Vin Chaud aux Oranges Brûlées & The 2013 McCormick Flavor Forecast

6 12 2012

Charred oranges.

Those two words were the first to jump out at me from this year’s McCormick Flavor Forecast.  In what sounds like one of the most fun jobs in the world, their team of chefs, food scientists, and market gurus work all year to identify trends in food.  Using those trends as a jumping-off point, they then seek out the flavor combinations that best exemplify each one.  After months of playing around in the kitchen work, they have distilled the cooking zeitgeist down to five Trends of Global Flavor, each with two sets of ingredients designed to evince the philosophy (I would almost call them Trends in Food Philosophy, but that might sound too poncy).

sugaredoranges

A side objective of these flavor pairings is to push the envelope a bit, maybe combining things in unusual ways or introducing lesser-known ingredients to a wider audience.  Like in Empowered Eating, where Dukkah (a delightful mix of spices, seeds, and nuts that hails from Egypt) livens up broccoli, or Global My Way, where cajeta (a Mexican goat milk caramel) is joined with anise.  As I look over the range of trends, a few things seem to repeat, or be representative of even broader trends.  I’m seeing:

  • Bitterness – on display in the smoked tomato, chocolate, molasses (don’t worry, those aren’t together), and the aforementioned charred oranges
  • Hazelnuts – (hooray!) used in the Dukkah and paired with artichoke and paprika in Hidden Potential
  • Tropical flavors – rum, passion fruit, plantains, chili peppers (again, not together, but why not?)

I’m telling you all of this because McCormick (in France, Ducros) has given me the opportunity to preview this year’s forecast, which brings me back to the charred oranges.  Paired with allspice and black rum under the category “No Apologies Necessary”, the allure of smoky, caramelized oranges was irresistible to me.  When I had a Skype interview with McCormick’s executive chef Kevan Vetter, I mentioned how that particular combination called to me, making me think of hot drinks by the fireplace, or warming up after being out in the snow.  Interestingly, he had nearly opposite associations with the mix, saying it had been conceived as a sort of “tropical getaway”.  But that’s what’s so much fun about working or playing around with ingredients.  You give ten people the same mystery box and you’ll probably get ten different takes on the best dish to make from it.  That could probably happen with just one person, too.  I mean, given these three, I’ve already jotted down at least four different recipes I’d like to experiment with.  Charred orange eggnog, anyone? How about an orange brûlée tart or charred orange and allspice ice cream with rum caramel sauce?

charredoranges

For now, though, I’m pretty content with this take on vin chaud, the hot spiced wine that is near-ubiquitous this time of year in France.

Vin Chaud aux Oranges Brûlées

Inspired by the McCormick Flavor Forecast for 2013, this is more more focused – and dare I say “tropical” – version of the classic winter beverage. Allspice alone takes the place of a blend of spices, the charred oranges add lovely smoky bitter notes, and a finish of dark rum warms you through and through.

2 large oranges
2 Tbsp. Turbinado sugar (also called cassonade or raw sugar)

1 bottle (750 ml) red wine – no need for anything fancy here
10 allspice berries
¼ c. Turbinado sugar
3 oz. (85 ml) dark rum

  1. Heat your broiler and line a baking sheet with foil. Halve the oranges pole-to-pole, then cut the halves into 4-5 thick slices each. Lay them on the baking sheet and sprinkle with the 2 Tbsp. Turbinado sugar. Broil, checking frequently, until charred, about 5 minutes.
  2. Place the charred orange slices into a medium saucepan with the wine, allspice, and remaining ¼ cup sugar. Bring to a simmer, then cover, remove from heat, and let steep 15-30 minutes.
  3. Add the rum and heat everything back up before ladling, steaming hot, into mugs.

Serves 4.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.

This post was sponsored by McCormick, but the opinions are my own.





The Last Six Months, in Three Baking Projects

27 11 2012

It has been over a month since I have updated my blog. I am seized with an urge to apologize. But to whom, and to what end? If one truly creates for one’s self, why then am I so disturbed to find that my unique visitors have dwindled away practically to nothing, with a bounce rate approaching ninety-five per cent? These twin impulses—toward reckless self-regard and the approbation of others—neatly negate one another. This is the essential paradox of our time.

- From the genius New Yorker piece Le Blog de Jean-Paul Sartre, by Bill Barol

Well. I think Sartre said it better than I ever could, so I’ll leave it at that.  Existential crises notwithstanding, it’s been an interesting year.  When we last left off, I was working six days a week as the Executive Pastry Chef for Blend, one of Paris’ most highly regarded burger joints.  As of this month, I am no longer there, and next month I will be officially unemployed.  But that doesn’t mean I won’t be keeping myself busy.  I’m in the process just beginning to write a book – so far I’ve got an outline and a couple of recipes – and I’m also thinking about staging (i.e. working for free for a few weeks) in some of the best chocolateries, bakeries, and pastry shops this city has to offer.  Oh, yeah, and I’m blogging again, too.

A few things I’ve baked in the interim:

Last Spring I made these apple doughnut muffins, inspired by The Hungry Dog.  I meant to post the recipe, and then it wasn’t apple season anymore, and now I’ve decided I want to keep it for the book.  But I will share this photo.

Image

Over the summer, I once again had the good fortune to bake the wedding cake for two dear friends. Once again, I made cupcakes, but this time I added a small “topper” cake for the cake-cutting.  I spent three days in Celine and Jesse’s kitchen, and naturally there were a few stressful moments the day of the wedding, but in the end I was very pleased with the final cakes.  And the bride and groom seemed pretty happy, too.

Image

 

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A Jerk or a Chicken?

6 05 2012

Between getting an iPad for Christmas and a smartphone for my birthday, somehow I feel less connected than ever.  (Oh, yeah, and I opened a restaurant, too.  It’s going well, which means it’s been keeping me very busy.  I’ll link to a few of my favorite reviews at the end of this post.) Seriously, though, does anyone else have this problem?  I almost never even turn on my computer anymore, to the point that I nearly forgot my password just now – fortunately, my fingers remembered where to go before I consciously knew what I was typing.  I mean, my phone notifies me immediately if I have an email, and if it’s something I want to respond to in any kind of depth, I leave it unread until I can get to the computer, because I hate typing on either of the aforementioned devices*. The vicious cycle continues until I have twenty-some messages that need attention and I feel so stressed about it that I just try to ignore all incoming email. First world problems, I know.  Speaking of, my wine glass is empty.  If you’ll pardon me while I go get a refill of La Beille’s delightful Macabeu

Like how I did that? Just started up again as though it hasn’t been almost 4 1/2 months since I so much as laid a keystroke on this blog of mine?  I’ve missed it.  I wanted to write something about our New Year’s menu, but I was on vacation, soaking up the moments with family and friends in anticipation of a very busy year to come.  And then I came back and the Busy happened.  More than I ever expected.  I worked 12-14 hour days for what seemed like forever, though it was probably only three weeks or so.  Then I got an assistant, which helped reduce my hours per day to a more reasonable 9-10.  But I was still working seven days a week.  I kept telling myself that as soon as I got a day off, I would write something for the blog.  I literally had one full day off between January 6 and March 24.  Blogging didn’t happen. Since then, I’ve gotten another part-time assistant, and I now have Sundays off.  They are usually spent going to the market, a museum or movie, cleaning the apartment, cooking something nice to eat, and winding down with a book, magazine, or maybe an episode or two of Boardwalk Empire (how nice that Steve Buscemi gets to be the badass for once).

Today, for example, I baked some apple muffins for breakfast, cooked up some spicy Spanish mussels – I couldn’t help but to punch it up with a little smoked paprika, which was great because the mussels themselves could have been better- for lunch, and am planning a homey meatloaf for dinner.  But few pictures get taken, even if I am taking note of the recipes.  Last week, however, I whipped up a jerk chicken recipe that I just had to document.  The sauce/marinade was so easy, and the dinner in general so effortless and mostly pantry-based, I needed to share it with the world.

I hope you like it as much as we did, and that it helps you through your own busy days.

Jerk Chicken

Fast, easy, and spicy, this recipe reminds me of the week I spent in Jamaica many years ago. And who couldn’t use a little island getaway every now and then?

3 hot peppers (ideally Scotch bonnet, but I used some skinny ones from North Africa, and they were good too)
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 large shallot or ½ a small red onion
2 large spring onions or 4-6 green onions, chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 Tbsp. allspice berries, crushed
2” / 5 cm piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
2 tsp. coarse salt
juice of ½ an orange

2 chicken leg quarters, or 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

1. Purée the peppers, garlic, shallot, spring onions, thyme, allspice, ginger, salt, and orange juice to a paste. I used my immersion blender, as I always do, but you could also use a food processor or a regular blender.

2. Score the skin of the chicken with a sharp knife and slather on the jerk sauce, reserving some for dipping later, if desired. Rub the sauce all over the chicken and leave to marinate in the fridge 1-24 hours (I did this around noon for dinner at eightish).

3. Heat your broiler to 395 F / 200 C. When it’s nice and hot, place the chicken on a rack over a sheet pan or roasting pan (line the pan with foil first to reduce messy clean-up) and broil 12-15 minutes, flipping the chicken over about halfway through the cooking time, until the skin is browned and crisp, the marinade is fragrant, and a thermometer inserted in the thickest part reads 165 F / 74 C.

4. Serve immediately with lime-cilantro quinoa (recipe follows).

Serves 2.

Lime-Cilantro Quinoa

This recipe spawned in my brain as a rice dish. It turned out I had no “regular” rice in the cupboard (I did have Thai, Basmati, Korean, and wild rices, but none of them seemed right), but I did have a box of quinoa. The flavors harmonized beautifully. Pardon the volume-only measures in this recipe – it’s still the way I cook grains.

2/3 cup quinoa
splash of neutral cooking oil (e.g. sunflower, grapeseed…)
1½ cups water
big pinch of coarse sea salt
1 clove garlic, minced
½ bunch cilantro, chopped
zest and juice of 1 lime
pinch of sugar (optional)
freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the quinoa and cook, stirring, until the grains are coated with oil and just starting to get toasty.

2. Pour in the water, add the salt and garlic, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, until the quinoa has absorbed the liquid, about 15 minutes.

3. Fluff with a fork, and mix in the cilantro and lime zest and juice. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary with sugar, salt, and pepper.

Serves 2.

* * * * *

And now for the Blend reviews, if you’re interested.

In English: Alec Lobrano, Lindsey from Lost in Cheeseland (a burger hound if ever I knew one), Barbra Austin for Girls’ Guide to Paris, and Ann Mah.

In French: Le Fooding (as far as I know, my first mention by name in French food press – I was very, VERY excited to read this one), My Little Paris (names us Best Burger in Paris, resulting in our being completely slammed for weeks afterwards), Pascale from C’est moi qui l’ai fait!, and GQ France.

In print: An article by Clotilde Dusoulier of Chocolate & Zucchini in the March 2012 issue of Metropolitan (the Eurostar magazine), and a blurb by Adrian Moore for the May 2012 Monocle.

*And yet, I have become pathetically dependent on auto-correct to put spaces between words for me. I know I can’t be the only one… right?

p.s. What’s that post title about, anyway? Well, after such a long absence from blogging, I feel like a jerk for neglecting this space for so long, even if I do have some very valid excuses, and I’m also afraid I’ll have no readers left, which makes me a chicken.  And less inclined to write.  Yet another vicious cycle.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





We Did It!

21 12 2011

First service!

Keep up with Blend Hamburgers on Facebook.

Grand opening coming up in January 2012.  Hope to see you there!

Now, happy Solstice to all, and to all a good night.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





On Yeast and Starter

7 12 2011

In every family and group of friends, I believe there is one person everyone else turns to when they have questions about food and cooking.  In my circles, that person is often me.  I love fielding such questions and recipe requests – I take it as a supreme compliment and it feels good to know that my friends and family (and even some strangers, via the blog) have confidence that I will be able to help them out in the kitchen.  It’s also a great excuse to have a chat with people I might not communicate with as much as I’d like.  By way of food questions, I also get news of babies becoming children, moves and new houses, and all sorts of other small talk that I miss having with faraway friends.  So I’m grateful and humbled to be your friendly neighborhood (or not) food guru.

One such question I received recently involved yeast:

I made some fresh bread recently, and I was very pleased with the result. However, I was a little put out by the buck fifty I had to drop on a tiny cube of Flieschman’s active yeast. I know that you can keep yeast cultures living for an extended period of time. do you have any techniques to share with me on that? Is it possible to keep a culture in a mason jar in the back of my fridge and take from it when I want to bake a loaf of bread? Seems like it would be a lot simpler, and would require less planning than a trip to the store each time I want to bake a loaf.

Yeast is such a multifaceted topic, a primer seemed to be in order.

Read the rest of this entry »





Beer Hall Eating in Köln

28 11 2011

A couple of weekends ago, Nick and I found ourselves in Cologne, Germany (Köln to the natives) for a concert.  Thanks to the Thalys high-speed train network, the trip from Paris was a short three hours, allowing us to spend the better part of two days eating and drinking our way through the city’s many beer halls.  We arrived in time for lunch, and after finding our hotel, headed straight for the Päffgen Hausbrauerei.

Paffgen brewery

The beers (Kölsch, and Kölsch alone) are brought around on deep trays with slots to hold the narrow glasses. The waiter keeps a tally of how many you’ve ordered on your coaster.

sauerbraten & potato dumplings

I had sauerbraten, a dish of braised beef in a sweet-and-sour sauce traditionally thickened with ground gingersnaps.  It came with potato dumplings and applesauce.  Classic.

bratwurst

Nick ordered the bratwurst, sold in lengths of three-quarters of a meter.  It was served with a tiny tureen of spicy mustard.

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Super Natural Every Day

15 11 2011

…Or most of them, anyway.

I was delighted to receive the news, several weeks ago, that I had won a copy of Super Natural Every Day from The Kitchen Illiterate.  Since receiving the book, I’ve been cooking from it quite a bit, as well as finding myself inspired by it while doing my food shopping.  (“Yellow split peas?  I think there are a couple of recipes for those in that new book!” “I should probably be keeping quinoa and bulghur on hand…” “How could we possibly be out of miso?  To the Japanese store, posthaste!” Sometimes I talk to myself in an old-timey fashion.)

I’ve made mention of the book a few times on Seasonal Market Menus, my other blog devoted to CSA eating and menu planning, because the recipes are great for using whatever vegetables you happen to have around, given a few pantry staples.  I certainly haven’t followed any of the recipes to the letter, but that doesn’t stop them from being a fantastic source of inspiration.  Like this soda bread:

soda bread from Super Natural Every Day

I’d never really considered soda bread as a legitimate thing before, but Heidi’s photos convinced me to give it a try.  I substituted leftover pickle brine for half of the buttermilk in the recipe, to no ill effect.  The dough was delightfully springy, and any rye bread that doesn’t insist on caraway is a good thing in my book.  It baked up nice and crusty, with a slightly biscuity or scone-like texture in the crumb.  The bread resisted staling longer than a yeast bread would, which is good because the loaf was huge.  We ate it for almost a week, and then I took the remaining half and turned it into some of the crunchiest croutons I’ve ever made.

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An Ice Cream Dessert for Fall

11 11 2011

photo by Nick

Treacle toffee ice cream, spiced hot toddy poached pear, speculoos.

The ice cream comes from Beyond Nose to Tail, and I’ve been wanting to make it since getting the book two and a half years ago.  The pear, poached in what basically amounted to a hot toddy (in part because I ran out of sugar – here’s to happy accidents) with whole cinnamon, allspice, clove, black pepper, and star anise, makes a marvelous accompaniment.  And who doesn’t love a crisp speculoos cookie?

On this day in 2010: Céleri Remoulade (a narrative recipe)





Masaledar Chholay

5 11 2011

Or, Chickpeas in Spicy Tomato Gravy.  Yes, folks, it’s the first weekend of the month, which means it’s Currypalooza time!  I got to choose again this time around, and I picked this recipe, from a feature in Food and Wine about Sanjeev Kapoor.

masaledar chholay

Masaledar Chholay is a Punjabi dish, from a cuisine which I am beginning to learn tends to contain a paste of blended garlic, ginger, and chilis.  (Sorry, that sentence was terrible.  I’m a little burned out at the moment.  The new job is great so far, but much more mentally taxing than the old one.)  It’s a simple dish to put together, and comes largely from pantry staples: canned chickpeas and tomatoes, fresh onions, ginger, garlic, chilis, and cilantro, and a handful of not-very-exotic spices.  Cooking it up, Nick and I both agreed that the flavor was a little flat.  A squeeze of lime juice set things right.

Chickpeas in spicy tomato gravy, spinach simmered in yogurt, kolmino patio, rice

I served it with yogurt-simmered spinach (sort of a cheater’s saag paneer), kolmino patio (yet another hit from Miss Masala – spicy sweet-and-sour shrimp), and basmati rice.  The most colorful place settings possible completed the scene.

To see a couple more takes on the dish, check out the other Currypalooza posts at more please by Margie and Sage Trifle.

And with that, I wish you a great weekend!

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Valençay

1 11 2011

Valençay

Valençay is one of my favorite goat cheeses.  I picked up a gorgeous one at the market last weekend, and when Nick decided to take some lovely photos of it, I realized it was high time I gave this flat-topped pyramid a moment in the spotlight.

This cheese, which is named for the Loire Valley town in which it is produced, earned AOC status in 1998, making Valençay the first place in France to have AOCs for both their wine and their cheese.  Legend has it that Napoleon, upon returning from a particularly unsuccessful business trip to Egypt, stopped at the château in Valençay and flew into a rage upon seeing the local cheese in the shape of a pyramid.  He lopped off the top with his sword, thus giving the cheese its current signature shape.

Stories aside, Valençay is made using only raw goat’s milk.  It’s rubbed with salted ashes and left to mature for about 3 weeks, during which time a thin, bloomy gray rind develops.  Just underneath the mellow, earthy rind lies the firm yet creamy interior.  It has a pleasant citrusy tang, and is only mildly goaty.  Even though it may look intimidating to cheese newbies (I myself used to shy away from ashed or ashy-looking cheeses), Valençay is not at all challenging.  Which is not to say that die-hard cheese lovers don’t appreciate it.  On the contrary, I think this is one that just about anyone can enjoy.

I bought this particular cheese from the very friendly proprietor of La Ferme de la Prairie (known in some circles as the UCG – Ultimate Cheese Guy), who sells only goat cheeses, and for very reasonable prices.  While a typical Valençay might cost 7 or 8 euros, his comes in at 5 and change.  He also provides samples of several of his cheeses, with a liberal tasting policy – knives and cheeses are placed on top of the counter, it’s up to you to cut your own tastes.  He’ll ask how aged or fresh you’d like your cheese, and if you’re not sure, he’s happy to give his opinion.  A visit to his stand is a must if I’m at the Grenelle market on Sunday morning.

On this day in 2010: Chartres

Originally published on Croque-Camille.








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