This month we’ve been inspired by the rustic, seasonal cooking at the Cooks’ Atelier in France, where Chef Marjorie Taylor and her daughter Kendall Smith Francini treat guests to market tours and communal dinners. There, the market’s bounty determines the menu. Preparations are simple and un-fussy, and ingredients taste just as they should at their peak.
Even the ritual of cooking dinner takes on a new rhythm at the atelier, with guests pitching in to create each course. Finally, everyone sits together at a long table to enjoy the meal, complete with a spirit on conviviality — and of course, true to the Burgundy region, wine.
Bring the essence of the Cooks’ Atelier to your kitchen this weekend by hosting a hands-on dinner party. Shop at your local market, and invite friends over early to sip an aperitif while you prepare the dishes together.
Start with the menu below, created by Marjorie Taylor for the Cooks’ Atelier, then scroll down for additional entertaining tips. Next time, maybe the local produce in your area can spark new ideas for a feast.
Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Brown Butter
2 heads cauliflower
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion
1/2 cup coarsely chopped leeks (white and green parts only)
2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups water
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Remove the leaves from the cauliflower, and cut out the core. Trim off the stems and reserve them. For the garnish, trim 2 cups florets about the size of a quarter and set aside.
Coarsely chop the remaining cauliflower and stems into 1-inch pieces so that they will cook in the same amount of time.
Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, leeks and coarsely chopped cauliflower, season with 2 teaspoons sea salt and roast, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are almost tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven.
Pour the milk, cream, and water into the Dutch oven and bring to a simmer on the top of the stove over medium-high heat. Simmer for 30 minutes, skimming off the foam from time to time.
Working in batches, transfer the cauliflower mixture to a blender (leave an opening in the lid for the steam to escape). Carefully, begin pureeing the cauliflower on the lowest speed and blend, slowly increasing the speed, until smooth and velvety. Check the seasoning and add more salt if needed. Transfer to a large saucepan and keep warm.
Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until the butter turns a rich golden brown. Add the florets and sauté until a rich golden brown. Set aside.
To serve, reheat the soup. This is a thick soup, but if it seems too thick, add water to thin it to the desired consistency. Taste for seasoning.
Pour the soup into a warm serving bowl or soup tureen. Top each serving with a few cauliflower florets. Drizzle with brown butter. Serves 6.
Filet de Boeuf
One 4 1/2-pound filet mignon roast
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 heads garlic, separated into cloves but skin left on, smashed
1/2 half bunch thyme sprigs
8 fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons butter
Trim away any sinew, silver skin from the meat. Season lightly on all sides with salt and pepper. Lay a large piece of plastic wrap on the counter. Distribute one-quarter of the garlic cloves, one-third of the thyme and fresh basil leaves over the plastic. Place the roast on the top and place another quarter of the garlic cloves, half of the remaining thyme and the fresh basil over the top of the meat. Tightly wrap the plastic around the meat and refrigerate for 24 hours.
To roast the meat: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap the roast and place it on a cutting board. Remove and discard any herbs or garlic clinging to the meat. Tie a piece of kitchen twine around the center of the roast, then, moving outward from the center to each end, tie the roast at about 1-inch intervals.
Season the roast generously with salt and pepper, pressing the salt and pepper into the meat, and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Heat a thin film of olive oil in a large heavy ovenproof skillet over high heat. Add the butter, then add the roast and lightly brown on all sides. Baste the meat from time to time with the oil and butter using a large spoon. When the roast is evenly browned, after about 5 minutes, add the remaining thyme and garlic to the skillet. Baste the meat with the butter and arrange the thyme over it.
Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast for 25 to 30 minutes, for rare. Remove the skillet from the oven and remove the roast to a cutting board to rest for about 15 minutes before serving. Serves 6 to 8.
Summer Berry Cake
4 oz. (115 grams) butter, at room temperature
6.35 oz. (180 grams) flour
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons salt
5.3 oz. (150 grams) sugar
120 ml milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
450 grams summer berries
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter and flour a 9″ cake pan. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. In another large bowl, beat the butter with the sugar. Add the egg, milk and vanilla extract and beat until light and creamy. Gradually add the dry ingredients and mix until incorporated. Pour the batter into the pan and arrange the fruit over the top. Sprinkle with vanilla sugar. Bake the tart in the oven for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 325 degrees F and continue baking for 30 to 35 minutes until done. Serve warm with a dollop of whipped cream.
- Start with an aperitif, such as sparkling wine. Set out small bites such as gougeres or a plate of melon and prosciutto for guests to enjoy while cooking, before sitting down to dinner.
- Follow the main course with a selection of artisan cheeses. French dinners last for hours, so draw out the celebration and enjoy the company.
- Set the table with fresh flowers and light candles to create an intimate atmosphere. Mix fine glassware and vintage linens.