3 French Recipes From An American Girl Who Misses France (A Lot)

International travel can change your life. A good trip provides perspective, adventure, and exposure to a new, exciting culture. Even more important: exposure to new, exciting food! After immersing yourself in such novel flavors, coming home to the same old routine can result in a mean case of culinary jet lag. Having just returned from a week in France, I can tell you that my morning bagel just isn’t doing it for me anymore. It’s not you, bagels. It’s me. I’m hung up on another bread product, and need some time to figure things out. Whether you, too, have felt this kind of vacation hangover, or just want to inject a little je ne sais quoi into your next meal, I invite you to grab your passport, change the clocks, and join me for a day trip to the Latin quarter of your kitchen.
crepesPetit Déjeuner: Crêpes aux Bananes Caramélisées
For a culture so enamored with bacon, eggs, and cheese, it somehow never occurred to the French put them all together. Petit déjeuner is usually pretty minimal. I think the real reason French women don’t get fat is that they don’t yet have access to an IHOP. They may save crêpes for dessert, but this is America — land of the free and home of the brunch menu.
The key to a good crêpe is confidence. Don’t be intimidated by the fragile, thin texture. You need to get all up in its face like whoa. Remember, you brought it into this world, and you'll flip it any time you want. (Also, running a spatula around the perimeter before you flip it never hurt — but really, it's about the attitude.)
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Cost: $20
Crêpes Ingredients:
1 cup flour
1 cup milk
2 eggs
2 tbsp melted butter
Bananes Caramélisées Ingredients:
4 tbsp (1/2 a stick) butter (salted or unsalted depending on your taste/what you have in the fridge)
1/2 cup packed light or dark brown sugar (Again, your call. But your call should be light.)
3 bananas, sliced
Mix crêpe ingredients together, and whisk until you have a pale, thin, lump-free batter. Let it sit while you caramelize the bananas (as the batter settles, straggler lumps will rise to the surface).
In a small pot, melt butter over a medium heat. Stir in brown sugar. Let the mixture simmer up until you have a thick gooey mixture. Remove from heat immediately and stir in bananas until well coated. Don’t worry about the fruit getting a little mushy – it’ll be a good mush. Note: If your caramel starts to clump, you may have overheated a bit. You’ll just need to mix in a little more butter until it thins out. More butter – quelle tragédie, amiright?
Using a ladle or liquid measuring cup for ease, pour crêpe batter onto a slightly greased pan, over a medium high heat. Quickly, tilt your pan to create a circle(ish) shape. Cook for two minutes on both sides or until slightly browned.
Place your crêpe and spoon bananas onto on side of the circle, folding the other on top. Admire, then eat.
Déjeuner: Piperade avec Oeuf
This recipe hails from the Basque region in Southwest France, and is often noted for reflecting its Spanish influence in both flavor and color...meaning, it’s scrumptious and pretty. Plus, it might be a quick and easy one-pan meal, but this dish is like taking yourself on a little getaway right in the middle of the day. Have a glass of wine with lunch. You’re in "Europe" after all.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Cost: $10
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
3 bell peppers, coarsely chopped (Red and green is the traditional, but throw in a yellow too for a hint of sweetness.)
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 large plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped (Toss most of the seeds and liquid to speed up cooking time.)
1 egg
Heat oil in a pan over a medium heat. Add onion, garlic and peppers and cook for three minutes, stirring often until the peppers are slightly softened. Throw in the tomatoes and let the mixture cook for another three minutes.
Typically, this recipe is topped with a softly poached egg. But you know what? Poaching an egg is something I've yet to accomplish without yielding anything more substantial than a hissy fit. My mom can do it without even boiling the water — but that's some kind of mom voodoo. We're too hungry to mess around, so here's what you do: spread the veggies into an even layer on the pan and break an egg right smack on top. Cover the pan with a lid for two minutes and you should have a whitened white, a runny yolk, and a lunch that's worth sitting down for.
Dîner: Saumon aux Herbes de Provence
Many folks shy away from cooking fish at home. Though salmon is as simple and cost-effective to prepare as chicken breast, fish is just so…fishy. I hear you. But travel is about adventure, right? One peek at Provence and you’ll never look back. This recipe is so easy-breezy, so healthy and delish, that it's well worth four seconds of fishy fingers. All the ingredients are cooked together in parchment paper, allowing the onions to caramelize and the herbs to infuse without any worry of oil spatter or a fishy-smelling kitchen. And the best part? Virtually no clean up at all. Can you say that about the time you tried DIY sushi?
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Cost: $15
1 salmon filet
½ a medium onion
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp Herbs de Provence (found in most spice sections, and worth the purchase — try it in salad dressing, OMG.)
Salt and pepper to taste
Pre-heat the oven to 400. Place the filet horizontally on a large square of parchment paper. Sprinkle the herbs, salt, and pepper over and top with the onion slices. Drizzle oil over the mixture and wrap up the whole combo, twisting the sides of the paper so the package resembles a big Tootsie Roll (a savory, omega-rich Tootsie Roll).
Place the filets on a baking sheet and pop them in the oven for thirty minutes. Unwrap and plate your fish with what should be the lightly caramelized onions. Serve with your favorite greens, preferably after 9 p.m. for an authentic dîner français.
Okay, ready to wash up? Throw out the parchment paper. Pour a victory glass of pinot and toast your empty sink. Repeat.

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