The  Metro Bistrot


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"Nothing is more serious than pleasure."     Jean Cocteau


                                                                          Cooking Seminar Recipes

                                                                    Ascona 1939

Chicken Ascona

This recipe comes from a now closed French restaurant, Le petit champignon (The Little Mushroom), which was located in the lakeside town of Ascona, in Ticino, the Italian canton of Switzerland, which used to be part of the Visconti Duchy of Milan. I often traveled there over a thirty year period, and I worked and lived in Ascona for three of them (2000-02) when I became the Direktor of the Eranos Foundation, an esoteric think tank started in 1930, where I also ran and cooked in a traditional Swiss-Italian kitchen for three lakeside villas and a conference center (with a Lepontine Alp mountain villa retreat thrown in too). Over the years I had many great meals in Ticino (in the towns of Ascona and Locarno especially) and learned all kinds of terrific, mostly northern Italian style, recipes. This one, however, is a French recipe from Le petit champignon, which was a one star Guide Michelin restaurant (the guide only uses a top rating of from one to three stars—personally I find two and three star places too stuffy and oppressive). I first had this dish, however, when I was in Ascona in the early 90s at the holiday period in December. It is quite festive in its appearance, but the taste, as either an appetizer or main dish (double the portion) is delicious and unique. I only like to serve it at The Bistrot, though, as part of a tasting menu, as part of a special event menu, or on a whim. Why? It needs to be paid attention to, cannot be prepared ahead, and has to be served immediately when cooked. If it is left sitting and "resting" to the side, or overcooked, it will become bland and tasteless. Also, good veal scallops can be substituted for the chicken but they must be pounded a bit more and are more expensive.

As an appetizer for six or main dish for three

6 chicken breast cutlets
Corn flour or dried polenta for dusting the cutlets
2 tablespoons of duck fat (or butter)
One fifth of a pound of fresh foie gras
1 cup of grated Monterey Jack cheese or mixed Italian blend (not just parmesan)
1/3 of a cup of good tomato sauce
Fresh ground pepper
Black or white truffle salt

Pound the chicken flat and thin with a mallet on a cutting board through plastic wrap. Sprinkle with pepper and nutmeg. Dust with flour or polenta. Melt and heat the duck fat on a baking sheet at 425 degrees. Place the dusted chicken on the sheet and cook for 3 to 4 minutes each side. Remove the sheet from the oven and place on the chicken, first the sliced fresh foie gras, then spoon the tomato sauce over the cutlets, and finally cover with the grated cheese. Cook at 500 degrees until the cheese melts, and the foie gras begins to, while the tomato sauce bubbles and begins to form a crust with the cheese. Remove the cutlets from the oven and sprinkle each with truffle salt. Serve immediately hot with fresh bread on the side.

Rouen 1986

                                          Beef and horse meat is sold at the shop to the left of the red car
                                            with my 16th century apartment entrance just to the left of the store.

Roast Stuffed Turkey Hotel Dieppe with Port sauce

Roast turkey does not need to be dry and generally tasteless. As it is usually overcooked in the US, Thanksgiving turkey is tacitly known as a passive aggressive weapon of the American family. I first had turkey done according to the following recipe at the Hotel Dieppe in Rouen, France, dining alone Thanksgiving Day supper in 1985 after giving my boring lectures explaining bad BBC recordings in English to even more boring and bored French students at the University of Rouen.
The restaurant where I ate it, in a traditional, art deco French railway hotel, had a special menu that day, I guess, to lure American travelers on their way to or back from the Normandy beaches; no other reason to be in Normandy in November. That evening, though, I was the only American in the place and the only person who ordered turkey prix fixte. There were also a smattering of French traveling salesmen and a lone banker eating supper at the hotel. None of them seemed to be paying any mind to our unique holiday as at best Thanksgiving is an opaque celebration to Europeans unlike the ever increasing popularity of Halloween. 
    The flavor and moistness of the turkey as prepared in the following recipe was an epiphany to me. At the end of my meal, I went into the kitchen to thank and compliment the cook, who graciously gave me the recipe. He was surprised that we didn’t do turkey this way. He had never been to America, didn’t refer to a cookbook, and just thought this is how it should be done. Voilà!

1 turkey (average size, preferably fresh, boned)
salt and black pepper or adobe rub or Bell’s
herbs de provence
Turkey sized oven roasting bag
1 tablespoon of corn flour

1/3 cup of minced shallots
1 cup of cornmeal (for polenta, grits, or flour)
1 cup of duck foie gras (not pate)
1 cup of dried cranberries
1 half a jar of cranberry preserve
2 cups of country paté or cooked ground veal
2 eggs (chicken or duck)
dash of nutmeg
dash of cinnamon
1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon of tomato concentrate
1 tablespoon of salt
1 teaspoon of black ground pepper
1 teaspoon of white ground pepper
pinch of ground hot pepper (cayenne or hotter)

½ cup of squared and sautéed lardon or pancetta
1 cup of mushrooms roughly chopped and sauteed

1 cup of Port wine (Warriors)
chicken stock
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

August 2018

Grilled Sausages and Cucumber Salad 

All too often, dishes intended as starters in Europe, are made and eaten in America as main courses. Hence, pasta, which is always just a first course, is presented as a main in homes and restaurants. Ditto for pizza, which in Italy is usually a mid-morning snack or a late night nosh. In France sausages or pate are first courses, but in the US all too often abused as a meal. Why? Because they are fast and serve as filling the requirement of being a meal and fuel. Let's get it over with and move on to something else.
    So for this meal in August, we start with a classical, yet simple, French dish known primarily coming from Lyon: sausage with a crème fraiche cucumber salad.

To make it for a party of four: grill or pan sauté 4 sausages (the best or most interesting you can find).

For the salad: peel, de-seed 3 garden fresh cucumbers. Cut into crème fraiche or light sour cream mixed with 2 tablespoons of fresh dill (1 of dry) or 1 tablespoon of fresh mint. Blend well by hand in a bowl with a spoon. Chill and then serve (not necessary).







































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