Lessons from a French chef

The French have a balanced and time-tested relation to food and life. Recently I hosted a cooking demonstration led by a dear Parisian friend, Farida, who has mastered the art of designing menus and preparing classic French dishes. What a lovely afternoon! We sipped champagne, sampled her amazing creations and raised money for a local non-profit, Stars.

At first guests were somewhat reluctant to try the escargot and I get it .. snails were certainly not something I grew up eating! But for the brave foodies who decided to partake, which ended up being everyone, did they ever love ’em! Farida prepared a simple herb butter with parsley and garlic, purchased snails at our local French market Nicole’s, then stuffed the shells. I couldn’t believe how easy they were to make! Once stuffed, she baked for about 20 minutes and oh my, were they ever good. The shells can be re-used, just need a good cleaning in a hot soapy bath.

The fish course was next …

Coquilles St Jacques en croute
(scallops with julienned veggies, cream and pastry)
medium-sized scallops
heavy cream
carrots, leeks, zucchini
puff pastry dough

Drown the scallops in milk for an hour or so, then rinse and place in the fridge. Julienne the vegetables in thin slices or dices. Cook them separately in a frying pan and then mix together. Add salt, pepper and different spices. Add some cream. Place a bed of julienned vegetables at the bottom of a ramekin. Place a scallop on the vegetables and cut a cross shape in the top of the scallop. Add coarse salt and 1 teaspoon of cream. Put egg yolk on the ramekin rim, then top with puff pastry, piercing the pastry in the middle. Brush the top with egg yolk. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until the pastry is nice and golden.


Farida selected filet mignon en croute for our main, and it was absolutely delicious. Here’s her recipe.

Filet de Boeuf en croute
beef tenderloin
puff pastry dough
smoked ham slices
white porto

Sear the filet on all sides, then wrap tightly in saran and place in the fridge for 30 minutes. Cook the mushrooms with 2 glasses of white porto. Take out the juice and grind them into a puree. Roll out the pastry dough on a floured surface. Place a layer of puree, then ham slices, then the filet on top of the pastry. Close the pastry and brush egg yoke. Cook in a 425 degree oven for 15 minutes, then turn oven down to 350 degrees and cook another 30 minutes.

Farida makes THE BEST ratatouille in the world!  Her secret is to cook each vegetable separately before combining together, then simmering for 30-45 minutes after combined.

2 red peppers
2 green peppers
2 onions
2 eggplants
3 tomatoes
thyme, basil, bay leaf, coriander, herbs de provence

I’m grateful for Farida, her nephew Yannis and my rock star buddy Leslie (who, by the way, just released her very first ALBUM!!) who helped make this happen. This is the first of three cooking demonstrations .. if you’d like to participate and Pasadena isn’t too far of a trek, join us October 20 for a Oaxacan feast! Message me for details or find me at kathygibson.com