2018 French GP: Almond Sole Meunière, Leek Gratin, and Endive Salad
The return of F1 to France seems like a good omen for the sport. New races like Austin are going strong, and returning to classic tracks, and really where Grand Prix racing started, feels like progress and history getting along just fine.
This is race one of an F1 tripleheader, and on a personal note, it is coinciding with a crazy work schedule, in-laws in town, and the World Cup. So many things to prep for, do, cook, watch, and recover from. So, forgive me for my delays. I do promise there will be delicious recipes and an assortment of fanfare… just doled out over time.
For France, I couldn’t do just one thing, or even just one cocktail, or one meal. Every time I tried to rein in my menu planning I thought about just that one or maybe two other thing I wanted to make or eat and the recipe lists I came up with go on for pages. What I ended up making is my poor attempts at reining in, but luckily I wrote down all my ideas, and I am already drooling thinking about next year.
For this year I wanted to try my hand at some classics. We started the weekend with croissants. I want that to be what I say every weekend from now on. “We started the weekend with croissants.” Handmade or from the little patisserie we have fallen in love with downtown, I just want more croissants in my life. Although they took three days and a solid day or rolling, folding, refrigerating, waiting, rolling, folding, and so on... they were so worth it. The crispy outside shattered to perfection, the inside was steamy and light and oh so buttery. I am smitten. If you have 20 minutes on a Friday evening and a free weekend, I highly recommend you try your hand at croissants. It is soooo rewarding. And your kitchen smells like HEAVEN.
For dinner we started with a favorite of my husbands, escargot. Our local Whole Foods had them pre-stuffed with an herb butter mixture so my job was easy. A little toast and some clever tinfoil molding (to prevent the butter from leaking out of tipped over shells) was all I needed to do.
The main meal consisted of Almond Sole Meunière, Leek Gratin, and Endive, Apple, and Roquefort salad. I gathered all my French cookbooks and supplemented with another tall stack from my local library. I think I marked over a hundred recipes and read about French cooking and culture to my heart's content. I chose these to complement each other and because they kept catching my eye each time I flipped through the books.
As French culture requires, we followed this up with a cheese course. My strategy for cheese plates is generally one hard cheese, one soft, something stinky, and something I’ve never tried before. It works splendidly.
Having all this deliciousness along with a couple cocktails, I cannot say that this weekend wasn’t one of decadence, indeed it was. But it was also one of memories, trying new foods and new techniques, and one of inspiration to remember in my daily life to enjoy the little things, especially when they are layered with butter.
Speaking of memories, this weekend really brought back to mind one of my favorite trips of all time. Almost five years ago I got the opportunity to travel to Belgium, France, and Luxembourg visiting family of my husband's and exploring three beautiful countries. I had many wonderful experiences and quite a few food firsts along the way. That trip included my first experiences with escargot, frogs leg, Alsatian wine, foie gras, fondue, real Parisian croissants, saboyan, epoisses, and so much more. One of my favorite memories was of a picnic to end all picnics. We had a large family group and so we drove around in 4 or 5 cars, and one day our train of cars drove out into the country, each following the others trusting we would end up somewhere beautiful.
Once we reached the top of a hill, a view like no other, everyone piled out of the cars, popped the trunks and pulled out the most amazing picnic I have ever seen. Proper picnic baskets, a travel box filled with real wine glasses, cases of Alsatian wine we had picked up on our short stay there, pots of pate, foie gras, perfectly fresh bread, fresh fruit, so much deliciousness, and 20+ family members laughing, drinking, eating, and just enjoying each other's company. It is always my wish to bring that kind of joy into other's lives, and indeed to have it in my own. This French F1 weekend was a chance to do a little of that. I hope you enjoy the recipes and have an excuse to have your own virtual trip through the flavors of France.
Almond Sole Meunière
Adapted from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan
2/3 cup ground almonds
2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper
4 sole fillets, about 6 ounces each
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
2-4 tablespoons cold salted butter
Lemon wedges, for serving
Toasted sliced almonds, for garnish
Parsley, for garnish
1. Mix the ground almonds, flour, lemon zest and salt and pepper together on a plate.
2. Pat sole fillets dry. Using a pastry brush lightly coat one side of the fillets with beaten egg yolk. Dip the coated side of each fillet in the almond mixture.
3. Cook fish in batches if needed, do not crowd them. (Warm oven to 300 to keep fist set of fillets warm, if cooking in batches.) Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet until it melts and lightly browns, about 3 minutes. Add fillets to pan almond mixture side down. Season fish in the pan with salt and pepper. Cook on medium-low heat until coating is golden and fish is cooked halfway through. Add another ½ tablespoon butter, flip fish very gently. Cook until fully cooked, about 2 minutes. Repeat with additional fillets.
4. Serve fish with a squirt of lemon and lemon wedge. Top with parsley and sliced almonds.