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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Apéro Provençal

19 08 2009

It is HOT in Paris these days.  Like, too hot for me to be sitting upstairs in my apartment whose copious afternoon sun one fateful February day made me fall in love with it.  That same afternoon sun is now causing my awesome loft-office to heat up to approximately three million degrees (Fahrenheit, Celsius, it doesn’t really matter at that point, does it?).  I’ve been hearing that this is the hottest summer in Paris since the infamous death wave of 2003.  (well, August, anyway – July often required sweatshirts.)  What does all this have to do with Provence?  Nothing, really, except that down in the South they have longer, hotter summers, and have mastered the art of the refreshing apéritif in the form of Pastis.

The Classic

I’ll admit it took me a while to warm up to the anise-flavored spirit, licorice being a hard one for me to tolerate most of the time.  (There are notable exceptions.)  I still often choose a chilled glass of white or pink wine or a beer for my apéro, but thanks to some fancy boutique pastis Nick and I sampled at a salon, with a minty freshness to balance the other herbal qualities, I have found a place for it in my life.  Which is good, because Nick has taken a shine to the stuff.  We generally keep a bottle of Ricard, one of the most popular mass-market brands in France, on hand.  It is traditionally served chilled, with water to cut its potency.  We, being American, insist on ice cubes, which make it the perfect refresher on a hot day like today.  What’s cool is that when the ice and water hit the clear liquor, it turns a milky mint green color.  It even looks refreshing.

steps 2 and 3

Pastis is often enjoyed in conjunction with a friendly game of pétanque, or boules, as we call it around our house.  While the game is pretty much a national pastime in France, it is especially ingrained in the local culture of Provence, probably due to the region’s wealth of warm, sunny days.

Last Saturday

1. The First Throw, 2. Playing Boules (Pétanque)

Which I shouldn’t be complaining about here in Paris.

Just a quick reminder that my Provence poll is still open, so be sure to vote on how you want me to heat up my kitchen!

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Le Rouennais

20 07 2009

In the limited planning time I had for the Rouen trip, I didn’t make it to the library for guidebooks as I normally would have done.  But in the research I was able to do, one restaurant kept coming up, no matter where I was looking.  And that restaurant was Le Rouennais.  I called before we left Paris to see if they would be open on the holiday weekend, and impulsively made a reservation for lunch on Bastille Day. 

Lunchtime Apéro

Since it was a holiday, we figured it would be ok to start our lunch with a celebratory cocktail.  (A quick hilarious story, if you don’t mind: last Thursday Nick and I went to the Musée d’Orsay.  We met on the bridge that joins the Tuileries to the Left Bank, where there are naturally loads of tourists.  I overheard a miffed-sounding American woman telling a companion that she had gone all the way over to the Place de La Bastille, and “No Bastille!”  I just about died laughing, once I was out of earshot, of course.  For those of you not in the know, the Bastille prison was completely demolished very shortly after its famous storming, and, in an ironic twist, the stones were used to build the Pont de la Concorde, one bridge over from the one on which we were standing.)  So I ordered a kir violette, and Nick was talked into the “Cocktail Maison.”  With our drinks came a little plate of apéro nibbles: puff pastry-based cheesy poofs and seafood canapés.  It seems that this is fairly common practice in restaurants in Rouen, but it’s such a nice touch.

We each got a two-course menu, as we do, and Nick got the meal started with the trio de saumon.

Salmon, Three Ways

Silky house-smoked salmon, a wedge of mousse-like salmon terrine, and a very finely minced salmon tartare were equally delicious and beautifully complimented by a dollop of citrusy crème fraîche.  Luckily for me, Nick was generous enough to share a few bites.  The seafood in Normandy is some of the best and freshest in France, and regional chefs proudly highlight it on their menus.  So for my main course I chose the marmite de pêcheur, expecting some kind of mixed seafood stew.

More like seafood pot pie!

What I got was this adorable little tureen topped with flaky puff pastry (and a pointless rosemary garnish).  Underneath the golden crust was my stew – big chunks of salmon and some kind of white fish along with tiny mussels and shrimp swimming in a rich seafood velouté.  I enjoyed every bite, mopping up the last of the sauce with bits of bread, sticking my hand into the bowl in what was certainly an undignified manner.

As for Nick, he chose the magret de canard, and was very pleased with the rosy, perfectly medium rare meat on his plate.

Canard à l'orange

It was served with a classic orange sauce, triangles of underwhelming polenta, and a portion of delicious tomato confit soufflé.  He liked it so much, in fact, that he neglected to photograph the rather unremarkable moelleux au chocolat I had for dessert.

Our bellies full and our palates satisfied, we spent the rest of the afternoon wandering the mostly deserted streets of Rouen – it was a holiday, after all – before hopping on the train home.  We arrived in Paris in time to watch the fireworks from a vantage point high on the hill above Belleville.  Not a bad way to spend a Fête Nationale.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Winter Warmers

29 12 2008

I’m talking about drinks – the kind that warm you from the inside out.  I’m currently recovering from a nasty bout with the flu (the cough is getting less and less frequent, and my voice is completely back to normal) and Paris has been hit by another cold snap.  The temperature has been hovering right around freezing, which makes it the perfect weather for wool socks, cozy sweaters, and hot toddies.

Just add hot water

Ah, the hot toddy.  I don’t really have a recipe, but I have my friend Jeremy to thank for teaching me how to make them and that they are the world’s best cold remedy.  It warms your belly, soothes your throat, and sends you peacefully off to sleep.  So how do I make it?  Bring some water to a boil.  Pour a slug of whiskey (I am digging the Irish whiskey these days, but use what you like) into a mug.  Add a slice of lemon (if you’re lucky enough to have access to Meyer lemons, they’re the best).  Pour in the hot water and sweeten to taste with honey.  Repeat nightly until your cough is gone or the weather warms up, whichever comes last.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Joyeux Noël!

25 12 2008

Thanks, Jody, for the great Christmas Eve dinner idea!

Merry Christmas, everyone!  Enjoy!

Cognac Hot Chocolate

 

In classic chocolaterie, “Champagne truffles” are truffles made with cognac, so I guess you could call this “Champagne hot chocolate,” but I don’t see any reason to confuse the issue.  Either way, this is a sinfully rich, grown-up twist on a winter favorite.  Go on, you’ve been good, right?

 

1 liter / 1 quart milk

60 ml / 2 oz. cream

3 Tbsp. cassonade or turbinado sugar

Pinch sea salt

250 g / 8¾ oz. bittersweet chocolate (I recommend 65-80% cocoa solids)

4 belts of cognac

 

  1. Combine the milk, cream, sugar, and salt in a saucepan.  Heat until simmering, stirring occasionally.
  2. Meanwhile, roughly chop the chocolate or break it into small pieces.  Pour some cognac into each of four mugs.  (I trust you to make responsible decisions regarding the strength of your drinks.)
  3. When the milk simmers, remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the chocolate until all is melted and smooth.  Pour the hot chocolate over the cognac in the mugs.  Serve hot.

 Serves 4.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Mojitos with Cuban rum

8 08 2008

Well, it’s les vacances, and I’ve been secretly posting all week from Sofia, Bulgaria.  (Actually, I wrote it all on Monday, and set it up to post throughout the week.  How cool is that?)  Nick’s had this guest post brewing for a little while now, and what better time to post about Mojitos than the hottest month of the year?  So sit back, relax, and enjoy the dulcet tones of Nick’s prose.

There’s an herb guy at the Joinville market (Thursdays & Sundays, bring your elbows and wear closed-toed shoes). We’re sure he has a proper name, but we call him “the herb guy.” He runs his stand on a corner and is often only barely visible behind green mountains of fresh parsley, cilantro, and mint. On a recent (and finally sunny) trip to the market the waft of mint was irresistible. We had cilantro, rosemary, and parsley on the shopping list, so we decided to pick up some mint to go along for the ride. Two bunches in fact. Why the splurge? Because it looked fresh, smelled great, and the things are thirty cents a bunch. Treat yourself, right?

Herb Guy

The other motivation for the mint was that I’ve had my eye some Cuban rum lately. This is one of those items you can find in France that you can’t find in the US. Cigars, too, but this is a food blog and I’ll stay on subject.

Rum comes from the Caribbean, and as an outsider it is interesting to note the origins of the rum imported into France. I will admit that, in general, rum is not high on my list of libations. However, in The States most rum I know of comes from Puerto Rico. In France one can find rum from the DOM-TOM’s Martinique and Guadeloupe as well as from Cuba. In other words, each country imports their rum from their respective Caribbean territories/departments, and then Cuba in the absence of any long-standing embargoes. As well, there are three to four different brands of Cuban rum at a given grocery store. So, political ramifications notwithstanding, we grabbed a mid-priced bottle of forbidden-fruit Havana Club añejo 3 años Cuban rum.

Havana Club Rum

The rum itself was very good. The flavor was simply that of distilled, fermented sugar cane juice. A slightly warm punch at the beginning, certainly mellowed over those 3 años, with a residual sweetness you can only get from pure cane sugar. Really nice with a cube of ice,  but it begs to be turned into a cocktail.

 mojito components

My food recipes are usually less than precise, and my drink recipes are even less exacting. So here goes: I took a chilled glass, added some sugar and juiced half a lime on top. I picked a bunch of mint leaves and put them on top of the sugar and lime juice, and muddled that with the back end of a wooden spoon (my muddler is in a box somewhere). I then added my desired amount of rum and a handful of ice, and topped it all of that off with some Perrier (it’s still France, and we’ve yet to find that art deco seltzer bottle at the flea market), stirring gently to maintain the fizz.

mojito

In a word, the Mojito with Cuban rum was great. Like a mint perfumed effervescent adult limeade. An incredibly refreshing treat on a hot day. We each had two.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.








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