Sunday, December 31, 2006

Scorched Ego, Singed Pride

My two favorite shadows enjoying a foggy evening in the City of Lights!

As we get ready to start a brand new year, and I celebrate the start of my third year of blogging, I think I should share a little story with you!

Here you find the makings of our traditional Christmas Eve dinner- Lobster Fettuccini! Fit for a King!

This menu was requested from afar, and when 'he' arrived, he asked in the car on the drive home, 'Did you get the Truffle yet??'
All was well, on Christmas Eve, we were going to unwrap, then eat, then drive into Paris to see the 'Lights'! The presents were opened and the 'boys' were upstairs playing with their new toys, The Samsung K5. Dinner was almost ready and I warmed up the cognac, turned off the vent-a-hood.....lit the cognac......are you starting to get a feeling of where this is going?
The cognac was burning beautifully and I proceeded to pour it on top of the, it was really burning now!! I put the lid on to stop the inferno. I noticed a bright light out of the corner of my eye......yep, the filter in the vent-a-hood was blazing brightly and dripping burning black pieces into my pasta. Being married to a pilot we keep 3 fire extinguishers placed throughout the house with one being in the kitchen. I was hoping the fire would just go out, but the pilot took command and extinguished the fire.
I think we should call the fire department even though the fire was out. This is an old house, I'm not sure about the wiring etc. I called the Pompier, and tell them that the fire is out, but please come without the sirens and without the lights!---I was embarrassed enough already!
A few minutes later there is a van at the gate, no lights, whew! I invite them in, only to discover it is the police, just checking on things before the fire department arrive. They see no fire and the Policeman compliments me on my kitchen decor, I feel as though I should offer them a drink and invite them for dinner!!
Next to arrive is the Fire Department.......not one truck, but TWO large trucks arrive with their blue lights flashing.....this is guaranteed to bring the neighbors out on the street. The Chief also detemines the fire is out, no need to worry.....enjoy the rest of the evening.
I'm feeling pretty awful, and the guys are still hungry. Thank God for leftovers and fire extinguishers!
Happy New Year........I think it is going to be a great one!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Dear Alton Brown,

Thanks for sharing this recipe!!

We are zooming into Christmas and fast. The menu has been chosen, shopping has begun. A few old standbys and a couple new items will appear this year. Discussion to follow!
There is an old standby for Christmas morning I like to serve while opening presents, but it wasn't always my best work. Cinnamon Rolls! Sometimes they were a bit dry and no amount of frosting would make that dough moist.

But thanks to Mr. Alton Brown, I found a new version. The Overnight Cinnamon Roll. Yes, this recipe talked to me the moment I glanced at it. Overnight dough, I love it, I usually let my pizza dough ferment overnight in the fridge, I let my Croissant Dough rest overnight as well. The second item in his list of ingredients was Buttermilk.....yum.......that tells me that the dough will be tender.

The dough was a breeze to mix. After it had risen for 2 hours and I was rolling the dough out, it was lovely to work with, I could tell that this 'might be the one' I've been looking for all of these years. It was smooth, silky and smelled delicious, even before it was baked!
In the morning when ready to cook, you give the cinnamon rolls a humid proof in your oven. Then heat the oven up, and bake. It is a winner!

Continuing in the experimental mode of cooking this week, I did alter Mr. Brown's recipe a tad. I thought I might put a little French spin on the rolls. I had a little can of Chestnut Spread in the cupboard, I spread that on the dough and covered the spread with chopped Pecans.
The next time I make these I will also add some Glacé Chestnuts along with the Pecans. These could be the French answer to Cinnabuns!! C'mon, lets think of a name!!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Flavored Pastry Inspiration

Do you like to experiment in the kitchen? I do! I had a seat mate on a flight back to Paris who liked to cook. He quizzed me about what I cook to Impress a Guest. I had to answer that I just don't cook like that anymore. When people come over I'm usually inspired to try something new, and feeling confident in my friendships, I know the telephone number of our little Pizza place if the meal falls flat!

I taught a class in Pastry Making a few years ago. This was a hands-on class and one of my favorite classes to teach, btw. I just recently received an eMail along with some photos from a gal who took that got me excited to get my hands back in the dough again! I've blogged about my Tapenade Pastry and my Chocolate Dough......and with Clay arriving in the early morning, I love to serve up a Tart for lunch. You can make them in advance and rewarm gently to welcome a loved one back to France!

I decided to try something new, and create a new flavor for my Flavored Pastry. This brand of Pesto called Sacla has some great flavor combos, and the little jars can be added to most sauces, you can top a pizza, slap on a wrap sandwich, they are great to keep in your cupboard! I replaced the little jar of Tapenade with this olive and tomato pesto, thinking it would be a great flavored dough for my tart.

click on the photo for a larger look

You can see the color and the little bits of black olive that dot the dough. It was a pleasure to roll out and when blind baked it filled the house of lovely smells of the Mediterranean. Try it!

Do you see my new toy? The Matfer nylon rolling pin! First mentioned by "Martha" who was working with Maury Rubin of City Bakery fame, then I saw it mentioned again in Chow's Gift Guide. Nice weight and the dough just glides beneath it!

This Caramalized Onion and Spinach tart with a Marscapone Bleu Cheese is rich and delish! I think the dough recipe is a keeper!

And as someone sleeps away the jet-lag, my house is filled with love and lots of cooking!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Guess who is coming for Christmas?

I've got just a few more days to prepare! Crowded stores, people fighting for a parking place can not change my mood! I smile, and believe it or not, 'they' smile back....despite themselves!

Colleges are breaking for Christmas, and my 'bearded baby' is boarding an airplane soon! He has already requested 'certain' foods.......and I'm cooking like crazy right now!

Above is my apple chutney. This goes with a multitude of foods......from a perfectly ripened Camembert, mix the chutney with some goat cheese & stuff a chicken breast with this mix, just think of the possibilities! Simmering right next to the Chutney is Alton Brown's Tart Cranberry Dipping Sauce. This is not just a dipping sauce at our house, it is a Holiday Condiment, paired with terrines, cheese, Turkey etc. Again, the possibilities are endless!

Below are the finished products in a few cute 'baby' spice jars, perfect for a special friend!

I made Delia's Turkey Terrine this year to keep in the fridge for guests and a hungry college boy. It marinated for a night and now will sit in a water-bath cooking gently.

And to think, I've got a few more days to keep on cooking! Check back to see what is on the menu! Yep, I'm thinking Croissant Dough again!!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Thai Style Moules

On a cold blustery evening this steaming pot of mussels hit the spot! I must tell you that the 'old man' was doubting this dinner. He just was unsure about coconut milk and the Thai Curry Paste. After he finished his first bowl and went for seconds then on to thirds, I knew I had a hit on my hands.

A simple combo of shallots, grated ginger and minced garlic started out just right. The aroma of the aromatics filled the kitchen and the 'doubting Thomas' was making appreciative noises from in front of the fire place. Although he still wasn't convinced.

Then the Thai Red Curry Paste was added as well as some chopped cilantro. Finally the Coconut Milk rounded out the pot and the moules were dumped in.

A crusty baguette was on hand to sop of the broth. And guess what the 'old man' said......"I'm not sure I can go back to our old style of cooking mussels"! That made me smile!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Choucroute Garni

Posted by Picasa Sauerkraut and a convenience package? This is the second time that I've blogged about Convenience Cooking in France.
You know there are just times when you are starving, but really don't want to cook. These were sitting in the fridge just waiting for an evening like that!
These little pre-packaged gems have a fairly long shelf life, they are vacuumed sealed. And darn it.......they are good!

Posted by Picasa
I was at my local Auchan, the guys were stocking several differnent brands of Choucroute. I asked which one was the best, they gave me a choice. I choose this brand. Plenty of sauerkraut and lots of 'garni'. A frankfurter, a smoked sausage, 2 bacon slices, some ham slices and a lone potato fit into this meal for one.

I usually pour a little white wine in a baking dish and add the 'lot', then throw the dish in the oven. I love to boil some potatoes for mashing and dinner is served.

A warming meal on a blustery evening! Pass the mashed potatoes, please!

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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Confiture de Vin

Wine and sugar??? Have I gone off the deep end?

What does a nice bottle of dessert wine and a sack of Confisuc have in common? What better way to begin the Holiday Season than with a batch of wine jelly! I was invited to join a Cooking Group this year. A fantastic bunch of ladies.....we run the gammit of skill levels, from the novice cook to a shy British gal who I think has many culinary tricks up her sleeve.
We meet once a month in the spirit of creating, sharing and EATING! Plus, there is a bit of imbibing and groovin' to the best of 80's funk!

December is my group's turn to come up with a theme, we also buy the food and host the ladies. Our theme is Hors d'oeurves, this idea came from our Swedish gal or resident Ikea expert.

The jelly really compliments the Foie Gras (am I still allowed to talk about this, it isn't banned here in France!) on a slice of Homemade Pain de Mie. You could also use the jelly to finish off a sauce that might need a little extra something! Just don't spread it on your morning toast!

The recipe is simple, just bring the wine to a boil and flame! (try to remember where you put the fire extinguisher). Add some spices and and Confisuc...after a 20 minute simmer and you'll have Wine Jelly!

I'm using little spice jars for my jelly. They will sit at each place setting with a little Santa Decoration! The color of the jelly is just beautiful!

Time to Deck your Halls!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Creating Memories!

Back from a quick visit with my son in college. It was a marathon visit--- shopping (the sales), movies (5 in 7 days), hockey games---celebrating a birthday......and....Thanksgiving!

The college started to empty out on Tuesday afternoon. I watched moms in velour track suits assist their student carrying large hampers filled with dirty clothes. There were a handful of kids that were taking off for home late, so the dining hall was open. My son invited me to join him for dinner. I was looking forward to this experience.....I read an article in CNN about the trend for some colleges to cook from local suppliers and his college was mentioned. My expectations were high, needless to say. I ordered the nightly special which included a selection of veg. I choose broccoli, one of my favorite vegetables. I ate the meal, it was tasty, then tried the was horrible! This did not taste of any vegetable I ever met. If you wanted kids to get turned-on by broccoli, this was not the way to do it!

After dinner he joined me in the hotel.....thoughts of Thanksgiving food and where to go filled my head. I really don't like restaurants for a Holiday meal.....I had some recommendations, but I remembered that there was a full kitchen on his floor and I thought voila! An empty kitchen on a holiday needed to be filled with love and food! This was also a great opportunity to teach my son how to roast a 'bird'. Not a Turkey, but a Cornish Hen and some much needed vegetables!

The Hall appeared to be empty, just like the college, it is strange to be in an institution usually buzzing with life, but that afternoon wonderful smells filled that kitchen. Even though it was silent, we gabbed and ate.....and it was one of the best holidays I have spent!
Despite the plastic and wine.....we supped heartily and I enjoyed teaching my bearded baby another notch in his culinary repertoire.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Ciabatta Bread

Yup, more bread! Biga in action.....look at those gluten strands as this wet, unruly dough gets dumped on the table! With some gentle handling it gets slipped onto the baking sheet.....
After baking, it looks just like 'grandma's' slippers'.

This bread makes fantastic garlic bread!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Cold Weather Grilling

Normal fall weather here in France. Frosty-n- foggy mornings sometimes turn into a clear sunny day. Straight from back-to-back cooking class.....Gastropub Class......the 'old man' decided, late yesterday afternoon, to cook dinner for me!

Fall Table Setting for the Gastropub Class

He suggested Grilled Steak, big baked potatoes and a vegetable from the Ferme de Gally. I agreed to let him cook! Actually, his menu sounded great!
We stopped at the Ferme and found some beautiful bulbous Fennel (I was taking over this part of dinner). I thought they'd be great par-boiled till just tender and finished in a quick butter saute'......lookin' good, huh?

Then after stopping at the Ferme, we stopped at the butcher in the 'old' part of town. You will never leave your butcher or vegetable stand in France without a recipe or wise words of wisdom. I asked the young butcher for a suggestion for the BBQ Grill. Yes simple question, really! The butcher pointed outside and said 'you can't BBQ in the winter'!!!!
The 'old man' countered with 'We BBQ ALL winter long'....

Once this fact was settled, he picked out a nice steak, cut to our desired thickness and then he shared a quick grilling tip. The French like their steak on the bleu side.....
We smiled and left the shop holding the door open for a little old lady. I'm sure our butcher will be telling her all about the crazy Americans who just left the shop!

Grilling by the light of the moon.....and the small spotlight courtesy Target. It sheds just enough light to grill all winter long!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Pain au Lait

Pain au Lait.....Milk Bread! In between raking leaves I decided to get a bread dough going. Pain au Lait is an 'enriched dough', made nice and tender with milk and eggs.......a poor cousin to a Brioche Dough.

You get culinary inspiration from different places, the fall colors made me think about upcoming holidays. I decided to embellish this enriched dough by adding some raisins and pumpkin pie spice and a little more cinnamon! Are you getting the feeling?

You can just tell that this dough is going to be good! A little on the sticky side, the fresh yeast aroma just brings a smile to your face! The 'Pointage' or 1st rise is for an hour, then shaping and a proof for about 45 minutes, then off to the oven!

Look at the pile of leaves I left a certain 'someone' to finish!! I know there is a boy in college that wishes he were here to help!!

My decor is a little on the lame side (pardon the pun, bakers!)......but, all in all a great Bread is being enjoyed each morning as toast!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

I'm in love...shhhhhhh!

I'm in love again!
With a new know how it is.......finding an excuse to drag it out one more time. I wonder how long the love-affair will last till it retires on the shelf, only to gather dust, all but forgotten.

Anyway, my new Pressure Cooker is getting lots of use. Paris has moved into fall weather, the pile of leaves in my back garden are telling me that! The temperature however, is still mild and I have not had a chance to break in the fireplace yet this season.
Comfort food is on the menu and nothing says comfort to me like a big bowl of Beef Stew. OR Girl Scout Stew as my dad called it when we were kids. Stew has ALL the food groups that I liked.......beef, carrots, potatoes and gravy.......yes, gravy was a food group in my family!

In just 20 minutes, my German born pressure cooker had cooked a really tough cut of beef and turned it into a tender, succulent piece of beef.

I gave the beef the squeeze test. This sophisticated culinary technique was taught to me by Chef Serge while I attended cooking school in Chantilly! He would bend down on one knee, ceremoniously open the oven door, grab a hunk of meat out of the bubbling liquid and squeeze it. He did this with a smile on his face, even though you knew he was probably burning his fingers. If he nodded and smiled this meant that I achieved the proper 'cuisson', if he shook his head, this meant I had to cook it a bit longer.

Next on the menu was some Buttermilk Biscuits.......the recipe I used produced a tender biscuit but not a flaky one.

Really, the biscuits turned out good and a lovely dinner was wolfed down.

My love affair continues....I've got some dried flageolet and smoked sausages that need to be cooked! Beans and a pressure cooker are a good marriage! Every marriage needs a good bean!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Not your Mom's Pressure Cooker

A friend told me about Les 6 Jours des BHV.....and who doesn't like a sale?? I headed off to the kitchen department....surprised?? Guess what I found......a Pressure Cooker. The price was right, and being a consciences shopper, I came home and did some internet research.
To my delight, this pressure cooker was a top choice of Cooks Illustrated. It was mentioned in the Williams Sonoma online catalogue as their only stove top model. I realized though that WMF had come out with a newer model, but I didn't find too much difference not to warrant the savings.

I do remember horror stories from my Grandma, classic stories about explosions and food dripping from the ceiling. I also remember the horrible noise and the little thing-ie dancing around letting the steam out. Needless to say I read the instructions with respect!!!!!!! I did a test drive with some water, just to see how the darn thing worked. This suggestion came from a great little web-site called Miss Vickie.

Next came some real food, Pinto Beans that made it past the TSA inspectors at DFW, you know, when they x-ray your luggage. They seem to always open my bags, but they do leave a polite 'calling card'.

I thought these beans might be a great way to start to experiment with my new toy. Nothing fancy, and nothing romantic about beans!!! After about 25 minutes I had a tender and creamy bean. black eyed peas have a new way to be cooked on New Years Day this year. The next experiment will be some braised artichokes, I had some in a restaurant a few years ago and they were perfectly cooked. I've tried to duplicate but they were always on the tough side. I found a recipe I'm going to give a spin! Someone told me the best chicken stock is made from a pressure cooker. We'll see!!

Monday, October 02, 2006

A Fall Repast

Looking outside today really brings that fall feel! Just yesterday and not a day sooner, the Ferme de Gally started displaying their pumpkins. I'm really in the mood to decorate the garden with some lovely Mums and Gordes and a pumpkin!

Last week, before my classes, 'the old man' and I took off to the Ferme in search of Butternut Squash.....didn't find any, but we did find some awesome Sweet Corn! We picked my favorite zucchini flowers with a tiny little zuc, no bigger than your thumb.......and we picked some Feves. The end of the season, for sure!
These gorgeous flowers got stuffed with some ricotta, spinach and some other cheeses 'nuked' in the microwave till tender. Try it......they were wonderful. You won't believe that I only paid a whopping 2 euro for those flowers! A steal.

After being in the fields picking, we came home famished for lunch. I happened to have some crepe batter in the fridge, leftover from my class with Cheryl and her ladies from the U.S.
Perfect for a little lunch on the patio before Fall really sets in and then we are inside with a roaring fire!
I do love Autumn!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

As Good as it Looks!

I'm closing in on my Grilling/Smoking class! Trying to nail the recipes so they are perfect for the ladies! Funny though, the ladies don't mind when I botch things up, they like a good botch-up, makes them feel good. But really, I don't try to plan on a flop. In fact, the only flopping I like to do is after class.....flopping down on the couch with a cup of tea!

This Miso Marinated Plank'd Salmon was delicious! Rich, deep flavors.......the salmon was juicy. No flames, in fact this was the second 'go-round' on the plank. The instructions say you can reuse them, and low and behold I was able to with no problems.

I will probably share a comment with the ladies that Dr. Biggles wrote last year when I blogged about plank'd food.......he said it reminded him of his grandma's cedar closet!!!
I think the ladies will like that comment!

I love it when things fall together and I can look forward to a good class! I even heard that the weather looks good for next week!! There is a chance we can eat out in the garden!

Keep your fingers crossed! I know Max will be on his best behavior to meet all of the ladies! How can they resist!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Fresh Goodness

More from the Wagamama cookbook.....
This time lots of freshness, add some Hoisen Sauce and Mirin. Toss with shrimp and noodles!
Yes, that is fresh spinach from a bag. I'm keeping my ears open, haven't heard about e coli on this side of the pond.

I'm inspired with this cookbook and I love the little Japanese market, MIDO on Rue St. Charles where you can find all the goodies you need!

Dinner in the garden, Indian Summer!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Rediscovering France --- Pierrefonds

Many years ago when we moved to France, we used to take the 'D' roads (the little yellow roads on the Michelin map) . We would meander through the countryside and find little antique shops and great little places for lunch. Or, in the spring would would pack up a picnic and head out.
I can remember one cold but sunny Sunday, about 19 years ago, we found a huge surprise. Pierrefonds!

An incredible site! Right out of nowhere! A fortified castle that is in the most picturesque setting!

I'll never forget when we moved to France. The 'old man' picked me up at CDG and drove north to our new home. He drove me past the Chateau de Chantilly right up the street from our little apartment. You can imagine how excited I was! Of course when you are in your late 20's and life is simple, all I wanted to do was tour around and explore! I wanted to learn French way back then, till I realized you had to study. hmmmmmmm, that is another story!!!

Now we have some time to rediscover our past haunts, we made our way out that way again on Sunday. The weather was perfect and the crowds were not too bad! Years ago they told us that they would eventually open the crypt under the castle. To our surprise it was open yesterday. Very eerie, mood lighting and sound effects!

After our tour of the castle we made our way to the little bistro by the lake for lunch. Yes, 19 years ago we ate there, although the fireplace was roaring on a brisk autumn day, and the meat was cooking on the open fire. Yesterday was as perfect as a day gets, I can't wait for the next Chateau to rediscover!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Tea-Smoked Duck

Getting back into the kitchen after 'vacation' has been pretty easy. Grocery shopping, however, proved to be a learning experience. I headed off, list in hand, to my local Auchan. Enjoyed touring up and down and left with sacks of groceries totaling 150euro. You realize that there are just two people in the house now. I'm not sure who I thought I was buying for, but when I head back again, I'll really use my brain cell(s) instead of just picking up items and throwing them in the cart! I'm not sure what army I was going to feed!

My first cooking class is coming up. I'm doing a Grilling/Smoking Class. Many times when trying to create an interesting class, I pick out some recipes that sound good to me, I enjoy predicting a new trend or new method of cooking. Then, I start the testing/tasting process long after the description of the class goes to print! Now is the time to get started cooking!

I love this part of giving a class. Developing, testing and re-testing, then, writing up the recipe.
Right now, I'm working on the Tea-Smoked Duck. I used a Citrus Tea to infuse a 'smokey flavor'. The result was good, but I think I can do better!

I will retest this recipe using another tea. I just found a wonderful smelling 'orange' tea from Hediard. I think this combo will be a winner!

I decided to pair the duck with a fresh salsa. Avocado, melon, jalapeno, cilantro, onions & lime juice. A teeny tiny but oh-so-spicy red chili was thrown in the mix. Fresh & delicious. The recipe I'm using smokes the duck first, then you crisp the skin up before serving. The duck was served 'rosy' in the traditional way. Too rare for you?.......Just cook a little longer when crisping up the skin. I'll let you know what happens with the re-test this weekend.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Convenience Cooking in France

Yes, I'm back home in the suburbs of Paris. When I boarded the plane I had this nagging feeling, like I was forgetting something.
Oh yeah, my son!
He is safe and sound in college, with all the little items that Bed Bath & Beyond had on it's shelf for a college kid! Now I'm dealing with the empty nest and learning how to make conversation with my husband again! Not to worry, so far it is going ok!

While we were in the UK, I got a chance to eat at a place I've been dying to try! Wagamama! I wanted to eat there just because I like to say the name! Try it, you can't say it without smiling!
I was able to pick up their cookbooks (they have two out) and have cooked 3 great recipes!
This one is an Oven Steamed Moules recipe.

Remember, I just got back from the states, the land of Convenience! And trust me, I ate my share of fast food.......and have the surplus weight to prove it.
I had Chicken Fried Steak from the Black Eyed Pea. I ate at Taco Bueno......oh yum! Dunkin Doughnuts, Pizza Uno, for the Pizza Bianco.....the list goes on! (my trainer moved back to the U.S., so there is no body to scold me, but me!) Can you Bloggers and Foodies ever forgive me for eating this way??

Below is a French item of Convenience.......Ready to Cook Moules! Just rinse, season and cook. Vacuum packed, all mussels closed and alive!

Really, they were not bad.

Since I already had the Sake and light Soy Sauce & ginger, I was just about ready to go. A quick trip for a carrot and a couple of leek and a fresh bulb of garlic and dinner was on its way!
I usually steam my moules on the cook top, so this recipe not only intrigued me because of the amount of vegetables it used, but because you cooked them in the oven.

Look at the results, perfectly cooked and still juicy. The vegetables were tender crisp, and lots of sauce to mop up with bread!

Check out their cookbook......I've prepared a Pork breaded with Panko and served with some delicious vegetables and a wonderful dipping sauce. I also made the Yaki Soba, easy and tasty!
I can't wait to try the Gyoza.
I've become such a fan of Wagamama!