Roast Beef, Shallot Compote, Rosemary Fingerling Potatoes

Filet de Boeuf, Compotée d'Echalottes, Rattes au Romarin

[Roast Beef, Shallot Compote, Rosemary Fingerling Potatoes]

While planning for our Saturday night dinner, I conducted a little research to find out what was best to eat with Baptiste’s bottle of St Julien. My sources were comfortingly unanimous. Red meat, roasted, was the card to play. I chose to roast a filet de boeuf, a very tender beef cut, and serve it with a shallot compote and roasted rosemary potatoes. The meat was promptly ordered at our favorite butcher’s, La Boucherie des Gourmets in the rue Lepic.

As you will infer from the many comments in the roast recipe, I am really not a meat specialist. Steaks, ribs, chops and other single-serving cuts I can handle, but I tend to be a little intimidated by big slabs of meat (both in the literal and figurative sense), and I don’t have a lot of experience cooking them. It always seems to involve a lot of complex techniques I shy away from – brining, basting, probing, stuffing – and I don’t even own a meat thermometer. But I’m more than willing to play with the big guys and learn. Especially when it turns out as well as this…

And without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, here are the recipes.

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Fresh Goat Cheese Mousse with Cherry Tomato Jam and Bacon Chips

Mousse de Chèvre Frais à la Confiture de Tomate Cerise, Chips de Lard

[Fresh Goat Cheese Mousse with Cherry Tomato Jam and Bacon Chips]

Yesterday, we had two of Maxence’s oldest friends, Baptiste and Jérémie, over for dinner. The occasion was to finally open the bottle of St Julien that Baptiste had given us a while ago, a 1996 Sarget du Château Gruaud-Larose. As I have done in the past, I will tell you about the dinner menu over the next few entries.

While I wanted the main dish to be classical to compliment the wine nicely, I do have a lot of fun coming up with fancier and more personal stuff, and decided to give myself carte blanche for the starter and the dessert. As is usually the case when we throw dinner parties, the previous week was spent idly toying with recipe ideas, the back of my mind always more or less occupied with ingredients and techniques, writing them down and sketching plating ideas in my little red notebook.

On a particularly fruitful bus ride, I decided to use my Confiture de Tomates Cerises in the first course, and came up with this idea.

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Cherry Tomato Cinnamon Jam

Confiture de tomates cerise à la cannelle

My mother has been making jars and jars of delicious jam every summer as far back as I can remember, using fruit bought at the Sunday morning greenmarket (strawberry, apricot), hand-picked by my family (raspberry, blackberry, blueberry), or given out by friends blessed with overflowing orchards (rhubarb, plums, cherry plums). She labels them and stores them in the cellar, where they patiently age for a year before being generously spread on buttered toast for breakfast. The wait is hard on us, but we know it’s for the best.

Yet jam-making has always seemed an involved enterprise to me, until last summer when I decided to give it a whirl.

I started clipping recipes from magazines, and bought a jam book written by Christine Ferber, often referred to as “la fée des confitures” (the jam fairy), an Alsacian who makes them the old-fashioned way, with local seasonal fruit, cooked in small batches in copper pots.

I also started saving all the jars I came across, stacking them at the back of my already bursting kitchen cabinets, and generally driving Maxence crazy. I even bought a few beautiful ones at the French chain store Résonances. Can you picture the love child of Restoration Hardware and Williams Sonoma, conceived during a trip to Paris? That’s Résonances in a nutshell. Believe me, it is tough to resist the calling of that one.

Over the summer, I made three different recipes in small batches, put the jars away, and vowed to wait until the chilly winter days to open them. Those days have finally come, and for reasons that will soon be disclosed, the first jar I opened was the Cherry Tomato Cinnamon Jam.

It’s a beautiful jam, bright red with golden specks, and the taste is very surprising, a sweet and tangy compote with a full tomato flavor and subtle hints of cinnamon.

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L’Homme Tranquille

L'Homme Tranquille

L’Homme Tranquille is a small restaurant in the rue des Martyrs, precisely a block from our apartment. It is a very cosy, intimate, comfy, friendly place. It looks a little secret from the outside : the door is narrow, the large windows that look out onto the street are curtained, and the lighting inside is dim, coming from low lamps and candles.

You push the door open – the handle a bit faulty – and enter a room with a high ceiling, in which small wooden tables are set up close to one another. Posters for art shows and movies, some old, some new, signed or unsigned, are pinned to the walls, in a seemingly random pattern. Long shelves, high up on the wall behind the counter, display a collection of antique glass bottles, water jugs, and ceramic food jars.

You called ahead to know if there was room for two, and you are greeted by the friendly owner, a very tall thirty-year-old with unruly hair and a thick woolen sweater, who takes care of the service, single-handedly or with his wife. He offers to seat you at a table close to the heater and lights a small candle. He pauses a moment and says he remembers you from last time, or more accurately, he recognizes your boyfriend and apologetically explains that he has no memory for women’s faces. A moment later, he comes back with two kirs (white wine with blackberry liqueur), on the house. “Parce que je vous aime bien“, he says warmly.

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Bruschetta

Bruschetta

I remember very well the first bruschetta I ever had, served at the San Francisco vegetarian restaurant “Herbivore”. We had arrived in the US about two months before, it was the night of my 21st birthday, we were with our friend Jérémie, and after dinner we went to see Arling & Cameron play. The barman wouldn’t give me a free drink even considering the occasion, but we had the artists sign their album’s poster for me, which sure made up for it. A very good birthday night indeed.

We enjoyed bruschetta so much that we kept ordering it whenever the occasion arose. But as much as bruschetta is a common appetizer in Californian restaurants, I have very rarely seen it served in France, so I had been in bruschetta withdrawal for quite a while.

The other night, I was coming home from work on the bus, wondering what to make for dinner, like a good 80% of my fellow passengers I’m sure. I was mentally probing the contents of our fridge and pantry, when the happy thought dawned on me that I had all the ingredients to make bruschetta. Or my version of it, at least.

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