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What $100 gets you

Posted by Sheryl Julian  July 21, 2009 12:03 PM

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It gets you dinner for 14, which I made last Saturday for a group of Francophiles I cook for annually (the day of the celebration is a weekend close to Bastille Day.

We are usually 12, but this year two people were in France, so we were 10. I made enough for dinner for two more nights (who wants to cook again after all that effort?).

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We began with my new favorite hors d'oeuvre: taramosalata, a Greek spread made from smoked cod's roe with lemon juice, olive oil, and some mashed potato to lighten the taste.

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Then something I call French farmhouse salad, which consists of frisee lettuce, or other local greens, chunks of bacon, a mustardy vinaigrette, and a soft-cooked egg, whose yolk spills onto the salad and acts as another dressing. My eggs were one minute over runny, but had a lovely free-range taste.

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For the main course, I made marmitako, a fish soup from the Basque region of France. Globe food writer and stylist Karoline Boehm Goodnick taught me the recipe, which is a real fisherman's stew -- meaning made from scraps. Her big tomato-based stew only has 3/4 pound of fish in it (I usually double that amount), plus colored bell peppers, leeks, and smoky pimenton and hot paprika, which really brighten the pot.

Dessert: two blueberry crostatas with vanilla creme Anglaise, an extraordinary combination.

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That's a lot of food for the money. But I'm not counting my labor. Two hours to shop, eight hours in the kitchen (and dusting off the back porch and other chores unrelated to the stove). I'm not usually this ambitious, but the Francophiles are a special group.

French farmhouse salad
Serves 6

3 thick slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 eggs
2 small heads lettuce (frisee, Boston, arugula), stemmed and torn up

1. In a skillet, render the bacon, turning often, until it is golden brown. Drain on paper towels.
2. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk the vinegar, salt, pepper, and mustard. Gradually whisk in the olive oil. Taste for seasoning and add more vinegar or oil, if you like.
3. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Lower in the eggs. Set the timer for 5 minutes. Let the eggs bubble gently for 5 minutes exactly. With a slotted spoon, remove from the water and transfer to cold water. The egg whites are delicate at this point. With the back of the spoon, tap them lightly to crack the shells. Peel them and return to the water until all the eggs are cracked. Transfer to a paper towel to drain.
4. In a large bowl, toss the lettuces with the dressing. Arrange them on 6 plates. Set some of the bacon on each one. Add an egg. Sprinkle with more salt and pepper. Sheryl Julian

About Dishing

What's cooking in the world of food.

Contributors

Sheryl Julian, the Globe's Food Editor, writes regularly for the Food section.

Devra First is the Globe's food reporter and restaurant critic. Her reviews appear weekly in the Food section.

Ellen Bhang reviews Cheap Eats restaurants for the Globe and writes about wine.
 

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