Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Onion Tart via A KITCHEN IN FRANCE - Recipe and Cookbook Review

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It was a beautiful Fall day when I heard the thump on my front stoop of a package arriving.  It got even more beautiful when I opened the package and found a review copy of "A Kitchen in France: A Year of Cooking in My Farmhouse " by Mimi Thorisson.

First, my disclaimer... I received this book FREE! courtesy of BLOGGING FOR BOOKS.  I was sent the book in exchange for this review.  The book was theirs, but the opinions are mine.  What follows is my honest impression.

My impression is WOW!  This may be the perfect cookbook.

Her Story... Mimi Thorisson was born in Hong Kong and her story took her to Paris and eventually along with a large family, dogs and a photographer spouse moved to the French countryside.  The introduction to the book quickly gets us to the French Countryside lifestyle we all dream of.  She has the large kitchen, locally produced ingredients, a husband that can make the ordinary look spectacular with a lens... And the family and friends that she cooks for.  She is also a food blogger.  Allow me to quote from her "About Me" page on her blog, MANGER ...

"I’ve been doing a lot of cooking in these last four years, to glowing reviews (my family are very kind) and around 2 years ago I felt the need to share my culinary experiences with some friends and perhaps a few others. So Manger was born and while the rest may not be history it’s my story and my family’s. We are as happy as ever, up to no good, living with 14 amazing dogs, Fox Terriers, Jack Russell’s and one chocolate-colored German pointer called Gertrud. She thinks she’s a terrier by the way."

Her story, as told in her book, includes not only some of the most beautiful food photography I have ever seen, but also shots of her children, husband and the big country kitchen and French countryside that can take you through many a rainy Sunday afternoon of day dreaming.  I can spot her food blogging roots in each recipe, she includes not only a stunning shot of each and every recipe but also a paragraph or two that transports you to her kitchen and lets you be that fly on the wall as she shares something personal about the dish.  For me, I enjoy cookbooks best when I get a feel for the life of the author.   "A Kitchen in France: A Year of Cooking in My Farmhouse " has that feel throughout.

Her Book...  The Book itself is large, about 9X11 inch size.  4 Pounds, 304 pages (Half of them full page size photos).  Each of the Approximate 120 (my guess) recipes includes a stylish photograph of the finished dish.  The book is divided into seasonal sections, emphasizing the French and her personal commitment to seasonal cooking.  Farm to Table even in this world of Whole Foods and year round produce.  She also includes suggested menus for each season.  Her recipe choices include plenty of Starters, Sides, Soups, Main courses and of course some spectacular desserts to finish off.

Her Recipes... As I write this, Amazon.com features several pages of the book that you can flip through, including her introduction and several recipes.  Click the blue letters to see a sample...  "A Kitchen in France: A Year of Cooking in My Farmhouse " .

No matter how beautiful a book is, the recipes must be accessible (ingredients need to be able to be found... even in Kansas).  They should be doable... Of course it is implied that you know your way around a measuring cup, but nothing so overly complicated that the idea scares off potential cooks.  And last, they must work!  Something you would be proud to serve to your family and friends.

Well, I decided to host a small dinner party for 8 of my friends.  I was so in love with the idea of the recipes I saw, I had a hard time picking one for a review.  Instead I made the party a collection of a Soup and Tart opening course, a Starter, a main course with side and a dessert.  I made 6 dishes from the book (keep checking, will be reviewing all the recipes in the next few days).

I had no trouble finding the ingredients... Remember, I live in Kansas.  While we do have our fair share of exotic ingredient markets we also have plenty of Farmer's Markets to pick from.  Just about everything I needed I was able to find at these markets.  The rest, like crème  fraîche were easy enough to find .... Just ask the guys at the super-market, they are there to help.

As to doable... Well, as I said, I made 6 dishes.  All of them came out fantastic.  Doable for me may not be doable for you.  But I can assure you that the instructions are clear, the measurements are accurate and nothing took more than a basic knowledge of mix, fold, blend and chop.  If I had a scale of 1-5 of difficulty, throwing out the East German score I would not give any of the recipes I made more than a difficulty level of 3.... Well, maybe a 4 on the Flambee recipe (Like I said, keep checking back, it's coming).

All six worked PERFECTLY.  Proud I was to serve up to my friends.

My first course was a Pumpkin Soup (come back tomorrow) with this Onion Tart.  Of the 8 folks at dinner, this was actually picked as a favorite by many.  I believe the secret is the sweet caramelized onions and the combination of Balsamic vinegar and Honey!

A new favorite Side Dish!

OK... Here's what she says to do...

Onion Tart
"A Kitchen in France"

  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 3-1/2 oz./100 g. bacon, cut into lardons or diced
  • 1 lb./450 g. onions, thinly sliced
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • all purpose flour for rolling the dough
  • 8 oz./230 g. puff pastry
Cooking Directions
  1. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and fry until browned, about 3 minutes. Lower the heat to medium-low, add the onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden brown, about 15 minutes.
  2. Add the honey, balsamic vinegar, and thyme, increase the heat to high, and boil to reduce for 2-3 minutes. Take off the heat and set aside to cool.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F./200 degrees C.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough 1/8 inch thick. Line a 10 inch/25 cm. tart pan with the pastry and prick the bottom several times with a fork. Trim the edges. Scoop the onion mixture into the tart shell. Bake until the pastry is crisp and golden, about 20 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before drizzling with olive oil and serving.
And here it is plated with a bowl of Pumpkin Soup...

Here's my Menu for the night...

Pumpkin Soup
With an Onion Tart

Gambas Flambees
With Pastis

Roast Chicken With
Creme Fraiche and Herbs
Served with a
Butternut Squash

PLUS and AMAZING Spectacular
Chocolate Meringue Swirl

As I said, Each of the 6 recipes I tried from the book worked and worked spectacularly.  I have been doing a lot of non-challenging catering dishes lately.  It was fun and exciting to whip these dishes up and serve this menu to my friends.  All well received, all went as best as I could have imagined and I could not recommend this book highly enough.

Beautiful enough to be a table top book, inspiring enough to get lost in on a rainy Sunday afternoon...

And wonderful accessible workable recipes!

And one last disclaimer...
"I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review."  But the review and opinions are 100% accurate and mine!


So,  I am pleased to list this as one of my Growing list of  "52 Ways to Cook Side Dish Recipes"!!!

Sure the meat gets all the glory but real cooks know it's the spread... the specialty Side Dishes that makes a meal rise or fall. Here's a few of my favorite recipes that will help to create that illusive COMPLETE MENU!

LOTS of Potato Sides, Vegetable Sides, Specialty Salads, Bread and MORE!


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1 comment:

  1. I am so excited to read this Dave. I had the same reaction to Mimi's book. I spent hours just reading it. Now I just need to try the recipes that you made. Lucky dinner guests!