In middle school, I had listened to my Edith Piaf album enough times to have every lyric memorized — despite the fact that I didn’t speak French. (My rendition of the chorus to La Vie En Rose took several liberties, “Quand ilmepren dansesbra…”) This fascination with the French language, which manifested itself in Intensive French classes my senior year in college, has since made the jump to French food. Considering that the last four books I purchased have been French cookbooks, you could say I’m obsessed, actually.
This past Sunday, I dove head first into Mimi Thorisson’s A Kitchen in France and David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen to create a classic French feast. While I frequently look to Lebovitz’s traditional recipes for inspiration (and mouth-watering stories about sourcing crêpes in the Latin Quarter), I’ve shied away from Thorrisson’s time-intensive creations. I’ve often reached for her book off of the shelf, then hesitated after reading the name of an unpronounceable mushroom on the ingredient list or lengthy directions — it is not the stuff of weeknight meals. For this meal, I adapted Mimi’s Langoustines with Armagnac, subbing langoustines for shrimp and armagnac for more white wine, and paired it with a classic French frisée salad aux lardons.
Shrimp with White Wine Sauce (Adapted from Mimi Thorisson)
24 fresh shrimp or jumbo shrimp
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Five sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 shallots, minced
3 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
- Preheat the oven to 400º F.
- Peel then cut each shrimp length-wise in half, from head to tail. Reserve the juices in a small bowl (there may not be enough to save).
- In a large sauté pan, head 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over high heat until nearly smoking. Add the shrimp, season with salt and pepper, and cook briskly until the flesh becomes opaque, about 4 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to a baking dish.
- Add the remaining olive oil to the sauté pan and heat over medium heat. Cook the shallots until translucent and slightly tender, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle with thyme leaves, add the white wine, and simmer to read, about 2 to 3 minutes. Pour over the shrimp.
- Bake the shrimp until lightly golden, about 10 minutes.
- Remove the shrimp from the oven and serve immediately.
Frisée Salad Aux Lardons (Adapted from David Lebovitz)
Serves 4 to 6
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, slightly crushed
1 1/2 cups torn pieces of bread
2 cups diced thick-cut bacon
4 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons minced garlic
8 cups loosely packed frisée
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
4 hard-cooked or poached eggs
- To make the croutons, heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until it’s deeply golden brown; be careful not to burn it. Remove and reserve the garlic, then add the bread, stirring the cubes in the oil and turning them frequently. Add a sprinkle of salt and dribble more oil if necessary, until the bread is browned on all sides, about five minutes. Set aside until ready to serve. (I suggest making extra unless you have amazing snacking self control.)
- Fry the bacon in a skillet over medium heat, until just starting to crisp. Drain the pieces on a plate lined with paper towels.
- In a large salad bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, a quarter teaspoon of salt, the oil, water, and garlic. (If you like garlic as much as I do, chop up the fried garlic clove from making the crouton and add that as well.)
- To assemble the salad, add the bacon to the bowl and add the frisée, parsley, and some black pepper. Add the croutons and hard-cooked eggs, and toss very well. Divide among four salad bowls and serve.