August 15, 2012

An Interview with Ellise Pierce of Cowgirl Chef & Book Giveaway! {Tales from the Trenches}

The cover of Cowgirl Chef by Ellise Pierce and an interview with her

I am so thrilled that my friend Ellise of Cowgirl Chef stopped in today to chat about her awesome new book, life as a Texan in Paris, and what is next on her delicious agenda! In case you missed it, yesterday I showcased some of the amazing recipes from the book. For all you parents out there, rest assured that the vast majority of her recipe are very naptime cooking-friendly and would be great for families. (They are also great for preggo ladies craving spicy food!)

1) Your new book, Cowgirl Chef, is a gorgeous compilation of your French-Texan fusion recipes. The concept is so intriguing and you’ve made every recipe so manageable for the home cook. How did you manage to break through the French culinary code and learn to cook like a Frenchwoman while maintaining your Southern cooking inclination? It evolved quite naturally…I’ve always been attracted to straight-up cooking that lacks pretention, and I think what people think of as “French cuisine” isn’t necessarily what people in France make day-to-day – you don’t find many people coming home from work and whipping up a demi-glace. Instead, cooking in France – and what I think of as “French cuisine” today —  is super-fresh and very much driven by what’s at the market. This alone changed the way I cooked and put things together, and dovetailed quite naturally with my Southern and Tex-Mex roots. The difference was – and is – in how these things come together. Now I’m just as likely to make a tart with a batch of fresh grilled veggies as I am to put them in a taco.

2) How do you combine your Texan and French cooking sensibilities on a daily basis? Add jalapenos to everything and see what sticks? Should we expect spicy croissants in the future? At this point, I’ve assimilated to the point where I no longer think in terms of us and them; there’s more of a natural borrowing between the two. Adding chipotle to crème fraiche and putting it on top of a cauliflower galette, as I do in the book, is a great example. The galette is quite Frenchy, but the galette is made with cornmeal – a Southern thing – and topped with crème fraiche (Frenchy again), spiked with chipotle, which is very Tex-Mexy. It all comes together quite organically, but when you break it down, you can see how the different influences come into play.

An interview with Ellise Pierce

3) Which, if any, French and/or Southern Chefs/Home Cooks have influenced your cooking style the most? I love the food from chefs Gregory Marchand at Frenchie and Daniel Rose, a Chicagoan, at his place, Spring, both in Paris. Both of these guys make wonderful, elegant, and simple food…seasonal, inventive dishes that aren’t fussy. At both places, the menus change daily, which is how it should be.

4) What is the one ingredient or dish from Texas you miss the most living in France? Fresh jalapeños. When I’m in Texas, I use them as much as I can…in salads, on pizzas, and of course, in as many fresh salsas as I can whip up.

5) How do your friends and family in Texas react to your combining of two nearly sacred cooking styles? I personally think it is brilliant and hope Parisians start serving cornbread madeleines in their patisseries soon! At first, I worried that people wouldn’t get it, but people seem to understand what I’m trying to do…use familiar ingredients and techniques and put things together in a new way, and with a twist, like my Peanut Butter Chocolate Soufflé, which is like an inside-out Reese’s. It’s funny because I find lots of inspiration – and permission to play around, which is what I’m all about –when I look at my French cooking magazines. They’re forever taking ideas behind their own iconic foods, and doing something entirely different with it, such as making a stacked veggie “mille feuille,” inspired by the flaky pastry that you’ll find in any boulangerie or patisserie, the mille feuille.

6) Can you give us a little hint as to what is next for Cowgirl Chef? (I personally would love to hear about Cowgirl Chef culinary tours and cooking classes in Paris!) I’m working on book number two already, teaching cooking classes on both sides of the pond (Paris and Texas), and working on a new video series. I’m also developing a line of unique Cowgirl Chef products — vintage-inspired aprons and big Frenchy-style scarves that’ll go just as great with boots and jeans as with a very girly dress…and yes, I’m also planning to do Cowgirl Chef Culinary Adventures, too. In Paris and beyond. Stay tuned!

To win a copy of Ellise’s book:

1) Leave a comment below sharing what you think would be a great Texan-French fusion dish.

2) Subscribe to The Naptime Chef newsletter (upper right hand corner)

3) Subscribe to Kelsey Banfield on Facebook

4) Contest runs through next Wednesday, August 22nd at 7:00am. Winner will be announced in the newsletter on Friday August 24th. Good luck!