Encore des Sardines!

Encore des Sardines!


Encore des sardines! First came the sardine tartine blog, were I mentioned that King Henri IV loved sardines and introduced them to the court; then came the sardine paté at the 5c café performance; and on  Friday our friend Claire arrived from Brittany with a boxed set of a 6 cans Saint-Georges sardines “La Reserve” 2006.  Like wine, great sardines improve with time. Sardines millesimées, or vintage sardines, can be kept for up to 10 years.  Cans need to be turned over every 6 months so they are equally bathed in oil.  I decided not to wait 7 years to try them as I am too curious &  have never had “vintage” sardines before.
Claire and her family are true sardine aficionados so I knew it was going to be good. In fact it was a crescendo of goodness.  It started out when pulling up the tin ring and discovering the silvery little fishes perfectly aligned while resting in fragrant & subtle golden extra virgin olive oil. Then the smell trapped in the can quickly revealed a fresh ocean breeze.  So inviting!  My daughter-in-law prepared some spiced pita bread, and it proved to be a perfect support, though I grabbed my first vintage sardine with my fingers and put it whole in my mouth. The dainty fish flesh sent out 3D emotions to my neurons, and these were indeed the best sardines I ever had. I sure will not make sardines paté with these — too good, too beautiful to do anything to them but eat them whole.
A word about the can factory:
La Belle Iloise is a family affair. The company was created in 1932 by Georges Hilliet, thus the naming of the sardines: Saint Georges. His grandson Bernard Hilliet is still running the factory and his daughter is scheduled to continue the tradition and take over the operations in a few years. The factory is located in Quiberon. They operate their own retail stores and that is why they were able to survive. When mass distribution set  in, they decided to cut out the middle man and operate their own stores.  They have several of them where they sell their various products. I have tried only the sardines but according to Claire it is all good. All this info is available on their (french only) website.

We ate the sardines while watching the soccer game USA-Brasil. USA lost honorably but for me the sardines where definitely the highlight of the day. Joseph (my elder son) complemented the special sardines with a pleasant iced cold Lalande chardonnay from Gascony.  We ate 2 cans, I gave one to Joseph and will save the other 3 for a couple of years. Stay tuned — I’ll report. Meanwhile: vive les sardines!
DSCN3464saint george sardines

Lovy Ducky

Lovy Ducky

Finally back on the blog. It took me several weeks to move website and blog to a new web hosting company. I could not have done it without the help of WordPress guru: Jeff Houdyschell at www.wordpressmax.com. Meanwhile I have been cooking several fun recipes, I will report about them later but today I will share yesterday ‘s Valentine Day entree that I recommend for any festive occasion:

Braised Duck with Blood Orange Sauce served with Chinese Greens & Crêpes Vanel

canard a l'orange sanguine

For the Duck:

1 d’Artagnan Pekin Duck (at the Park Slope Food Coop 5.29lb $17.46).

2 big onions roughly chopped
4 carrots roughly chopped
1/2 bottle white wine
1 bouquet garni with parsley, a piece of freshginger, and a laurel leave
3 organic blood oranges
6 tablespoons of sugar
1 Tbsp of rice vinegar

Crêpes Vanel
coming soon. It will be the subject of separate blog)

Chinese Greens
1 lb –
of what I identified as– green stem Pak Choy.
2 cloves of garlic (slivered)
Coat the pan with olive oil under high medium heat. Quicky fry slivered garlic, add the greens & toss them in. Add 1/2 cup of water & cover tightly, lower the heat & cook until just tender.

Duck recipe:
On top of the stove preheat a roasting pan coated with duck fat or olive oil. When the pan is warm enough golden the duck (previously salted & peppered) on both sides. Remove it from the pan and in that same pan sauté the onions and carrots until translucent. Pour 1/2 bottle of white wine and add the bouquet garni , return the duck on top of the pan.
I have a very small oven, so in my case I cooked the duck for 1 hour at 400º (preheated oven). I really don’t like overcooked duck, this one was thoroughly cooked but on the pink side. It was incredibly moist and juicy.
Meanwhile: I zested 3 oranges, blanched the zests briefly & saved them for later; then I squeezed the juice of 3 blood oranges, reserved it and started working on the gastrique. This is a classic and old cooking technique that gives certain sauce exquisite texture and taste.

In a non reactive sauce pan put 6 tablespoons of sugar and melt over medium heat. Do not add any water, let the sugar dissolve and it will turn rapidly into caramel. Be very careful not to burn it, shake the pan to make sure it will melt evenly. Once the caramel is golden add the orange juice and 1 Tbsp of rice vinegar. The caramel will first harden,
bring the pan back on a medium low flame it will melt again, reduce it by 1/2 or until the consistency is satisfactory, that is it coats a wooden spoon. Reserve.

Remove the duck from the pan, strain the juices. Try to take out as much of the fat as possible (one of those separator that pour from the bottom might be helpful) and pour the juices into the gastrique. Salt and pepper to taste, let reduce to the same consistency described above.

Meanwhile carve your duck and arrange the pieces either in a warm plate or platter for family style serving. Finish up your sauce just before serving. Adjust salt & pepper to taste and “monter la sauce au beurre” that is to swirl in, until completely melted, a few small dollops of unsalted butter. That will give your sauce a velvety texture and a rich flavor. The only draw back is that once “monté au beurre” it might be difficult to reheat your sauce without having it separating. At the risk of being immodest I will say it was truly delicious and my date ( this is such a funny word especially after 20 years together!) loved it.

Bon Appetit!

Winter Brunch

Winter Brunch

Winter Quiche

Winter Quiche
Swiss chards
, onions, jambonneau, maple syrup
Mixed Greens
any greens dressed with a garlic vinaigrette
Orange & Pomegranate Salad
Sugar cookies
Sliced oranges, pomegranate, roasted sliced almonds, cinnamon

Tired of pancakes and French toasts for brunch? I am! This is a nice variation of the Quiche Lorraine, from Lorraine in the North East of France near the German border. In old cook books it is spelled Kiche, showing its derivation from German – the word is an alteration of the German word Kuchen which means cake. The original recipe is a simple batter with some bacon. My version today uses the traditional batter to which I have added lots of onions, swiss chards and the jambonneau –you can substitute for bacon or porc confit (yummy!). Let your creativity flow and make your own variation using only seasonal produce (that means no tomato in winter!).
A few variation ideas: quiches with leeks & onions; or shrimp & red & yellow bell peppers; or tomato & basil & goat cheese; mais encore spinach & blue cheese …etc

floureddough inweight on

Pate Brisée
2 cups Flour
2/3 stick unsalted Butter (soften not melted)
1 whole Egg
1 dash Salt
1 tablespoon Sugar
a few spoons (3) very cold water
Place the flour in a bowl, make a well in the middle into which you put the butter cut into small pieces, the salt, the sugar, the egg and few spoons of cold water. Knead it all together until all the water is absorbed. Beat it on the counter, form a ball. Keep it in the fridge in a humid cloth.
When ready to use, roll it out on a floured surface and transfer it to a buttered and floured tart dish (about 9 inches).
For quiche and tartes (you can use this dough for pies) pre-cook 10 minutes at 300 degrees. First poke the dough with a fork, cover the bottom with parchment paper and cover with dry garbanzo beans or pie weight –I used foil and black eye beans because I didn’t have either parchment paper or garbanzos; in the kitchen we aways have to improvise!

Generic Batter for Quiche
Beat 4 eggs lightly and mix in 1 1/4 cup of heavy cream, salt, freshly ground pepper, nutmeg.


Today’s filling:
1 onion thinly sliced
2 cups of chards chopped
1 cup of bacon or duck
confit or jambonneau
2 tablespoon maple syrup
salt & pepper

If you are using bacon, sauté it first, then use drippings and in the same pan first sauté the onions until golden, then the Swiss chards until wilted. Add some oil and/or butter if needed.
If you are not using bacon:
Melt a tablespoon of butter with a tablespoon of oil and sauté onions until golden, add the confit and/or the jambonneau & the swiss chards. Add maple syrup. Stir well and scoop out into the pre-baked pie shell. Pour the batter over.
I sometimes top it with Gruyere (real Swiss cheese).
Bake it in the oven for 45 minutes at about 350/375 degrees –you know your oven better that I do.


Serve the quiche with a mixed green salad, dressed with olive oil, rice vinegar, one clove of garlic crushed and minced, salt & fresh ground pepper. (If you haven’t , go see Nicole’s simple salad on YouTube)

For dessert I suggest a refreshing sliced orange & pomegranate salad with roasted sliced toasted almonds & cinnamon. Do not combine the pomegranates & the oranges until ready to serve, the pomegranate will bleed all over the oranges. Sprinkle with cinnamon and top with toasted almonds.

orange & pomegranate salad

About the cookies: it was an experiment. I had a little left over pate brisée and decided to roll the dough in organic crytalized sugar, cut it into pieces, flattened them and an bake them on a buttered sheet. It ended up being a very nice contrast of texture and sweetness with the tangyness of the fruits.
Bon weekend et bon ap!

Le Pot au Feu

Le Pot au Feu

Pot au Feu

Originally Pot au Feu meant an earthenware or a metal cooking pot. Today, it is a common French dish and to me the ultimate winter comfort food. It is very easy to prepare and economical, low cost cuts can be used. It can be prepared in 15 minutes, then simmers all afternoon long filling the house with a marvelous aroma. Several cuts of meat can be used but preferably cartilaginous cuts such as oxtail and marrowbone (I got a beautiful beef shank marbled with cartilage). My mother always combines veal & beef cuts.
Equivalent dishes are: the New England boiled dinner, consisting of corned beef or a ham shoulder, & the Irish corn beef and cabbage.
There are many variations and they are all good, the only one rule is too cook it long enough. What I really like about the French version is the cleanness of the taste. Unless it is homemade, I don’t eat much corn beef, the prepared ones at the store are usually too salty, full of m.s.g and other preservatives. I have added Jerusalem Artichokes in this version, it is unusual and it was a test —the main reason being that I had some in the fridge but I didn’t have any potatoes at hand. No regrets! It added a subtle layer of flavor, I will do it again!
I was curious to price my Pot of Feu –which lasted for three meals. I did the shopping at the Park Slope Food Coop.

1 (1.42lb) Grass fed Beef Shank bone $6.13
3 small organic carrots carrots $0.55
1 organic turnip $0.31
2 organic leeks $1.37
3 Jerusalem Artichokes $1.85
Total $10.23

already in my pantry:
3 ribs of Celery
1 Onion
3 cloves ( stick them onto the peeled onion)
4 peppers grains
1 teaspon of corse sea salt
Whole grain mustard (moutarde à l’ancienne)
Gherkins (cornichons)

pot au feu

Put the meat, the vegetables (except the potatoes &/or the Jerusalem artichoke) & the spices into the pot and cover with cold water.
Bring to a boil and let simmer gently for 2 to 3 hours. The meat as to be really tender. 1/2 hour before the end of the cooking add the potatoes and/or the Jerusalem artichokes.

bouillon de pot au feu

Strain the broth onto a soup tureen and have the soup as a first course. If you wish you can add vermicelli or small pasta onto the broth.


Don’t forget to eat the marrow! blow out the marrow from the bone onto a piece of bread, sprinkle with sea salt. YUMMY!

Serve meat, veggies & condiments & Bon Appetit!

[ Pierre’s addendum: & don’t forget to tell your readers that when you have slurped your way through the soup & there is just a little left at the bottom of your plate, you add a good rasade — shot — of red wine, mix it with the soup, put down your spoon, raise the plate with two hands & slurp the mixture down with audible slurping satisfaction noises. It’s called “faire chabrot” which means etymologically “to drink like a goat.” It’s a total pleasure.]



Join, among many others, Michael Pollan, Wendell Berry, Alice Waters, Anna Lappé, Marion Nestlé in signing asap the petition urging president elect Obama to nominate a Secretary Agriculture that will support a Sustainable Choice.
It is very important and urgent because none of the names that are mentioned in The Associated Press contender list 4 days ago match the Food Democracy proposed names.
Read below & click on pix to get to the petition and do pass it on.

Dear President-Elect Obama,

We congratulate you on your historic victory and welcome the change that your election promises to usher in for our nation. As leaders in the sustainable agriculture and rural advocacy community we supported you in record numbers during the caucus, primary and general election because of the family farm-friendly policies that you advocated during your campaign.

As our nation’s future president, we hope that you will take our concerns under advisement when nominating our next Secretary of Agriculture because of the crucial role this Secretary will play in revitalizing our rural economies, protecting our nation’s food supply and our environment, improving human health and well-being, rescuing the independent family farmer, and creating a sustainable renewable energy future.

We believe that our nation is at a critical juncture in regard to agriculture and its impact on the environment and that our next Secretary of Agriculture must have a broad vision for our collective future that is greater than what past appointments have called for.

Presently, farmers face serious challenges in terms of the high costs of energy, inputs and land, as well as continually having to fight an economic system and legislative policies that undermine their ability to compete in the open market. The current system unnaturally favors economies of scale, consolidation and market concentration and the allocation of massive subsidies for commodities, all of which benefit the interests of corporate agribusiness over the livelihoods of farm families.

In addition, America must come to understand the environmental and human health implications of industrialized agriculture. From rising childhood and adult obesity to issues of food safety, global warming and air and water pollution, we believe our next Secretary of Agriculture must have a vision that calls for: recreating regional food systems, supporting the growth of humane, natural and organic farms, and protecting the environment, biodiversity and the health of our children while implementing policies that place conservation, soil health, animal welfare and worker’s rights as well as sustainable renewable energy near the top of their agenda.

Today we have a nutritional and environmental deficit that is as real and as great as that of our national debt and must be addressed with forward thinking and bold, decisive action. To deal with this crisis, our next Secretary of Agriculture must work to advance a new era of sustainability in agriculture, humane husbandry, food and renewable energy production that revitalizes our nation’s soil, air and water while stimulating opportunities for new farmers to return to the land.

We believe that a new administration should address our nation’s growing health problems by promoting a children’s school lunch program that incorporates more healthy food choices, including the creation of opportunities for schools to purchase food from local sources that place a high emphasis on nutrition and sustainable farming practices. We recognize that our children’s health is our nation’s future and that currently schools are unable to meet these needs because they do not have the financial resources to invest in better food choices. We believe this reflects and is in line with your emphasis on childhood education as a child’s health and nutrition are fundamental to their academic success.

We understand that this is a tall order, but one that is consistent with the values and policies that you advocated for in your bid for the White House. We realize that more conventional candidates are likely under consideration; however, we feel strongly that the next head of the USDA should have a significant grassroots background in promoting sustainable agriculture to create a prosperous future for rural America and a healthy future for all of America’s citizens.

With this in mind, we are offering a list of leaders who have demonstrated a commitment to the goals that you articulated during your campaign and we encourage you to consider them for the role of Secretary of Agriculture.

The Sustainable Choice for the Next U.S. Secretary of Agriculture

  1. Gus Schumacher, Former Under Secretary of Agriculture for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Former Massachusetts Commissioner of Agriculture.
  2. Chuck Hassebrook, Executive Director, Center for Rural Affairs, Lyons, NE.
  3. Sarah Vogel, former two-term Commissioner of Agriculture for the State of North Dakota, attorney, Bismarck, ND.
  4. Fred Kirschenmann, organic farmer, Distinguished Fellow, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Ames, IA and President, Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, Pocantico Hills, NY.
  5. Mark Ritchie, current Minnesota Secretary of State, former policy analyst in Minnesota’s Department of Agriculture under Governor Rudy Perpich, co-founder of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.
  6. Neil Hamilton, attorney, Dwight D. Opperman Chair of Law and Professor of Law and Director, Agricultural Law Center, Drake University, Des Moines, IA.

Sign Petition