French cooking was one of America’s first ethnic foods. But over time, Julia Child made French cooking so ‘American’ it’s hard to remember that croissants and onion soup didn’t originate here. We explore the unique role French restaurants have played in the Washington region, what makes French food unique, and why November is the perfect time to enjoy French cuisine.

Guests

  • Patti Ravenscroft Member, Les Dames d'Escoffier - Washington DC Chapter; and President and Founder of Les Liaisons Délicieuses
  • Patrice Olivon Program Director of Culinary Arts at L'Academie de Cuisine

Click here for a full list of restaurants recommended by “Local Restaurant Worldtour” panelists.

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Sample Recipes

Courtesy Chef Patrice Olivon:

Pan Seared Chicken Breast on a Bed of Sauteed
Spinach with Baby Arugula and Spinach Pesto,
Tomato Sauce and Blue Cheese

A baby arugula with spinach salad mix inspired this entree as I wanted to
use packaged salad in a unique and unexpected way. In this dish, I’m using
the baby arugula and spinach to make a delicious pesto sauce for the top of
the chicken, and more spinach as a bed for underneath the chicken. This is
a healthy and delicious entree that can be served during any season of the
year because the ingredients can be found year-round.

Recipe Summary
Difficulty: easy
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 22 minutes
Yield: 4 entree portions
Ingredients for chicken
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (6 ounces per piece)
2 tablespoons California certified extra virgin olive oil
1 sprig fresh rosemary
3 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons blue cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup tomato sauce

For black olive paste:
1/4 cup California Kalamata olives, pitted (or substitute your favorite black olives)
2 anchovy fillets with the olive oil from the package
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
Note: If you’d like to use this black olive paste in other recipes, add 1 clove of garlic.

For baby arugula pesto:
1 1/2 cups baby arugula with spinach salad mix
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted
4 tablespoons California certified extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For sauteed spinach
8 cups spinach
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons California certified extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup smoked bacon, diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For sauteed spinach:
8 cups spinach
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons California certified extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup smoked bacon, diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method
Make a marinade: Combine the California certified extra virgin olive oil, crushed
garlic, rosemary and black peppercorns in a medium container. Add the chicken
breasts and use a spatula to coat the chicken with the marinade. Place the chicken
breasts in the refrigerator to marinate for 3-4 hours. The longer the chicken
marinates, the more flavorful it will be, so consider marinating the chicken the night
before serving.

Make the olive paste: Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until it
becomes a paste. Set the olive paste aside.
Make the baby arugula pesto: combine all ingredients in a food processor and
process until it becomes a paste. Add more California certified extra virgin olive oil
until it reaches the consistency you prefer for pesto.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Saute the chicken breasts: In a large saute pan over high heat, heat the olive oil
until it shimmers. Remove the chicken breasts from the marinade and season them
with salt. Place the chicken breasts in the saute pan and sear them until they are
golden brown on both sides, about 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken
breasts to a medium-sized baking pan. With a small spatula, spread 1/4 of the black
olive paste on each piece of chicken, covering the entire top surface. Spoon the
tomato sauce evenly on top of the olive paste, then top each chicken breast with a
tablespoon of crumbled blue cheese. Place the dish in the oven and bake until the
internal temperature of the chicken breasts reaches 170 degrees.

Saute the spinach while the chicken is baking: In a large saute pan over medium
heat, heat the olive oil until it shimmers. Add the bacon strips and saute for 1
minute, then add the crushed garlic cloves. When the garlic reaches a very light tan
color, add all of the spinach to the pan. When all of the spinach wilts, remove the
saute pan from the heat and add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve the dish: With tongs, divide the sauteed spinach onto four plates. Set the
chicken breasts with tomato sauce and blue cheese on top of the spinach. Drizzle
the baby arugula pesto over each piece of chicken and serve immediately.

Wild Mushroom Veloute

I love the taste of wild mushrooms, and I created this soup to celebrate
their earthy, seasonal flavors. You can buy a wild mushroom mix or create
your own with any wild mushrooms you prefer – either way, the result is an
elegant and satisfying first course. Ground dehydrated mushroom powder
is the secret to intensifying the soup’s earthy flavor – and, if you make
extra, you can use it as a wonderful addition to sauces. To best appreciate
the wild mushroom flavors, be sure to serve this soup piping hot.

Recipe Summary
Difficulty: easy
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 appetizer portions
Ingredients
1/2 cup leeks, diced
1/4 cup celery, diced
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups fresh wild mixed mushrooms such as oyster, shiitake, morel or others
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 ounce dehydrated wild mushrooms
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Optional garnishes
1/8 cup shitake mushrooms
1 tablespoon black truffle oil
Chervil sprigs
Chives

Method
Start the soup: In a medium pot, stir the olive oil, leeks, celery, and garlic together
over medium heat for about 30 seconds. Turn down the heat and season with a little
bit of salt. Cover the pot with a lid and let the mixture “sweat” for about 2 minutes -
this lets the flavors of everything in the pot gently cook together.

Make the mushroom powder: Place the dehydrated wild mushrooms into a coffee
grinder and grind until it becomes a thin powder.
Prepare the mushrooms and add them to the soup: Clean the mushrooms by wiping
off any soil or residue with a damp paper towel. Cut off any stems that feel tough
when you squeeze them between your fingers. Cut the mushrooms into small pieces
and add them to the pot. Let the mushrooms sweat for about two minutes, then add
the chicken stock, mushroom powder, and season with salt and freshly ground black
pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, turn the heat down to low and simmer for 15
minutes. Remove the lid, add the cream, and cook the soup over medium heat for a
few minutes or until it thickens a bit.

Blend the soup: Carefully transfer the hot soup to a blender. Add the butter and
blend the soup until it is creamy and smooth. If the soup is too thick, add chicken
stock for a thinner consistency. If you prefer a soup with a smoother, more refined
texture, pass the soup through a fine mesh strainer before serving.
Prepare the garnish: If you are garnishing the soup with shitake mushrooms, slice
them very thin. Heat canola oil in a small saute pan over medium heat, add the
shitakes, then saute the mushrooms until they reach a golden brown color. Or,
simply fry the mushrooms in the oil you desire using a countertop deep fryer set at
350 degrees.

Garnish the soup and serve: Ladle the soup into 4 bowls and garnish as you desire
with shitake mushrooms, black truffle oil, chervil sprigs or chives. Serve
immediately.

Patti Ravenscroft recommended the following two recipes:

Cotriade (Breton Stew, a rustic Brittany Bouillabaise) (Courtesy Chef Patrick Jeffroy)

(serves 6)

Ingredients:
3 lbs. various fish, like halibut, hake, cod, monkfish, red snapper
2 doz. mussels, debearded and scrubbed
1/2 lb. jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
6 c. fish stock
1 lb. white potatoes, peeled and diced
3 tomatoes, peeled and diced
3 small carrots, peeled and diced finely
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and chopped finely
2 leeks, white part only, chopped finely
2 medium shallots, peeled and chopped finely
4 cloves of garlic, minced
4 T. butter
2 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs of dill (one for garnishing)
1 T. grated lemon zest
1 T. grated orange zest
1 small pinch of saffron threads
2 c. white wine
salt and freshly ground pepper

Preparation:
In a large pot melt butter over medium-low heat. Cook leeks, onions, carrots, garlic until soft, for about 15 minutes. Add tomatoes, potatoes, and cook until slightly tender, 9 minutes. Cut fish into 2 inch square pieces. Put fish on top of vegetables, thickest pieces on bottom. Add dill, thyme, saffron, lemon zest, orange zest, and fish stock. Season with pepper and salt. Cover and cook over medium-high heat, about 5 minutes. Remove fish and vegetables, setting aside and reserving broth. In a large sauce pan, place shallots and white wine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add mussels and shrimp. Cover and cook, until mussels open and shrimp turn pink, shaking pan occasionally, about 4 minutes, With slotted spoon, remove shellfish, reserving the liquid. Discard unopened mussels. Set pan aside 10 minutes to let any sand settle out. Ladle liquid from shellfish into the broth from the fish. Strain thoroughly using a fine sieve. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange shellfish, fish and vegetables in individual bowls. Ladle broth on top. Garnish with dill.

Creme Caramel Aux Pommes (Caramel Custard with Apples)
(Courtesy Chef Charles-Henry de Valbray).

(Serves 6-8)

Ingredients:
2 lbs. apples
1 vanilla bean
1 t. grated lemon peel
1/2 c. sugar
4 T. softened butter
2 t. flour
3 large beaten eggs

For the caramel:
1/4 c. sugar
2 T. water

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 375 F.Peel and cut apples into pieces. Cook like a compote at 225 F with the vanilla bean, the lemon peel, and the sugar. Let cool to room temperature.
Remove the vanilla bean.In a bowl, mix the apple compote with the butter, flour, and finally the beaten eggs. Prepare the caramel in a 1 quart souffle dish. Pour the apple mixture into the souffle dish and cook in a bain marie in the oven for 40 to 45 minutes until the cream is firm. Cool to room temperature. Put in fridge overnight before serving.

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