Frenchie, Frenchie, Frenchie.

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Dear Frenchie bar à vins,

I didn’t believe the hype, and I apologize. I’d eaten at the restaurant and enjoyed it, but I never had the “ah-ha, this is genius food” moment there. I get it now.

Sweetbreads, radish, parsley

Foie gras royale, apple/pear chutney, walnut

If you’re coming to Paris, do yourself a favor and make sure you get yourself here one, if not two, if not several nights.

Burrata, wild mushrooms

Tortelli ricotta, butternut, sage, amaretti biscuit

I can’t tell you what to order, since everything is seasonal — there are new dishes all the time. I’ve had the entire menu at this point, and I can honestly say that everything is at least good, and some of the dishes (the ricotta and butternut squash tortelli, for example) are just explode-your-brains divine.

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Stuffed Mushrooms

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It’s story time with Miss Diane! Gather ’round kids.

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Once there was a little girl who was a very picky eater. She didn’t like spicy foods, she didn’t like foods that were “too green,” and was generally scared of foods she’d never tried before. Eventually, the little girl grew up to be a college student who, while still being a picky eater, loved to eat.

One day, the girl had a realization. If I get over my pickiness, she thought, I can eat more food! Maybe I don’t actually hate the things I don’t think I like… maybe I never gave them a proper chance.

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And so she started with mushrooms. She took some plump, pretty mushrooms, and stuffed them with everything she liked: bacon, bread crumbs, cheese, garlic…

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If I don’t like them stuffed with all these good things, she thought, then I probably actually hate them. She took a fat, juicy stuffed mushroom between her fingers and took a bite. She’s been loving mushrooms ever since.

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Paprika Roasted Chicken and Potatoes

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I’m back from California to dreary, rainy Paris.

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I know. I have no right to complain. But my two-and-a-half weeks in LA really highlighted the differences between my two cities, and what I had taken for granted while living in Santa Monica. Also what I have been missing here, more than 70° weather in January.

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And but so I’ve decided (not resolved; I don’t do that) to do more things like this: invite a friend over for a simple lunch of roasted chicken, perhaps pepped up a bit with spice. Because what I’ve been missing here more than anything else is a sense of community. The kinds of friends who you don’t have to make elaborate dinner plans to see. Just come over. We’ll watch some things on YouTube and drink wine and eat too much.

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Raising Your Own Sourdough Starter

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Meet the new guy I’ve been obsessing over for the last couple of weeks.

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He’s a sourdough starter and I raised him myself! Back in the old days, before you could get those packets of yeast at the supermarket, bakers would have to catch and raise their own yeast if they wanted leavened bread. The cool thing is that when you catch wild yeast, some beneficial bacteria get caught too; these are the bacteria that give sourdough that tangy flavor. And the combinations of yeast and bacteria are different in every region, which is part of the reason why a French pain au levain tastes different from San Francisco sourdough.

Raising a starter is as simple as mixing together some flour and water, then letting it sit in a warm spot for a few days. The yeast and bacteria in the air work their way into the flour and water slurry and start eating the carbohydrates in it. Then you “train” the little guy by discarding a bit, then feeding the rest with more flour and water. Eventually the culture grows, eats, and burps little carbon dioxide bubbles in a predictable manner, and that’s when it’s ready to use for baking. It really is very much like having a pet: daily feedings, a little warm corner for him to sleep in, and he has the potential to give you many years of joy.

His name is Jean-Bapyeast. I wanted a really French name, a friend suggested Jean-Baptiste, and Edna punned it into Jean-Bapyeast. Excellent, non?

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There are a lot of things you can do with a natural sourdough starter, including, of course, making bread. I’ve tried my hand at a couple of loaves but haven’t quite nailed down my perfect recipe yet. The loaf above was my first, and unfortunately it deflated a bit while I was transferring it to the baking vessel, resulting in a denser loaf than I prefer. We’ll get there, and until then, try raising a sourdough starter for yourself. There’s really nothing cooler than making tasty bread out of nothing but flour, water, salt, and some microorganisms you gathered from the air.

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My Paris, Week 23: 12 Pubs of Christmas and Frenchie bar à vins

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This week I learned… something… about restraint… or knowing your limits… or something like that. It’s all kind of a blur really.

So what happened is that my French class partners, Tríona and Oisin, invited me to something called “12 Pubs of Christmas.” Basically, the goal was to hit up twelve different pubs in twelve hours, drinking a beer at each one. We started with a lovely brunch at Tríona and Oisin’s place, where we all looked bright-eyed and chipper in our Christmas jumpers.

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Each pub had a rule, such as: you must wear a Christmas jumper, or drink with your non-dominant hand, or not call anyone by their real name. Penalties for rule-breakers included drinking shots and doing Irish dances. Keep this sober, late-morning photo in mind. We degenerated quickly.

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I think part of the thing I learned was something about not starting out too strong. There were two options you could choose from to fully participate: drink one pint at each  pub (A-team), or one half-pint (B-team). Note that, in Paris, what they call a pint is really 500cl, so the A-teamers would be drinking a total of six liters total. I decided to start out on the A-team, then kick down to the B-team eventually. That decision was my downfall.

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Chicken Pot Pie

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This is one of the most versatile dinners I know. Basically, it follows the concept of “slather it in béchamel sauce and/or top it with pie crust and it’ll probably be delicious.”

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Originally, I was going to call this “leftover pot pie,” because I took these photos around Thanksgiving when leftovers were all everyone was talking about. And honestly, the way I usually make it is with a mess of leftovers, but leftovers pot pie doesn’t sound that appetizing.

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My point is that you can make this pie with pretty much any kind of vegetables or protein in the filling. Got some leftover chicken from that one you roasted earlier this week? It’ll work perfectly. A few herby carrot sticks that you didn’t finish from today’s afternoon snack? Chop ’em up and chuck ’em in. Some garlicky greens hanging out in your fridge? Naturally. You can also make this in almost any oven-safe vessel: a deep dish pie pan is traditional, but feel free to mess with individual mini-pies (like I did), 8-inch square baking pans, or cast-iron skillets.

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Matcha Pancakes

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These bright green pancakes happened while I was in Nice, and hadn’t figured out how to turn on the oven yet. Of course, being far from home and lonely, I also had a huge sugar craving. What’s a sweet-toothed girl to do when there’s no way to make gooey cinnamon rolls or chewy cookies?

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These hot cakes were a perfect answer. With a base of my usual hot-cakes-for-one recipe, with the intriguing addition of matcha (finely milled, high quality Japanese green tea) powder, they had a hint of floral bitterness that was the perfect foil for creamy butter and a big drizzle of syrup.

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