This meal is the magic number that officially converted my Noni. I successfully turned her "I hate French food" into, "this is pretty good." It won't be the last time I have her loving French food either. Tarts are some of my favorite appetizers to make because they're simple and always a hit. They are easily customizable, crowd pleasers, and not too filling so that you spoil the main course. A roast is an easy way to cook a comforting meal without putting in much work. Slow cooking on low temperatures ensures a tender meat that falls apart easily and melts in your mouth. Adding extra flavor is optional but highly recommended. In case this is your first French Cooking Friday post, I'm making my way through Mimi Thorisson's A Kitchen In France. Catch the intro to the series here.
STARTER: Onion Tart
This tart was bursting with flavor. I've come to learn that people are either strongly pro-onion or anti-onion. I believe that if you are a true foodie, you must be pro-onion because they are such a basic ingredient to adding flavor in your dishes. You don't have to like them raw but to deny them at all in cooking makes no sense. Mimi mentioned in her book that she always has a bowl of onions on the counter, much like having a bowl of fruit. I'm the same way. I always have a ton of onions stored. This recipe calls for one pound of onions. That would seem like a lot and a bit unnecessary but it's not. When onions cook down and caramelize, they take on a sweetness that is irresistible. They also cook down meaning that cooked onions are less in volume than non-cooked onions. This recipe also calls for lardons (bacon chunks) for saltiness and baslamic vinegar for a little tartness. The combination is outstanding. I would have eaten the whole tart if I could.
MAIN COURSE: Roasted "Lamb" Shoulder with Garlic Cream Sauce
I put lamb in quotations because I used a pork shoulder instead. I personally love lamb but it is super expensive. It's popular in Europe so I'm wondering if it's cheaper there, kind of like how pork or beef is for us. More importantly, not everyone in my family likes lamb. If I'm going to splurge on a chunk of meat, everyone is going to love it without question.
This was the dish that changed my Noni's opinion about French food. She didn't like how the garlic looked roasted, it made her sick, but when it came to the garlic cream sauce spooned over the pork shoulder, she was sold. The sauce is creamy and rich, like stereotypical French food, but a little went a long way and it was so decadent. This is a great Sunday night dinner. It's also simple to prepare. It roasts in the oven for most of the day. All you need to do is whip up the sauce when it's through cooking. It takes but a few minutes.
DESSERT: Canelés de Bordeaux
My success with French desserts has not been stellar. I was looking forward to the canelés because they seemed simple enough. As soon as I put them in the oven, I went back to the book and read the last line of the introduction: "Canelés should have a caramelized crust and a soft inside, so you and your oven might have to make several attempts before they turn out absolutely perfect." My heart sunk. My oven and I don't have a good relationship so I convinced myself that they were going to turn out terrible. Well, the universe must have wanted to give me one because they were perfection the first time. I'm talking, perfect caramelized crust, soft and moist interior. It was the confidence boost that I really needed in the baking department. The one thing I could have done differently is fill the molds a little more. I was worried they'd spill over so some of them are a bit short.
I'm pleased with how this meal turned out. I could have taken the meat from the oven a little earlier. It was a bit dry but still tasty. The onion tart was a hit as were the canelés. Maybe canelés are not the first thing you want to brave when entering French baking but for me, the first time was the charm. I can't wait to share next week's meal with you. It's perfect for spring or summer and I baked my first savory soufflé. Until then, bon week-end!