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.





Muffins aux Carottes

26 01 2009

I woke up on Sunday thinking about carrots.  I don’t know why.  As luck would have it, we happened to have some in the root cellar, courtesy of the CSA.  We had eaten a fabulously indulgent dinner the night before at Astier (more to come on that, I promise), so we weren’t particularly hungry, but I thought something healthy might help overcome the guilt that always seems to follow an especially gluttonous evening.

Carrot meets grater

Carrot muffins sounded like the perfect antidote.  I wanted crunchy nuts, rich molasses, and whole grains.  A glance through my bookmarked recipes yielded nothing like what I was looking for, but a molasses and whole wheat muffin recipe from Paul Prudhomme by way of Cooking Books and a zucchini bread from 101 Cookbooks via Hopie’s Kitchen looked like good starting points.  Of course, Prudhomme’s recipe had no carrots (nor eggs, which I found troubling, and what looks on paper like WAY too much baking powder), and the zucchini bread had no molasses, though I did like the idea of incorporating crystallized ginger into the mix.

Noisettes grillées

Flipping back and forth between the recipes trying to figure out the correct amounts of baking powder and soda was giving me a headache, and I was getting steadily hungrier.  Ultimately, I guessed at the leavening amounts since I was changing the recipes so drastically anyway.  Enough math and chemistry, it was time to start baking!  Neither recipe had as much whole grain as I wanted, so I threw in some rolled oats for their heart-healthy properties, and I thought that the sweet crunch of hazelnuts would compliment the carrots and ginger nicely (also, that’s what I had lying around).  While mixing up the batter, I realized I didn’t have any milk, so in a very WWPPD moment, I added cream.  And then a little more.

MacGyvered muffin cups

I don’t have a regular muffin pan, but I do have some silicone molds in about the same shape.  Trouble is, I hate the way things baked in silicone molds come out with weirdly rubbery exteriors.  (Custards are an exception, as are pudding cakes and their saucy ilk, but anything with more flour than liquid comes out strangely.)  Lacking muffin cups, I fashioned some out of squares of parchment paper, which worked better than I expected or even hoped.

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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.





Happiness is a Warm Doughnut

18 09 2008

So I was browsing Photograzing a little while ago and was attracted like a moth to a flame when I saw the photo of Buttermilk Doughnuts, courtesy of Stephan at This Engineer Can Bake.  You should know by now how much I love buttermilk, be it in fried chicken, chocolate cake, coleslaw, or pancakes.  I haven’t had a doughnut since I arrived in Paris in January, and I suddenly had to have one.  I present the rest of the story as a photo essay.

Very sticky doughnut dough.

Very sticky doughnut dough.

The lineup of potential doughnut cutters.

The lineup of potential doughnut cutters.

The winners and resulting doughnuts.

The winners and resulting doughnuts.

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Granola: an Illustrated Recipe

22 08 2008

Or, It’s Not Just For Hippies Anymore! 

For the monthly Foodie Joust over at Leftover Queen’s, I came up with two very different ideas.  I haven’t decided which one to submit yet, so maybe my most excellent readers will help me decide?  (This means you!)  Last month’s winner chose ginger, citrus, and whole grains for this month’s challenge.  And here we go with my first shot (well, to tell the truth, I made this second, but the recipe was much easier to commit to the page):
With milk and peaches the next morning

Recipe and photos after the jump.
Read the rest of this entry »








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