Those Old-Fashioned Favourites


Lately, I’ve been returning to the kind of cooking I did when I was a kid, the sorts of recipes that my mother taught me to get started for her when I got home from school, or the baking projects that I learned from the cookbooks that lived on the shelf above the telephone table in the kitchen.

Today, I improvised a clean-out-the fridge beef stew and it was reminiscent of the seventies-style stews of my childhood, rather than the French bistro classic style I adopted as an adult.

For dessert, I pulled out a very old recipe for applesauce cookies and was pleased to discover that it didn’t need any adjustment at all. It was rich with old school apple spices, with a party trick half cup of cold coffee thrown in for a little depth. Raisins and walnuts made for a nice textural contrast to the softness of the cookie. There’s something to be said for dipping back into one’s culinary past.

 
My favourite throwback recipe of the last little while was the soup I threw together last week. Homemade chicken stock, chopped leftover chicken, green split peas, smoked paprika, a rind from some smoked Parmesan, and a bunch of veggies and herbs – I may write it out as a real recipe at some point or just accept it as one of an infinite number of variations, rarely repeated. This iteration was so well balanced, I might have to try to recreate it, after all.

There are more sophisticated dishes that I can whip up without reference to a recipe, but humble, homely, ancient ones like these have a special satisfaction. It’s returning to the source so that, refreshed, we can regain our appetite for exploration and experimentation.

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Something Simple 

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There was to be a savoury tart today, but a moment of inattention led to an evening of correcting tart dough instead. My Canadian eyes insist on reading “cup” when they should see “stick” and I put exactly twice as much butter into the dough as I was meant to. Luckily, it was easy to fix, but by that time I’d decided that leftover potato and spinach curry was a better dinner idea.

Now, I have one half of the dough fitted into my tart pan and the other well-wrapped. Both are hanging out in the freezer, awaiting another day.

I was still in the mood to bake – do you find that once you’ve set your mind on it, you’ve got to do it? Perhaps that’s just me.

I decided on drop biscuits, to use up some milk and because they’re perfect for the pot of plum jelly my mother brought over last week.

On Friday, I’ll show you what I had in mind for that savoury tart, with a deliciously piquant post. Until then, I’ll be enjoying warmed biscuits slathered with jelly.

A Best of 2015

Bestof2015

I know it’s cliché (as I’ve said before), but I enjoy looking back over the year through the lens of the posts you liked best. When I think about my favourite posts of the year, it’s the process that stands out for me – a new skill mastered, a story shaped and re-shaped until it achieved the effect I was looking for, a photograph (for once) well-made.

The list of top posts, on the other hand, show me which ones intrigued people enough to click through to them. It’s not a perfect measure of quality, to be sure – comments may be a better guide there. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to see what brought people here this year.

It’s also interesting to see that the top posts this year are completely different from last year’s list. I think it’s encouraging to see that the blog is at least a little dynamic, though I think the end of French Fridays with Dorie was part of the shift.

12. Made with Love

We start with a post that would count as one of my own favourites from 2015, in which I share the recipe for my mother’s spicy vegetable chili. It’s a winter dish, really, full of pantry staples and vegetables that are available year-round. But, it’s so popular, that we get requests for it through all the seasons. My mother makes enormous batches of it for the church and community gatherings she organizes. I make it for co-op meetings. We both make it for Kevin, who loves it so much that he’d happily eat it weekly.

But, it’s not really the recipe that makes the post, at least for me. It’s the story of how the recipe came to be and the love it represents.

11. Sucre à la Crème

I was surprised that this one made the list, as it’s a short post that shares two French language videos of people making a classic, homey French Canadian sweet. I’m a little fond of it, though, both for the winkingly nostalgic photo and the video of the Québécoise grand-mère.

10. French Food Revolution Friday with Dorie 2015

This year’s French Fridays with Dorie edition of Food Revolution Day was a lot of fun. I made a dish I’d missed when it came up in the rotation originally, reviewed some past favorites, and connected it all to the day’s goal of promoting cooking skills and food literacy.

9. FFWD – Holiday Card and Recipe Exchange

This post is about something that’s become a yearly tradition amongst French Fridays with Dorie alumni. We exchange cards, and often recipes, at year’s end. It’s nice to have something to look forward to when checking the mailbox, isn’t it?

8. FFWD – Marengo As You Like It

I suspect people came to this post looking for a recipe, but it’s really just a recounting of my experience with Dorie’s recipe. Though many of my French Fridays posts were designed to have wider appeal, others – like this one – were really addressed to our group. Posts like these are travel diary entries for a journey through a cookbook.

7. Eastside Coffee Culture

This post was a lot of fun to research. It’s a celebration of the coffee shops in my neighbourhood and it’s meant to be the first in a series of themed explorations. More will come along, slowly, as I gather enough intelligence on each subject.

6. Baking Chez Moi – Brown Butter and Vanilla Bean Weekend Cake

A short, fun post on a delicious cake I’ve made over and over again.

5. Holiday Book Reviews – True to Your Roots

I very much enjoy writing my cookbook review series, so I was happy that one of these posts made the list. This book intrigued a number of people and the person who won it in the giveaway was thrilled. I’m very happy, myself, that it’s now on my cookbook shelf.

4. FFWD – Brioche and Nutella Tartine

Who can resist the siren call of Nutella? (Not me.) However, my favourite part of this post is the beautiful braided brioche I made.

3. FFWD – Celebration Week #1: The AHA Moment

I’m so glad I “cheated” on our assignment for this post. As a result, it’s a lovely guided tour of my French Fridays years.

2. Spring Book Reviews – Teatime in Paris!

Another book review, for a cookbook I turn to on special occasions. Thinking about Jill’s pâte sucrée makes me want to start my holiday baking all over again.

1. Eat Local: Kin Kao

The number one spot this year goes to one of my (very occasional) restaurant reviews, for one of our favourite neighbourhood spots. I’m quite pleased that reviews took three of the top five spots. I’ve been enjoying writing them this year more than almost anything else.

So, there you have a list of some of the buzziest (in the very calm, sort of backwater way that my blog can be said to generate buzz) posts on my blog. And I have food for thought about the directions I may take the blog in 2016. I hope you enjoy clicking around the list as much as I did.

You’ll hear from once more before the close of the year. I hope the dwindling days of 2015 are treating you well!

FFWD – Celebration Week #4: Grand Finale

Now that our group has, collectively, cooked through the whole of Around My French Table, we’ve moved on to four weeks of celebratory posts, reflecting on our more than four-and-a-half years of cooking together.

Our assignment this week:

For the improvisers among us, share an original recipe that was inspired by an AMFT recipe or do a recipe that you would like to Make-Up or just make again. We also suggest that you say whatever you wish to say in this Post. We intend to have boxes of tissues on hand when we read everyone’s posts.. Do your best with this one.

Salted Butter Break Ups

Cooking together. It’s one of the simplest expressions of caring that I know. Cooking for friends and family is nurturing, but cooking with someone develops camaraderie and involves more than a little synergy. It’s easy to see this at work as you move through a kitchen, working with a person or a group.

It’s not something I knew was possible to create by cooking through a book with a group of bloggers scattered across the world.

Each week, as the French Fridays crew worked on another selection from Around My French Table, we began by sharing our questions and concerns with one another, then ended by reading about each other’s experiences with the dish. That alone created solidarity, as we identified with difficulties, helped each other problem-solve, and congratulated each other on successes.

However, it’s what we wrote alongside the practical details that really created our community. We shared stories, in the same way that cooks in a kitchen together might. We learned about the markets and culinary specialties of the places each of us live, while we shared the challenges we faced in finding ingredients across hemispheres, regions, and seasons. We cheered each other on in trying flavours, foods, and techniques we might have been too intimidated to try on our own. As we got to know one another, the quirks of our palates (and those of our loved ones) became fodder for discussion. And as we moved through the recipes, we shared our selves.

So, yes – camaraderie, synergy, and friendship built along the pathways of the Internet. Offline, a number of us have met in person. And even though this part of the journey has ended, we’ll keep following each other’s adventures online, while taking the opportunity to meet up in real time whenever it arises.

None of this would have been possible without Laurie Woodward, who first created Tuesdays with Dorie, then launched French Fridays with Dorie. Mary Hirsch and Betsy Pollack became the administrators of the group a little later on and their warm, encouraging presence made the group feel like a circle of friends. And Dorie Greenspan herself has been the warmest and most welcoming one of all – her encouragement to us along the way has helped us to become better cooks and bakers. More importantly, her generosity of spirit has been the model for how we’ve approached our connections with one another.

  

Now, I encourage you to go back and discover this wonderful cadre of bloggers for yourself – not only the fabulous stalwarts who’ve made it to the end, but also those who cooked alongside us at various points along the way. And do think about joining Tuesdays with Dorie – many of us are over there, too. Then check back with French Fridays in the fall. Laurie and Trevor Kensey (who coined the term Dorista) have something in the works. Until then, I’ll lift a salted butter break-up in salute to every one of the wonderful Doristas.

As you can see, I’m determined that this is not adieu, but à bientôt.

Grab your tissues and read through the Doristas’ wrap up posts, here: Celebration Week #4: Grand Finale