Whew! It’s early Sunday afternoon. My morning started off very aggressively. I cleaned the baseboards throughout our home.
This is not my idea of fun. I would rather be cooking!
Trust me. This wasn’t an easy job. I had to get down on my hands and knees with a toothbrush! And three hours later, I feel as though the house is spanking clean and Holiday prep has officially begun!
The baseboards are now cleaned–as are all the vents in the house. I want to paint now!
That expensive Ethan Allen sofa in the living room, the one that has been discontinued so I can’t purchase additional slipcovers anymore, had seat cushions that saw better days. Considering the sofa is over ten years old it’s been holding up pretty well with the exception of the seat cushions.
Those cushions have seen better days for sure!
We did inquire at Ethan Allen if the cushions could be replaced. And for the price of over $900, they could. Someone would come to our home and fix the cushions right there. We decided to shop around.
And locally, right up the road, we found an upholstery place! We took the cushions there yesterday, at Bonaparte’s suggestion.
If you live in the Philly area, might I suggest saving this information should you need upholstery or draperies?
We explained that we needed the seat cushions replaced. The owner zipped open the cushions and told us that they were very well constructed and underneath the down part of the cushions, the foam was shot.
Mr. Basile, assessing the worn cushion!
He is replacing the foam in the cushions for the wonderfully affordable price of $200. That’s $700 less than Ethan Allen. We pick our cushions up next week.
Poor Chippy! He’s dazed and confused that his comfort cushions are temporarily unavailable!
It pays to shop around and to shop local businesses!
And Friday had me doing some sleuthing. One of Bonaparte’s friends told him about a new “French” restaurant that opened up in Wayne. La Jolie. He was also told that on one of the walls, is a poster-sized copy of a photograph that his grandfather, Jacques-Henri Lartigue was known for.
I’m pretty sure this is the poster of Renee Paris that JHL photographed is the one in La Jolie!
Naturally, this was intriguing to him and he asked me to call the restaurant to make dinner reservations for next weekend. But before I called, my wonderful Frenchman asked me to find out if the restaurant had Steak-Frites on the menu. Now—since this is a new restaurant, there is no website. This bothered me. A lot. I like to see a restaurant’s website. I worry if there is none!
We’ll be having dinner here next weekend. I hope the food is good.
So, with Chippy in tow, we drove into Wayne to check this place. I found the menu in the window, snapped a photo and called for reservations.
I think I’m becoming French by osmosis because I am not impressed with this menu. In a true French Bistrot, items like sweetbreads, brains, and kidneys would be available. And yes, I am the person who would order those items!
Yeah. That would be me taking photos of the menu. How else am I gonna find out what is served since La Jolie has NO website!
But, as a new restaurant and pretty-much local, I’m looking forward to dining there. I’ll probably order the rabbit!
I’m not kidding you when I tell you how serious Bonaparte was when he asked if I could find out if steak-frites was served. He lives for this dish and that’s how he judges any French restaurant.
Being married to a Frenchman is a very unique experience when it comes to food. There’s food and then there’s food. The meals we eat during the week tend to be very simple. He works all day and wants to relax in the evening. Weeknight dinners are quick and easy.
But when the weekend comes, it’s a different story.
We dine. And I recreate his favorite French meals. Thankfully, I love doing this. Sometimes, he’ll suggest a dish that he wants. Even though pizza isn’t a French dish, the French do love them their pizza. It has to be a super-thin crust and with traditional toppings. No Hawaiian pizza with the ham and pineapple. Instead, a simple Margherita pizza is the favored choice.
Now—I’ve never made a home-made pizza before. I’m not a fan of pizza. At all. And on the rare occasions when I do eat pizza, it has to be white. As much as I love tomatoes, I cannot stand tomato sauce.
Anyway, Bonaparte asked me if I could try making pizza. I took the challenge and was inspired by his suggestion. I found a great pizza dough on the site Epicurious, made the dough a day ahead and on Friday night, we had a pizza dinner. Anchovies were added to B’s pizza; mine had home-made pesto and cheese.
Bonaparte was thrilled with the pizza I made for him. This is a keeper!
I, too, was happy. Happy with my pesto pizza.
The verdict? B loved the pizza so much that he requested it be placed on a regular Friday evening rotation.
Last night’s feast was Magret de Canard, duck breasts, with an orange sauce, as requested by Monsieur Lartigue. Now—I love duck but I’m not crazy about oranges. I love orange blossom perfume, but the round orb of citrus is not my fruit of choice. Then I thought about my dad’s favorite meal—Duck L’Orange, he ordered it whenever he and my mom went out for dinner. And I thought—ok. I’ll look for a recipe for the sauce.
Ahhhh. Duck breasts! I call it the steak of game! I wish it weren’t so pricey though!
Overwhelmed by the huge amount of orange sauce recipes, I figured screw it, I’ll create my own. And because of B’s request and the fact that my dad loved duck in orange sauce, both men inspired me to create my own sauce.
B’s only suggestion for the sauce was that it contain Grand Marnier. It gets good.
Off I went into the kitchen. I had my herbs, thyme, and rosemary and tied them together so they could infuse the sauce. Fresh oranges for the juice and slices; marmalade; shallots; chicken stock; butter; and Cointreau rounded up the ingredients. Bonaparte was running errands and I couldn’t find the Grand Marnier. No big deal because Cointreau is orange flavored.
I reduced the sauce until it was a good syrupy consistency. I tasted it. This was some good stuff-why hadn’t I been a fan of orange sauce? When B returned home, I asked him to try the sauce. His eyes were focused on the Cointreau bottle on the counter. He went into French mode and was almost crying because I hadn’t used the Grand Marnier. I dunno—he was mumbling in French that Cointreau wasn’t the same as Grand Marnier.
My Orange Sauce. I took the herbs out before serving. I have to say, this tasted pretty darned good!!
My face said it all, and he tasted the sauce without the Grand Marnier. He loved it! I knew I had a winner! And when he asked that I make more sauce, I added the Grand Marnier.
With this I served spinach and the Pommes de Terre that was inspired by the restaurant over on Place Dauphine that we regularly visit—Chez Paul.
Did I mention the potatoes are cooked in Duck fat? Last night’s feast!
But before the main plate, our entrée was the salmon rillettes that I make that are inspired by Chef Eric Ripert’s salmon rillettes.
I wonder if Chef Eric Ripert realizes how much of an inspiration his salmon rillettes are for me. It is now a regular rotation on our chateau’s menu!!!
These are always served with the Pullman loaf bread that I make on a weekly basis. The bread, toasted, serves as a strong base for this wonderful and easy starter!
Home-baked bread and Ripert-inspired Salmon Rillettes. What could be better?
Dessert was very special and was inspired by French pastry chef, Jacques Genin. Let me explain this one. I’ve been bingeing on the new season of “Mind of a Chef”—I’ll get back to this. Jacques Genin has a patisserie in Paris. He creates chocolates, sweets, and fabulous desserts.
Oh, if only this guy knew that he inspired me to make a dessert. I don’t know how he would feel!
One of the desserts he is known for is the Paris-Brest, a choux pastry shaped like a wheel and filled with Hazelnut and almond praline cream.
Jacques Genin’s Paris-Brest looks a lot better than mine! This is his!
Always on the search for a great Christmas dessert, I thought I would challenge myself and if it worked out, it could be one of the desserts for Christmas dinner.
I carefully made the praline paste on Friday.
I made a brittle out of the hazelnuts and almonds. Then I processed until a buttery paste was formed…
Vanilla pastry cream was made next…
I whipped the pastry cream and added the praline paste. Then I whipped heavy cream and folded the two to get this luscious praline cream filling!
The choux pastry before the oven and after baking. Then I split the “wheel” in half and filled with the cream!
Yesterday I made the choux pastry and after dinner filled it. OK. So, it didn’t turn out looking as beautiful as Jacques Genin’s, but it tasted great and the praline cream was freaking amazeballs! This dessert was a hit with my Frenchman and I will be making it for Christmas. Now that I can say I’ve worked out any glitches, I know the next one will be more beautiful to the eyes!
The finished Paris-Brest. It isn’t perfect, but the taste was incredible! I’m proud of myself for this one…
The praline cream was so good that I’ll be making more to fill some cream puffs that I’ve got in the freezer!
Don’t ever be afraid to try this. I got the recipe from Epicurious but I will be tweaking the next one. I want the cream to be a bit thicker! Epicurious Paris Brest recipe.
Genin’s inspiration came from Season Five of “Mind of a Chef”. This season’s focus is on Chef Ludo Lefebvre. However, when I saw that Paris-Brest dessert, I had to try making it.
It’s funny because Bonaparte reminded me that my first attempt at making his favorite dessert of all time, Crème Caramel, was a complete fail. So was the second and third and fourth. For some reason, I just could not get the caramel right nor could I get the baking time correct. The fifth attempt was a charm. I took my time and realized not all ovens are alike. I adjusted the cooking time and the result was a perfect crème caramel—which I regularly make without thinking!
Creme Caramel. I thought I would never get this right–and after a few attempts, I did! Don’t give up!
It takes time and practice, practice, practice until you get it right! And when you are both determined and married to a Frenchman, you try until you do get it right! I’m French-trained–by Bonaparte!
Chef Ludo Lefebvre and his cute-as-a-button wife, Kristine. Hey. She knows what it’s like to be married to a Frenchman!
Hmmmm….who will be my inspiration for tonight?
Tonight’s inspiration will be from Chef Ludo.
Besides his great cooking, I’ve never seen a Frenchman with teeth as perfect has Chef Ludo’s!!!
His omelette. French style. There are no brown edges or an overdone middle in this recipe. It is a barely cooked in the center and the outside of the omelette is shiny and yellow. The middle filled with Boursin cheese. Sounds easy but it isn’t. It’s a feat to get that omelette to undercooked perfection. And that’s ok because I’ve got a dozen eggs that I can practice on!
I’m wondering if perfecting this omelette will take as many times as perfecting my creme caramel? I hope not!
Some food for thought–who inspires you to cook? Are you inspired by others to cook?
Here’s a great video. It’s Chef Ludo with Jacques Genin and his Paris Brest. From Season 5 of “Mind of a Chef”. I highly suggest watching this season on Netflix. You’ll end up bingeing!