france

You know, I really thought I was done with soup for a while. The weather has been nice and warm down here in the Florida panhandle, balmy in just the right way – never so cold that a light jacket won’t do the trick, and never too hot for pants. But then last week I visited my old stomping grounds in Maryland, and the weather was distinctly cooler; in other words, it was soup weather.

Garbure is a peasant’s soup originally from the Aquitaine (southwest) region of France; its defining ingredients include cabbage, meat (typically ham or duck), and seasonal vegetables like beans or peas. The consistency of the soup varies – some are nice and thick thanks to copious beans or chunks of bread (a good Garbure, I’ve read, should allow to spoon to stick up on its own), while others let cabbage provide the soup’s body.

My recipe takes cues from the second idea of Garbure, partly because I don’t typically cook with beans or chunks of delicious French bread (yep, there are definitely drawbacks to a Paleo-minded lifestyle), but also because I really enjoy cabbage soup.

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As you probably read in my post from the other day, I’m knee-deep in recipe development and writing, in order to get my sophomore cookbook ready for release – which is a lot of fun, but leaves me with little time to keep up with blog recipes. So, I figured out a solution that’s good for both of us: I’ll just post a recipe from The Ancestral Table! I’ve been meaning to share more of these recipes anyway, and this one is a special favorite in our house. The wine sauce is the highlight of the dish, and it is absolutely, ridiculously, heartbreakingly delicious. One of these days I’ll figure out a way to batch-cook and sell this sauce for millions of dollars, but for now, here’s a bit more about the dish, stolen directly from the book (I can do that!):

While clams, wine, and butter are all delicious, the combination of the three is truly divine. This dish, developed in the Provençal region of France, is the quintessential marriage of these rich, decadent flavors. It is equally tasty when prepared with mussels.

Though wild and sustainably caught seafood is generally ideal, it’s better to buy farm-raised clams and mussels. They are raised on ropes suspended above the sea floor, which makes them less gritty than wild clams and mussels dredged from the ocean floor. Dredging up wild clams and mussels can also damage the ocean’s ecosystem.

Even though I’m mostly MIA for a bit, there are still ways to get your Russ Crandall fix (is there such a thing?), should you need it. Next week, I’ll be participating in the Virtual Ultimate Health Summit, which focuses on restoring your health through lessons on diet, sleep, energy, hormones, body image, confidence and stress. I am one of 16 panelists, and I’ll be talking about how history, food culture, and health can combine to find that perfect balance of tasty food and healthy diet, with an emphasis on safe starches (no surprise there, right?). It’s free to enroll, and runs for two weeks, so check it out!

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A couple weeks ago I did a guest post on RobbWolf.com, which was pretty exciting for me. I first heard of the Paleo diet through his book, The Paleo Solution, and considering how profound of an impact it made on my health, it was just surreal to join forces with him.

For my guest post, I deconstructed the entire history of one of my favorite dishes – Beef Bourguignon – including the individual histories of every ingredient used in the dish and the people who made it. It took a fair bit of research to put it all together, and I think it’s a very interesting read, though a little longer than my typical blog posts. For posterity’s sake, I decided to move the article to this blog in case you wanted to check it out. Enjoy! The link to my recipe is at the bottom of the post.

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Some long-term readers may remember that I posted a Beef Bourguignon recipe about this time last year. While it tasted great, I wasn’t happy with some of the steps in the recipe, and I was really unhappy with the pictures. So this past weekend I put my thinking cap on and tackled the dish from scratch, without consulting my old recipe at all. I’m happy to report that I made some pretty big improvements to my old recipe and cut out a couple unnecessary steps along the way. To avoid confusion, I’ve now happily removed my old, obsolete recipe.

Beef Bourguignon is a dish that originates from the Burgundy region of Eastern France. It’s widely accepted that this dish started as a peasant’s recipe, possibly as far back as the Middle Ages, as a way to slow-cook tough cuts of meat. However, it’s not mentioned in cookbooks until the early 20th century, when it was refined into the staple haute cuisine dish it’s generally regarded as today. Most people associate this dish with Julia Child, as her recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking is a timeless classic.

This dish is fairly true to the authentic recipes available today, and not terribly unlike Julia’s original recipe. Generally, this dish is cooked with bacon since lean/tough meats were typically used and adding bacon gave this dish some rich fattiness. I’ve also found that fattier cuts turn out really good as well. My personal touches include dusting the beef pieces in rice flour before browning (Julia browned the beef alone, then added flour and roasted the beef for a little while in the oven, turning the beef once halfway through – quite an involved step!). I also decided to keep the pot on the stovetop instead of transferring it to the oven; to me, this better mimics the open-fire method of cooking that birthed this dish, and it doesn’t alienate home chefs that don’t have a dutch oven yet. If you’re rice-free, never fear – while the addition of rice flour helps thicken the sauce and adds a little body to the broth, it’s not a show stopper.

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