Europe, French Fries, and Mussels – Oh My!

Back in September, my mom and I went to Europe to visit with some family friends. My parents were newlyweds when they met Tammo in Houston, Texas (circa 1981), and they all worked together. Tammo was homeless, because of some unfortunate circumstances upon his arrival in Houston from The Netherlands. My mother asked Tammo to come stay with them in their one-bedroom house.

Long story short, they helped Tammo get back on his feet and he eventually went back to The Netherlands. When he returned, he got married and had two boys. The boys are four years apart and the oldest is just a year and some change younger than me. At a very young age, I remember when Odji and Gitchy would send us drawings and Tammo always wrote letters and sent photos.

During the summer of 2006, I had the privilege of meeting our life-long pen pals when I was in Europe for my study abroad in Spain. After the 5-week long study abroad, I took my friend Michelle with me to The Netherlands to meet them. The visit was short, we spent one night and day in Amsterdam and stayed with Tammo and his family in Warffum for four more days.

1927719_512536865147_4123_n[Left to Right: Gitchy, Tammo, Me, Michelle, and Odji – Amsterdam, June 2006]

I often laugh that my website is called “Dutch Lovin’,” because it works for many reasons. I definitely love my Dutch friends, but I also love Dutch ovens, as in the cooking utensil. Clarification is nice sometimes. 😉

IMG_0477[This is Tammo preparing breakfast in Wimereux, France. That’s fresh-squeezed orange juice he made for us. Thanks for spoiling us, Tammo. September 2014]

Making the trip to Europe with Mom this past September was long overdue. It was 33 years since Mom and Tammo had even seen each other. Obviously, they had a lot of catching up to do.

The trip was a culinary experience for me, because FRANCE!!! Ready to indulge in the culinary treasures of France, we spent about a week in The Netherlands and a week in North France. Having Tammo there was the best! One day, in Wimereux, he made “Suquet” and called me a pussy (I laughed my ass off), because I couldn’t help him finish off the rest of the soup. Sorry, Tammo, I was too busy filling myself up on French fries beforehand, or as they call them in France, “frites”.

IMG_9924[Second day in France, we were about to check-in to our apartment in Wimereux. First time I ever ate French fries in France. September 2014]

Tammo always told my mom that he wanted to take her to France. Not only did she love it, but she also made me so proud. Mom ate so many things that she had never tried before, including duck, veal, mussels, African food, and the list goes on. There were a few times where I had to tell her, “Don’t be a wimp, Mom.” This is also why Tammo called me a pussy, because I kept calling Mom a wimp.

Now, let’s talk about mussels and French fries, better known as “la moule-frite” in France. Before we got there, Tammo told me that in Lille, France they love their moule-frite. Already a fan of mussels, trying la moule-frite was one of the things I anticipated the most.

IMG_0568[September 2014]

First of all, let me admit to how much I just love mayonnaise. Tosh.O has a joke where he makes fun of people that dip their fries in ranch dressing. He says that it’s disgusting, because it’s one step away from dipping with just straight mayonnaise. I am guilty of this, I love dipping fries in ranch dressing and if it were socially acceptable in the U.S., I would dip my fries in mayo all the time. No shame here!

Needless to say, I was hungry and seated at an Italian restaurant in Lille on my third day in France when they placed my moule-frite in front of me with a side of mayo for dipping my fries. I was in heaven! Seriously, look at that face and the sun was shining through like I was Jesus.

foto (27)[Me with my first moule-frite. September 2014]

IMG_0040[Here is my view of the feast! September 2014]

I am positive that this was Mom’s first time trying mussels. I need to get her out more, because it was tasty and she didn’t seem to object.

IMG_0624[Here is another moule-frite I had on my last night in Wimereux, France. September 2014]

IMG_0248[Finally, here is a photo of a salad that came with fries at Restaurant de la Haute Ville in Boulogne-sur-Mer, France. September 2014]

It’s no wonder that as Americans we call them “French fries.” The French really do love them and will serve them with just about anything. It’s funny, because Bob (my boss) told me that he was at a U.S. airport restaurant and the salad he ordered came with fries in the salad. He and I both talked about how that was a strange concept. It wasn’t until I got this salad in France that I realized it’s just a normal French thing to do and not a bad idea at all. This was a decadent salad, it had herring and a citrus dressing that just worked so well with the fries.

I have a lot more food photos to share from my trip to Europe. We ate out a lot, but I feel like we definitely did our fair share of cooking as well. I enjoyed cooking with Tammo, because I learned a few things from him and everything was so delicious. One thing is certain though, you can take the girl out of Texas, but you can’t take Texas out of the girl. After being there for two weeks, the only thing I really missed was breakfast tacos.

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Beef Stew

This is a very hearty stew. It’s hearty in the sense that I like to use more vegetables than meat, it’s better for you and I am a sucker for cooked carrots. Feel free to add more meat to this recipe and cut back on veggies, if that is what you fancy.

There are a lot of ingredients here, but trust that this recipe is worth it.

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Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 3 hours

Serves: 8

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1.5 lbs. beef stew meat
  • 1 tbsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. ground pepper
  • ¼ tsp. sweet smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp. onion powder
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • ¼ tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 tsp. roasted garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp. dried thyme leaves
  • 1 tbsp. dried basil
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 2 porcini mushroom bouillon cubes
  • 1-6 oz. can tomato paste
  • ½ cup flour
  • 2-32 oz. beef broth
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 lbs. golden baby potatoes, rinsed and cut in half
  • 2 lbs. carrots, peeled and cut into thick slices
  • 2-14 oz. bags frozen pearl onions

Directions:

  • In a 10-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat the oil.
  • After the oil heats up a little, add the meat, spices (salt, pepper, paprika, onion powder, cayenne pepper, cumin, and garlic powder), and herbs (oregano, thyme, and basil). Stir occasionally until meat is browned.
  • Once the meat is browned, add the butter and porcini mushroom cubes. Stir to combine.
  • Add the tomato paste and incorporate.
  • Drop to a medium heat and add the flour a little a time, incorporating after each addition. The flour will soak up all the fat.
  • Turn up to a high heat, add beef broth, and stir to incorporate the flour with the liquid.
  • Let the stew come up to a simmer and stir constantly.
  • Drop to a lower heat; add the 4 bay leaves, potatoes, and carrots.
  • Cover and let it cook for two hours on low heat, stirring occasionally.
  • After two hours, add the frozen pearl onions, cover and let it cook for one more hour.
  • When it’s done, let it cool for a few minutes before serving.

I like to make the blue cornbread to accompany this dish. It’s deLIZcious every time.

As you can see, I used porcini mushroom bouillon cubes, a product I brought back from Europe when I went in September. I haven’t tried looking for them here yet, but I am sure Whole Foods or Central Market carry something similar.

I got the olive oil (amazing) and porcini mushrooms cubes from an Italian market in Groningen, Netherlands. My friend Tammo took me there, since his friend owns it. I also got away with some of the best garlic I have ever had and some vinaigrette. It was a wonderful little market.

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Also, pictured here are the pink peppercorns I got from a market in France. The bottle says, “baies roses”. I use these peppercorns in my pepper grinder with some black peppercorns. It’s a nice little medley.

Happy eating!

Blue Cornbread

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Not only is this a delectable treat, but the color of this blue cornbread is always so captivating to me. Now is the perfect time to share this recipe, because it can be paired with any stew or chili of the season. It’s been quite cold in Austin lately.

On that note, I am ready for spring. I like this blue cornbread, but I prefer to see bluebonnets!

I bid you good eating and please stay warm!

 

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 12-14 minutes for loaves (or 18-20 minutes for glass pan)

Makes: 3 mini loaves (or one 9 x 9 inch glass pan)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup organic blue cornmeal
  • 1 cup organic all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp. organic sugar
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. iodized sea salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • ⅓ cup oil

 Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 425°.
  • In a mixing bowl, sift the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and sea salt together.
  • In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, and oil.
  • Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk until all is incorporated.
  • Grease and flour pan(s) lightly.
  • Evenly disperse batter among mini loaves or pour all into the one 9 x 9 inch glass pan.
  • Bake for 12-14 minutes for mini loaves or 18-20 minutes for glass pan.
  • Check for doneness before removing from oven, insert a toothpick into the middle of the bread and make sure it comes out clean.
  • Remove bread from oven and let it cool for a couple of minutes before cutting and serving it.

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