A few potato dishes in France are named after Antoine-Augustin Parmentier (1737 – 1813) who is known as the promoter of using potatoes for something more than feeding the barnyard animals. Parmentier was a prisoner in Prussia during the Seven Years War and upon his return home to France in 1763 he could see that the French people were starving. In the 16th century it was a law in France that potatoes would not be used for human consumption as it was believed, mistakenly, that they caused leprosy and other diseases. But in the Prussian prison where Parmentier lived, they survived on potatoes, so on his return he set out to change the mindset, and the law, of the French people into accepting this tuber as the survival food that it is.
Potato and Leek Soup is a French staple and forms the base for a number of other recipes. It can be made hearty and thick, or thinned with cream or chicken stock. Serve it up with a warm crusty baguette smeared with butter for a filling meal in and of itself.
4-5 medium sized Russet Potatoes
Freshly ground Black Pepper
Salt to taste
1 Bay Leaf
1 Clove Garlic
Butter, or, Butter and Olive Oil
Milk – The kind of milk is up to you.
Chopped fresh Chives
Peel and cut the potatoes into small cubes.
Chop the clove of garlic.
Get out your soup pot. A 3-quart pot would be big enough for this recipe.
Set the fire to low.
Add the butter.
As the butter melts, add the salt, black pepper, basil, and dried thyme.
Once the butter is melted, add the chopped potatoes.
Stir to cover the potatoes with the melted butter and herbs.
Saute for a few minutes.
Add the chopped garlic.
Add the bay leaf.
If the potatoes start to stick to the pan, add a little water and stir.
Then cover the potatoes with filtered water and simmer.
Simmer the potatoes for about 45 minutes.
Take the leek and slice down the middle, then turn it halfway and slice it down the middle again. Then slice the leek into thin slices.
Put it in a colander or a strainer and rinse well to get out the dirt.
Get out a saucepan.
Set another fire on the stove to low.
Add some butter.
Saute the leeks until they are tender.
Add spoonfuls of broth from the soup when needed to keep the leeks from burning.
When the leeks are limp, add them to the potatoes.
Simmer for another 5 – 10 minutes.
Add some milk/cream.
If you have an immersion blender, use it to puree half the soup.
Ladle this hearty and thick soup up into bowls, sprinkle on some Parmesan cheese and some chopped chives.
Note About Potatoes:
There is a reason why a soup would call for a Russet potato rather than just any potato. Russets are starchy and will fall apart when they are cooked – especially when they are over cooked in a soup. This does two things – it spreads the potato flavor through out the soup, and it also serves as a natural thickener. By using Russet potato and cream in this soup, you can bypass making a roux.
Find more information on Antoine-Augustin Parmentier on Wikipedia.
Paris is a maze of many cultures and many of those cultures come from West Africa. Walking through the lively streets of Bellevue, you may begin to wonder if you took a left turn and ended up Brazzaville. Mafe Poulet can be found on just about any menu in any West African restaurant in the city, like Paris Dakar or Ile de Gorée and its variations are as plentiful as the chefs that make it. It’s a hearty African dish that is both earthy and sensuous at the same time, and simple to make.
West African Chicken with Peanut Sauce/Stew
1 Chicken(or equal amount of parts de-skinned)
2 large yellow onions
4-5 fresh big round tomatoes
1-3 Tbs. peanut butter
1-2 jalapeno or a pinch of crushed red pepper
A big stew pot
A cutting board
A good knife
A big spoon for stirring the pot!
Cut the chicken into parts, de-skin. Slice the 2 onions on the ring. Cut the tomatoes on the quarter. Finely chop the jalapeno pepper, or get red pepper flakes (to your taste).
Sear the chicken by putting it in a soup pot with no oil, turning when it turns white.
Add the onions to the pot after both sides of the chicken have been seared.
When the onions are clear, add the tomatoes to the pot.
Cover and simner.
When the tomatoes have released all of their liquid and the chicken is cooked through, add the peanutbutter one tablespoon at a time to taste. If the tomatoes did not release much liquid, add a little water or chicken broth.
Add the chopped pepper.
Cook until flavors are blended.
Serve over rice.
To make a smaller version of this dish use (pictured above): 1-2 chicken breasts (sliced), 1 yellow onion, 2 large tomatoes (Heirloom are yummy if you can get them), half a jalapeno, one clove garlic. This makes enough for two people. Leave out the chicken for a vegetarian sauce over rice.
Country of Origin: West Africa (Senegal to The Congo)
Sauté the chicken in peanut oil.
Add a clove or two of chopped garlic.
Add coconut milk at the same time as the peanutbutter.
Make a vegetarian version by leaving out the chicken. Just sauté the onions in peanut oil, add the tomatoes and follow the directions from there.
This dish is really great when made with organic ingredients.
Zucchini Provencal in my kitchen
One way to use the end of abundant summer growing season vegetables – tomatoes and zucchini – is to make this simple side dish, Zucchini Provencal. French home cooks tend to cook zucchini until it is almost mushy. So feel free to experiment with the cooking time, and make it to your taste and preference.
2-3 medium sized zucchini
Chop all of the vegetables in large chunks.
In a saute pan, heat some olive oil, enough to coat the bottom of the pan.
Add some ground pepper and dried basil.
When the oil is hot, add the chopped onions.
Saute the onions until they start to clear.
Add the zucchini and stir.
Add the tomatoes and stir.
Saute until the tomatoes release their juice, the onions have become clear and the zucchini is soft the whole way through.
Serve hot as a side dish or a big bowl of it for a meal. It goes great with a big chunk of fresh baguette smeared with butter. I’ve also used it as a filling for a savory galette with parmesan cheese.
My take on Pasta with Salmon, using linguine, Chez Moi
It is not unusual to find pasta dishes in the South of France, or more specifically, in Provence. Italy is just across the border from the southern provinces and there are many families who live in the area that are of Roman or Italian descent. It is only natural that recipes in the south would cross over not only centuries and borders, but cultures.
Pasta, usually tagiatelle, with salmon in a rich cream sauce is a traditional dish in Arles and in the south. Arles is close both to the Mediterranean sea and the Rhône River, which runs through the middle of town. Seafood and fresh fish of all kinds are common items on the menus throughout the area.
I’ve had this dish twice in Arles, at two different restaurants, and both were similar, without variation. I could have guessed at this recipe when I had decided to make it at home a few weeks ago, but instead I searched the web for instructions. But the only recipes I found in English were salmon variations-on-a-theme of an (unbaked) tuna noodle casserole – with peas.
But that’s not the dish I had in Arles.
The dish I had in Arles was an al dente pasta with a cream sauce and salmon. Very simple. Very filling. And one should definitely wait twenty minutes before deciding on a second helping!
So I then did a search in French and found what I was looking for. The measurements were all in grams, but that’s not a problem because at chez moi, we don’t measure things. But the important thing was that I found a list of ingredients – and of course recipes vary, from the simplest version to the more complex, but any way you look at this recipe, it’s fairly simple.
If you are familiar with making a simple white sauce for pasta, then you already know this recipe, just add the marinated and sauteed salmon.
Fresh salmon filet
For the salmon marinade:
*Any of the thicker pastas will do, but this dish is usually made with tagiatelle. You could also use fettuccine, linguine, or even larger penne if that’s all you have.
A cup of heavy cream
Shredded Parmesan Cheese
Cut the filet of fresh salmon into thin strips.
Prepare the marinade by mixing a few chopped basil leaves, a crushed clove of garlic, sliced onion and the juice of half a lemon and sprinkle with pepper in a bowl.
Add the salmon.
Marinate strips of salmon in this mixture for 20 minutes.
Boil pasta until al dente, or according to the directions on the package, then drain.
Saute the salmon for 2 minutes.
In a saute pan, or a non-stick frying pan, melt a spoonful of butter.
Add some ground pepper.
When butter is melted add chopped garlic.
Then slowly add the cream, whisking or stirring as you do.
Let the cream simmer, stirring to keep it from boiling.
Let the cream cook down a bit.
Stir a handful of Parmesan cheese into the sauce.
Add some chopped fresh basil.
Stir the salmon into the cream.
Turn off heat.
Let this meld for a minute. (Not literally a minute, but while you get the pasta ready.)
Drain the pasta if you haven’t already.
Put it in a pasta bowl or on a plate.
Pour the cream sauce with salmon over it.
Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the top if you would like to.
This is the heavy version of this recipe. If you are willing to experiment, you can use any combination of fat free, or low fat ingredients, less butter, or a butter/olive oil combination.