An Alsatian Dining Experience

When friends or relatives arrive from out of town and you want to take them out for a French dining experience, or if you need to celebrate a special occasion or just want a romantic dining experience, then the legendary Alsatian restaurant, L’Auberge Chez François is the place to go.

Set on 6 scenic acres in Great Falls, Va., enjoy fine dining in a calm and relaxing atmosphere among towering trees and rolling hills. L’Auberge Chez François brings the Alsatian countryside to America. For Alsatians, great food should be served in an intimate setting along with beautiful scenery. Guests are served in a warm, congenial and inviting atmosphere reminiscent of the little family inns — or “auberge” — that dot the Alsatian countryside.

Now you can also enjoy your favorite dishes in the afternoon as the restaurant has begun serving its award-winning recipes for lunch. One of the new lunch offerings is a four-course prix-fixe menu for $36 per person that includes a choice of appetizer, salad, main course, dessert, a glass of wine and coffee or tea. Menu specials will be offered through the seasons, using the best fresh, local ingredients available. Here are some favorite recipes, one of which Chef Jacques prepared recently on the Today Show. Strawberries, rhubarb, asparagus and tomatoes are in season, so enjoy!

STRAWBERRY AND RHUBARB SALAD

Serves 4

5 to 6 stalks of rhubarb (6 to 8 ounces)
1/3 cup evaporated cane juice or sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 vanilla bean
8 large strawberries
12 mint leaves

TO PREPARE THE RHUBARB

Trim the ends and lightly peel the outermost filaments of the stalks. Split the prepared stalks down the center lengthwise and cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch dice. Approximately 1 cup should remain. Place the diced rhubarb in a small bowl and mix thoroughly with the sweetener. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The following day, use a rubber spatula to scrape the prepared rhubarb into a strainer set over a bowl to collect the juice. Allow the rhubarb to drain for 5 minutes, tossing occasionally.  Place the rhubarb back into the bowl and reserve.

TO PREPARE THE SYRUP

Transfer the strained juice to a small saucepan and add the water, split vanilla bean, lemon juice, and 8 mint leaves. Place over high heat and bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer about 4 minutes. Approximately 1/3 cup should remain. Remove from heat and strain the hot syrup over the reserved rhubarb. Chill.

TO SERVE

Divide the prepared rhubarb between two serving bowls. Wash, stem, and slice the strawberries and place around the edges of the bowls. Garnish with the 4 reserved mint leaves.

ALSATIAN STYLE ASPARAGUS

Serves 2

8 to 10 ounces large asparagus
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons grated cheese (Parmesan or Gruyère)

TO PREPARE THE ASPARAGUS

Peel the asparagus, if desired, and cut off the tough lower stems. Steam the asparagus over salted water to blanch, about 2 minutes. Asparagus should remain fairly crisp. Drain at once on a towel.

TO SERVE

Preheat the broiler. Divide the drained asparagus between two ovenproof serving plates with the tips pointing in the same direction. Season with freshly ground pepper. Sprinkle the cheese over the plated asparagus and place under the broiler until the cheese is lightly browned.

The asparagus may be prepared ahead and reheated.

BAKED TOMATOES WITH HERBS

Serves 6

2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Pinch of freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon of combined ground rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf, or herbes de Provence
1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley
6 ripe medium tomatoes
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
Olive oil

Melt butter in a small saucepan. Add the garlic and cook 5 seconds. Immediately mix in the bread crumbs, salt, pepper, spices, and parsley. Thoroughly blend in the ingredients with a large spoon and remove from the heat.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Wash and dry the tomatoes. Remove the stems with a small knife and cut each tomato in half, crosswise. Brush with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and place in a baking pan. Bake the tomatoes approximately 8 to 10 minutes, only enough to heat them thoroughly. Cooking time will vary, depending upon the ripeness of the tomatoes. Remove from oven.

Increase oven temperature to broil. When ready to serve the tomatoes, generously sprinkle each half with seasoned bread crumbs. Brown lightly under the broiler and serve.

© Chef Jacques Haeringer, L’Auberge Chez Francois, Great Falls, Va. L’Auberge Chez François is available for weddings and special events. For more information, visit www.LAubergeChezFrancois.com www.ChefJacques.com or check out Chef Jacques at www.ChefJacques.com and on Facebook @JacquesHaeringer. 

For more recipes, visit www.cookingwithsheilah.com.

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