Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Simple French Food by Richard Olney

We are inching toward the end of Paris in July, and I just don't think I can really celebrate Paris in July unless I do some French cooking. 

Fortunately, I've been reading a classic of French cooking this month, Richard Olney's Simple French Food. 

Who is Richard Olney? The great Mark Bittman writes, "If you want to learn your way around the French kitchen, Richard Olney is probably the best English-speaking guide there has ever been." 

Bittman goes on to say, "... you’ll learn (from Olney) what matters the most: that taking fresh, local, seasonal ingredients and treating them simply is the best way to prepare and enjoy food." 

“The important thing,” Olney says, “is that the food taste good.” 

I don't think we can ask for more than that.

What recipes did I bookmark? 

Gâteau de Crespèus (Cold Omelet Loaf)

Brouillade de Tomates au Basilic (Eggs Scrambled with Tomato and Basil)

Breton Chowder

Gratin Dauphinois (Scalloped Potatoes)

Gratin de Crepes Farcies aux Êpinards (Spinach-Stuffed Crêpes)

Pâte à l’Huile d’Olive (Provençal Pastry)

Tarte aux Pommes (Apple Tart)

Which recipe should I try? If I need to use "fresh, local, seasonal ingredients," the only recipe I can try right now in the heat of the summer along the Texas Gulf Coast is Brouillade de Tomates au Basilic, with fresh tomatoes and basil from my garden. But, win-win, it's one of the simplest in the book.

Before Olney shares the recipe, he offers up some wisdom about Scrambled Eggs in general. Pure poetry. 

"Correctly prepared, the softest of barely perceptible curds held in a thickly liquid, smooth, creamy suspension, scrambled eggs number among the very great delicacies of the table. They, like omelets, should be beaten but lightly with an addition of butter and, whether they be prepared over low, direct heat or in a bain-marie (their cooking utensil immersed in another containing nearly boiling water), they should be contained in a generously buttered heavy pan, preferably copper, which absorbs heat slowly and retains it for a long time. It is not only easier to precisely control the heat in a bain-marie, but also the cooking time is shortened, thanks to the heat’s being absorbed through the sides of the utensil as well as from the bottom. The eggs should be stirred constantly with a wooden spoon during their preparation, the sides and the bottom of the pan being repeatedly scraped, and they should be removed from the heat some moments before the desired consistency is achieved and stirred continuously for another minute or so, for they continue to cook from an absorption of heat contained in the pan. It is wise to remove them two or three times from the heat toward the end of the cooking to control more exactly the degree of creaminess and, once removed definitively from contact with heat, a small amount of heavy cream may be stirred in, arresting at once the cooking and underlining at the same time their caressing consistency. They may be served in butter-crisp containers carved out of crustless bread. Otherwise, if one is among friends, it is preferable to serve them directly from the cooking vessel onto warm, but not hot, plates and a wonderful additional garnish is the crisp, brown-butter note of croutons, either scattered over the surface or stirred into the eggs at the moment of serving. 

The complication of such rich garnishes as foie gras, game, crayfish, or lobster with their corresponding Périgueux, Salmis, Nantua, or Américaine sauces seems only to detract from the purity of the thing. But for truffles (the black ones incorporated, slivered, sliced, or chopped before the cooking; the fresh white ones sliced paper thin over the surface the moment the eggs are done) and morels (fresh or dried, stewed in butter before being incorporated into the eggs), scrambled eggs ally themselves the most beautifully with a single vegetable—be it tender asparagus tips, parboiled and sweated in butter (or, Oriental-wise, slivered, raw, on the bias, parboiled for but a few seconds, and tossed for no more than a minute in hot butter), artichoke hearts stewed in butter, finely sliced zucchini sautéed in butter or in olive oil, shredded sorrel stewed in butter, tender peas, rapidly parboiled . . . The same herbs that find a place in omelets are good, alone or in combination with vegetables, in scrambled eggs. 

It is said that eggs and wine do not marry. I, personally, take great pleasure in drinking a young, light-bodied, relatively dry white wine with scrambled eggs."

Let's get started, shall we?

Eggs Scrambled with Tomato and Basil 
Brouillade de Tomates au Basilic 
Servings: 4 

3 or 4 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, chopped coarsely 
 3 or 4 cloves garlic, crushed 
Bouquet garni (bay leaf, thyme, celery branch—or a pinch of crumbled mixed dried herbs) 
½ teaspoon sugar 
¼ cup olive oil 
¼ cup butter 
8 to 10 eggs 
Handful fresh basil leaves and flowers

Cook the tomatoes, salted, with the garlic, bouquet garni, and sugar in the olive oil over a low flame, tossing from time to time, until the free liquid is evaporated and the tomatoes seem only to be coated with oil. Discard the garlic and the bouquet garni. 

Add the butter, cut into small pieces, to the eggs, season to taste, beat them lightly with a fork and, with a wooden spoon, stir them into the tomato mixture, keeping it over a low flame and continuing to stir constantly, adding when the eggs begin to thicken the basil, chopped at the last minute to avoid its blackening. Remove from the flame just before the desired consistency is achieved and continue stirring.

I could make and eat this every day. Fantastic flavor.

Note: I had to make quite a few adjustments to this medium tomatoes so had to use cherry copper pan so used only pan I wooden spoon so subbed with plastic celery for bouquet garni so used alternate suggestion of a pinch of crumbled mixed dried croutons for a garnish...

For more wordless photos, go to Wordless Wednesday.

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where you can share new words that you’ve encountered, or spotlight words you love.  Feel free to get creative! It was first created by Kathy over at Bermuda Onion and is now hosted at Elza Reads.

Weekend Cooking was created by Beth Fish Reads and is now hosted by Marg at The Intrepid Reader (and Baker). It is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post. 

Il est Juillet et il est temps pour le merveilleux Paris in July co-hosted by Thyme for Tea and Readerbuzz

No comments:

Post a Comment

I hope you will leave a comment so I know you have visited. If you stop by my blog, I will always stop by yours.

Note: Disqus commenting is only available on the web version of the blog. Please switch to the web version if you are using a mobile device.