Would I have ever thought to add blue cheese, walnuts and grapes to my chicken fettucine?
Oh, hell no.
But that’s one of the things I love about Wini Moranville’s new book, “The Bonne Femme Cookbook.”
Before it, I’d assumed that French cooking was all about cream, cassoulet and croissants. Slow-cooked and high-fat. The sort of fussy food you might order at a restaurant, but you’d never have the time, ingredients or inclination to make at home.
This book changed my mind.
Instead of focusing on sauces that take three days, Moranville (an American food writer who’s lived in France for over 15 years) writes about everyday French cooking. Getting fresh, simple food on the table quickly. It’s a style that they call bonne femme (French for “good wife”), no matter who’s cooking.
You won’t find escargot in this book.
But you will find Lemony Pear Sparkling Sangria; Melty Goat Cheese Salad with Honey and Pine Nuts; Sausage, Red Pepper and White Bean Soup; Steak with Brandy and Mustard Sauce; Pork Chops with Orange and Thyme; Rosemary-Prosciutto Chicken Breasts; “Butcher’s Day Off” Mushroom Pasta; Bacon, Chive and Caramelized Onion Quiche; and Lemon Curd Creme Brulée.
You’ll also find classics like beef Bourguignon, rolled French omelets, ratatouille, cassoulet and creme caramel, clearly and simply explained.
Reading Wini’s tips and stories about life in France is really like having a friend in the kitchen. One who can probably tie a scarf without looking like a jackass.
She sold me on trying the Chicken Fettucine with Blue Cheese, Walnuts and Grapes by pointing out that blue cheese, walnuts and grapes go together beautifully on a cheese plate – why wouldn’t they make an amazing pasta sauce?
She’s right. They do.
The grapes give you these little pops of sweetness, cutting through the richness of the cheese. And I’m a sucker for crunchy things, so the toasted walnuts on top just owned me. They take this pasta to another level.
French-inspired pasta! So easy and delicious – and I never would have come up with this it. That’s what makes this book exciting to me.
P.S. Just in case you’re thinking about ordering this book, you should know that it’s beautifully designed, but there are no photos. That’s my only complaint about it. Yes, I know what a pork chop looks like, but I like my eye candy. Oui.
Chicken Fettucine with Blue Cheese, Walnuts and Grapes
From Wini Moranville’s “The Bonne Femme Cookbook”
Makes 4 servings
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced crosswise
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil or walnut oil
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
- 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (about 1 ounce)
- 1 cup seedless red grapes, halved if large
- 2 tablespoons snipped fresh parsley
- 8 ounces dried fettucine or tagliatelle
- 1/4 cup finely chopped toasted walnuts
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta.
- Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Cook the chicken, stirring, until lightly browned and nearly cooked through, about 4 minutes.
- Stir in the cream; reduce the heat to medium and allow the mixture to boil until the cream is reduced by half and the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the blue cheese and Parmigiano-Reggiano; cook and stir until the cheese melt.
- Add the grapes and parsley; cook and stir briefly until the grapes are warm.
- Season with pepper and, if necessary, salt.
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and return to the pot.
- Toss the pasta with the sauce. Divide the pasta among four shallow bowls. Top each serving with the walnuts and serve.