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Recently while sifting through some photo files, I came across pictures from our trip to Paris back in 2013. Our journey exploring the streets of the City of Light seemed like just yesterday. How could it possibly have been eight years ago?
I remember the anticipation leading up to our trip – we had about three months to prepare for this maybe once-in-a-lifetime adventure. I say maybe because who knows? At the time, I knew a handful of French words like croissant and baguette. Then I found a fun, French language app and played its learning games every day until our departure. My hard work did not go unnoticed. My perfect pronunciation of Bonjour even fooled a Paris shop owner, “Excuse me, madam. I thought you were French,” she apologized.
I am still amazed by how much we were able to experience in just one week’s time. We visited landmarks such as the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Sacré-Coeur Basilica in Montmartre; gazed at fine works of art at the Louvre; toured The Palace of Versailles; explored the medieval city of Provins, and shopped along the Champs Élysées. We even stumbled upon the famous cookware shop, Dehillerin, which Ina Garten mentioned in her book “Barefoot in Paris.”
This brings me to the fabulous world of French food and drink. The most memorable were items or dishes we found in cafes and patisseries while out and about – fruited crepes, warm quiche Lorraine, and freshly baked baguettes slathered with butter and enjoyed with a lovely glass of Bordeaux.
Here are recipes for three of my favorite Paris-inspired dishes. Bon Appetit!
The first time I had this custardy, fruity dessert was actually not in Paris. It was at a fabulous French restaurant in Santa Fe, New Mexico named Clafoutis! The café’s namesake dessert is offered with a variety of fruit fillings.
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons pear brandy, such as Poire William
2 to 3 firm but ripe Bartlett pears
Heat oven to 375 F°. Butter a 10 x 1 ½-inch round baking dish and sprinkle the bottom and sides with 1 tablespoon of the granulated sugar.
Beat the eggs and the 1/3 cup granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. On low speed, mix in the flour, cream, vanilla extract, lemon zest, salt and pear brandy. Set aside for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, peel, quarter, core and slice the pears. Arrange the slices in a single layer, slightly fanned out, in the baking dish. Pour the batter over the pears and bake until the top is golden brown and the custard is firm, 35-40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with confectioners sugar.
(Recipe from Ina Garten, “Barefoot in Paris”)
Similar to a hot ham and cheese sandwich but so much more. The croque-monsieur is a staple menu item at cafés in Paris, think about a cheeseburger in the U.S. A creamy béchamel sauce is layered over bread and ham slices, topped with more sauce, sprinkled with Gruyère cheese then baked until brown and bubbly.
12 slices sandwich bread
3 ½ cups béchamel sauce
18 slices good-quality ham
¾ cup freshly grated Gruyère cheese
½ stick butter
¼ cup flour
4 cups cold milk
Freshly grated nutmeg
A touch cayenne pepper
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
Heat oven to 350 F°. Lay a slice of bread on work surface. Spread a layer of béchamel over the slice, then place two slices of ham on it.
Add a second layer of béchamel, then place another slice of bread on top, pressing lightly on it. Place another slice of ham on it, then spread a generous layer of béchamel on the ham.
Repeat with remaining ingredients to make six croque-monsieurs and place them on a baking tray. Sprinkle the Gruyère over them and press it lightly into the béchamel so that it sticks well.
Bake for 15 minutes.
For the Béchamel Sauce
Gently melt the butter in a small heavy-based saucepan over low heat, then add the four. Stir with a whisk and cook gently for two to three minutes to make a roux.
Pour the cold milk into the roux bringing the sauce to a boil over medium heat, whisking continuously. When the sauce comes to a boil, lower the heat and simmer gently for about 10 minutes, stirring sauce frequently.
Season to taste with salt, white pepper, nutmeg and cayenne.
(Recipe adapted from Michel Roux,
Taste of France magazine)
Warm Goat Cheese Salad
Although quite simple, this salad appeared elegant when placed atop a white cloth covered table in a small French café. The salad is lightly dressed but is highlighted by the creamy, warm goat cheese over crispy baguette slices. Here is how I recreated the dish
1 fresh baguette
Extra virgin olive oil for brushing
12 slices goat cheese, chill well
Fresh and colorful salad greens for 4
Freshly ground black pepper
Heat oven to 400 F°. Slice 8, half-inch thick pieces from a baguette.
Brush both sides of baguette slices lightly with olive oil. Top each slice with a cheese medallion. Bake for 10 minutes or until bread is golden and cheese is soft.
Divide greens onto four plates, drizzle with olive oil and vinegar. Top each salad with 3 baguette/cheese slices.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
(Recipe by Jennifer Alexander-Ruple)