When John and I started this project of cooking every recipe in Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table, in October 2010, we had been married just over a year. Tomorrow, we celebrate our 6th wedding anniversary! How time flies. We’d already discovered that we enjoyed cooking together and that John was a more adventurous chef and diner than me. So, we embarked upon this journey as a fun kitchen project and a way to satisfy my creativity through photography, writing, and posting. We learned so much, became better cooks, and I’ve progressed so much as a blogger, that it’s fascinating to take a moment and look back to the beginning. I’m even a little more adventurous about what I eat these days.
Over the past 4 years and 7 months, we’ve lost John’s mother, gained 2 nieces, lost a cat, adopted 2 cats, bought a house, sold 2 houses, and moved to the beach. We’ve also travelled quite a bit around the U.S., U.K., and Europe.
Somewhere between toasting the kickoff of French Fridays with Dorie with Gougeres and Kir Royale, and making Chicken in a Pot, we made a lot of new friends. Our group quickly adopted the name “Doristas” which was coined by the inimitable Trevor Kensey. Several of us e-mailed each other for advice on recipes and ingredients and became friends on Facebook. The membership of the group has waxed and waned over the years with a core remaining from the first recipe to the last. Admittedly, John and I didn’t prepare each and every assigned recipe for a variety of reasons, but here we are at the finish line.
The very first Dorista we met was Mary Hirsch who is now a dear friend of ours. When Mary and I found out that Dorie was going to be the keynote speaker at the 2013 International Food Bloggers Conference in Seattle, we conspired (read: begged, badgered, and otherwise encouraged) to get as many Doristas to come as possible. It was in Seattle that 16 of us sat down to breakfast with Dorie and Michael Greenspan, the sweetest couple we could ever hope to meet. They were enthusiastic, gracious, and just as excited as we were to finally meet in person!
Of course, we’ve all been reflective about our experiences leading up to this last recipe, the very one featured on the cover of the cookbook. And, although it’s impossible to cite a favorite recipe from the book, I’d like to share a few things we learned.
- First, and foremost, we’ve learned that braised meat is amazing and delicious – it’s even worth waiting while your stomach growls as you smell it cooking all afternoon. The richness of flavor it yields is unbeatable.
- We finally learned the secret of what makes Pommes Frites so much better than French Fries!
- We’ve gained enough confidence in the kitchen to try something even if it sounds difficult.
- We love using herbs and spices in our cooking and have really expanded our repertoire of flavor combinations.
- Roasted Tomatoes are the best! We use them for soups and pasta sauces regularly.
- The impressive presentation of cooking en Papillote belies how easy it is to prepare.
- We really know how to order in a French restaurant! I learned so much more about food than my 5 years of school French allowed.
- Not everything that’s difficult to make is delicious; and not everything that’s delicious is difficult to make!
This chicken in a pot recipe once again introduces an interesting flavor combination: preserved lemons, garlic, and sweet potatoes. Yes, really. I was skeptical about adding the cloves of 4 heads of garlic into the pot…but, I was game to try it. This chicken smelled amazing while it was cooking in the oven and the garlic was pronounced. The surprising result is moist, delicious chicken and vegetables infused with just the right amount of seasoning. I smashed some of the cooked garlic out of its casing and spread it onto the chicken – it was sweet and delicious. We really enjoyed this recipe and will make it again with a few minor changes. We’d use new potatoes instead of sweet, fresh lemon instead of preserved, and would forgo the pastry dough seal. We liked the sweet potatoes, just missed the flavor of regular ones. And, we think stuffing the cavity of the chicken with lemon slices would impart a bit more lemon flavor (not to mention skipping the odd step of boiling the preserved lemon rind in sugar water…). Although the baked dough seal makes an impressive presentation, I think the le Crueset lids are heavy enough to create a good seal without it.
It’s been in an incredible learning experience and we’d like to thank each and every Dorista for how you’ve inspired and encouraged us. We look forward to meeting more of you in person. Between all of the creative minds in our group, we’re certain to cook up more reasons to meet and celebrate in the future.