One More Cheese From Savoie…

31 03 2009

Before I let go of the cheesy, meaty sumptuousness that is Savoyard cuisine.

A tasty slice of Morbier on a chunk of bread

Remember when I went to the Salon Gastronomique and tasted the best Morbier ever?  Well, I’m finally writing a few words about it.  Morbier is a highly aromatic (that’s a nice way of saying smelly) cheese, and the telltale stripe of ash through the center can be off-putting at first, but the cheese itself is rich, smooth, and nutty, with just a hint of sourness on the finish to balance it out.  Absolutely delicious.  It has AOC status and an interesting story behind the ash: once upon a time, the cheese was covered with ash at the end of the day in order to prevent it from forming a rind overnight.  The next day, more cheese curds were added to finish the wheel and the whole thing was washed.  I guess they have other ways of keeping the rind from forming now, but the distinctive look of the Morbier was set.

(Just read on the official Morbier website that only cheeses from Doubs and Jura in the Franche-Comté region have AOC status.  All I know is, the guy at the salon said his cheese was from Savoie, and that it was delectable.  Sorry for the confusion.)

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Regional French Cuisine: Savoie: Tartiflette

30 03 2009

You didn’t think I could get through Savoie month without discussing Tartiflette, did you?  I’ve made variations on the theme in my kitchen before, but this time, I wanted to try my hand at the real deal.  Using Robuchon’s recipe as a reference, I began by sautéeing lardons and added thinly sliced leeks once the bacon had rendered.  (Onions would be more traditional, but the CSA people keep sending me leeks.)

Bacon and leeks - before

While the leek-bacon mixture cooked, I cut some potatoes (also from the CSA panier – look at me, cooking all local and organic!) into cubes – didn’t bother peeling them – and boiled them until they were tender.  When the leeks were beginning to caramelize, I poured some white wine into the pan and let it cook a few minutes longer until the wine was reduced to a glaze.

Wine-braised leeks and lardons

I scraped this heavenly-smelling concoction over the drained potatoes and stirred gently to coat the potatoes in the bacony, winey goodness.

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Les Fondus de la Raclette

29 03 2009

In Which I Dine in a Savoyard Restaurant and Learn that I Am a True Parisian

Tuesday night, I finally made it to Les Fondus de La Raclette, the Savoyard restaurant that recently opened in my neighborhood.  Nick being out of town, my friends Hope and Delphine graciously offered to join me in the name of food journalism.  It turns out that the traditional cuisine of Savoie is pretty cheese-heavy.  I suppose this is to be expected, considering it is (quite literally) an Alpine region bordering Switzerland, home of its own cheese-centric cuisine.  Judging from the menu (and the name!) of Les Fondus de la Raclette, the two most important regional dishes of Savoie are fondue and raclette.  Since I was a raclette virgin, the choice was clear.

Charcuterie Savoyarde

Raclette is basically the inverse of fondue.  Instead of a pot of wine-spiked melted cheese into which bits of bread and meat are dipped on long forks, each person gets an individual pan in which to melt slices of cheese before pouring it over bits of meat and potatoes.  At Les Fondus de la Raclette, each of the rustic stone-topped tables has a grill in the center which is turned on when the food is delivered.  With the warmth of the grill radiating to our faces, it was easy to imagine why this is such a popular dish in Savoyard ski chalets.  It’s a warm and convivial dining experience.

Melting raclette cheese

None of my melting cheese photos came out very well – have you ever tried to take an action shot of bubbling cheese?  It’s not easy, especially when there’s bubbling, melty cheese in front of you, just waiting to be scraped out of the pan onto tasty slices of charcuterie or chunks of baked potato.

See what I mean?

A light meal it is not.  Fortunately, the wines of the region are perfectly matched to the hearty cuisine.  We chose the Savoyard red and were pleased to find it light and fruity with well-balanced acidity.  It was the perfect foil to all that cheese and cured meat.

Rouge de Savoie

With its wood-paneled interior, Les Fondus de la Raclette definitely calls to mind a ski lodge, if there were ski lodges in the heart of Paris.  The casual atmosphere is just right for a homey meal shared between friends. 

But wait, you say.  What’s this about you being a “true Parisian?”  Well, over the course of the evening the conversation turned to food, as it often does.  I was telling Hope and Delphine that my former favorite neighborhood bakery, Au Levain du Marais, used to be situated just down the street from where we sat.  It recently changed ownership, and after buying two just plain bad baguettes (I had to make sure the first one wasn’t a fluke) I’ve stopped going there entirely.  Listening to my lament, Delphine nodded knowingly and told me that you know you are a true Parisian if your local bakery changes owners and you view it as nothing less than a catastrophe.  There you have it!

* * * * *

In other Paris-related news, I have two more articles up over at Secrets of Paris: one is a piece about Brûlerie des Ternes, where I’ve started getting my coffee beans despite the fact that it’s ALL the way across town; and the other is a review of Le Pamphlet, an excellent modern bistro on the edge of Paris’ Marais neighborhood.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Green Pizza

26 03 2009

This is one of those posts written in desperation – the kind of desperation that comes when something is on its way out of season.  In this case, broccoli.  And while sage is pretty good year-round, its flavor is indelibly tied to the colder months.

The dish was invented in a different kind of desperation – the kind when you’re wandering around the grocery store looking for something to cook for dinner.  Preferably something easy, quick and healthy.  It was St. Patrick’s Day, but the sky was too blue and the air too almost-warm to consider cooking one of the more traditional celebratory dishes.  I still wanted to make something to commemorate the day.  I caught a glimpse of some deep green broccoli and thought that it was both nutritious and dressed for the occasion.  Into my basket it went, next to the Guinness, and I wondered how to make a meal out of a head of broccoli.  Well, I had pizza dough in the freezer, and some goat cheese and sage in the fridge… sweet!  Done shopping!

Pizza dough spread with sage pesto

Somewhere along the way I realized that I had all the necessary ingredients (pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, Parmigiano-Reggiano) for pesto just sitting there in the kitchen.  And the pizza came together.  Pesto and broccoli first, then a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, a drizzle of olive oil, and a handful of crumbled goat cheese. 

St Paddy's Day Pizza

Luck must have been with me, because this pizza was everything I wanted: fast, healthy, and holiday-appropriate.  Because I know that some of you out there like recipes, here’s how I made the sage pesto.  You should be able to figure out the rest of the pizza yourself.  (Those of you who don’t like recipes, well, I’m sure you’ll wing it anyway.)

Sage Pesto

 

In retrospect, just the pesto spread on the pizza dough and baked would make some fantastic breadsticks.  The recipe makes just the right amount for a two-person pizza, but it would also be great on pasta or spread on a turkey sandwich.

 

1 bunch sage, leaves picked, washed, and chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

3 Tbsp. pine nuts, chopped

2 Tbsp. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated

Squeeze of lemon juice

Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  The texture will be chunky and “rustic,” but you could easily put the mixture into a food processor or blender if you want a smoother end result.

 

Makes about 1/3 cup (85 ml).

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Enchiladas Robuchon

24 03 2009

Really, I just wanted to write the title of this post.  The rest isn’t that interesting.

Roasted endive quarters and Jambon de Bayonne

Unless, of course, you like your vegetables wrapped in ham and covered in cheese sauce.  Then you should try this, the idea for which came from Joël Robuchon’s excellent book.

Enchiladas Robuchon, before I drowned them in Béchamel

His simple, straightforward recipe says something along the lines of: “boil endives, wrap in slices of ham, cover in Béchamel sauce and top with grated cheese.  Bake until heated through.”  And that’s pretty much exactly what I did, except that since I was already heating up the oven and getting a gratin dish dirty, I just quartered the endives and roasted them in there before wrapping them up in Jambon de Bayonne.  The result?  Enchiladas, if the French had invented them.

It even has all four food groups!  (See the bread in the back?)

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Fairy Tale Dessert

22 03 2009

This is the story of one great dessert idea that morphed into another one.

Soaking croissant cubes in custard

Once upon a time there was an American pastry chef working in Paris, France.  She didn’t exactly feel creatively stimulated at work, so she did a lot of cooking and baking at home.  Her husband’s birthday was coming up and she wanted to make him something special.  While flipping through a cookbook by one of her favorite pastry chefs (which, it so happens, she found extraordinarily cheap in an outlet-type bookstore on her street), she remembered that her husband was crazy for lemon curd (and oh, did this book have a fabulous recipe!).

Lemon curd - before

But what would be the best lemon curd delivery method?  Sure, it’s great in a tart, but our heroine wanted to make something unexpected.

Lemon curd - after

“Since we’re still in the cold, drippy, wet pre-spring that is early March,” she thought, “maybe I can work it into a bread pudding… yes!  With a fluffy meringue on top!  It’ll be great!  Like lemon meringue pie, but more wintry and comforting.”

So over the next few days she gathered her ingredients: eggs, brioche, milk, cream, butter, and untreated lemons (imperative if the zest is going to be used).  On the big day, the pastry chef noticed that almost all of the brioche had been eaten.  Sometimes these things happen.  She made a mental note to pick up a croissant on the way home from work.

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News You Can Use

18 03 2009

A couple of announcements:

First, I’m sure many of you have already read this, but in case you haven’t, David Lebovitz asked me for my favorite out-of-the-way bakery in Paris, and has complied a list of other favorites by many more well-established Paris writers and chefs than myself. I am thrilled and honored to be in such company. It’s a great list, and will renew you enthusiasm for Paris if you already live here, and make you want to visit if you don’t. Read it here.

Second, I’ve been working on a recipe index for Croque-Camille. It’s still a work in progress (feel free to let me know any categories you’d like to see), but I’m having a great time perusing the archives and rediscovering some of the delicious meals I’ve cooked since moving to Paris. Check it out here or use the tab at the top of the page.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Salon Mer & Vigne et Gastronomie

16 03 2009

Yesterday, Nick and I went to the Salon Mer & Vigne et Gastronomie.  Longtime readers may remember the write-ups I did on it last year, but for those of you who are interested, they were ThreeLongPosts.  And completely worth reading, if I do say so myself.  This year, though, I’m giving you the highlights.

Since March is Savoie monthhere on Croque-Camille, I made a beeline for the first cheese stand I saw.  Fortunately, Aux Saveurs des Montagnes, while based in Toulouse, had a wide variety of incredible Savoyard cheeses.  We tasted about half a dozen cheeses, all of which were remarkable.  The man at the stand made a point of explaining how his cheeses had nothing to do with their supermarket counterparts, and he wasn’t kidding.  We sampled the absolute best Morbier I’ve ever had the pleasure of placing on my tongue.  I never knew this, but it turns out Morbier comes from… Savoie!  Looks like this region may merit more than one cheese post.  After we’d made our selection, the guy tried to tempt us further with a nibble of Swiss Gruyère, which was outrageously good.  It had a texture not unlike really good Parmigiano-Reggiano, with little crystals of intense flavor scattered throughout.  The man pointed out that the Swiss Gruyère has no holes, and told a little joke: “Why are there no holes in Swiss Gruyère?” “Because they don’t have any mice in Switzerland!” Ha!

The array of wonderful wines from G. Prieur

Next we headed straight for G. Prieur, who had sent us free entry passes for buying a case of wine last year.  We were recognized immediately, and got to cut right to the excellent wines (instead of wasting time with the merely good ones).  Opting to start out by sampling the white wines this time, we were presented with a series of four excellent whites: a simple white Santenay, which would make a great table wine; a very distinctive and mineral 2005 Meursault; an exquisite apéritif-worthy 2006 Meursault, which Alain (our liaison) claimed was from one of the very best parcels in Bourgogne; and a premier cru Chassagne Montrachet 2007, whose briny character would make it a perfect accompaniment to any seafood dish.  (Here’s an insider secret I learned: true wine aficionados don’t pronounce the “t” in the middle of “montrachet,” such that it is pronounced “mon-rah-shay.”  Drop that one the next time you’re chatting up a French wine merchant – they’ll probably be impressed.)

G. Prieur's tasting glass

Moving on to the reds, of which we sampled eight, we learned that while 2005 Burgundies (both white and red) will age beautifully for several years, the 2006 vintage is best enjoyed sooner rather than later.  The highlights of the flight included a 2005 Vosne-Romanée, which was eyes-rolling-back-upon-first-sip good and a 2004 Corton-Bressandes Grand Cru, which Nick and I decided tasted like the best raisins ever.  Wines classified as Grand Cru in Bourgogne represent the top one percent of the region’s production, and let me tell you, you can taste the difference.

While we were tasting wines, we spotted our favorite Burgundian cheese producer (or at least their representative), so after buying more wine than we meant to (how do these things happen?) we headed over to sample some delicious washed-rind cheeses.

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Rendez-Vous Bars

12 03 2009

(Let’s just see what kind of search engine terms that one gets me!)

I can't help but think they look a little like cockroaches.

I’ve told you of my love of dates and date bars before, I know.  Well, there have been a few happy coincidences in recent weeks that made some appear in my very own kitchen.  While trolling the market on my lunch break, I saw a guy selling plump, shiny dates for a euro a kilo!  How could I resist?  I briefly considered just getting half a kilo, but then I tasted one and I threw caution to the wind.  Later, I was faced with a linzer dough that refused to behave – possibly because I tweaked the recipe a little too much – instead of making cute little tartlet shells, I ended up with tartlet-shaped cookies.  They were tasty, but hard to fill with ganache.  I decided to let the dough rest overnight, in hopes that it would settle down.

In the morning, I was telling Nick my plans for the dough.  “If it doesn’t work this time, I’m turning it into date bars.  Slam it in a pan, cover it with puréed dates, make some crumble topping… I almost hope it doesn’t work!”  So of course the next batch of tartlet shells came out perfectly, but the date bar idea had taken hold.  I used way more dates than I thought I needed, but I was pleased with the result: a firm hazelnut crust on which to spread a thick layer of sticky purée, with a crumbly, hazelnutty topping.  This goes a step beyond bar cookie into dessert territory, although I keep telling myself that all the fruit, fiber, and nuts make it a perfectly virtuous breakfast.

Needs no accompaniment

(Click through for the recipe.)

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Everybody’s Working For The Weekend

10 03 2009

In a cruel twist of fate (or lack of planning somewhere closer to home) the passion fruit purée did not get delivered to work today.  So instead of spending my post-lunch torpor making the passion fruit mousse as planned, I cut larger cakes into smaller ones all afternoon.  (Not a good way to work through the postprandial dip.)  The worst part about this is that cutting the cakes is my usual Friday afternoon activity.  But we are far from Friday.  My last task of the day was to put the dusty plastic Smurf figurines in a bath of hot water, soap, and two drops of bleach.  *Bashing head against wall.*  Although I must admit I have always loved the French (read: true) name for the Smurfs: Les Schtroumpfs.  It’s an 11-letter word with two vowels!

Anyway, the cold, dreary, rainyness of today has not made me feel inspired to write the post I had originally planned for today.  (I guess it’s just that kind of day around here.)  Somehow, I have gotten a hankering for some spaghetti bolognaise.  Off in search of ground meat I go.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.








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