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The Cookstr 10: Ten Recipes for April in Paris

April 9, 2010

Just for the record, we’re perfectly happy with April where we are. Recently, though, one of us starting singing that old song “April in Paris” (which, also for the record, makes us sound much older than we are), and soon we were all fantasizing about hopping a plane, heading to France, and strolling the streets of the City of Light (or the La Ville-Lumière, s’il vous plait). And us being us, it didn’t take too long before the conversation turned to food, and what we might eat if we were to jet off to Paris at this amazing time of year.

We fantasized about delicate omelets and creamy vichyssoise and rich crème brulee. Sure, we talked about the Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe (again for the record, we do attempt to broaden our conversation, albeit sporadically), and how much fun it would be to sip a café au lait at one of the outdoor cafes. But mostly we talked about making steak au poivre and maybe some madeleines this weekend.

1. Lou Seibert Pappas’s Asparagus & Ham Crêpes. Walk down the rues of Paris and you will see crepes–both sweet and savory–being prepared and sold on any given street corner, at every farmers’ market, and in the most casual and the most fancy restaurants. This cheesy, herby asparagus-filled crêpe makes the most out of this beloved spring vegetable, and for a vegetarian version you can leave out the ham.

2. Patricia Wells’ Chicken Fricassee with Two Vinegars. This savory chicken, invigorated with shallots, garlic, vinegar, and white wine, just pops you in the nose with flavor. The addition of cream at the end pulls the luscious sauce together. Remember this one as your plan your next soiree.

3. Nick Malgieri’s Baguette. It seems that every other person bustling through Paris has a long thin baguette tucked under her arm. Baked fresh throughout the day in countless boulangeries, these are the daily bread of the city.

4. Julia Child’s Spinach Soufflé. Yeah, yeah, we know, soufflés are scary. But wait…sauté up some spinach with shallots…ok….melt butter, add flour, stir in milk, so far so good…separate eggs, add yolks, beat whites, fold them in… add cheese, got it. Bake. Oh, maybe not that scary. Eat immediately; no problem.

5. Tom Douglas’s Warm Spinach Salad with Lardons, Sherry Vinaigrette, and Fried Eggs. A substantial salad with lardons is one of the great pleasures of Parisian cuisine. In many a classic version, such as this one, the dressing is warmed so that when it is poured over the frisee lettuce it wilts the greens slightly. The combination of salty bacon and runny egg blending into the vinaigrette is quite sumptuous.

6. Richard Grausman’s Poached Salmon Fillets with Butter Sauce. Delicate poached fish can be found served hot and cold throughout Paris, and the mild weather of spring makes dishes like this one all the more appealing. It is often served with Hollandaise sauce, though the very light and velvety beurre blanc is another fine companion.

7. Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Mark Bittman’s Steak au Poivre with Mustard Sauce. A bistro classic, this is a steak to serve when you want to indulge or impress, or both. A generous coating of black pepper provides texture and spicy heat, and cognac, mustard, and cream combine in a pan sauce that begs for a few pommes frites to wipe your plate clean.

8. Peggy Knickerbocker’s Green Beans Sauteed with Wild Mushrooms. Seek out French string beans, which are called haricots verts, and are thinner and more delicate than regular green beans. Cook them so that they are as crisp or as well-done as you like, and explore the variety of spring mushrooms becoming available.

9. Rosemary Black’s Almond Macaroons. Macaroon, or macaron, cookies are beloved by Parisians and throughout the city can be found in a stunning array of flavors and colors. To try your hand at them at home, this traditional almond version whips up quickly in the food processor and bakes into delicately chewy puffs.

10. Dorie Greenspan’s Korova Cookies. These sables (which roughly translates to “sand cookies”) are crumbly yet meltingly buttery, and are essentially a tres chic version of a chocolate chip cookie. The recipe is inspired by one of Paris’s greatest pastry chefs, and the play of salt against the chocolate keeps you reaching for just one more. But while they are very worldly in flavor, their slice-and-bake preparation is simple and homey.

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