, a bowl; cover loosely with a foil tent.

Using a spoon, skim off the fat that will have risen to the top of the cooking liquids and discard it; pick out the bay leaf and discard it, too. Turn the heat to medium, stir the vegetables gently to dislodge any that might have stuck to the bottom of the pot, and add the water, stirring to blend it with the pan juices. Simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the sauce thickens ever so slightly, then taste for salt and pepper.

Carve the chicken and serve with the vegetables and sauce.

Makes 4 servings.

Serving

You can bring the chicken to the table whole, surrounded by the vegetables, and carve it in public, or you can do what I do, which is to cut the chicken into quarters in the kitchen, then separate the wings from the breasts and the thighs from the legs. I arrange the pieces in a large shallow serving bowl, spoon the vegetables into the center, moisten everything with a little sauce, and then pour the remainder of the elixir into a sauceboat to pass at the table.

Storing

I can't imagine that you'll have anything left over, but if you do, you can reheat the chicken and vegetables -- make sure there's some sauce, so nothing dries out -- covered in a microwave oven.

-- "Around My French Table" by Dorie Greenspan (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Oct. 2010, $40)

Tomatoes Provencal

PG Tested

"Every French cook who makes oven-roasted herb-topped tomatoes has his or her own recipe, but the fact is it needs no recipe at all," Dorie Greenspan writes.Rather than removing the seeds and stuffing with the usual bread crumbs, "I prefer the rusticity of leaving in the tomatoes' juicy innards, and I don't use bread crumbs because I like a dish with more emphasis on the tomatoes and herbs. But I've no doubt that after you make this once, you'll find your own version."

Simply delicious.

-- Bob Batz Jr.

  • About 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 ripe tomatoes, about 4 ounces each
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves (more or less), split, germ removed, and finely chopped
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons minced mixed fresh herbs, such as parsley, basil, rosemary, oregano, thyme, and/or chives

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Use a little of the olive oil to grease a 9-inch pie plate or other baking dish that can hold the 12 tomato halves in a single layer. (It's OK if the halves jostle one another and tilt on their sides a bit -- precision isn't crucial here.)

Core the tomatoes and then slice them crosswise in half. If you want to scoop out the seeds, go ahead, but, again, it's not necessary. Season the cut sides of the tomatoes with salt and pepper.

Toss the garlic and minced herbs into a small bowl, season with salt and pepper, and, using your fingers, mix to blend. Sprinkle the topping over the tomatoes, making sure that each tomato gets its share, then drizzle the tomatoes and topping with olive oil. Don't drench the tomatoes, but don't be stingy either. You want the topping to be lightly moistened, and it's good to have some oil in the bottom of the pan.

Roast the tomatoes for 25 to 30 minutes. Spoon some of the accumulated juices over the tomatoes, and continue to roast for another 20 to 30 minutes, until the tomatoes are very tender and easily pierced with the tip of a knife. If you like your tomatoes firmer, take a look at them at the 20-minute mark and decide if they're done enough for you. When you remove the pan from the oven, baste the tomatoes again.

Makes 6 servings.

Serving

I can't think of a dish that doesn't go with these tomatoes, from omelets and salads to roasted chicken, chops, and other vegetables. You can serve tomatoes Provencal as a side dish, but because they're very good at room temperature, they're great on a buffet or in a picnic basket, or brought to a friend's for a potluck meal. Coarsely chopped, the tomatoes and their oil make a very good sauce for pasta.

Storing

The tomatoes can be covered and kept in the refrigerator overnight; serve cold, or allow them to come to room temperature, or reheat them gently.

-- "Around My French Table" by Dorie Greenspan.

Citrus-Berry Terrine

PG Tested

"While Americans of all stripes tend to turn snobby at the mere mention of gelatin, the French accept gelatin with the same equanimity with which they accept salt and pepper: as just another ingredient," writes Dorie Greenspan. "... A la maison, it's often used to make fresh-flavored, rather elegant gelees, the Gallic version of homemade Jell-O."

I've made it with different berries -- delicious and beautiful!

-- Bob Batz Jr.

  • Segments from 2 navel oranges, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • Segments from 1 pink grapefruit, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • 2 packets unflavored gelatin (I used two envelopes of Knox unflavored "gelatine")
  • 2 cups orange or grapefruit juice
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • About 3 cups mixed blueberries, raspberries and blackberries (if you want to add strawberries, look for small berries or cut larger ones into bite-sized pieces)

Put a double layer of paper towels on a cutting board and spread the citrus pieces out on the paper. Cover with another double layer of towels and set the pieces aside until you're ready for them. If the paper gets very wet, change it.

Put the cold water in a large bowl, sprinkle over the gelatin, and let it soften.

Meanwhile, bring the juice and sugar to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Pour some of the juice over the gelatin, gently stir to dissolve, and then stir in the rest of the juice. Put the gelatin mixture in the refrigerator and let it chill, stirring occasionally, until it thickens slightly, about two hours. You're looking for a mixture with the texture of egg whites.

Rinse a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with cold water and shake out the excess. (I use a Pyrex pan.) Gently stir the reserved citrus segments and the berries into the lightly thickened gelatin mixture, and scrape everything into the pan. Jiggle the pan a little to settle the gel and chill for at least four hours or up to overnight.

When you're ready to serve the terrine, dip the pan into a bowl or sinkful of hot water for a few seconds, and run a blunt knife around the edges of the pan. Wipe the pan and unmold the terrine onto a platter.

Makes 10 servings.

Serving

The terrine should be served in thick slices. If you'd like, you can dress each serving with more berries (I like to serve it with cold berries, which I toss with a pinch of sugar just before I spoon them out), or pour over a spoonful or two of sweetened pureed raspberries.

-- "Around My French Table" by Dorie Greenspan


Bob Batz Jr. is the PG food editor: bbatz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1930.


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