After a week in Minnesota, I think reality is  sinking in.  No more markets brimming with produce on every major street, no more easy access to fresh ocean fish and every cut of meat you can imagine (and some kinds you’d rather not).  Or at least they’re much harder to find…and more expensive.  But I’m not giving up!  This snowy landlocked state does have plenty to offer.  The challenge now is just to translate what I’ve learned about French cuisine to Midwestern palettes using Midwestern resources.

But not everything is difficult to apply.  Here are a few of the products and practices that can be “normal” in any kitchen without too much trouble:

  • kitchen string (for tying up meat, poultry, bouquet garni, etc.)
  • parchment paper not just for lining baking pans but also for making skillets non-stick and forming breathable lids for pots. My favorite new use is for glazing vegetables.
  • leeks gentle, flavorful, versatile. An underused vegetable on this continent.
  • peppercorns and coarse salt it’s great to throw a pinch of these in the pot of soup or stock.
  • fresh thyme a sweet, subtle herb that can be used in almost anything.
  • local meats (here is one helpful guide for Minnesotans–“Eating Minnesota”)
  • unsalted butterfor cooking I used to stubbornly stand by salted butter because it’s an easy flavor enhancer.  But when I started reducing sauces like it was my job, I learned the benefit of adding salt at the end of the cooking process (otherwise it can become too concentrated).
  • turned potatoes and carrots more on this later. But this putzy way of shaping hard earth vegetables can be a fun addition to a meal without an extra cost. And I find the process itself almost therapeutic!
  • gruyère cheese just the right combination of texture and potency for savory dishes. In my opinion this should be the new cheddar.
    One of my first attempts at French-Midwestern fusion
    Christmas dinner: my attempt at French-Midwestern “fusion”

As these things work their way into my kitchen, no doubt you will see them in coming posts and recipes.  In the meantime, If you have any good tips on butchers in the Twin Cities, I’d love to hear!

À la prochaine…