Saturday, March 28, 2015

It’s Now Private

Today is the first day that I am officially having a private culinary class in Laguna.  While we have been meeting monthly for the French Food Camp (I like to say it’s book club for food), my private classes will be a chance for you to learn very specific skills and how to execute the menu of your choice in a focused environment.  Entertaining and cooking need not be complicated, once you know what you are doing.  And it can and should be a thoroughly luxurious experience.  You just need to know what you are doing.  And that’s what I will show you.


You can select the menu from a long list of dishes I will give you.  Recently we learned a few tricks about how to cook with herbs.  We could spend the whole day talking about how to use Chervil and Chive in your menu.


If you have always wanted to know how to make a perfect chocolate cherry tarte, start to finish, I can show you.  We will make the crust from scratch, and you will learn exactly how to do this.  In summer I make minis, and drop one pitted cherry into each tarte.  It’s fantastic!

choc cherry

Or if pasta is your love, let’s make fettuccine from scratch, with lobster mushrooms and asparagus.

pasta fresca1

Today, we are focused on lemons, Meyer and Ponderosa.   It’s your class, you decide what we will cook~


Everyone likes to get in the act.  The mirror is 1920’s and framed.  An alley find, but it’s nice sitting in my basket at the kitchen door.  How much is that doggie in the mirror???


One of today’s menu items is lemon curd, so we have a large basket of pastured eggs on hand.


And herbs, lots of herbs.  We will talk about the range of herbs; this is Lemon Balm, also known as Melissa.  You need this herb if you have a little garden space or a pot by the kitchen door~


You can reserve a class for two, four or six, HERE.  For chefs not local to Southern California, there is the possibility that you can spend the weekend with me in my guest quarters.  Please email me andrea at

Enjoy your weekend, now, back to my guests~

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Morning-After Stew

Yesterday we had our monthly French Food Camp in Laguna, with a focus on Spring Herbs & foods.  What a day, what a day!!  We had cooks young and old in the kitchen, including my friend C and her little granddaughter, who volunteered to help make the chocolate tarte.  A short time later, this little four year old happened to lock herself in the powder room.  But while most kids would have had a meltdown, she figured it out and unlocked the door.  Good Girl!! 

ffc charlotte

The last guests left after five, and I stayed up with my houseguests chatting by candlelight until ten.  This morning, it was time to do a last pass to clean up the kitchen, they survey the scene again.  The day before, we had the most gorgeous vases of spring branches and flowers courtesy of my friend the most talented Mary Qvale.  Here the ladies were getting ready to be seated for the starter, a grapefruit and shrimp salad that transports me to Paris.

photo 5

This morning, all but my own vase and magnolia brances were gone.   Sniff, sigh….I miss those branches!


I still have one of Mary’s amazing orchids to appreciate too.  I could be spoiled if I have this in my home~


The bar was sort of cleaned up; I say sort of because it looked a bit of a mess.  Sign of a nice culinary class/party.


The herb table is still there, waiting for me to put the potted herbs and other discussion props away.


We discussed a large roster of herbs, the fine and the sturdy.  It was a good afternoon to learn what to do with lemon verbena.


And what the heck is this plant thing called Chervil?  Believe me, you need this in your garden!


A few hours of clean up ahead, I think a coffee on the divan might be in order.


But oh, yes, I have guests.  And food to put away still.  The day after a party one has to deal with all the leftovers.  And while the rib eye steaks were awesome yesterday, with a pat of herbed butter…

food camp steaks

…this morning at six am the remnants were not looking so appetizing.  I had sliced the large steaks into smaller portions, for a family-style three-tray-pass, but there was still a fair bit left, and none of it dog-scraps.  I could make this into chilli for Dad, or cold sandwiches, but he rarely likes to eat anything too “leftover.”


But that’s fine with me, and I know what my family will and will not eat.  After many a large family dinner, if there is any meat such as a prime rib bone or extra steak, I can still use those bones and meat to make another meal.  The concept of French food thrift is a great one, and often lost here as people throw it all away.  Not necessary, if you get right at it the next morning.  I cleaned out the fridge for some flaccid week-old celery, a piece of lemon, a parsnip, a few tired carrots and a half bottle of red wine left over from yesterday.  Time to transform the leftover steak.


I pulled a few shallots, bay leaves, dried thyme, fresh oregano snipped from the herb table and a clove of garlic. 


In winter, I would use this meat and bones if any and leftover veggies and wine to make a stew.  Today I decided to do the same, but in Spring fashion.  I’ll show you my latest French copper this week, but for now I’ll just say I used my Mom’s 1950’s Danish enamel cookware.  Personal attachment to these pieces, and they work just fine, though a French daubiere or Staub cocotte would also be grand.


So in layers, I added the celery, the steak pieces, the herbs, the vegetables to the pot.  Finished off with the last of the fresh herbs and a few pinches of the dried herbes de Provence that we talked about yesterday.  The bottle of red wine was poured on top and the pot filled with water, enough to cover the contents. No need for stock, this makes its own beef stock.


Oh wait, there was one more addition.  The rosemary that finished the little bar towel gift that D gave me.  Into the pot the rosemary went.  To bake at 300 degrees, for about three hours.


As my guests rose around 9am and came to the table for breakfast, the kitchen and much of the house smelled of roasting herbs, red wine and home cooking.  Or you can call it lunch in the making.  After breakfast, I took the stew pot out of the oven to cool and pulled the last of the little spring veggies from the kitchen door baskets.  Little tiny tasty veggies~


As we came to lunchtime, I gently boiled then lightly broiled the veggies.  The very tender chunks of meat went onto the bed of vegetables, and a quick scissor of fresh herbs on top. 


In winter we usually want something hearty and stew-like, but in spring, stews need a lighter treatment.  The veggies here are barely cooked, slightly crunchy but not raw.  The cooking liquid was boiled down to a reduction, then thickened with a roux, and served boated on the side. 


Not at all a bad way to use what is in your fridge for one more meal.  Enjoy your Sunday…if you are interested in coming to next month’s French Food Camp on April 18 we will be brunching is style.  You can see details HERE or email me andrea at