Cooking for the Frenchman. Who Inspires Me?

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!


About Catherine

Far from perfect, but enjoying life as a non-perfect and flawed individual at 60 years young. I'm still wondering what I'll be when I grow up! The characters in my life's screenplay include my better half. He is a refined Frenchman who grew up in Paris and summered in St. Tropez. I grew up in Long Island and summered in Long Island. I am not refined. My three grown children are also a big part of my life. For their sake, they happily live where their careers have taken them! But I can still mother them from a distance! I write about the mundane. I write about deeply shallow issues. But whatever I write or muse about--it'll always be a bit on the humorous and positive side! It's all good!
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41 Responses to Cooking for the Frenchman. Who Inspires Me?

  1. Catherine, you are amazing. Cleaning the base boards and cooking French meals! Wow. You go girl. Love all your photos, and well done on making an orange sauce that your hubby liked! Way to go. – Amy

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Ames!!!! Thank you!! Those baseboarhds needed to be cleaned so badly. Thank God I am able to bend down–my back isn’t hurting and I’m grateful!! Yeah. As my son Jake said “I wish you met Vincent when we were younger”..French cooking makes the entire family happy!!! XOXOXOXO!!!!

  2. angelin2014 says:

    My 22year old son is a huge inspiration! He keeps mailing me links to Youtubevideos with recipes he wants us to try out together when he is Home from University:) often enough it is Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsey or some other Youtube-chef. We made a nice meatloaf with mac’n’cheese a la Terry Crews this weekend. Personally I prefer a fusion of different cuisines and I’ll happily mix Swedish, Italian, Asien and French. Finding inspiration in Cooking-shows and cookbooks. Cooking is such a relaxing thing!!

    • Catherine says:

      Angelin. Your son has good taste! I’m a huge Jamie Oliver fan. I subscribe to his website. He’s got great recipes! The things you can find on youtube!!!!! Like you, I find cooking to be incredibly relaxing too!!! XOXOXOXO!!!!

  3. Anna says:

    Love your blog Catherine. Always inspirational.

  4. Debe says:

    My gosh I bow to you …..your meals are amazing! All my restaurants are on speed dial!

    My sister says my kitchen looks like a show room. No I do not cook much. And I am half Italian go figure that one out!

    However, for the holidays I am free to swing by!!!!


    • Catherine says:

      Debe. How can you be half-Italian and not cook much!!! The women and men that I know that have even just a touch of Italian blood in them are constantly cooking..LOL!!! Come on over–there’s always room for one more!!! XXOXOXOXO!!!!

  5. This food is gorgeous!

  6. Juliet says:

    I love food – I am a total gannet. My 89yr old mother still grows most of her veg and her fruit, when Christchurch had their 2011 earthquake, mum emptied her freezer amongst the neighbours (the supermarkets were all shut/flattened/caput), another neighbour fired up a bbq, another one had loads of meat and fish he caught and another one offered wine… So she inspires me, grow it and eat it and be unafraid to try new fruit/veg and be grateful for it – eat the good stuff and enjoy it. OK I cant grow what she grows in this climate – but, I love trying new things and there are so many fantastic food writers out there. Yotam Ottolenghi, Diana Henry, Clotilde Dusoulier, David Lebovitz, Peter Gordon, Giorgio Locatelli… in essence I rarely follow recipes for dinner – I will read them, ponder them a bit and then just crack onwards and do something along those lines, I tend towards a lot of salad – that sounds lazy but really a salad is basically taking veg and just celebrating their best qualities without too much titivation, I am going to explore your sauces a bit more though – they sound amazing (my favourite apart from making gravy as that is kind of calming, would be a bearnaise – I just adore tarragon), apart from that a lot of risotto or I quite like making a roast – because then I can make stock and squirrel it away from future risotto and soup, I am a stock obsessive, and I love my greens and my herbs. Baking however is more of an issue – the daughter is intolerant to milk and wheat which is a total nightmare as it happened in the last couple of years, so that leaves three of us – Nr1 child loves banana cake which makes me heave (I have a slight issue with bananas in general, gah they are horrific things), I tell you making that is an act of utter love and it is hard to beat bananas/eggs at arms length and not make a mess. I make a pretty good pavlova however (but then as a Kiwi we claim we invented it – whereas Aussies claim THEY invented it, it is kind of written into our nationality that you have to make a decent pav, however I really am not a huge fan of the thing – but shhhhhh dont tell anyone, it’s a secret 🙂 )

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Juliet. Wow! Your mom sounds like the coolest woman!! I’m so sorry but I found the fact that you can’t stand bananas so funny! And pavlova–yeah, it is soooooooooooooooooo good!!! Bonaparte loves a good Bearnaise and will request that I make it when we have steak– a lot!!! Tarragon is the herb of the gods!!! XXXOXOXOXO!!!!

  7. Catherine says:

    Love this post! Wish I had the patience to cook like this. Everything looks so good. Maybe you should write a cookbook?

  8. Momcat says:

    Sad commentary on our times but I am inspired by Pinterest….sometimes inspired to throw up but there some very good boards up there too. I have cooked my whole life and was trained in professional kitchens before embarking on the less exciting role of a hospital nutritionist. I don’t cook as much as I used too…like you I leave the complicated recipes for the weekend. I am gearing up for the Holidays…in Canada we get Thanksgiving out of the way in October so cleaning and organizing :p baking, planning meals etc can get started now.. ( I am making your biscotti again this year they were such a hit last Christmas)
    Over the next few years my inspiration will definitely be that 8lb 5oz ball of cuteness that arrived Nov 2 who is my grandson. Kids love messing about in the kitchen but I will be far less OCD about it than I was with my boys….blessings of getting older I guess. I don’t mind the mess.
    I have cans of duck rillets from Québec in my pantry. I love duck it’s very popular in Québec ( famous Brome Lake duck) I don’t find it crazy expensive but it’s not something we eat often. I had duck wings ( instead of chicken wings) at a pub in Trois Rivière a few years ago they were soooo good. Now I want to make those salmon rillets they look really good.
    Do they keep in the fridge very long or do you make them before serving? Would they last a week or a few days chilled?

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Momcat. OMG. Pinterest is great for inspiration. Don’t apologize for that at all!! And your 8 pound 5 oz. bundle of joy–you’re so lucky!!!!!!!!!!! I want a nugget like that someday!!
      I’ll be making the biscotti in about three weeks time to prep for Christmas. That’s the great thing about Biscotti–they last forever!
      The salmon rillettes–they stay in the fridge for about two weeks. No problem. No problem at all!! I’m going to be making pork rillettes this week for a trial run!! As long as the house is cleaned–its a go!!! XOXOXOXOXO!!!!

  9. Marsha says:

    You are such an inspiring lady. I love your blog posts, and am in awe of all your talents and energy. You and Bonaparte seem to be a match made in heaven.

    • Marsha says:

      Oh, and kudos to you for searching out someone who can modify your cushions. I have a Mitchell Gold sofa that is only two years old, and a repair person recommended by Mitchell Gold told me that the sofa needs to be higher and the cushions filled more. Looking forward to having that done.

      • Catherine says:

        Wait. You have a TWO year old Mitchell Gold sofa and it needs to be refilled and higher. Please tell me the company is going to do this gratis!!! The price of furniture is investment pricing–at that point we should not have to pay for fixing something two years old!!!! XOXOXOXOXO!!!

  10. LA CONTESSA says:

    BASEBOARDS…………..OH GOD, I have been wanting to clean my heat vents for TWO YEARS!!!!!I’m better off flying you and THE FRENCHMAN OUT WEST!!!!!!!
    FOR your pizza BIANCA try just olive oil,salt and rosemary!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    This is great with a slice of PROSCUITTO on TOP as a sandwich…………



    • Catherine says:

      Elizabeth! I am loving your suggestion for Pizza Bianca! Since we will have pizza next Friday, I will try your way!!! Yeah. The upholstery guy!!!!! XOXOXOXOXO!!!!

  11. Deb says:

    Ok, I am embarrassed to admit that my take-away from your AMAZING post today was……….I MUST KNOW HOW YOU CLEAN YOUR BASEBOARDS! Down on knees, scrubbing, toothbrush….with what cleaning solution? Anything else I need to know? Pretend that maybe You are talking to someone who has NEVER cleaned their baseboards (at least never properly cleaned them). Help!

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Deb. I used warm water and a bit of Meyer’s soap. That’s it. I also used plenty of paper towels too!!! Sorry to be so late in answering but your comment went into the pending area. XOXOXOXOXO!!!!

  12. Fiona says:

    Your Paris Brest looks magnifier Cathe, I wouldn’t know where to start and plus, I don’t own a good processor. And you’ve cleaned the skirting boards! Bonaparte has married a domestic goddess.

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Fiona. Surpirsingly, he liked the dessert better last night than Saturday. I liked the softer texture. So much for eating choux pastry immediately! Oh god. My nails were ruined from all that cleaning. I just got back from a manicure. I feel human again!!!! XOXOXOXO!!!!

  13. Fiona says:

    Aargh! Magnifique!!! …Bloody predictive text!

    • Catherine says:

      Fiona. Damned autocorrect. It’s so bad on my phone. There is a glitch with apple and now when I go to type the letter “I” a question mark appears. I hate technology!!! XOXOXOXO!!!

  14. kelly says:

    I have yet to find a pizza sauce I like, what did you use on your Frenchman’s pizza? I’m trying your pizza dough recipe soon, I bought the yeast yesterday!

    • Catherine says:

      Kelly. This is so awful. I bought a little can of DelMonte tomato sauce and added garlic, pepper, basil and oregano to it. I am not a fan of tomato sauce and couldn’t see making a huge pot when it is just the two of us!!! Let me know how the pizza turns out!!! XOXOXOXO!!!!

  15. bluetulips says:

    OMG Catherine, it is 10.30pm here and now I am hungry. I can cook, follow recipes, but I don’t love cooking, I hate washing up!!!!! Though I need to pay more attention when my mum does her olives, Greek sweets etc.

    • Catherine says:

      Dianne. You are so lucky that your mom does all those traditional Greek dishes. It makes me want to get on a plane and fly to Australia and have her teach me!!! XOXOXOXO!!!!

  16. Yvonne says:

    You my dear are amazing. So skillful and organised to create so many difficult French dishes. The piece de resistance is the Paris Brest. Bonaparte is so very fortunate that he has his own personal Alice Waters.

  17. Barbara says:

    Your energy level is amazing.
    We use to say that such a person is “sleeping with their fingers in a plug socket” ;-))

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Barbara!! OMG. I feel like I have no energy these days compared to when the kids were younger. I never had a moment to myself. It’s inching in on the holidays so I’ll be running like the Energizer bunny from now till December 25!! XOXOXOXOXO!!!!

  18. Sandra says:

    The Paris-Brest looks yummy! Did you know that this dessert was created in honor of the Paris to Brest bicycle race from the late 19th century to resemble a bicycle tire? Chapeaux!

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Sandra. I found that out when I saw the episode of Mind of a Chef. I think it’s so cool that a dessert was made in honor of him and to this day it is still an incredibly popular dessert!!! XOXOXOXO!!!!

  19. Cindylou says:

    You are such an inspiration! I made a roast duck 35 years ago and it took me 2 days to clean the oven! I think I will try duck a l’orange, it’s just the hubby and me now and I love duck(I usually order in restaurants). Now, if I could just get to those baseboards…

    • Cindylou says:

      PS, I live in the Los Angeles area and have been to Ludo’s Petit Trois, his very casual bistro. It is very tiny, no tables, only counters against the wall and facing the kitchen. The food and wine are excellent, the chicken, the onion soup. You would love it. My 32 yr old daughter has a crush on Eric Ripert-I’m going to try making salmon rillettes soon.

      • Catherine says:

        Cindylou. The beauty of that recipe is that you don’t have to cook the entire duck. We both love the duck breasts and they are so much easier to cook. I am a fan of roast duck but Bonaparte isn’t so the breasts are perfect. You’ll love the dish!
        You’re so lucky to have gone to Petit Trois. I asked my son, Jake, if he has gone yet and he hasnt. It’s also nice to hear that it really is an excellent restaurant. Yeah. Ripert is some serious French eye candy–I don’t blame your daughter. I’m telling you, the salmon rillettes are off the charts fantastic!!! XOXOXOXO!!!

  20. J says:

    Bonjour, Catherine! What a great picture of you, so cute (hope you don’t hate that word). A quick note to say I am about to send you an email about the book. The beginning of my email address is jlcodemo so it might go into your spam.

  21. My inspiration was Julia Child.She taught me how to make a souffle! I’ve studied cooking i Italy but failed pasta making. Come to my house and you can feel fulfilled cleaning my baseboards!

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