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!