Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Bonne Femme

Over the weekend I took my kids to the library, and of course, I had to check out the cookbooks! After careful consideration, I checked out the Bonne Femme Cookbook: Simple, Splendid Food That French Women Cook Every Day, by Wini Moranville. 

This delightful cookbook was obviously appealing to me, being a "bonne femme" ("good wife") myself. Hmm...hmm. After reading it almost cover to cover (cookbooks are like novels to me), I whipped out my apron and began. The first recipe I tried was for "Hamburgers with Bordelaise Sauce with Mushrooms." I've never seen a recipe for a French hamburger before, and thought it would appeal to my American children. So, according to Wini, a French hamburger consists of a pan-fried hamburger patty covered with melted cheese (French, of course), served on a thick slice of toasted country bread, topped with a French sauce, and eaten with a knife and fork. How civilized! I found the Bordelaise Sauce with Mushrooms to be very easy and delicious; but, with the combination of the hamburger patty, it brought flash-backs of bad TV dinners, specifically, Salisbury steak. So, while I will probably keep making my hamburgers in American fashion, I will make this delicious sauce again, but serve it with a perfectly grilled steak instead! Mmmm!

Bordelaise Sauce Ce Soir

Makes about 1 cup, 4 servings


1 cup low-sodium beef broth
1 cup dry red wine
1 small shallot, quartered
1 tablespoon snipped fresh parsley
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Variation for Bordelaise Sauce with Mushrooms: Add 1 cup sliced mushrooms, sauteed in a little butter, to the finished sauce and heat through.


In a medium-size saucepan, combine the broth, wine, shallot, parsley, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is reduced to 1 cup, 15 to 20 minutes.

Strain the sauce into a bowl, discarding the shallot, bay leaf, and herbs; return the sauce to the pan. Mash the butter together with the flour to make a paste (a beurre manie). Add the beurre manie bit by bit to the reduced sauce, stirring with a wire whisk to blend away any lumps. Boil gently, stirring, until the sauce reaches the desired thickness, 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Filo, Fillo, Phyllo!

Phyllo (aka., fillo, filo) dough is flaky, tissue-thin layers of pastry used in Greek and Middle Eastern cuisine. The name phyllo originates from the Greek word "filo" meaning leaf. If you've never worked with phyllo before, it is easier than you might think! The most important thing when working with phyllo is to always keep the sheets covered with a damp kitchen towel. If you don't, they will dry up in a matter of minutes, break into a thousand shards, similar to a pile of autumn leaves. The second thing to remember is to use a very soft pastry brush to help prevent the sheets from tearing when you brush them with butter. 

A great recipe, that is very forgiving, is for "Tomato Phyllo Pizza!" This is a unique twist on any other pizza you've ever had! The phyllo layers are brushed with melted butter and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese creating a very tasty, crisp, and flaky crust. Mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced onion, the most flavorful tomatoes you can find, like homegrown, and dashes of oregano and thyme make this pizza taste fresh and fabulous! A simple green salad with your favorite vinaigrette makes it a meal, but it also makes a great appetizer for parties! The pizza can be made up to 6 hours ahead, left at room temperature, and reheated for 10 minutes in a 325 degree oven.

Tomato Phyllo Pizza

Makes 1 pizza


5 tablespoon butter, melted, plus extra for the cookie sheet
1, 17-ounce package phyllo pastry sheets, thawed to room temperature
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1 cup thinly sliced onion
2 lbs ripe, medium-size tomatoes, cut into 1/4" thick slices
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Brush a large cookie sheet with butter. Take one or two sheets of the phyllo and place it on the cookie sheet, covering the entire pan. Brush the sheets, using a soft brush, with some of the melted butter. Add the next sheet, sprinkle with some of the Parmesan cheese, and continue buttering and sprinkling with the Parmesan until you have seven layers in total. (This doesn't have to be exact. You can have more than seven, if you wish!) It is okay, and maybe necessary, to overlap each layer to fit the cookie sheet. Crimp the edges around so you form an edge. Sprinkle the top layer with the grated mozzarella, thinly sliced onion, and sliced tomatoes, creating a grid of tomatoes. Season with the oregano, thyme, salt, and pepper.

Bake until golden brown, 45-50 minutes. Serve on a large tray or bread board, cutting squares with one tomato for each serving.

Recipe adapted from Bridgehampton Weekends, by Ellen Wright.