Paris Pastry Crawl 2103: Éclairs: The Recipe

8 02 2013

I do believe I promised recipes to accompany my Pastry Crawl so that those of you not in Paris can enjoy along with me.  With the exception of Christophe Adam, French bakers in general adhere very strictly to the rules of éclair making: e.g. If  it’s a chocolate éclair, it has chocolate filling and chocolate icing.  If it’s a coffee éclair, it has coffee filling and light brown, hopefully coffee-flavored icing.  Rarely is it anything else.  And yet, in the United States, a chocolate eclair is almost always filled with vanilla pudding (yes, pastry cream is hardly more than a fancy name for pudding (in the American sense.  Don’t make me open the British pudding can of worms.)) and glazed with chocolate.  So I suffer none of these compunctions, instead viewing the éclair as a canvas for whatever flavor combination strikes my fancy.  On this particular occasion, inspired in part by a recent post on Not Without Salt extolling the virtues of butterscotch pudding, I chose to make my filling butterscotch.

unadorned

I am admittedly out of practice piping éclairs, my muscle memory being confused between the lusty behemoths we used to make in the States and the skinnier, more uptight ones I became accustomed to making in Paris.  You can see examples of both in the above photo, insert fat American joke here.

!#@%*

Let it be noted that the fatter an éclair is, the greater the cream-to-pastry ratio.  Do with that what you will.

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Paris Pastry Crawl 2013: Éclairs: La Pâtisserie des Rêves

23 01 2013

And with nearly three-quarters of the vote, Paris Pastry Crawl is the undisputed winner!  Thank you all for voting, and now, let the gluttony commence.  We’re going to start off the series with the éclair, quite possibly the most iconic of all French pastries, and certainly the first I was familiar with, thanks to a francophile mother and the Beaverton Bakery (hey!  they’re still around!), where she used to take me and my brother after school for a treat if we’d been good… or maybe if she had a hankering herself.  Now, of course, I live in Paris, and finding an éclair doesn’t require a special trip, though sometimes it should.

anticipation...

La Pâtisserie des Rêves has been around for a few years now, but I admit I didn’t feel all that compelled to go.  Something about the bell jars covering the pastries on display just seemed so clinical.  Impersonal.  Sterile.  But just before Christmas, chef Philippe Conticini put out a gorgeous book (with an irresistible puffy cover).  Onto my Amazon wishlist it went, and what do you know? Santa Claus deemed that I had been a good girl.  Flipping through the pages, I realized that these pastries weren’t sterile at all.  The swoop of toasted meringue on the lemon tart, the overgrown rolled brioche, the opulent use of vanilla beans – this is the way I like to bake!  Obviously, a visit was now in order.

inside-out

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Céleri Rémoulade

11 11 2010

I really don’t know why I haven’t made this before.

close up

Céleri rémoulade, a classic of French cuisine, is absolutely delicious.  And it even improves in flavor, if not looks, over time.  (You see, celeriac, also known as celery root, has a tendency to brown when it is exposed to air.  You can minimize the effect by having the rémoulade dressing ready to go when you grate the celeriac, but after a few days in the fridge, chemistry wins.)

capers, mayonnaise, mustard, shallot, parsley

It’s also one of the easiest things I’ve ever made.  I’ve never made it before, yet I dove right in, without even consulting a recipe. Remoulade is a mayonnaise-based sauce not unlike tartar sauce, which I do off-the-cuff anyway.  So I winged it.  Two or three heaping soup spoons of mayonnaise (I used store-bought, but I’m sure it would be even better with homemade), two coffee spoons of capers, chopped, a minced shallot, two heaping coffee spoons of grainy mustard, the leaves of about six stems of parsley, chopped, and several twists of black pepper from the mill.  (You’ll notice I used curly parsley, but that’s only because I couldn’t find any flat-leaf at the store.)  And that’s it for the dressing.  Mix it all together, taste it, and then get going on the celery root.

Scrub and peel the celeriac, cut it into pieces that are manageable for your grater, and grate away.  If I had my Cuisinart, you can be sure I’d use it to make fast work of the grating.  Then simply mix the shredded celery root into the remoulade.  It should be mostly vegetable – the dressing is just that: dressing.  It shouldn’t be gloppy at all.  In fact, when I was mixing it I wondered if maybe I should add more mayonnaise, but in the end I’m glad I didn’t.

And there you have it!  A classic French appetizer salad.  It’s certainly going to be a staple in my winter cooking repertoire, giving me just one more reason to look forward to this tasty root vegetable showing up in my CSA share.

On this day in 2008: Worthwhile French Beers: Les 3 Brasseurs

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





It’s About Time!

20 05 2010

For all my moaning about the lack of cheeseburgers in Paris, I’ve never written a single post about them.  Sure, I’ve gone out for them a few times, but they tend to be either outrageously expensive, downright mediocre, or both.  But the fact is they are not really a difficult menu item to come by in Paris – in fact, just last Sunday the brunch special at the café downstairs from my apartment was a bacon cheeseburger with a coffee and a fresh-squeezed orange juice.  For eighteen euros.  Now, the dollar is getting stronger and everything, but that still seems pretty steep.  That cheeseburger sounded mighty good, though.

burger patties, handmade by Nick

So what happened?  Well, I ventured a little further down the street, to my nearest Turkish butcher/convenience store and the closest open vegetable shop and picked up everything I needed to make some top-notch burgers, as well as some chicken and vegetables for dinner, for less than the cost of one brunch special.

Steaming and sizzling

As delectable as that bacon cheeseburger sounded, bacon (and cheddar, for that matter) is a bit thin on the ground in this neighborhood on Sunday afternoons, what with the French butchers being closed and the Muslim ones not so into swine.  The consolation prize was mushroom-swiss burgers.  (Although, strangely, the Emmenthal was hard to find, too.  If I’d wanted a feta burger, I’d have been all set.  Note to self.)

White on white on white

Nick and I have been known to make burgers from time to time.  He makes the patties, mixing the ground beef with Worcestershire sauce and whatever else strikes his fancy – onions, cumin, herbs – and I make brioche for the buns.  This time, what with the last-minute craving, there was no time to wait for dough to rise.  So we made our burgers on thick slices of “Turkish bread.” It’s a big, soft loaf sold at all the Turkish stores on our street, and is extremely reminiscent of the “French” or “Italian” bread sold at most American supermarkets.  We grated the cheese for maximum meltability, and spooned sautéed mushrooms over the cheese piled on the bread.  then came the burgers themselves, and a quick toast in the oven.

Mushroom-Swiss Burger

Obviously, we served them with plenty of ketchup, and washed them down with Cola Turka.  Yeah, nothing like cooking the American classics in Paris.

On this day in 2009: The Basque Cheeses That Shall Remain Nameless

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Pseudo-Ranch

10 05 2010

Or if you’re feeling fancy, call it buttermilk-shallot dressing.  It seems obvious to say, but when you live abroad, you get cravings from time to time for a taste of home.  Case in point: Nick came home last night with a gorgeous piece of paleron (known in English, I think, as top blade steak).  He’d been looking for bavette (skirt steak) because he had a hankering for some carne asada.  But he saw the paleron and it was so beautiful that he had to buy it instead.  I was a little concerned, because I was pretty sure that paleron is more of a braising cut, we were planning on going to the movies, and I didn’t want it to be too late of a night, it being Sunday and all.

Upon inspection, the meat did indeed look like it would grill or sear up nicely, so I put my fears aside and covered it in a rub composed of salt and three kinds of chili powder (guajillo, pasilla, and california, for those who want to know).  I suggested making sandwiches out of the steak once it was cooked, to which Nick was amenable.  (Lest you think that he just brings things home and expects me to cook them, I feel that I should note that while I was preparing dinner, he was building and installing a medicine cabinet, so in the end, we both win.)

We definitely wanted salad with our beefy sandwiches, so I washed and tore some lettuce, thinking that I already had some vinaigrette in the fridge that I could use.  But then it occurred to me that I also had a carton of buttermilk, and wouldn’t ranch dressing be so much more appropriate with our tortas than a French-y vinaigrette?  I mentally went through the ingredients for ranch dressing, and the only thing I was missing was parsley.  I decided it wasn’t totally necessary, and added a little shallot instead, because I like shallots, and because I have a bit of a surplus of them at the moment.

So, dressing, salad, ready.  Cook steak to medium-rare (more practice with the induction stove).  Meanwhile, stir some chipotle sauce into mayonnaise and jalapeno sauce into mustard.  Slice meat, pile on bread slathered with condiments.  Bring extra dressing to the table, you’ll probably need it.  We had it on Sunday, but this would be an ideal weeknight dinner.

Buttermilk-Shallot Dressing

Also known as “pseudo-ranch,” this dressing is a nice change from typical vinaigrettes, and is particularly complimentary to American Southwestern-inspired meals.  To turn it into “real” ranch dressing, omit the shallot and add a Tablespoon or so of chopped fresh parsley.

1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1 small shallot, minced
1 small clove garlic, minced
A couple dashes of Worcestershire sauce
A dash of Tabasco (optional)
½ cup / 120 ml buttermilk
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Combine the ingredients in a small bowl.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  This gets better as it sits, so if you can make it an hour ahead of time, so much the better.  Serve over salad greens.

Makes enough for about 4 side salads or two big ones.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Eating Locally

6 04 2010

The weekend before last, our neighbors Celine and Jesse invited Nick and I to accompany them to a cheese and wine festival being held in Coulommiers, about an hour’s train ride from Paris.  (Why is it that we’ve lived in this apartment for two years and only just now make friends with the neighbors?  Granted, they only just moved in this year, but still it’s a bummer to have to move now that we have friends in the building.)  Anyway, we all had a great time at the festival, tasting wines, cheeses, and an awful lot of sausage considering it was a cheese festival.  One of the coolest things about this particular fair was that many of the companies represented came from the immediately surrounding area.  We tasted hard apple cider from Île-de-France, which was good enough that we bought a case, and were amused to hear that many French people don’t accept their cider because it’s not from Normandy or Brittany.

One of the last tables we visited was selling bags of locally-grown legumes and flour.  I couldn’t resist, and bought a bag each of brown lentils, green lentils, and freshly milled flour.  I explained to the salesguy that I was really interested in cooking with local ingredients, and that I like knowing where my food comes from.  Upon hearing my accent, he asked me where I was from.  When I responded “Les Etats-Unis,” he quickly replied (in French) “Well, you’re not very local, are you?”  Touché.  I explained that I live in Paris now, and he threw in a free bag of split peas.  Hooray!

split peas from Brie

I love split peas, in part because split pea soup is so easy to make, yet so filling and tasty.  So a few days later, I boiled up the peas with a smoky Alsatian sausage (also purchased at the festival – and not exactly local, but still only 2 hours away on the TGV) and some carrots and leeks (which came from the Loire Valley via my CSA).

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Beignets de Chien Chaud au Maïs, or, Corn Dogs High/Low

17 03 2010

Nick’s birthday was a few weeks ago, and as it fell on a Saturday when the horses were running at Vincennes, he wanted to get some people together for hot dogs and beer before heading out to the races.  Since it was a special occasion, I wanted to do a little something extra, and I remembered that I read a post a while back about corn dogs, which I don’t even like, historically, but something about being in France makes me want fried things I don’t normally eat when I’m at home in the States.

Can't you just hear the sizzle?

Anyway, it was Nick’s special day, and he loved the idea.  So corn dogs it was.  I used Alton Brown’s recipe, with a couple of changes.  I left out the jalapeño, and seeing as creamed corn doesn’t exist in France, I substituted regular canned corn, buzzed with the immersion blender.

I bought a huge pack of cheap wooden chopsticks at an Asian restaurant supply store to use as sticks, but since French hot dogs (aka Knacks) are so much thinner than their American counterparts (maybe because they don’t go frying themselves in corn batter?) I used only one stick per dog, instead of the recommended two.

Round 1

I was actually surprised at how well this recipe worked.  I don’t know why.  But let me tell you, it was seriously awesome to pull real live corndogs out of the bubbling oil in the Dutch oven.  And do you know what was even more awesome?

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Mashed Potatoes, and a Confession

12 02 2010

It occurred to me when I picked up this week’s CSA panier that in nearly two years of writing a food blog, I have never written about one of my favorite – and most frequently made – dishes: mashed potatoes.  I plan to rectify the situation today, but first I’ve got to get something off my chest.

A confession, if you will.  (My Catholic conscience is hoping this will help.)  The chef was on a bread training course this week, which means I was running the show from Monday to Thursday.  We had a stage this week, which, as usual, nobody bothered to tell me about in advance.  By stage I mean a junior high student who is spending a week in the pâtisserie to see what it’s like, and if he (it’s almost always a he) is interested in doing an apprentissage there later.  Well, this week’s kid was lacking in the common sense department.  On the first day I asked him to find the pastry cream in the walk-in (success), grab the small mixer bowl (success), and put the pastry cream in the mixer bowl (failure).  He put the ENTIRE bowl right into the mixer bowl.  I couldn’t help but laugh, and then wonder how I was going to get it out of there, which luckily didn’t turn out to be too much of a problem.  It was a real lesson in giving VERY specific instructions.  Which can be trying on the patience of someone who is just trying to get some work done.  Generally the mishaps were along these lines, though – not a big deal, but enough that I had to drop what I was doing to solve problems. 

There was one incident that really pissed me off, though, and that was when I sent the kid downstairs to take the sheets of biscuit over to the oven (don’t get me started on the impracticalities of my workplace layout).  I figured it would take him a while, guessing that he would carry the sheet pans over one at a time instead of two, but by the time I had scaled and spread out nearly six more sheets of biscuit and he had neither returned nor sent up the dumbwaiter so I could refill it, I got irritated.  I went downstairs and found him sitting down next to the empty dumbwaiter, eating a warm pain aux raisins, and chatting with one of the salesgirls.  Grr.  I shot him a nasty look, slammed the dumbwaiter closed, and stomped back upstairs, grumbling about how I hadn’t had my breakfast yet, either.  And I was hard on him for the rest of the week.  That’s what I feel bad about.  I mean, he’s just a kid.  He’s not being paid.  He’s there to learn, true, but maybe I should have been nicer.

What do you know?  I think that worked.

So, mashed potatoes.  I’ve got these down to a science.  I’m sure that there are loads of people who will disagree with me, but this is how I make them, and they always taste good.  Whether or not I’m peeling them, I always cut my potatoes into small pieces.  This is mainly a time thing – diced potatoes cook so much faster than whole ones.  Then I simmer them in copiously salted water until very tender.

drying the boiled potatoes

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How To Make A Cream Soup

3 11 2009

When I was in culinary school, we had to memorize three different methods for making cream soups.  I couldn’t tell you now how, specifically, any of them went, but I do know how to whip up a cream soup when I want one, so something must have sunk in.  I got a couple of heads of broccoli in my CSA panier last week, and on a recent cold, rainy (i.e. par for the course) evening, cream of broccoli soup sounded like just the ticket.  Cream soup is a great way to get kids to eat vegetables they don’t ordinarily like (just ask my mom – this was the only way I would eat broccoli or asparagus as a child) and may even cause a change of heart towards those very vegetables.  I can actually pinpoint the day I started liking asparagus, and a cream soup was responsible.  But enough about me.

Cream of Broccoli Soup - no cream necessary!

A cream soup is essentially made in four steps:

1. The Velouté

Velouté is a classic French sauce made from stock and blonde roux.  Blonde roux is made by cooking equal parts butter and flour until they begin to smell slightly toasty.  The ratio, according to Ruhlman, is 10 parts liquid to one part roux.  (In school we learned 8:1, but I trust Ruhlman and I figured the puréed broccoli would eventually help to thicken the soup if necessary.)  So I had about 800 ml/29 oz. of stock.  It was so close to a nice, round quart that I decided to go ahead and top it up with 100 ml/3 oz. of milk, thus creating a sort of velouté/béchamel hybrid.  Going from the ratio, I would need 3 oz. of roux.  I melted 1.5 oz. of butter and when it stopped foaming, I added 1.5 oz. of flour.  I stirred it with a wooden spoon until it started to smell like parbaked pie dough.  Then, bit by bit, I whisked in the stock/milk mixture.  Once it was all incorporated, I seasoned it with a bit of salt and pepper and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.

2. The Garnish

What? Garnish?  Now?  Yes.  While the velouté is simmering is the perfect time to prep the vegetables for the soup.  In this case, I washed and trimmed the broccoli and cut it, stems and all, into small pieces.  I set aside a small bowlful of the prettiest florets for garnish, then put them in a strainer, which I then placed over the simmering soup base.  I slapped a lid on top for a few minutes, and voilà!  Pretty steamed broccoli florets for later garnishing purposes!

Yay for mulititasking!

3. The Flavor

When the velouté is ready – taste it, it should feel silky smooth on your palate – throw in the chopped vegetables that will become the main flavor of the soup.  Simmer until very tender.  The actual amount of time will depend on how small you cut your vegetable; this time, the broccoli took about 15 minutes.

4. Purée and Finish

Almost there!  Purée the soup – I used my trusty immersion blender, but you can also do it in batches in a traditional one, just be careful not to overfill the jar.  Strain it, if you’re so inclined (I wasn’t) and finish with a swirl of cream if you’re feeling decadent (not necessary but adds a touch of luxury).  Reheat the garnish in the soup and serve.

The fresh green color and great broccoli flavor spell healthy to me!

Piece of cake.  Or should I say bowl of soup?

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Kir Bourguignon

9 10 2009

I know you’ve all been wondering when I was going to announce the French Region for October.  (Actually, I know you haven’t.  Statistics show that these “Regional French” posts are some of the least visited on this site.  And yet, some of the most searched… hmmm.)  At any rate, this is a region I’ve had planned since the beginning, and one I’m very excited about: Burgundy.  Bourgogne to the French.  I will be using the terms interchangeably.  Some of my favorite wines and cheeses in all of France come from Burgundy, not to mention some of the dishes that are inextricably linked with Classic French Cuisine, such as Boeuf Bourguignonne, Coq au Vin, and escargots.  (Let’s not forget gougères are also a Bourguignonne specialty.)  My trip is planned, and in honor of Dijon, whe’re I’m headed for a weekend, as well as in honor of Friday, I present to you Kir.

Kir by candlelight

Kir, a classic French apéritif, was invented by Félix Kir, a former mayor of Dijon (who I can’t stop imagining as the Bud Clark of France).  Cassis, aka blackcurrants, grow very well in Burgundy, so naturally the wine-loving populace came up with a way to make them alcoholic.  By soaking fresh cassis berries in alcohol, they extract a sweet liqueur heady with the aromas of the ripe fruit.  As the story goes, the drink was invented to make less-awesome white wine more drinkable by mixing it with one third crème de cassis.  And believe me, it does.  Cheers!

Originally published on Croque-Camille.








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