“In the Kitchen” is a series celebrating the family table––the food we eat, the spaces we inhabit, and the people with whom we share it all. Each edition welcomes a new voice to this conversation on kitchen life and food, and today, I welcome Cécile Molinié, the inspiring creative at Cécile Moli and contributing member of See My Paris. Cécile is the mother to four children and lives in Paris, France, where she cherishes her kitchen as both the center of their family life and the touchpoint to nature. Welcome, Cécile!
I grew up in the French countryside and at a very young age became used to helping my mother grow the vegetable garden, pick the berries, plums or apples. I learned how to preserve some of them for winter and also about the real connection between man and nature. We had a very big kitchen with a view on the garden, and as I loved cooking and found it creative and relaxing after long days at school or in college, I tried a lot of recipes, from the daily ones to the very elaborate ones. I loved it! When I first moved to Paris to study law more than 20 years ago, space was scarce and the kitchen was very tiny. But there is a story about Parisian kitchens, even in very chic an large classic Parisian apartments. The first time I entered such a beautiful place, I was amazed that the kitchen was isolated from the rest of the apartment, put at the end of a long, dark corridor, close to the back stairway (in French, escalier de service: the staircase used by the maids and cooks to enter the apartments by a back door in the 19th century). Most Parisian apartments are made like this. The kitchen was the place no one should see. The living room, dining room and library were very large and opulent and the kitchen very small. It was the case in the three first places we lived in with my husband and growing family until we finally bought our current apartment six years ago.
It was a big space in a modern building which had been occupied by offices for 40 years and needed a full renovation. The architect and I decided to put the kitchen at the heart of the house, close to the bedrooms, the living room, dining room, with lots of light from the terrace and a place to eat or work at a big table, a place specifically dedicated to cooking. So this is our Parisian kitchen, one that doesn’t look so Parisian in a way! This place is where we all gather for meals or after school for homework or tea time with friends. It is always warm and welcoming. I often take my computer there to work with the kids around me. The kids like to help me cooking when they have time. Little Miss always sets the table with the silver, while the others help me with the vegetables, or the sauce, and of course with the dessert!
I decided to share a typical French dish, La Blanquette de Veau. Even the name is evocative for an English speaking person; blanquette pronounces exactly like blanket. It is the perfect comfort dish for the cold Autumn and Winter days that all my children love and ask for––the very same one my grandmother cooked when I visited her. The recipe was inspired by the children’s cookbook pictured, one that was mine when I was a child. It is really easy to make. It just takes time to prepare and must be watched. Afterward, I always keep the remaining broth and use it to make a soup for the evening with angel hair pasta or these small letters pasta, very popular in France with the children.LA BLANQUETTE DE VEAU (Veal Stew in a White Sauce)
You need :
- 1,2 kg (2 ½ pounds) of veal shoulder cut into little cubes
- 1 shallot, peeled and cut into slices
- 1 big onion, peeled with the cloves stick
- 5 cloves
- 4 carrots, peeled and cut lenghtwise
- 2 leeks mostly the white part (keep one green leaf for the bouquet garni below)
- 1 bouquet garni (ie : 1 little branch of bay leaves, one of thyme, one green leaf of leek, a few springs of parsley) or at least only the bay leaves ; Tie all the herbs together into the leek leaf.
- 1 table spoon sea salt
- ground pepper
- parsley or chives (optional)
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 2 tablespoon flour
- ½ cup 100 ml crème fraiche (optional)
- 1 egg yolk
- 500g white rice
- Put the veal pieces in a large pot (cocotte in french) add 2 liters of cold water and bring to a boil.
- Skim and add all the vegetables, bouquet garni and salt.
- Add some water to cover everything if necessary
- Cover, lower the heat and let cook for one hour.
- When the veal and vegetables are tender, remove the bouquet garni.
- Let it cool a little bit and leave the meat in the pot and put the broth in a large bowl.
- Cook the rice
- Make the roux : melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the flour, it must get a little beige (not brown), add one or two pinches of salt. Then add, one at a time, 7 to 8 laddles (3 ½ to 4 cups) of broth into the saucepan, stirring constantly between each addition. The broth turns thicker and makes a creamy white sauce.
- Mix the creme fraiche and egg yolk.
- Add the creme fraiche and egg yolk mixture to the sauce and stop the heat.
- Pour this sauce into the cocotte with the meat and vegetables.
- Sprinkle with parsley or chives if your children like little green things on their food (mine don’t ☺)
Serve immediately with the rice. Bon appétit !