Tuesday dinner with Kristin Espinasse | Ann Mah

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Tuesday dinner with Kristin Espinasse from French Word-a-Day

By Ann | November 27, 2012

I don’t know about you, but after a holiday weekend that included Thanksgiving with all the trimmings, Chinese food, New York pizza AND bagels, I’m ready for something a little lighter. Thankfully, Kristin Espinasse from the blog French Word-a-Day — and author of Blossoming in Provence — has come to the rescue with a simple Mediterranean meal of oven-roasted fish and potatoes.

Like so many among her legions of fans, I first discovered Kristin’s blog while daydreaming about France. At the time I lived in smog-choked Beijing where, every afternoon, I would stare out my office window and gaze at a grey sky tinged green. The sunshine and blue skies and lavender fields of Provence seemed very far away, but Kristin’s blog took me there, if only for a moment. Her stories — laced with French words — made me feel like I could speak French, even though, at the time, I couldn’t. In that smoky, open-plan office, I never imagined that I would one day live in France, or that Kristin and I would become friends. But fast forward five years and there we were on the terrasse of her Côte du Rhône farmhouse, forks and knives poised above a beautiful plate of fresh fish, both us chatting in French with Kristin’s lovely mother-in-law.

I’m so thrilled to welcome Kristin today, to learn more about her new home — a spectacular seaside region, near Cassis — to reveal her tips for cooking for her winemaker husband, Jean-Marc, and two teenage kids, and — bien sûr — to share a few photos of everyone’s favorite Golden Retrievers, Smokey and Braise!


On a regular old Tuesday night “chez les Espi”:
Tuesday is the night to manger en famille or eat together as a family. We’ll sit down at 8:30, even if, more and more, I am trying to sell my family on American dining hours (6pm would be great, but the reality is the kids are returning from school and grabbing a quick goûter, or snack, before heading to their rooms to study — or to pretend to be studying…)

On saving time in the kitchen:
When making the ubiquitous dinner salad (the French enjoy mono salads à la lettuce leaf only), make the vinegar and oil dressing directly in the salad bowl. No need to wash an extra bowl.

On what she eats when she doesn’t feel like cooking: 
On “those” nights, I might declare a chacun pour soi! — each to his own! — arrangement. The kids (Jackie is 15 and Max, 17) enjoy foraging through the fridge and cupboards for whatever strikes their fancy: charcuterie, cheese, some bread and, with any luck, fruit! The risk is when they (or we…) opt for a bowl of cereal — though these days I’ve banned Chocopops!

On her favorite pantry (and fridge) staples:
–Instant couscous (ready in a minute–everyone loves it).

–Green beans (makes for a nutritious omelet).

–Angel-hair pasta and Roquefort (my husband whips up a delicious spaghetti Roquefort in minutes (one package Roquefort + one small carton of cream (a small tub of sour cream works just as well). Melt the Roquefort over low heat, along with the cream. Add pepper to taste. And, Jean-Marc says, accompany with a Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

–Canned lentils (I buy the kind cooked with carrots and onions. Salmon and lentils are such a delicious combination!).

On her favorite fast recipe:
Living near Bandol, on the Mediterranean sea, we are fortunate to have daurade, or sea bream. It is my favorite meal that my mother-in-law makes — I especially love how the lemon slices — layered through the dish — are caramelized. Is this possible? Isn’t that something onions do? The following daurade recipe is relatively fast and easy — and always made au pif (without precise weights and measurements)… so here goes!

Oven-roasted daurade
From Kristin Espinasse

Note from Ann: I have to admit that a busy holiday weekend meant I didn’t have the chance to test this recipe like I usually do. But I have eaten Kristi’s roasted fish and can vouch for its delicious and beautiful simplicity — it’s especially good with a gleaming thread of grass-green extra virgin olive oil drizzled on top. Jean-Marc suggests pouring a fresh Cassis white along side it.

Slice up a few potatoes, tomatoes, onions, and lemons (leave the skin on). Layer this in an oiled casserole dish. Add salt, pepper, herbes de Provence and olive oil to taste. Next, rinse the fish and pat it dry. Add olive oil, salt and more of the herbes. Set the daurade on top of the potato layers. Bake in a preheated oven (around 355-360 degrees Fahrenheit/ 180 degrees Celsius) for 30 minutes (or until the potatoes are soft). You might need to start cooking the potatoes first and add the fish later, to avoid over-cooking it. Don’t be afraid to cook fish!  Just open the oven after 20 or so minutes and poke your fork or knife in the side. If the skin comes away easily from the bone, it’s ready!

Note from Kristin: I buy the daurade on sale and freeze it. It is just as delicious as the day’s catch! Also, you can stuff the inside of the fish with sliced onion, lemon, bell peppers, and/or fennel. My mother-in-law loves to use fennel, which she collects from the fields while out for a walk. The tall wild flowers are beautiful to see. Bon appetit!

The Golden mother-son duo, Smokey and Braise, hope you like this dish!

(Center photos from Kristin Espinasse.)

Topics: Tuesday dinner | 24 Comments »

24 Responses to “Tuesday dinner with Kristin Espinasse from French Word-a-Day”

  1. Lindsey Says:
    November 27th, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    I don’t know which I like more – the fabulous recipe or those painfully cute pups! I remember hearing Kristin speak at the American Library a few years ago (you gave the introduction, Ann!) and thinking how glorious life sounded in Provence.

  2. Bobbi Says:
    November 27th, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    Glorious indeed, the whole enchilada.

  3. Marika Ujvari Says:
    November 27th, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    I love both Kristi’s and Ann Mah’s blogs!!!This is very exciting!!!

  4. Heather in Arles Says:
    November 27th, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    Ann, do you know that when I first started my blog that there were a few blogs that I would NOT read because they were so good I was afraid that they would intimidate me and Kristin’s was one of them!!
    That sounds funny but it is true. :)

    And ahem, I do believe that you might have forgotten one other “favorite Golden”…? Heehee.
    Gros Bisous,

  5. Jan Says:
    November 27th, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    Spaghetti is on the menu for tonight but I will try Kristin’s dish (with a local fish) tomorrow. The photos are gorgeous. Nice to link up to you through French Word A Day!

  6. Anne - Music and Markets Says:
    November 27th, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    What a lovely post, Ann. Thanks to Kristi for “introducing” your blog – looking forward to more!

  7. Kristin Says:
    November 27th, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    Ann, thank you so much for this interview! I am honored by your intro and even more touched by these comments. I am enjoying visiting your readers’ blogs. Lindsey and Heather–so happy to see your words. I see other familiar “faces” here, too :-)

  8. Matthew Gillen Says:
    November 27th, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    I made a much less tasty version of this on Saturday from Mark Bittman; thin slice potatos baked for 30 mins or so, then fish (we had tilapia) broiled on top. It was tasty, but broiling tended to burn the potatos. This sounds much better!

  9. Suzanne, Monroe Twp., NJ Says:
    November 27th, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    Since I love reading your blog and Kristi’s, this was a real treat. Will definitely try the recipe and now I will know how to cook daurade when staying in Paris. I wonder what Jean-Marc would recommend for his 2010 Mistral. I have a few bottles in the cellar.

  10. Katia Says:
    November 27th, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    Roasted fish is just delightful, how wonderful to get Kristin’s twist on it! And the goldens! LOVE the goldens!

  11. Emma Says:
    November 27th, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    Those adorable doggies! And what a place to live and such beautiful photos.

    I just love how this dish looks, the fish so flaky and the lovely rustic potatoes and tomatoes.

    And I often have a simple French salad – plain salad greens dressed with olive oil and vinegar, it’s one of my favourite side dishes but a lot of people here in Australia can’t get their heads around it because our salads have everything in them!

  12. Voie de Vie Says:
    November 27th, 2012 at 11:16 pm

    Of course it’s great to see Smokey and Braise again! This post is so funny for me to read – Kristin is a self-professed reluctant cook (although a wonderful hostess), so I guess she makes a great Tuesday night dinner blog host. :)

    Both the fish (and Jean-Marc’s quick pasta dish) sound and look great. We get great seafood here, so I expect I’ll try the stuffed fish very soon.

    My Tuesday nite dinner dance cards are all filled – these are fanning out now to other days in the week. *Excellent.*

  13. CK Says:
    November 28th, 2012 at 12:26 am

    As wonderful as the fish appears, I’m also pining for that very delicious looking tapenade. And what lovely summer light in those photos. Very nice to see on a dark and rainy Washington November Tuesday!

  14. Shannon Says:
    November 28th, 2012 at 12:58 am

    And the French word I learned today: chacun pour soi. I plan to use it liberally. Very much enjoyed!

  15. Tammy Says:
    November 28th, 2012 at 3:06 am

    I met Kristin 2-3 years ago when she was doing a book signing here in Seattle … she is an absolutely sweet person, someone that you feel you could visit with all day. I’m sure this fish is just as delectable!

  16. Jeanne Says:
    November 28th, 2012 at 5:25 am

    I love roasted fish. I never thought of roasting it on top of sliced potatoes. It sounds amazing. There is something so delicious about hot, cooked lemons too. I can’t wait to try this. Thank you!

  17. Shut Up and Cook Says:
    November 28th, 2012 at 6:17 am

    Loving these adorable doc pix…too cute!!

  18. Sandy Maberly Says:
    November 28th, 2012 at 9:20 am

    Absolutely loved this post! The colors, the stories, the recipes…….I can almost smell the food! Both Kristi and Ann are true inspirations for following and living their dreams! Think I see some baked fish in my future!

  19. Betty Says:
    November 28th, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    Simple is always best. Hugs & bisous to 2 most earnest souls.

  20. Mary Keates Says:
    November 28th, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    You never cease to amaze me!
    I am so glad to find your website.

  21. Ann Says:
    November 28th, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Lindsey — You should have seen Smokey when he was a wee pup — he looked just like a golden butterball! Kristin’s blog has lots of photographic evidence.

    Bobbi — And, since Kristin is from Arizona, I bet she’d appreciate some enchiladas ;)

    Marika — Aw, thank you! Your kind note brings a smile to my face on this chilly grey morning!

    Heather in Arles — Oh, I completely agree that Kristin’s blog is intimidatingly fantastic! But I strongly suggest visiting some of her older posts if only to catch a glimpse of her adorable litter of Golden puppies — I know you and Ben will lovvvve them!

    Jan — Thank you for stopping by! If you do try Kristi’s recipe with a local fish, I hope you’ll let me know what kind and how it turns out!

    Anne — Thanks for your kind comment! It’s an honor for me to feature Kristin and meet some of her wonderful readers — like you!

  22. Ann Says:
    November 28th, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    Kristin — It sure was fun having you over for dinner, even if we had to content ourselves with a virtual version this time. I am very touched that so many of your readers stopped by with words of encouragement. Thank you for a wonderful interview and recipe!

    Matthew — The next time I make this recipe, I’ll try it with tilapia — thanks for the tip!

    Suzanne — Oh, thank you for your message — your kind words have made my day bright! I hope Jean-Marc will stop by to offer some pairing suggestions for his 2010 Mistral, but I will say that I’ve enjoyed it with grilled lamb chops.

    Katia — The goldens need to host a Tuesday Dinner post all on their own!!!

    Emma — Well, us Americans like our salads packed with stuff too, but there is something elegant and pure about a plain green salad. This dish will always make me think of the summer — and thus perfect for your climate, my friend!

    Voie de Vie — Don’t let Kristin fool you — she may be reluctant but she’s a wonderful cook! And I can’t wait to try Jean-Marc’s pasta.

  23. Ann Says:
    November 28th, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    Shannon — My dad said the same thing! And — chacun pour soi is a very useful phrase in France…

    Tammy — I loved Kristin’s book, Words in a French Life! I wonder how her recipe would taste with Seattle salmon?

    Jeanne — The fennel and dried herbs really add a special parfume. And the climate of Southern California and Bandol (where Kristin lives) are quite similar, so you’re a step closer than all of us towards pretending you’re in the south of France!

    Shut Up and Cook — And the dogs are just as sweet and cute in person!

    Sandy — Love seeing you here — thanks for stopping by! I took those photos in the height of summer and the light looks so rich and warm. What you *can’t* see are the wasps circling our heads!

    Betty — Simple is quite often the most delicious. Hugs back to you!

    Mary Keates — Thank you for visiting! I love meeting so many fellow fans of Kristi! :)

  24. Abigail Says:
    November 30th, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    So perfect! I just love one pan dishes like this. The flavors are always so delicious because everything cooks together and no precious juices are lost. I’m getting hungry! And I’m so happy to discover Kristin’s blog! (I know, where have I been?!) I totally agree with her on the baked lemons and I always think of Jamie Oliver’s description that they turn ‘jammy’. Lovely!

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