Complex recipes worth the effort

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Making French fare may concern cooks who want simplicity

August 17, 2005|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,SUN STAFF

When it comes to cooking, the French are different. They linger over their meals while we hurry ours. They use seasonal produce while we use processed convenience items. Their exacting methods of complicated cooking sound so delicious in theory, but to us are too time-consuming in practice.

With her seventh cookbook, Cooking at Home on Rue Tatin (William Morrow, 2005, $24.95), ex-patriate chef Susan Herrmann Loomis shows how native she has gone. The 153 recipes bring out the best of everyday French cuisine. But her sometimes lengthy preambles, instructions and "astuces" (tips and tricks) could overwhelm the American cook who's looking for simplicity. One recipe with a title that seems to explain itself - An Artichoke, a Poached Egg and a Dash of Cream - still takes up two full pages.

But the finished dish often makes this book worth the effort. A salad of green beans, kielbasa and hard-boiled egg was a perfectly balanced summer entree.

If Loomis hadn't urged us to steam the beans for 15 minutes - which sounded too long - they wouldn't have been as wonderfully tender. Curried Fish a la Meuniere, which we prepared with salmon, finished our fillet with a light, nutty crust.

You might even gather the courage to depart from the careful directions. The apple crumble, which Loomis says "consists simply" of a pile of apples topped with a butter-sugar-flour mixture baked to golden-brown, requires not ordinary sugar, but vanilla sugar. Her recipe for vanilla sugar, which follows, requires leaving a vanilla bean in regular sugar for a week.

This American was not prepared for that amount of delayed gratification. Nor did a search of local stores turn up ready-made vanilla sugar. Reader, I broke down and used regular Domino's.

And the crumble, with its obligatory dollop of creme fraiche, turned out more than fine.

Green Bean, Smoked Sausage and Hard-Cooked Egg Salad

Serves 6 to 8

14 ounces cervelat (garlicky cured pork sausage) or other uncooked, lightly smoked sausage such as kielbasa

1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed, strings removed if necessary

VINAIGRETTE:

1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar

1 large shallot, cut lengthwise in half and then into paper-thin slices

fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 large hard-cooked eggs, cut into quarters

Place the sausages in a medium saucepan and cover with water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat so the water is simmering and simmer until the sausages are cooked, about 20 minutes (10 minutes if using kielbasa). Remove from the heat and leave the sausages in the poaching water to stay warm.

Bring about 3 cups water to a boil in the bottom of a steamer. Place the beans in the top of the steamer, cover and steam until they are tender through, about 15 minutes.

While the beans are steaming, make the vinaigrette. Whisk together the vinegar, shallot and salt and pepper to taste in a large serving bowl. Add the oil in a thin stream, whisking constantly until the vinaigrette emulsifies and thickens.

Tip the steamed beans into the vinaigrette and toss until they are thoroughly coated. Season well with salt and pepper. Slice the sausages on the diagonal into 1/4 -inch slices and add to the beans, tossing thoroughly. Arrange the egg quarters on top of the salad.

Serve the salad warm or at room temperature.

Per serving (based on 8 servings): 210 calories; 9 grams protein; 16 grams fat; 4 grams saturated fat; 7 grams carbohydrate; 3 grams fiber; 120 milligrams cholesterol; 341 milligrams sodium

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