Cooking in French Country with Mimi Thorisson
A day in the life of the French author + three mouthwatering recipes from her new cookbook!
Published Dec 18, 2016 6:00 AM
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Meet Mimi Thorisson. The foodie extraordinaire – who can add author and cooking show star to her ever-growing list of accomplishments – recently published her latest cookbook, Cooking in French Country. Having thoroughly traveled the world, Thorisson eventually settled in the picturesque French countryside with her photographer husband Oddur, and their growing family. We caught up with Mimi to get the scoop on her daily life and even managed to snag a few recipes from her new book. Take a look!
Get to Know Mimi!
I am always fascinated by Michel Guérard, Alain Passard, and Alain Ducasse. All quite classic but always the best.
The best part of what I do is
the freedom and pleasure I get from cooking.
My lunch routine consists of
something delicious and seasonal. Always with a glass of wine.
If I weren’t a
I would be a
I’m 10 times more productive when
I am alone.
My favorite cold-weather dish is
a winter stew, like a garbure des pyrénées, which is a ham hock stew.
The best thing I’ve ever eaten is
Salt and Pepper Crab in Bombay, at a restaurant called Trishna.
Where do you seek inspiration for the things you make?
From desire, my travels, and my passions.
Describe a typical day in your life.
I wake up inspired to eat and cook a certain ingredient. Taking care of the kids in the morning before school, then cooking, writing, playing with my baby, reading, cooking. If I am not doing that than I am probably eating something, somewhere exciting!
Beet Salad with Crème Fraîche
serves 4 to 6
If this salad were a fairy tale, and it’s certainly exciting enough to be one, it would go something like this: One day, when all the red vegetables had gotten tired of reading about how healthy and delicious their leafy green colleagues were, they got together and decided to do something about it. “I think, if we all pitch in, we could make a smashing salad,” said the beet. “I agree,” said the red onion. But they decided they needed a little help. So they sent the red cabbage to recruit the pomegranate. He was in: “I feel it is my duty to help you even if I like to work alone.” The pumpkin seeds soon followed suit. A dollop of cream and some capers for contrast and they all headed to the big salad fair where they jumped into a bowl.
To put it simply, I can’t think of a more delicious, beautiful, and healthy salad. I love making it, I love eating it, and afterward I always feel rejuvenated and happy. One note: Be sure to wear an apron when you seed the pomegranate; those red little guys are very juicy and lively. – Mimi Thorisson
- 2 medium beets, peeled and very thinly sliced
- ½ large head red cabbage, cored and very thinly sliced
- 3 red endives or 2 small treviso radicchio, leaves separated
- 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
- seeds from 1 large pomegranate
- ½ cup / 60 g pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted
- leaves from a few sprigs of fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon drained capers
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
- fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup / 120 ml crème fraiche
Directions 1. In a medium bowl, combine the beets, cabbage, endives, onion, pomegranate seeds, pumpkin seeds, parsley, and capers.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over the salad and toss everything together.
3. Serve the salad on plates, topping it with the crème fraîche and lemon zest.
Mimolette and Comté Mac and Cheese
Serves 6 to 8
This section of the book turned out to be a who’s who of comfort food—and it wouldn’t be complete without the king of comfort foods: mac and cheese. As a kid in Hong Kong, I remember reading about this exciting dish and desperately wanting to try it. I also remember my disappointment when, having coaxed my mother or some nanny into buying a ready-made version, I realized that maybe it wasn’t the best food in the world after all. But all that is relative. You reap as you sow. I still believe in the power of mac and cheese when it is done right. With just enough glorious, pungent cheese, it can still be, on a good day, the best food that a little girl ever dreamed existed. – Mimi Thorisson
- 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
- 1 garlic clove, halved
- 5 tablespoons/60 g unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 ½ cups / 600 ml whole milk
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- Pinch of nutmeg
- Pinch of piment d’espelette or mild chile powder
- 1 pound/500 g dried small penne or macaroni pasta
- 10 ounces/300 g mimolette cheese, grated (about 2 2/3 cups)
- 5 ounces/150 g comté cheese, grated (about 1 1/3 cups)
Directions 1. Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Butter a large ovenproof skillet.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
3. In a food processor, pulse the bread crumbs with the garlic and 1 tablespoon / 15 g of the butter.
4. In a medium skillet, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons / 45 g butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour. Immediately whisk in the milk, little by little, and simmer until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the mustard, nutmeg, and piment d’Espelette and season with salt and pepper.
5. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook to al dente according to the package directions.
6. Whisk half of each cheese into the sauce. When the pasta is al dente, drain and mix the pasta into the sauce in the pan until well combined along with the rest of the grated cheese.
7. Pour the pasta mixture into the buttered ovenproof skillet. Scatter the breadcrumb mixture all over the dish and transfer to the oven. Bake until bubbling and golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Serve hot.
This recipe is here as a result of an argument—not a serious one, so maybe it’s better to call it a disagreement. My husband loves tomatoes the way I love chestnuts, and he tries to add them to everything. He adores the Italian version of hunter’s chicken, with lots of red wine and tomato sauce, and kept asking me to make it. So I did. The problem, however, was that I don’t really love that dish—so while he devoured it, I didn’t eat that much. I kept telling him that French hunter’s chicken, with mushrooms and white wine, is much better, and one day I cooked it unannounced. To make sure I’d get my point across I went to extra lengths, sourcing the finest farm chicken, picking the tarragon we were growing on our roof garden. His verdict: delicious, crispy, tasty, flavorful, “but I still love the tomato version.” And I still disagree. – Mimi Thorisson
- ¾ cup / 90 g all-purpose flourfine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 6 large chicken legs (thigh and drumstick)
- 5½ tablespoons / 80 g unsalted butter
- 6 tablespoons / 90 ml extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 2 shallots, thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 bouquet garni (see below)
- ½ pound / 230 g porcini mushrooms, quartered
- 3 tablespoons cognac
- ¼ cup / 60 ml white wine
- ¾ cup / 180 ml chicken stock leaves from 1 bunch of fresh tarragon
Directions 1. Preheat the oven to 400°F / 200°C.
2. In a shallow baking dish, combine the flour, ½ teaspoon salt, and a pinch of pepper. Coat the chicken pieces with the mixture and shake off the excess.
3. Heat 4 tablespoons / 60 g of the butter and the oil in a large Dutch oven or other ovenproof pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and brown on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast until the chicken is cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes.
4. Remove the chicken from the pan and keep warm on a platter. Put the pan with all its drippings over medium-high heat and add the onion, shallots, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cook until golden, about 4 minutes. Throw in the bouquet garni and mushrooms and continue to cook for 3 minutes.
5. Carefully add the Cognac, light a match, and ignite the Cognac. Once the flames die down, pour in the white wine and boil to reduce by three-quarters. Pour in the chicken stock and boil for 5 minutes.
6. Add the remaining 1½ tablespoons / 20 g butter and return the chicken to the pan. Reheat, spooning the sauce over the chicken. Scatter the tarragon all over. Season with salt and pepper as needed and serve immediately.
A mixture of fresh herbs and bay leaf, a bouquet garni is wonderful for flavoring soups and stews. Tie together with kitchen twine: 3 sprigs parsley, 1 sprig sage, 1 sprig rosemary, 1 sprig thyme, and 1 bay leaf. Add the herb bundle to the dish when directed and discard before serving.