Evening with Le Cordon Bleu

Rabbit Stew

After my quasi-review of Kathleen Flinn’s The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry, I thought that I would be remiss if I didn’t at least try one of the recipes included at the end of every chapter in the book.  What review could be complete without an attempt to walk in Kathleen’s footsteps and master a dish from her famed alma mater?

I decided to try the most Cordon Bleu-y dish in the book — Lapin a la Moutard, a.k.a. Rabbit in Mustard Sauce.  Not something found in the average home cook’s repertoire, rabbit is nevertheless quite easy to work with.  It has been compared in flavor to dark-meat chicken, but I find that it is far less greasy than a drumstick or thigh tends to be.  The rabbit I purchased at my local grocery store (I know – can you believe it?) was skinned, gutted and beheaded, but otherwise whole.


I invited my two most adventurous fellow chefs/dining companions — my mother and grandmother — to help me prepare and eat the little beast.  We began with butchering, which wasn’t really so hard — again, much like chicken — except for the fact that I didn’t really know what to do after I had separated off the legs.  Was the breast/torso supposed to be left whole?  The meat there was pretty thin, so I didn’t want to take it off the bone…  I could have used one of my reference manuals — The Joy of Cooking, The Way to Cook, Jacques Pepin’s Techniques — which may or may not have given me a diagram to follow, but I ended up winging it.  The result looked a lot like what Elise came up with here, so I feel pretty good about it!


After all was said and done, the rabbit was served and deemed…DELICIOUS.  The dominant flavor of the mustard was mellowed perfectly by the addition of a splash of cream.  I neglected to strain the solids out of the sauce, as directed, but the minced shallots and garlic added to the texture of the dish.  If you are going for a more refined-looking plate, though, just follow the recipe.  Though only a 1/4 cup of sauce was left over after we’d eaten our fill, the family matriarchs forced me to save it in a plastic container since it was so good and “could be used to enhance another sauce.”

After eating this dish, my estimation of Flinn’s book has certainly risen.  I’m glad to have a good go-to rabbit recipe for the evenings when my husband’s away and the girls are in town!

Lapin (ou Poulet – chicken may be substituted for the faint of heart) a la Moutarde, from The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry
Serves 6

2 1/2 lbs. rabbit pieces or chicken thighs
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 Tbs. dried thyme
All-purpose flour
3 Tbs. olive oil
4 Tbs. + 2 Tbs. Dijon mustard, separated
1 Tbs. butter
3 shallots, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1 large onion, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/3 cup brandy (we substituted sherry)
2/3 cup chicken stock
Bouquet garni (parsley, bay leaf tied with twine)
4-5 sprigs fresh rosemary or 1 tsp. dried
2/3 cup heavy cream (optional – I used about 1/3 cup)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Sprinkle the meat with salt, pepper, and dried thyme. Dredge lightly in flour, shaking off excess. In a Dutch oven large enough to hold all the ingredients comfortably, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Brown pieces on all sides, in batches if necessary. Remove meat from the pan and drain the oil. Using a pastry brush or the back of a spoon, apply a generous coat of mustard to each piece; set aside.


Over medium heat in the same pan, melt the butter. Add the shallots and onions and cook until translucent. Stir in garlic. Add the brandy and chicken stock, and simmer until slightly reduced. Add the bouquet garni and rosemary. Return the chicken or rabbit pieces to the pan. Cover and cook in the oven for about forty-five minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer reads 160 degrees F. Remove the meat and cover loosely with foil to keep warm.


Put the pan on medium heat and bring the pan juices to a simmer for about five minutes, until slightly reduced, skimming off any fat from the surface. (Rabbit is oilier than chicken and will require significant skimming.) Add the remaining two tablespoons of mustard and the cream (if using) and let simmer for seven to ten minutes, until the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Once it has thickened, pour sauce through a fine-meshed sieve, pressing it through with a spatula. Check seasonings and adjust, adding salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the sauce over the chicken or rabbit pieces.


Pulled Pork to Feed the Soul

Pulled Pork with Coleslaw

When I began this blog, I never would have characterized my cooking style or culinary repertoire as “comfort food”. That label usually applies to heavy, dense, sugary or greasy bowls of fattening casseroles and excessive desserts. It also applies to macaroni and cheese (check, check), layer cakes (check, check), and stews (check, check, check).  **Sigh**  I give up.  The truth is, I do take comfort (a lot of it!) in the eating and preparing of foods.  I feel just as satisfied watching my family and friends chow down on my latest creations as I do eating them myself, and when I’m feeling frustrated or crazed, an hour or two in the kitchen will always help me decompress.

Another association I regularly make with “Comfort Food” is southern U.S. cooking and the dreaded Paula Deen – from whence comes my aversion to applying the term to my own food.  That woman irks me somethin’ fierce, y’all.  Sorry.  That was uncalled for (in so many ways).

Yet no one can write off southern cuisine wholesale.  That would mean eliminating one of RJ and my favorite dishes of all time – Pulled Pork sandwiches – and I simply cannot support such a sweeping and drastic gesture.  Yet in the South, even, there is some serious debate about the proper way to make pulled pork.  From what I’m told, the Carolinians like their pork cooked only in vinegar (none of that ketchup-y stuff).  Others like the shredded pork swimming in barbecue sauce.  I compensate for my strong preference for the latter by making a very vinegary coleslaw (no mayo) to go on top of the pork in my sandwich.  I guarantee that a bite of this combo will make you swoon, whether you can stand Paula Deen or not.

Old South Pulled Pork on a Bun, from The 150 Best Slow Cooker Recipes by Judith Finlayson

BBQ ingredients(serves 6-8)

1 Tbs. vegetable oil
2 onions, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs. chili powder
1 tsp. cracked black peppercorns
1 c. tomato-based chili sauce (like Heinz)
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
1/4 c. cider vinegar
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. liquid smoke (I always leave this out – up to you)
1 boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat, about 3 lbs.
Kaiser or onion buns, halved and warmed

bbq-sauceIn a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook until soft. Add garlic, chili powder, and pepper, and cook, stirring, for one minute. Add chili sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and liquid smoke. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. (at this point you can cover and refrigerate sauce overnight or until ready to use — very helpful if planning this recipe for a weeknight).

Place pork in slow cooker stoneware and pour sauce over. Cover and cook on low for 10-12 hours or on high for 6 hours, until pork is falling apart.

Shredded/Pulled PorkTransfer pork to a cutting board and pull the meat apart in shreds, using two forks. [I will usually try to strain off some of the fat from the sauce at this point – depending on if I did a good job trimming the pork, it can get sorta greasy in there]. Return to sauce and keep warm. When ready to serve, spoon shredded pork and sauce over warm buns. Serve with coleslaw.

Katharine’s Carolina Coleslaw

Cider vinegar
Celery Seeds
Vegetable Oil
Bag of prepared coleslaw or 5 cups of shredded cabbage

Mix vinegar (about a 1/2 cup) with sugar (a scant teaspoon), celery seeds (about a teaspoon) and salt (1/4-1/2 teaspoon). Then add about a 1/4 cup of vegetable oil, whisking the whole time. Taste. It should be quite vinegary and a little sweet, and you should be able to taste the celery seeds. Add more oil or other ingredients as necessary until it is to your own preference. Mix dressing with the cabbage slaw (just enough to coat, not soak, the cabbage) and let sit in the fridge for about an hour before serving to let the flavors blend.

Pulled Pork with Coleslaw

Another day in Paris: Coq au Vin


This week on Barefoot Bloggers, the featured recipe was Coq au Vin, or chicken cooked in wine sauce.  I think it was on “The Next Food Network Star” or some other such show where I first learned that Coq au Vin is traditionally made with a very old rooster.  That being unavailable, and rather unappetizing I might add…, I went with a split chicken breast.

The results here were excellent.   The sauce tasted rich and herbal; the chicken was tender and juicy.  RJ even ate the carrots, the broth was so good!  I don’t know how much I can credit the fact that I followed the recipe through the oven cooking portion the day before, then finished the sauce the next night, but the flavors were certainly pronounced and well blended.  This method also prevented us from eating dinner at 9:00 – always a plus.

I would certainly cook this again, though next time I will leave some time to reduce the liquids down a bit more.  My sauce was thin and did not really stick to the noodles or the chicken, even after the addition of the buerre manie.  Bon Appetit!

Coq Au Vin, from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics

2 Tbs. vegetable oilcoq-mise
4 oz. good bacon or pancetta, diced
1 (3 to 4 lb.) chicken, cut in 8ths
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 lb, carrots, cut diagonally in 1-inch pieces
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 tsp. chopped garlic
1/4 c. Cognac or good brandy
1/2 bottle (375 ml) good dry red wine such as Burgundy
1 c. good chicken stock, preferably homemade
10 fresh thyme sprigs
2 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
1 1/2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
1/2 lb. frozen small whole onions
1/2 lb. cremini mushrooms, stems removed and thickly sliced
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

coq-browningHeat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove the bacon to a plate with a slotted spoon.

Meanwhile, lay the chicken out on paper towels and pat dry. Liberally sprinkle the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. When the bacon is removed, brown the chicken pieces in batches in a single layer for about 5 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Remove the chicken to the plate with the bacon and continue to brown until all the chicken is done. Set aside.

Add the carrots, onions, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper to the pan and cook over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the Cognac and put the bacon, chicken, and any juices that collected on the plate into the pot. Add the wine, chicken stock, and thyme and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and place in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is just not pink. Remove from the oven and place on top of the stove.

coq-cookingMash 1 tablespoon of butter and the flour together and stir into the stew. Add the frozen onions. In a medium saute pan, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and cook the mushrooms over medium-low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until browned. Add to the stew. Bring the stew to a simmer and cook for another 10 minutes. Season to taste. Serve hot.

Braised Beef Short Ribs with Coriander and Cardamom


Yet another braise to get us all through the winter months. It is hard to imagine, with the wind biting below zero, that winter is not yet upon us. Harder still to think that we have another couple weeks of “technically fall” before the Winter Solstice. Nevertheless, it is cold in New England, and gosh darnit I want to braise.

At the grocery store, I saw some great looking English Short Ribs, and I valiantly thumbed through my 4-inch binder of clipped recipes to locate a short rib preparation that I hadn’t yet attempted. I found a recipe from an April 2007 issue of Bon Appetit (pre-redesign: those were the days) for coriander and cardamom spiced Short Ribs printed in the annual Restaurant issue’s R.S.V.P. section. The restaurant in question was the Inn at West View Farm in Dorset, VT and a woman named Cheryl Parker O’Connor requested the recipe. No sooner had I finished and tasted this delicious dish, but what do I see in my November (2008) Bon Appetit magazine? The same recipe, from the same Inn, in the same (R.S.V.P.) section, requested by Franklin Moore of Montreal.

This bugs me on a number of levels. First – I am using up ridiculous amounts of storage space in my small condo pantry for all my recipe clippings and cookbooks. If the editors of Bon Appetit (or other food magazines for that matter) are going to just reprint the same recipes they have in previous issues, it is very possible that I will have duplicate clippings in there, thus extending the years it will take me to cook through the growing pile, as well as the angst my husband has over the size of said pile. Second – as I have mentioned before, I have often requested recipes through Bon Appetit‘s R.S.V.P. section – in particular a Valentine’s Day special from New York’s Nice Matin (Red snapper with a Blackberry Merlot Sauce) that still haunts me – to no success. Yet this “Mr. Moore” from “Montreal” dares to ask for a recipe that has ALREADY BEEN PRINTED BEFORE, and Bon Appetit has the gall to give give it to him! Over my transcendent snapper dish, no less!  Finally – I am unnerved by the very thought that Bon Appetit is running out of new recipes to print.  My blog, not to mention the rest of the foodie blogosphere, relies on the illusion that there will never be an end to the number of possible ingredient combinations printed in our cookbooks and magazines.  If Bon Appetit is repeating recipes already, what will our children write about on their blogs that hasn’t already made it onto the internet?  Oh, the humanity!

OK, rant over.  Back to the food.  These were damn good short ribs!  I can see why so many (including Cheryl and Franklin) are fans.  As RJ said, the flavor and spice balance is perfect – enhancing the meatiness rather than overpowering it.  We served the ribs with lots of the cooking liquid over egg noodles.  RJ thinks potatoes are too heavy to be paired with a braised meat – I tend to disagree, as does the Inn at West View Farm which “serves the ribs with mashed potatoes, braised carrots and snap peas”, but the noodles worked fine as a compromise. 

Braised Beef Short Ribs with Coriander and Cardamom, from Bon Appetit twice over (this text, though, is out of the April 2007 issue – very slight changes were made to the November reprint)!

(Serves 4 to 6)Beef ribs

1/2 c. canola oil
4 lbs. beef short ribs
4 large carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 large leek (white and pale green parts only), chopped
1 whole head of garlic, halved crosswise
1 Tbs. ground coriander
1 Tbs. ground cardamom
2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
1 750ml. bottle of dry red fruity wine, such as Zinfandel
2 c. low salt chicken broth

Beef short ribs braising liquid

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Heat canola oil in heavy large ovenproof pot over high heat.  Sprinkle short ribs with salt and pepper.  Working in batches, add ribs to pot and cook until brown on all sides, about 6 minutes per batch.  Transfer ribs to large bowl.  Add carrots, onion, leek and garlic to pot.  Cook until vegetables are brown, stirring often, about 12 minutes.  Add coriander and cardamom, then flour; stir to coat the vegetables.  Add wine and bring sauce to a boil.  Return ribs and any accumulated juices from bowl to pot.  Add chicken broth.  Bring to boil, cover, and transfer pot to oven.  Braise ribs until tender, about 2 hours.

[Bon Appetit here notes that this recipe can be made up to two days ahead, cooled on the counter uncovered, then refrigerated.  They say that the added resting time is good for the flavor of the dish.  I did make this ahead and found it was delicious, plus it made it easier to scoop out some of the extra fat that had cooled on the surface.]

If made ahead, warm up the dish on the stovetop.  Remove the ribs to a large platter.  Stain sauce into large saucepan, discarding solids in strainer (as you can see above, I did not do this step – I like carrots!).  Bring sauce to boil, then pour over ribs and serve.

**A couple of nights later, I took the remaining short rib and shredded it up with two forks.  The shredded  meat can be used in Enchiladas or mixed in with your favorite (homemade) tomato sauce for a quick ragu.

Shredded Beef ribs