Posts from the “Uncategorized” Category

Scenes from a Book Launch

Posted on June 2, 2017

I’m full of gratitude right now for the people who braved the rain and (in one case) fought through a busted tire to hear me talk about Genevieve de Gaulle last night at Octavia Books, which is one of the loveliest, friendliest places to launch one’s first tome. I got a warm reception, an attentive and engaged audience who knew their World War II history, and the opportunity to break in a new box of Sharpie pens.

The shop gave me a wonderful front-page welcome on their website.

I was able to chat with the audience a bit before giving my book talk. Getting to know a little bit about them and their interests was fun for me, and helpful too, because I could make sure to tailor some of what I was saying to them.

This kind lady right here said she was going to take The General’s Niece off to the beach and read it. I signed that I hoped it kept her good company in her beach chair.

After signing some other books for guests, I signed some more for the store. At Book Expo in New York this week, Genevieve de Gaulle kept Dolly Parton company on a shelf at my publisher’s booth. Here she is sidled up to Ernest Hemingway.

Tonight, I’m off to see the new Wonder Woman film with my daughter and a friend. Then, I’m on to Atlanta for my next talk, which is Monday June 5 at the Carter Presidential Center. Hope to see you there! And thank you for the support!

 

Spring Things

Posted on February 24, 2017

A certain little groundhog says we have a little bit more winter ahead of us, but here in South Louisiana things are in full bloom. It’s the time of year when pleasant weather lures you outside for gardening, crawfish boils and any number of parades and festivals.

I spent part of this morning shipping a little bit of sweetness into the world because I figure it can’t hurt. Some of the goodies I sent away were jars of homemade marmalade. I learned how to make this recently because I have the world’s most prolific satsuma tree in my backyard and I can never give away enough of the fruit. Friends have offered to take some off my hands, but when I’ve gifted them heavy grocery bags full of the sweet citrus, they’ve looked at me as if they’re not quite sure what to do with my present. Right when I thought I’d given away the last of the oranges, a neighbor of mine brought me six dozen lemons from her own backyard, and said I could have more if I wanted them.

This citrus deluge made me realize I needed to take extreme measures.

So I learned how to make small batches of preserves.

My great-grandmother used to do this. Same with my paternal grandmother. As a matter of fact, my paternal grandmother used to make strawberry preserves that were so beloved that she had a secret hiding place for all the little Ball jars she had filled. People craved that stuff, and one summer my uncle put me up to finding her stash. Like a dutiful niece, I did, but in retrospect I realize I stripped away some of the mystery that made this stuff so special.

Oro Blanco grapefruit marmalade

Other than that, I’ve been cleaning up this website (I have my daughter to thank for the text treatment in the header) and arranging book-related events to coincide with the release of my book this summer. It’s exciting to think that readers will have their hands on The General’s Niece in just a few months, and I look forward to meeting them and talking to them more about this book.

To close: It’s Carnival season here and pretty much everywhere you go there’s a purple, gold and green King Cake. One of my favorite finds this year is a local bakery that makes these cakes in the traditional French way, complete with the collectible porcelain feve, or bean.

Forte Grove bakery’s traditional King Cake

 

Porcelain feve in Forte Grove’s King Cake.

At any rate, here’s hoping you all have a fantastic weekend ahead of you with your friends and family!

Hello from the other side

Posted on February 15, 2017

When Chicago Review Press purchased The General’s Niece in mid-2015, I really intended to take you with me down the path toward publication. It was not long before I realized that this first-timer’s intentions did not mesh well with the reality of delivering said book to my editor by June 2016.

Let’s just say things were moving a little fast.

Ahem.

And there were moments where I was feeling a bit like Mark Watney in The Martian.

So I decided that something (this blog) had to give, at least until I got through revisions and edits.

Which I have done.

Yesterday my editor told me I could have a hard copy of my book (!!!) in my hands in about a month. In another three months, some of you could be holding – and I hope reading and enjoying — that same book too.

I can’t wait for you to meet General Charles de Gaulle’s niece, Geneviève, and I hope that you enjoy getting to know her as much as I have for the past couple of years. In the meantime, I look forward to getting to know you, answering any questions you may have for me (never hesitate to leave them in comments or send them via my contact page), and finally sharing with you the story of a truly formidable and inspirational woman.

Vive la Resistance!

Posted on September 2, 2015

femaleresistantes

I’ve been sourcing photos both for an upcoming class and for my book and came across this gem: three female resisters patrolling a street in France during World War II. Although my class starts in two weeks, some eager students have reached out to me about extra reading materials (!!!). So far, I’ve steered them toward the Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale , a recently released — and lovely — novel about two sisters and the choices they had to make during the Occupation. One student emailed me after she was done and said she could barely see the last chapter, she was crying so hard. So I recommended it to two other students, and am eagerly awaiting their reactions too.

(Rubs hands together in perverse delight).

Ronald Rosbottom’s When Paris Went Dark: The City of Light Under German Occupation, 1940-1944 is another recent(ish) release that I’ve been pushing on the curious hordes. What I liked most about this is Dr. Rosbottom’s depiction of how ordinary — and not-so-ordinary — Parisians coped with life under the Nazis. He uses a lot of rich detail here, from a wide range of sources, so I’m hoping folks make a point of diving into this too. It’s very well done.

I’ve also tossed out various memoirs written by French resisters, and other books based on my students’ area of interest from this period. I look forward to seeing what they bring up in class after diving into this extra work and anticipate that our time together will fly right by.

Any books (fiction or nonfiction) you might add to the mix about the French Resistance, Occupation of Paris or World War 2?  Let me know in comments.

 

Gnocchis a la Parisienne

Posted on January 27, 2015

One of my favorite scenes from the 2007 animated film “Ratatouille” is when snooty food critic Anton Ego experiences the above Proustian moment. He’s in a Parisian restaurant that has become a huge deal again, thanks in no small part to a street rat with a flair for flavor. Ego doesn’t know the business about the rat yet, which is one of the many reasons why this particular scene is so great.

But that’s not really why I’m writing this post.

I’m writing this post because of a David Lebovitz recipe that inspires the same sort of nostalgic overwhelm that Ego experienced. Lebovitz adapted a friend’s signature “Gnocchis a la Parisienne” dish, which is rich with cheese, Mornay sauce and these little dumplings made from pate a choux.

This is for my mother, who fell in love with the meal when I first made it and has been wanting the recipe ever since.

It is also for my dear friend Michelle, who recently purchased the perfect Le Creuset baking dish in which to make it.

But it’s also for anyone in search of a great go-to dinner full of basic ingredients you probably already have in your pantry or refrigerator.

Are you ready?

Here we go.

Gnocchis a la Parisienne
from David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen: Recipes and Stories
Serves 6

Ingredients

For the pate a choux
1 1/4 cups of water
7 tablespoons of unsalted butter; room temperature, cubed
1/2 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons dry mustard or mustard powder

For the Mornay sauce
5 tablespoons salted or unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups whole or low-fat milk, warmed
1 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
Generous pinch of cayenne pepper
1 3/4 cups Gruyere (or you can substitute Emmenthal or Comte)
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

1. To make the pate a choux, heat the water, butter and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a saucepan over medium heat until the butter is melted. Dump in all the flour at once and stir the mixture briskly for about 2 minutes, until the dough forms a smooth ball. Remove from the heat and scrape the dough into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (Lebovitz says if you don’t have a stand mixer, you can leave the dough in the saucepan.) Let the dough sit for 3 minutes, stirring it every so often to release some of the heat. Here’s what it should look like:

Photo: Paige Bowers

Photo: Paige Bowers

2. With the mixer on medium-high speed, or by hand, add the eggs one at a time, making sure each one is fully incorporated before adding the next. Add the dry mustard and beat until the dough is completely smooth. Cover with a kitchen towel and set aside. Prior to covering the dough, you should have something looking like this:

Photo: Paige Bowers

Photo: Paige Bowers

3. To make the Mornay sauce, melt the butter in the saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, letting the mixture bubble. Stir constantly for 2 minutes, until the paste is thickened. Do not let it brown. Gradually whisk in the milk, beginning slowly and stirring constantly to avoid lumps.

4. Decrease the heat to low and cook the Mornay for 6 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the sauce is about as thick as a milkshake. Remove from heat and add the salt, cayenne, and 1/2 cup of the Gruyere or whatever other Swiss-style cheese you decide to use. Stir until the cheese is melted.

5. Butter a shallow 2 1/2-to 3-quart baking dish. Sprinkle half of the Parmesan over the bottom and sides. Spread 1 cup of Mornay sauce over the bottom of the baking dish like this:

Photo: Paige Bowers

Photo: Paige Bowers

6. Line a large dinner plate with a few layers of paper towels. Bring a pot of salted water to a low boil. Either using two soup spoons — one to scoop up some of the dough and the other to scrape it into the boiling water — or a spring-loaded ice cream scoop, scoop up about 1 generous tablespoon of dough and drop it into the water. Working in batches, poach 8 to 10 gnocchi at a time. Let them poach for 2 minutes, then retrieve them from the water and drain them on paper towels. They will not be fully cooked inside. Repeat until all the gnocchi dough is poached.

7. Preheat the oven to 350 F with the oven rack in the top third of the oven.

8. Once the gnocchi are parcooked, place them in a single layer on top of the Mornay in the baking dish, like this:

Photo: Paige Bowers

Photo: Paige Bowers

9. Then spoon the remaining Mornay over the gnocchi in an even layer. Sprinkle the remaining cheese (both Parmesan and Swiss-style) on top of that.

Photo: Paige Bowers

Photo: Paige Bowers

10. Put the dish on a foil-covered baking sheet and then bake for 15 minutes. Then increase the oven temperature to 400 F and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until the top is well browned. This could probably be browner, but you get the spirit of the thing (and the spirit is pretty delicious):

Photo: Paige Bowers

Photo: Paige Bowers

Let cool a few minutes and then serve with a green salad. This is good comfort food, good dinner party food and good family fare that kids will enjoy. It’s become the sort of meal my husband and child ask about if I haven’t made it in a few weeks and I hope you come to enjoy it as much as we do!

Bust of Napoleon III

Posted on October 23, 2014

A photo posted by @paigebowers on

I spent part of last week in Atlanta, visiting some of my favorite people, places and things. I love that no matter where I go and what I do, I always manage to find a bit of France. This time: It was Napoleon III in all his mustachioed glory.

Things The French Do Right: Part One

Posted on April 10, 2014

Photo: The Guardian via Sipa Press/Rex Features

Photo: The Guardian via Sipa Press/Rex Features

I’m as guilty as the next person of sending work emails after hours so I can get one thing off of the following day’s to-do list. To wit: The email I sent LSU about the class I’d like to teach in Fall 2014 left my inbox at 9:20 p.m. Monday night. Yes, it probably could have waited until Tuesday morning, but I console myself thinking about how my husband was up far later than I was sending emails that probably could have waited too.

This sets up my latest argument for why our family needs to pack up and move to France.

Yesterday, French employers’ federations and labor unions signed a new, legally binding agreement that requires staffers to turn off their work phones after 6 p.m. The deal affects one million workers in the technology and consultancy sectors, and aims to keep workers from feeling pressured to look at or respond to job-related requests after hours. When I saw this story, I thought “Well, how about that? That’s more proof that the French have some shred of good sense about work-life balance. Vive la France! Let’s move!”

So I took this tale to the mister who said that it sounded really nice (in an exhausted sort of “Oh boy, here we go again. Another argument for moving to France.” way). But he added that he actually didn’t feel the pressure to respond to after-hours emails. He only felt the pressure to send the missives that happen to be the root of the problem. And before I could exclaim, “but we could move to France and reform ourselves (after we bang our heads on the wall sorting through all the requisite residency paperwork),” he actually found a way of tying up all his work-related loose ends by 6 p.m.

Husband: 1, Paige: 0

But the battle rages on…

*****

Photo:DavidLebovitz.com

Photo:DavidLebovitz.com

Blogger, cookbook author and former Chez Panisse pastry chef David Lebovitz has a new book of stories and recipes out called My Paris KitchenWhat I love about the book is that it puts a culinary twist on this centuries-old question the French like to ask themselves: What does it mean to be French? Lebovitz answers this in his own inimitable way, illustrating how global influences from India to North Africa and even his native United States have shaped classic French cuisine. Plus, you get a tantalizing taste of what he might serve with cocktails or for dinner on a given day.

And that’s what makes it so difficult to decide what to cook first. It all looks so good and, better yet, accessible for the average home cook.

Last night I chose to make his chicken with mustard sauce recipe, the dish featured on the cover. It was a tricky choice because my husband and daughter are not big fans of mustard and if I ever want to use it in a dish, I have to sneak it in and refuse to answer them if they ask me what’s in the chicken. When my daughter asked me what I was making last night, I replied “Chicken in Awesome Sauce” because by then I had dipped my spoon into the skillet enough to know that the sauce was, indeed, beyond awesome.

Sometimes I feel like this is my theme song when it comes to tricking those two into eating things that I like:

Anyway, yeah.

Here’s what you need to make this:

1/2 cup and 3 TBS of Dijon mustard

1/4 tsp. of smoked paprika

4 chicken legs and 4 chicken thighs

1 cup diced bacon

1 diced small onion

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

1 cup of white wine

1 TBS mustard seeds

2-3 TBS heavy cream

chopped fresh parsley to finish

Directions:

1. In a bowl, mix 1/2 cup of the mustard with paprika, pepper and salt. Put the chicken pieces in the mixture and cover them with it, rubbing some of the sauce underneath the skin.

2. Heat a skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the bacon, cooking it until brown. Remove the bacon and drain it.

bacon

Mmm…bacon.

3. Leave 1 TBS bacon fat in the pan, then add onion and cook for five minutes until translucent. Stir in thyme, cook for another few minutes and scrape into a bowl big enough to fit the chicken.

4. Put chicken in the pan (adding olive oil, if necessary) and brown it well on both sides on medium-high heat. As Lebovitz advises, good brown color makes for a great tasting sauce.

chickeninmustardsauce

 

Here’s the chicken when it first went into the pan. Please don’t deduct points because I used leg/thigh pieces.

5. When the chicken is well-browned, remove it from the pan and put it in the bowl with the onions. Then add wine to the hot pan and scrape up the fond (a.k.a. really tasty bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan).

scrapeupfond

Scraping up the fond. Loving the smell. Mmm…sauce.

6. Put the chicken, bacon and onions back into the pan, cover and cook on low to medium heat until the chicken is cooked through. This should take about 15 minutes.

7. Then, remove the pan from the stove, stir in the remaining Dijon mustard, mustard seeds and cream. Top with parsley and serve with linguine noodles (you gotta sop up that awesome sauce with something) and haricots verts.finalplatechickenmustardsauce

Et voila!

The husband usually hates mustard, but liked this tremendously. The child was a little less convinced (but she is a work in progress; I tend to take a Karen Le Billon approach to her eating habits, anyway…trying, trying, trying again). Me? I loved this and will absolutely make it again.

And so, the new score:

Husband: 1, Paige: 1

We shall see what the next inning brings…

*****

Lebovitz had a great behind-the-scenes post this week about what went into making his recent book. Aside from all the gorgeous photography and anecdotes about rose wine consumed, I really appreciated the look at the often-agonizing process of seeing a book into print. Few people know that the proposal stage alone can take almost a year in some cases, sometimes requiring total overhauls and reshapings along the way. He writes:

Writing a book is an all-consuming process, at least for me. My Paris Kitchen started out as a non-cookbook proposal that took me nearly eight months to write. People who want to write a book are always astonished when I tell them that it takes that long (at least it takes me that long), to write a proposal. But it’s the most important part of the cookbook process. It’s where you clarify and distill your ideas, and create your vision of the book. And in turn, it allows the publisher to grasp your idea of your book, who you are, and the intended audience…

After I sent the publisher at Ten Speed Press the proposal I had slaved over, he sent me a message: “You should do a book of recipes about how you cook. What is your Paris cooking?”

Grrr, eight months down the drain. But as a writer, sometimes you write and write and write for hours, thinking you came up with something brilliant. Then you go back and reread it the next day, and delete the whole thing. And start all over again.

But the point is, he persevered and has a really gorgeous book to show for it. His account is inspiring to me at a time when I’ve just finished a total overhaul of my own book proposal. So he gave me faith…and great chicken. And sometimes that’s all a girl can ask for.

Merci, Daveed.