Walter's Salt + Pepper Steak


I am not sure why, but a thick, juicy côte de boeuf calls for a party: a simple but festive meal enjoyed with friends around the table, a sturdy red wine, and a simple green salad. This recipe demands no more gadgetry than a well-seasoned skillet. Walter remembers watching his father cook steaks, and he always heated coarse sea salt and waited until it “danced” before cooking the meat. It’s an uncomplicated but sure-fire way to ensure a thick, flavorful crust on one of our favorite cuts of meat.

4 servings


A griddle, seasoned cast iron skillet, or heavy-duty skillet.


1 bone-in beef rib-eye steak, about 2 pounds (1 kg), about 1-inch (2.5 cm) thick
2 tablespoons coarse sea salt
Coarse, freshly ground black pepper
Fleur de sel
Lemon wedges, for serving  



1.    Remove the meat from the refrigerator at least 4 hours before cooking.

2.    When you are ready to cook the beef, preheat the griddle or skillet over high heat for 2 minutes. Scatter the coarse sea salt on the griddle and heat until the salt “dances,” or begins to pop, about 3 minutes. Then add the meat, unseasoned, and cook for 4 minutes on one side. Turn the meat, season the seared side with pepper and cook for 4 minutes more for rare meat, or cook to desired doneness.

3.    Transfer the meat to a cutting board. Season the second side with pepper and season both sides with fleur de sel. Tent the meat loosely with foil to prevent the surface from cooling off too quickly. Let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

4.    To serve, carve into thick slices. Serve with lemon.


Three rules here: sear, season, rest. Searing caramelizes the sugar and browns the proteins on the surface of the meat, resulting in more intense flavors and an attractive crust. The salt does help begin to season the meat, but because the pan is extremely hot, the meat begins to sear immediately, forming a crust that prevents the salt from drawing moisture from the steak. The final seasoning makes for meat that tastes seasoned not salted. Resting allows the juices to retreat back into the meat, resulting in beef that is moist and tender, not dry.

Wine Suggestion

Bring out a sturdy red that will stand up to the forward flavors of well-cooked beef. With this meat I like to uncork our winemaker Yves Gras’s stellar cuveé, Gigondas Prestige des Hautes Garrigues. The wine is a blend of 80 percent old-vine Grenache, 15 percent Mourvedre, 3 percent Syrah, and 1 percent Cinsaut. It’s aged for 2 years in oak barrels and oak tanks, and bottled without filtration. A perfect match for a perfectly cooked steak.

This recipe was first published in The French Kitchen Cookbook. All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without permission.




Seared Duck BreaSt with Fresh Figs + Black Currant Sauce


This is a “Monday night special” in our cooking class in Provence. Our local butcher supplies the most delicious, meaty duck breasts, and a variety of fresh figs are in season from June to October. This super-easy all-purpose sauce could also be used on any grilled or roasted poultry. I use a good-quality balsamic vinegar here, but nothing super-thick or aged. Two brands that I most respect are Rustichella d’Abbruzzo and Leonardi.

4 servings


A warmed platter; 4 warmed dinner plates.


16 fresh figs
2 fatted duck breasts (magret), each about 1 pound (500 g)
Fine sea salt
Coarse, freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup (125 ml) best-quality balsamic vinegar (see Note)
1 cup (250 ml) crème de cassis (black currant liqueur) or black currant juice












1.    Stand each fig, stem end up, on a cutting board. Trim off and discard the stem end of the fig.  Make an X-shaped incision into each fig, cutting about one-third of the way down through the fruit.
2.    Remove the duck from the refrigerator 10 minutes before cooking. With a sharp knife, make about 10 diagonal incisions in the skin of each duck breast. Make about 10 additional diagonal incisions to create a crisscross pattern. The cuts should be deep, but should not go all the way through to the flesh. (The scoring will help the fat melt while cooking and will stop the duck breast from shrinking up as it cooks.) Season the breasts all over with salt and pepper. 

3.    Heat a dry skillet over medium heat. When the pan is warm place the breasts, skin side down, in the pan. Reduce the heat to low and cook gently until the skin is a uniform, deep golden brown, about 3 minutes. Carefully remove and discard the fat in the pan.  Cook the breasts skin side up for 10 minutes more for medium-rare duck, or cook to desired doneness.
4.    Remove the duck from the skillet and place the breasts side-by-side on the warmed platter. Season generously with salt and pepper. Tent loosely with foil and let the duck rest for at least 10 minutes, to allow the juices to retreat back into the meat.
5.    In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar and the crème de cassis, and warm over low heat.

6.    In a saucepan that will hold the figs snugly, arrange them tightly in a single layer, cut end up. Pour the warm vinegar mixture over the figs and cook over low heat, basting the figs with the liquid, for about 3 minutes.  
7.    Cut the duck breasts on the diagonal into thick slices, and arrange on the warmed dinner plates. Spoon the sauce over the duck slices, and arrange the figs alongside. Serve. 


Almost any good southern Rhône red would be perfect here. Cassis is an overriding flavor in the wines of the region; try the Côtes-du-Rhône- Villages Cairanne from the Domaine de l’Oratoire Saint Martin, the Réserve des Seigneurs, loaded with the spice of red and black currants as well as kirsch. 


Substitute cherries for the figs, and Cherry eau-de-vie for the crème de cassis. 

This recipe was first published in The French Kitchen Cookbook. All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without permission.

Chicken Fricassée


Neither my family nor my students ever get enough of a good chicken fricassée. Walter is a master at cutting up a chicken – students love to watch – and a nicely cut-up chicken (versus one that’s been “butchered”) makes all the difference.

6 servings



A large, deep skillet or Dutch oven, with a lid.


1 farm-fresh chicken (3 to 4 pounds; 1.5-2 kg), preferably organic and free-range,  cut into 8 serving pieces, at room temperature
Fine sea salt
Coarse, freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
2 fennel bulbs, trimmed and thinly sliced  
1 cup (250 ml) white wine
1 28-ounce (794 g) can diced Italian tomatoes in juice
1 cup (115 g) green Picholine olives, pitted
1 cup (115 g )brine-cured black olives, pitted
1/4 cup (60 ml) capers in vinegar, drained
12 artichoke hearts marinated in olive oil, drained
Cooked rice or fresh pasta, for serving


1.     Liberally season the chicken on all sides with salt and pepper.

2.     In the large, deep skillet, heat the oil over moderate heat until hot but not smoking. Add the chicken pieces (in batches if necessary) and brown until they turn an even golden color, about 5 minutes. Turn the pieces and brown them on the other side, 5 minutes more. Carefully regulate the heat to avoid scorching the skin. When the pieces are browned, use tongs (to avoid piercing the poultry) to transfer them to a platter.

3.     Reduce the heat to low, add the onions and fennel to the skillet and sweat  – cook, covered, over low heat – until soft but not browned, about 10 minutes. Return the chicken to the skillet. Add the wine, tomatoes (with juices), olives, capers and artichokes. Cover and simmer over low heat until the chicken is cooked through. About 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Serve with rice or fresh pasta.

Wine Suggestion

A regular house wine at our family table as well as in our classes is a Languedoc red, the Clos de l’Annel Corbières les Terrassettes from Sophie Guiraudo and Philippe Mathias. It’s a lively, spicy, peppery red that pairs well with this zesty chicken dish.

This recipe was first published in The French Kitchen Cookbook. All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without permission.

Rabbit with Mustard + Tarragon


Tender saddles of rabbit, bathed in bright-flavored mustard and tarragon sauce is both at “at home” meal as well as festive. I’ve lightened up and modernized this bistro classic, one that deserves its place at everyone’s table. Note that generally, rabbit has the same cooking time as chicken.

4 servings   



Toothpicks or butcher’s twine; a large skillet with a lid; a 10-quart (10 l) pasta pot fitted with a colander; 4 warmed dinner plates.


4 very thin slices pancetta or bacon
4 saddles of rabbit, each about 5 ounces (150 g)
Fine sea salt Coarse, freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 bottle (750 ml) dry white wine
1/2 cup (125 ml) French mustard
1 2/3 cups (410 ml) light cream or half-and-half
1/2 cup (20 g) minced fresh tarragon leaves
8 ounces (250 g) dried Italian tagliatelle pasta


1.     Wrap a slice of pancetta or bacon around each saddle of rabbit and secure it with a toothpick or butcher’s twine. Season generously with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat the oil over moderate heat until hot but not smoking. Brown the rabbit on all sides until well seared, about 8 minutes total. Transfer the rabbit to a platter. Wipe out the skillet.

2.     Pour the wine into the skillet. Bring the wine to a boil and boil for 3 minutes to burn off the harshness of the alcohol. Add the mustard, cream, and half of the minced tarragon. Cover, bring to a simmer and simmer for 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Return the rabbit to the sauce, cover the skillet, and simmer for 15 minutes. The rabbit should be moist, tender, and cooked through.

3.     Transfer the rabbit to a platter. Remove and discard the toothpicks or twine.  Tent the rabbit lightly with foil.

4.     Meanwhile, bring 8 quarts (8 l) of water to a boil in the pasta pot. Add 3 tablespoons of fine sea salt to the water, add the pasta and cook just until firm to the bite. Drain the pasta.

5.     Add the pasta to the sauce, toss to coat the pasta, cover, and let sit for 2 minutes to allow the pasta to absorb the sauce. Transfer the pasta with a bit of sauce to the warmed dinner plates. Arrange a piece of rabbit alongside and spoon more sauce over the rabbit. Garnish with the remaining tarragon.

Wine Suggestion

I enjoy this with a southern Rhône white, the Côtes-du-Rhône Bouquet des Garrigues from domaine le Clos du Caillou. It’s sturdy enough to stand up to the mustard and tarragon but likes the tender meat of rabbit and chicken.

The Secret

A fresh, newly opened jar of imported French mustard. Freshness is the secret here. A favorite brand is Edmond Fallot, from the town of Beaune.


This is also delicious prepared with two skinless, boneless chicken breasts. Omit the pancetta, or grill or pan-fry it separately. Slice the breasts on the diagonal.  Prepare the sauce, brown the breasts in a pan and then add the poultry to sauce and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Garnish with the crumbled cooked pancetta.

This recipe was first published in The French Kitchen Cookbook. All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without permission.

Asian Chicken Balls in Broth

GRIND Asian Chicken Meatballs in Broth low res.JPG

My love for Asian food is never-ending, and this easy, quick chicken meatball creation is a favorite. The secret here is to steam the meatballs so that they remain tender and succulent. Searing briefly afterwards adds a wonderfully caramelized crust without overcooking.

Makes 25 to 30 meatballs  



A food processor; a bamboo steamer.


1 pound (500 g) boneless, skinless free-range chicken breast meat
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Vietnamese fish sauce
3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger (or 1 tablespoon ground ginger)
1 teaspoon fine sea salt 1/2 cup (40 g) plain dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup (125 ml) minced scallions, both green and white parts
1 large egg, free-range and organic
1/4 cup minced fresh chives
1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish
1 tablespoon kaffir lime leaf powder (see page 443 of My Master Recipes; optional)
Chicken stock (page 402 of My Master Recipes), or William’s Thai Vegetable Bouillon (page 37 of My Master Recipes), warmed, for serving


1.  Cut the chicken into 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes. Spread the meat in a single layer on the baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze for 1 hour. The chicken should be stiff. (Freezing will help the food processor blade cut the meat cleanly, rather than tearing or smearing it.)

2.  Place the cubes in the food processor and process for about 15 seconds, until the chicken is coarsely ground. Transfer the chicken to a large bowl, add 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil and the remaining ingredients (except the chicken stock) and use your hands to blend the mixture.

3.  To prevent the mixture from sticking, wet your hands with cold water, then shape the mixture into 1-1/2-inch (3 cm) balls, about the size of golf balls.

4.  In a medium saucepan bring 1 quart (1 l) of water to the boil over high heat.

5.  Arrange the meatballs side by side in the steamer, cover, and place on top of the saucepan. Steam until cooked through, about 5 minutes.

6.  In a skillet sear heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of sesame oil over medium-high heat and sear the meatballs for a few minutes to create a crunchy, colorful exterior. Serve in the chicken stock of vegetable stock, and garnish with fresh cilantro leaves.

VARIATIONS: Serve with a trio of Asian Dipping Sauces – such as my Quick Asian Dipping Sauce, Sweet and Spicy Dipping Sauce and Vietnamese Dipping Sauce (from My Master Recipes) – or deep-fry for 2 minutes and garnish with a mix of cilantro, basil and mint.

This recipe was first published in My Master Recipes. All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without permission.