Where in the World Have I Been?


Mr.Sportcoat (sans sportcoat) and me at the Ladies’ View, Kerry, Ireland. What you’ve heard about Ireland is true: The landscape is beautiful and people are just so kind. What you might not know is that the food is amazing–these days, it’s every bit as good as in France. And in some ways, better. Seriously.

Indeed, I’ve taken three trips to Ireland in the past four years, and I have to say, Ireland is my new France. Not that I don’t still love France. Yet after 25 years of summering in France, I get it. It is part of my soul, and I have brought it home to the way I live every single day in the U.S.

I’m someone who loves to travel deep (rather than wide); once I start to love a place, I want to know it better and better. I want to know Ireland as deeply and well as I know France. I want Ireland to be a part of who I am.

So, should I change my blog’s title to “Ireland Is My New France”? It’s a thought!

But for now, I thought I’d resurface and say “hiya” (that’s Ireland-talk for “hi”).

And while you’re here (since you probably came here for French cooking), and while it’s summer, I thought–why not give you my five best French recipes for summer (as they appear on this blog). Here you go, friends. Thanks for popping by.

  1. The Best Recipe for Cherry Clafoutis Ever

    Swing those Bing Cherries into a great clafouti. #SoEasy.

    People! Sweet cherries are in like Flynn (whatever that means–my mom used to say it!). And this is the easiest way in the world to make cherries into a rich, custardy dessert.

  2. French Chèvre Salad with Peaches, Pine Nuts, and Arugula

    Goat cheese, peaches, and arugula star in this easy French Chevre salad. Photo courtesy of Goat Cheeses of France.

    Peaches, too are right in season. They’re great in this salad, with melty-mild goat cheese Camembert. (Use plain Camembert if you can’t find a good Goat Cheese Brie or Goat Cheese Camembert.

  3. French Green Lentil Salad with Shrimp

    A quick summer dinner-party entree: Treat everyone to something wonderful. Put out a double-batch of this French Green Lentil Salad with Shrimp in one large bowl. Serve with some cheeses, breads, maybe some charcuterie, and call it a simple French buffet dinner.

    If you make this salad, promise me you’ll use French green lentils from Le Puy. They’re easier to find than they used to be (when I’d bring them home from France in my luggage!). Find them on Amazon (affiliate link) if you can’t find them locally.

  4. French Tomato Salad

    A Simple French Tomato Salad Recipe

    No link or recipe needed for this, but there is a story: On my first stay in France as a high school cultural exchange student, the maman of the family served me a salad much like the one above. Though it was so simple, I’d never really tasted anything like it before—and it’s the fines herbes that bust open the world for me. There’s something that this mix of herbs (parsley, chives, and tarragon or chervil) does to the tomatoes that’s just so….French. Simply make your favorite vinaigrette (or make mine), and bring on the fines herbes and finely chopped shallots. Oh–and use the best homegrown tomatoes you can buy, of course.

  5. The Chartreuse-Ito
  6. Photo courtesy of Chartreuse.fr

    I’m always looking for a seasonal house cocktail to serve guests. I found one I love in Ireland, and I’ll share that with you soon (the recipe has to run in another publication before I can reprint it here–it’s a deal I made with my editor!).

    But for now, I’m finishing up a bottle of Chartreuse that I have by using it in a Mojito made with Chartreuse–a recipe I discovered in Bordeaux years ago. Click the link for the recipe and story.





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Emile Zola, The Paris Review, and The Bonne Femme Cookbook

L’Assommoir, by Emile Zola. It’s nearly impossible to translate the title, but the cover gives you an idea: Un assommoir is the kind of bar you go into for one purpose: to get loaded.

When I was in my 30s, I began reading novels in Émile Zola‘s “Rougon-Macquart” series. These novels followed an extensive sprawl of characters, all from two branches of one family (the Rougons and the Macquarts)—living in mid-19th-century France.

My fascination with these novels began quite by chance one day when I happened to pick up L’Assomoir in a used book shop. The book told the a heartbreaking story of Gervaise, a hard-working laundress who, along with her second husband Coupeau, comes so close to breaking out of a cycle of alcoholism and poverty, only to have a crushing setback—her life turns on a dime and begins a downward spiral.

I loved the book…I cared deeply for Gervaise, and appreciated the way the novel took me right into the utterly non-romantic underside the workaday Paris slums in the 1870s (these were not “very, very poor, but very, very happy” people). The book deepened my appreciation for Paris—now, when I walk down less-traveled little streets, they feel more fully haunted by the weight of history and the forgotten lives that came before us.

After L’Assommoir, I read a spate of other Zola novels: Nana, the story of Gervaise’s daughter, who becomes a celebrated prostitute; Germinal, the story of Etienne Lantier, Gervaise’s son, who becomes a coal miner in Northern France; Au Bonheur des Dames (The Ladies Paradise), which recounts the story of the rise of department stores. I also read “The Masterpiece,” a bleak story about an artist (another of Gervaise’s sons) who, in effect, fails to produce his life’s true masterpiece.

I vowed to read all 20 of the novels before I turned 40.…but a setback occurred when, slogging through a clunky translation of one of them, I put the the half-unread novel down and just never picked it back up again.

Another one of my favorite Zola novels is “The Ladies’ Paradise.” The store that it’s based on, Le Bon Marché, still stands in Paris. See those little windows on the top floor? That’s where the clerks and other employees used to board.

I have The Paris Review to thank for getting me back on track. The other day, I happened to note that my sales ranking for The Bonne Femme Cookbook had risen substantially in the past few days. So, I did what any author does when this happens: I googled myself. And up popped this great story on the Paris Review’s Website.

The post, entitled “Cooking with Emile Zola,” uses Zola’s famed novel, The Belly of Paris, as a springboard for presenting a spring menu.

The menu includes two of my recipes, which of course, made me very happy.

This led me to a new discovery: The writer, Valerie Stivers, often posts meals inspired by books she has read. I’ve started following her on Twitter, and if you (like me) enjoy recipes inspired by stories, you might enjoy following her as well. Most recently she’s written menus inspired by Langston Hughes, Angela Carter, and Alexandre Dumas.

The Paris Review’s culinary writer Valerie Stivers shot this beautiful photo of my Tagliatelle with Goat Cheese. She posted the recipe in her Cooking with Emile Zola post.

Back to Zola: What’s shocking (given my métier)  is that while I’ve read about 10 novels in Zola’s Rougon-Macquart series, I have not read The Belly of Paris! Dumb, I know. But Thanks to Ms. Stivers, I definitely plan to do so. The novel concerns life in Paris’ central food market of Les Halles—so it pretty much revolves around food.

Don’t think for a minute, however, that this book is going to be a blissful culinary romp through the food life of France and a love song to the slow-food, fresh+local movement. It will tell a more complex story, I’m sure. When the book became available in the U.S. for the first time (in 2009), Publisher’s Weekly wrote that Zola describes how “into the markets, there flowed great rivers of vegetables, cheeses, butter, fish and meats, and out of it, sewers of blood and putrefaction.”

So. If you loved the movie “Paris Can Wait,” and are seeking another gleeful food-larded narrative like it, this is not that.

But I’ve always been a fool for realism…and I’m ready to get back onto my Zola kick, starting with The Belly of Paris. Amazon, here I come.

P.S.: Have you read The Belly of Paris? If so, I’d love to hear what you think of it.



Disclosure: This post includes Amazon affiliate links. If you buy anything via one of these links, I will receive a small commission. Thank you for your support.

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How to Make Beef Carbonnade in the Instant Pot

Easy Recipe for Beef Carbonnade in the Instant Pot // Instant Pot Beef Carbonnade Recipe

A hearty Belgian beef carbonnade recipe is the third recipe I’ve made in the Instant Pot, and it may be my favorite of the French Instant Pot recipes I’ve developed so far (though all have been good). It’s also very easy.


Instant Pot Recipe for Beef Carbonnade. Photo credit.

Beef Carbonnade is a classic Flemish recipe of beef braised in dark beer, with bacon and caramelized onions. I first discovered this recipe in the classic Silver Palate Cookbook–the book just about everyone was cooking from in the 80s. Linda, a friend from college, made it for me when I visited her in Washington D.C. (I was living in New York City at the time). Coincidentally, Linda happened to be at my table the other night when I made this recipe. In fact, she’s the friend who lent me the Instant Pot for testing all these recipes.

Linda has absolutely no recollection of making the beef carbonnade for me, but I remember it clearly: It just tasted so hearty and good and warming and rich and bold on a cold winter night. It was such a gratifying meal to enjoy when—because we were very early on in our careers and living in big, overpriced East Coast cities—we couldn’t afford to go out to eat.

In adapting this beef carbonnade recipe for the Instant Pot, I had to change a few things: First, while the original calls for dredging the meat in the flour before cooking it, that is definitely not advised for an Instant Pot: In fact, from what I’ve read about the pot, thickeners (like flour) should not be added before pressure cooking; rather, the thickening agents should be added only after the pressure cooking is finished. Here’s the word from the Instant Pot Website on this issue:

“Do not try to thicken the sauce before cooking. Cornstarch, flour, or arrow-root may deposit on the bottom of the inner pot and block heat dissipation. As a result, the pressure cooker may overheat.”

Yikes. So, we’ll thicken the stew after it’s all done pressure-cooking, right?

The second change I made is to use boneless beef chuck ribs (aka beef country-style ribs). The original Silver Palate recipe calls for beef stew meat. I’ve made this recipe (in my braiser) with the boneless beef chuck ribs, and that’s the way to go: The meat becomes so soft and tender and boldly flavored–irresistible. And finally, I added a little tomato paste to the recipe for a touch of brightness to the otherwise deep flavors.

Enjoy this recipe: P.S.: If you don’t have an Instant Pot, here’s my Belgian Beef Carbonnade Recipe for the Braising Pan.

5.0 from 1 reviews
How to Make Beef Carbonnade in the Instant Pot
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 servings
Refrain from using a stout (like Guinness), which will make this stew too bitter. I suggest an amber beer—which brings a caramely depth without going overboard.
  • 2 thick strips bacon, coarsely diced
  • 1 very large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Olive oil, if needed
  • 1½ teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons dried thyme
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 pounds boneless beef country style ribs, also know as boneless chuck ribs
  • 2 cups dark beer (not stout). Dark amber or dark pilsner is good.
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • Parsleyed noodles, boiled potatoes, or baked rice, for serving
  1. Set the inner pan into the six-quart Instant Pot Plus. Press the "sauté," feature and press it again to set it on "more." When the word "hot" displays, brown the bacon. Remove with a slotted spoon; set aside. Reduce the saute heat to "normal."
  2. Add the onions to the inner pot; cook and stir until they soften somewhat, about 3 minutes. Add a little olive oil if the pot seems dry. Continue to cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until very soft and starting to brown in places, about 20 minutes. Add the sugar; cook and stir until the onions range in color from golden brown to brown. Add the thyme and salt and pepper to taste; cook and stir briefly. Transfer the onion mixture to a large bowl.
  3. Pat the meat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper. Add additional olive oil to the pan if it seems dry. Increase the saute heat to "more." Add the meat and cook, turning as needed, until well browned on all sides, about 8 minutes (you may need to do this in batches). Transfer the beef to the bowl with the onion mixture.
  4. Add the beer to the inner pot (careful--it may spatter). Bring to boiling, stirring up browned bits. Return the beef, bacon, and onions to the inner pot. Bring to boiling. Press "cancel" to turn off saute function.
  5. Close and lock the lid. Set the valve to "Sealing." Press "Meat-Stew" (on the Duo Plus Instant Pot). Use the - or + button to set the time to 45 minutes
  6. When the cooking cycle ends, press "Cancel." Allow the appliance to cool and release pressure naturally. This will take about 20 minutes. (The little metal float valve on the lid should sink back into the lid, and the lid will unlock).
  7. Once the pressure has released, uncover the pot and transfer the beef and onions to a clean bowl.
  8. For the sauce, skim the fat from the cooking liquid (I use a fat skimmer—see link in Amazon affiliate ad below this recipe). Return the cooking liquid to the inner pot. Press the "saute" function and set it on "more." Whisk in the 2 tablespoons tomato paste. As the liquids come to a simmer, work the 2 tablespoons butter and the flour together to form a paste. Drop into cooking stock, half a time, cooking and stirring with a wire whisk after each addition until well integrated. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly; continue cooking until a sauce-like consistency.
  9. Return all the beef and onions to the cooker. Cook and stir gently until heated through. Serve in wide, shallow bowls with parsley buttered noodles, steamed potatoes, or baked rice.

So, did you enjoy this recipe? Do you want me to develop more recipes from the Instant Pot? If so, let me know in the comments section, below. And…please consider buying something from Amazon by clicking through via one of my affiliate links, below. When you do this, I receive a small commission on anything you buy (even if it’s not exactly what I’m promoting). It won’t add to your costs whatsoever, and it could help me buy an instant pot to test more recipes. (My friend Linda wants hers back!)

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