We have this sort of unofficial supper club with some of our Chester County residing Shipley friends. Last night, we were treated to dinner at the home of one of these friends. We all went to France via Chester County because another guest at the table was renown local chef, (an actual honest to goodness amazing French Chef) Sylvie Ashby.
Chef Sylvie lives in West Chester. She was born and raised in Normandy, France. She always wanted to share the love and passion for French cooking and comfort food the French traditional way by only using seasonal fresh produce and meats from the local markets.
Last evening’s dinner was one of my favorite meals ever. I grew up on bœuf bourguignon or beef Burgundy or bœuf à la Bourguignonne is not some ordinary stew, as delicious as they may beef. It is elevated far beyond that and if done properly like last night, the meat does not disintegrate but melts in your mouth. Last night, it was probably hands down the best I have ever had.
We started with hors d’oevres of belgian endive boats piped with a light and fluffy goat cheese, goat cheese toasts, and one of my favorite purely French treats I have never made, gougères! Gougères are these fluffy puffs of warm pastry made with Gruyère cheese. (Check out this recipe for gougères from Alain Ducasse.)
After our main course of bœuf bourguignon we had a marvelous salad with fresh greens and a delightful vinaigrette with an amazing blood orange infused olive oil from a Taste of Olive in West Chester. And the bread? Amazing as always from La Baguette Magique in West Chester.
The beef and cheese were also locally sourced. I forget whose goat cheeses we had, and
Chef Sylvie Courtesy Photo
I do not know the farm name for the beef but for some reason I think it was from down near Landenberg.
And dessert? Channel your inner Julia Child, it was Floating Island! Floating Island is a light as a feather dessert consisting of meringue floating on crème anglaise. The crème anglaise is custardy and delicious. Chef Sylvie finished the dessert with a light caramel drizzle.
This dinner was a true mini vacation to France. I love when we get together to have dinner with our friends, and we loved being introduced to Chef Sylvie.
And guess what? You too can hire Chef Sylvie to bring the taste of France to your home for intimate gatherings. Chef Sylvie specializes in French country cooking, bringing France to the comfort of your own home for private dinner parties. And her prices are emminently reasonable. She also will cater events like birthday parties, Girls ‘night out, Crepes bar party, Book Clubs, Wine Clubs…her website is cuisinedesylvie.com . You can also find her on Facebook Cuisine de Sylvie.
One thing I did not ask her is if she teaches cooking classes. I think that would be super fun!
I have never had the flu eight or nine days before… before now, that is. And I have had enough chicken soup to cluck. And yes, I make my own soup and bone broth (thanks Instant Pot!) so I know what is in it. Needless to say, I have made a serious dent in my freezer soup supply.
I need to eat something different for dinner, so since the Giant Peapod delivery got through yesterday’s snow and this morning’s roads (yes I do treat myself to this once in a while, no judging), my version of beef stew/ boeuf bourguignon is in the oven now doing the low and slow for a couple of hours.
This recipe will probably seem a little disjointed to some because it’s more like a guide to creating your own version versus a hard and fast recipe that is written down with precise measurements. Sorry, but it’s like when I am making fresh pasta – the measurements of flour I use depends on how the dough feels to me as I put it together.
It’s not hard to make this. It’s a 2 lb pack of stew meat, veggies, one can of crushed tomatoes, half a container of cooking broth, wine, herbs, spices, garlic salt and pepper. I used Herbes de Provence primarily. The fresh vegetables I used this time were mushrooms, two onions (one red and one sweet white), parsnips, small red potatoes, carrots, celery.
I tossed the beef cubes in a bowl with Wondra flour (yes the stuff that is the trick to a less lumpy gravy is also tremendous when you need to toss meat or chicken in flour for browning), Herbes de Provence, garlic, and a little kosher salt.
For this recipe I brown the meat in a combination of olive oil with a little added walnut oil. You go lightly on the walnut oil or the taste will overwhelm your dish. It’s just a couple small dashes and it adds a different flavor layer when you’re cooking.
I browned the beef for like 10 minutes in my big vintage Dansk stew pot or Dutch oven whatever you want to call it, and then added herbs and spices. The additional spices I added included cumin, sweet Hungarian or Spanish paprika (I keep both in my spice rack so it really just depends which I grab at the time), fresh black pepper, a little additional dried rosemary, and a nice pinch of the red chili pepper blend I get from Los Poblanos in New Mexico.
Then I add the onions, followed by the celery, parsnips, carrots, potatoes, mushrooms. I add a little more salt and pepper to the vegetables. Everything browns together for a little bit (like 10 more minutes) and then I add the tomatoes (1 28 ounce can of crushed) and a half of a bottle of wine. Only a couple of gifted and too upscale reds for stew were in the wine rack so today I used the Rioja Rose I keep in as a Sangria base. And a couple of dashes of Worcestershire Sauce. (I almost forgot!)
I let the alcohol cook off the wine slightly and then I added half a container of Swanson cooking broth. I also add a couple of pieces of orange peel (2″-3″ each- no white.)
I then turned off the stove and put into the pre-heated oven (covered and at 300°.)
It’s now in the oven for a couple of hours on a cook time timer which will shut the oven off completely when it hits two hours. This dish cooked covered in a slow oven, means flavors will meld together nicely.
I love stews and hearty soups in winter. Thanks for stopping by!
The humble roast chicken. A backbone of American cuisine. I am one of those people that loves roasted chicken. But I need to spice it up a little and not just roast it in the style of Julia Child all of the time.
So I have been experimenting with marinades that use plain Greek yogurt as a base. My favorite plain Greek yogurt is the Fage brand.
As I am especially pleased with today’s marinade so I thought I would share the approximate ingredients:
1 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
1 tablespoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon hot Hungarian paprika
Salt to taste (kosher is best in my opinion)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Dash or two of hot sauce/Tabasco
Combine marinade a greedy ingredients in a small bowl whisk well, taste for salt and set aside.
Take a 4 1/2 to 5 pound roasting chicken and butterfly it – basically you are cutting it in half and spreading it open so it lies flat.
Take butterflied chicken, put it in a large Ziploc freezer bag and dump the marinade on top. Squeeze all the air out of the bag and seal the bag and smoosh the marinade around. I then put this bag in a bowl and put it in the refrigerator for anywhere from five hours to overnight. I periodically smoosh the marinade around in the bag and turn the bag over so it coats evenly.
When ready to cook bring your chicken out of the refrigerator and remove from marinade and lay out flat in a roasting pan lined with onion slices. Discard the rest of the marinade. It has had raw poultry and it so you can’t use marinade for anything else.
The chicken goes into a preheated 350° oven skin side up and flat out for approximately 15 minutes per pound at 350° . I actually use a meat thermometer to check for proper doneness with poultry.
The chicken is delicious when you use a yogurt marinade. I will serve this with something like roasted carrots and a salad, or a wild rice mixture and a salad, or oven roasted potatoes and a salad.
So today was a pretty cool day. Today my frittata recipe which is being featured in The Epicurious Cookbook being released this October landed me on the front page of Epicurious.com, and while it doesn’t make me Julie Powell or Amanda Hesser or Ina Garten or Martie Duncan or Julia Child, my oh my it is still very cool to me :<}
Sooooooo….in the kitchen sink of it all, I have another recipe to post. Easy as pie. Make ahead and freeze, or make and eat the same day. And in case you are wondering why so many recipes end up as the kitchen sink of it all, it is simple: a lot of my recipes evolved out of what was fresh and in my kitchen needing to be used.
Kitchen Sink Chili
2 ears of corn – take kernels off the cob
1 onion (nice large and preferably sweet or red) chopped
2 LARGE cloves of garlic, minced
2 ribs of celery, minced
2 diced or chopped red bell peppers or red sweet peppers (sometimes they are long and red, not bell)
2 teaspoons each rough chopped: fresh basil, oregano, cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste
Jayshree Chili Powder (start with 2 tablespoons)
1 packet of Sazón Goya
1 teaspoon mild or sweet paprika (Spanish)
1/4 or 1/2 teaspoon hot paprika (Spanish)
1/4 teaspoon Chipolte chili powder
1 package ground turkey (28 oz)
3/4 lb. of beef round boneless chipped beef for a stir fry – chopped up small
1 15.5 oz can Goya small red kidney beans
1 15.5 oz can Goya black beans
1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes in puree (I like Red Pack or Tuttorosso)
1 15 oz can of Kuner’s of Colorado Southwestern Chili Tomatoes (or tomatoes of the same size can that have Mexican or Italian spices)
1 6 oz can tomato paste
Cook onion, garlic, celery in a Dutch Oven with canola oil ( a few tablespoons – like 5)- to this add chipolte powder, Sazón Goya, paprikas, salt.
Cook over medium to low heat until translucent.
Add red peppers and corn. Cook about 5 to 7 minutes then add beef. Cook about 8 minutes more. Add ground turkey and cook through – keep everything moving in the pan so it doesn’t stick – medium heat, incidentally.
When turkey cooks through add beans (which have been DRAINED of can liquids). Blend in.
Add tomato paste.
Add chili powder and herbs. Allow to come up to almost a boil and then reduce to a low simmer. Check and stir periodically to keep from sticking to bottom of pan. Taste a couple of times as well to adjust for seasoning – in case you wish to add more chili powder or salt and pepper.
Serve with your favorite chili extras…..chips, sour cream, shredded jack/cheddar, and so on…..
Julia Child would have been 100 today. PBS Digital Studios did this fun tribute.
In celebration of her 100th birthday, Julia Child Remixed by John D. Boswell, for PBS Digital Studios. Please support your local PBS station as they have many cool programs!
Visit pbs.org/food to join in the celebration, check out recipes and more. You can leave your own tribute to The French Chef by cooking a Julia recipe and sharing it on Facebook and Twitter with #CookForJulia.
Anyway, I grew up watching Julia Child on TV in black and white and I also have a couple of her books, including a vintage copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and her memoirs My Life in France.
Incidentally if you can master a few Julia classics, you can cook. She gives you bones. Her roast chicken recipe is still the best on the planet. My own roast chicken recipe uses hers as a base. – where my recipes are my own that I share, the basic techniques for my roast chicken recipe were learned from her basic roast chicken recipe. You see, a lot of chefs forget the basics, which as a related aside is why I love Ina Garten so much (The Barefoot Contessa). Like Julia Child, she is a big believer in basics. And in order to develop your own recipes, professional or home chef, you have to master some basics.
Any vegans in the room need to turn away from the page now. We’re talking chicken. And I love chickens. I am also a fan of Chickenman in West Vincent and am hoping he doesn’t get run over by the road master of West Vincent or the peace love and eminent domain lady and the lawyer of reinvention either.
But I digress. And besides, I bet Chickenman would love my home cooking as well as witty political repartee n’est–ce pas?
Back to cluck…so easy to wander down a rutty path towards politics when discussing chicken dinners. After all chicken dinners are the staple of most politicians.
And yes, as per above photo I do know where chickens come from. No, I will not be doing my version of Little House on The Prairie and fetching a chicken and slaying it for dinner. Mine came from the market.
It’s summer I don’t want to stuff anything except maybe the occasional tomato or deviled egg. But today has been thunderstorm city and who knows if it will keep on not raining or not, so oven it is.
I love roast chicken and this is the plan B roast chicken when you don’t feel like stuffing.
First I clean out my chicken and remove the gizzards (which I freeze for homemade stock another time.)
Then I June Cleaver it with my cleaver. Oh ok: translation: I place my raw chicken breast side down on a non-wooden cutting board and cleave her open (see photos). Then I place her breast side up and spread out on a little roasting rack in a pan I have lined with that half parchment half foil paper, foil side up (easier clean up – sorry – it is Friday and I don’t want to be slave to kitchen.)
Then I look for two little skin pockets that I help along with a little paring knife (see photo) and I stuff 4 cloves of garlic sliced under the skin (evenly on each side) along with the herbs I have handy and fresh outside – oregano, mint, thyme, rosemary, 2 bay leaves.
Then I channel my inner Julia Child but not to the point of Paula Deen and I rub the chicken with a pat of butter (ok so maybe it is like a tablespoon plus a smidgen.)
Then I rub on the skin salt, pepper, a little garlic powder, oregano, basil, smoked paprika, regular paprika, tarragon, cumin, and dried Valencia orange peel. Look, I don’t go THAT overboard, a dash or this and a dash of that until it smells good going in the oven. Omit what you don’t like.
Into a pre-heated 350 degree oven it goes. I have seen recipes that say different things with regard to the internal temperature and doneness, but I just let my meat thermometer do the thinking and when it says done for poultry I haul it out of the oven and rest the cluck for at least 15 minutes with foil on top. Tonight’s bird is 6.74 lbs. so it will cook about 2 to 2 1/2 hours at 350 degrees.
A note is halfway through I always sour a roast, whether it is chicken, turkey, pork, beef, etc. I sour it with whatever wine is open. I don’t drown it, just refresh it.
Tonight I have fresh corn and a salad to accompany my cluck.
Well, even out here where there is plenty of green and trees between houses, the misplaced sound of a buzz saw way before 8 a.m. will jar you awake. Such was the case with me, so I decided to get some baking out-of-the-way for later.
Heat oven to 325° F. Butter and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.
Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, granulated sugar, and lemon zest on medium-high until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Beat in 4 tablespoons of the lemon juice, then the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
Reduce mixer speed to low. Add half the flour mixture, then the yogurt, and then the remaining flour mixture. Mix just until combined (do not overmix).
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 65 to 75 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan for 30 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and 1 of the remaining tablespoons of lemon juice until smooth, adding the remaining lemon juice as necessary to create a thick, but pourable glaze.
Ok so above is the recipe straight. I fiddle with everything, and what I do here is I add the zest of TWO lemons to the batter, I add grated fresh ginger, and I do a lemon soak before the glaze;
My lemon soak is juice of 2 lemons, grated zest, 1 cup of confectioners’ sugar and a couple of tablespoons of a liqueur called Framboise (right now I have an US Framboise out of Bonny Doon Vineyards.)
What I do is I line my pan (or pans as the case may be) with parchment baking paper after I do the grease and flour, so I can hike the cake or cakes out the pan or pans.
Anyway, I cool the cake or cakes post baking for 10 minutes, maybe a few longer. Then I pull them out of the pan gently, peel down the parchment paper and allow to cool for 30 minutes all in all on a baking rack on clean parchment paper.
I then poke little fork holes up and down the cake (no need to make hamburger out of the top, so be neat!) and gently pour the lemon soak goodness over the top of the cake. You will see today where I have propped up the new clean parchment paper with a single toothpick on each end of my cakes so the lemony-sugary goodness doesn’t run all over.
After that has all soaked in and everything is set I will either make a glaze or light lemony flavored royal icing and drizzle it over the top, or I also sometimes just dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving and adorn my platter with fresh mint sprigs and nasturtium blossoms. Today I soaked, I adorned with lemon royal icing, dotted with Nasturtium blossoms and mint sprigs.
In other fun of the day, my arugula is growing unmolested, apparently the blasted squirrels only liked the lettuce.
And in the nesting of it all, thanks to Food Network I have discovered The Pioneer Woman. I am still not sure if her rancher hubby likes the cameras all over, but she has some terrific recipes. She has a website called (of course) The Pioneer Woman. I am also digging Trisha’s Southern Kitchen with Trisha Yearwood. Her website is here. I also love Barefoot Contessa, but she has been all re-runs lately. I used to watch Nigella Lawson a lot, but I got tired of the odd Euro pop music in the background and the fact they seemed to have an obsession with seeing her on camera raiding her fridge late at night. But she has some great recipes.
Cooking is also somewhat instinctual. Almost everyone in my family cooks. My late father was a fabulous cook. I had one grandmother who was Italian and one who was Pennsylvania German. I also learned a lot from an Italian Great Aunt, Millie, whom I still miss to this day. Millie was a trip and if she was worried about her figure, she used to cut out the coca cola that she used to have in the afternoon for a while. And my maternal grandmother? No one, not any diner on earth could make meringues on pies go as high or be as perfect as my mumma’s were.
As a kid, I soaked this all up. I did not realize at the time I was soaking it all up, but I did. My cooking style blends my heritage of Italian, Irish, and Pennsylvania German. I can go haute or keep it simple. I actually have a handful of recipes uniquely my own on Scribd, including my epicurious.com award winning Sunday Pasta Sauce – yes I actually won a contest on this!
I should probably write down more of my recipes, like my chocolate chip cookies or various incarnations of gnocchi, traditional bolognese, sweet potato soup, crab mac and cheese, cranberry sauces and chutneys, apple and fruit butters, and pies, salads, and such, but most of my cooking is out of my head – a little this, a little that, judging flavors and textures. And when I use recipes, I am bad, I will often have several recipes open and cook from multiple recipes at one time for one meal. I am also the cookie fiend at Christmas, so I am happy to adopt any old cookie tins as I find them, especially vintage ones. (Speaking of which, I need to start hunting for those tines soon – I gave too many away last year during cookie craze!)