Pancakes aux Lardons

8 12 2008

When he was in high school, my brother used to frequent a place called The Original Pancake House.  He was a big fan of their Dutch Baby, a puffy, eggy pancake served with melted butter, powdered sugar, and lemon juice.  Every now and then, he and my Mom would bust out the cast iron skillet and make one at home, which, luckily, they were willing to share.  Anyway, as far as I knew, The Original Pancake House was just that – a one-off, family-owned breakfast joint.  Imagine my surprise when I saw that same familiar sign tucked behind the Albertson’s in another city at least 2,000 miles away.  Well, I had to give it a shot.  Not having been there in years, my memory of the menu was hazy at best.  But when I sat down, I was immediately drawn to the bacon waffles.  Who doesn’t love a nice plate of waffles drenched in maple syrup with a side of meaty, smoky bacon?  And when the bacon and the syrup chance to meet?  Bliss.  So the bacon waffle it was, and it was every bit as awesome as I expected it to be.

Mmmmm... bacon.

Fast forward to a few years later.  I’m living in Paris, and I have no waffle iron.  I do, however, make my fair share of pancakes on Sunday mornings.  I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this specifically before, but they sell these packages of lardons (i.e. pre-chopped bacon) in just about every portion size imaginable.  They’re totally convenient for adding small amounts of bacon to recipes, and you don’t even have to dirty a cutting board!  So, finding myself with a package of lardons in the fridge, I decided to whip up a batch of bacon pancakes.

It couldn’t have been easier.  I cooked the lardons and set them aside, then made a simple buttermilk pancake batter with a bit of medium-grind cornmeal.  As the pancakes cooked, I sprinkled them with the crisp bacon, flipped them, and breakfast was served.  Absolute heaven with butter and a liberal drizzle of maple syrup.

Breakfast of Champions

Bacon Pancakes

 

100 g (about 3½ oz.) lardons fumés, or chopped thick-cut bacon

¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour (Type 65 if you’re in France)

¼ cup medium-grind cornmeal

2 tsp. cassonade or turbinado sugar

¼ tsp. coarse sea salt

¼ tsp. baking soda

1 cup buttermilk

1 egg

½ tsp. vanilla extract or bourbon

 

  1. Cook the bacon until most of the fat has rendered, and desired crispness is reached.  Set aside on a paper towel-lined plate.  Save the fat for cooking the pancakes.
  2. Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl.  Blend the buttermilk, egg, and vanilla or bourbon in a measuring jug.  Gently stir the two mixtures together until just combined.  A few lumps are nothing to worry about.
  3. Heat a little of the bacon fat in a skillet over medium heat.  When the pan is hot and the fat is shimmering, spoon out the batter into the desired pancake size.  (This is a highly personal matter, but I think 3 Tbsp. is about right.)  As they cook, sprinkle a few of the bacon chunks over the raw pancakes in the pan.  When you see bubbles rising to the surface of the pancakes, flip them and cook a few minutes longer.  Keep them warm in a low oven while you cook the rest.
  4. Serve warm with butter and maple syrup. 

Makes enough for two hungry adults.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Fournée au Chèvre

4 12 2008

Or, to sound less fancy-pants, bacon-wrapped goat cheese.

How could I not buy this?

Here in France I am often stumbling across “convenience” products like this which I suppose are commonplace to French consumers but are totally awesome to me.  I mean, bacon-wrapped goat cheese?  For two euros?  That’s awesome.  You might be able to find something like this in the prepared-food section of some gourmet grocery stores with a huge markup, but in France, it’s at the supermarket.

Obviously, I had to buy it.  I hatched a lovely plan to pan-fry these beauties and serve them warm on a bed of watercress dressed in apple cider vinaigrette.  The watercress was already washed and waiting in the fridge, the vinaigrette was already made, it was going to be the fastest appetizer salad ever in my kitchen.  I busted out the nonstick pan (didn’t want to risk my precious cheeses getting stuck to the pan) and started frying.

The great duo of bacon and cheese

That’s when I went into the fridge to get the rest of the salad ingredients.  Vinaigrette?  Check.  Gave it a little shake in its tiny Tupperware and it was good to go.  Carefully washed, dried, loosely wrapped in a paper towel and an open plastic bag a day or two prior, my watercress should have been fine.  But it had all gone yellow.  Crap!  Nick, intrepid soul that he is, tasted a leaf as I asked hopefully, “Does it taste yellow?”  “Blech.  Yeah.” Came the reply.  Into the garbage can it went, and the warm, crisped cheeses went onto our plates alone.  And we ate them that way.  Smoky, salty bacon and creamy, tangy goat cheese, it turns out, need no other adornment.  I will be buying these again for sure.

I’m sending this to Chez Loulou for the monthly Fête du Fromage roundup.  Look for it on the 15th!

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Tartiflette-ish

13 10 2008

Last month, when I was preparing for Chez Loulou’s Fête du Fromage, Nick and I went to the store in search of cheeses we had never tried before.  We ended up with this spread:

French Muenster, Saint Albray, Crottin de Chèvre, Doré de l'Abbaye

Each one is worthy of its own post, but today I’m going to write about the one on the bottom left: Doré de l’Abbaye.  It is a washed-rind cheese, so I expected it to be pretty strong and stinky.  Not so.  Very similar to Port Salut, it has a thin orange rind which is edible but not particularly tasty.  The off-white cheese inside is semi-soft with a very mild stinky-cheese flavor.  An entry-level washed-rind cheese, I would not hesitate to serve this one to newbies or people who are apprehensive about esoteric cheeses.  The texture of it reminded us a bit of Monterey Jack, and we hoped that it might be a good cheese for melting.

Which brings me to the tartiflette-of-sorts.  One of Nick’s colleagues (the one who told me about tartiflette to begin with) brought him a box of buckwheat pasta squares, which had a variation of the recipe on the back.

Savoyard buckwheat pasta

While I love the idea of pasta, cream, bacon and cheese baked together in a gooey, delicious mess, I thought I should attempt to sneak some vegetables into the dish, so as to make it a more complete meal.  Considering the sauce is basically the famous bacon-onion dip, I figured I could bulk that up with a leek or two without drastically affecting the flavor.  Then I saw the first winter squash display of the season.  After much internal debate, I chose the patidou.

That gorgeous skin was a real pain to peel, I must admit.

About the size of an acorn squash, the patidou has smooth flesh and a sweet, nutty flavor akin to butternut squash.  I just knew it would be delicious in my tartiflette-like dish.  So I peeled and diced it and sautéed it in butter until it started to brown.

Read the rest of this entry »





Bastille Day Picnic

16 07 2008

The Champ de Mars on Bastille Day

While this is still timely, I’d like to wish everyone a happy Bastille Day.  (For those of you who don’t know, July 14th is also the Fête de Ste. Camille – my name day!  So nice of them to put on a fireworks show for all the Camilles out there.)

Anyway, we had a picnic with a couple thousand of our closest friends on the Champ de Mars, the park in front of the Eiffel Tower.  Our little group managed to bring enough food to feed everyone, I think.

This is a picnic for 5 people!

We had pita bread, baguettes, potted tuna, stuffed peppers, dolmas, hummus, baba ghanoush (homemade by yours truly), pasta salad, no less than four bags of chips, three kinds of cheese, three different cookie flavors (one of which was peanut butter, also made by me), and the now-notorious onion dip, front and center.  Since there were only five of us eating, joined by four more later, we managed to make two meals out of this spread.  It was a long afternoon spent lounging in the sun and enjoying the scenery.  Really, just like the 4th of July, only 10 days later.

I feel like I’ve been teasing you a bit with the onion dip, so without further ado, here’s my recipe (with thanks again to my friend Pete for the suggestion):

Pete’s Caramelized Onion-Bacon Dip

 

1 oz./25 g bacon, chopped (about 2 slices)

2 medium onions, sliced

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Cayenne pepper

White wine

Rosemary red wine vinegar (substitute balsamic or sherry vinegar)

 

1 lb./500 g crème fraîche or sour cream

 

  1. Put the chopped bacon in a medium skillet over low heat.  Cook until most of the fat has rendered out.
  2. Add onions and season with salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste (bear in mind the bacon is already contributing some salt).  Continue cooking over low heat, stirring occasionally, until onions deepen in color to a nice golden brown.  When you start to notice browning on the bottom of the pan, splash in a bit of white wine and stir to scrape up the brown bits.  When the onions are the desired color, add a hit of vinegar to the pan to keep them moist.  Remove from heat and cool a few minutes.
  3. Stir onion-bacon mixture into crème fraîche.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.  It is best if you wait an hour or so before serving it, but that can be hard to do.  Serve with potato chips, crackers, baguette slices, crudités…

 

Serves:  Fewer people than you might think.





Happy 4th of July!

8 07 2008

OK, so I’m a little behind the times, but better late than never, right?  For the 4th last Friday Nick invited some students who are doing a Summer program in Paris over for some good old-fashioned cheeseburgers.  He bought freshly ground beef from the butcher while I procured potatoes and appetizer fixins.

When I got home from work I started a batch of brioche dough with which to make hamburger buns.  Nick made his famous potato salad – with a few changes.  Usually he uses Russet potatoes, but starchy-type potatoes are thin on the ground over here, so this time they were red.  We also made the mayonnaise from scratch, and the sweet pickle relish that often goes into the salad was absent.  But it tasted like home nonetheless. 

For the apéro, I decided that onion dip would be suitably Classic American Cookout to serve at our 4th of July party.  My friend Pete recently told me about his onion dip, made with bacon, caramelized onions, and sour cream.  I loved the idea, so I did just that, with the minor substitution of crème fraîche for sour cream.  No one complained.  In fact, the entire batch (500 g crème fraîche, 4 small onions, and a few ounces of bacon) was gone by the end of the night.  We will definitely be making that one again.

Having found a fairly reliable source for cheddar, we knew exactly what to put on our burgers.  That, along with some sliced tomato, red onion, and lettuce leaves, and we were in business.  (We realized just slightly too late that we had neglected to purchase ketchup – d’oh!)

Cheeseburger and potato salad

And of course, we washed it down with some All-American beer.  (Although these particular beers were brewed in Spain and they have to shorten the name in Europe because some Czech brewery got the name first…)

Budweiser, King of Beers

Happy 4th, everyone!  (Or 8th, or whatever.)





BBLTs

19 06 2008

The extra B is for Bbleu d’Auvergne.

I came to the realization the other day that for once, the stars had aligned properly and I had all the components of a BLT sandwich in the kitchen at one time (well, except the bread, which takes all of 3 minutes to run down to the corner and buy).  Nick’s been hankering for a BLT for a while, so when he called to let me know he was on his way home, I fired up the stove and started cooking bacon.

While I was getting the bacon out of the fridge, I noticed a hunk of Bleu d’Auvergne that had somehow escaped my notice for the last couple of days and was therefore untouched.  Bacon and bleu cheese being a natural pairing in my book, I grabbed the cheese as well.

There were also a couple of artichokes lying around in there, and I thought they would make a good side dish, so I got a big pot of water boiling.  Then Nick arrived home and announced that since it was such a nice day we should take our dinner to the park.  I agreed, and then I remembered the artichokes, which are not exactly the world’s most picnic-friendly food.  We decided to stick them in our biggest tupperware and bring along a small one of melted butter.  Problem solved!

For the sandwiches, I split lengths of baguette and spread one half of each with butter.  The other half I smeared with Bleu d’Auvergne before stuffing the sandwiches with 4-5 slices of bacon each, and the requisite lettuce and tomatoes.

His and Hers BBLTs

We packed up our picnic and headed up the canal to a nearby park.  We had just enough time to find a spot, open our wine, and take a few bites of sandwich before we heard the telltale whistles of the park police.  This meant that it was coming up on 9:30, closing time.  Which seemed very odd, considering that the park was full of families playing and large groups having picnics in the early evening sun.

Yes, sun.  The sun officially sets just before 10 pm, but these days, it seems to stay light until nearly 11 o’clock.  Here’s a picture from after we had relocated to a spot beside the canal, set up, and eaten our way through the better part of our sandwiches and one of the artichokes.  (It had to be at least quarter past 10.)

Now I understand why the French eat dinner so late...

The artichokes actually caused quite a stir among the group next to us – one guy couldn’t help but gape and exclaim gleefully to his friends that we had brought artichokes on our picnic.  The friends apologized and explained that he was absolutely crazy for artichokes.  Then we lent them our corkscrew and were deemed “des touristes très sympas” (very nice tourists).  I jumped to correct the error.  “Nous ne sommes pas des touristes, nous habitons ici.”  It still feels awesome to say that.





Shou-DAIR

25 04 2008

It’s chow-dah! Say it right!

Earlier in the week, before the sun came out, it seemed the right kind of weather for some New England clam chowder.  Just to underscore the point, Mother Nature decided to dump rain on me while I was at the market shopping for the ingredients.  But I was not to be deterred.  I managed to procure the necessities, including a salmon carcass with which to make fish stock.

I know, you’re not supposed to use salmon for fish stock.  Well, I had originally intended to just buy a few fish scraps for the cat, but the fishmonger(ess) informed me that she only sold scraps in 3 euro lots.  I didn’t want nearly that much, so when she offered up the salmon carcass, I took it.  The cat wasn’t nearly as excited about her gift as I had hoped*, so I was left wondering what to do with the majority of this salmon carcass.  (Don’t worry, I cut the salmon into pieces before trying to give it to the cat – what I gave her, she kept, and the rest stayed clean.)  Then it dawned on me that I could use it to make stock for the clam chowder instead of using my precious chicken stock.  Personally, I think the fish stock made with salmon came out just fine.  I had to skim a little more than usual, but no more than your average chicken stock.

Stock at the ready, I began the preparations for the chowder.  All good chowders start with bacon, at least in my house.  So I cut a few slices of smoked bacon into small pieces and set them in a saucepan over low heat to render.  I put in a little butter to help it get going, because, as one of my chef-instructors used to say, “a little bit of butter helps the bacon fat go down.”

Rendering bacon

While the bacon cooked, I steamed the clams in a little fish stock.

Steamed clams

I reserved the resulting clam juice-enriched liquid to use in the chowder.  When the bacon was getting nice and crisp, I added a diced onion to the pot and scraped the bottom to pick up the fond.

Bacon and onions - the basis of a great chowder

Once the onions were beginning to soften, I added a minced garlic clove and a pinch of flour.  I stirred these around until the garlic was aromatic and the flour evenly coated everything.  Next I whisked in the fish stock (to ensure there would be no lumps of flour in the final dish) and added some diced potatoes.  I put in some fresh thyme and a bay leaf and brought the whole mess up to a simmer.

Only missing one thing...

When the potatoes were tender, about 15 minutes later, I added the clam meat and stirred in some cream.  I fished out the bay leaf, adjusted the seasoning, and served the chowder with bread and a Riesling from Alsace.  (Bacon and potatoes being staples of the Alsatian diet, plus the bottle said the wine went well with seafood.  Sounds like a good match to me.)

Clam chowder supper

If you look closely at the spoon, you can see Nick taking this photo, as well as the awesome exposed beams in the ceiling.  At any rate, it was a hearty and satisfying meal.  Now, does anyone have any suggestions as to what I should do with all this leftover fish stock?

*She did, however, love the couple bites of clam Nick gave her.








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 319 other followers

%d bloggers like this: