Sunday, February 26, 2006

Le Creuset, The Factory Store

A few weeks back, the kids had their Ski vacation Week. My son wanted to build an Electric Guitar during this school holiday, he asked a music teacher at school where to find parts, and the teacher said that Place Pigalle was the best place to buy bits and bobs for this project.

I felt like this part of town was a great adventure for father & son. So off they went! Nestled in between the Sex Shops, Peep Shows and Sushi Bars are lots of music shops! Daylight hours in Pigalle is a different kettle of fish then night time hours. Daylight finds little old ladies with their rolling grocery carts just back from the market, mom and kids running to and from errands, all very tame and mundane!

What does this have to do with cooking?? Well, during that vacation week, I thought we might venture out for a family road trip. Everytime I suggested this exciting idea, it was met with 'I need more parts for the guitar". The week came and went........with no additional mileage built-up on the car, until yesterday.......

.......I didn't ask but I gave the family a ETD (estimated time of departure) of 8:00a.m. We were heading north to the town of Fresnoy le Grand. Yep, another factory store! A little over 2 hours and 20 minutes and you'll find the sleepy town devoted to all things Enameled Cast Iron!

That little tiny building is the factory store. Stuffed with discount prices, plus fin de series steals! This place gets crowded! I'm supposed to take a bunch of expat ladies up there before the school year is over. I now understand why it was suggested I only take about 15. Think of a can of packed sardines and you can imagine this store, 15 ladies with hot credit cards in their hands! You can eMail in advance and order make sure they have a piece in the color you want, The lady that works in the shop was terribly helpful, although didn't speak English. I use the point, grunt and smile method of speaking French, this usually works well!

Honestly, I've known about this store for many years but never really wanted more 'Creuset'. I certainly didn't think the prices would be any cheaper than those Factory Outlet Stores that line the Interstate Highways in the U.S. I was WRONG!!

Lots to choose from
Look at the stash!
Stocked Shelves
They had examples from each market, UK & U.S., but mainly featured the French line. I found a wonderful square griddle pan. I can already tell that I'll love this pan. Plus it was in a cool Indigo color!
Mini Cocottes and Polenta
The 'guys' insisted that I buy these little mini-cocottes! Perfect for individual servings! I just had to try them out last night, filled with Baked Polenta with a good Cheddar mixed in. These were fun! I always like to add a bit of whimsy at my table, and these little guys were too cute to pass up! I am picturing using them for many things---Mac-N-Cheese, Pot Pies and Deep-Dish mini Apple Pie!

Friday, February 24, 2006

Semolina Bread

I've gotten out of my bread making mode, and it is high time to start up again. I've been busy making brownies and filling my freezer with batches of 'gourmet-style' brownies from a vintage Gourmet Mag, circa 1997! The brownies were gobbled up this past week by the High School Seniors! They are an appreciative bunch of kids, with excellent manners!

Now it is time to get back into the bread dough! I made a Semolina Bread, nice and dense. This bread makes good toast as well as Bruschetta base.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

An 'age old question'

What's for dinner tonight, Mom?

That question is brought up during breakfast....sometimes because the 'loved one' has a special request or craving.
I'm always thinking about what to have for dinner and to find an answer, I headed into the 'cookbook room'. I found a negleted copy of River Cafe Two Easy which I bought this summer. I don't want Rose and Ruth to wonder why this book was gathering dust, so I started pouring through the pages to find something that tempted my taste buds.

I found Slow-Roasted Pork in Milk, read a bit further and realized I had most ingredients already. So far, so good! I had lots of garlic, lemon for the 'peel', my Sage bush was still producing some decent leaves.......Yeah, this was sounding like it could be dinner!

Then I remembered that Biggles had already blogged about a similar recipe. Actually, his roast looked really delicious, nice and browned. He did complain about his sauce, but I had my secret weapon, Cream Fraiche. This 'pot of delicious' stays in my fridge, always ready to enrich any bland sauce!

Dinner was accompanied by a roasted asparagus and seared Little Gem Salad! Topped with shavings of Parmesan Cheese. (you know that I served mashed potatoes too)
Weeknight dinner, one night down! Now.........what about tomorrow??

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Zucchini Flowers

I'm not sure where these zucchini flowers were grown, I just grabbed up the boite and threw them in my basket! Aren't they beautiful??

They were just big and fresh and were screaming SPRING on this grey rainy day.

I planned on dipping them into a tempura batter and giving them a good fry.

I also spied some raw shrimp, another 'find' for my basket. You don't always find fresh raw shrimp, you find frozen raw shrimp. We had some zucchini in the crisper drawer, I had some red peppers to add to the pot of oil!

A dipping sauce of rice wine vinegar, soy sauce and toasted sesame oil and I knew the family would be happy. The last time I tried Tempura, I was the only cook with one wok, things got soggy, the family wasn't happy......So......this time I enlisted 'the hubby' and the deep fat fryer. With two chefs manning two pans of oil, we cooked up dinner fast and crisp.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Lunch in Gien

I know it wasn't too long ago that Clay and I went down to Gien, but my friend Cheryl was in town and I thought she would enjoy a trip down to the factory store. With a little lunch on the Loire River included in the trip down.

Lunch at Le Poulard, where every plat is served on a different Gien plate.....the bubbles say it all!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Stove Top Smoking

I bought my Cameron Stove Top Smoker a few years back. I even taught a class featuring a Smoked Duck Breast, surprisingly, a few ladies bought the smoker. I thought that the ladies who lived 'in' Paris and can not use a grill might find this a good compromise.
The directions and recipes that came with the smoker lacked a little of the finishing touches. I like the smoky flavor, but I also like a crisp skin. The instructions never were clear on how to achieve that!

I stopped by 101 Cookbooks and found a post on The Stove Top Smoker, even found a link to Amazon and yet another cookbook. This cook book filled in ALL of the blanks. Everything! I just did a filet of tuna, finishing it off in a pan for a nice seared effect. The inside was beautifully rare and there was a delicious smoked taste.

When I first got my smoker I tried to make some Smoked Mozzarella. This was after a friend, visiting from Dallas, brought me a smoked mozzarella from the Dallas Mozzarella Company. The little round ball of cheese was $9.00, dang, I figured I could do the job myself with my new toy. The end result was a puddle of cheese, I tried again using a foil cup, another puddle!

Armed with my new cookbook and a recipe this time, I tried again!

After 8 minutes of smoking (above), the bottom photo shows the finished product.

This time it worked 'a treat'! I discovered the secret and there were no smoky puddles of cheese! A mild smoked flavor, creamy texture inside. This is perfect for a roasted asperge salad, or I'll try again this weekend on a pizza.

The photos are not really inspiring, sorry. Two white blobs might not make your mouth water.....Just imagine the taste, ok!