Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Cooking American in Paris

Just as I was finishing the first edit of my new cookbook ODDBITS:What to do with the rest, and packing to leave for Paris the request came - "Would you cook a recipe from James Beard's American Cookeryand blog about it?"
I simply wanted to run away to Paris and not write another word. Anyone who has worked on a cookbook know this feeling. When you finally reach the end of the book you think you never want to see your computer or kitchen again. However, I know from experience that after a week or two I'm itching to get back into the kitchen, I am back at my computer in a matter of days, also the market in Paris inspire me to cook, so I said yes.

I sent the book back to my editor, packed American Cooking in my suitcase and left for Paris. I had no idea what recipe I was going to cook from Beard's book. As I flipped through the pages I was delighted to see beef drippings, bacon fat, lard, goose fat and butter amongst the ingredients in his recipes.

Like me, Beard loves fat and oddbits too. His book is full of recipes for brains, tongues, feet, liver, kidneys, and sweetbreads. So despite having spent the last year cooking oddbits almost exclusively, it was these recipes that caught my attention. At my local Paris market the choice was made for me.

There is an excellent triperie, a stall specializing in oddbits, in our market. There are calf's feet, tongues, liver, kidneys, brains, cheeks, marrow bones and a choice of tripe. It is a veritable Aladdin's cave for an enthusiast like me. I line up, there is always a queue, while my husband scouted the whole counter and reported back. "There are sweetbreads, beautiful sweetbreads," he announced with obvious delight, sweetbreads are on of his favourite oddbits. When I finally made it to the counter I saw he was right, the sweetbreads looked fabulous, so we bought a pair.

Beard devotes several pages to sweetbreads, but it was his recipe for Sweetbreads à La Crème, that I wanted to make because it also includes mushrooms. One of the reasons we come to Paris in the autumn is to eat mushroom. This season the mushrooms are abundant, thanks to warm days and plentiful rain. Our market was full of golden chanterelles, which the French call girolles, black trompettes des morts, and our favourite, cepes, also known as porcinis. 

Now I'm pretty sure Beard used regular button mushrooms in his recipe, but I knew he wouldn't have minded my substituting cepes. In his book, he talks about the evolution of AMerican cooking and how people from different cultures adapted their traditional recipes to the local ingredients they found in their new country. I adapted his recipe to the ingredients in my Paris market.

LIke many people who cook for a living I can;t stop myself tinkering with recipes. Instead of the rich cream sauce Beard calls for, I simply added thick, nutty raw milk crème fraîche. Beard serves the sweetbreads in patty shells or toast cases as an appetizer and while I could have picked up vol-au-vent cases at my local boulangerie, I skipped this step too. Why? So I could cut my mushrooms and sweetbreads in larger pieces and enjoy them as the main dish.

The result was delicious. I'll be cooking more of Beard's American recipes, with a Parisian twist, during my stay.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jennifer: Sweetbreads are my fav odd bit as well. I will look up that recipe and give it a go. Best on the next edit. I can hardly wait for it to come out. I am actually just starting to do your lamb shanks in pomegranate sauce which was decided on due to leftover POM from last food shoot. Adapting for the slow cooker as I am running out to do some prep for Chatelaine shoot on Monday. Hope Paris is wonderful.LeeAnne

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