Luxury Leftovers

11 10 2010

Apéritif

Chicken Liver and Sage Crostini

Savory Pumpkin Tartlets

Royal Marquissac Saumur Brut

Soupe

Velouté de Cèpes

Mustard Twists and Rosemary Crème Fraîche

Domaine Prieur-Brunet Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Morgeot 2007

Plat

Pork Roast with Prunes and Hidden Bacon

Smoky Herbed Bread Pudding

Tangy Braised Swiss Chard with Pine Nuts

Spiced Persimmon Sauce

Vaucher Père & Fils Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Nuits 2008

Fromage

Bleu des Causses with Fresh Figs

Château Les Rochers Sauternes Voigny 2008

Dessert

Vanilla-Gewurtztraminer Poached Pears

Caramel-Praliné Ice Cream

Warm Chocolate Sauce and Praliné Crumbles

Eau de Vie Poire Williams

 

I adore planning menus.  I had a lot of fun with this one, and was almost relieved when I didn’t advance in Project Food Blog, because it meant that I could really enjoy the meal I had created.  Of course, I had planned to do lots of it ahead of time, but in the end it all got done the day of the party, except for the pears and ice cream, which I had the foresight to make earlier in the week.  Believe it or not, I didn’t even know what the meat was going to be until I went out to the butcher on Saturday and scoped out what he had that would go with the sides I had planned.  (I’m also the sort of person who starts her outfit with the accessories I want to wear.)

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Lavender’s Blue…

12 08 2010

Can't you just smell it?

Lavender’s blue, dilly dilly, mint is so green
Together they, dilly dilly, make good ice cream.

What of chocolate, dilly dilly, is there no place?
Swirled through in chips, dilly dilly, get in my face.

Looks can be deceiving

I’ve been wanting to make this ice cream for over a year.  I wish I could say I came up with it while I was frolicking in a field of lavender in Provence, but the truth is much more banal.  My post-shower routine, especially in the summer, involves a cooling lavender-scented foot cream, which is lovely after a long, hot day on my feet.  Combine that with the minty-fresh post-toothbrushing-session breath, and it occurred to me one day how not-unlike each other lavender and mint really are.  I thought about different dessert applications for this revelation, and naturally, ice cream sprang to mind. 

At the time, I had neither an ice cream maker nor a good source of lavender flowers.  But times have changed.  I found some fragrant organic lavender in the Indian spice shop across the street, and almost immediately upon returning home whipped up a batch of my new favorite summer ice cream.  Mint chip has always been a favorite flavor of mine, but the subtle hint of lavender turns a childhood favorite into something far more sophisticated, and possibly even more delicious.

It almost feels like I’ve been doing you a disservice by keeping this one under my hat for so long.  So here you go:

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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.





Spaghetti and Fried Eggs

10 11 2008

Sounds weird, I know.  I’ve had this recipe filed away in my mental recipe box for months now.  Every time I brought it up in the past, Nick would give me this look and say “So it’s just pasta?  With a fried egg?” in such a way that eventually discouraged me from pursuing it.

Frying eggs

So I was very surprised one day last week, when, while assessing the contents of our still-not-fully-operational fridge, Nick asked me, “didn’t you have some pasta-fried egg thing you wanted to try?”  Seizing on what was surely a rare opportunity, I agreed to make it the next night for dinner with the caveat that I add something to liven it up a bit.

A trip through the produce section of the supermarket the next day proved somewhat fruitless.  I had hoped to find some mustard greens, dandelions (I have yet to try them but am quite curious), or even arugula or spinach, but they were sorely lacking in the fresh greens department.  (Spaghetti with fried eggs and lettuce doesn’t sound the slightest bit appealing, does it?)  As I meandered through the aisles, searching for inspiration, I came to the realization that I had everything I needed for a great pasta dish at home.  Contemplating the pasta and fried egg concept, I recalled that I had seen it referred to as “poor man’s carbonara.”  Further reflection dragged up some memory of peas in carbonara dishes.  Well, I have a bag of frozen peas that need to be used… but what else can I put in there to make it more seasonally appropriate?  A quick mental scan of my pantry revealed some fresh rosemary and a jar of dried porcini mushrooms.  Now we’re talking!

A jumble of ingredients

This is a perfect dish for busy weeknights.  Fast, filling, infinitely variable – I will certainly be turning to pasta and eggs for future emergency dinners.  I started rehydrating the mushrooms and boiling water for pasta, and 20 minutes later I had dinner!

Stirring the pasta

The eggs were fried in a rather large amount of garlic-infused oil, just like the original recipe.  I threw the peas in with the pasta, timing it so they would be done at the same time, and meanwhile chopped up the rosemary and mushrooms.  I saved the mushroom soaking liquid to adjust the consistency of the final dish, which turned out to be necessary as the runny egg yolks combined with the oil to create a thick, rich sauce.

Quick, tasty, filling, and cheap - what more can you ask for?

For future reference, four eggs, when combined with the pasta and other ingredients, is a lot more than two people can eat for dinner.  Not that we didn’t enjoy trying.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Courgettes aux Herbes de Provence

5 08 2008

Last week I made good on a dinner invite I had extended to Hails of Coffee Helps.  I decided to revisit the pork roast that had been such a hit a few months back, but couldn’t decide on an appropriate vegetable side dish.  I’ll admit I sometimes feel befuddled in the Summer regarding what to do with the bounty of gorgeous vegetables available at the market.  It’s hard to strike a balance when you want to do something new and interesting but don’t want to mess up the perfection that is a ripe tomato, zucchini, or what-have-you. 

So I thought I’d do a simple summer squash sauté with a little garlic and lemon – nothing to overpower the freshness of the squash or compete with the apricot glaze on the pork.  And then, on my way out of the market, I saw these:

Cute little bundles of fresh Herbes de Provence

Fresh herbes de Provence!  Obviously, I had to buy them.  I just knew they would be fantastic with the zucchini I had picked up earlier, not to mention a lovely counterpoint to the fruity pork glaze.  And naturally, I neglected to take any photos.  (Sorry.)  But rest assured the end result was delicious.

So delicious, in fact, that I made a quiche using the same ingredients later in the week.  Using my usual recipe, with garlicky sautéed zucchini in place of the onions, I seasoned the custard with lemon zest and chopped fresh sage, thyme, lavender, and parsley.

You'll notice I finally got a round baking dish

After the quiche came out of the oven, I realized I had forgotten to put the fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano into the custard as intended.  D’oh!  Nevertheless, grating it directly over the top of the baked quiche isn’t a bad way to go.

Provençal Zucchini Quiche

The quiche was fantastic – the herbs and lemon gave the whole thing a feeling of lightness not usually associated with the buttery, eggy, cheesy goodness that is a typical quiche.  Served with a glass of chilled rosé, it made a refreshing summer supper.  It’s amazing how one simple ingredient (in this case, the fresh herbes de Provence) can inspire you to look at your cooking in a new way.  And who knows what it will be next?  I’ll just have to wait and see what the market has in store for me.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Fun with Leftover Herbs

13 06 2008

It’s a question that has plagued cooks forever.  What to do with the leftover herbs?  You pay an arm and a leg for them, use a few sprigs, and the rest go to waste in the bottom of the vegetable drawer.  Herbs are much cheaper in France than they are in the US, but I still hate wasting food.  So I try to have a few projects in mind whenever I buy herbs. 

When we bought rosemary and olives for the eggplant thing, I already had it in my mind to make a loaf of olive-rosemary bread.  I used the no-knead technique that is quickly becoming one of my favorites, adding chopped olives and rosemary during the folding process.  Knead-less to say (I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself) it was delicious.

No-Knead Rosemary-Olive Bread

But I still had some rosemary left over.  So I bought a cheap bottle of red wine vinegar and shoved the remaining rosemary inside.

Herbs + Vinegar = Gourmet Herb Vinegar  Oooh, fancy

But I was just getting started.

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