February 17, 2010

My dinner with Loulou, a French Feast in Boston

Louise Marie-Eléonore, "Loulou"

Louise is the eldest of my children. Recently, she moved to Boston to attend college. On my way up to visit her, I was daydreaming and thinking about how much I have missed her these past five months. I was so excited to see her in her first apartment.

Louise is a wondeful artist. She has the talent to turn the most mundane objects into things of beauty. The world she creates and surrounds around herself with is truly full of wonders.

Louise is soft and gentle like a deer, passionate and fiery like a wild horse.

She has an old soul, deep and wise.

She is thoughtful and kind, she always surprises me...

She loves birds, nests and feathers...

Sometimes, when I look at her work, it is as if I could get a glimpse into her soft soul

Her art always touches my heart.

Louise has always loved to cook and is very good at it. When we are together, we like to plan for dinner while having our morning cup of coffee. And of course, with Louise, what has been bought and brought back home must be drawn first.

During the time I was in Boston, it was very cold. We decided to make a Bouillabaisse-like fish stew one night to escape the dreadful weather and a Veal Blanquette the next one to comfort ourselves.

Fish Stew in the manner of a Bouillabaisse

Serve 8
For the broth:
2 lbs of Mussels, scrubbed
8 Littleneck Clams, scrubbed
5 shallots, peeled and chopped
2 branches od Italian parsley
2 branches of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup of dry white wine (we used Tariquet from Bordeaux)
Sea salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste

For the fish and Seafood marinade:
3/4 lb very fresh Monkfish in one thick piece
3/4 lb very fresh Cod in one thick piece
3/4 lb very fresh Swordfish
1/2 lb very fresh Sea Scallops
1/2 lb large raw Shrimps shells on 
1 tsp Fennel seeds
Fennel fronds from 1 fennel bulb
The zest and slices of 1 orange
1/4 tsp Spanish Saffron
1/4 cup Lillet (optional)
1 1/2 cup dry white wine
Sea salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste

For the Stew:
1 large Onion, peeled and chopped
1 medium Fennel bulb, sliced
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 can San Marzano wholeTomatoes( crushed roughly)
2 cups of dried white wine
8 new baby potatoes, washed and cut in half
1 Bay leaf
2 branches fresh thyme
Sea salt to taste,
Freshly ground pepper to taste

For the Rouille:
I very fresh egg yolk
1/2 Tsp of French mustard (not French's)
3 to 4 garlic cloves, peeled and mashed with 1/4 tsp sea salt
Vegetable oil or light olive oil
2 Tsp fresh white bread crumbs, barely moistened with milk
1/4 tsp Cayenne pepper (or more to taste)

In a pan, place over medium heat the mussels, clams, shallots, salt, pepper, bay leaf and thyme. Cook until the mussels and clams start to open, add the wine and cook until all the mussels and clams are open, about 5 to 8 minutes.
Remove from the heat, let cool a little. Leave the clams whole but prepare the mussels on the half shell. Strain the broth in a bowl, reserve.

Cut all the fish in managable pieces to eat in a bite but not so small as to fall apart while cooking (we like 2 inches pieces), place them in a large non reactive dish (like Pyrex) with the shrimps and scallops. Add all the marinade ingredients: the fennel seeds and fronds, orange, saffron, Lillet if using, wine, salt and pepper. Marinate in a cool place for 1 hour, if longer, place in the refrigerator). After that time, drain and reserve the marinade.

Meanwhile, in a large heavy bottom pan ( wider than high), sweat the onion, fennel and carrot. When cooked but not colored, add the tomatoes, the reserved marinade,the wine, the bay leaf, thyme, salt and pepper, cook for 10 minutes. Add the potatoes and cook until they are tender. Add the fish, shrimps and scallops, cook 5 minutes without boiling. Add the clams and mussels, taste for seasoning.

Make the rouille; in a bowl, put the egg yolk, mustard, salt and garlic. Whisk drop by drop the oil until emulsified, add the bread and cayenne.
Whisk some of the rouille into the stew, do not let boil.

Serve in soup bowls with a spoon of rouille and thinly sliced toasted baguette.

This stew is even better reheated the day after, it is easier to make it in a large quantity but since it is so good, you won't have to worry about it sitting in the refrigerator for too long!

Blanquette de Veau (Veal Blanquette)

Blanquette comes from the word "blanc" which means white in French. Traditionally, this is a very pale dish, the veal, turnips, mushrooms, onions and broth with the egg yolk and lemon mixed in at the end result in a monochromatic dish, very mild in flavor. I like to add blanched haricots verts and young carrots and in the spring I often add peas and asparagus because I like the bite they give to the dish and I love the colors as well . It's up to you to follow tradtion and omit these or give a try to this variation.

Serve 4
For the mushrooms:
1 lb assorted mushrooms (white mushrooms are traditional but I like baby Portobella, chanterelles and morels; one kind is fine), brushed and quartered
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
Sea salt to taste

For the onions:
16 very small white onions
1 Tbs unsalted butter
2 tsp sugar

For the broth:
1 1/2 lb of veal cut in medium pieces
1 leek washed and cut in 4 pieces
1 branch of celery, washed and chopped
1 onion, peeled and studded with 3 cloves
The zest of 1/2 lemon in 1 or 2 pieces
1/2 cup of dry white wine
1 Tbs of Lillet (not traditional but nice, and I had bought a bottle for the fish stew, so I figure out, why not use it)
Sea salt to taste
1 tsp of peppercorns

For the vegetables:
1/4 lb haricots verts or very small green beans, blanched
2 carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal
2 small turnips, peeled and quartered

In a large pot, place all the ingredients for the broth, cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cook gently for an hour without boiling but bubbling gently, taste for seasonings. 
Drain the broth in another pan. Discard the vegetables and return the meat to the pot with the broth. place over medium/low heat, add the vegetables and cook for 10 minutes, do not let boil.
In another pan, sauté over medium/high heat the mushrooms with butter and a pinch od fresh thyme until nicely brown, deglaze with 2Tbs of the broth, add salt and pepper. Reserve.

Cook the onions in a covered pan with the butter, sugar, salt and pepper, cover with water and cook over medium/low heat until light brown, caramelized and fragrant about 10/15 minutes. Be careful they do not burn!
Add the mushrooms and onions to the broth, let the stew cook gently for 2 minutes longer.

In a small bowl, mix an egg yolk with 2 tsp of cornstarch, 1Tbs butter and the juice of half lemon, add some broth, mix again and pour in the pot (this is called a liaison), mix gently, heat for 2 more minutes and serve with plain rice.


  1. i love your blog Isabelle you are so inspiring!

  2. Thank you so much for your comment, it means a lot to me!


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