Thursday, January 25, 2007

The 'Smoker' & The Times

Well, Well, Well!
I have been touting my Stovetop Smoker for a couple of years now. I thought it was a great tool for those expats who live in the city center of Paris and can't grill out anymore!
I've even taught a couple of classes through the years extolling the wonders! You might remember my Tea-Smoked Duck post back in September?

I was perusing the NYTimes Dining & Wine section and there was a great article on the Smoker, along with some fantastic recipes I can't wait to try! I urge you city-folks, order your Stove Top Smoker today!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Stuffed Pizza

Now that the holiday season is long gone.......although tell that to my neighborhood! They still have Christmas lights on! I wonder what the cut off date is for taking lights down.
Anyway, we are trying to get back to our empty nest again. It is lonely, to say the least.
I am cooking, but not as enthusiastically! The 'old man' and myself weren't much into the mood for going out, so I thought I'd whip up a pizza dough. really isn't cooking dinner is it? I threw the dough together in my sleep and boy did it turn out lovely! Sometimes when you turn on the 'auto-pilot', and something turns out great, that is the day you wish you had invited friends over OR were teaching a class!!

I wanted to experiment a little and remember I had bookmarked a blog entry a while ago for stuffed pizza. Interesting idea, huh! A take on a deep dish pizza with a lid!

I coaxed the dough into the springform pan, had some spinach on hand, there was some feta ready to use, cheddar and a mozzarella ball. I threw this concoction into the pan and topped it with a thin piece of dough. Baked for about 35 minutes and well, it was very good. Check out in this link for a look at the mini version. They are so cute, plus the stuffing ideas are endless! It is a fun way of cooking up a pizza!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Dinner Countdown

Just what is on the list of meals that a kid heading back to college has requested?
Well, last night was his favorite meal at the local 'Italian'.....the night before it was a duplicate meal served soon after his arrival.
I had bought a couple of Cuisse de Dinde (turkey leg & thigh) after reading Mark Bittman's article on November 22 in the NYTimes. He was suggesting if you were sick of roasted turkey for Turkey Day you might want to Confit certain parts of the bird. I've always seen those thigh and legs sold in the grocery and wondered what the French might be doing with I had a great reason to buy. I had also seen an article in Chow, last year, cooking Turkey two ways.
Mr. Bittman recommends using Olive Oil....I did this when my son first arrived in France for this holiday break. I was just cooking from on the fly, really.......thought I would put the confit together with some Pasta and the 'all important' broccoli. I wanted to get some vegetables down the kid!! I made a quick 'white sauce' added more 'veg' and some cheese.......and there you have dinner! He loved it.

You cover the turkey with oil and simmer gently.

This repeat was on his request list......another confit pasta bake. This time I used goose fat, and really, the result was better tasting!

Tonight is lamb with a reduction sauce. Tomorrow is Enchiladas......oh no.......then he goes back to college.

Remember my Croissant dough..well, I had some leftover and wanted to experiment. On to a quickie lunch. I'm getting ready to teach my Hands-On Croissant class and I think this might be a winner to serve for lunch along with a nice green salad. I love teaching a hands-on class, you get to interact, joke and tease and hopefully the student goes home with a new passion or skill!

I had a well ripened Camembert ready to use, some salami, my Cranberry dipping sauce, lets see, some honey and pine nuts.

***Learn from my mistake, I rushed the 'rise' by heating the oven a bit and placing a hot water pan on the oven floor. I didn't get the rise I was looking for, and I won't do that again. I did, however get a taste that was very delicious and worthy of my class! The cheese melted into the dough, the cranberry sauce brought a tart bite along for the ride, the rest just added to the flavor to make it a perfect lunch/brunch dish. I think you can add just about whatever you have on-hand in the fridge. You might like to grate a little cheese from the Alps on top (thanks Mary!).

So now I'm wondering, can a mom tag along on a Spring Break trip??? Hmmm, guess not!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Dough Therapy

What do you do when the tension of the day starts to nip at your heels? Do you plop down with a pint of Ben & Jerry's and watch Dr. Phil? Do you draw a hot bath and lock the door? Do you head to the mall and spend lots of your husband's money?

Here is what I do, I head to my flour bin and start making dough. Not just any dough, a dough that is labor intensive, one that can take two days of loving care! As soon as I bring the flour, water, salt and yeast together........let it rest for 1 hour I start my transformation. I'm relaxed, I'm happy! I have shear pleasure beneath my rolling pin, I bring the dough up to my nose and I
smile again! That is all it takes for me! After 4 turns, I'm back to my old happy self! Therapy.

You know that the dough will talk to you, don't you? It will tell you when you are impatient and rushing the process. It tell you when you are taking a shortcut that you shouldn't do. Looking down at my dough I watch the shaggy flour and water become beautiful and silky.

This bursting bag of dough greets me in the morning. You know that I can't let my son take off for college without at least one batch of Croissant Dough! I'm going to make him some Pain au Chocolate this morning!

The minute I open this ziplock bag I'm going to be hit with a wonderful yeasty smell!

The dough is shaped and the little batons of Chocolate are rolled up snug. Now they go into a cold oven in which I put a pan of hot water. They now rise for about 2 hours.

They look good! The family was happy and now my son can leave soon. Except we are on the last few days 'meal countdown'. He has given me a list of what he wants for dinner each night before he goes back.

More to come........

Friday, January 05, 2007

History at my fingertip!

A wonderful side benefit of living in France is you can read a historical novel and then gallop off to look at what you are reading about. And if your kid is studying WW1, you can head off to see the battlefields. It is a wonderful opportunity to wake up a History Buff. So much to see!

I wanted a book to take me through the Holiday Season....this will include lunch at the newly renovated Angelina's and a family browse through W.H. Smith's. I found a book in the history section called, Courtesan: A Novel. A mix of history and fiction. I have been enjoying the book and thought a family field trip might be in order.

One of the many Chateau's mentioned in the book was Fontainebleau. I couldn't remember the last time we had made a visit there. In other words, time to go back!
It isn't a far drive, combined with lunch at a place I found on the 'net' and a quick visit to Vaux le Vicomte, this plan sounded like a perfect day for me! Plus, 'Vaux' was decorated for Christmas for the first time and the display was on it's last day! A great thing about the visit to Vaux are the kitchens, they have done a great job in recreating what it might have been like in those days!

click on the photo for a bigger view

This was a great way to wrap up the holiday season, and I've got one week left to enjoy and pamper my 'bearded baby'! The time does fly!