Our Verdict – “My Paris Kitchen”

Paris is one of my most favourite cities in the world, so I was very much looking forward to trying out David Lebovitz’s cookbook.This is one of several books that Lebovitz, an expat American in Paris and Parisian food blogger, has written.

The cookbook was good, but not great. As a faithful reader recently pointed out quite astutely, she could always tell when we like or don’t like a book based on how many posts we get up in one month. While we did try a couple of recipes, it hardly was the flurry of recipes we usually have.

I really did enjoy the short essays that went along with many of his recipes, explaining why he likes certain ingredients or recounting particular Parisian memories. I thought that made it more interesting than most cookbooks. I also loved all the photos of Paris, but then again, I’m a sucker for the City of Light.

Did I love this book? No. But I did enjoy it, and I plan to hang on to it for a little while longer.

“My Paris Kitchen”
Overall Grade (A- F): B (Maureen) We more or less liked everything I made, but sitting here now, there’s nothing that I look back on and think I must make again.
Best recipes: Maureen: Steak with Mustard Butter and French Fries.
Grade for Photography (A-F):  A
Any disasters? No
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Maureen: Bookshelf. If nothing else, I liked the pictures of Paris.

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Our Verdict – “My Paris Kitchen”

“Steak with Mustard Butter and French Fries” from “My Paris Kitchen”

IMG_8403Steak Night!
I can’t tell you how much our family loves steak night. But the family member who loves it most is our (newish) dog Buddy, who goes out of his mind when I’m cooking these glorious slabs of red meat.

(Fun fact: Buddy also gets super excited when he sees the small white bags from our butchers Drings. Because we get his weekly bone from there, he thinks every bag from there must be for him. Buddy is awesome because his happiness and enthusiasm for life– for white bags from the butchers or tennis balls or belly rubs– is infectious.*)

But I digress. Back to steak night. I realised as I was cooking the steaks they are the ultimate in quick delicious dinners. If you were only going to have  steak and a side salad, your dinner would be ready in 10 minutes. Take THAT Jamie Oliver.

However, in this case, I also made the french fries, which took much longer. I was skeptical that any fries I could make would be good, but alas, I was wrong. I followed the instructions carefully and actually, it wasn’t as big a faff as I thought it would be. While preparing the potatoes it helped that I got fully distracted by listening to a debate on Radio 4 about Brexit while I was cutting all of the frites, so that helped enormously, as that’s the most fiddly part of the process.

Be warned, though: If you want to make these fries, start well in advance, as after you’ve done all the peeling and the chopping, you have to soak out the fries for one hour in cold water, and then bake them for another 45 minutes. This is not a speedy process, but the end result was a delicious tray of frites. So much so that I was worried that they would never make it to the table, since everyone seemed to be stealing them off the baking tray while I was finishing the steaks.

The mustard butter was a triumph, but only if you happened to be over the age of 17. The boys were not at all tempted to use it, let alone try it. Perhaps they didn’t want their steaks to be adulterated in any way. Who knows. But we didn’t care, because that meant there was more for us.

All in all, steak night was a resounding success. Or, to be more accurate, it was a resounding success for everyone who got to eat it. For Buddy the dog, he was left to lick his lips and give us mournful eyes during dinner. Better luck next time, Buddy.

To make this yourself, click through this link to find the recipe on Tastebook.

*For the dog fans among you, [non-dog fans can skip this addendum] here’s a recent snap of Buddy in his favourite place in the whole wide world. Greenwich Park. Luckily, he goes there every day, which means his infectious happiness level is maintained. He’s a lab-cocker spaniel mix. His tongue really isn’t that big, it just looks enormous in this particular picture because he was trying to catch his breath during our morning run.

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“Steak with Mustard Butter and French Fries” from “My Paris Kitchen”

“Herbed Fresh Pasta” from “My Paris Kitchen”

IMG_2564I’m not really sure what fresh pasta has to do with a Paris kitchen, but David Lebovitz says in the introduction that he can’t say the French word for noodles (nouilles) so he skirts around the issue by making fresh pasta. It seems to me that he’s going to a lot of trouble to not say one word, but I can also appreciate how some French words are tricky to say, so I guess I can understand.

We have made fresh pasta before– we’ve even got the pasta maker (see photo above)– but it’s been a while. It’s been so long since we made it that I had to excavate it from the back of little-used cabinet. I couldn’t even guess when the fresh pasta making occurred, but my memory of past episodes was that it took an entire afternoon and it was a real pain to do. It’s hard to justify spending hours making something when you can get pretty decent pasta in your local shop, so that’s probably why we haven’t done it in a long time.

But we were pleasantly surprised at how straightforward this was. The drying of pasta step, which used to stymie us in the past, is skipped, so that may have made it that much easier. Also, the first mix of flour, semolina and eggs was done in the food processor, rather than by hand, which also made it a bit easier. The second kneading step, though, was done by hand.

The semolina we used was a bit dry, so we had to use more water so the dough wouldn’t be dry. You’re warned that might be the case, so we didn’t panic. For the herbs, we used a mix of parsley and thyme, which worked a treat when we paired it with the chicken piccata we had as a main.

Would we make this again? Absolutely. We’ve even moved the pasta maker into a more accessible location so we can do it again soon.

“Herbed Fresh Pasta” from “My Paris Kitchen”

“Chicken Lady Chicken” from “My Paris Kitchen”

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Kirstin: So I had to spatchcock a chicken for this recipe. It was much easier than I thought it would be and curiously satisfying. Clearly I missed my calling as a surgeon!

Tom: Ha!

Kirstin: So what do you think? It’s called Chicken Lady Chicken so it had to be tried with a name like that.

Tom: Oh yum! I love the way the skin comes out!

Miles: Oh YUM!

Tom: Is it cooked with the weight on it too?

Continue reading ““Chicken Lady Chicken” from “My Paris Kitchen””

“Chicken Lady Chicken” from “My Paris Kitchen”

“Carrot Cake” from “My Paris Kitchen”

IMG_8335Carrot cake is practically a religion unto itself in our house. We have it every year for Thanksgiving without fail, and there’s always at least one occasion, if not more, where it’s called for again during the year.

Personally, I love everything about carrot cake. There’s the quasi-healthfulness of it, given that one of its main ingredients is sugar carrots. There’s the delicious cream cheese icing, which is always a treat. Finally, there’s the rustic combination of multiple spices and nuts, giving it its unique taste.

We are, in short, fans.

So I was not at all surprised when Tim was paging through this month’s book looking for what he wanted me to make him for his birthday when he landed on the carrot cake page. Although I’ve devised and used (and shared many times) a full-proof recipe for carrot cake for a few years now, he thought it might be worth giving a different version a go.

As I was making this cake with my 10-year-old niece, she turned to me and said, “Vegetables in cake! There’s no way I’m going to eat this now that I know what’s inside it.”

Trust me, she changed her mind once it was brought to the table in all its magnificent glory.

How did this carrot cake stack up against the other cake we know and love and I’ve made dozens of times? Well…The reaction was decidedly mixed.

I’ll proceed in a Praise Sandwich, so that if David Lebovitz happens to read this, he won’t feel bad.

The Good Points:

•The cake was moist;

•The flavour of the carrot cake was delicious (albeit not different from the one I usually make, but still good);

The “Development*” Points:

*Euphemism for things we didn’t like

• The icing was a combination of cream cheese and mascarpone and a tiny bit of icing sugar. We didn’t like it at all. We much prefer the traditional cream cheese icing I made. Worse, because there was so little sugar in it and I couldn’t fit it in the refrigerator (see below), the icing went moldy after a few days and I had to throw half of the cake away. A crying shame, I tell you.

• The cake was huge. Huge. HUGE. Way too big, and I say that as a person who loves cake.  Had it been a more reasonable size, I might have been able to fit it into the refrigerator. Then it wouldn’t have gone bad and I wouldn’t have had to throw half of it away. Not to repeat myself, but it really was a crying shame.

Finally, the other side of the Praise Sandwich:

• Everybody liked it. Even my niece who said she wouldn’t eat it when we were preparing it.

In short, while this was nice, I won’t be making this again. I’ll just revert back to my usual well-loved recipe.

“Carrot Cake” from “My Paris Kitchen”

“Chicken with Mustard” from “My Paris Kitchen”

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When we were on our honeymoon, one of our stops was Dijon, France. I can still remember going into the local market and seeing one seller with hundreds of different mustards. As a young American abroad, this was surprising to me, mainly because I thought mustard only came in two different varieties: bright yellow –best on hot dogs– or when you were feeling fancy, grainy. Little did I know the vast variety of mustards available.

Mustard in more than two varieties was one of many things I learned that September while we were journeying around France. The long list of some of the other things I learned on this trip are probably best saved for a post another time, but chief among them was a love of French food, especially goat cheese and escargot, which remain to this day.

So this dish brought me back, in a small way, to our honeymoon 20 years ago. It feels as though you couldn’t get more French than with a classic combination of chicken and mustard. Yum.

This is another one-pot marvel, which is always a good thing. It’s also the star of the cookbook’s cover, and with good reason. You can very nearly smell it when you look at the picture. We had it for a birthday dinner, and it was a huge success (aside from my niece, who doesn’t like mustard at all). I’m sure we will have it again.

Now not only do I appreciate a good mustard, but I love all of the variations available as well. A few years ago in France, I came across tarragon mustard, which was lovely, and became a new favourite. Unfortunately, it’s also impossible to find here in the U.K. So I guess I just have to return to stock up on it. Sigh.

If you’d like to make this yourself, the Washington Post printed the recipe. Click through this paragraph to read it.

“Chicken with Mustard” from “My Paris Kitchen”