Bringing All The Boys To The Yard

23 05 2009

One of the appliances I miss the most in my Parisian kitchen is my ice cream maker. Ice cream is absolutely one of my favorite things to make – it’s relatively easy and the possibility for mixing and matching flavors is endless. Recently, after receiving rhubarb in my CSA panier and scoring some fragrant, juicy strawberries at the market, I was overcome with the urge to make ice cream. Rich, creamy vanilla ice cream, with a thick swirl of sweet-tart strawberry-rhubarb compote.

Rhubarb and strawberries - before and after

Still on my Nose to Tail kick, I decided to use Justin Piers Gellatly’s base recipe for Ripple Ice Cream, since that was what I was hoping to accomplish.  It’s a pretty straightforward anglaise, with a heavy dose of vanilla (or maybe that was just me, trying to use the vanilla beans I keep buying – it’s a bit of a compulsion).

Steep, Temper, Strain, Chill

But these are the easy parts.  No special equipment is required to cook a custard or bake some fruit.  I had a trick up my sleeve, though, courtesy of the internet’s favorite ice cream guru, David Lebovitz.  Turns out you can make ice cream completely by hand if you have a cold freezer and a little patience.  (Two Lebovitz recipes in one post?  Again?  Yep.)

Churning Ice Cream.  Very.  Slowly.

Here it is after a few hours of freezing with me stirring every 45 minutes or so.  I tried the immersion blender , but it just liquefied what frozen bits there were, thus setting me back an hour or so.  So spatula and whisk it was.  When it was starting to get late and the ice cream was still quite soft, I folded in the cooled strawberry-rhubarb compote anyway.  The result was a more homogeneous ice cream (no swirl to speak of), but really.  It was bedtime.  The next day, I checked the freezer to find the ice cream on the icy side.  Not terribly so, but not the creamy spoonful I’d been dreaming of.  Luckily, it tasted great.  So what does one do with overly hard ice cream?  Make it into a milkshake, of course!  (Here’s where the immersion blender shines.)

Strawberry-Rhubarb Milkshake

It may not be the deliciously marbled red and white scoop I’d originally planned, but it was luscious just the same.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.


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Why English Food Doesn’t Suck, part 3: Fergus Henderson

8 05 2009

I hardly know where to start with this one.  The dinner Nick and I shared at Fergus Henderson’s St. John Bread and Wine was, quite simply, excellent in every way.  The food was delicious, the atmosphere was convivial, the service was friendly, and we walked out of the place with a couple of free doughnuts!

Many of the places we ate in London were suggested by Shuna Fish Lydon, former pastry chef of The French Laundry and author of the fascinating blog, Eggbeater.  The Harwood Arms was the only one I booked in advance, deciding to play the rest by ear.  Upon arrival in London, after fortifying ourselves with fish and chips, Nick and I met up with my cousin, who is an enthusiastic foodie.  She was excited to see my list of possible restaurants, and was particularly delighted to see St. John and The Modern Pantry on the list, which certainly played a role in my decision-making.  St. John, the main restaurant (which was ranked #14 on this year’s 50 Best Restaurants in the World list) was booked solid, but fortunately its little sibling, the more casual St. John Bread and Wine, had room for us.

Salad is always better with a little pork... or a lot.

We started with a bowl of buttery Lucques olives and a salad of slow-cooked ham, pea shoots, and radish.  This is my kind of salad.  The richness of the ham was perfectly balanced by the fresh pea shoots and the peppery bite of the radish.  And seasonal to boot!  I love food like this: great ingredients at their peak, prepared simply and lovingly.

I do love me some pot pie

When we entered the restaurant, a sparely decorated open cube with white walls and black and white checkered floors, we noticed a pie on one of the tables.  It looked and smelled so good that there was no question we would be ordering chicken and bacon pie for two.  Our choice made, the smile of the chef jacket-clad waitress confirmed that we had made the right decision.  And how!  The crust was flaky and deeply browned, and underneath was a steaming hot stew of, well, chicken and bacon.  The flavor was spot-on: smoky, salty (but not too much), and very satisfying.  My only reservation was that some of the bits of chicken were on the dry side, but I know of no way to avoid this when cooking a whole chicken – the breast pieces are always going to be drier.  Still, it was overall a very enjoyable dish.

The obligatory, yet tantalizing vegetable side dish

The pie was served with a side of crisp-tender broccoli rabe in a mustardy dressing that stood up well to the strong flavor of the vegetable.  While we were eating, we kept sneaking peeks into the semi-open kitchen.  The pastry station was in our direct line of sight, and we watched as the chef spooned up perfect quenelles of hand-whipped something with what looked suspiciously like a bloody mary on the counter next to him.  He appeared to be working out a new recipe, and I was so curious I had to ask when he walked past our table to talk to some friends of his that had come in for dinner.  It turns out he was experimenting for an upcoming competition, and when I told him I was a pastry chef, too, he offered to send us a taste of his new dessert.  Obviously, we accepted.  I took no picture, though, because since it was new and destined for competition, I didn’t want to steal anyone’s thunder.  I will say that it was intensely chocolatey, which is never a bad thing in my book.

Speaking of books…

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I’m Not Stalking David Lebovitz…

29 08 2008

…But I did have the pleasure of meeting him last Friday at Grom, an awesome Italian gelateria which has just opened its doors in Paris.  He was very kind and let me jump into his conversation with Guido, the guy running the show.  Guido was extremely enthusiastic about his ingredients and products, which is great to see and even better to experience.  (It doesn’t hurt that he’s an attractive Italian man.)  He gave us tastes of several different gelati, including his amazing gianduja made with dark chocolate and crunchy bits of hazelnut – fresh out of the ice cream machine!  Just about everything I tried there was fantastic, from the cornmeal cookies that go into their very unique “cookies and cream” gelato, to the nearly sorbet-like coffee gelato made with Italian roast coffee (sorry, France, sometimes your coffee isn’t up to snuff).  If there’s a Grom in your town, I highly recommend it.

Rhubarb and Reine Claude plums

Anyway, the reason I feel compelled to insist that I’m not a stalker is because I’ve been making a lot of David Lebovitz’ recipes lately.  First there was the individual chocolate cakes.  Then, on his recommendation, I bought some Reine Claude plums.  Following that, on a weekend trip to Orléans, I had a delicious jam made from rhubarb and Reine Claudes.  I wanted to try to recreate it at home, but I have no idea how to make jam.  So who do I turn to?  David Lebovitz, of course!  Following his guidelines, I produced a ridiculous amount of jam.  (I think I mentioned the jam when I was making it, and busy writing about Bulgaria.)

Future Jam

Leaving me with the challenge of finding something to do with all that tasty homemade jam.  Luckily, I had been eyeing a recipe for a jam tart with a cornmeal crust, written by you-know-who.

The finished jam tart

Mine didn’t come out as pretty as his did, but the flavor was excellent.  The slight crunch of the cornmeal in the crust makes for a nice contrast with the gooey jam.  Thanks, David!  I must also admit that his recent posts on hamburgers have given me the craving, too.  So today I made brioche buns, Nick’s making potato salad, and we’re having good, old-fashioned burgers.  And onion dip.

Happy Labor Day weekend!

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Trendy Rhubarb-Apricot Crumble

4 06 2008

Maybe it’s just the season, but it seems like everyone is cooking with rhubarb these days.  Not that I am complaining.  I love the distinct tartness it brings to desserts, making them feel suitable for breakfast, somehow.  It is great in combination with berries or stone fruits, but also makes a refreshing foil to fish dishes.  I bet it would make a decent tamarind substitute, and would add a seasonal zing to barbecue sauce.  Foie gras with caramelized rhubarb?  Camembert with rhubarb compote?  It is one of the ingredients that inspires me the most right now, and I expect to see more of it on restaurant menus in sweet, savory, and palate-cleansing applications.

At any rate, the increasing proliferation of rhubarb at the market has been tempting me, and I’ve been trying to wait until the stalks were good and rosy before buying a bunch to play around with.  When I mentioned to Nick to be on the lookout for good rhubarb, his first reaction was, “So you can make me a crumble?”  How could I let him down?  Besides, I love a good crumble myself.

Top golden, filling bubbly

Searching the internet in an attempt to figure out the approximate proportion of rhubarb to sugar to flour or cornstarch was ultimately an exercise in frustration.  Trying to reconcile grams (my scale) and cups (the recipes) can be, well, trying.  I ended up just winging it, as I so often do these days.  But I think it’s making me a better cook in the long run. 

The apricots were a last-minute addition, as I noticed that the ones I had bought a few days before were ripening swiftly, so into the mix they went.  It turned out to be a good flavor combination – less expected than strawberries with rhubarb, the apricots gave the filling a subtle, musky sweetness which married nicely with the bright tartness of the rhubarb.  If I’d had any cream in the house, I might have done something wacky like infusing it with the apricot kernels to make crème anglaise, but then I just would have been frustrated that I don’t have an ice cream maker here.

Recipe after the jump.  (Yes, it’s done by weight.)

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