Culinary Vacations: April in Paris

Eiffel TowerIt's not a beach we're headed to this month; we're on our imaginary way to the romantic City of Lights. Though the weather can be a little hit or miss, and there's sure to be a few showers, there's a reason they wrote a song about April in Paris. And while the temperature may be more moderate than some places we could visit this month, one thing that's never chancy there is the food, and it's the reason we've chosen Paris as our next culinary vacation.

With one of the most glorious and storied food histories in the word, French cuisine is also one of the most romantic. France is heralded in the food world for its exquisite cheeses and fine wines; French chefs are world-renowned for their rich sauces, intricate pastries and mastery of egg dishes. Potatoes, beans, onions, eggplant, tomatoes, apples, pears and cherries are commonly used produce. All manner of poultry, meat and seafood are popular in France, including options lesser preferred in our region, such as quail, pigeon, goose, mutton, rabbit, frog, mussels and escargot.

Featured Recipes

Celebrate the flavors of France and Paris in these dishes inspired by classic French techniques, ingredients and dishes:

ROASTED NIÇOISE OLIVES PROVENÇAL  permalink icon

Roasted Niçoise Olives Provençal8-10 oz. goat cheese
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp. Kowalski's Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 cup Barnier Pitted Niçoise Olives
1 pt. red and yellow grape tomatoes, halved
1 tbsp. fresh snipped thyme
- sea salt
1 Kowalski's Baguette, cut into 24 slices

In small bowl, combine cheese and 2 tbsp. olive oil; set aside. Place the remaining oil and olives in a medium baking dish; roast in a preheated 400° oven (12-15 min.). Add tomatoes, thyme and a pinch of salt to the olives, tossing to combine; set aside. Arrange baguette slices on baking sheet; bake until light golden-brown (8-10 min.). Spread goat cheese mixture on baguette slices; top with olives and tomatoes.

Serves 8-12.

Recipe courtesy of Divinia.

CLASSIC FRENCH CRÊPES  permalink icon

Classic French Crêpes1 1/2 cups flour
1 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 cups skim milk
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs, lightly beaten
- cooking spray
- choice of fillings: yogurt, fresh fruit, preserves, thinly sliced ham, shredded or cream-style cheeses, whipped cream, butter and (cinnamon) sugar, smoked salmon and crème fraîche, etc.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt; add remaining ingredients all at once and whisk until smooth. Heat a 6-8" nonstick skillet over medium heat. Spray pan lightly with cooking spray; wipe with a paper towel to coat pan evenly and absorb excess. Pour scant 1/4 cup batter into hot skillet, rotating skillet quickly to thinly coat the bottom of the pan. Cook until light brown at the edges and slightly dry (about 2 min.). Flip crêpe and cook other side until light brown (about 30 sec.). Repeat by wiping and respraying skillet for each crêpe until all batter has been used. Serve immediately with desired filling or keep warm in a 200° oven until all crêpes are done; placing waxed paper between each crêpe.

Makes 12.

Good to Know:

  • Crêpes may be frozen for at least three months, tightly wrapped, with freezer or wax paper between crêpes. You can microwave individual crêpes without thawing them, about 20-30 sec. each.
  • If you have two skillets, it works well to cook these two at a time.

EASY BRAISED CHICKEN IN WINE (COQ AU VIN)  permalink icon

Easy Braised Chicken in Wine (Coq Au Vin)4 slices Kowalski's Smoked Bacon, cut into 1" pieces
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
8 oz. gourmet blend mushrooms
1 yellow onion, cut into 1" chunks
4 chicken drumsticks
4 chicken thighs
- kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper, to taste
2 cups Kowalski's Mirepoix
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp. tomato paste
750 ml bottle red wine
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

Cook bacon in a large deep skillet over medium heat until crisp; remove from pan. Add 1 tbsp. olive oil to bacon pan; swirl to coat. Add mushrooms and onions; sprinkle with pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until golden (about 10 min.). Remove mushroom mixture from pan; set aside. Add remaining oil to pan; heat over medium heat. Sprinkle chicken liberally with salt and pepper; add to hot pan. Cook chicken, turning several times to evenly brown (5-7 min.). Remove chicken from pan. Add soup mix, garlic, thyme and bay leaves; cook 5 min. Add tomato paste; cook 1 min. Stir in wine; bring to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally until reduced by half (about 10 min.). Return chicken to pan, skin side down. Add broth; bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer 20 min. Turn chicken and cook until done (about 15 min.). Remove chicken from pan; bring liquid to a boil. Cook until reduced by half (about 10 min.); discard bay leaves. Stir in mushroom mixture. Return chicken to pan; cook until chicken is hot. Sprinkle with parsley and bacon; serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Good to Know: Find Kowalski’s Mirepoix (or substitute Kowalski's Soup Mix) in the Produce Department with other prepared produce. Or you can use the same amount of finely chopped mixed vegetables, such as carrots, celery and onions.

And if you're still in the mood for an island getaway this spring, consider a Floating Island, a classic French dessert combining intricate pastry work, egg technique and saucework into a showstopping final course. The recipe is a bit involved, but definitely worth the effort.

Floating IslandsFLOATING ISLANDS (ÎLE FLOTTANTE) permalink icon

1 recipe Crème Anglaise
1 recipe Soft Meringues
- prepared caramel, warmed
- sliced almonds, optional

Pour an even amount of Crème Anglasie into 6 serving dishes; place a Soft Meringue on top. Drizzle with caramel and sprinkle with almonds, if desired. Serve immediately.

Serves 6.

More French-inspired recipes:
Quiche Lorraine
Haricot Vert in Citrus Sauce
Basic Omelet
Profiteroles with Salty Caramel Ice Cream
Cream Puffs
New Béarnaise Sauce 
Summer Salad Provençal 
Cherry Peach Clafouti
Classic Fondue
Rosemary Gruyère Potato Gratin
Chocolate Mousse
Crème Brûlée
Whitefish Croquettes with Lemon-Caper Aioli

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