Testing Recipes from Simca’s Cuisine

April 7th, 2014



I have been a faithful follower of all of Julia Child’s recipes for a long time.  Every one of them works well if you follow the instructions.  As Julia and her collaborators Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle devised Mastering the Art of French Cooking, nothing was left to chance.  Each recipe was meticulously tested and refined.  When volume two of their book came out, sans Louisette Bertholle, both Julia and Simca (as Simone Beck was affectionately known) scored another fine publication.  But, by this time, tempers were flaring between the two dear friends.  Simca was very opinionated about the superiority of French cuisine and argued with Julia about cooking methods needed to translate recipes to the American kitchen.  She was also beginning to feel slighted by the popularity and recognition that Julia was receiving because of The Mastering books and her television show.  Simca had her own way of doing things and felt that many of her recipes were left out of the second volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Julia and Simone

One of the recipes that she wanted included in Mastering II was a Pork Roast that she had developed.  Julia, knowing that the book was too far along in the publication process, had to veto the recipe.  There was no time for testing and preparing it for inclusion.  After Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume II was published, in part to placate Simca,  she was offered the opportunity to publish her own cookbook called simply Simca’s Cuisine.  One of the first recipes in the book is Pork Braised with Bourbon and Prunes.  I am assuming that this was the recipe that she had wanted to include in The Mastering volume.

Pork Braised in Bourbon

I made this pork roast recipe last week.  I give Simca high praise for the flavor combinations in this dish.  The pork is slathered with Dijon mustard and rolled in brown sugar before being sauteed and then braised in bourbon that is first flamed in the dish.  The prunes are a perfect accompaniment.  But I did not lard the dish with pickled tongue as suggested.  Who of us home cooks has a larding needle or has easy access to pickled tongue?  She did offer the alternatives of prosciutto or smoked ham, but I was still put off by this step.  I also found the cooking time of 1 3/4 hours much too long for the pork.  It was dry.  Maybe the larding would have made a difference. The sauce made with the bourbon juices offset the dryness.  To me it was a good recipe that needed tweaking.  You can find my version of the dish here.

Casserole of Ham and MushroomsThe second recipe that I tried, Molded Casserole of Ham and Mushrooms with Macaroni, Cheese, and Cream, did not work at all.   It had such promise.  I was excited about cooking the quiche-like filling in my charlotte mold.  It was supposed to be unmolded onto a plate and then drizzled with a tomato cream sauce.  One of the instructions was to cook the macaroni and then chop it up, after draining well.  This made absolutely no sense to me, but I did it anyway.  After baking everything in the charlotte mold, I flipped it over onto a plate and it had not set up.  Everything just puddled out.  Since this was supposed to be dinner last night, I just put it all into a casserole, rewarmed it and served it.  The flavors were great.  I would make this again as a casserole.  It is like a sophisticated macaroni and cheese with ham, mushrooms and Gruyere cheese.

So I guess the moral of this story is that Julia Child knew what she was talking about.  When you publish a cookbook it is best to test and retest.  Simca’s recipes are inspiring.  They have great flavor, but the techniques do not always work.  Here is my version of her macaroni and cheese.  I hope my techniques and flavors work for you.


1 cup Macaroni
2 cups diced ham
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
Juice of 1/2 a lemon, strained
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup half and half
4 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup Gruyere cheese, grated
Salt and pepper to taste
Nutmeg, freshly grated

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter a heavy casserole dish.  Cook the macaroni in a large quantity of boiling salted water until barely tender.  Refresh under cold running water, drain, and dry on paper towels.  Combine with the diced ham.

Clean the mushrooms and slice.  Sprinkle them with the lemon juice.  Melt the butter in a large frying pan, add the mushrooms, and saute, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes.  Salt lightly, pour in the light cream, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the mushrooms are tender and the cream has almost evaporated.  Drain if necessary.

Beat the eggs thoroughly with the heavy cream and the grated cheese.  Add the mushrooms, macaroni, and ham, and season highly with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.  Mix thoroughly and put mixture into casserole.  Cover casserole with lid or foil.

Bake casserole for about 30 minutes.

Printable recipe


Cauliflower Gratin

December 16th, 2013

Cauliflower Gratin 1


You can never have too many make-ahead casseroles in your arsenal during the holiday season.  Cauliflower recipes seem to be everywhere on the internet and on the cooking shows.  I made a cauliflower, kale and sausage soup recently and it was a real hit.  The thing about cauliflower is that it is such a mild vegetable that it picks up the flavors of anything that you add to it.

Cauliflower Gratin V


In this case, the additions were a bechamel sauce, Gruyere and Parmesan cheese and a crisp sourdough bread crumb topping.  It doesn’t hurt that the recipe came from the Barefoot Contessa.  We were having steaks for dinner the other night and I felt like making something other than potatoes to go with them.  This cauliflower gratin was the perfect choice.  I actually assembled it ahead of time and popped it into the oven when David lit the grill.

Cauliflower Gratin 2


It was creamy, crunchy and delicious.  I am keeping this recipe to share with company.


1 ( 3-pound) head cauliflower, cut into large florets
Kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups hot milk
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
3/4 cup freshly grated Gruyere, divided
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 cup fresh sourdough bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cook the cauliflower florets in a large pot of boiling salted water for 5 to 6 minutes, until tender but still firm.  Drain.

Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat.  Add the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes.  Pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture and stir until it comes to a boil.  Boil, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, or until thickened.  Off the heat, add 1 teaspoon of salt, the pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup of the Gruyere, and the Parmesan.

Pour 1/3 of the sauce on the bottom of an 8 by 11 by 2-inch dish.  Place the drained cauliflower on top and then spread the rest of the sauce evenly on top. Combine the bread crumbs with the remaining 1/4 cup of Gruyere.  Melt the remaining 2 tablespoon of the butter.  Drizzle over the bread crumb mixture.  Stir to combine and then sprinkle the mixture over the gratin.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is browned.

Printable recipe

Tuna Noodle Casserole

March 17th, 2013

While going through my file of old recipes, I found the tuna noodle casserole that was so popular years ago.  We all had that recipe and it included cream of mushroom soup.  I rarely ever use cream of mushroom soup anymore.  So I decided to try and update the recipe with fresher ingredients.  A trip to Costco had yielded some nice cans of Italian tuna packed in olive oil.  I think tuna packed in olive oil has so much more flavor.  Instead of canned soup I made my own white sauce enhanced with sherry.  The recipe is one that I adapted from Epicurious.

I used fewer egg noodles than what was called for in the old recipe.  Too much pasta tends to absorb the sauce, resulting in a dry casserole.  The topping could have been breadcrumbs or potato chips (Yikes!), but I am partial to Ritz crackers.  Most of the recipes also have a sprinkling of cheese on top.  I have included it in the printed recipe, but did not use it.  To my thinking fish and cheese do not go together.

Although the casserole required cleaning up several pans,  I felt it was worth the effort to freshen up an old classic.  I am having fun with my retro recipes.  I still want to post my classic Texas Pecan Torte, but will wait until a time when we have someone with whom to share it.  We can’t afford the calories right now.


  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 8 oz mushrooms, trimmed and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup Sherry
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 (6-oz) cans tuna in olive oil, drained
  • 8 oz dried medium egg noodles
  • 2/3 of a sleeve of Ritz crackers, crushed
  • 4 oz coarsely grated Cheddar (1 cup) optional
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or melted butter

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a shallow 2-quart baking dish.

Cook onion in 1 1/2 tablespoons butter with a pinch of salt in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately low heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Increase heat to moderately high and add mushrooms, then sauté, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms begin to give off liquid, about 2 minutes. Add soy sauce and continue to sauté mushrooms, stirring, until liquid mushrooms give off is evaporated. Add Sherry and boil, stirring occasionally, until evaporated. Remove from heat.

Melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat and whisk in flour, then cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes. Add broth in a stream, whisking, and bring to a boil, whisking. Whisk in milk and simmer sauce, whisking occasionally, 5 minutes. Stir in mushroom mixture, lemon juice, peas and salt. Flake tuna into sauce and stir gently. Season sauce with salt and pepper.

Cook noodles in a 5- to 6-quart pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain noodles in a colander and return to pot. Add sauce and stir gently to combine. Transfer mixture to baking dish, spreading evenly.

Toss together cracker crumbs and cheese in a bowl. Drizzle with oil or melted butter and toss again, then sprinkle evenly over casserole. Bake until topping is crisp and sauce is bubbling, 20 to 30 minutes.

Printable recipe

Turkey Tetrazzini

November 26th, 2012

Welcome to my new Word Press website.  I still have some technical issues to work out, but I am happy with the design and look of my updated blog.  Thanks to my talented Son and Daughter-in-Law for their expertise.  If you encounter any problems in leaving comments or with any other issue please email me at pennyklett@gmail.com.

Thanksgiving is an excuse for wonderful leftovers in my opinion.  Every year I make an extra pumpkin pie just so I can have it for breakfast for a week.  But turkey tetrazzini has always been my reason for roasting a turkey.  It is just as much a tradition as the Thanksgiving dinner itself.



I have been using the same recipe for years and it will be difficult for me to be specific about proportions because everything is now done by rote.  But one thing I have learned over the years is to use less pasta than you think you will need because the pasta absorbs a lot of the sauce while it bakes.



Enjoy this simple dish made from leftovers.  It goes well with that leftover cranberry sauce too.



4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup white wine or dry sherry
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup 1/2 and 1/2
4 cups cubed cooked turkey
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds
1/2 cup Panko crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 pound (8 ounces) Spaghetti cooked according to directions on box

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In large skillet melt butter over medium heat.  Add flour and whisk flour and butter together until it turns a light brown.  Mix together wine and chicken broth.  Add to skillet.  Continue whisking until sauce thickens.  Add 1/2 and 1/2 and turkey.  Cook until heated through.  Mix in cooked spaghetti.  Add a little pasta water if it is dry.

Pour contents of skillet into a greased casserole.  Sprinkle top with almonds, panko crumbs and Parmesan cheese.  Bake casserole until bubbly and cheese and breadcrumbs are browned. (About 20 minutes).


Printable recipe




Hachis Parmentier – French Shepherd’s Pie

October 8th, 2012

The first time I ever had Hachis Parmentier was in a French restaurant that had just opened in our home town in North Carolina.  It was almost twenty years ago.  My love of French cooking was already established but I had never heard of this dish before.  I loved the earthiness of the minced beef filling and the fluffy mashed potatoes flavored with Gruyere cheese.  It was like an amped up version of cottage or shepherd’s pie.

When I bought Dorie Greenspan’s new cookbook, Around My French Table, last year I bookmarked her recipe for this casserole.  What intrigued me about her version of hachis parmentier was the option of using cubed steak instead of chunks of beef.  She also included sausage in the minced meat for the filling.

But the real star of this dish is the mashed potato topping.  The potatoes are lighter than normal because they use more milk and cream.  Also the Emmenthal (French Gruyere) cheese give them such lip-smacking flavor, that I was in danger of devouring the whole dish by myself.

There are a lot of steps to putting the casserole together, but they can be done in stages.  Believe me, it is worth your time.

HACHIS PARMENTIER (Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Around my French Table)

1 lb cube steak cut into small pieces
1 onion,sliced
1 carrot, cut into 1 inch slices
1 celery stalk cut into 1 inch slices
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
2 sprigs parsley
1 bay leaf
5-7 black peppercorns
1 teaspoon salt
6 cups of water

Add all of the ingredients into a large dutch oven, bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for
about an hour and a half until the meat is tender and the broth is flavorful. Skim off foam in the early stages.  Remove the beef from the broth and set aside. You can also reserve the vegetables if you’d like to use them or discard them.  If you want to use them, cut them into small dice.  Strain the broth through a sieve and reserve for the next step. You will likely have more bouillon than you’ll need.

1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 lb of sausage, removed from casing
Beef from the bouillon step, cut into very small pieces by hand plus vegies if using
1 cup of bouillon cooking liquid
1 beef bouillon cube
1 teaspoon tomato paste
Salt and ground pepper to taste

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. When your pan is hot, add the olive oil, followed by the sausage.
Break the sausage up into small pieces as it cooks. As soon as it is just barely cooked through, add in the beef, vegies and the tomato paste and combine. Add in the bouillon and the bouillon cube. Depending on the amount of meat you have you may need a little more or less than a cup. Cook to allow the boullion cube to dissolve.  You want the mixture to be moist and bubbly but not soupy. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to a casserole dish (see Putting it all Together below). You can also reserve mixture in the fridge until you’re ready to make the final dish.

2 lbs potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/2 cup milk
1/4 half and half
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 cup of Gruyere cheese or Emmenthal cheese
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon of butter to dot on top

Place the potatoes in a cold dutch oven or large soup pot and cover with water by a couple of inches. Add a
generous pinch of salt, then bring to a boil over medium high heat. Keep at a slow boil until the potatoes are soft. Drain and transfer back into the pot (the warm pot will keep your potatoes warm) and mash with a potato masher or run through a food mill. Add in milk, half and half, and butter and mix until the consistency is smooth. A whisk is helpful here. You want your potatoes to be a little more moist than you would for stand-alone mashed potatoes.


Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Spoon the filling into a 2 qt.casserole dish (Dorrie recommentds a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate).  Press the filling down with the back of the spoon, making it even and flat. Spoon the
mashed potatoes on top of the filling and spread evenly over the whole surface. Make sure to “seal” the edge of the casserole with the potatoes. Sprinkle the cheeses evenly over the top of the potatoes, then dot with the butter. Bake for 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown.  I turned on the broiler at the end of the cooking time to brown the top better.

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© Penny Klett, Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen. All rights reserved.