Cooking the Books: French Fried by Kylie Logan

Laurel Inwood has a lot on her plate with the 130th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty giving the tourist-starved town of Hubbard, Ohio, a reason to throw a week-long celebration to try to draw in more. As the chef of her adoptive Aunt Sophie's Terminal at the Tracks restaurant—and, more importantly, as the mastermind behind the semi-regular ethnic cuisine initiative meant to elevate the eatery from greasy spoon to healthy and innovative dining—Laurel is cooking up a French menu to dovetail neatly with the festivities. Aunt Sophie isn't the hugest help, but her friend Raquel Arnaud—long-time French expatriate and now herb farmer with her own estate just out of town—is more than happy to contribute both recipes and ingredients.

As the celebration gets underway, however, Raquel grows increasingly distracted, her behavior becoming erratic and uncharacteristically sloppy. When Raquel fails to show up to a fireworks display after promising Laurel and Sophie that she'll meet them there, Laurel and her not-quite boyfriend—the charming Declan Fury—stop by Raquel's estate, Pacifique, to check on her. Imagine their horror when they find Raquel quite dead.

When the police find poison in Raquel's wine glass, the assumption is that she committed suicide—a verdict that Laurel refuses to believe. But even as she feels compelled to investigate, she finds herself distracted by the opportunity to get back to being a personal chef, her vocation before a series of circumstances landed her in Hubbard. A senator is interviewing, and while the political life might not be as glamorous as her previous stint with a Hollywood megastar, it's still a far cry from life in a small town. Now, if only Laurel could shake free from the loving ties that keep threatening to bind her to Hubbard…

Kylie Logan's French Fried is a delightfully jam-packed novel of both mystery and emotion. I very much enjoyed reading about Laurel's past as a foster child who grew up untrusting of most people until she was taken in by Sophie's sister, who trained her in the culinary arts. It was also very interesting to read of Raquel's past in the anti-war movements of the ’60s and ’70s, and I loved all the twists in the story—especially the ending!

French Fried also includes tips on building a tartine, a traditional French sandwich, but only has one actual recipe included:

Quick Cassoulet

Ingredients

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 carrots, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

½ pound smoked sausage, sliced

1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon thyme

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground pepper

Chopped fresh parsley to sprinkle on each serving if you desire
 

Instructions

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add carrots, celery, onion, and garlic. Cook and stir until onion is transparent. Add sausage and cook to brown.

Add beans and tomatoes, season with bay leaves, thyme, salt, and pepper. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer 10 minutes or until veggies are tender.

Remove bay leaves before serving and sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley.

What this recipe section lacks in quantity, it more than makes up for in quality! What better compliment can I give a dish than the fact that I chose to have this cassoulet for three meals in a row? It was a lot of beans, which aren't usually my favorite food, but I regret nothing—it was so delicious!

I was a bit concerned because this kind of thing usually takes hours to do right, but it was truly a quick dish to make and make well. I used a smoked chicken and apple sausage and served the cassoulet with slices of baguette that were perfect for dipping. This is definitely one of the best entree recipes I've made in a while, and it’s one I'm very much looking forward to repeating again in my personal life.

Next week, we travel even further west to Montana and try out a twist on breakfast staples. Do join me!

See also: Cooking the Books: Ghostal Living by Kathleen Bridge

 

To learn more or order a copy, visit:

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Doreen Sheridan is a freelance writer living in Washington, D.C. She microblogs on Twitter @dvaleris.

Read all posts by Doreen Sheridan for Criminal Element.

Comments

  1. Doreen Sheridan

    It’s already surprisingly cool here in Maryland given that it’s only September, and the weather definitely has me looking forward to making this dish again. Tho beans and I are never the best of friends, my tastebuds will not be denied!

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