French Fridays with Dorie
I have this fantasy/memory playing out in my head about French cooking and how it is prepared. Its seeds were planted when I took a family vacation to France as a teenager. Our family was hosted by a business associate of my father and his very elegant wife. Their names were Paul and Giselle. To understand Giselle you had to pronounce her name as she pronounced it: “zhee ZELL”. My California ears couldn’t get enough of the sound of her name and I would try to come up with as many ways as I could to either get her to say it again or say it myself so I could practice. They had a lovely home in Paris but my fantasy was kicked off during the weekend we were guests at their country house. The house came complete with renovated barn, flower garden (traditional and cut flower annexes) and a huge vegetable garden in which my fantasy would find its ultimate fuel.
Paul’s voice and accent sounded just like Maurice Chevalier’s and Giselle just had to be herself to one of the most elegant woman I had ever seen before. I could barely understand a
word they said but it didn’t matter. If your only experience of them was what we had seen in Paris then you would have thought their farmhouse was just for show. Then they went to work. While entertaining us and pouring for us the most amazing Pinot Noir they went about cooking our afternoon meal. Paul (the businessman I had seen just two days earlier dressed in an impeccable business suit disappeared to the hen house to kill and prepare a chicken while Giselle (who clearly was no stranger to Hermes) put on her big sun hat and garden gloves, headed to the vegetable garden to harvest the rest of our lunch. Then in front of our very eyes the duo crafted the most amazing, fresh lunch without ever once checking a recipe or measuring an ingredient. Whatever it was they were making for us, it was as if they had done it so many times that it was second nature to them.
Giselle went about setting the table (while all sorts of things were cooking in the kitchen) with all sorts of amazing farm house type plates, napkins and cut flowers. I don’t remember what it was she made but when I saw this tart that Dorie chose for us to cook for this weeks French Friday’s with Dorie it conjured up my images of this lunch. It symbolizes so much of what I remember about casual French cooking – Giselle style. Simple ingredients, great taste, and a casual elegance once presented at the table. If I could ever commit a recipe to memory (I just can never seem to) it would be this one. I would then make it for friends in front of their very eyes while sipping wine, laughing, and setting the table and saying wonderful things in French.
Gerard’s Mustard Tart
adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s “Around My French Table”
This is what you will need:
- 3 carrots, trimmed and peeled
- 3 thin leeks, white and light green parts. Cut lengthwise in half and washed
- 2 rosemary sprigs
- 3 large eggs
- 6 T creme fraiche or heavy cream.
- 2 T Dijon style mustard
- 2 T grainy style mustard
- Kosher salt to taste
- 1 9 1/2 tart shell from your preferred recipe.
This is how you make it:
- Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a bakingsheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
- The carrots and leeks need to be cut into slender batons or sticks so 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. Your carrots will tell you how they want to be cut! but they end up close to 1/8- to ¼-inch-thick matchsticks. Cut the leek sin the same way.
- Pour in enough water into your steaming basket 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 crème fraîche or heavycream. Add the mustard, season with salt and white pepper. Taste and see if you want to add a little more of one or the other mustards but be careful to not make things too salty!
- 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 Gerard and Giselle would both prefer they were arranged attractively! Spokes coming out from the center of the tart would be nice! Top with the remaining rosemary sprig and give the vegetables a sprinkling of salt and a couple of turns of the peppermill.
- 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).
Put away this recipe, pour a glass of wine and pretend you did it all from memory.
My crust making experience for this dish is posted here . The rest of it was remarkably simple. Instead of the crème fraiche the recipe suggests I used a mix of heavy cream and a dollop of sour creme. It is the mustard that prevails here so don’t get hung up on this creamy ingredient should you make this. In fact, don’t get hung up on any ingredient if you make this! Giselle would not worry so neither should you.
( Note: In July 2011 this post was awarded “1st Place” at the 201 1 Orange County Fair in the “Personal Food Blog Post” category in the Culinary Arts division. Yeah, I didn’t know you could enter a blog post in a county fair but apparently you can. )