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I can’t much blame the French for having an attitude when it comes to cuisine.  After all, they’ve had a few thousand more years of practice than the American cook, and it’s no secret they whip up some pretty edible stuff.  But some French chefs, intent on preserving their cultural reputation, would have you believe that braised squab is the national snack food, they use truffle sauce like we use peanut butter, and you’re an idiot if you don’t have a diploma from L’Ecole du Cordon Bleu.  I recently saw a French chef on a cooking show, for example, that was preparing a “tres simple” meal involving boning your own capons and bathing them in a gooseberries or some such thing.  But I saw right through him.  I knew darn well he’d leave the television station, go home, throw on some jeans and fry up a big fat cheese burger.  Of course, being French, he’d call it “un grand medallion de finely chopped biftek, delicately seasoned avec sea salt and freshly ground poive, and seared to perfection under a blanket of fromage.”

You see, it’s all in the interpretation.  What they call extra fancy crepes, think of as real skinny pancakes.  Coquilles Saint-Jacques is really scallops ‘n cheese.  Bouillabaisse?  Nothing more than fish stew.  And my favorite - Croque Monsieur.  Sounds like you may need a cooking lesson to prepare but it’s just a grilled cheese sammy.

Well, now that we’ve figured out the French, I think you’re now ready to go beyond pomme frites and prepare a fabulous, classic four course French meal.  Just like they have on those four foot-tall menus in ornate, chandelier-festooned Parisian restaurants with six forks for each place setting.

(Fancy chicken liver spread)
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

            3 tablespoons butter or margarine
            1 lb. chicken livers, trimmed of fat
            2 cloves garlic, minced
                    1/4 cup chopped onion
            1 teaspoon salt
                    1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
            1 teaspoon dry mustard
               1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter, softened
            1 tablespoon brandy

Heat 3 tablespoons butter in a medium skillet.  Add chicken livers, garlic and onion.  Cook over medium-low heat 10 minutes, or until livers lose pink color.  Remove from heat and let cool 10 minutes.

In a food processor, puree liver mixture.  Add remaining ingredients and process until smooth.  Spoon into a crock and eat immediately, or store, covered in refrigerator.  Best spread on French bread or sesame crackers.

(Fancy beef stew)
Serves 6

                3 slices bacon
                      1 medium onion, chopped
                2 cloves garlic, minced
                  1/2 cup flour
                2 teaspoons salt
                  1/2 teaspoon pepper
                3 lb. beef chuck roast, cut into 2” cubes
                1 cup beef stock or broth
                3 cups Burgundy or other dry red wine
                1 bay leaf
                   1/2 teaspoon ground thyme
                1 teaspoon sugar
                2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 3
                        tablespoons cold water
                   1/2 lb. small mushrooms, sautéed in butter

In a large, heavy skillet with a lid, cook bacon until crisp.  Remove bacon and in the bacon fat, cook onion and garlic until golden.  Remove from skillet and set aside.

In a shallow bowl, mix flour with salt and pepper.  Dredge meat chunks in seasoned flour and brown in the bacon grease.  (Add vegetable oil to skillet if needed).  Add beef stock, wine, bay leaf, thyme, sugar and the cooked onion mixture.  Crumble bacon over the top and stir.  Bring to a boil, turn heat to low, cover tightly and simmer 3 hours.  Give it a stir every now and then.  Remove bay leaf and discard.  Stir in dissolved cornstarch to thicken the broth.

Ladle stew into big bowls and top with sautéed mushrooms.

(Fancy mixed greens)
Serves 6

                   1 small head Boston lettuce
                1/2 small head romaine lettuce
                   6 leaves red leaf lettuce 

    Dressing:        1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
                   2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
                1/4 teaspoon each salt and coarsely ground
                                black pepper
                   1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
                   1 clove garlic, minced

Rinse all lettuces in cold water.  Tear into bite-sized pieces and wrap in a tea towel.  Refrigerate.

Whisk dressing ingredients together in a small bowl.  Transfer lettuce to a salad bowl, pour dressing over and toss to coat.

(Fancy chocolate pudding)
Serves 6

                4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
                3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
                3 tablespoons strong brewed coffee
                5 eggs, separated
                1 cup heavy whipping cream
                3 tablespoons sugar

In the top of a double boiler over low heat, put both chocolates and the brewed coffee.  Cook, stirring, until melted.  Add egg yolks and mix well.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites until stiff.  Fold whites into chocolate mixture.  Spoon into individual serving cups and chill at least 1 1/2 hours.

Beat cream with electric mixture until soft peaks form.  Slowly add sugar and continue beating until stiff.  Top each serving of mousse with a generous spoonful of whipped cream.



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Copyright © by Robin Benzle. All Rights Reserved