I sent myself to Bordeaux on a mission: to gather recipes and photographs for my next book, video clips for my upcoming online cooking courses (wish me luck), and to remind myself that France was, in fact, still there. How? By reconnecting with my friends there who have become like family to me. I came back inspired and overwhelmed with beautiful material, and with some insights on weight/fat loss (what!?), while having worked on delicious recipes for organ meats (les abats), and a fig tart (video here)…..read the newsletter here.
The Bordeaux Kitchen made it to the Best French Cooking Books of All Time
I’m THRILLED to announce that my book, “The Bordeaux Kitchen: An Immersion into French Food and Wine, Inspired by Ancestral Traditions”, made it to BookAuthority’s Best French Cooking Books of All Time:
BookAuthority collects and ranks the best books in the world, and it is a great honor to get this kind of recognition. Thank you for all your support!
The book is available for purchase on Amazon.
Kitchen Sink Borsch
First and foremost, I hope you and your family are well and able to cope in these uncertain times of La Corona.
While on a recent “stocking up” grocery run, I picked up a nice plump red beet that was calling to me from the produce shelves. The beet is mostly what makes the borsch a borsch, as opposed to another kind of soup.
Because it may not be possible to obtain certain ingredients at the moment, I’m calling this version Kitchen Sink Borsch, as you could really put whatever you have into a big pot and boil it. This is much like the French pot au feu – a soup containing all the vegetable, meat and bone remnants from the week, stewed continuously during the week, so as to not waste a single ingredient or leftover: #nowaste !
A little side note: I concentrated on Russian Studies at my university and studied Russian in the US, Russia, German, and France, and lived in Kazakhstan for two years. But it wasn’t until I visited a friend in Ukraine while living in Moscow around 2012 that I learned from her lovely mother – a doctor treating and following Chernobyl victims – how to cook Ukrainian borsch. Notice I have not spelled it with a “t” at the end (not sure why this is usually done in English?), because the Cyrillic word borsch – борщ – ends with a kind of “w” looking letter with a tail, making the sound “shch,” as in “fresh cheese.” If a Russian-style soup has potato and cabbage, and no beet, my understanding is that it is usually called “schi.” – щи. (Both words in Russian end in this same letter, but in English, you would not want to put a “t” on the end of the cabbage soup name…!)
The ingredients below go into the traditional borsch, and I may have missed a few, but you will get the general idea. I used what we had in the refrigerator at this particular point in time. I used ground beef because that is what we had, but you can use steak or chuck “stew” beef. Chuck cuts from the front quarters of the animal require longer cooking times because they tend to be tougher. Why? From my butcher apprenticeship I learned that since herbivores spend their time bending down eating grass, much of their weight is on the forequarters, building stronger muscles in the front, while loin and steak come from more tender parts of the animal.) That is why stew meat is called stew meat – it needs more time to stew. Chopped small enough, though, you may be able to get away with a shorter cooking time. You can substitute some of the water with bone broth, especially if you do not have a marrow bone. Like butter, lard, tallow and duck fat, I try to keep a few marrow bones in my freezer for uses like this. People joke about how creative the Russians and Ukrainians are with using dill in a dish. I had none available, so I used fresh chopped green onion, but dill really makes your borsch the real deal.
2 tablespoons olive oil (or butter)
½ red onion, chopped
½ white onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 pinches coarse sea salt
1.5 to 2 pounds ground or chopped beef (80-85% lean, grassfed if possible)
¼ red cabbage, chopped
1 medium carrot, diced
1 large beet, diced
14.5 ounce (115 g) diced tomatoes
6 to 7 cups water (or combination of water and broth)
1 large bay leaf
6 small potatoes, chopped (about 1/2 pound)
1 beef marrow bone
Salt and pepper to taste
Sour cream (called Smetana in Russian), for garnish
Dill or parsley, and/or green onion, chopped, for garnish
Heat the olive oil or butter and salt in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat, add the salt, and sauté the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent. Add the meat and brown it, stirring frequently. Add the carrot and stir for a few more minutes. Then add the cabbage, beet, tomatoes, potatoes, marrow bone, bay leaf and water.
Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to medium. Cook until the potatoes are soft, at least 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Garnish with sour cream, dill, parsley, and/or green onion. To your health — Na zdorovie!
CHICKEN LIVER DIP – Sauce aux Foies de Volaille
This recipe is from the book and was also published, along with the photo above, in the EPIC Impact Journal 2018. I though I would share the recipe and photo from the book (below), as a way of posting recipes again, now that The Bordeaux Kitchen book is almost ONE YEAR OLD! As we head into summer, this versatile recipe will be a great way to introduce friends and family to organ meats!
I learned this recipe from my good friend and Bordeaux University wine course buddy, Malika Faytout, an organic winemaker in the Bordeaux region of Castillon. She says she still remembers me telling her that first day of class when we met that I was writing a book called The Bordeaux Kitchen, an ancestral French cookbook with a wine chapter and food and wine pairings.
We sat next to each other in the first row throughout the academic year, and she ended up being the top student in our class of about 45 students. Luckily, some of her smarts rubbed off on me, and I was able to pass the course, too. Malika had decided to take the wine course to be able to play a more central role in her family’s organic vineyard, Château Lescaneaut, in the Castillon – Côtes de Bordeaux appellation, next to St. Emilion, both of which produce fruity, bold Merlot-based wines, and, as it turns out, a delicious accompaniment to the liver dip!
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 12 to 15 minutes
This chicken liver dip recipe is versatile in that you can eat it warmed, room temperature, or chilled, with a variety of raw vegetables, such as a type of romaine leaf (“Paris Island” heirloom variety), as we did, or with endives or on top of lettuce, and with a thicker or thinner consistency. This is a delicious way to eat nutrient-dense chicken livers. This recipe can be halved or doubled, depending on your needs. It can be served as a party dip, an appetizer, or as a meal. When Malika and I made this recipe together, it was spring, so we used local spring garlic-onions (oignon aillé). In the photo here I used the sheath of a green onion. A scallion or peeled clove of garlic may be used instead of green onion.
2 tablespoons bacon fat (or duck fat)
15 whole chicken livers (12.5 ounces or 350 g)
1 tablespoon spring onion or garlic, minced
4 pinches of fine sea salt
1/3 cup water
3 teaspoons mustard
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Fine salt and ground pepper to taste
Fleur de sel for garnish
Melt the fat in a medium or large cast iron skillet over medium-high to high heat. Add the chicken livers, green onion (or garlic), and salt. [A reminder that a pinch (une pincée) is using three fingers. For fine salt, fleur de sel, pepper, and spices this turns out to be slightly less than 1/8 teaspoon. For coarser grains of sea salt, it might be slightly more.] Allow the livers to stick a bit to the pan, letting them caramelize a bit, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, stirring occasionally for an additional 7 to 10 minutes, until the livers are cooked through.
Remove the livers, allowing them to cool in a bowl for several minutes. Deglaze the pan with1/3 cup water to loosen the caramelized material stuck to the pan, and add this liquid to the bowl of livers.
Mix the livers in a food processor, in batches if needed, adding the mustard, vinegar, and olive oil, until you reach the desired consistency. (This step should take about 30 seconds.) To increase the liquid consistency of the sauce, add a bit more water and/or olive oil. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper as needed. Top with fleur de sel for garnish. Fleur de sel is often used as a finishing touch, a chef’s secret topping to a savory dish or dessert. The fine, white cubes are pleasing to the eye and delicate on the tongue, and add a subtle crunch.
Serve while still warm, chilled, or at room temperature with romaine or endive leaves, with carrot or celery sticks, homemade beet or sweet potato chips. I prefer eating the dip warmed or at room temperature.
WINE PAIRING TIP Malika’s family and I had their house wine, a flavorful 2012 Château Lescaneaut from the Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux appellation. Another classmate of ours, sommelière Annabelle Nicolle-Beaufils, alternately suggests a dry white Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh Sec, from an area located between Bordeaux and the Pyrénées foothills of Pau more known for its sweet wines, which are also worth a try. Otherwise Annabelle proposes either an effervescent white Muscat from Languedoc-Roussillon or a Champagne. More such wine pairings are suggested in The Bordeaux Kitchen book.
Cervelles d’Agneau Pochées
Serves 1 per person
I can say that it was a little hard to swallow the first bite or two, as the smell was subtle but new to me, and the texture a bit mushy. To my co-chef and former neighbor, Rebecca Pinsolle, the scent takes her back to her days visiting her grandmother. This is the same effect that smooth pork liverwurst has on me, it transports me to my childhood when I would smear that liverwurst on dark German bread for my breakfast. I am truly grateful for that small indoctrination into “strange” foods, as I think it has helped me to be able to enjoy other foods like chicken livers paté or just plain old liver. And foie gras, of course.
Huitres à la Bordelaise, Crépinette de Porc à l’Echalote
Preparation Trumps Complication
Despite the fact that this recipe looks complicated with lots of steps, it’s basically oysters and meatballs! You can eat either of these separately, but also together, who knew?, to pack a one-two nutrient-dense punch for your health, because it combines zinc and selenium-rich oysters with nutrient-dense pork balls (containing pork fat, meat and liver, and let’s not forget the all-powerful but under-exploited vitamin-rich parsley). Plus, you can double the recipe, make bunches of meatballs in advance and freeze them for future snacks and meals when you have less time to prepare a meal. So make this recipes on a day you have set aside several hours for prepping meals ahead for the week. This is one key to success to having access during the busy times of the week: prepared, homemade food! The oysters must be consumed immediately, of course, particularly once opened. So that’s a fun way to invite some friends over and share a meal, making sure one of them knows how to open an oyster! (This is a skill I have yet to master!)
Le Foie de Veau – Veal Liver & Petits Pois à la Française – French Green Peas
This recipe combination comes from a grandmother named Gaby, a native of the Bordeaux. She is the paternal grandmother of my pal Chef Fred here in Bordeaux, who demonstrated these recipes for me. Chef Fred worked in several famous restaurants in Paris before returning to his native region of Bordeaux about 10 years ago. He taught cooking at an atelier in Bordeaux and has plans to start a food truck on his own, we’ll keep our eyes peeled for that! You can follow him on Instagram at FREDO_TRUCK_
Like everyone else on this planet, I like to consider myself as having something unique to contribute to the world. So what could that unique thing be? I think, therefore I am. Not unique. I speak five languages? Getting there. I have a parasite called Cryptosporidium? Boom! That’s unique! Ugh, it’s also unhealthy and tedious.
Now before you hit the Gong on this blog entry, that reference will date me, I encourage you to read on: I have a unique spin I’d like to share with the world other than that of battling a parasite alone. The spin? Actually, it’s several spins. Here are some key words: ancestral, seasonal, French, recipes and wine pairings. I like to mix language, culture, ingredients, art styles, music, thoughts. I like to meet people, speak their language, and then go home and take a nap.