The Culinary Adventure of Cookbook Club: My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz

Introducing a whole new side trip for this blog: a cookbook club! In truth, I’ve been fortunate enough to have been cooking with this great group of people for over two years now, and it’s one of the great pleasures of my life. The culinary experience of our little gang ranges from professional chefs, to enthused hobbyists (hello!), to a some very busy moms who love to have an excuse to cook up a storm once in awhile. We embrace whatever everyone brings to the table, because it is all good.

Selection of cooked dishes on a countertop
Cookbook Club! (image by The Global Reader)
We meet once every other month, and hosting duties rotate. The current host picks the cookbook, and then everyone selects their dish or dishes from there. It’s a great system, and we are clicking along nicely with the format. We’ve also started to add more informal dinners on the off-months, but that’s a post for another time…

This month, the cookbook was My Paris Kitchen, by David Lebovitz. If you’ve caught any of the of the hype around this book, go ahead and believe it because it is EXCELLENT.

The first dish I brought to the party: Chicken with Mustard. Straight-forward ingredients, relaxing to cook, so good to eat; this is a keeper.


Chicken with Mustard (adapted from My Paris Kitchen)

Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon sweet or smoked paprika ( I used smoked)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
  • 8 pieces dark-meat, bone-in, skin-on chicken (separate thighs and drumsticks; 4 to 5 pounds total) ( I used boneless thighs, since I knew some folks prefer that)
  • 1 cup diced smoked thick-cut bacon
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (may substitute 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme) I used dry
  • Olive oil (optional)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seed (may substitute coarse-grain mustard)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons crème fraîche or heavy cream ( I used heavy cream)
  • Warm water (optional)
  • Finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or chives, for garnish
Directions

Mix 1/2 cup of the Dijon mustard in a bowl with the paprika, a few generous grinds of pepper and the salt. Toss the chicken pieces in the mustard mixture, lifting the skin and rubbing some of the mixture underneath. Note: I had a combo of drumsticks, and then boneless thighs. I knew that a few of our group preferred chicken off the bone (as does my husband), so I wanted to see how that would go. Tastes just as good!

Line a plate with a few layers of paper towel. Heat a large, wide skillet with a cover, or a Dutch oven, over medium-high heat until it is almost smoking. Add the bacon and cook, stirring frequently, until it has crisped and browned and most of its fat has rendered. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon pieces to the lined plate. Drain all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the skillet.

Add the onion and stir to coat. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring a few times, until the onion is softened and mostly translucent. Stir in the thyme; cook for a few minutes, until fragrant, then use a spatula to scrape the contents of the skillet into a large bowl.

Return the skillet or Dutch oven to medium-high heat; once it’s quite hot, add the chicken pieces skin side down; if they don’t fit, work in two batches, adding oil as needed. Cook until well-browned on the bottom, then turn the pieces over and cook to achieve good color on the second side; this might take 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer the chicken to the bowl with the onion.

Pour the wine into the pan to deglaze it, keeping clear of the steam that rises. Use a firm spatula to quickly dislodge any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. (This is the key to the whole dish. Get all of that browned up goodness into the sauce!)

Return all of the chicken and any accumulated juices to the skillet or Dutch oven and add the onion mixture and bacon. Cover and cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes, turning the chicken pieces over a few times during cooking. To check for doneness, insert the sharp tip of a knife into the meat next to the thigh bone; if the meat is still pink, cook for a few more minutes.

Once the chicken is cooked through, remove the skillet or Dutch oven from the heat. Stir in the remaining 3 tablespoons of Dijon mustard, the mustard seed and the crème fraîche or heavy cream to form a sauce. If it seems too thick, stir in a little warm water.

Sprinkle chopped parsley or chives over the top. Serve hot.

Chicken with Mustard in an orange Dutch oven
Chicken with Mustard from My Paris Kitchen (image by The Global Reader)

 

I also made the Salted Caramel Chocolate Mousse. Hello! SO GOOD! I’m sort of sad to know that I can make this, because now I always will and there’s no chance of ever being skinny again.  Oh well!

I’m just going to link out to Epicurious for this one, since my photos of the mousse are terrifying. Note to self: chocolate doesn’t look awesome just flatly photographed on a white plate. One note before I send you on your way: I made this twice, once with semisweet chocolate, and then with bittersweet. Both are fantastic, but I recommend the latter. The mousse is already very sweet with the caramel sauce; you don’t need the extra sugar at all.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Mousse

An absolute 5 star rating for this cookbook! Go buy it now, and cook happy!

Country #38: Guatemala

Back to Central America! I’m never gone very long, and that suits me just fine.

Looking forward to what will be a very interesting adventure, I’m sure.

Reading Japan: Shipwrecks by Akira Yoshimura

It’s been my practice with this blog to just read one book per country, since I’m already walking this long path at a very slow pace. But not for Japan!

After really enjoying my first selection, which I found courtesy of OhioLINK, I decided to check out my own bookshelves. I’m definitely a proponent of tsundoku, a Japanese word that roughly translates to buying a lot of books and leaving them stacked up everywhere, unread. It’s not just a habit for me; it’s a lifestyle. Because of that, my search yielded many excellent choices, but I went with Shipwrecks by Akira Yoshimura, translated from the Japanese by Mark Ealey.

A 16th-century Japanese Atakebune coastal warship.
A 16th-century Japanese Atakebune coastal warship. (Image in the Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Stark is the main word I would use to describe this book. Mr. Yoshimura is a masterful writer; the chilly tone and repetitive scenes he puts to paper convey perfectly the experience of the protagonist, a young boy named Isaku. I’ve not quite experienced such  brilliant use of language and structure like that in a novel; when I realized what he was doing, I almost stopped and clapped. The translator deserves a well-earned shout-out as well, for keeping that framework so beautifully intact.

As I often tell you at the end of my reviews, read this book!

 

Reading Japan: Woman on the Other Shore

So many choices for reading about Japan. Not only that, but I’ve already engaged with quite a few of the best known Japanese authors (Murakami, Ishiguro, Soseki, Kawabata), so that left me free to dig a little deeper. And I’m so glad I did.

The book I chose, Woman on the Other Shore  by Mitsuyo Kakuta is just beautiful. It made me realize how rarely you encounter a real telling of relationships between women; friendships, daughters and mothers, coworkers – all of these can be so impactful, but we’re often left to navigate the emotions they bring up all by ourselves. I recommend this book wholeheartedly; it’s well worth your time.

Image of Imaihama-Kaigan Station in Kawazu, Shizuoka, Japan
A location in the book: Imaihama-Kaigan Station in Kawazu, Shizuoka, Japan (Image by Okajun, via Wikimedia Commons)