30 December 2016

Two more café classics

The Larousse Gastronomique defines the term « café » — the establishment, not the beverage — this way:
Débit de boissons (café, mais aussi bière, vin, apéritifs et jus de fruits), où sont également proposés quelques plats rapides (croque-monsieur, sandwichs, salades garnies, assiette anglaise).
“Drinking establishment serving coffee (but also beer, wine, coctails, and fruit juices) where a small number of quick-to-prepare foods (croque-monsieur, sandwiches, composed salads, cold cuts) are also on offer.”

To get more elaborate food, you have to go to a brasserie or a bistrot. However, many Paris cafés also serve lunch nowadays, including dishes like the one above. It's called « gratin dauphinois » and it's thinly sliced potatoes oven-cooked in the oven in milk with garlic and nutmeg. I posted a recipe with photos back in 2007. This time, I forgot to take a photo of the finished gratin before we started spooning it out of the dish and eating it.

I made a gratin dauphinois — scalloped potatoes — earlier this week to have with the leftovers of our Christmas capon. I put cheese on top, but that's optional. Walt sliced the potatoes on the mandoline, so they were uniformly thin and perfect. That's powdered nutmeg and black pepper that I sprinkled on before pouring in the hot milk and putting in in the dish in the oven.

Another brasserie classic — a brasserie is a German/Alsatian-style café-restaurant where food and drink are served all through the day, not just at standard French mealtimes — is the steak au poivre (above), or beefsteak seared quickly in a hot frying pan and then dressed with a cognac cream sauce with a lot of crushed black pepper in it. We make steak au poivre at least once a year, for Walt's birthday (December 21), and sometimes another time or two in spring or summer. This year, our steak was filet de bœuf, beef tenderloin, so it was especially tender.

Today, I'm making another classic. It's gratin de chou-fleur — cauliflower au gratin — comfort food for a cold winter day.


  1. Pauline does a gratin Dauphinois with alternate layers of spud and celeriac...
    and no cheese...but it could have, the flavours are strong enough.
    And the Collie-cheese is a favourite, too....but we have to buy in the cauliflower...
    we've tried growing them, but to no avail...always turn out like white sprouting broccoli !!
    And it is cold and foggy here...a morning when one's mind turns to porridge!

    1. I buy the cauliflower too. SuperU had beautiful ones from Bretagne for just 1.35€ per head, with beautiful fresh green leaves all around the "flower" itself. I'm cooking the greens separately. Then the white parts with lardons and the sauce mornay.

    2. What a deal! I'm paying about $3 per head here at the moment, but they're big, local, and fresh. Your cauli-gratin is a frequent dish at our house.

    3. Ken, how do you use the cauliflower greens? I've always thought they were for the compost, and most commercial cauliflowers aren't all that tender around there.

  2. The House Christmas present was an electric pizza oven, so I shall be looking up your dough method. We just cooked a bought one yesterday to test and it passed with flying (red green & white) colours.

  3. Look at Walt's blog for the pizza dough recipe. He's the dough- and pastry-master.

  4. So, a good tip for American tourists who like to eat whenever it fits into their sight-seeing schedule (and dinner early), comme moi, par exemple, is to find a brasserie, eh?

    Wonderful foot shots today, Ken!

  5. I would like to have that gratin for breakfast ... now ... thank you.

  6. That steak au poivre looks heavenly.

  7. Oh, you're killing me with these delicious pictures as I try to steer myself to lighter eating post-Christmas! Seems as if you two have your main meal at lunch each day, which is probably a good plan.

  8. Well, after the un croque-monsier and this post I am starving! Everything looks delicious!

  9. Thanks, all. And Happy New Year's Eve.


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