A Hen By Any Other Name

9 01 2010

Sorry, I just read this, and now have Shakespeare on the brain.  (WARNING: do not click that link if you don’t have at least 30 minutes to appreciate its brilliance.  And come back here when you’re done.  Thanks.)  At any rate, this post owes much more to Martha Stewart than it does to good old Bill.  I received Martha Stewart’s Dinner at Home for Christmas, and so far am loving the inspired seasonal menus and beautiful photography.  I especially love the simplicity of the recipes – I get caught up in the kitchen, occasionally, and it’s nice to have a reminder that sometimes all you have to do is paint a hen with hoisin sauce and let it roast.

White and yellow coquelets

The recipe for hoisin-glazed hens calls for a two pound Cornish game hen per person, which sounds like a lot to me.  Besides, the coquelets (in English: poussins, and in American: Rock Cornish hens) in the grocery store were only about a pound each.  They had both white and yellow ones, and not seeing a price difference, I picked up one of each in order to find out the difference.  Once home, I rubbed them with a mixture of chopped fresh ginger, chili peppers, garlic, and salt.  I stuffed a few branches of cilantro into each cavity, and let the little guys rest for about 20 minutes while I preheated the oven and made the sauce for dessert.  Right before I put them in the oven, I used one of my new pastry brushes (thank you, Mr. Bricolage) to cover the birds with a thin layer of hoisin sauce.  Painting the stuff on was totally fun – one of those kitchen moments where I really wouldn’t rather be doing anything else.  While the hens roasted, I got some rice going on the stove, then painted another layer of sauce on the already gloriously browned hens.  Less than half an hour later, dinner was ready!

A quick, Asian-inspired dinner

I served the juicy, flavorful hens with some homemade sorta-kimchee’d radishes and carrots.  (Really, they were just pickled, with a little Thai fried chili paste mixed into the brine.  None of that complicated fermentation stuff.)  Nick and I switched hens halfway through the meal, to judge the merits of the two colors of hen.  The consensus was that the white one was better for this purpose, i.e. roasting, while the yellow one might shine more in some kind of stewed or slow-cooked application (barbecue, anyone?).

For dessert, I took Martha’s suggestion to simply slice some kiwis and drizzle them with a jasmine tea syrup.  I had to add some ginger to the simmering water, though, as I’m an incurable recipe-tinkerer.  It made a delicious, light finish to the meal.  I have some leftover syrup, and this time inspired by another Christmas gift, David Lebovitz’ The Perfect Scoop, I’m planning on using it to make a kiwi-jasmine granita.  No ice cream maker required!  If I had one, though, and I may, soon, if the gods of the Soldes see fit to smile on my quest, I might whip up a sorbet instead.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.


We’ve Got The Beet

3 03 2009

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. 

Remember the last time I cooked beets?  (I know you probably don’t, that’s why I put the link in there.)  Well, I ate them, but the recipe obviously didn’t have me clamoring for more.  And I made no more attempts to cook them until they showed up in my CSA panier a few weeks ago.

Just look at that color!

You see, I really want to like beets, especially this time of year.  They are such a sexy shade of deep red, in striking contrast to the whites and browns of most of Winter’s root vegetables.  So what can I do to make them taste as sexy as they look?  In a word: bacon.  Oh, I threw some chestnuts in there for good measure, and drizzled it all with a little Balsamic vinegar, all of which I’m sure helps the cause, but we all know it’s the smoky, meaty bacon that makes the magic happen.

Love the array of warm colors in this dish!

Balsamic Roasted Beets with Bacon and Chestnuts


Here it is – the recipe that finally made me like beets.  


3½ oz. / 100 g lardons

2 medium beets, peeled and diced into ½ inch (13 mm) cubes

4½ oz. / 130 g roasted, peeled chestnuts, roughly chopped

1 shallot, thinly sliced (optional)

Leaves from 2 sprigs of fresh thyme

Olive oil

Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Balsamic vinegar


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F / 190 C.
  2. Place the lardons in a small saucepan and cover with cold water.  Place over medium heat and bring up to a simmer.  Remove from heat and drain.
  3. Combine the beet cubes, blanched lardons, chestnuts, shallot (if using) and thyme on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Season with salt and pepper and splash a little olive oil on top.  Stir to coat.
  4. Roast 20 minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven, drizzle the beets with a little balsamic vinegar, stir to redistribute, and roast for another 20 minutes, or until beets are tender.  Serve hot.


Serves 2 as a side dish.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.

A Panier Improv That Worked

5 02 2009

I was very excited last week when we got two HUGE parsnips in our CSA panier

Tasty winter produce

I had never once tasted a parsnip before I spent Christmas in England a few years back, but it was love at first bite.  Roasted crisp with carrots and potatoes, I loved their crunchy caramelized outsides and subtly sweet, tender insides.  I am such a fan of roasted parsnips that I have rarely strayed from the straightforward recipe I first fell in love with.

But the panier encourages experimentation.  Ever since we started getting it, we’ve been long on apples.  It’s a different kind every week, from sweet goldens to the tart, perfectly-sized-to-fit-in-your-palm snacking apples we got yesterday.  But still, that’s a lot of apples.  I’m trying to come up with new ways to use them, so when I got out the parsnips and noticed the giant (we’re talking softball-sized) apples reposing next to them, I thought, why not?

And a new favorite Winter side dish was born.

Roast Parsnips and Apples


This is a delicious, simple side dish that is fantastic with roast chicken.  For something a little more substantial, you could make it into a gratin by crumbling some blue cheese on top after the parsnip is tender, and baking until the cheese has melted a bit.  A little bacon in there would definitely not suck.


2 very large parsnips (or about 4-5 medium or 6-8 small)

1 large apple

Leaves picked from one stem of rosemary

Coarse sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil


  1. Preheat the oven to 190 C / 375 F.
  2. Peel the parsnips and cut into bite-size pieces.  Dice the apple, but don’t worry about peeling it.
  3. Spread the parsnips evenly on a baking sheet or in a small roasting pan.  Season with salt, pepper, and rosemary.  Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. 
  4. Roast for 20 minutes, then add the apple and stir.  Continue roasting another 20-25 minutes, until the parsnip is tender and beginning to brown at the edges.  Serve hot.


Serves 2 hungry people as a side dish.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.

More Tomatoes!

5 09 2008

On the way home from work the other day, as I walked past the corner fruit-and-vegetable seller, I noticed he was arranging tomatoes for his sidewalk display.  Upon closer inspection, I saw that they were some very cool, dark green kumato tomatoes, and I picked one up.  The man asked me if I was familiar with these tomatoes.  I responded in the affirmative and he informed me that these were very good.  So I picked up another one.  And another one.  Soon my hands were full, but the man had the foresight to go and get me a bag, which I filled to my heart’s content.  Two and a half euros later, I was the proud owner of an almost- kilo of kumato tomatoes.

It was sunny outside my kitchen window that day.

I’ll admit this wasn’t a completely random purchase.  I did have a recipe in mind when I saw them – Clotilde’sTomato Tarte Tatin recipe from her book, Chocolat & Zucchini.  (I have the French version, but I assume it’s in the English versions, too.)  I have a hard time leaving recipes alone, however, so I riffed on the idea of a roasted tomato tart baked with a crust on top, Tatin-style.

Awaiting their destiny

I love the way roasting brings out the deep sweetness and enhances the complexity of fruits and vegetables.  And I’ve done some good things with roasted tomatoes in the past.  These particular tomatoes, probably due to their being all squished together in my tart dish, took a lot longer to start getting roast-y than I anticipated.  I eventually had to very carefully pour out some of the excess liquid from the dish so that we could have dinner before 11 pm.  (Not that that’s entirely abnormal in France, but my alarm goes off at 5 am.)

While the tomatoes were roasting, I smeared a round of puff pastry with the contents of a whole head of roasted garlic which I had made a day or two before.  The pastry was store bought because I was feeling too lazy to make my own pâte brisée, but I think I’ll make the effort next time.  Even the supposedly all-butter pastry has a weird chemical taste that has no place on my dinner plate.

The roasted garlic was good...

Anyway, once the tomatoes began to dry a bit, I dolloped fresh goat cheese over them, like so:

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How to Roast a Chicken (alternate version)

28 05 2008

Yes, roasting a chicken is very easy.  But do you know what’s even easier?  Buying a fresh rotisserie chicken hot from the oven.  And some potatoes from the bottom of the rotisserie, where they’ve been soaking up chickeny goodness most of the day.

The ubiquitous parisian rotisserie

This picture was taken at the butcher that is closest to my apartment, but almost every butcher in town has one of these outside his shop.  I do not recommend walking down the street hungry in Paris, as you will be assaulted at least every 3 minutes with the delicious aroma of roasting chickens.  I believe I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating:  the chickens here in France are just plain tastier than their American brethren.  Chalk it up to farming practices or whatever, all I know is that I won’t touch a pre-roasted chicken in the States, and here I eat them at least twice a month.  (Apologies to my American readers.)

Note the price (if you can decipher that crazy French handwriting, that is): 5 euros.  The sign says 2 euros for potatoes, but sometimes they’ll just throw a handful into the bag with the chicken for free.  Throw together a salad and you’ve got dinner for 2-3 people in no time, for pocket change.

Vive la France!

Easter Dinner

27 03 2008

You would think that after such a rich brunch, we would want something light for dinner.  And you would be wrong.  Like I said, the lack of Wii significantly increased the amount of time spent cooking this Easter.  So we planned a fabulous dinner for ourselves.  I asked Nick to try to recreate the celeriac-Roquefort soup he made for Thanksgiving, since both ingredients are cheap and plentiful here.  I found a recipe for a roasted beet and carrot salad on the Cook’s Illustrated website that I wanted to try, given that, as Clotilde of Chocolate and Zucchini pointed out, beets are on their way out of season.  I have never been a big fan of beets, but I continue to try them in different forms, hoping to find one that I enjoy.  Nick put it quite well when he said, “I keep thinking that I’m going to grow up and like beets all of a sudden.”  For the main dish, lamb seemed to be an obvious choice.  But how to cook it?  Given the recent influx of spring vegetables at the market, I decided on a navarin, a traditional French lamb stew with spring vegetables.  I perused a few recipes, but in the end, just made it up as I went along.

Unfortunately, because the camera was on the fritz for most of the day, few pictures were taken.  However, I did manage to get one good shot of each dish.  So without further ado, I present to you the soup.

Celeriac-Roquefort Soup

As you can see, it’s a puréed soup.  What you can’t see is how magically the piquancy of the Roquefort complements the mellow, vegetal, nuttiness of the celeriac.  Hazelnuts were a natural choice for garnish, both enhancing the flavor of the soup and providing a nice crunch for contrast.  The watercress I threw on there because it looked pretty and I had some out anyway, for the salad.  But the fresh, peppery bite of the greens added another dimension to the soup, highlighting the contribution of the Roquefort.  Speaking of the salad…

Salad of Roasted Beets and Carrots with Watercress

It was a beautiful sight to behold.  The deep reddish-purple of the beets next to the nearly burnt orange (for all you Texas fans out there) of the carrots and the vibrant green of the watercress made for a truly stunning tableau.  And really easy to make.  I simply cut the vegetables into batons, tossed them in olive oil, salt, and pepper, and stuck them in the oven for half an hour or so.  They could have gone even longer, but we were getting hungry.  While they roasted, I made a fairly strong vinaigrette with cider vinegar, shallots, honey, salt, pepper, and olive oil.  When the beets and carrots were cooked through, I dumped them into a large bowl, tossed them with the vinaigrette, and added the watercress.  Easy-peasy.

On to the pièce de résistance: spring lamb stew (or, as they call it here, navarin d’agneau).

Read the rest of this entry »

Sufferin’ Succotash

12 03 2008

Saturdays tend to involve a certain amount of desperation in the shopping department.  Since everything is closed on Sundays (except the market, which everyone seems to forget about until late Sunday morning), there’s a bit of a better-stock-up-for-the-weekend mentality.  As a result, after a relaxing Saturday afternoon at the Musée Carnavalet, Nick and I found ourselves short on time and lacking in ingredients to make a proper dinner.  A trip to the store was in order, but early Saturday evening, the pickins can be slim.  Considering what food we did have, I had decided to make succotash to use up the vegetables in the fridge before they went south on me.  Pork roast sounded like it would go perfectly, but our efforts to find a suitable hunk of pork for roasting were thwarted at every turn.  Obviously, the copious Halal butchers were out, and the offerings at the supermarket were seriously picked over.  So we ended up buying a chicken instead, as well as some potatoes.

We got home and set straight to work.  I dealt with dicing the potatoes while Nick prepared the chicken.  Luckily, this particular chicken was sold without its head, feet, and innards – not always a given over here.  I tossed the potatoes in olive oil, salt, and pepper and spread them in the bottom of the baking dish to act as a makeshift roasting rack.  As a bonus, I expected them to soak up the delicious chicken drippings.  Nick rubbed the chicken all over with a thin layer of olive oil and seasoned it, inside and out, with salt and pepper.  We stuffed some thyme, bay leaves and garlic into the cavity, and set the bird on top of the potatoes, breast side down to avoid overcooking.

Chicken and potatoes - before

Into the oven it went, and we busied ourselves with a game of cards while we waited.  After 30 or 40 minutes, I flipped the chicken breast side up to continue cooking and improve the browning.  Then I started on the succotash.  I cleaned green beans and broke them in halves, chopped up a (poblano?) pepper, and sliced some garlic.  I heated some olive oil in a pan and added the peppers.  When the seared peppers were making us cough uncontrollably, I added the green beans.  I cooked the green beans until brown spots began to appear, then added the garlic, followed shortly thereafter by a can of corn.  (Yes, I used canned corn.  It’s not in season, sue me.)  A little salt to season it, and my succotash was ready.


The chicken was starting to look good when we realized that we had no thermometer, no way of knowing if it was fully cooked.  We jiggled the leg a bit and guessed it must be done. 

 Chicken and potatoes - after

We took it out of the dish and put it on a plate to rest.  Meanwhile, I stirred the potatoes and returned them to the oven to brown further.  After 15 or 20 minutes, Nick carved the chicken – it was perfect!  The potatoes were deliciously golden brown, so we plated it up.  Not too shabby for a desperate Saturday dinner.

Chicken, potatoes, and succotash

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