We Can Probably Add “Glacière” to The Résumé Now

29 07 2010

It should come as no surprise when I tell you that I love making ice cream.  Sorbet and granita, too.  And let’s not forget frozen yogurt.  So today was kind of my dream day at work.

Like many parisian pâtisseries, mine makes an assortment of ice creams and sorbets to sell in the summertime.  The chef’s been on vacation, and the vendeuses have been pestering me to replenish their ice cream supply.  There were a few problems with this.  First of all, we’ve been undergoing some minor remodeling at the shop, and our ice cream machine got relocated to the pantry closet in the shuffle.  Someone seemed to think that was an ideal place for it, but as the pantry lacked the proper electrical and water hookups, the machine has been collecting dust most of the summer.  The electrician finally showed up on Monday and the machine was, in theory, ready to go this week.

In theory, communism works.

First there was the mystery tube to nowhere.  It turned out to be the exit tube for the water.  (Why this machine needs so much water, I’m not sure.  I asked, and everyone just seemed surprised by the question.  The main response I got was along the lines of “Well, you shouldn’t ask yourself those kinds of things.”  Welcome to France.)  The tube was not long enough to reach the drainpipe.  So we had to remove it, take it across the street to the hardware store, and get another one, similar but longer.  Then install it.  This was yesterday.  Obviously, no ice cream got made.

Today, I spent all morning making the various ice cream and sorbet bases, aided in part by an apprentice who will henceforward be referred to as “Lil’ Hipster.”  While I made the anglaises for vanilla, praliné, pistachio, coffee, and chocolate ice creams as well as mixing up lemon, pear, passionfruit, and banana sorbet fodder, he made the bases for apricot, pineapple, white peach, and coconut sorbets.  (This was, of course, after three of us – me, Lil’ Hipster, and the baker – searched high and low for the powdered glucose and eventually had to call the chef and wake him up to find out where it was hidden.)  I relished having the chance to tell the kid to leave the kirsch out of the pineapple sorbet, because rum makes much more sense.  I was delighted to be able to make calls like “let’s use toasted coconut in the sorbet, instead of the white stuff!”  Up until lunchtime, everything was going swimmingly.

Then I decided to put one of the sorbets in to churn.  Twenty five minutes later, it was still liquid.  (Usually, the machine freezes a much larger batch of ice cream in about twenty.)  After wasting my time asking the baker and bugging the chef again, I noticed that the valve on the water input pipe looked closed.  I opened it, and was rewarded with a splash of water on my feet.  Yesterday’s new pipe had not been properly attached.  At this point I found myself asking the Universe, “Why?  Why don’t you want me to make ice cream?”  I knelt down in the puddle and tightened the fastener until opening the valve no longer produced a gush of water on the floor.  And tried one more time.

This time, the lemon sorbet froze in a record six minutes!  Hooray!  I can still get all the sorbets done this afternoon!  And I did.  The ice creams will be done tomorrow, plus I ordered more fruit purée so I can make strawberry, raspberry, and sour cherry sorbets.  In case you’re wondering, and want to stop by for a scoop, the best flavors so far are coconut, passionfruit, and white peach.  Banana is my least favorite.  The lemon is super tart, if you’re into that kind of thing.

One last thing, about the title.  Glacier is the French word for someone who makes ice cream.  As per usual, there is no feminine form of the word as such.  Glacière means icebox.  Although I like the second definition given here, translated into English it reads: “machine for making ice cream.”*  That’s me.

*Ok, I’ve done a little creative translation – the words for ice and ice cream are the same in French.  Confusing much?  Also, big bonus points to anyone who can tell me the Homer Simpson quote I am thinking of now.

On this day in 2009: Put the Lime in the Coconut

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Chilly Lime

26 07 2010

My recent forays into Indian cooking have left me with a large collection of hitherto unknown (to me) spices.  One such spice now lurking on my shelf is amchoor.

Amchoor - dried mango powder

The dried mango powder has a fruity, yet slightly savory tang that I wanted to try adding to all sorts of foods.  Starting with frozen yogurt.  Some extremely juicy limes I had in the fridge were begging to play along, so I let them.  Turning to David for an idea of proportions, I found a recipe for extra-tangy lemon frozen yogurt in his new book, Ready for Dessert.  Using that as a jumping-off point, I started mixing and tasting until I had the flavor I was looking for.  And then.

Then I saw the green finger chilis.  They made the limes’ begging look like a polite, reserved request.  So I took one out and began mincing.  I put half the pepper in the yogurt and tasted.  It didn’t seem that hot – I figured the cooling effect of the yogurt was negating some of the heat.  I tasted a piece of the pepper by itself, to gauge the level of spice.  I figured adding the other half-chili couldn’t hurt, the only problem being that the straight-pepper experience had temporarily numbed my tastebuds to any other flavors.  But no matter, my yogurt was ready to be frozen.

We’ve had a series of heatwaves in Paris this summer, broken up by periods of thunderstorms.  During the hot weeks, though, there is nothing like coming home from work on a steamy afternoon, putting something delightful into the ice cream maker to churn, cooling off with a shower, and being rewarded with a refreshing frozen treat.  This is why I have had four different kinds of homemade ice cream in the freezer at all times for the last month or so. 

Unfortunately, the chili-lime yogurt, upon churning, was not quite ready for primetime.  It was intensely lime-y and spicier than I intended (that’ll teach me to go eating raw chili peppers when I’m cooking).  The amchoor’s (you remember that – it was, at one time, the point of the yogurt) presence was subliminal.  But I wasn’t about to give up.  All it needed was the right garnish.  Something crunchy, sweet, and ever-so-slightly exotic.  That’s when the bag of macadamia nuts – which I bought for no reason other than I wanted to have them around – piped up.  “Make us into brittle.  We’ll be delicious, and buttery, and caramelized, and oh-so-good.”  I needed no further convincing.

Macadamia nut brittle

There was a near-tragedy when I realized that I had not sufficiently oiled the foil with which I had lined my sheet pan and counter, and the brittle was sticking like crazy.  (Another lesson learned: don’t be lazy and think that lining your sheet pan with foil is an appropriate substitute for washing it.)  I summoned all my patience and managed to let the candy cool completely before painstakingly picking off the shards of foil that didn’t want to let go of my sweet delight.

At the end of the day, though, the brittle was exactly what the yogurt needed.  The perfect rich, honeyed, tropical foil to the puckery, spicy frozen yogurt.

Lime & Chili Frozen Yogurt with Macadamia Brittle

Lime & Chili Frozen Yogurt

This recipe began life as a way to use up an exotic spice I had recently acquired: amchoor.  I thought the dried mango powder, with its fruity tang, would lend an exotic touch to lime frozen yogurt.  Then I saw a leftover green finger chili in the vegetable drawer and had a brainstorm.  If you don’t like spicy food, I’d recommend using only a half or even a quarter of a chili pepper.

1 lb.10 oz./750g plain yogurt
Zest of 2 limes
2½ oz./75ml lime juice (from about 4 limes)
4½ oz./125g raw sugar, such as cassonade or turbinado
1 Tbsp. honey
½ tsp. amchoor (dried mango powder) (optional)
1 green finger chili, deseeded and finely chopped
Pinch of salt

  1. Blend or whisk all the ingredients together.  Taste and adjust sweetness as desired.  Chill thoroughly.
  2. Freeze in an ice cream maker per the machine’s instructions.
  3. Serve with Macadamia Nut Brittle (see below).

Makes about 1 quart/1 liter.

Macadamia Nut Brittle

Crunchy, buttery little bites of luxury. 

7oz./200g sugar
3oz./85 ml water
5oz./140g honey
8oz./230g macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
Big pinch of salt
½oz./15g/1 Tbsp. unsalted butter (or use salted, but leave out the other salt)
½ tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. vanilla extract

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, water, and honey.  Cook over medium-high heat until it reaches 129 C/264 F.
  2. Add the macadamia nuts and salt and cook, stirring frequently, to 159 C/318 F.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the butter, then the vanilla, and finally the baking soda.  The candy will foam up, so be careful.
  4. Pour onto a well-oiled sheet pan (or a Silpat, if you’re lucky enough to have one, but not foil unless you want to cry), and spread into an even layer, as thin as possible.  Leave it to cool and harden completely.
  5. Break into pieces.  A heavy instrument such as a rolling pin comes in handy for this step.  Serve as a garnish for frozen desserts, crush even more finely and stir it into just-churned ice cream (vanilla, banana, and coconut are a few suggestions), or just nibble on it straight.

Makes probably more than you need, but who’s going to complain?

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Breakfast, Stratified

23 07 2010

I’ve written about breakfast strata once before, which is why I declined Nick’s initial suggestion to photograph my process.  But after cutting into and tasting this one, I was reminded how truly awesome a meal it is, and anything I can do to get more people making it is a good thing.

Strata (a fancy word for casserole, if I ever heard one) is a wonderful way to use up any odds and ends you may have sitting around in your fridge or on your counter.  It’s best with day-old bread, and is extremely accommodating as far as flavors are concerned.  Does it taste good with bread?  It will be good in strata.  Will it play well with eggs?  It will make a good strata.  I like to make it a square meal by including meat, cheese, and vegetables.  Some of my favorite combinations: sausage, cheddar, and mushroom; bacon, apple, and gruyère; and serrano ham, caramelized onion, and manchego.

This one was born of an excess of bread and picnic leftovers from Bastille Day.  Namely chorizo.  I also had some leftover enchilada sauce.  And a thing of cream that was about to go bad.  Appropriate cheeses (cheddar and manchego) and vegetables (onions and hot peppers) were procured, and I constructed the dish on Saturday night for Sunday’s breakfast.  Ok, brunch.

I spread the slices of bread with sauce and placed them in a layer in a baking dish.  I topped this with deeply caramelized onions and peppers, followed by layers of chorizo and cheese.  Another layer of sauced bread went on top, and the rest of the vegetables.  I held off on the rest of the cheese for the moment.  Then I whisked together some cream, milk, and eggs and slowly poured it over the top.  (I don’t use a recipe and you don’t need to either – just make enough for the bread to soak up.  It’s ok  if there’s a little extra, but if there isn’t, just whip up a little more custard, or do as I’ve done and pour more cream on top.)  This I covered in plastic wrap and weighted down very gently before letting it rest in the fridge overnight. 

In the morning, I removed the plastic wrap – duh – topped it with the remaining cheese, and covered the dish with foil.  I baked it at 350F for a little over an hour, removing the foil about 45 minutes in so the cheese could get nice and brown.  You’ll know it’s done when it starts to puff up.  Let it cool as long as you can stand.  If you’re like me, this is 15 minutes, maximum, just long enough for it to not burn your mouth when you eat it.

Enchilada Sstrata

And there you have it.  Yes, there’s a bit of time investment and planning ahead, but when the majority of the time is hands-off and the result is so incredibly satisfying, it’s hard to say it’s not worth it.

This particular enchilada-esque strata actually pulled double duty – we ate it for brunch with slices of juicy melon, and again for dinner a few days later with a crisp green salad on the side.  Now I want to make one every week.

On this day in 2008: The Great Duo of Avocado and Shrimp (There’s a kickass gazpacho recipe)

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Around Paris: 19th: Zoe Bouillon

20 07 2010

Zoe Bouillon on a sunny afternoon

It’s too bad they’re closing next week for summer vacation, because Zoe Bouillon is serving up an ideal summer lunch.  I’ve walked past the cute canteen on rue Rébéval many times, but today was the first time I’d eaten there.  I doubt it will be the last.

A soup joint might not seem like the best place to eat on a warm July afternoon, but Zoe is cooking up (or mixing, rather) some delicious chilled soups, perfect for summer.  I met my friend Celine there for lunch on Monday, and we were delighted with the fresh, seasonal offerings.  The soups and salads are available à la carte or as part of a formule: from 9 euros for soup and a sandwich, salad, or slices of savory cake, to 11 euros for soup, sandwich or salad, cake and dessert.  We went with the simplest menu, though both of the freshly baked cakes looked so good, we both had to ask for a slice of each.

savory cakes at Zoe Bouillon

There was the mozzarella and herb, green with fresh herbs, and the goat cheese with eggplant and zucchini, which was still slightly warm from the oven.  Both cakes were incredibly moist with a pleasantly browned crust.

Gazpacho andalou with oeufs mimosa

For the soup, I chose the chilled gazpacho andalou, a refreshing and savory blend of tomatoes and herbs.  It was served with a sprinkling of crumbled oeufs mimosa (hard boiled eggs), which provided a satisfying dose of protein.

Chilled cucumber-mint soup at Zoe Bouillon

Celine opted for the chilled cucumber-mint soup, which was incredibly cooling.

The service here is pretty much non-existent, though the staff are friendly and accommodating.  The soups are served in plastic cups and the cakes  on paper plates.  Spoons, forks, knives, and napkins are disposable, too.  (A little surprising to see so much waste at an establishment that otherwise seems to respect food and nature.)  Orders are taken at the counter, and you bring your meal to your table on a brightly colored tray.  When you’re finished, you bus your own table.  It’s bare bones, but it probably helps to keep the prices low.

A restaurant with seasonal fare and reasonable prices in one of my very favorite Parisian neighborhoods?  I only wish I could swing by for lunch more often.

On this day in 2009: Le Rouennais (Another lovely lunch.)

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Sainte-Maure-de-Touraine and My New Favorite Fromagerie

18 07 2010

Julhès: the fromagerie/caviste

Admittedly, one of the reasons this is a favorite is that it’s less than half a block from my apartment.  Even so, I’m a little sad that I didn’t know about Julhès before moving to the rue du Faubourg St. Denis.  Yes, it’s a cheese shop.  It’s also a wine cave.  With an impressive selection of liquor.  And select charcuterie.  Plus bulk free-range eggs and fresh dairy products like yogurt, milk, and butter.  Not to mention the snacks – Tyrell’s chips, bars of Valrhona and Zaabar chcoclate – and condiments – a truly mouthwatering array of mustards, sauces, and jams.  It’s a one-stop shop for a picnic if I ever saw one.

But the best part is that the cheeses (and wines…) are good.  The service is friendly, too.  One time I saw them make a camembert sandwich for a customer.  And they’re open seven days a week, though they close for lunch on weekdays, as well as on Sunday afternoons.  Pretty good for Paris.  The cheese/wine shop (a category that gave me some trouble when I was adding it to my map because my current color-coding scheme doesn’t allow for such a thing), however, is just the tip of the iceberg.

Julhès: the boulangerie-pâtisserie

Julhès also has a boulangerie-pâtisserie two doors down.  I like their baguette au levain bio (organic sourdough baguette) quite a bit – I think it’s one of the best 1-euro baguettes in town.  A full gamut of pastries are on display, which I have yet to try, as well as a coin traiteur (deli counter) serving various salads and sandwiches, and they even offer outdoor table service!

Julhès: the foreign products

And then there’s the produits étrangers.  Just past the Kurdish sandwich place, Julhès has yet another outpost.  Here they specialize in products from around Europe, particularly Italy, Greece, and Eastern Europe.  Fresh raviolis and other non-filled pastas, a myriad of olives, sun-dried tomatoes, stuffed peppers, and various dips and spreads are sold in awesome, re-usable plastic containers.  In addition, the walls are lined with olive oils, non-French wines, and a parade of Polish and Russian vodkas.

Have I mentioned how great it smells on my street?  I mean it, even if I do have to step over the occasional bum to get to the sidewalk from my apartment.

I seem to have gotten a little sidetracked.  I was supposed to be writing about cheese.  Just this morning I popped over to Julhès (the fromagerie) to get provisions for an afternoon snack.

Read the rest of this entry »





Around Paris: 11th: Les Funambules

15 07 2010

If you do any amount of reading about the food scene in Paris these days, chances are you’ve heard of the rue Paul Bert.  Tucked away on the outskirts of the 11th arrondissement, this tiny street is home to the much-lauded Bistrot Paul Bert, its seafood-oriented sibling L’Écailler du Bistrot, and the nearly impossible to book Temps au Temps.  Nick and I found ourselves in the neighborhood during a recent soccer match, and since the bar where we were watching the game had illogically closed their kitchen, we decided to step out at halftime to find some dinner.

Les Funambules

Despite having called the 11th home for two years, I’d never actually been to this part of it before.  But I knew that we were in the vicinity of the rue Paul Bert, and that good eats had to be nearby.  Looking more for a quick bite than a full-on dining experience,  we crossed the foodie destination restaurants off our list.  In our wanderings, we passed by this fun-looking restaurant on the corner of Paul Bert and rue Faidherbe.  Everyone was eating out of huge, brightly-colored ceramic bowls, which intrigued us, so we walked closer to get a better look.  The bowls contained salads, of the big variety so popular chez moi.  We were convinced.

Sitting down at a table on the patio, I gave Nick the seat with the view of the TV (the wandering took up some time, and the game was about to start again).  We looked through the menu and found a number of tasty-sounding salads, as well as a Cantal cheeseburger.  Sold.  It was then that Nick noticed the fish and chips on the chalkboard menu.  We arranged to share bites and ordered our dinners.

Fish and chips at Les Funambules

My fish and chips arrived crisp and hot.  It was served with a little ramekin of sherry vinegar, which was an interesting but not at all unpleasant substitute for the more traditional malt vinegar served across the Channel.  The tartar sauce had an air of housemade about it, and lacking ketchup, it made a fine dip for the fries (industrial, but not half-bad).  The fish (cod) was tender and flaky, the breading a thin and shattery counterpoint.

Cantal burger

Nick’s burger, with a nice, thick layer of gooey cheese underneath, came speared with a pickle.  Classic.  A sweet pickle.  Strange, but then, I’ve always had a weakness for sweet pickles.  We polished off our pub grub just in time for the end of the game, which delayed the waiter quite a bit.  He was too busy cheering for Spain to bring us our bill, but I’ll let it slide this time.  I mean, the World Cup only happens every four years, right?

Would I make a special trip to come back to Les Funambules?  Probably not, but I would happily eat there again the next time I’m in the neighborhood.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





A Memory That Always Makes Me Smile

9 07 2010

It’s great to have a rapport with your boss (or bosses).  Back when I was working in Dallas, I had such a rapport.  I worked for a couple with whom I got along swimmingly.  We had a lot of similar views about food – important when you’re working with it – and complementary desires to experiment and try new ingredients, techniques, and so on.  It was, however, a very small company, and as such, the finances were always tough.  Here’s something that happened one afternoon, rather typical of the sorts of exchanges I used to have with my bosses, when we all spoke the same language.

THE SCENE: Pastry shop.  Day.  MR. BOSS MAN enters.  He’s been crunching the numbers.  He gives a rundown to MS. BOSS WOMAN, or maybe he tells her that we can’t afford to buy any more chocolate.

MR. BOSS MAN: (Pointing at me) … And you.  Have been on retroactive vacation for the last two weeks.

ME: That was the worst vacation ever.

MR. BOSS MAN: Wait ’til you get the bill for two weeks of pastry camp.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.








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