Blind Baking Is an Exercise in Futility and Other Lessons from French Week

Do I need to say here that butter and cream make most things taste better? That’s really the primary lesson of French cooking. If you want other lessons, continue reading.

The number one cookbook on my France list (and no it’s not by Julia Child) is My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz. It tells the story of what’s being prepared in his home kitchen in Paris. As the title implies. Granted, it’s the home kitchen of a well known chef who used to be at Chez Panisse . . . but then we wouldn’t want to peek inside a boring home kitchen. There are plenty of short essays and long recipe notes for context, and understated yet delectable photography. I actually kind of like the big flashy showy over the top food photography but this is growing on me. Here is the review of My Paris Kitchen from when it almost won the Piglet Tournament of Cookbooks – you can follow the string of reviews through the brackets in the 2015 Piglet. If you don’t follow the Piglet Tournament every year, I suggest you consider doing so. 

From My Paris Kitchen last week I made the irresistible porc au caramel. Pork in a sauce combining caramel and bourbon and beer. It is reprinted online here from Austin360.

Another thing about David Lebovitz – his quiche recipe doesn’t use blind baking, which is baking the crust without filling first, then adding filling. It’s a big pain in the neck and risks the crust deforming in spite of the pie weights (and other tricks) you may use to hold it in place. I always thought blind baking was a necessary evil of quiche. I checked online and saw most credible sites claiming you must blind bake a quiche crust, and a few claiming that was a kitchen myth. With plenty of quiche baking ahead of me this week, I did it both ways to test the theory. There was no significant difference between the two crusts. I shall not blind bake quiche crust again. 

Now it should be noted that I have particular tastes in quiche that would horrify an actual French chef. I like the crust just barely crispy and the filling quite firm, not the soft wiggly sort, because that sort reminds me of soft tofu in a bad way. For the crust, I use this Melissa Clark recipe. For the filling, I used the following – and note that this ratio of egg to dairy is much more eggy than a traditional quiche (here is a standard ratio from The Kitchn if you want to adjust to a more traditional soft inside). 

Whisk in a bowl: 5 large eggs, 1/2 cup cream, 1/4 cup whole milk, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1 tsp Herbes De Provence

Place the pie crust in a deep dish pie plate, layer in first crumbled blue cheese, second cooked & drained spinach (about 16 oz fresh cooked down with a generous splash of water then drained), diced Anjou pear, another layer of crumbled blue cheese. Pour the egg mixture over it evenly. Cook at 375-degrees until set, about 40 minutes. 

Another American Author in France who is not Julia Child is Dorie Greenspan. The apple cake recipe was hers, and it’s a classic – it’s reprinted many places on the web, I can’t remember where I first found it but to keep consistent I’ll give you David Lebovitz’s reprint from his blog

And for a final recipe – the Breton Stew. This one just tickles me every time I make it. It’s not so different from your typical New England boiled supper style stew, but the buckwheat dumpling makes all the difference. I can only imagine that this recipe was written by a French person trying to project an American appetite because it says it’s for 8 but it produces A LOT. You’ll get tired of eating the stew long before you run out of stew. Here it is with its proper title: Breton Pot-au-Feu or Kig Ha Farz

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