The joy of cooking this super-simple, super-delish French dish
The French Market Cookbook, by Clotilde Dusoulier, is a French delight, despite the fact that it made me feel vaguely guilty that never do I ever frequent farmer’s markets. It’s not because I hate buying fresh organic produce from local farmers. It is because I am a pale, sunlight-avoiding vampire. Granted, I’m a vegetarian mortal vampire, but I avoid daylight all the same. If they had farmer’s markets at 10pm I’d join the party. Actually that would be a fun party. Could someone invent nighttime farmer’s market wine bars? That would be fun.
However, if one person were to convince me to give morning a chance, it would be Dusoulier. Actually, reading her cookbook would convince me to rise at 5am and take a plane to France. Dusoulier is best known as one of the first wildly popular food bloggers. Her positively addictive Chocolate and Zucchini blog continues to accumulate praise like my refrigerator door accumulates hot sauce. There’s a lot of it, and with good reason.
This cookbook is her “take on the love affair between French cuisine and vegetables.” Ooh, la la. I do hear that in France things like leeks are workaday ingredients. Leeks still intimidate me. But French Market Cookbook‘s sexy pictures of French markets and vegetables (don’t get me started with zucchini jokes) will really get you…er, well, excited. To cook, dammit! To cook.
The recipes are divided by seasons, and Dusoulier provides the breakdown on what veggies you should be stocking up on. Since we are technically still in le printemps, or spring until the solstice tomorrow, naturally I chose a recipe from that chapter to share. Like many of the recipes, Dusoulier shares her origin story for this vegetarian take on bouillabaisse. Apparently her grandmother’s cookbook had recipes two types of this soup. The type people are most familiar is a fishy dish. This version is known as “poor man’s” because there is no fish. There are, however, some of my other great loves in life: bread, eggs, spicy sauce and…turnips! Yes I love turnips. Leave it to the French get me amorous.
Ooh, and you get two courses out of this!
Recipe adapted from The French Market Cookbook by Clotilde Dusoulier
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- fine sea salt
- 2 tsp. fennel seeds
- 1 pinch saffron threads
- 12 oz. new potatoes, scrubbed and halved(I had purple ones!)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine (I had a grüner veltliner)
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- 7 oz. baby turnips, scrubbed
- 2 cups shelled green peas, fresh or frozen (I tossed in spinach since I did not have this)
- 6 scallions (both green and white parts), thinly sliced
- 4 slices of country bread (I had a loaf of rye)
- spicy mayonaise (she has a recipe for this but I mixed sriracha to taste into mayo I bought at the store)
- 4 shell-poached eggs (instructions below)
- more olive oil to garnish
- 1 lemon, halved
- freshly ground black pepper
Bring eggs to room temperature. Oh, and please buy cage-free pasture-raised eggs! Happier chickens is a good thing. Fill a medium saucepan with water and clip an instant-read food thermometer to the side. Bring the water to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Lower in your eggs and set the heat as low as you can. Keep an eye on the thermometer-try not to let the temperature go over 155. If it starts to do that, add some cold water. Cook the eggs for 45 minutes. Take out of the pan. Turn off your stove. When the eggs are safe to handle with bare hands, crack each one into its own saucer. While they are cooking you can get to making the rest of the stew.
Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a heavy soup pot. Add onion and garlic, sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. salt and cook over medium, stirring often, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the fennel and saffron and cook a minute. Add the potatoes and another 1/4 tsp. salt. Add wine and stock. Cover, bring to a simmer and cook 8 minutes. Add turnips, peas (or spinach!) and scallions. Simmer until the taters are cooked through and turnips and peas are firm but tender, around 5 minutes. Taste and add more salt if you wish. Use a ladle to add all the broth in the pot to a small pitcher.
Spread the bread with your spicy mayo and slice it into fingers. Put these at the bottom of 4 serving bowls. Divide the broth among them and keep veggies warm whilst you eat this. I left some of the bread for the “second course”. When you are done with the broth, divide the veggies into the bowls. Then top each with a poached agg. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil, a squirt of lemon juice and a bit of the freshly ground pepper. Chow down!