Looking For Another Potato Recipe?

23 02 2011

Look no further.  Well, maybe just a little bit.  I wrote up my recipe for pommes à la dauphinoise, aka gratin dauphinois, for the Recipe of the Month at Girls’ Guide to Paris.  Here’s the before picture…

Before...

Click on over for the after photo and the recipe!

On this day in 2010: A Sourdough Attempt, and Why I Cook

Originally published on Croque-Camille.

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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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Corn Chowdah

12 09 2009

Corn showed up in the CSA panier a couple of weeks ago.  I was excited and wary.  Excited because yay, corn!  Wary because the few ears of cob corn I’ve had in France have been unpalatably starchy.  So before even tasting it I devised a plan.  Corn chowder.  That way I could extract the flavor from the cobs, while the chopped, cooked kernels would have less of a chance to be offensive when combined in a creamy soup with bacon and potatoes.  (How do you make anything taste good?  Bacon and potatoes.)

Corned cream

Fortunately, when I cut the corn kernels from the cob and tasted one, I was rewarded with the crisp crunch of sweet corn.  Hooray!  No animal feed for us tonight!  I reserved the kernels for later and put the halved cobs in a pot with a little cream (okay, a lot of cream), a bay leaf,  and a few sprigs of thyme harvested from my windowbox garden.  I brought it up to a simmer, then covered it and lowered the heat so the cobs and herbs could really infuse the cream with their flavors.

The start of a delicious chowder

As we all know, a good chowder always starts with bacon.  Potatoes are another must-have.  Keeping it simple, I rendered some lardons while dicing potatoes, then threw the potatoes on top of the bacon and tossed to coat the cubes of potato in bacon fat.  I cooked them like that for a few minutes, then added a little white wine and water to cover.  Salt, pepper, and 10 minutes of simmering later, the potatoes were tender and tasty.  Time to strain the corned cream into the pot and add the reserved corn kernels.  Back up to a simmer for another couple of minutes to heat the corn through, and dinner was good to go.

Summery, yet hearty soup

Simple, classic, and great for those first few chilly nights of the changing season.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Les Chips

3 08 2009

“It’s been a while since you did a post on Awesome Things in the French Supermarket,” Nick says to me as he pulls not one, but two bags of potato chips from the shopping bag.

“True,” I reply, pretty sure that potato chips are not a healthy part of a vegetable-heavy diet.  Especially ham-flavored ones. 

My favorite part is the old guy on the corner of the bag, lovingly inspecting a chip.

They were pretty good, though… if you like smoky bacon.  Which I do, as I am sure it is apparent to even semi-regular readers of this blog.  And I bet they’re killer with onion dip.  There was also a bag of mustard-flavored potato chips (“les chips,” pronounced sheeps, en français) which I just now had to  open and taste in order to write an informed post.  Sometimes life is hard.

...and by mustard they mean Dijon.

I may like the mustard ones even better.  The mustard flavor is subtle – no sinus clearing heat – but so perfectly paired with the potato chip that I wonder why they don’t make these in the States.  Although it’s entirely possible that a French food-lover would wonder the same thing upon first tasting a cheddar cheese-flavored chip.

Let it be noted that I am not the world’s biggest potato chip fan.  Sure I’ll eat them, and find it hard to stop, but I don’t crave them.  Given the choice I will almost always pick corn chips, crackers, popcorn, Chex Mix, or any of the multitude other crunchy salty snacks that are served at barbecues and sporting events.  That said, the range of unfamiliar flavors available in France certainly piques my curiosity – roasted chicken potato chips, anyone?

Previous Awesome French Supermarket Finds:

Bacon Wrapped Goat Cheese
Goat’s and Sheep’s Milk Yogurts
Butter with Sea Salt Crystals
Cats eat better here, too…

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Potatoes or Green Beans?

23 07 2009

Does this ever happen to you?  You’re going through your workday, thinking about dinner, picturing the oven fried fish and homemade tartar sauce you have planned, but when it comes to the side dish, you’re stumped.  On one hand, you have some lovely little haricots verts rapidly going south in the fridge, and on the other, you have some freshly dug new potatoes doing the same in the cupboard.  A quick green bean sauté sounds easy and virtuous, but maybe steamed potatoes in an herby vinaigrette would be better.  You remember that there are no fresh herbs in your kitchen, but now you really want those potatoes.  It would really be a shame to see those green beans go to waste.  Potatoes or green beans?  Green beans or potatoes?

What if...?

So there I was, with the great potatoes-or-green beans debate waging on in my head, when lunchtime rolls around.  After the 10 minutes it takes me to eat my sandwich, I have the better part of an hour to kill.  I decide to check my email on my phone (ah, the wonders of technology!) and lo and behold, a friend has sent me a link for a peach pie recipe from Smitten Kitchen.  I’m sure it was mouthwatering, but what immediately caught my attention was the link at the top of the page to the previous recipe, entitled, “arugula, potato and green bean salad.”  Wait!  Of course!  I can use both!  Why didn’t I think of that before?  I loved the idea of a yogurt-based dressing – it sounded so fresh and healthy (which is good, seeing as I’m still struggling a bit with that vacation weight), as well as creamy, tangy, and malleable to my palate’s desires.  And what my palate desired was tarragon.  I remembered it working so well with the yogurt in my French coleslaw recipe, and fortunately, I almost always have tarragon vinegarin the cupboard.  Yay!  With some shallots, Dijon mustard, and hazelnut oil, maybe some toasted almonds… can you tell I was getting excited?  After work I hurried home to get cooking. 

It looks like mayo, but brother, it ain't mayo.

The resulting salad was just what I was looking for.  I am absolutely making this one again.  Repeatedly.

French Potato and Green Bean Salad 

Never again succumb to the starch-or-vegetable dilemma!  This salad marries them beautifully.  The yogurty dressing looks rich, but tastes light – an excellent summer side dish.  As for the title, something about the combination of tarragon and nuts strikes me as so French.

For the dressing:

125 g / 4½ oz. plain yogurt
1 medium shallot, minced
2 Tbsp. tarragon vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. hazelnut oil

  1. Combine the yogurt, shallot, vinegar, and mustard in a small bowl.  Whisk in the oil and season to taste.

For the salad:

200 g / 7 oz. haricots verts (or thin green beans), washed and broken in half if long
360 g / 13 oz. small, waxy potatoes, scrubbed and sliced into rounds 65 mm / ¼” thick
50 g / ½ cup sliced almonds, toasted (optional)

  1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Place the green beans in a strainer or pasta insert and cook 2-3 minutes, until bright green and crisp tender.  Remove them from the pot and give them a quick rinse in cold water to stop the cooking.  Drain.  (You may need to do this in two batches if your strainer is small like mine.)
  2. Add the potatoes to the pot, return to a boil, and reduce heat to medium.  Simmer potatoes until tender, about 10 minutes.  Drain.  (No need to save the water this time.)
  3. Transfer the hot potatoes to a salad bowl and toss with the green beans and the dressing.  Allow the flavors to meld for at least 20 minutes.  Just before serving, sprinkle in the almonds and stir to distribute.  Serve at room temperature.

Serves 3 as a side dish.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Kicking It Old School

18 04 2009

Meatloaf Dinner

Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and creamed spinach.

Because meatloaf makes great leftovers.  And sandwiches.  Because it’s easy, comforting, satisfying, and delicious.  Because deep down, I like the meat + veg + starch aesthetic.  Because sometimes, that is what I’m talking about.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Regional French Cuisine: Savoie: Tartiflette

30 03 2009

You didn’t think I could get through Savoie month without discussing Tartiflette, did you?  I’ve made variations on the theme in my kitchen before, but this time, I wanted to try my hand at the real deal.  Using Robuchon’s recipe as a reference, I began by sautéeing lardons and added thinly sliced leeks once the bacon had rendered.  (Onions would be more traditional, but the CSA people keep sending me leeks.)

Bacon and leeks - before

While the leek-bacon mixture cooked, I cut some potatoes (also from the CSA panier – look at me, cooking all local and organic!) into cubes – didn’t bother peeling them – and boiled them until they were tender.  When the leeks were beginning to caramelize, I poured some white wine into the pan and let it cook a few minutes longer until the wine was reduced to a glaze.

Wine-braised leeks and lardons

I scraped this heavenly-smelling concoction over the drained potatoes and stirred gently to coat the potatoes in the bacony, winey goodness.

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Potimarron-Fingerling Gratin

2 12 2008

Celebrating holidays in a foreign country means making certain sacrifices.  As a case in point, I have yet to see anything resembling a fresh cranberry in Paris.  The various American épiceries are fully stocked with jars and cans of cranberry sauce, but if you want to make your own (like I always do) you’re out of luck.  However, as you can probably imagine, the markets of Paris offer up an incredible bounty from which to devise seasonal dishes from locally-grown ingredients.

Naked Chestnut Squash

Like this potimarron.  I forgot to get a picture of it before I stripped it bare, but there’s a good before photo herePotimarron is one of the more commonly seen winter squashes in the Parisian markets, yet somehow I had yet to cook one.  A little research turned up some interesting facts about the potimarron: the thin skin is edible, the name is derived from the French words for “pumpkin” and “chestnut,” and it apparently increases in sweetness and vitamin content the longer you store it (to a point, I’m sure).

Potimarron insides, with paring knife for scale

I purchased the cute little squash about a week before Thanksgiving without any real plan regarding what to do with it.  The same market trip yielded a bag of fingerling potatoes, another impulse buy.  A few days later, when I realized it was high time I start getting my Thanksgiving menu in order, the two supremely seasonal vegetables jumped out at me.

*Peeling not required

Recalling a butternut squash gratin I have made in years past to generally good reviews, I thought I’d riff on the idea, working potatoes into the mix.  The potimarron, taking after its namesake nut, is one of the starchier winter squashes out there.  While this makes it able to hold its own when combined with potatoes, I didn’t want the dish to be too heavy (this was for Thanksgiving, after all).  I figured the tangy sweetness of leeks simmered in hard cider would offset the richness of the squash and potatoes.  Top it all off with my favorite fresh chèvre, and I had just the gratin I was looking for.  I may not have had sweet potatoes as usual, (ed. note: except that I did, on this salad) but it didn’t feel like I was sacrificing a thing. 

Click through for the recipe and Nick’s gorgeous photo.

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Thanksgiving in Pictures

1 12 2008

My Thanksgiving week in 12 pictures

1. Supermarket Spoils, 2. Steaming Chestnuts, 3. Mushrooms at the Market, 4. Fresh Porcini!, 5. Potimarron Peels, 6. Washed Fingerlings, 7. Exploded Garlic, 8. Wild Mushroom Bread Pudding, 9. Buttered Turkey, 10. Nick’s Mad Carving Skills, 11. Potimarron-Fingerling Gratin, (recipe here) 12. Candlelight Crisp

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





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.)








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