Menu of the Week

• 07 March 2011

Last week's menu was full of good intentions, but turned out to be a comedy of errors. The recipes seemed fantastic, the ingredients on target, and I was excited to make all of them! However, despite strict recipe adherence (when trying new recipes, I always follow the directions closely), most of them just didn't turn out. Perhaps you've had the same experiences with some of these recipes ? Or perhaps you have some input? Here it goes:

Cassoulet with Red Leaf Salad and Crusty Sourdough - I've always wanted to try a cassoulet recipe--it's a favorite meal in France. So, when I spotted duck confit at a local butcher shop/charcuterie (Rainshadow Meats), I decided to celebrate the occasion by making Kelsey's cassoulet. It's an easy recipe--perfect for those of us slightly intimidated by the true, French versions. My family enjoyed it, as my kids are huge bean fans, but ironically had a tough time with the confit. Oh well, more for me and my daughter's preschool teacher :) Also, I used panko instead of traditional bread crumbs and loved the substitution. I've got to find a bakery here in Seattle that offers fresh bread crumbs. I used to buy them at Harmons and Liberty Heights Fresh in SLC. This cassoulet recipe was just 1 of 2 recipes from this week's menu that I'd make over again.

Pork + Tofu Stir Fry over Jasmine Rice and Steamed Broccoli - I tried recreating my stepmom's recipe and totally bombed...if anyone has something like this they'd be willing to share, I'd be grateful! I love the combination of ground pork and tofu for some reason.

Potato Leek Soup with Roasted Beet Salad, Roasted Parmesan Brussel Sprouts, Strawberries, and Rolls - An attempt to recreate a delicious soup from the Walrus that turned out okay (sans the truffle oil--mine expired sadly). I know there is a killer potato leek soup recipe out there, I just have to find it. If you've discovered such a thing, do share :) When the months are cool, I love to cozy up with a good soup and lots of delicious vegetable sides. I seriously love these brussel sprouts.

Warm French Lentils with Carrots + Leeks, Crusty Bread, Butter Lettuce Salad - my first attempt at a recipe from Ina's new book "How Easy is That?". I have to confess I was surprisingly disappointed. The lentils sounded so good and since I even had a package of French lentils I brought back from France (not sure why I did that...they are available at fine food markets everywhere in the States), it seemed like a match made in heaven. Sadly, this was not the case.

Hazelnut Encrusted Salmon with Parsley + Meyer Lemon, Roasted Asparagus, Herb Roasted Red Potatoes - a great way to use up all the herbs from the cassoulet and my favorite salmon recipe to date. This is a fabulous meal and is included in my "Recipes to Love" section--a collection of my favorite standbys.

Sunday Breakfast: French Toast Bread Pudding - another attempt at a recipe from Ina's new book--it was "okay". Love the concept of baked French Toast, but this one wasn't worth the money I spent on challah alone. So bummed!

image 1 - Iain Bagwell / image 2 - moi


Liz said...

I have a Potato Leek soup recipe that I just love! It came from a friend, actually her husband, but here is a link to her recipe blog.

I hope you enjoy it, I find it to be simple, quick and delicious!

Mary said...

I love that you share both the good and the bad - we can learn from your experiences either way!

Stephanie said...

Thanks for the tip Liz! I love that it's called "potage"...a good sign!

Misty said...

i am working on my weeks menu in a few minutes... yours sounds DIVINE and intimidating, all rolled into one...

marissa said...

sorry about the disappointments I'll have to try the cassoulet. and I'm hoping someone sends you a good tofu stir fry!

Becky said...

so sorry those barefoot recipes didn't work out. I adore Ina but have run into some recipes in her new book that i wasn't in love with as well.

and now I'm off to get lost in your go-to recipes!

Stacy Miller said...

I am so validated to hear that you had two mediocre sort of experiences with "How Easy is That?" I love Ina to the moon and back--her cookbooks are my favorites and her recipes can be counted on--but I am convinced this latest book was written by someone else.

I've made the ranch dressing(yuck), the red velvet cupcakes(ok), the oven risotto(sort of tasted like a recipe involving canned soup), the pesto tomatoes(solid) and the lemon chicken(good.) My overall conclusion is that the book isn't Ina quality. Even the font and photography looks different to me.

stephmodo said...

Becky + Stacy: Yes! I too love Ina as well. I love her decorating style, her recs for Paris, and all of her cookbooks to date. She's been my culinary hero! I guess that's why I'm so bummed about this latest. Oh well, at least I own a myriad of her other cookbooks to keep exploring.

M and E said...

I haven't made it for a couple of years, but there's a recipe for Potato Leek Soup at the back of The $64 Tomato, which is such an entertaining read. If I can find my copy of the book--which seems to have walked off my bookshelf--I'll email it to you. I remember it being good.

Jennifer said...


Saw that you were not pleased with Ina's French Toast recipe. Have a fool proof version that I serve every Easter using french bread.
Its super easy and crazy delicious:

Adapted from a Paula Dean recipe
Prep Time: 20 min
Inactive Prep Time: (make the night before)
Cook Time: 40 min Level: Easy
Serves:6 to 8 servings

•1 loaf French bread (13 - 16 oz)
•8 large eggs
•2 cups half-and-half
•1 or 2 tablespoons of maple syrup (to taste)
•1 teaspoon vanilla extract
•Dash salt
•Praline Topping, recipe follows
•Maple syrup

•½ stick of butter
•½ cup packed light brown sugar
•½ cup chopped pecans

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl until you have a crumbly texture. Set aside until the morning you bake the casserole.

Slice French bread into 20 slices, 1-inch each. Place on a baking sheet and toast the bread in the oven for a few minutes, just until crisp.

Meanwhile, In a large bowl, combine the eggs, half-and-half, maple syrup, vanilla, and salt and whisk until blended.

Dip each of the bread slices into the egg mixture and arrange slices in a generously buttered 9 by 13-inch flat baking dish in 2 rows, overlapping the slices. Pour any leftover mixture over the bread slices, making sure all the bread is covered evenly with the egg mixture.

Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Sprinkle the Praline Topping evenly over the bread and bake for 40 minutes, until puffed and lightly golden.

Serve with maple syrup.

Bon Appetit!

stephmodo said...

Liz and "M and E", thank you for the potato leek recipe ideas. My husband thanks you :)

And Jennifer, so funny you mention this recipe. I spotted it on the Food Network website and wondered if it was worth the calories :) I'm guessing "yes"? Thank you!

wishful nals said...

looks delicious! potato leek soup is one of my favorites. and crusty sourdough? yum!

Tina said...

How did you make the pork and tofu stirfry? I usually saute ground pork and tofu with garlic and black bean sauce (you can find it in an asian grocery store or Whole Foods might have it). I like to add some sirracha or chili sauce to it as well to give it a little heat.

Stephanie said...

Tina, that sauce sounds more like it! Is it spicy and do you know the brand? Thanks!

Aunt LoLo said...

If you can tell me what the pork and tofu was SUPPOSED to taste like, I can find out how to make it. ;-) I've got people on the "inside"
(ie - a Chinese MIL who loves to cook). haha

MamaSove said...

Hey there! I had some really good potato leek soup this week. Here's the recipe I used, with a few modifications (namely, adding more potatoes and a few different spices):

Love reading your menu of the week posts, and the blog in general!

rachel @ blackeiffel said...

Steph -- you should really make your own breadcrumbs, it is super easy! I pulse good bread in my food processor, but I bet you could use a blender too, they turn out really well :)

Tina said...

The brand is Lee Kum Kee. It is not spicy which is why I usually add some type of chili sauce to give it some heat.

Jen said...

i myself was so excited about the french lentils recipe from ina's cookbook - i went as far as to serve it with the garlicky sausage. and i too was disappointed - it took far to long for the lentils to cook - might not have had the right ones - and the vinaigrette with everything combined was definitely not the taste we were expecting! I'm having more luck with the recipes from her back to basic program than with that book. love the roast chicken and olive oil pasta though. I made the roasted prawns and they were so salty - i always have to remember that i don't like salt the way she does!! and we made the eton mess and that was fun. i'm going to give it a few more tries but might have to venture out and find an english copy of another one of her's as i am a devote follower, have many a hand written recipe of hers.
definetly going to hook onto one that cassoulet recipe and i am also going to attempt ribilotta (sp?) next week.
happy eating!

commoncents said...

THANK YOU for posting this! I always enjoy visiting your blog!!

Common Cents

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P said...

Looks delicious! Well done

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wondrous oblivion said...

Here's a little tip I came across for fresh bread crumbs. Just toss a few pieces of torn bread into the blender, (not too many times or it can get gummy) and pulse a few times and wala!..breadcrumbs. It even gets easier if you keep a few pieces of fresh bread frozen in thre freezer. Then you always have fresh bread available and it works even a bit better in the blender.

Cathleen said...

Julia Child's potato leek soup recipe is my go-to. The only addition I make is a tablespoon of bacon fat when sauteing the leeks to add a hint of smokiness. Yum!

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