Author: Persnickety Pierre

Serendipity Farmhouse on YouTube Today

At the suggestion of family and friends, Serendipity Farmhouse now has a channel on YouTube. There’s only one humble video there now, but with your subscriptions and helpful comments, there will be some quality content in the coming months.

So, click on this link here to see our first video. If you like what you see, please hit the like button. If you want to see more in the future, please subscribe to our channel.

Simple Rice with Mushrooms & Asparagus – Jacques’s Way

Jacques Pepin’s Rice with Mushrooms and Steamed Asparagus is a most simple and tasty meal. It’s perfectly suited for cooking in an RV or a small farmhouse kitchen. In this post, the formidable Serendipity Farmhouse Mobile Test Kitchen chefs will show you how it’s done. And I, Pierre LeChat, will provide invaluable tips on technique and creative cooking.

In his post Mobile Test Kitchen on the Shenandoah, Mr. Monte described the deployment of the Mobile Test Kitchen (MTK) to a perfect site along the Shenandoah River. That clever cat documented every move made by the MTK chefs. Now, after four days of painstaking review, I have organized and evaluated all of his most excellent notes, images, and videos. Once again, Mr. Monte has been awarded Persnickety Pierre’s Paw of Excellence.

Here’s the story behind this recipe test.

In his cookbook Quick & Simple, Jacques Pépin endeavors “to make your life easier.” And, while Jacques emphasizes times savings for people on the go, I find that his recipes are easily adapted to smaller kitchens such as one might find in an old farmhouse or recreational vehicle (RV). To prove this point, the amazingly skillful Chef Blondie took on the challenge of preparing this recipe in the tiny kitchen of the 24-foot RV she calls the SFH Mobile Test Kitchen.

Level of the challenge

Chef Blondie purposely chose this recipe because of its simplicity and readily available ingredients. She knew that she would have to make adaptations in ingredients and preparations. – In her view, any amateur chef can make this at home or on an RV trip.

Selection of good-quality ingredients

“Adapt and create!” That is a foundational principle for cooking in the MTK. Chef Blondie strives to use the best ingredients. But she knows quite well that sometimes the best ingredients just aren’t available. Likewise, there might not be sufficient time for shopping for a specific ingredient. That’s when you have to substitute.

For this MTK test, Chef Blondie deftly handled three such problems:

  • Rice: Jacques specifies the use of Carolina rice. Since Chef Blondie did her shopping at Aldi, there was no Carolina rice to be found. Because Carolina rice is a long grain variety, Chef Blondie substituted Jasmati rice she had in the SFH pantry.
  • Stock: Jacques specifies chicken stock. Two days a week the MTK staff abstains from meat. Therefore, Chef Blondie used vegetable stock.
  • Asparagus: Aldi’s is not the best place to buy quality asparagus. Because time was limited, however, Chef Blondie used the Aldi product. She had to discard quite a bit of the asparagus, but there was enough remaining that she was able to prepare the meal.

Despite the need for substitution and one low-quality ingredient, Chef Blondie’s adaptations and substitutions worked perfectly.

Use of cooking techniques

Jacques’s recipe requires that a cook possess but a bare minimum of skills. That is quite fortunate, because Chef Blondie needed Ol’ Fuzz Face to do some of the food prep. – He did moderately well and did not hurt himself.

Although technically not a technique, planning for a series of RV meals is an art form. When you are out in the wilderness, if you don’t have a key ingredient, you won’t have a meal. Chef Blondie and Chef Fuzzy have developed a very satisfactory method for making menus and ingredient checkoff sheets. – It’s really worth the time and effort.

Development of superior taste and flavor

Now, you might wonder how I can speak to taste and flavor of this dish in this evaluation. I wasn’t there when this test was conducted. It’s actually quite simple. The recipe yields six servings. Consequently, I was able to share a meal of leftovers with the MTK staff when they returned from their riverside adventure.

Because of that, I can attest to a very important point. This meal is tasty and satisfying even when served as leftovers. – Yes, the mushrooms held on to all of the original flavors. Wonderful notes of herbes de Provence continued to ring with clarity. – I can only imagine how delightful this dish was when first prepared by the able hands of Chef Blondie.

Presentation of Rice with Mushrooms and Steamed Asparagus

Keep in mind, dear Reader, a 24-foot RV is not the Inn at Little Washington. But for the staff of the Mobile Test Kitchen, every good meal deserves a proper setting.

Jacques's Rice with Mushrooms and Steamed Asparagus

In this case, a glass of wine bathed in the warm glow of candlelight brings joy to the heart. Likewise, a well-executed dish conceived by a master like Jacques Pepin brings happiness to the palate. – This table presentation brings both.

Happy cooking!

Jacques's Rice with Mushrooms and Steamed Asparagus

Rice with Mushrooms and Steamed Asparagus

Jacques Pepin's Rice with Mushrooms and Steamed Asparagus is a most simple and tasty meal. It's perfectly suited for cooking in an RV or a small farmhouse kitchen.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine French
Servings 6 people


  • 1 large saucepan with lid


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • cups coarsely chopped onion (about 6 ounces)
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped cremini or portobello mushrooms
  • 1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
  • 2 cups any long grain rice
  • 4 cups light chicken stock vegetable stock also works
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 18 stalks asparagus with firm tips


  • Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan and sauté the onion for about 2 minutes, until it is almost transparent.
    Jacques's Rice with Mushrooms and Steamed Asparagus
  • Add the mushrooms and herbes de Provence and cook for another 2 minutes.
    Jacques's Rice with Mushrooms and Steamed Asparagus
  • Stir in the rice, stock, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
    Jacques's Rice with Mushrooms and Steamed Asparagus
  • Cover tightly, reduce the heat to very low, and cook for about 15 minutes, until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
    Jacques's Rice with Mushrooms and Steamed Asparagus
  • While the rice is cooking, using a vegetable peeler, peel the lower third of the stalks or cut them off and discard.
  • After the rice has cooked for 15 minutes, lay the asparagus on top of it and continue cooking for another 10 minutes, or until the asparagus is cooked but still firm.
    Jacques's Rice with Mushrooms and Steamed Asparagus
  • Serve the asparagus with the rice on individual plates.
    Jacques's Rice with Mushrooms and Steamed Asparagus
Keyword rice mushrooms asparagus

Sourdough Crackers – Victory!

How important can baking perfect sourdough crackers be? Well, if you are the Executive Chef of the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen, it can mean a lot. For Chef Blondie it meant 16 days of agonizing anxiety, a second brutal disaster, hours of painstaking research and testing. And in the end, it meant the joy of ultimate victory.

farmhouse cuisine

Do I write with too much drama in my words? Consider that the purpose of the SFH Test Kitchen is to test. More precisely, it is to test and perfect. Chef Blondie knows the job isn’t done until she’s mastered a new recipe. Nothing short of mastery will suffice. And mastery often comes only after there has been a failure or two along the way. So yes, there’s been drama in our Test Kitchen. But it is passion directed towards success.

Sourdough Crackers – The Testing Process

In my post Sourdough Crackers – Test Kitchen Faux Pas, I recounted how we researched an array of sourdough cracker recipes. Chef Blondie selected one from the website Our Gabled Home. Anja has posted many good and reliable recipes on her site, and the Test Kitchen staff thought the post How to Make Sourdough Crackers provided an excellent overview of the topic.

Test #1 – Fatal Blunder

It would be painful to force myself to revisit that terrible day in the SFH-Test Kitchen when we conducted Test #1. We were negligent in our duties, and we suffered the penalty. If you haven’t read the sad story, you may do so here.

Sourdough Crackers

Test #2 – We Overcompensated

In Test #1 we burned the crackers. The flavor was there, but one would never serve those crispy critters to a guest. In response to our failure, the test kitchen staff unconsciously over compensated. Instead of simply saying we baked the crackers too long, we mistakenly blamed at least a part of the failure on the equipment we used.

Anja specified in her recipe that she used a silicone baking mat. We had used parchment paper. Ol’ Fuzz Face, rather naively said, “Well, perhaps we should follow Anja’s recipe to the letter.” He was so keen on that idea that he immediately had the test kitchen foot the bill for a set of silicone baking mats.

Sourdough Crackers – Mistaken Notions

In Test #2 we underbaked the crackers. There are two big reasons why.

  • First: Chef Blondie made it clear that time was a critical factor. She set the timer for 18 minutes. At that point she watched the sourdough crackers turn a beautiful golden brown. She assumed they were done.
  • Second: The use of a silicone baking mat subtly changed the whole baking equation. Our staff never considered that the baking mat would transfer heat more slowly than parchment paper.

As this picture clearly shows. We had what looked like a perfect pan of sourdough crackers. – It was not!

Those crackers did not crack. They would bend, but they would not and could not crack. – Crackers they were not!

Test #3 – We have sourdough crackers!

Chef Blondie’s complexion and demeanor after the second failure shall not be described here. Let’s just say that she was somewhat displeased.

Just as she had after Test #1, Chef Blondie assembled the entire Test Kitchen staff. We evaluated our procedures and our choice of equipment. We learned the following: We had overcompensated. And even worse, we had made wrongful assumptions. – We would try again!

In Test #3, we followed Anja’s recipe, but Chef Blondie made some simple modifications. When you view her modified recipe, you will see why she is both a master of the science and of the art of cooking.

As this picture clearly shows. We had what looked like a perfect pan of sourdough crackers. – It was!

Those crackers did not bend. They would not and could not bend, but they certainly would crack. – Crackers they were!


Sourdough Crackers – Summary

Sourdough Crackers

Once again, Chef Blondie assembled the entire Test Kitchen staff. We taste tested our sourdough crackers. – They were perfect. The addition of our own home-grown rosemary was a true delight.

Even Mr. Monte participated in our Sourdough Crackers Victory. He personally chose the selection of Gruyère, Jarlsberg, and Blue cheeses, we would feast upon when tasting these superb crackers.

Yes, Chef Blondie was true to her promise, “We will recover from this disaster! We will make a great batch of Rosemary Sourdough Crackers. And when we do, we will give the world the recipe.”

And so, dear readers, here is the SFH Test Kitchen recipe for Rosemary Sourdough Crackers.

Sourdough Crackers

Rosemary Sourdough Crackers

Sourdough crackers can be easy to make, but attention to timing and watchful eye are needed. This is a copy-cat recipe of Our Gabled Home.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Servings 1 container
Calories 1100 kcal


  • non-reactive bowl
  • Rolling Pin
  • parchment paper or silicone baking mat
  • cracker roller or knife, or serrated pastry cutter
  • cookie sheet
  • airtight container


  • 1 cup flour all-purpose
  • 1 cup sourdough starter discard or sourdough starter
  • ¼ cup olive oil extra virgin (or a bit less than ¼ cup)
  • 1 TBSP chopped fresh rosemary or crushed dried rosemary
  • ½ tsp sea salt


  • To a non-reactive bowl add 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of sourdough starter (or discard), ¼ cup of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of fresh chopped rosemary, and ½ teaspoon of salt.
  • Mix all the ingredients until you have a smooth dough that is not sticky. If it is still sticky, you can gradually add a bit more flour until it comes together.
  • Loosely cover the dough and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.
  • Preheat your oven to 375˚F.
  • Take the dough out of the refrigerator and with a rolling pin, roll it out on parchment paper (or a silicone baking mat) as thinly as possible. Lifting and turning the dough every so often will help getting the dough very thin. Don't worry about uneven edges.
  • With a cracker roller (or serrated pastry cutter or simply a knife), cut the dough into long strips. Then cut the dough perpendicular to make squares or rectangles.
    Sourdough Crackers
  • If not using a cracker roller, use a fork to prick each square or rectangle twice. This will allow air to escape during baking.
  • Place the parchment paper (or silicone mat) on a cookie sheet, place it in the oven, and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
  • When done, remove the crackers from the cookie sheet and let cool. For best results, store the sourdough crackers in an airtight container.
  • Enjoy plain, with some homemade butter, hummus, cheese, or your favorite spread!
    Sourdough Crackers
Keyword Rosemary, Sourdough crackers

Sourdough Crackers – Test Kitchen Faux Pas

How important can baking perfect sourdough crackers be? Well, if you are the Executive Chef of the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen, it can make the difference between a great week or a miserable week. And I can attest, for Chef Blondie, this week has been very dark week indeed.

farmhouse cuisine

Let us not start with the usual discussion of my great culinary skills and successes. Even though I am the amazing Pierre LeChat, there are times when I must admit with humility that I been part of SFH Test Kitchen failures. After all, can one trust a test kitchen that does not admit to mistakes in testing procedures? – Trust is built upon honesty. – Chef Blondie and her dedicated staff live by that motto.

Sourdough Crackers – A Special Request

A very special patron of the SFH Test Kitchen made an unusual request some weeks back. He had tasted some homemade sourdough crackers and found them to be quite enjoyable. Knowing of our recent sourdough bread successes, he asked if our Test Kitchen might develop a recipe of our own. – Simply stated, we knew we could.

Immediately, I researched the massive array of recipes of this type. Chef Blondie and her able staff selected one from my top five picks. While doing my research, Ol’ Fuzz Face purchased a special cracker roller for cutting the crackers so that they would have a uniform shape.

Turning Plans into Edible Reality

Finally, the day came. We assembled our mise en place. All in the kitchen performed their assigned tasks flawlessly. – We were going to make this work.

Sourdough Crackers

Sourdough Crackers – A Fatal Blunder

From my vantage point, all seemed to be going well. Granted, I was a bit concerned that the cracker dough had been rolled a bit unevenly, but not enough that it should matter. The new tool had worked as advertised. Fuzzy had made a wise investment.

Chef Blondie placed the pan into the oven. She set the timer for 25 minutes as the recipe stated. – That is when the situation started to go down hill.

True the recipe said to bake for 25 minutes. But that was a maximum time. We should have started to check the crackers at about the 18-minute mark. – We didn’t.

The phone rang. Texts started coming in. Each chef in the kitchen had individual distractions occur at about the 20-minute mark. – Call it poor planning, or a blunder. However, no words can soften the emotion of failure through a faux pas that results in a fiasco.

Trust is built upon honesty. – And what you see below is the honest truth.

Sourdough Crackers

Sourdough Crackers – Summary

Chef Blondie assembled the entire Test Kitchen staff. We taste tested our sourdough cracker faux pas. We learned the following: the crackers that had not burned completely, tasted quite good. Our addition of home-grown rosemary highlighted the potential of this recipe.

Stouthearted chef that she is, Blondie declared, “We will recover from this disaster! We will make a great batch of Rosemary Sourdough Crackers. And when we do, we will give the world the recipe.”

That is the spirit we have in the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen.

How to Cook Pork Tenderloin Jacques’s Way

The menu for the week was blank. Blondie and Ol’ Fuzz Face were in torrid disagreement on what to do. All they could find in the freezer were two pork tenderloin steaks. There was great unhappiness in the air. In a desperate move, I, the one and only Pierre LeChat, made the decision. We will learn how to cook pork tenderloin Jacques’s way.

farmhouse cuisine

No, the freezer wasn’t bare. However, over the last week, Blondie and Fuzzy had prepared beef, lamb, and chicken. They would not speak of vegetables, pasta, or fish because they had just finished a Lenten season in which they voluntarily abstained from meat three days per week.

So, they had to shop their pantry for something different, and pork tenderloin was all there was. Unfortunately, the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen had no recipes for that particular cut of pork.

The Quest for a Jacques Pépin Pork Tenderloin Recipe

Taking my decision to heart, my amazing friends searched high and low for how Jacques Pépin would prepare pork tenderloin with the ingredients they had on hand. None of their standard reference cookbooks contained such a recipe.

Ever onward, they searched through the Internet. Alas! There were no recipes that fit the bill. Blondie and Fuzzy were, to say the least, most frustrated. They needed help.

As we have come to expect, it was Mr. Monte who stumbled across a KQED episode of Jacques Pépin Cooking At Home. The dish Jacques prepared was called Pork Tenderloin Steak with Mushrooms and Corn. But, this was just a video, there was no written recipe. True, the footnotes to the video listed the primary ingredients. It was up to the viewer to interpret and remember what Jacques did and what order he did it.

That is where I stepped in and transcribed the entire episode. The recipe in this post is taken from my copious notes.

Persnickety Pierre’s Criteria of Excellence

Although this SFH Test Kitchen adventure was not planned, Chef Blondie decided to record the proceedings and make the results available to you, our esteemed and faithful viewers. Of course, the test would be conducted in accord with my personally developed – Persnickety Pierre’s Criteria of Excellence:

  1. Level of the challenge
  2. Selection of good-quality ingredients
  3. Use of cooking techniques
  4. Development of superior taste and flavor
  5. Presentation

In the SFH Test Kitchen, we take our work seriously. We test recipes under the same conditions and with the same challenges that confront any amateur home chef. The only difference is the SFH-TK staff is scientific and methodical. We record each step of the recipe process and analyze the results. Our end goal is to have a fail-proof, go-to recipe that can be listed on your weekly menu with the highest degree of confidence.

It works for the SFH-TK and it will work for you. 

Test Results & Commentary

As this was not a scheduled recipe test, the Test Kitchen staff had to make a lot of preparations on the fly. This, of course, can lead to some missteps and consume valuable time. Nevertheless, under firm guidance from Chef Blondie, every staff member performed admirably.

It goes without saying, but I shall say it anyway, Jacques Pépin has a range and depth of culinary skill that cannot be matched. This particular recipe presents both the essence of simplicity and an unusual element of surprise. The inclusion of frozen corn caught us off guard, but it contributed greatly to enjoyment of this dish.

1. Level of the Challenge

This is meant to be a simple, low-cost meal. It’s perfect for preparation in an old farmhouse or average home kitchen. Although our recipe allows 20 minutes for preparation and 40 minutes for cooking, the meal could easily be made in half that time. This is a meal that could be used by an entry-level home chef as a means to learn and perfect simple cooking techniques.

2. Selection of Good-quality Ingredients

Sometimes the recipe dictates the ingredients. In this case, however, the ingredients dictated the recipe. This is what the SFH-TK had on hand. The quality of the pork was excellent. The onion and corn were waiting for someone to use them. The mushrooms were fresh and ready take on subtle shades of flavor from the other ingredients. Unfortunately, we had no chives or suitable substitute, to use for a garnish.

3. Use of Cooking Techniques

This is meant to be a simple, low-cost meal. The SFH-TK staff encountered little difficulty in preparation of this recipe. The techniques used are simple and straightforward.

4. Development of Superior Taste and Flavor

Here is where the Test Kitchen staff deviated from Jacques’s video presentation. He chose to use V8 juice to develop a certain degree of acidity. Prior to adding the juice, he mentioned that you could use wine instead, but he did not specify white or red. The SFH-TK pantry had no V8 juice, so we opted to use red wine. We found the results to be quite satisfying. During our tasting session, we found the flavor to be well developed and we did not sense any deficiency in the level of acidity.

5. Presentation

The use of red wine changed the appearance of the dish. It made the meal components take on a reddish hue that tends to detract from the more natural colors of the pork and mushrooms. V8 juice produces the same effect, but to a lesser extent. Perhaps a good choice for us in the future would be to use a white wine.

Obviously, Ol’ Fuzz Face did not read my review Jacques’ Lentil Salad – SFH TK Test. Once again, he trotted out the Willow Pattern China for presenting this dish. Badly done, Fuzzy! That pattern is a distraction. Next time, be more careful in plating.

Remember, I’m watching. And they don’t call me Persnickety Pierre without good reason.

How to Cook Pork Tenderloin Jacques’s Way

So, without further ado, here is Jacques’s recipe. We’ve included pictures showing how the Test Kitchen employed his techniques. – If you desire to learn more about Jacques’s approach to cooking, check out his book Jacques Pépin New Complete Techniques.

Jacques's pork tenderloin steak

Pork Tenderloin Steak with Mushrooms and Corn

This is meant to be a simple, low-cost meal. It's perfect for preparation in an old farmhouse or average home kitchen. Although our recipe allows for 20 minutes of preparation and 40 minutes of cooking, the meal could easily be made in half that time.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine French
Servings 4


  • 1 Frying pan


  • 1 lb. pork tenderloin
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup sliced onion
  • ¼ cup red wine or V8 vegetable juice
  • 8 oz. coarsely chopped mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp water
  • ½ cup frozen corn
  • chives


  • Remove thick skin on top of the steaks using sharp knife.
  • Makes four 4-oz. steaks.
  • Add butter and oil to skillet
  • Place steaks in pan. Cook about 3-4 minutes on each side. The pan doesn't need to be covered, but Jacques partially covers it to prevent splattering.
  • Add sliced onions to pan.
  • Remove steaks, they should be slightly pink in the center
  • Continue to sauté onions and add wine or V8 juice; reduce, then pour over steaks.
  • Add butter and oil to pan
  • Sauté coarsely chopped mushrooms; add a bit of water if necessary
  • Add 1/2 cup corn; salt & pepper to taste
  • Add chives as garnish; sauté slightly
  • Add mushroom & corn as side for loin steaks
    Jacques's pork tenderloin steak


Keyword Pork tenderloin steak

Jacques Pépin’s Vinaigrette – Is It Better than Julia’s?

You want to make a vinaigrette for your guests. It has to be just right, but you’re running out of time. What do you do?

In our last post, we saw how Julia Child makes her Lemon-Oil Dressing. Now, you are going to learn how Jacques Pépin makes his classic Vinaigrette in a Jar. Jacques takes a different approach than does Julia. Although he uses many of the same ingredients, the proportions for those ingredients bear no resemblance to Julia’s.

Come join the staff of the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen as we recreate Jacques’s recipe. In this second post of a three-part series, we focus on development of superior taste and flavor. The reason for this will become abundantly clear in our next post. It will be then that Chef Luna, in a blind test, will answer for us this most important question.

Which vinaigrette is better? – Jacques’s or Julia’s?

Continue reading “Jacques Pépin’s Vinaigrette – Is It Better than Julia’s?”

Julia Child’s Vinaigrette – Is It Better than Jacques’s?

So simple – Make a vinaigrette for that salad you’ll serve your guests tonight. So complex – Make a vinaigrette that isn’t too acidic or too bland. Where do you begin?

Julia Child and Jacques Pépin each make flavor-filled vinaigrettes. These legendary chefs use almost identical ingredients. But that is where the similarities end. In their characteristic ways, they vary ingredient proportions to create vinaigrettes to match their unique trademark styles.

Come join the staff of the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen as we recreate both recipes. We will describe for you the magic that is taking place when making a vinaigrette. Then we will place two salads, each with their respective dressings in front of our uniquely qualified guest chef. – She will answer for us this most important question.

Which vinaigrette is better? – Julia’s or Jacques’s?

Jump to Recipe

Great Vinaigrette Challenge Background

farmhouse cuisine

Our Test Kitchen staff frequently watches episodes from the old PBS series Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home. Even better, dear friends gifted us with the book that accompanied the series – Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home: A Cookbook. The series and the book prove one very important axiom we live by in our Test Kitchen:

Two different paths can lead to equally fine results.

We decided to demonstrate how this can be. That decision is how the Great Vinaigrette Challenge came into being. We decided to use two simple recipes presented by Julia and Jacques on pages 114-115 of their cookbook. Our task was to show how the artistic choices of two great chefs would follow two different paths. And, despite use of individualized techniques, both Julia and Jacques would achieve equally fine results.

But that was not enough! We decided to go one step further. Though not a contest and certainly not a rivalry, we decided to bring in an unbiased authority to evaluate and decide:

Which vinaigrette is better? – Julia’s or Jacques’s?

A Three Step Challenge

We decided to divide the Great Vinaigrette Challenge into three steps, each with its own post:

1 – Julia Child’s Vinaigrette – Is It Better than Jacques’s? This post describes the challenge and presents the recipe for Julia’s Lemon-Oil Dressing

2 – Jacques Pépin’s Vinaigrette – Is it Better than Julia’s? This post presents the recipe for Jacques’s Vinaigrette in a Jar and compares and contrasts it with Julia’s recipe.

3 – The Great Vinaigrette Challenge This post highlights the tasting, evaluating and judging of the two competing vinaigrettes. Don’t miss this one. You may be surprised by the results.

What’s a Vinaigrette?

Were you impatient? Have you already clicked the “Jump to Recipe” button? Did you read through Julia’s list of ingredients? I’ll bet you were surprised to find that vinegar was not on the list.

Well, I can understand your impatience and why you jumped ahead. But now that you are back with me, I will share a simple truth with you. There is no single formula for a vinaigrette. – Yes, a vinaigrette should have an acidic component, but lemon juice is often used instead of vinegar. And there are a host of other variable ingredients as well. And that illustrates once again the Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen axiom:

Two different paths can lead to equally fine results.

Julia’s Lemon-Oil Dressing

Just about the time you come to an understanding of a culinary term, somebody throws a new one at you. All along, we’ve talked about Julia and Jacques and their vinaigrettes. So, why does the cookbook call Julia’s Lemon-Oil recipe a “dressing”? – Simple, all vinaigrettes are dressings, but not all dressings are vinaigrettes.

Julia Child found it worthwhile “to have a simple, standard dressing for everyday salads,” something that can be prepared in a moment’s notice. That was how she thought of her Lemon-Oil Dressing.

Persnickety Pierre’s Criteria of Excellence

There is no need to spend much time discussing how my Criteria of Excellence apply to this simple vinaigrette. It will suffice to note that, if Julia thought that this recipe is one that “you can whip up in a minute,” it should present no challenge to even the most junior chef.

There is a word of caution here. Selection of good-quality ingredients is an ever-important factor in achieving the fine results in taste and flavor you are seeking.


Now, you have learned that every good chef needs a back pocket vinaigrette recipe. Even Julia Child and Jacques Pépin have their go-to recipes. The basic ingredients are generally easy to find and easy to use. You can vary the basic recipes by changing ingredient proportions and adding herbs and spices.

Try out the recipe below and see how Julia does it. Our next post will give you the opportunity to make a vinaigrette the way Jacques does.

Once you’ve tried out both recipes, you will have accomplished two things. First, you will know how to make a vinaigrette. Second, you’ll be able to sit right alongside our highly qualified guest chef and make your own judgement:

Which vinaigrette is better? – Julia’s or Jacques’s?

make a vinaigrette.

Julia's Lemon-Oil Dressing


  • 1 Tbs minced shallots or scallions
  • 2 tsp Dijon-style prepared mustard
  • 2 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • About ¼ tsp salt or more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ cup excellent olive oil


  • Put the minced scallions, mustard, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a small mixing bowl and whisk until well blended.
  • Pour in the oil slowly, in droplets at first, and then in a thin stream, whisking constantly until the oil has been completely emulsified and the dressing has thickened.
  • Taste and adjust the seasonings.
  • Use immediately; if the dressing separates while standing, whisk to blend.


Upside Down with Julia Child

Pierre LeChat - the signature icon for the Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen

Love of fine food filled the Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen on St. Valentine’s day. Miss Blondie and Ol’ Fuzz Face returned to Julia Child’s Sauté de Boeuf à la Parisienne to honor this day. Meanwhile, Mr. Monte prepared Valentine Pie for his highly favored humans.

The Test Kitchen staff had two goals in mind – first, to simplify their cooking methods and second, to refine their execution of basic culinary techniques.

If you want to know if they achieved their goals, continue reading on. Should you desire to see the recipe first, just click Jump to Recipe below.

Continue reading “Upside Down with Julia Child”

Jacques’ Lamb Stew

French cuisine is not a delight reserved only for restaurants adorned with Michelin stars. Oh non! It is an art that may be practiced even in the most humble farmhouse setting. And I, Pierre LeChat, gourmand and expert on all that is food, will demonstrate this in a most conclusive way. In this post I will relate to you how the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen (SFH-TK) recently tested, mastered, and perfected Jacques Pépin’s Lamb Stew.

If, perhaps, you are anxious to view the recipe now and wish to return later to read my most interesting test report, just click Jump to Recipe below.

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Monticello & Granddaughter #1

Finally, the day has arrived.

A day I had been looking forward to for quite some time, and a bit of a surprise for me, bestowed by my wonderful grandparents.

Your post today is written by Granddaughter #1; the following is a description of some of the events which transpired during our little vacation to the grand Monticello.

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A first stop on life’s great adventure

After arriving from an extended but very peaceful drive, we had a bit of a problem looking for a good place to park. That wasn’t difficult for me though because of a little tradition I have for each time I travel. I find it very interesting to try and record every license plate I find (I also feel somewhat proud that people come from all over the country to visit my state, ahaha) and there were a lot of nice ones to see. Unfortunately, I was not able to record all of them, as I had nothing with which to write; however, I can tell you that many of them were from quite far away (Nevada, Oklahoma, and Washington State).

Following this, we were taken on a shuttle bus to the top of the mountain, where the tour would soon begin. However, I (rather foolishly) forgot that at high altitudes, it’s freezing, even in the summer. We walked all over and tried to keep warm, but it was not very effective, so we took to trying to record how beautiful the view was instead. This turned into some interesting “games”, as you can see below.

When we were finally able to begin the tour, it was slightly unnerving, as some of our fellow visitors seemed a bit dour. There was one boy who apparently was there with his parents for the benefit of his education; it seemed he was required to ask a certain number of questions of the tour guide.  One time, I heard him mutter to his mother, “I’ve already asked 3 questions … ” I felt bad for him, as there was a chance he already understood everything and did not need to ask any additional questions. However, it was a bit amusing, to say the least.

Unfortunately, we were not allowed to photograph the interior of Monticello, but I can tell you that it was absolutely stunning. Thomas Jefferson, though not an inventor, was certainly a very intuitive and reflective man, and came up with many ways to make his home not only visually appealing, but also as efficient as was possible at the time.

The garden tour came next. However, a tour had already begun, and it was really too late to join in on the next tour, so we ended up seeing everything ourselves. In my humble opinion, it was all for the better, as the experience I was most looking forward to at Monticello was photographing all of the flowers and vegetables. I love photography, especially still life, as it’s the only kind I’m very good at. I only had my phone, but had a nice time and was very satisfied with the photos I took.

Look at the beautiful view!

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I leave you with some of the exquisite sights from the garden, including some rarely seen “potato pumpkins” and giant okra. Except for the cock’s comb, I took all the pictures of the flowers seen, including that lovely, giant, white, rather energetic and adorable flower with the cute face … hehehe.

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