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These were supposed to be Swiss chard pancakes, but I always have spinach in my fridge (and I don’t like Swiss chard), so that’s what I made them with. Do what you can with what you’ve got, right?
Up until about the middle of last week, I’d been eating a lot of spinach as part of my pre-pregnancy diet. Seriously, I was eating it 3-4 times a week. As soon as I became pregnant, I lost almost all interest in spinach – in all green vegetables, actually. I don’t even really like to look at them, and the thought of even preparing them sometimes makes me want to gag. I have found that once I do get everything prepared and cooked, I have no trouble eating it. I just don’t like looking at it!
Which explains why I put these off until yesterday. When we voted on April recipes, this was one I was looking forward to. Spinach is one of the very few leafy greens I willingly eat. The dish seemed relatively simple – a savory pancake flavored with herbs and something green. Easy and quick to make, something anyone can appreciate, pregnant or not.
In France, these little green pancakes are called farçous, and Swiss chard is the traditional green filling. They can be served as a snack, as a side dish, or as a light main meal along with a salad. Well, that last option sounded absolutely terrible to me and my uncooperative stomach (and to Geordie, who likes some meat in his meals), so I decided that these would have to be a side dish. I served them along with some sauteed mushrooms and a nice piece of filet mignon.
These pancakes are very easy to assemble; pancakes typically are, which is one of the things that makes them so great.
Dorie states that these are fine without much in the way of garnish or topping – and she’s right. There’s enough flavor in these little pancakes that they don’t need any boosts. But, I served them with a little sour cream anyway, just to add a little creaminess to them.
I’m really glad I made these. They smelled great while I was making them, but I still wasn’t feeling the whole spinach thing until I ate one of them. This has become pretty common for me – I spend the whole day feeling queasy and wanting to eat nothing, but as soon as I start eating, my appetite takes over and nothing is as bad as I feared it would be. I actually think these were exactly what I needed to get a little spinach into me; they’re mild but not bland, with enough flavor to be tasty without being overpowering. By themselves, they’re a bit on the light side, but they could be easily adapted go with various proteins. With a little cream cheese, they were great as a breakfast this morning!
They definitely need to be served as a side dish, though. They just don’t have what it takes to stand as a main dish, especially since they’re so adaptable to whatever protein dish might be presented. The herbs can be played with a bit; Dorie suggested parsley and chives, but I opted for rosemary and thyme, which was a great combination. Also, the topping can make a difference – we added a little BBQ sauce to our steak, and it actually went pretty well with the pancakes too! (And no, it was not an idea produced from strange pregnancy tastes – Geordie tried it before I did!)
These will be really nice to have in the fridge – when pregnancy hunger descends upon me, it hits hard, and these are handy to have when I need to put something in my stomach immediately. I get the feeling I’ll be making these again before this pregnancy is over! A nice way to trick my body into ignoring the greenery aversions and eat something healthy for a change. This week, all of my cravings have revolved around pizza heaped with cheese and fried chicken sandwiches. Comforting and delicious, perhaps, but probably not the best stuff for baby and me. Why can’t I have a craving for something healthy?
To see how the other Doristas did with their farçous, check out the French Friday links. Happy cooking!
Oh, and before I go, I must wish my husband a Happy Birthday today! Usually, I make him something special for his birthday, but this year, he really wants a good Japanese meal, so we’re going to give a local restaurant a try. Which I’m okay with, because cooking has been a little beyond my capabilities lately. Gasp! It’s just a temporary thing – once the first trimester passes, I should be feeling a bit like my old self again. I hope!
This is a pretty good example of intimidating French food. Not so much in the ingredients – the only odd one there is preserved lemon, which really isn’t that odd, seeing as how easy they are to find at Whole Foods or Middle Eastern groceries. No, the intimidating thing here is the method, which asks you to take some fish, add a couple egg whites and some cream and throw it in a food processor so you can make a mousse of it.
It only gets Frenchier from there.
I wasn’t sure about this one. For one thing, there’s no picture of the end result: a steamed sausage of fish mousse filled with lemony spinach. I can honestly say that I had no idea what the hell I was doing when I made this. Perhaps it was just the inability of my pregnancy brain to figure it all out, but I really didn’t know what I was doing. I had no image of what the final dish should look like. The whole thing was very perplexing to me.
This is a recipe broken into three parts: a tomato sauce for accompaniment, the spinach filling, and the fish roulades themselves. Let’s start with the tomato sauce.
Easy. Everything’s just thrown into a pan and softened before getting transferred over to a blender to become a surprisingly small amount of sauce. True, I had halved it because I only had two decent tomatoes, but it was maybe a half-cup of sauce. I was starting to have my doubts. But, it was easy to make, especially since it could be made ahead of time, so it had that going for it. Into the fridge it went.
Next: the spinach filling.
This was also quite easy and fast and suitable to make ahead. Pretty standard stuff: spinach, garlic, more lemon, plus a little water to help the spinach cook a bit. It didn’t drain very well, though, which may or may not have caused problems later. Dorie does not specify wringing it dry, but it might be worth doing. Even though most of the liquid stayed in the pan, the spinach was still pretty wet.
But, moving on to the main event: the fish roulades. This wasn’t going to be so quick and easy.
Also, I had – as I mentioned before – no visual reference and therefore no idea what I was doing.
I have no idea if it was supposed to look like that. Dorie said it should be smooth – nope. It should be thick – well, yes. Sticky? Definitely. Two out of three? Okay, good enough for me.
Then, things get really fussy. Plastic wrap (one of my least favorite things to work with) is laid out on the counter. A quarter of the puree went onto and was smoothed out into a rectangle, thin but not too thin. A quarter of the spinach is then spooned onto the middle of the rectangle, and then it’s all rolled up into a neat sausage.
Except, not so neat. Almost immediately, liquid began leaking out. Spinach juice? Cream? Cod juice? A combination of the three? All I know is this: I hate rolling things, I hate twisting them closed, and I hate things that leak liquid and leave a mess all over my counter. The entire time I finished rolling these out, I was thinking, this had better be the best damn fish dish I’ve ever eaten.
Once the roulades were all made, they went into my good old bamboo steamer to cook for about 10 minutes. While that was going on, I sauteed some asparagus with bacon, which assured me that at least something edible would show up on the table.
Upon opening the steamer, I found that a lot of liquid had seeped out of the roulades and was stuck in the plastic wrap. It made a horrible mess on my cutting board. And the roulades just fell apart when I moved them from steamer to cutting board. Delicate? Yes. Infuriating? Yes. But I was so hungry by this time that I had ceased to care what the dish looked like. All I wanted was to eat!
I wish I could blame my assessment of the flavors of this dish on the pregnancy, but the truth is, I find that flavors are enhanced when I’m pregnant. Maybe it’s because my sense of smell becomes truly super-human. I don’t know. But things just taste . . . more.
Except for this. It didn’t taste more. It tasted mostly like nothing. And spinach. It tasted mostly of spinach.
Which is fine. I like spinach. But the fish mousse had no flavor whatsoever. Maybe I didn’t salt it enough. But by itself, it was like eating an egg white omelet. Nothing. Just nothing. Geordie concurred. Not even the tomato sauce helped, because I found the tomato sauce to be bland too. None of the flavors stood out to me, not even the lemon. Thank goodness for the asparagus, because otherwise, this meal would have been a complete waste.
Some of the Doristas really liked this (check out their links!), but I was mostly unimpressed. Yes, it was fussy and kind of a pain in the ass to make, but I could have forgiven that if it had just had some kind of flavor. Any kind of flavor! When done properly, I imagine this does have an air of elegance to it, that it does stand out as an impressive dish. But, if it has no flavor, what’s the point?
Not going to repeat this one. Sorry, Doristas, but it just didn’t work for me!