The Literate Chef

Posts Tagged ‘Paris’

East Side, East Side, All Around the Town

In General Articles on February 25, 2012 at 12:47 PM

It has been said that ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.’ We recently had occasion to visit two vastly different restaurants on the eastside of New York. L’Absinthe, a beautifully decorated brasserie located on the Upper East Side  that is evocative of Belle Epoque Paris, and Freemans, a funky and charming restaurant in the Bowery on the Lower East Side, that with its rough-hewn tables, wide floor boards and private rooms is suggestive of a Colonial American tavern.

Betty and I enjoyed a wonderful dinner at the former, which presents a classic brasserie menu including Foie de Veau, sautéed calf’s liver and Coq au Vin, chicken braised in red wine. The following morning we met our friends Colin and Bernadette for brunch at Freemans, where we enjoyed two outstanding appetizers, Devils on Horseback and a hot artichoke dip served with crisp French bread, followed by traditional brunch dishes with innovative twists.

We will be back to both restaurants in the near future, as each was memorable in its own right; food service and ambiance, all at a reasonable price. But in the meantime we decided to try to replicate the appetizers and the Coq au Vin and invited our friends Ed and Anne to be the guinea pigs. Being world travelers, fine cooks, and people who enjoy food and wine, they were the perfect dinner guests with whom to share these ventures.

The Devils on Horseback were the easiest to replicate, as our waiter at Freemans was forthright in responding to the question ‘what are they?’ The hot artichoke dip was a little more complicated and required some thought and experimentation, as it was obvious that cheese was an essential ingredient along with non-marinated artichokes. But what cheese, which fat and how much savory? According to our guests, we got it right.

The Coq au Vin was the most complicated, and in order to limit the preparation to a manageable amount of time and effort, as well as utilize ingredients that are readily available, the consultation of three cookbooks was necessary:  Mastering the Art of French Cooking, French Classics Made Easy and The Food of France. We think we got that right too, at least all of our plates were clean at the end of the meal.

The Coq au Vin required two bottles of Côtes du Rhône and we and our guests required another two bottles. As a very wise man once told me, ‘you can’t go wrong with a good bottle of Côtes du Rhône.’ He was absolutely correct. Bon appétit!

Midnight (and Calvados) in Paris

In General Articles on July 6, 2011 at 3:07 PM

It wasn’t until 1991, on my first visit to Paris, that I tasted Calvados. I had read about the famous apple brandy from Normandy in Hemingway’s books and had seen it being drunk by characters in the French films to which I was addicted in the 1950s and 60s. But I never had the occasion to order it, until actually sitting in a Parisian café in Montmartre, where it was the natural thing to do.

Montmartre, December 2, 2005

I had it again on subsequent visits to France, in 1992 when we visited our older daughter who was doing a semester abroad in Aix en Provence, where I sipped it watching the pedestrian parade along the Cours Mirabeau and again in 1999, on a trip to the Languedoc-Roussillon region and the Canal du Midi. The most recent occasion had been in 2005 in Paris where we celebrated our wedding anniversary. That time I brought a bottle of it back home with me. That bottle had been sitting unopened on my liquor shelf ever since, that is until last week.

Recently my wife and I saw the latest Woody Allen film, Midnight in Paris and, as was the case with the French films of the 50s and 60s, the characters were drinking Calvados. That’s when it hit me that I still had that imported bottle of Calvados, and it might be interesting to use it for cooking. So I began thinking…what goes well with apples, the essence of Calvados? Pork immediately came to mind, pork chops or roast pork is usually accompanied by applesauce, so voilà, pork chops and Calvados!

Okay, well then maybe I should also add apples to give the dish some substance, that way I can skip the side dish of applesauce. Next, I thought, caramelized apples would make it even sweeter. My wife joined the production by suggesting that I add raisins as well, since they frequently appear as a sweetener in gravy for baked ham.

This was beginning to come together; all it needed now was some herbs to further enhance the dish.  That part was easy, sage and rosemary each have a natural affinity to pork, thus, emerged my plan. Now it was just a matter of executing that plan and putting it all together.

I hope that you enjoy the result, Pork Chops Braised in Calvados, Caramelized Apples and Raisins, we certainly did! One of our readers recently asked for some fish recipes. Lest I be accused of having ichthyophobia please continue reading at: Fish is not Just for Fridays, Anymore.

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