Pepper Jack in Paris?

30 01 2011

The search ended this morning.

Raclette au piment

Aw, yeah.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Feuille du Limousin

26 01 2011

Feuille du Limousin

Now that I have a cheese shop across the street from my apartment, my cheese consumption has increased dramatically.  Their selection isn’t humongous, but it does change a bit with the seasons, and I’m always on the lookout for cheeses I haven’t tried before.  Last week, I found this pretty, teardrop-shaped specimen called Feuille du Limousin.

One of the first things I do when I bring home a new-to-me cheese is check Loulou’s cheese list to see if she’s written about it.  I am excited to report that this one is not on her list!

Feuille du Limousin is a goat’s milk cheese, formed in the shape of a chestnut leaf, which is the symbol of the Limousin region.  The goats whose milk is destined to become feuille du Limousin must have a diet of at least 50% grass from the region.  They are also allowed to eat beet pulp and whole corn.  I guess all that sugar leads to sweeter milk?  To make the cheese, the milk must be raw, untreated, and used within 24 hours of milking.  It takes about 800 grams of milk to make one 140-gram cheese.

This cheese was a real winner in my book.  It is surprisingly fresh-tasting for this time of year, when most of the “seasonal” cheeses are either very firm or extremely gooey from several months’ aging.  The flavor is that of fresh goat’s milk, with a hint of piquancy from the wrinkly white rind.  The interior of the feuille du Limousin is rather dense and slightly crumbly, but it absolutely creamy on the palate.  There’s a hint of chalkiness to it, but not in a bad way.  Maybe that’s what they mean by “mineral.”  Just underneath the rind, the cheese has a ring of ripened gooiness, but the rest remains solid.

Feuille du Limousin, Bleu d'Auvergne, Abondance

Keep an eye out for this one – Feuille du Limousin makes a lovely addition to a winter cheese board!

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Noodles on Joinville

20 01 2011

Are Chinese noodles the Next Big Thing in Paris?  Until the last year or so the state of Chinese food in Paris was abysmal.  There were one or two good places, and the rest were cheap, greasy, and bad.  Fortunately for all of us food lovers who live here, Paris seems to be falling mein over bao for Chinese cuisine.

Paris by Mouth notes the Asian trend, citing a number of recent positive reviews for Asian restaurants in the City of Light.  Many of them are located in the 1st and 2nd arrondissements, on the traditionally Japanese (and now Korean) rue St. Anne.  Other well-known centers of cuisine from the East are in the 13th arrondissement – often referred to as Paris’ Chinatown – and in the Belleville neighborhood, which straddles bits of the 10th, 11th, 19th, and 20th arrondissements.  Rue de Joinville is rarely, if ever, cited among these.

Situated on the opposite side of the 19th from Belleville, rue de Joinville is tiny, running about two blocks from the Bassin de La Villette to the Avenue de Flandre.  Small as it may be, it’s a beehive of Chinese culinary activity.  There are no less than four Chinese grocers there, at least three have butchers, and two have fish tanks.  Despite their size, they are amazingly well-stocked, and I can usually find any exotic Eastern ingredient I seek there.

So how is it that I know about this hidden gem?  Well, I used to live only a couple of blocks away, back when I first moved to Paris in 2008 (has it been that long already?).  Since the majority of the neighborhood butchers were either Arab or Muslim, that meant that the only pork available was at the Chinese butchers on rue de Joinville.  It was also a lifesaver for a couple of new expats, who didn’t have to go too far to find peanut butter or chili peppers.  I have also been working in the neighborhood for the last two and a half years.

Until recently, however, the only dining options were traiteurs of dubious quality.  And I’m not just saying that – I’ve tried several.  But on Thanksgiving day, when I was making a market run during my lunch break (and getting turkey necks and gizzards for my stock at one of the butchers) I saw this:

Chinese Noodles!

A brand-new noodle place!  My stomach did a happy dance, and I not-so-secretly hoped that this place would be truly excellent, and that it would give me a reason to live through another grueling holiday season at work.  So perhaps my expectations were a bit high.  Sadly, when I got a chance to try it the next day, I was sorely disappointed.  The noodles were good enough, texture-wise, but the broth in which they swam was completely flavorless.  I had to dump inordinate amounts of soy sauce, black vinegar, and Sriracha into it in order to taste anything at all.  Needless to say, I wasn’t in a hurry to return.

Yesterday, though, I was feeling optimistic, and hoped that maybe a couple of months had helped them iron out the kinks.  I would give them another shot, and be sure to ask for a recommendation from the waitress this time.  Who knows?  Maybe I had just ordered the wrong thing.  I had to make a quick run to the bank to get cash before lunch, and on my way I saw this:

A NEW new noodle place!

A newer noodle place!  This one even has a picture of a guy pulling noodles, so I abandoned my original plan and decided to try out the noodles at Palais de Wenzhou.  I do not regret my decision.

I know this picture sucks, I took it with my phone, in a hurry to eat.

I did ask the waitress for a recommendation, and she asked me if I wanted something spicy.  “Oui,” was my enthusiastic reply.  She suggested the beef noodles, which came out in a flavorful, mildly spicy broth.  The noodles were pleasantly irregular, indicating that perhaps they were indeed hand-pulled.  The chunks of beef were so tender, I could tell they had cooked for hours, but they still had plenty of rich beefy flavor.

Was it better than Les Pâtes Vivantes or Happy Nouilles?  No.  But for a 6-euro lunch next door to work, I’ll be more than happy to eat there regularly.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Simplest Apple Tart

17 01 2011

When I’m at a loss as to what to cook or bake, I start by going through my pantry, fridge, and freezer.  I’ve had a puff pastry shell lurking in the freezer – taking up valuable space – for quite a while now, and I’ve been wanting to use it, but then a better idea comes along for those vegetables and I end up making dal again instead of that curried vegetable potpie I liked so much last winter.

Sliced apples and puff pastry...

I also tend to have a surfeit of apples in the fruit bowl in the winter.  (We are largely in the season of  storage vegetables these days, and apples keep for months in the cold.)  Two birds?  One stone.

...plus butter, brown sugar, and honey

We were already making tamales that weekend (Nick’s promised me a guest post about them, but let me assure you, they were fantastic) so I didn’t want to do anything too fussy.  A simple paste of butter, brown sugar, honey, and a pinch of vanilla salt was all I needed to turn these two pantry staples into a rustically beautiful dessert.

Apple tart, baked to a lovely golden-brown

The secret ingredient melts over the sliced apples as they bake, giving them a burnished beauty and creating a gooey filling to the tart.  Really, there are few things I’ve made that have such an incredible effort-to-payoff ratio.

What can you cook out of your pantry right now?

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Rugelah

11 01 2011

It’s easy to forget, with all the snow and holiday hoopla, just how much of winter is still yet to come after the new year.  The French use Epiphany as an excuse to keep eating sweets throughout the month of January, in the form of the galette des rois.  And I think they’re right.  Gloomy January days are no time to give up the pleasures of rich, buttery doughs baked to an appealing golden brown or sweet, nutty fillings.  Besides, Philly cream cheese has finally arrived in France!  I think we should celebrate with some rugelah.

Cover your bench in powdered sugar

You might spell it another way (I most often see “rugelach”), but orthography aside, this is really a wonderful little pastry.  Crumbly cream cheese dough, sticky fruit and nuts, and ridiculously easy to make.  Rugelah come from the Eastern European Jewish baking tradition, and I first learned to bake them in a Jewish-owned, European-style bakery in Dallas, of all places.  The ones we made there were filled with walnuts, which I can’t eat, so I had to sate myself with the incredible smell of roasted flour and caramelized jam when I pulled them out of the (enormous) oven every night.

Rolled out thin and long

One Thanksgiving the chef took pity on me and let me use the filling for the pecan rings in the rugelah so I could finally taste them.  My nose had not let me down – they were fantastic.  Since then, I’ve had to make my own walnut-free version at home from time to time.

Smeared with apple butter and sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar nuts

Read the rest of this entry »





Hello, Blog

5 01 2011

Long time no see.  I’ve missed you, and I hope these loooong work days will become fewer and further between.  I’ve got some exciting news, though – you and your baby sister are both featured in the “Sites We Like” section of the new Pizza Quest website, headlined by none other than Peter Reinhart, the bread guru.

I’ve also got a picture for you.  It isn’t much, just what we had for dinner last night.  I’m thinking of making it a little feature called “One Meal, One Photo, One Sentence” for days (or weeks) when writing a whole post isn’t in the cards, but I’m still eating delicious things that I want to share with you.  It’s inspired in part by this post that Jenni recently wrote on Pastry Methods and Techniques, in particular this sentence:

We even decided that reading one of those ridiculously long-named menu items is often enough of a recipe, or at least a guideline so we can make a reasonable facsimile at home.

So here’s a picture, and a short description, just in case you want to make your own version.

Thai fish

Fillets of lieu noir (maybe pollock, at any rate a firm, flavorful white fish) with Thai flavors (tamarind, ginger, scallion, lime, fish sauce) baked in a banana leaf.  I served them with green curry rice, broccoli in a spicy peanut sauce, and a fabulous Australian-French white.

Happy New Year, and may 2011 be filled with good food and good friends!

Originally published on Croque-Camille.








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