Lotte à la moutarde Pierre Franey; la tombée d’épinards

These days it’s not often I get to feel a little French while sitting at a dinner table, but last night there was something of the feel of a Paris bistro inside our own apartment, thanks in part to a French chef who had come to the U.S. in 1939.

An alien (yes!) kitchen assistant working legally in the French pavilion at the 1939 World’s Fair, Pierre Franey chose to join the U.S. army as an infantry machine gunner when his adopted country entered the war. He had declined the offer to become General MacArthur’s cook, and later won a Purple Heart. After the war he rose to the position of top chef at Le Pavillon and La Cote Basque, but he dedicated much of his later career to bringing a broader appreciation to the pleasures of preparing good food, including an emphasis on regional cuisine, local sources, simple preparation.

Born into a socialist family in northern Burgundy in 1921, Franey died with his chef’s toque on, suffering a fatal stroke in 1996 just after conducting a cooking demonstration on the Queen Elizabeth II.

A few years ago his 3 children created a website which includes over a hundred of his recipes.

This one, for what we call monkfish, isn’t in it, but it’s pretty terrific, and obviously not very haute.

  • four small monkfish fillets (about 18 ounces total) from P.E. & D.D. Seafood, washed, drained, dried, then prepared ‘Dijon Style’, with a red onion variation of this vintage Pierre Franey recipe [note: 15 minutes may be too long for fish this size]; the ingredients I used included Cremini mushrooms from John D. Madura Farm, garlic from Healthway Farms & CSA; one small red onion from Norwich Meadows Farm; Tufjano Bianco, Colli della Murgia – 2013 wine, from Astor Wines; the juice from one small local lemon (Fantastic Gardens of N.J.); Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter; and parsley from Eataly

I don’t have a picture of the mushrooms here, because I grabbed the last in the farmer’s little bin, but here’e the Spinach, wonderful, both before and after its preparation.

  • spinach from John D. Madura Farm (around 6 oz.), washed in several changes of water, drained, gently wilted (that is, not reduced too far) inside a large enameled cast iron pot in a little olive oil in which 2 cloves of garlic from Healthway Farms & CSA had first been allowed to sweat, seasoned with salt, freshly-ground black pepper, a little crushed dried Itria-Sirissi chili (peperoncino di Sardegna intero) from Buon Italia, then drizzled with olive oil and a little juice from one small local lemon from Fantastic Gardens of N.J.
  • The wine was a California (grapes from the Sacramento River Delta with a small amount of Viognier from Lodi) white, Miriam Alexandra Chenin Blanc California 2016, by Alexandra Farber, from Naked Wines
  • the music was Mahler’s ‘Symphony No 9’, Iván Fischer conducting the Budapest Festival Orchestrá