Rendezvousing with a Wooden Spoon and a Cup of Cream: French Cooking

Angelina’s, Paris (Photo credit: C. Bertelsen

It’s parka weather in North Florida now. At the moment, saying “the sweats” refers to pants and hoodies, not the moist high-summer insecty trickle, when walking to the mailbox seems like an audition for a wet T-shirt contest.

Colder days and nights invite a certain degree of nostalgia for winter and cold-weather, stick-to-the-ribs types of food. Now I can turn on the oven to BAKE. Pumpkin pie, gingerbread cake, roast pork, buttermilk oven-fried chicken, cornbread dressing, all these and more fill the air with aromas I only dreamed of during the endless muggy months of a Florida summer.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recently released an upgraded version of their dietary guidelines. And they would not look favorably upon my current culinary transgressions, fueled in part by my nostalgia for France.

Duck pâté, Foix, France  (Photo credit: C. Bertelsen)

My partner in crime, or sin if you prefer, is Wini Moranville’s The Bonne Femme Cookbook. As much as I love Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I prefer Ms. Moranville’s approach. After all, the subtitle tells all: Simple, Splendid Food that French Women Cook Every Day. Over 250 recipes give me a chance to play with my food in a way that Julia, and other French cooks, seem not to permit. French cooking does have the reputation of being fussy and rigid in execution.

Pork Products, France (Photo credit: C. Bertelsen)

These days, I watch as the produce man in Publix piles up acorn squash, red and green cabbages, bright orange carrots that Bugs (the bunny) would love, leeks as rotund as a baseball bat, and purplish turnips. Crisp Fuji and Gala apples roll toward me as I choose which ones will go home with me, transformed into a different incarnation as an apple galette, garnished with thick heavy cream and a light sprinkling of sugar.

It’s not like shopping in France. But in France, too, thanks to supermarket conglomerates like Monoprix, shoppers find plenty of ways to shop aside from the fabulous and traditional open-air markets. And don’t forget Picard Surgelés. With over 900 stores, and counting, Picard Surgelés surged to the forefront of food-buying options, as French consumers dubbed it their favorite brand … .

Food shopping, France (Photo credit: C. Bertelsen)

Here, on the other side of the pond, French cuisine seems to have hit the skids in the last several decades, as haute cuisine proved to be just too expensive time-wise and financially for most restaurateurs to maintain. Consumers and cooks turned to simpler, less elaborate dishes, another factor in the decline of fascination with French food. And then, truthfully, an aura of snobbishness hung over French restaurants, certainly not abated by maîtres d’ of the Henri Soulé ilk.

Photo credit: C. Bertelsen

But what of Wini Moranville’s oeuvre?

Thinking of dinner – again. It’s a task that never comes to an end, well, not until THE END, if you know what I mean. Dinner. Tonight.

And skipping through the pages of The Bonne Femme Cookbook, I stop at page 33.

“Poached Egg Salad la Bonne Routière.”

The recipe appears to be widely shared around the internet, so here I give full credit to Ms. Moranville. By the way, she has a new book coming out in the spring of 2022. From the look of it, I think it might just be a second edition, with enhancements, of The Bonne Femme Cookbook, which is hard to find these days.

PS: And yes. “Rendezvousing” is a word.

Poached Egg Salad la Bonne Routière

Makes 4 first-course servings (or two main-course servings)

4          slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces

3          cups torn mixed greens, such as baby spinach, radicchio, Belgian endive, frisée, and arugula*

1/2      cup sliced red onion

4          large eggs

1          recipe Sherry-Mustard Vinaigrette (see recipe, below)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crisp; remove the skillet from the heat and set it aside.

2. Toss the greens and red onion in a medium-size salad bowl.

3. Using an egg poacher, poach the eggs to the desired doneness according to the manufacturer’s directions. Drain the eggs and set them aside.

4. When the eggs are almost done, reheat the bacon in the skillet over medium heat; remove the bacon pieces with a slotted spoon and add to the greens mixture in the bowl. Toss in enough vinaigrette to coat the leaves nicely; you may not need the entire recipe.

5. Arrange the salad among four serving plates and top each with a poached egg. Season each egg with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Sherry-Mustard Vinaigrette: In a small bowl, combine 1 to 2 cloves minced garlic with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Mash them together with the back of a spoon to make a rough paste. Add 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar; whisk with a fork or small whisk until the salt is dissolved. Whisk in 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard. Slowly add 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, whisking until incorporated. Whisk in a drop or two of hot pepper sauce, if desired.

Photo credit: C. Bertelsen