Friday, December 23, 2005

Christmas Croissants!

I'm not a cookie baker. Should I apologize to my family?

I have been reading my favorite blogs and admiring all the beautifully decorated cookies that will get gobbled up during the Holidays. Peek at Nic's site and Joe, these guys must stay up all night!

Me.....Nothing rings my bell more than dough; pastry dough, bread dough.....I love it!

Nevermind that you have to start these babies a day in advance. Plus I haven't made Croissants for over a year, I might be a little rusty. I'm going to give it a try.
The dough in the photo is on its 2nd turn and sits each time for 2 hours before giving it the final 'wallet fold' turn. Leave the dough in the fridge overnight to ferment and grow!

First thing in the morning I pour my coffee and head to the back fridge to see how the dough behaved. It had risen a bit, but it was manageable! Sometimes a yeasted dough will act up and expand, then you have trouble!
Time to get my gadget out, compliments of M.O.R.A. and roll out my croissants! Somewhere, I learned that a good croissant must have 7 'rolls' (must have been a Frenchman). I strive for this each time, but you can see perfection failed me, and I have some with 8 and more!You leave these to proof in a cold oven with a pan of hot water for steam. They rise, but in a spongy way, if that makes sense!! This takes about 1-2 hours.
When ready for the oven, spritz the tray with water and bake for about 20 minutes.

Mine got a little more 'caramalized' than I would have liked, but very flaky and tasty!
I've got the other half of dough still in the fridge......shall I set my alarm early tomorrow to make sure my family have fresh hot croissants before the feeding fest begins?? We'll see! I'm missing an important family member this Christmas!!!

I hope this finds you healthy and happy and enjoying the season, wherever you are.
Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Lamb Shank Redemption

Boning up for an upcoming class today, I was perfecting some Slow Roasted Lamb Shanks. Before I write the recipe out for the ladies, I like to iron out all possiblities of a belly-flop during class, this means eating the dish, and sometimes a few times in a row, if I'm not happy with the outcome.
The Shanks have just come from their searing and are waiting for the aromatics to soften before they get doused with generous glugs of red wine. Then, baked for 3 hours the meat is fork tender. Served with some creamy Polenta in front of the fire place. Dinner in the suburbs! Well, just one of the items I'll demo for my Weeknight Food Class.

I think Max is giving me 'two paws up'.....he is gazing wantonly at those bones! The glass plate looks like his nose is sitting right on top and inches from the Shanks, but look close, optical illusion, and I must add that no Lamb was harmed in the shooting of this photo!!

This moment of sharing gives me an opportunity to participate in Sweetnicks sponsored WDB#14! This one should be fun, there is a theme of food & dogs, in the same room!

Now......back to my Lamb Shanks!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Rubies in a Jar!

Checking in with my favorite bloggers, like we all do, I discovered Dr. Biggles & gang on a Podcast in November! It was a fantastic show, lots of Holiday (Thanksgiving) insight and some good recipes were shared.

You know when you 'read' a blog, that blog has a voice......I really thought ol' Biggles was going to talk with a whiskey- voiced, southern-drawl......well, I was wrong, not even a tiny twang was heard! He sounded very Californian.

A very interesting recipe was called-in to the Podcast and I thought I might give it a whirl. Especially since the Cranberries were looking a little sad that were left in the crisper drawer from Thanksgiving. The recipe sounded like a winner and I even added some cherries and dried cranberries to the mix in a moment of inspiration!
It was an oven-baked Cranberry relish/sauce, the recipe couldn't be more simple. You mix the cranberries with some sugar & the addition of frozen cherries and the dried cranberries.....along with a jar of Orange Marmalade. So far, so good.

Then, throw the lot onto a cookie sheet and bake away for 45 minutes. All was well, until the juice started to rise precariously to the edge of the cookie sheet. All I could think about was that sticky mess dripping on my cleaned oven!! The day was saved when I threw in a large pan to catch the mess! Really, the juices got thick and no drips occured! False alarm!

Surprisingly, this little mess worked out. Beautiful in a little jar, served with a lovely piece of Pain Polaine, a slice of goat cheese and topped with this relish. This works just fine for the Holidays. I think it will be great alongside the Christmas Capon or whatever you find in the oven on Christmas Day!
Wish you were here!

Friday, December 02, 2005

A little round loaf

I needed a canapé loaf of Pan de Mie for my Holiday Class next week. I'll be starting the class off with a taste of Foie Gras on a little toast, topped with a spoonful of my Confiture de Vin. I won't demo the Foie or the Bread, but I will be cooking up a batch of Wine Jelly for the ladies!

The recipe I am using is cut in half....I dusted off my round molds (they don't get much use) and started to relax! Taking in the lovely smell of the fresh yeast, shaping my loaves of bread sure beats fighting for a parking place at the already crowded mall! Yes......little old ladies hop out of their cars to guard a parking place, while the husband circles back to the parking spot. Frustrated beauties in stilleto heels shake their fists from their Mercedes SUV.....ahhhhhh, the anger.......I love Christmas! ----Back to my dough!!

I've blogged about Pain de Mie before, so I won't bore you again. To shape this into the little mold, you roll, baguette style, and place into the buttered mold. This is the tricky part, trying to fill the exact amount of dough into the mold to make a perfect little round loaf. Mine are NOT always perfect! Try to fill the mold about 1/3 full. A pro will scale each loaf!

The result, not bad! With the leftover dough I made little rolls sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and topped with a coffee flavored glaze. Fresh dough is never wasted!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Gien -- The Factory Store

Thanksgiving Day was Clay's 18th birthday. I decided to treat him to a spectacular lunch at l'Astrance. 'Chef' knew that it was a special day and in the middle of the Egg Nog, served in the trademark eggshell, was a little Birthday Candle. It really was a special lunch! The chef had many surprises, some new dishes.
This was the start of our 4-day weekend. Followed by Clay hosting a 'dinner party' for the guys!

As you must know by now, that when it snows in Paris, it is a big deal! I always think it is because the local drivers = The French= ignore the icy road and drive like it is Le Mans race day. But, early Saturday, with the threat of 1 inch of snow in the forecast I felt like a drive to the town of Gien for some more dishes, would be safe, only 1 inch, right! Especially with a sunrise like we found yesterday! I didn't see any snow clouds! (It did snow like crazy on the drive back to Paris, but it was beautiful, and the other drivers on the road did behave, after all!

In a cooking class last week, a gal mentioned that she had just made the journey down to Gien and she found the shelves fully stocked. I thought I better head down myself, I needed to complete my Christmas set (Le Houx). It used to be a 3 hour drive but with the A77 being finished a few years ago this is a 2 hour trip! No sweat! Home before lunch!

I've been traveling down to Gien since before Clay was born. I fell in love with the different patterns and wanted to add the Oiseaux de Paradis for my daily use back then. Little did I know that I would be a collector of many plates!
The town of Gien isn't really much. It is in the Loire Valley so a tourist could pack in some site-seeing and shopping at the same time.
Saturday seems to be a big tourist day in the factory/musee. They had ladies painting the Faience, I'm sure they are thinking if you see the work that is involved you are inclined to spend more money! Don't you love the fact that you load your plates into a mini grocery cart, and you even have to pack and wrap when you leave.
I found some (more) plates on sale that Gien had made for Pierre Frey! Perfect for Autumn and Winter!

If you happen to find yourself in town during the lunch hour, I suggest Le Poularde. Lovely place on the Loire River, and each course is served on a different Gien plate!

Le Poulard
13, quai de Nice
54400 Gien
02 38 67 36 05

Such a beautiful table, and we didn't have time for lunch, just wanted to snap a photo in case you are there during you next Paris trip!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Puy Lentils

Lentils are good for you! These French Puy Lentils are beautiful! Look at that blue-green color! These choice lentils are grown in the volcanic soils of Puy in France, hence that deep color! They're great to cook with because they remain firm and have a rich flavor. They cook a bit slower than other lentils.
Just rinse them in cold water, 1 cup lentils to 4 cups water and bring to a boil, then simmer till tender. I always stick some bacon, onions and carrots in the pot to flavor the cooking liquid.
I like to simmer them till the liquid gets rather thick and the lentils are tender.....
Now comes the good part, the sausages!
These babies are British, they have been sitting in my freezer waiting to meet their perfect match. I bake the lot till the sausages are nice and browned.
To try to make this a healthier version, I added some baby spinach, it wilted and just peeks out! Instead my beloved Creme Fraiche, I had some leftover broccoli and butternut squash that I puree'd and that concoction got mixed in as well.

There you have it, one peasant style dish served proud!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Belgian Beef Stew, served in France!

The damp grey days have moved in. This is the time of year that can make or break a new ex-pat, endless clouds and short daylight hours can bring depression to a newbie! I've known many ladies who start to count the days that they have left in their 'tour' here in Paris, they are dreaming of the day when they depart Paris and head off to for the comfort of Kroger or Piggly Wiggly in their hometown. (did I ever feel that way, I don't remember!)

I'm afraid I've been here long enough to find comfort in the dark rainy days, I nest! I cook...... create new recipes! I light a fire every afternoon, a scented candle glows on my coffee table. There is usually a pot of 'something' bubbling away on the stove! In a word, life is COZY!
Today is no different, I've got a pot of Carbonnades Flamandes (Belgian beef stew- cooked in beer) in the oven cooking away slowly! This is the first time I've made this recipe, I love stews of all kinds, and this recipe looked pretty good! I had a special beer in the fridge, Biere au Cognac.....not a classic Belgium beer that the recipe calls for, but hmmmmm........the beer sounded interesting! Should tenderize the beef anyway!
My local Auchon carries an amazing selection of beer from around the world. You buy one beer at a time, instead of in a 6-pack. I've filled my 'back fridge' with Raspberry, Cherry, Japanese and other interesting beers. (note: a certain teenage boy will gaze dreamily inside my fridge, the euro-mom in me says, "Go ahead, help yourself"....)

What was most intriguing about this recipe is during the final half hour of cooking is the addition of a piece of bread that has been spread with mustard.....the idea is the bread will soften and dissolve into the stew, thus thickening it.Now, don't count points off for the addition of potatoes and carrots, OK!!

Note: Stay tuned, today is Beaujolais nouveau day, I'm heading off to my local Nicolas store to bring home some samples! I hear it is pretty good this year!

Sunday, November 06, 2005


Mmmmmmm, potatoes, cheese, onions & bacon!
Oh yes, lets not forget a huge dollop of Créme Fraìche de Normande!
This wintry favorite is from the Savoy region in France. It usually accompanies a ski break, eaten right in front of the fire place served with a large pichet de Vin Savoie!

No! I'm not on a ski trip. It really hasn't been cold enough for my fire place yet....I was just meandering around my local Super U looking for inspiration for dinner. Scanning the cheese section I spied some cheese for a Tartiflette. The package even had a recipe provided on the back! It didn't take long to fill my panier with some potatoes, onions de Roscoff and lardons. I plunked in some of my favoite Créme Fraìche (Reo brand) and was marching out the door.

The cheese provided in the package was not the cheese a true Tartiflette is comprised of, Roblochon cheese is the 'correct' cheese of the region. But......remember.....This was quick and easy, no fuss!

First take a little oil (your choice) and add the lardons. Fry. Then
slice the onions and potatoes, plunk into the frying pan and saute' away till tender.
Cube or slice the cheese, add the Creme Fraiche to a baking dish. Cook for a few more minutes.

Bake away in the oven for about 30 minutes.

Finished result......well, see for yourself! You only need a green salad to try to balance out that cheese! Really yummy, but next time, I'm going to get the 'correct' cheese, I think the Super U cheese was a bit too mild! Still, not bad for a spur of the moment question of What is for dinner???

Monday, October 31, 2005

College tour!

Back in Paris after our quick trip to Boston. Don't you just love the portable DVD and ice cream!!

We drove from Boston to Troy NY, I've forgotten how beautiful autumn in the states can be! 'They' say we hit the tail-end of the leaf season, and judging from our snowy trip back to Boston from Troy, I'd say 'they' were right. There was still enough color for me to appreciate fall! We managed to tour three schools.

Clay and I stuffed ourselves with seafood and I did some power shopping near the Marriott, Copley Place. Of course there was a beautiful Williams Sonoma for me to peruse many times!

Did I really need that 'breading tray set', you ask? I now wonder, how did I ever live without it! Look at that lovely Panko Crusted Chicken in the last tray, waiting to be seared in my copper pan. The eggs in the middle tray have been enriched with Moutarde Violette, that has 'mout de raisin' in it.

To accompany my chicken I got the 'big fat fryer' out and fried some sweet potatoes.
Healthy... no? Add a salad and I'm happy to be home again!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Come into the Kitchen

Before I head back out to Boston with Clay to do another college search....I thought I'd show you around the kitchen! This idea started in this bloggers kitchen and has spread from there.

For a French house this place has large a kitchen, I have a table in there! This table does double as a pastry board because of the beautiful marble top. Sometimes in French homes the kitchen is as small as the WC. We used to have a kitchen that when the oven door was open I had to straddle over the open door to get to the other side. No table in there!

My kitchen is big enough with a little rearranging that I can seat 10 ladies for a cooking demo. Cozy!Anyway, notice my copper and pottery collection. Tajine bases, pottery from Nice and Greece & other parts of France adorn my wall! Home is where my 'stuff' is, right?? I've got a real butcher block, found in an old junk shop in a nearby town. A prize antique marble pedestal table from a Boulangerie sits on top of the kitchen table.
Oh yeah, all that stuff hanging from a ceiling rack is in easy reach to pull down whenever I need it. That is in my laundry room/pantry/second oven and second fridge room.
I'm also afraid that there is another room that had to be given up for my kitchen equipment and cookbooks and my stash of precious items from the States (Campbells soup) and UK (Malden Sea Salt) and Chinatown. You get the picture, the cook gets a break when she needs more room. By the way, the painting that is in the armoire is for sale in 'print' form. She is great artist who lived in Paris for a while did that painting for me, all my favorite French things.I could upload more photos, but I need to pack my bag and take poor sad Max to the kennel!
See you soon!

Sunday, October 16, 2005


There is a fun event that many bloggers are participating in, called Blogging By Mail. The first event was created by Nic, of the fabulous BakingSheet. I received a wonderful box from Cathy! Over the summer, BBM2 was instituted. The number of participants are growing by leaps and bounds and BBM3 is now gathering names and addresses. This one looks pretty fun because there are items of interest you need to put into the box before you sent it off.
A couple of days ago, I received my box of goodies, from the BBM2 round. When I opened the box I was hit with a delicious coffee bean aroma! Next, I spied a can of Chai Tea....I opened the can was hit again with an exotic 'nose'. It smelled so delicious, I was tempted to use it as a potpourri. Pawing through the box, I found were some Nibs from Scharffen Berger Chocolate. This was the most delightful smelling box of treats I've ever encountered!
I can't forget about the lovely tea bread that was included in this incredible box! Karine, my BBM2 buddy sent a very detailed letter complete with recipes for the Lavender Tea Bread. And a recipe for Deep Chocolate Brownies with the Nibs from Scharffen Berger. Karine told me that she created this recipe herself! I can't wait to try it---always in the mood for chocolate! I can't thank Karine enough for all the kindness in the box!

I encourage you to get involved with BBM! You don't need a blog to participate. You'll meet new people from around the world and get a chance to sample some pretty delicious goodies and enjoy some regional specialties! Just click on the BBM3 link above and join the fun!

For those who participate in is your favorite Black and White dog!

Yep, he looks rather regal on the bed with his legs crossed....the calm before the storm. Max is very much a puppy who loves a good dig in my garden. Just part of the fun of owning a dog!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

You gotta' love 'em.....BEETS!

I love beets!
In France you can find beets already pre-prepared in the market. You use a giant pickle fork to neatly grab one and put it in your plastic sack, keeping your hands from being stained. You can also find them vacu-packed. These aren't your Grannies pickled beets! Sweet and earthy!
I do a beet chutney that accompanies a goat cheese stuffed chicken breast......the chutney has jalapanos & fresh cilantro & lime juice.. it is a good combo! The herbed goat cheese oozes out of the chicken breast, hmmmmmm........I might make it this coming weekend!

At the Ferme de Gally, they have some gorgeous raw beets right now. I wash the beet, wrap in foil and let the oven bake them till tender. Then comes the messy part, the peeling.
I am using a terrific recipe from Epicuious that is featured in the above photo, perfect for the upcoming holidays.
Beets are always a part of our fall table!

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Cleaning out the Fridge

You know the feeling, hungry....but nothing to eat in the fridge?
My family always complains that for such a good cook, there is never anything to eat. Hunger pangs didn't go away after a piece of fruit, so I started to dig-----down-----deep-in the back of the fridge------where green things grow!

It isn't that bad (just sometimes I find green things), but I did net some taboule' (yes, that is green) bought from the Galleries Gourmand, some Ricotta and Feta cheese as well were lurking in the fridge. I just happened to be thawing out some pizza dough from my Mediterranean Bread class a few weeks back, when, the creative juices were flowing towards a pizza compose'! Roughly translates to, dump anything that sounds good and semi-fresh on some really good pizza dough.

Now, on to somebody handsome and know him and love him......this is Max! The bearded one is, Clay!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Dinner on the Fly!

Somewhere between Indian Summer and today we have slid into Autumn. No complaining, there is something very cozy.....Grey sky, cool mornings, I really love it! I ordered my firewood today, beating the rush. Soon to arrive and be stacked.
I had found some fresh Pave' of Salmon in the market today and thought they'd be lovely on the grill for dinner. I also have been eyeing the new crop of Courge (pumpkin-like squash) at the Ferme de Gally, so I bought a little one. There was a sad eggplant in my vegetable bin along with some onions and a courgette. Dinner was being planned!

Yep, the American in Paris has lit her grill on a soft rainy evening. I'm sure my neighbors chuckle at me, and in December, they downright howl with laughter and point at the crazy neighbor with her Weber Kettle!

I started out making a 'ratatouille' type vegetable stew, but that pumpkin got chopped up and thrown in the pan, I made a Cartouch (a paper circle out of parchment paper) to keep the flavors/steam inside the pan, then found some coconut cream in the pantry. Next, that leftover rice that was in the bottom of the fridge. I reduced the juices from the vegetables and added the coconut cream, checked the seasoning and blended the veg, rice and amazing sauce together. The salmon was grilling happily in the rain, the wine from the September Fete de Vins was poured, family was called to dinner.

It really was one of the dinners that I wished I had invited some company. Next time!

Monday, September 19, 2005

A Gourmet Outing

This past Saturday and Sunday was the Jour de Patrimoine in France. That's National Heritage Day to you and me.

Gary and I headed out towards Giverny to attend the Fete du Patrimoine Gourmand d'Ile-de-France at the Domaine de Villarceax. What a day! Puffy clouds and 65 degrees. We arrived early enough to beat the crowds. On the gorgeous grounds of this Domaine we found locally grown veg. Local beer, cheese and bread!
All things dear to my heart! Everything was Bio, or organic.

Beautiful pumpkins and squash, wonderful fall colors!

They had cooking demonstrations, little Bistros set-up around the grounds, Merguez Sausages cooking on Weber grills (I get a kick out of Weber grills being used in France)

Bread was being baked and consumed on the premises. Someone had
to sample the home-brewed beer and taste some of that lovely
bread and Brie de Meaux!

Since the day was young and everyone (husband) was in a good mood......we headed over to Giverny, just to see if Claude has moved the furniture around. Giverny is a tourist magnet on a sunny Sunday afternoon, and it seemed that landed in the middle of an American Tour bus. The gardens were beautiful as you can see!

We even stopped at a gallery up the street. I found a great painting that I'll be considering.

Yesterday was one of the reasons that I love living in France!

Friday, September 09, 2005

Tag, I'm it! My Food Memories

I was tagged by Barbara, at Wino's And Foodies for a new 'meme', called, Childhood Food Memories!
I bet you think because I live in France that I grew up with foie gras and escargot on my morning toast! You are in for a surprise, I was a picky kid. I never wanted to eat at anybody else's house but my mom's and grandma's!
My mom made some great home-cooked meals! Whenever I need comfort food, I go back to beef stew, meat loaf, BBQ'd chicken, all those great meals from mom!

Get ready to go on trip down memory lane with me!

1) Mrs. Paul's Fish Sticks
One of my favorite meals was served on a Friday! Remember those 'Fish on Friday' days? We would have Mrs. Paul's Fish Sticks, french fries, lots of ketchup and Mott's apple sauce. That was always a treat for me! (I think this applesauce gene was passed to Clay. It was Compote de Pomme that he loved, but no meal was complete for Clay without 'SAUCE')

2) Velveeta Cheese Sandwiches on White Bread!
Another childhood favorite is Velveeta cheese sandwiches. Thick slices of Velveeta on white bread with lashings of Miracle Whip on top. Sometimes, when I was feeling creative, I would crunch up some potato chips on top, other days there might be some sweet-pickle slices on top of the cheese. (do you think I can demo this at my next cooking class?)

3) White Castle Hamburgers

Come on now folks, you have to recognize this fellow! This Belly Bomber, or Slider is from White Castle Hamburgers. We lived in Dayton and would drive to Cincy to see Grandma and Grandpa on Sundays......My dad would always time the arrival around lunch, so we could brings sacks of White Castles to eat for lunch. I could eat 4, and my sisters and I always knew how many we ordered and would have to have the correct amount of boxes of hamburgers in front of us before we would start to eat. (I had such fun introducing Clay, my Paris born son, to the joys of a Belly Bomber)

4) Hershey's Chocolate Syrup

No special evening was complete without what my mom would call a Party! Vanilla Ice Cream and Hershey's Syrup poured on top. I would let the ice cream melt down a little and then mix it together, this was my Party! Hey, life was easy back then! You can imagine how happy I was to find Hershey's Syrup in my local Auchon in Plaisir!

5) Fried Chicken, Mashed Potatoes and Country Gravy!

Ok......this is my favorite memory. Plus, it is one of the first things I learned how to cook when I moved to Dallas to fly for Braniff. Fried Chicken!! My mom always prepared this, but it seems as we got older, while in High School, my dad would make the chicken, and mom was in charge of the potatoes and gravy!! Dad did like to cook and had his favorites of things he liked to prepare.
We always had to have mashed potatoes and lots of Cream gravy with the chicken! Green beans on the side with a spoonful of bacon grease for flavor. This was real living.
To this day, when I want comfort food and on a chilly fall evening, I prepare this meal!

Now you know what shaped me! What great food memories I have.

Now....Who shall I tag?

Nic, from BakingSheet
Dr. Biggles, from Meathenge
Shuna, from Eggbeater
I'm interested in what food shaped these guys & gals. This trio makes for some very inspiring reading in the world of Bloggs!