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Authors: Dorie Greenspan

Around My French Table (9 page)

BOOK: Around My French Table
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Dilled Gravlax with Mustard Sauce

G
RAVLAX, SUGAR-AND-SPICE-CURED SALMON
with a honey mustard sauce, could be the poster dish for party food. Not only does it go with just about every aperitif from vodka, its original companion in its Scandinavian homeland, to Champagne, its most common companion in France, it's a dish that has to be made ahead, so it can get checked off the to-do list very early.

You can find gravlax, the thin slices of salmon tinged dark at the edges from the spice rub, displayed in almost every
traiteur,
or specialty prepared-foods shop, in Paris, but I prefer to make it myself and to have control over what goes into the cure and the sauce. I also love being able to make something chez moi that looks and tastes as if the pros produced it.

Gravlax is a standard at our New Year's Eve dinner, and when the party is large—we were once twenty-six for dinner!—I make a whole side of salmon. If, like me, you don't have a pan large enough for a side of salmon (or enough refrigerator space—Paris fridges are pint-sized), cut the fish crosswise in half and rub all the surfaces with the spice mix, then lay one half in the pan, flesh side up, spread with dill, and top with the other half, flesh side down.

BE PREPARED:
Start the dish at least 2 days ahead.

FOR THE SALMON
1
teaspoon white peppercorns
1
teaspoon black peppercorns
1
teaspoon coriander seeds
2
tablespoons sea salt or kosher salt
2
teaspoons sugar
1
1- to 1½-pound skin-on center-cut salmon fillet
1
cup chopped fresh dill
 
 
FOR THE SAUCE
2
tablespoons honey mustard, preferably Dijon
1
tablespoon distilled white vinegar
3
tablespoons mild oil, such as grapeseed or canola
¼
teaspoon salt
2
tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Freshly ground pepper (optional)
 
 
Small thin slices rye bread or toasted brioche, for serving
Small dill sprigs, for garnish (optional)

TO MAKE THE SALMON:
Put the peppercorns and coriander seeds in a small skillet and warm the spices over medium heat until they are fragrant and so hot they jump in the pan, about 2 minutes. Spill the spices into a mortar and crush them with a pestle, or turn them onto a cutting board, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and crush with the bottom of a heavy pan or the heel of a knife.

Scrape the spices into a bowl, add the salt and sugar, and mix.

Poke a dozen small holes in the skin of the salmon with a sharp paring knife. Put the salmon skin side up in an 8-inch square baking dish (Pyrex is perfect for this) and pat about one-third of the spice mixture over the skin. Cover the skin with one-third of the dill and flip the fish over. Rub the salmon flesh with the remaining spices and cover with the remaining dill. Press a piece of plastic wrap over the salmon and weight the salmon evenly—two large cans of tomatoes make good weights. Refrigerate for 48 to 72 hours.

TO MAKE THE SAUCE:
Put the mustard, vinegar, and oil in a small jar, cover, and shake to blend (or whisk in a small bowl). Add the salt, dill, and pepper, if you'd like, shake again, and refrigerate until needed.
(The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.)

Scrape the spices and dill off both sides of the salmon and rinse the salmon quickly under cold water; dry thoroughly. Using a knife with a long, thin sharp blade and cutting on the diagonal, thinly slice the salmon, leaving the skin behind. Serve with the sauce and bread or toasts, garnished with dill, if you like.

 

MAKES 8 SERVINGS

 

SERVING
To serve DIY-style, arrange the salmon on a large serving platter, spoon the sauce into a sauceboat or a small bowl with a ladle, and pile the bread attractively on a plate. Alternatively, you can arrange a platter of ready-made gravlax toasts, putting a small slice of gravlax on each piece of bread or toast and topping the salmon with a bit of sauce. If you'd like, finish each slice with a sprig of dill.

 

STORING
Once you've rinsed off the cure and patted the salmon dry, you can cover it and refrigerate for up to 2 more days before serving.

Mme. Maman's Chopped Liver

A
LTHOUGH SONIA MAMAN IS FRENCH,
her chopped liver is hardly the refined pâté or mousse of chicken livers you find in restaurants or specialty shops. It's a rough, savory mix of well-browned onions and chicken livers, cooked in oil and then chopped, so that you get a spread with plenty of texture.

Sonia cooks her onions in lots of oil and then drains them, the better to get them really, really brown; she cooks the livers only until they're still rosy at the center, the better to keep them moist and flavorful; and then she's done. But there are times when I keep going, adding a pinch of allspice or quatre-épices, the French blend of spices that's traditional in pâtés, and/or folding in some chopped hard-boiled eggs.

BE PREPARED:
The liver needs to chill for a few hours before serving.

½
cup peanut oil (or other high-heat oil, like grapeseed)
2
large onions, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1
pound chicken livers, veins and any fat or green spots removed, halved and patted dry
¼-½
teaspoon quatre-épices (see Sources
[>]
) or ¼ teaspoon ground allspice (optional)
1-2
hard-boiled eggs, finely chopped (optional)
Chicken fat or mayonnaise, for finishing (optional)

Pour the oil into a large skillet and put the skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and cook, stirring, until they're well browned. Season with salt and pepper, stir again, and take the skillet off the heat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the onions to a strainer set over a heatproof bowl, leaving whatever oil drips through the slots behind in the skillet.

Return the oil that's drained from the onions to the skillet and put the skillet back over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the chicken livers and cook, nudging them occasionally to make sure they're not sticking to the skillet, until browned, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and turn the livers over to cook until brown on the other side, 1 to 2 minutes more, just until rosy in the middle. With a slotted spoon, transfer the livers to a cutting board; reserve the oil.

Let the livers cool for about 5 minutes. Either coarsely chop them or cut them into small pieces.

Scrape the onions into a bowl, add the chopped liver, and stir with a fork to mix. Taste for salt and pepper—the liver should be generously seasoned. Add the quatre-épices or allspice, if you're using it, and, if you'd like, the hard-boiled eggs. If the mixture seems dry, you can add a little more oil from the skillet, some chicken fat, if you've got it, or a tad of mayonnaise, which is what my husband likes in his chopped liver.

Pack the chopped liver into a container or a small terrine, cover well, and chill for a few hours before serving.

 

MAKES 8 HORS D'OEUVRE SERVINGS OR 6 STARTER SERVINGS

 

SERVING
Serve the chopped liver surrounded by crackers or thin slices of baguette. If you're not serving this as an hors d'oeuvre, you can use it as a sandwich filling, in which case I'd follow my husband's lead and slather the bread with mayonnaise, then add lettuce and tomato.

 

STORING
Tightly covered, the chicken liver will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Back-of-the-Card Cheese and Olive Bread

N
OT QUITE A BACK-OF-THE-BOX RECIPE,
but close. . . . Originally this recipe was printed on a card produced by the Comté cheese makers' organization and distributed to
fromageries
all over France. My friend the cookbook author and teacher Patricia Wells and I each picked up a card when we were shopping near her home in Provence and when we got into our kitchens, each of us tweaked the recipe to make it our own.

Now it's your turn. My loaf has cheese (Comté, Gruyère, Swiss, or even cheddar), olives, and tapenade, but it doesn't have to be like that. Keep the basic proportions and play around with the additions, and you can have your own house loaf. Add diced ham and subtract the tapenade, and you'll come close to the original recipe.

1⅔
cups all-purpose flour

teaspoons baking powder
¾
teaspoon salt
4
large eggs, at room temperature
½
cup whole milk

tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

tablespoons tapenade, homemade (
[>]
) or store-bought
6
ounces Comté, Gruyère, Swiss, or cheddar, coarsely grated (about 1½ cups)

cup pitted oil-cured black olives, halved or coarsely chopped
Grated zest of 1 lemon or ½ orange (optional)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Oil or butter an 8½-×-4½-inch loaf pan (nonstick is nice here).

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.

In another bowl or a large measuring cup, lightly beat the eggs, then whisk in the milk, olive oil, and tapenade. Pour the liquid ingredients over the flour mixture and stir gently to blend. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in the cheese, olives, and grated zest, if you're using it. Scrape the batter into the pan.

Bake the loaf for 10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 375 degrees F and continue to bake the loaf for another 35 minutes or so, until it's puffed and beautifully golden and a slender knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let it rest for about 5 minutes, then turn it out. Turn the loaf right side up and let cool completely on the rack.

 

MAKES 1 LOAF OR ABOUT 12 SERVINGS

 

SERVING
In true French fashion, this loaf is meant to be served as a predinner nibble with a glass of Champagne or white wine. Cut the loaf into slices about ½ inch thick, then cut the slices in half the long way, for easy eating. While it's not the French custom to serve this bread with a meal, it's awfully good with salads.

 

STORING
Wrapped well, the bread will keep for up to 3 days at room temperature or for up to 2 months in the freezer (thaw in the wrapper).

 

BONNE IDÉE
There's a lot you can do to vary this loaf; an easy change is to swap the tapenade for pesto (homemade,
[>]
, or store-bought) and to replace the olives with bits of sun-dried tomatoes (or go half olives, half tomatoes). If you use pesto, you might want to add some toasted pine nuts to the mix. No matter what you use, you can top the loaf with some grated cheese before it goes into the oven, but watch it carefully: if it browns too quickly, cover the top loosely with a foil tent.

Savory Cheese and Chive Bread

I
KNOW THIS LOOKS LIKE A GOOD OLD
American quick bread, but it's got a French soul, since I was inspired to make it after having had so many versions in so many places across France, particularly in the Champagne region. There the savory cake (just about anything baked in a loaf pan is called a
cake
in France) is often served with aperitifs, but it's also perfect for brunch, really good with salads, and so satisfying when lightly toasted and buttered.

The
cake salé,
as it's known
(salé
means salty or savory), is about as simple a recipe as you can find in the baker's repertoire. In many ways, it's like a muffin, and it's prepared in much the same manner: you whisk all the dry ingredients together in one bowl, all the wet in another, and then gently combine the two. It takes less than 10 minutes to put together and requires no special equipment.

In France, the basic loaf usually has some cheese—generally Gruyère, Emmenthal, or Comté, sometimes Parmesan, and often a combination (it's a great way to use those odd-sized pieces of cheese that seem to collect in the fridge)—and can have more add-ins. For this version, I've kept it simple, using just cheese and lots of snipped chives. In the United States, my preference is for cheddar and some chives from the garden. But this is a recipe that begs for variation (see Bonne Idée) and something to sip along with it. While you're cooling the bread, cool some wine too.


cups all-purpose flour
1
tablespoon baking powder
½-1
teaspoon salt (depending on what cheese and add-ins you're using)
¼
teaspoon freshly ground white pepper (or more to taste; you could even add a pinch of cayenne)
3
large eggs, at room temperature

cup whole milk, at room temperature

cup extra-virgin olive oil
1
generous cup coarsely grated Gruyère, Comté, Emmenthal, or cheddar (about 4 ounces)
2
ounces Gruyère, Comté, Emmenthal, or cheddar, cut into very small cubes (½–⅔, cup)
½
cup minced fresh chives or other herbs (or thinly sliced scallions)

cup toasted walnuts, chopped (optional)
BOOK: Around My French Table
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