Fun with Breakfast Cereal, Take 2

15 07 2013

Once again, I am way overdue for an update around here. I can explain. About three weeks ago, my life turned upside-down. In a good way. On a very rainy Monday morning, I was fortunate enough to join my friend Meg for a Paris by Mouth pastry tour. After the tour, Meg and I had lunch on the now-sunny terrace of a nondescript café. We talked about how my book was going, and the possibility of me leading some tours, and at some point I think I mentioned that I was starting to miss working in a professional kitchen. (Apparently, six months is about how long I am able to be unemployed before I get antsy.) The rest of the week was fairly uneventful, until Friday morning, when our dear friend Barbra emailed me that Frenchie was hiring a pastry chef for their new To Go restaurant. After checking out their menu, I thought that it could actually be a really good fit: the American-style breakfast pastries and other treats are the kind of thing I probably have the most experience making, and  it’s clearly an enterprise which places high value on food quality and seasonality, two things that are very important to me, too.

So I applied. A few clicks and my resumé zipped into the hands of chef Greg Marchand, who called me that very afternoon to set up an interview for the next day. Tuesday morning at 6:30 am, I was at work. And so far, it’s been great. The team is enthusiastic and professional, the chef is knowledgeable and passionate, and for the first time since I started working in Paris five years and two kitchens ago, I feel like I belong.

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Apple-Goat Cheese Quickbread

27 10 2011

A play in one act

Scene 1: Sunday evening, 5:00 pm.  Nick and Camille return home after a much-longer-than-anticipated outing.  Nick is carrying a baguette.

Snoopy: Mew!

Nick: Hey, Snoopy. (Goes to the kitchen to set down the bread and pour glasses of water.)

Camille: Hi kitty! Did you miss us?

Snoopy: Mew!  (Runs away to the living room, where she lies down on the floor.)

Camille: Oh, you need to be petted. (Kneels down and pets the cat.)

Nick: Did you have a hard day, Snoopy?

Camille (Looking at clock): Holy crap, is it five already?  How long was that bike ride?  Three hours?

Nick:  I guess so.

Camille: Damn!  I know I planned on writing a blog post, but now I don’t feel like writing anything.  I want to bake a cake!  And make chicken stock.  That just feels more important right now.

Nick: Go for it.  Do what makes you happy.  I’m not going to complain about any of that.

Camille: I saw this recipe for apple-cream cheese bread on emiglia’s blog.  And we need to use up some of these apples.

Nick: Who?

Camille: You know, we went on the hike and picnic?  And it rained?

Nick: Right.

Camille: Anyway, we don’t have any cream cheese, so I’m going to use the rest of that goat cheese in the fridge.

Nick: Fine, and if you want to write about it…

Camille: I’m not going to write about it, I’m just making her recipe with one little change.

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Mustard in the Custard

2 05 2011

Longtime readers of this blog may remember my penchant for making breakfast strata on Easter.  And other times.  This year was no different.  Again looking to the contents of my fridge for inspiration, ham and cheddar sounded like a delightfully sandwich-y take on the strata.

Speaking of sandwiches, wouldn’t a little mustard be the perfect spice for eggy brunch sandwiches?  Monte Cristo breakfast casserole?  Ok, none of that sounds appetizing.  Let’s just say I put the mustard in the custard and get on with it.

mustard in the custard!

Layers: bread, caramelized onions (I seem to be incapable of making a strata without them), strips of ham, shredded Tillamook cheddar.  Repeat, finish with bread.  Custard: four eggs, two cups of milk, salt, pepper, a big spoonful each of grainy mustard and Dijon, and a few dashes of Tabasco sauce. Let it soak for at least half an hour, bake at 350F for an hour or so, and eat.  Champagne and Bloody Marys make perfect accompaniments.  I probably don’t need to tell you this, but it was so good.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





An Elegant Breakfast and a $75 Giveaway

10 02 2011

Oh, and an award, too.  But we’ll get to that in a minute.

I’ve been given another opportunity to do a giveaway from CSN Stores, whose stores range from the general (office furniture) to the specific (a whole store devoted to beanbag chairs!) and include, of course, a cookware store.  Once again, the giveaway is for a $75 gift certificate, and is open to anyone living in the USA or Canada, or has a mailing address in one of those places.  Apologies to my more international readers.  To enter, just leave me a comment on this here post, and I’ll choose a winner via random number generator at 8:00 pm on Tuesday, February 15th.  This time, I’d like to hear about your favorite weekend breakfasts.

In the “One Meal, One Photo, One Sentence” tradition, here’s one I made recently.

Smoked trout, scrambled eggs, and biscuits

Smoked French trout, scrambled organic eggs, and buttery drop biscuits.

And now for the award.  The Mistress of Spices, a blog I found a few weeks ago, has conferred upon me the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award.

It acknowledges the amazing community of women in the blogosphere, and I’m so pleased that Ramya – an Indian-American living in Paris who writes up her adventures in vegetarian and spicy cooking – thought of me.  These awards work in a pay-it-forward manner, so I’m going to pass on the love to a few of my food blog sisters: five who are relatively new to me, and five I’ve been following for at least a year.

The new: Fiona of Life on Nanchang Lu, Jessica of Jessica’s Dinner Party, Lisa of Tarte du Jour, Grapefruit of Needful Things, and Mimi & Katie of Foodie and the Chef.  I’ve been enjoying getting to know all of you!

The old friends: Hopie of Hopie’s Kitchen, The Hungry Dog, Melissa of Researching Paris, Jennifer of Chez Loulou, and Hannah of Wayfaring Chocolate.

Just writing this list makes me realize just how many more blog friends I have made, and I’m happy to have each and every one of you in my life, online as well as off.  (Check out the links on the right there for more of them!)

So, to recap: leave a comment to win $75 at CSN Stores, weekend breakfasts rule, and blogging is a shockingly social activity for one that requires so much alone time at a computer.

On this day in 2009: Brownies Are So Hot Right Now (I’ve been remiss in posting these “day in history” notes, but I’m trying to get back on the horse.)

Apologies for all the broken links.  CSN wants it that way, and I want to have a prize to give you.

UPDATE 8:05 pm, Feb 15: The number has been drawn, and the lucky one is commenter #17 – Curt!  Congratulations, and I’ll be emailing you with the prize information shortly.  Thank you all for your comments and delicious breakfast suggestions!

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Shilling French Toast

2 08 2010

I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to realized that picnic leftovers make excellent breakfasts.  First there was the enchistrata, and now, upon Nick’s insistence, the pile of mini pains perdus.

Mise en place for French toast

He’s asked for this before, but today finally managed to convince me to do it.  And it turns out he was right.  Half a day-old baguette makes the perfect amount of little French toasts for breakfast for two.  I started out calling them “silver dollar French toast,” but it just didn’t feel right.  Who knows what a silver dollar is over here?

Soaking

“Two-euro toast” didn’t sound quite right either.  But yesterday, while picnicking outside the Château de Versailles, Nick found a shilling coin in the grass.  From 1922.  It got me wondering how long it had been lying there, what it was worth when it was dropped…

But most of all, it seemed like a fitting name for the breakfast made of the leftover baguette from said picnic.

Frying

I don’t know the amounts I used, but if I were to venture a guess, it would go something like this: 1 egg, a third to a half a cup of milk, a couple tablespoons of cream, a pinch of sugar, a pinch of salt, and in a last-minute flash of inspiration, a splash of plum eau-de-vie.

I served the toasts with wedges of plum, not purchased for the picnic but could well have been, and slices of crisp oven bacon – having tried it once, I am a firm convert.

Shilling French Toast with Plums

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.





Gâteau Tatin

7 10 2009

Apple season is rapidly approaching full swing, and for the time being, I’m full of apple ideas.  (Give it a few months.)  One of my very favorite things to do with apples is carameleize them à la tarte Tatin.

Apples like to spoon.

Which I did, Saturday morning.  However, I just couldn’t get excited about making the puff pastry for a tarte Tatin.  Also, I only had four small apples, which wasn’t going to be nearly enough.  What I wanted was a poundcake, but lighter, maybe made with some yogurt.  So I tweaked the Ratio, a lot.  As in, changed the leavener, removed some butter, added some brown sugar and bourbon, and of course the yogurt is not a traditional poundcake ingredient.

Awaiting the cake batter

And it worked!  Astoundingly well.  We ate it for an afternoon snack and a few subsequent breakfasts, but it would be an excellent dessert, served warm with some crème fraîche or Greek yogurt alongside.

Like tarte Tatin, but cake!

Apple Cake, Tatin-Style

For those fall days when you’re craving tarte tatin, but puff pastry or even pie dough seems like too much work, a quick brown sugar pound cake makes the perfect base for buttery, caramelized apples.  (Which are also excellent on their own, or over ice cream.) A hit of bourbon feels right.

For the Tatin apples:
4 apples, peeled, quartered, and cored
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
¼ cup / 50 g sugar
Splash of bourbon (optional)

  1. Melt the butter in a medium nonstick skillet.  Add the sugar and cook until the sugar starts to melt.  Place the apple quarters in the sauce and cook over medium-low heat, turning occasionally, until evenly caramelized.  Pour a little bourbon (if using) over the apples and cook a few more minutes to evaporate.  Remove from heat.

For the cake:
4 oz. / 115 g unsalted butter, room temperature
4 oz. / 115 g sugar
3 oz. / 85 g brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. bourbon
8 oz. / 225 g all-purpose flour
½ tsp. baking soda
4½ oz. / 125 g plain yogurt
Tatin apples (see above)

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F / 190 C.  Butter an 8”x8” / 20×20 cm (or approximate equivalent) baking dish.  Combine the flour and baking soda in a bowl.
  2. In another bowl, cream the butter, sugars, and salt until fluffy.  (You can use an electric mixer with the paddle attachment or your arm with a wooden spoon attachment.)  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla and bourbon.  Gently stir in half of the flour – I recommend doing this part by hand – then the yogurt, then the rest of the flour.
  3. Arrange the apples in the bottom of the baking dish, being sure to pour any excess caramel sauce over them.  Pour the cake batter over the apples and even out the top.
  4. Bake until a knife inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 50-60 minutes, rotating the dish halfway through baking.  Remove from oven and cool 10-15 minutes.  Loosen the sides of the cake with a small knife and turn it out onto a plate.  Serve warm or at room temperature, for dessert, breakfast, or a snack.  Cover leftover cake with foil – it will keep 3-4 days on the counter.

Serves about 8.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





The Cure For Pork Fever

27 09 2009

Back when Swine Flu was first making the news, the French press dubbed it “grippe porcine.”  I chose, mainly for my own amusement, to translate it as “pork fever,” which sounds like something much more fun to come down with.*  So when Nick came home with an entire kilo of chunky ground pork from the Chinese butcher** up the street, I had to figure out what to do with the 800+ grams he didn’t use in his breakfast scramble.

We’ve been talking about breakfast sausages lately, Nick and I, and I realized that that might just be the perfect use for this hand-ground pork. So I Googled “breakfast sausage recipe” and clicked on the first result, a tasty-sounding recipe from Alton Brown.  Scanning the list of ingredients, I was pleased to note that I had everything he called for – fresh sage, thyme, and rosemary (check, and from my windowbox, no less!), fresh nutmeg (I don’t use any other kind), and even some of the more oddball (for France) items like red pepper flakes and brown sugar were covered.  Now, his recipe calls for grinding the pork yourself, which I’m sure would be even more awesome, but I figured the pork I had was the right texture and fat content, so I went with it.  As suggested, I combined the pork and seasonings (plus some minced onion, because I felt like it) and let them sit overnight to get acquainted.  I cross-referenced Brown’s recipe with Michael Ruhlman’s sausage Ratio, and the differences are minimal.

The next morning, I pulled the bowl of seasoned pork mixture (which already smelled fabulous) from the fridge and began shaping patties.

Making breakfast sausage patties
1. Making Sausages 1, 2. Making Sausages 2, 3. Making Sausages 3, 4. Making Sausages 4

See?  You can make sausage at home, too!  No complicated and awkward casings necessary, just a little patience for patty-making.  We fried up four of them that morning, and ate them with fried eggs and breakfast potatoes.  The rest I froze and then threw into a ziplock bag for future breakfasts and bouts of pork fever.

Frying the sausage

* Now, of course, it has much more banal names: H1N1 or grippe A.
** There are no less than twelve butchers on my street. Two are Chinese, three are French, and the rest are Arab. What this means is that even with a glut of butchers, I can buy pork at less than half of them.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





One of a Pear

16 09 2009

Ye olde CSA panier has been keeping me flush in pears lately.  After doing it up one weekend with a tarte Belle-Hélène (stay tuned…) I wanted something simple the next.  With the weather starting to cool off, warm spices sounded like just the thing to enhance the luscious, buttery pears.  And the idea of putting them in a coffee cake made me anxious for the weekend.

Pears in the afternoon sun

Trying to decide on a coffee cake recipe, I was flipping through Ratio, wondering whether coffee cake was more like muffins or poundcake, when I caught a glimpse of Beyond Nose to Tail.  Remembering the rhubarb crumble cake I cooked from it last spring, I thought that recipe would be a good jumping-off point.  I changed it quite a bit, from the flour (self-raising?  come on, it’s not that hard to add baking powder and salt to flour) to the sugar (brown sugar and pears make each other happy) to the liquid (wanted to use crème fraîche – maybe I was out of milk, maybe I just wanted something richer, with a hint of tang) and even the scale (only two eggs in the house, plus my loaf pan is on the small side).  But in the end, the cake was delicious.  The texture was spot-on, with just a hint of heady spice to complement the sweet pears.  Breakfast was well worth the wait.

Spiced Pear Coffee Cake

 Spiced Pear Coffee Cake 

This cake is excellent with a cup of coffee, making it equally suited to breakfast and dessert.  It’s great on its own for breakfast or a snack.  For dessert, dress it up a little: lightly toast slices of cake and serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce.

For the pears:
350g / 12.5 oz. pears, peeled, cored, and diced
1 Tbsp. raw sugar (turbinado or cassonade)
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground ginger
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Squeeze of lemon juice (to keep the pears from going brown)

  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and let marinate while you prepare the cake.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180 C / 350 F.

For the streusel:
85g / 3 oz. all-purpose flour
65g / 2¼ oz. unsalted butter, cold, cubed
40g / 1½ oz. brown sugar
20g / ¾ oz. almond meal (or just use that much more flour)
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground ginger
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Hefty pinch of fine sea salt

  1. Mix all ingredients in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment until a clumpy dough forms.  Alternatively, you can rub in the butter with your fingers.

For the cake:
105g / 3¾ oz. cake flour
¾ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. fine sea salt
85g / 3 oz. unsalted butter, softened
45g / 1½ oz. brown sugar
40g / 1½ oz. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
35g / 1¼ oz. crème fraîche or sour cream

  1. Did you remember to preheat the oven?  Also, butter a 23cm / 9” loaf pan and line the bottom and long sides with parchment paper.  (Bonus tip: if you leave some paper hanging over the sides of the pan, it is super easy to pull out the baked cake!)
  2. Sift together the cake flour, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Cream the butter and sugars until fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well in between additions.  The mixture may look a little broken, but don’t worry.  Beat in the vanilla.
  4. Add half of the sifted flour and give it a couple of quick stirs.  Mix in the crème fraîche, then the rest of the flour, stirring just to combine.
  5. Spread half of the cake batter (it will be fairly thick) in the bottom of the prepared loaf pan.  Top with half the pears and half the streusel.  Repeat.
  6. Bake about an hour, rotating the pan halfway through to ensure even cooking.  When a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, the cake is done.  Cool 10 minutes in the pan, then take it out to finish cooling (you may need to loosen the non-papered ends with a knife).  Serve warm or at room temperature. 
  7. Wrap any leftover cake in foil.  It will keep about two days.

Makes 1 loaf, serving about 6.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Regional French Cuisine: Pays Basque: Piperade

29 05 2009

Basque cooking is pretty much synonymous with peppers.  If you’re in a restaurant in France, and a dish is described on the menu as “à la basquaise,” it will probably be covered in bell peppers.  (Seeing as I am not exactly a bell pepper lover, this can be disappointing.)  Piperade is the name for a mixture of sautéed peppers and onions, usually seasoned with piment d’espelette and often involving eggs and/or ham.  Sounds like a pretty great breakfast to me, especially if I can swap out the bell peppers for my much-loved piquillos.

The beginning stages of piperade

Faced with yet another bunch of white asparagus from the CSA panier, I remembered a post by Mark Bittman in which he finally finds a way to enjoy the overpriced, underwhelming vegetable.  It involved peeling and cooking the hell out of them and then smothering them in a “broken hollandaise” of sorts.  I thought that some creamy, slow-cooked scrambled eggs would fit the bill, and the piperade would be the icing on the cake, so to speak.

S-L-O-W-L-Y scrambling eggs

I mean, we all know how great asparagus and eggs are together, right?  Now, if you’ll allow me, I have a short diatribe about scrambled eggs.  Don’t even think about cooking them all the way through.  Scrambled eggs should be smooth and creamy as well as fluffy.  They should never be dry.  Those cottony diner scrambled eggs with the browned bits and phony lard flavoring (or maybe it’s just rancid) turn my stomach.  The absolute best only way to cook scrambled eggs is VERY SLOWLY.  Over low heat.  In butter or olive oil.  Stirring constantly.  I mean it.  These are not a weekday morning project, that’s what fried eggs are for.  Oh, it’s going to take patience.  And time.  A whole lot of precious time.

Perfect!

Well, 25 minutes or so, anyway.  But it is time very well spent.  (And, as luck would have it, about the same amount of time it takes to steam white asparagus into submission.)

Brunch is served

Topped with a mound of soft-set piperade scrambled eggs, the white asparagus were indeed tolerable.  Good, even.  Although I can’t help but to think how much better it would be with green asparagus.  Or a few slices of cured ham, like a regionally appropriate jambon de Bayonne.  But then, what isn’t?

Originally published on Croque-Camille.








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