We’ll Always Have Paris: With Meals at Restaurant Miroir, Jacques Genin, Le 6 Paul Bert, Little Breizh, and Chez L’Ami Jean

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I had a reason for not wanting to go to Paris, this trip, and it was both very stupid and very sweet. Namely, I love Paris so much, I didn’t want to go there again without Craig. Lest you forget, we’d gone together to the Edinburgh Film Festival, he left that Sunday for the Nantucket Film Festival, and I ducked down to London where I ate myself silly and saw lots of theater. I could’ve stayed there for the rest of the week, reconnecting with him in Munich (where I am now) for the Munich Film Festival, only our friends Mark and Diana were in Paris that same week and kept imploring me to come join them. “You’ve already been to Paris without Craig,” said Mark. “What’s the difference?” It was a powerful point. And so, before I knew it, I’d bought a one-way ticket for the Chunnel and figured I’d continue my way from Paris to Germany with a stop in Strasbourg, right on the border of France. When you see what I ate along the way, you’ll agree that this decision should’ve been a no-brainer right from the start.

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Four-Hour Lamb Shoulder with White Beans and Olive Tapenade

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Hold your ears, short ribs, and hide your eyes pork butt: lamb shoulder is quickly becoming my favorite cut of meat to cook at home. I’ve sung its praises before here on the blog, but lately I’ve been on a real lamb shoulder kick. I made April Bloomfield’s version for a crowd recently and they all went nuts for it (hers has anchovies in the mix, which show up in today’s version in the olive tapenade; anchovies and lamb make a surprisingly good match) but even the simplest version–today’s comes from my friend Clotilde–can still wow. And now that it’s spring, it’s a perfect thing to serve along with white beans (traditionally flageolets) and a zesty olive tapenade.

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Cooking For Clotilde

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My friend Clotilde Dusoulier, of the legendary food blog Chocolate & Zucchini and author of several notable food books (including her own cookbook, a guide to Paris and the book she recently translated, the French Joy of Cooking, “I Know How To Cook”) was coming to dinner.

I’ve spent lots of time with Clotilde, we’ve dined together several times in New York (at Babbo and the Corner Bistro and Dirt Candy) and in Paris (at Ze Kitchen Galerie) but we’d never cooked for each other. And considering that she grew up in France, where dining and food are such a deep part of the culture children aren’t just born with silver spoons in their mouths but an entire set of flatware, and I grew up on Long Island and in Boca Raton, Florida where fine dining is limited to the salad bar at the golf club, I knew I was in serious trouble. How could I impress Clotilde? What if she spit her food out into her napkin in disgust? How would I live this down? Would she ever want to see me again? This was the most terrifying dinner guest of all time.

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The Best of 2009 (Or, The A.G.’s Gift-Buying Guide)

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Today’s the second day of Hanukkah and as much as I wish I could tell you that I’m frying latkes and spinning dreidels and unwrapping Hanukkah gelt in celebration, I’m actually sitting here next to a pile of cookbooks trying to figure what constitutes the Best of 2009. You see, many of my food blogging contemporaries–David, Deb, Eat Me Daily–have already offered up their take on what you should buy for you and yours this holiday season and now it’s my turn to separate the wheat from the chaff or the sour cream from the apple sauce (latke joke!). Are you ready for some hardcore gift-buying ideas? Come along with me.

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Clotilde’s Carpaccio

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I’ve been sleeping with Clotilde. Since Craig’s left for Seattle to shoot his first feature (I’ll be there in a week to join him for two weeks), I had no choice but to find a substitute. And that substitute is everyone’s favorite Parisian food blogger. Well. Ok. Not her. Her cookbook. I’ve been reading it in bed and when I wake up the next morning it’s right there next to me smiling “hello.” Is it weird that I talk to it at breakfast? Help it to the bathroom? Take it out to lunch? That’s the normal way to treat a cookbook, right?

Well can I help it if I’m smitten? The book is adorable and smart and filled with good ideas, just like its creator. And even though I’ve had the book for a few weeks, I’ve found it very difficult to choose a first recipe to try from it: they all look so good. The mustard chicken is the one that makes my lips smack the loudest, but I think it’s too hot for mustard chicken. Plus I made chicken last night for dinner. And it’s called “Chocolate & Zucchini,” shouldn’t I make something with zucchini in it?

The picture you see above, then, was my solution. I was at the farmer’s market today and saw, for the first time this season, piles of gorgeous, bright green zucchini. I chose two large ones (even though Clotilde says to choose three small ones–I didn’t have the book with me, I had taken it to the park where it wanted some private time) and brought them home and proceeded to make her “Carpaccio De Courgette Au Vinaigre De Framboise.” Only I didn’t use Vinaigre De Framboise (raspberry vinegar): I had Balsamic. But that was ok: Clotilde mentions Balsamic as a variation.

This recipe is so simple you can just memorize it. You slice the zucchini very thin (I need better knife skills, as you can tell by that photo), put them in a circular pattern on the plate, scatter goat cheese over the top (I bought fresh chevre at the farmer’s market too). Then you make a vinagirette with olive oil and the vinegar, though I just drizzled the olive oil over the top, along with a few drops of the Balsamic. I spinkled on some nice sea salt and a few grindings of pepper and did as Clotilde commanded: covered it with plastic and let it sit, at room temperature, for ten minutes.

Ten minutes later, I sat down and consumed this strange and delightful dish. It’s hard to explain why it’s so good: maybe because the zucchini is so good right now, and this dish highlights its vegetal brightness? Or is it the way the cheese gives it body and the oil a slickness and the vinegar a zippy punch? I don’t know, but I loved it. Along with some fresh bread, this was my dinner. And I was happy.

Only the book hasn’t come home yet. Maybe I shouldn’t have left it at the park? Who will I sleep with tonight? Any takers?