A Kitchen in France — Off the Shelf

Escape to a farm nestled in the French countryside with Mimi Thorisson's new cookbook, A Kitchen in France.
A Kitchen in France

"Everything they say about the French way of life is true," declares Mimi Thorisson in her new book, A Kitchen in France. "Especially the food part." If you've ever dreamt of moving to a farmhouse nestled in the French countryside where you can relax, garden and cook all day, Thorisson's new book is for you (because that's exactly what she and her family did). "Even now I would be at a loss to explain exactly why we took the plunge," she admits. "But we needed a bigger place for a growing family, so why not outside the box, outside Paris? My husband wanted more dogs, we wanted to see the kids running around in a big garden, we were up for an adventure."

A Kitchen in France chronicles that adventure in lovely, descriptive writing and through a stunning collection of recipes. What you'll find in the pages are recipes that sound much fussier than they are; French food is largely simple food, designed to coax subtle and big flavors alike from good ingredients. Thorisson's recipes accomplish just that, and the stunning food photography will have your mouth watering as soon as you crack the book open. Start with the Onion Tart (recipe after the jump for you to try at home), but you won't be able to stop there. Almond Mussels and Red Berry Barquettes taste like summer. You won't be able to wait for autumn to make the Potatoes a la Lyonnaise, and the Harvest Soup recipe with beef, root vegetables and garlic is the perfect dish to pull the chill out of a cool fall evening. "Some dishes just can't be enjoyed in warm weather," Thorisson says. "And they are my favorite thing about winter." You'll find recipes that do call for hours-long simmering, like the traditional Coq au Vin or the Beef Cheek Stew, but what better way to warm the house on a cold winter weekend than letting those enchanting smells fill your home? You'll also find simple dishes, like the Garlic Soup, that achieve a flavor it's almost impossible to believe came about in under half an hour. And it's not all main courses; there are plenty of seasonal dessert offerings, along with some smaller plates like the Roquefort and Walnut Gougeres, which would be a perfect addition to a New Year's Eve menu (or whatever you were already planning for supper tonight).

Onion Tart

"If I can inspire people to cook good food with high-quality ingredients, using simple everyday French recipes, I will have achieved something," Thorisson says. "If I can make someone feel that we can all, at some point, live our dreams one way or another, change our lives if we wish to, even if it's just to try it out, then so much the better." Escape to the French countryside with your own copy of A Kitchen in France, which you can order right here.

Onion Tart

I always have a big bowl of onions on my kitchen table in various shades and sizes. To me they are as beautiful as any vase of flowers and as necessary as running water or a working stove. A friend once asked what I would do if there were no onions — I had no answer then and still don't. They are the eggs of the vegetable world, endlessly versatile, and can be bit players in big dishes or leading stars in French classics like onion soup.

This simple yet flavorful tart is exactly the sort of food I like to have by myself in a bistro when people have started leaving and it’s too late to order anything more serious.

Serves 4 to 6
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 1/2 ounces/100 g bacon, cut into lardons or diced
1 pound/450 g onions, thinly sliced
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
All-purpose flour for rolling the dough
8 ounces/230 g puff pastry, homemade (recipe follows) or store-bought

Heat the olive oil and butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and fry until browned, about 3 minutes. Lower the heat to medium-low, add the onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Add the honey, balsamic vinegar, and thyme, increase the heat to high, and boil to reduce for 2 to 3 minutes. Take off the heat and set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven 400 degrees F/200 degrees C. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough 1/8 inch/0.3 cm thick. Line a 10-inch/25-cm tart pan with the pastry and prick the bottom several times with a fork. Trim the edges. Scoop the onion mixture into the tart shell.

Bake until the pastry is crisp and golden, about 20 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before drizzling with olive oil and serving.

Puff Pastry

By following these instructions, you will be able to produce delicious homemade

puff pastry.

Makes about 1 pound 5 ounces/600 G
2 cups/240 g all-purpose flour, sifted, plus more for rolling
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup/120 ml room-temperature water
10 ounces/2½ sticks/300 g unsalted butter, at room temperature

In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt. Cube 4 tablespoons/50 g of the butter and add to the bowl, along with the water. Mix gently with your fingertips until the dough comes together in a ball. Slice a cross in the top of the ball, about 1/2 inch/2 cm deep. (This will help when rolling the dough.) Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Put the remaining 8 ounces/250 g butter on a piece of plastic wrap, cover with a second sheet, and use a rolling pin to flatten the butter into a 5- to 6-inch/14- to 15-cm square. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough from the center out, following the lines of the cross, as if you were opening the ball like a flower, into a large square, 9 to 10 inches/25 to 30 cm on each side. Put the flattened butter in the center of the square of dough and bring the corners of the dough to the center to enclose the butter. Roll out, being careful not to squeeze out the butter, to an even rectangular shape about 8 by 12 inches/20 by 30 cm.

With a short side facing you, fold the dough in thirds, as if you were folding a letter. Turn the folded dough so that the seam is to one side and a short side of the dough is once again facing you. Repeat the rolling and folding once. Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Repeat the rolling, folding, and chilling steps 4 more times. The idea is to fold and roll the dough six times (twice at the beginning and then once each subsequent time). When you are finished, your dough is ready! You can use it right away or wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for up to 3 days or freeze it for up to 1 month; defrost overnight in the refrigerator before rolling.

Recipe reprinted with permission from A Kitchen in France, copyright 2014 by Mimi Thorisson, Clarkson Potter Publishing.

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