The curated kitchen: The Little Paris Kitchen cookbook and TWO French recipes

It’s actually been out for awhile, but I haven’t had a chance to look at The Little Paris Kitchen cookbook until now. But it was worth the wait. This type of cookbook is exactly what I like: the recipes are low on hard work and high on big flavor. The pictures are pretty and plentiful. And the recipes, ahhh, those lovely recipes, are simple, easy, and most important, delicious. But don’t take my word for it. I’ve got a recipe for Moules marinières (Mussels with white wine) AND a recipe for Iles flottantes (Floating islands) from The Little Paris Kitchen cookbook after the jump.

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Recipe: Moules marinières
Mussels with white wine

There’s not much you need to make moules marinières. Add a splash of white wine to some softened onion, throw in the mussels, and finish with a dollop of crème fraîche and some crusty bread—that’s more or less it. Who said French food was complicated?

Serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a main course.
• 4 lb mussels
• 1 onion, thinly sliced
• 1 bulb of fennel, thinly sliced*
• 1 tbsp butter
• 1 bay leaf
• 2 sprigs of thyme or a pinch of dried thyme
• 2⁄3 cup dry white wine
• 2⁄3 cup crème fraîche
• a handful of chopped parsley

Clean the mussels using plenty of cold water. Pull out the fibrous beards and scrub off any barnacles. Toss any that have cracked or broken shells, or that do not close when lightly squeezed.

In a large pot (big enough to hold all the mussels with some extra room to spare), soften the onion and fennel over a low heat with the butter, bay leaf, and thyme. When the onion and fennel are soft and translucent, add the wine followed by the cleaned mussels. Increase the heat to high, cover the pan, and cook for 3–4 minutes or until the mussels open, shaking the pan a few times to help them cook evenly.

At the end of the cooking time, remove the bay leaf and sprigs of thyme (if used) and discard any mussels that have not opened. Stir in the crème fraîche and serve immediately, with a sprinkling of chopped parsley.

* I’ve included the fennel because it adds a subtle aniseed flavor that goes extremely well with the white wine and crème fraîche, but you don’t have to use it. Preparation time: 15 minutes Cooking time: 10 minutes

Recipe: Iles flottantes
Floating islands

Iles flottantes are the perfect finish to any rich meal. Egg whites are whisked into the lightest meringue and gently poached, then floated on a lake of creamy, cold crème anglaise and topped with praline.

Crème anglaise is one of the all-time classic French dessert sauces and a great one to have under your belt. Once you understand the technique, you’ll be able to adapt the recipe with your own flavorings. I like to add some freshly ground long pepper, which is sweet and spicy and gives the whole thing a little kick. (You’re most likely to find long pepper at an Asian supermarket, or it can be replaced with regular black pepper.)

This dessert should be served cold, which makes it perfect for preparing in advance. The praline can be made a couple of weeks before you need it and the crème anglaise a couple of days ahead. Keep the praline in an airtight container, as humidity will make it soggy and sticky. The meringues are best made on the day of serving.

Serves 6
For the crème anglaise:
4 egg yolks
7 tbsp sugar
1 vanilla pod*
2 cups milk
½ tsp ground long pepper or black pepper (optional)

For the praline:
6½ tbsp sugar
scant 1 tbsp water
½ cup slivered almondsFor the islands: 2 egg whites
scant ½ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted if lumpy
a couple of drops of lemon juice
a pinch of salt

TO MAKE THE CRÈME ANGLAISE: Mix the egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl. Split the vanilla pod in half lengthwise and scrape out the grains. Place the pod and grains in a pan with the milk and pepper and bring to a boil. Remove the pod, then pour a little of the hot milk onto the egg yolks and sugar, whisking continuously. Gradually whisk in the rest of the milk, then pour the mix into a clean pan, set over a gentle heat, and whisk constantly. Do not let the custard simmer at any point or it will split. After 5 minutes it will begin to thicken slightly and become the consistency of half-and-half (it will thicken more when it cools down). Transfer to a bowl and chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours.

MEANWHILE, MAKE THE PRALINE: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Put the sugar and water into a large pan, heat gently until the sugar dissolves, then increase the heat to high. When the mixture starts to bubble, add the almonds and stir continuously for 5 minutes to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning. Once the sugar and nuts have become a dark golden caramel color, pour onto the prepared sheet and spread as thinly as possible with a palette knife (be quick as it sets pretty fast). Leave to cool.

{Review copy and recipes provided at no charge.}