28 07 2008

Ok, so I realize that as a pop-cultural reference, “What Would ______ Do?” is hideously outdated.  And yet, over the last several weeks, I have developed a mantra using said trite construction.  “What would Paul Prudhomme do?” is something I ask myself on an almost daily basis. 

This makes a certain amount of sense, as one of the formative moments in my decision to go into the culinary arts professionally involved watching a rerun of some TV show in which he cut up a chicken.  He made it look so easy!  The man has obviously butchered a chicken or two in his day.  So it started with butchering chickens.  But the mantra has made its way into other cooking arenas:

“Should I use black pepper, white pepper, or cayenne?  WWPPD?  All three!”

“Do these mashed potatoes need more butter, salt, or cream?  WWPPD?  YES!”

“What is this tomato sauce missing?  WWPPD?  Sugar!”

And so on.  Luckily, in most cases, this results in the chicken getting butchered faster and more efficiently, the seasoning being aggressive but tasty, and the mouthfeel being, well, unctuous (look it up).  All good things, in my book.

So does anyone else have a cooking mantra?  What is it?  I’d love to hear!


Du Pain et des Idées

25 07 2008

A few weeks ago, at the fête de la cour, one of our neighbors directed us to check out a boulangerie about 5 minutes away.  I finally got around to it last week, and my life will never be the same. 

Du Pain et des Idées is, as the neighbor said, not too far from my apartment (although I pass at least 4 other bakeries on the way there).  The charming storefront is situated at the end of a cute little street just off the Canal St. Martin. 

My new favorite boulangerie

It is owned and run by Christophe Vasseur, a former fashion salesman who, in his forties, decided to scrap it all and learn the art of baking bread.  And I’m glad he did, because he makes some of the best bread in town.  So far I’ve brought home the flute à l’ancienne, a long, thin bread (as the name implies), and the pain des amis, a large, flattish bread sold in hunks of 250 or 500 grams.  Both are superior in flavor to just about any bread I’ve had so far in Paris.  They have gorgeously crispy crusts that make me extremely happy to finally have a proper bread knife.

But neither of these is the reason I’ve been back three times in a week.  No, my new obsession is this:

So many flavors, so little time...

These little rolls are the greatest thing since, well, sliced bread.  Just imagine, fist-sized, fresh baked bread with a host of sweet and savory fillings.  I have taken to stopping by on the way home from work and grabbing one for a late lunch.  So far my favorite is the tomato confit and feta one, but the still-warm spinach and goat cheese wasn’t half bad!  There’s a honey-sesame one I’m dying to try, and there always seems to be something new.  I could probably eat one every day and never get tired of them.  My only question is: Why doesn’t every bakery in Paris… no, France… no, the WORLD, make these?

The Great Duo of Avocado and Shrimp

23 07 2008

It’s time again for the Leftover Queen’s Royal Foodie Joust!  This month the ingredients are Cilantro, Sesame, and Seafood.  For some reason I thought immediately of tahini, the delicious Middle Eastern/Mediterranean sesame paste.  Then I was stumped for a while, because I wasn’t quite sure how to work the cilantro in, or which seafood to choose (it’s a pretty broad category).  But one afternoon, over lunch with Hope, she mentioned that she had been playing around with gazpacho lately, and it struck me as the perfect vehicle.  Somehow avocados came up, and by the time lunch was over I had a recipe jumping around in my brain, just waiting to be made a reality.

We picked up some avocados and cilantro at the market the next day.  I had decided on seared scallops for the seafood quotient, but was unable to find any at the market.  I briefly considered going the crispy-skin seabass route, but an overly long line at the fishmonger on my lunch hour made that decision for me.  Ultimately, I settled on shrimp for their ability to pair awesomely with avocado.

When I finally cut into the avocados, I was pleased to find some of the most gorgeous, buttery-green specimens I’ve seen in France.

I have a painting very similar to this at home, painted by a friend of mine.

The gazpacho was really easy to put together:  I just threw all the ingredients (avocados, cilantro, lime juice, tahini, garlic, fish stock, salt, cayenne) in a bowl, like so:

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And The Award Goes To…

21 07 2008


Arte y Pico Award

Last Friday, Hails at Coffee Helps bestowed the Arte y Pico Award upon yours truly.  I feel really honored to be one of her five choices, given the length of this girl’s blogroll!  Seriously, though, hers is one of my favorite blogs.  A very brave soul, she ditched her home and belongings to follow her dream of becoming a travel writer by way of, get this, traveling and writing about it.  Like so many of my favorite dishes, simple yet awesome.  Hails’ stories of survival in foreign lands are often laugh-out-loud funny and always entertaining.  Anyway, in giving the award, she said some very nice things about this blog:

I’m not normally one for reading food/recipe blogs, but I love this one. Camille is an expat pastry chef living in Paris, and her recipes are written in a fun, easy-to-follow style, with a sprinkling of anecdotes about her life in France, and pictures of the finished dishes – which, quite simply, make me want to go and live with her. This blog is classy, fun, and just plain mouthwatering…

Thanks, Hails!

Now, of course, there are rules:

  1. Pick five blogs that you consider deserve the award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and also for contributing to the blogging community, no matter what language.
  2. Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.
  3. Each award winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award itself.
  4. The award winner and the one who has given the prize have to show the link of the Arte y Pico blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award.

I spent the weekend considering to which blogs I would pass the award along, basing my considerations largely on my currently overflowing Google Reader.  Which are the blogs I go to first, despite having a hundred other posts to read?  Here we go…

First up, Hopie’s Kitchen.  Another American in Paris, Hope is a first-rate home cook and aspiring actress.  She blogs a bit about life in Paris and a lot about recipes from her impressive cookbook collection.  The best part?  She converts all the measurements into metric so I don’t have to.  And she does all this in both French and English!

Next, she eats.  K is adventurous eater from Houston, Texas.  I have spent approximately 20 hours in Houston in my life, but that in no way diminishes my interest in her blog.  From hole-in-the-wall Mexican joints to massive Asian superstores to private fine dining and even some home cooking, she covers it all.  Not to mention food-related news and poems, Tuesday Trivia, and the play-by-play of her Weekend in Food.  I honestly don’t know how she finds time for a day job!

Ensuite, mes petits choux à la crème, a man known only as the Grumpy Chef (aka Le Chef Grincheux) writes a blog called Who Dares Cooks.  His posts are infrequent (understandable, given that he is an actual, working chef) but always make me cheer.  He says what we’re all thinking, and by “we,” I mean “people who work in the food industry.”  Somehow it’s cathartic to read someone else’s frustrations, especially when they are similar to your own.

Dish, of Hooked in Amsterdam, has just returned from a few months of gallivanting around the Pacific Northwest and getting married in Spain.  An American expat, she’s back home (away-from-home) in the Swedish countryside and about to adopt a puppy.  She’s an avid cook, and does an admirable job of sifting through the Food Network archives for worthwhile recipes.  There are also great photos of rural Sweden and anecdotes about living abroad.

Last but not least, Lady Disdain.  I literally found this blog three days ago, courtesy of WordPress’ largely useless “Possibly related links.”  I fell in love with it immediately.  Here’s why: the name come from my favorite Shakespeare play, Much Ado About Nothing; the subtitle is “Food, with a side order of snark,” snark being both a favorite word and a favorite attitude; she used the term “Bloodbath and Beyond,” and is therefore the only person I know besides myself who calls it that.  Also, the food photography is luscious.

So, nominees, to accept the award all you have to do is follow the aforementioned rules.  And to the rest of you, happy web surfing!

More Pizza Ideas

18 07 2008

Since I’ve decided my pizza/calzone dough recipe is a keeper, I’m finally going to share it with you.  But first, a couple more things I’ve done with it.  The first isn’t exactly revolutionary, but I was pretty proud to have made such a fine pizza from stuff I found lurking in the fridge.

Chorizo, Caramelized Onion, Tomato, and Goat Cheese Pizza

I think we can all agree that I have a slight addiction to caramelized onions.  I’ve taken to using them on my pizzas in place of tomato sauce.  Not that I have had any complaints.

This next pizza is an absolute stunner.  I breaded and fried eggplant slices and placed them on the pizza with a simple tomato sauce (courtesy of Nick), slices of fresh mozzarella, and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.  Voilà!  Eggplant Parmesan Pizza!

Before - Nick thought this was too pretty NOT to photograph.

After - Drool-worthy, isn't it?

It was seriously the best pizza I’ve ever made.  The eggplant was deliciously crunchy with meltingly tender insides, and the cheese and tomato sauce complemented it perfectly.  Now I want more!

Doesn’t that just get your creative juices flowing?  Then I guess it’s time to give up the recipe:

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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.

Fire! Fire!

10 07 2008

Something about using a blowtorch brings out my inner Beavis.  As my line of work tends to require the use of fire on a daily basis, this can be good and bad.  The bad part?  Being a responsible adult, I have to be very careful about where the flame is pointing at all times, which removes a smidgen of the fun of wielding fire in a professional capacity.  The upside?  All the brûléeing, unmolding, and relighting the pilot light gives the closet pyromaniac in me ample opportunities to play with fire.  The other day I was charged with burning the tops of two enormous (we’re talking almost full-sheet pan sized) crème brûlées.  Each one needed two layers of sugar, so the whole process took almost 40 minutes.  As I stood there, watching the individual sugar crystals melt and then darken to a deep amber caramel under the flame, I thought, “There are much worse ways to earn a living.”

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.)

We Found Buttermilk!

7 07 2008

I can’t believe that there has been buttermilk right under my nose the whole time I’ve been in Paris.  I’ve walked right past it countless times, not even considering that it might be just the thing I’ve been looking for.  You see, it is usually labeled in Arabic, with small French writing that explains, “lait fermenté.”  Then Nick and I were in the store the other day, and he exclaimed, “Is that buttermilk?  Lait fermenté?”  I smacked my forehead.  Of course.  It’s been there the whole time, staring me right in the face, and I missed it!

So what was my first thought upon finding this previously unavailable (or so I thought) ingredient?  Fried chicken.  I don’t know why.  I can’t say we were in the habit of making fried chicken back home in the States, or even if I’ve ever attempted it.  It’s also not something I crave in particular.  Sure I’ll read something about fried chicken every now and then, and I’ll get hungry thinking about the crunchy breading, but then I think about the mess involved in eating pieces of bone-in fried chicken, and the sad fact is that most of the time it just isn’t worth it.  You get grease all over your hands and face and it’s so heavy that you end up feeling like you’ve swallowed a rock.  Most of the fried chicken meals I’ve had in my life have consisted of one piece of chicken (invariably dry, yet somehow with flabby skin) and then I fill up on sides: mashed potatoes and coleslaw being my favorites.  Biscuits, too, if they’re around.

But I guess I have been reading up on fried chicken recipes lately, and the Cook’s Illustrated one (in which I had absolute faith) insists on marinating the chicken in seasoned buttermilk before battering and frying.  It sounded so good that it stuck in my mind, hidden away until the moment I saw buttermilk, at which point it popped out and started bouncing around again.  So fried chicken it was.

Since I know almost nothing about making fried chicken, I followed Cook’s recipe to the letter.  It came out fantastically.  The batter was dark brown and satisfyingly crunchy, yet almost light in texture with no unpleasant greasiness.  The chicken underneath was juicy and beautifully seasoned.  I honestly can’t say I’ve ever had better.

Move over, Colonel!  Sorry, Popeye!  French chickens rule!

As you can see, we served it with potato salad (left over from our 4th of July feast – which I’ll be posting on later, I was just so psyched about the chicken I had to write it up immediately) and a batch of our favorite buttermilk coleslaw (also courtesy Cook’s Illustrated).

Ah, Americana in Paris…

Enfin une Quiche

3 07 2008

I actually make quiche on a not-infrequent basis.  It’s relatively easy, and since I know where to get cheap eggs, it’s a good source of inexpensive protein.  But for some reason, none of my quiches have made it onto this here blog.  Why?  Maybe I was embarrassed about using store-bought pâte brisée, maybe I didn’t get any good pictures, maybe I had better things to blog about.  But this time I made up my mind to document the quiche.

First things first: the crust.  (A funny story just popped into my mind – for my culinary school final, I drew a menu containing quiche Lorraine.  We were given ingredient lists, but no other clues.  The list for the quiche did not include ingredients for the crust because, honestly, if you don’t know what goes into pâte brisée, you don’t deserve to graduate from culinary school.  At any rate, the TA told me after the test was finished that I had been the only student to make a crust for the quiche!)  Anyway, the crust is easy.  I used to make it in the Cusinart, which certainly makes it a quick process, but the truth is that it doesn’t take long to do it by hand.  Mix flour and salt in a bowl, rub in cold butter, gently stir in cold water.  I use my hands, that way there are no pastry cutters or knives to wash later.  (I’ll put my recipe at the bottom of this post.)  A French pastry technique called fraisage, which involves smearing the dough on the counter, gives the crust long, flaky layers that are totally worth the mess.  After chilling the dough for an hour or so, I rolled it out and wrangled it into my rectangular baking dish.  I lined it with foil and, since I don’t have any pie weights, weighed it down with a few ramekins.  I parbaked it for about 20 minutes, and it was ready for the fillings.

Parbaked quiche crust

 It was one of those rare moments when we didn’t have any bacon in the house, so I decided to use a ton of caramelized onions.  (For those of you just tuning in, I absolutely love caramelized onions.)

Mmmm... caramelized onions

But wait, there’s more…

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