One Last Wintry Soup

21 03 2013

Lately, I’ve been working on clearing out the stockpile of root vegetables from the CSA in my refrigerator.  I turned a backlog of potatoes, turnips, black radishes, parsnips, and leeks into a lovely vegetarian tartiflette (or veggiflette, as it was dubbed around here).  I’ve got plans for the approximately five kilos of carrots – I’m going to make this lentil hummus and serve it with a mountain of carrot sticks for a party this weekend.  I’d been meaning to make this Jerusalem artichoke soup for a while – I remembered that I had once made one with a little miso and that it was delightful – and then I got a box of shiitake mushrooms and their fate was sealed with the topinambours.

I glanced at Robuchon’s recipe for topinambour soup, and he suggested caramelizing a bit of honey with them before adding the liquid.  I thought a touch of sweetness sounded right, but I only have really strong, unique-flavored honeys at the moment, and I didn’t want to muddle the flavor too much.  A flash of inspiration hit me, surely by way of my dear friend Hannah: maple syrup!  I think it hit just the right note.

topinambour-shiitakesoup

It is probably one of the healthiest things I’ve made all winter – with so much flavor from the topinambours and the shiitakes, and a velvety texture from the potatoes (yeah, I snuck some potatoes in there, too… and some leeks) it didn’t even need a drop of cream to finish it off, just a sprinkling of wonderful meaty mushrooms.

In slightly related news, I am pleased as punch to announce my participation in Ann Mah’s fun and helpful Tuesday Dinner series on her blog.  I shared one of my favorite clean-out-the-vegetable-drawer recipes, a mouthwatering spicy Indian dal.

Now here’s to warmer days and spring vegetables!

Sunchoke Soup with Miso and Shiitake

Earthy, hearty, and oh-so-healthy, this soup warms chilly nights. If you wanted to serve it with poached eggs or grilled tofu to up the protein content, well, I think that would be a lovely idea. Jerusalem artichokes are also known as sunchokes or, in France, topinambours.

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 medium leeks, cleaned and sliced
1½ lbs. / 700 g Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed clean and cut into chunks
3 small potatoes, scrubbed and roughly diced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. miso
2 tsp. maple syrup
1½ quarts / 1½ liters water

1 Tbsp. grapeseed oil or other neutral oil
9 oz. / 250 g shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
splash of sherry
splash of soy sauce

  1. Melt the butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the leeks and a pinch of salt and pepper and cook until softened. Add the Jerusalem artichokes and potatoes, season again, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to brown. Add the miso and maple syrup and stir to coat the vegetables evenly. Pour in the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the Jerusalem artichokes and potatoes are soft, about 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil, then the mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms release their water, the water evaporates, and the mushrooms begin to brown. Deglaze the pan with a splash each of sherry and soy sauce, and continue cooking until the liquid has once more evaporated. Scrape half the mushrooms into the soup pot and save the rest for garnish. For the most mushroom flavor, pour about ½ cup / 120 ml water into the skillet and scrape up all the brown fond from the bottom of the pan. Tip this into the soup pot as well.
  3. When the vegetables are soft, purée the soup, either in batches in a traditional blender or directly in the pot with an immersion blender. (You know which way I go.) If it’s thicker than you want, thin it out with a little water. Taste and adjust the seasoning, and serve piping hot with a few of the reserved mushrooms spooned on top.

Serves 4-6.

On this day in 2008: Baking Extravaganza, Act III (in which I make molten chocolate cakes in a toaster oven)

Originally published on Croque-Camille.

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Noodles on Joinville

20 01 2011

Are Chinese noodles the Next Big Thing in Paris?  Until the last year or so the state of Chinese food in Paris was abysmal.  There were one or two good places, and the rest were cheap, greasy, and bad.  Fortunately for all of us food lovers who live here, Paris seems to be falling mein over bao for Chinese cuisine.

Paris by Mouth notes the Asian trend, citing a number of recent positive reviews for Asian restaurants in the City of Light.  Many of them are located in the 1st and 2nd arrondissements, on the traditionally Japanese (and now Korean) rue St. Anne.  Other well-known centers of cuisine from the East are in the 13th arrondissement – often referred to as Paris’ Chinatown – and in the Belleville neighborhood, which straddles bits of the 10th, 11th, 19th, and 20th arrondissements.  Rue de Joinville is rarely, if ever, cited among these.

Situated on the opposite side of the 19th from Belleville, rue de Joinville is tiny, running about two blocks from the Bassin de La Villette to the Avenue de Flandre.  Small as it may be, it’s a beehive of Chinese culinary activity.  There are no less than four Chinese grocers there, at least three have butchers, and two have fish tanks.  Despite their size, they are amazingly well-stocked, and I can usually find any exotic Eastern ingredient I seek there.

So how is it that I know about this hidden gem?  Well, I used to live only a couple of blocks away, back when I first moved to Paris in 2008 (has it been that long already?).  Since the majority of the neighborhood butchers were either Arab or Muslim, that meant that the only pork available was at the Chinese butchers on rue de Joinville.  It was also a lifesaver for a couple of new expats, who didn’t have to go too far to find peanut butter or chili peppers.  I have also been working in the neighborhood for the last two and a half years.

Until recently, however, the only dining options were traiteurs of dubious quality.  And I’m not just saying that – I’ve tried several.  But on Thanksgiving day, when I was making a market run during my lunch break (and getting turkey necks and gizzards for my stock at one of the butchers) I saw this:

Chinese Noodles!

A brand-new noodle place!  My stomach did a happy dance, and I not-so-secretly hoped that this place would be truly excellent, and that it would give me a reason to live through another grueling holiday season at work.  So perhaps my expectations were a bit high.  Sadly, when I got a chance to try it the next day, I was sorely disappointed.  The noodles were good enough, texture-wise, but the broth in which they swam was completely flavorless.  I had to dump inordinate amounts of soy sauce, black vinegar, and Sriracha into it in order to taste anything at all.  Needless to say, I wasn’t in a hurry to return.

Yesterday, though, I was feeling optimistic, and hoped that maybe a couple of months had helped them iron out the kinks.  I would give them another shot, and be sure to ask for a recommendation from the waitress this time.  Who knows?  Maybe I had just ordered the wrong thing.  I had to make a quick run to the bank to get cash before lunch, and on my way I saw this:

A NEW new noodle place!

A newer noodle place!  This one even has a picture of a guy pulling noodles, so I abandoned my original plan and decided to try out the noodles at Palais de Wenzhou.  I do not regret my decision.

I know this picture sucks, I took it with my phone, in a hurry to eat.

I did ask the waitress for a recommendation, and she asked me if I wanted something spicy.  “Oui,” was my enthusiastic reply.  She suggested the beef noodles, which came out in a flavorful, mildly spicy broth.  The noodles were pleasantly irregular, indicating that perhaps they were indeed hand-pulled.  The chunks of beef were so tender, I could tell they had cooked for hours, but they still had plenty of rich beefy flavor.

Was it better than Les Pâtes Vivantes or Happy Nouilles?  No.  But for a 6-euro lunch next door to work, I’ll be more than happy to eat there regularly.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Around Paris: 19th: Zoe Bouillon

20 07 2010

Zoe Bouillon on a sunny afternoon

It’s too bad they’re closing next week for summer vacation, because Zoe Bouillon is serving up an ideal summer lunch.  I’ve walked past the cute canteen on rue Rébéval many times, but today was the first time I’d eaten there.  I doubt it will be the last.

A soup joint might not seem like the best place to eat on a warm July afternoon, but Zoe is cooking up (or mixing, rather) some delicious chilled soups, perfect for summer.  I met my friend Celine there for lunch on Monday, and we were delighted with the fresh, seasonal offerings.  The soups and salads are available à la carte or as part of a formule: from 9 euros for soup and a sandwich, salad, or slices of savory cake, to 11 euros for soup, sandwich or salad, cake and dessert.  We went with the simplest menu, though both of the freshly baked cakes looked so good, we both had to ask for a slice of each.

savory cakes at Zoe Bouillon

There was the mozzarella and herb, green with fresh herbs, and the goat cheese with eggplant and zucchini, which was still slightly warm from the oven.  Both cakes were incredibly moist with a pleasantly browned crust.

Gazpacho andalou with oeufs mimosa

For the soup, I chose the chilled gazpacho andalou, a refreshing and savory blend of tomatoes and herbs.  It was served with a sprinkling of crumbled oeufs mimosa (hard boiled eggs), which provided a satisfying dose of protein.

Chilled cucumber-mint soup at Zoe Bouillon

Celine opted for the chilled cucumber-mint soup, which was incredibly cooling.

The service here is pretty much non-existent, though the staff are friendly and accommodating.  The soups are served in plastic cups and the cakes  on paper plates.  Spoons, forks, knives, and napkins are disposable, too.  (A little surprising to see so much waste at an establishment that otherwise seems to respect food and nature.)  Orders are taken at the counter, and you bring your meal to your table on a brightly colored tray.  When you’re finished, you bus your own table.  It’s bare bones, but it probably helps to keep the prices low.

A restaurant with seasonal fare and reasonable prices in one of my very favorite Parisian neighborhoods?  I only wish I could swing by for lunch more often.

On this day in 2009: Le Rouennais (Another lovely lunch.)

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).

Read the rest of this entry »





Talking (Leftover) Turkey

28 11 2009

When Nick went to the butcher on Thursday to pick up our Thanksgiving turkey, he was met with an unpleasant surprise.  The 4-kilo turkey I had ordered was actually 5.4 kilos!  After some debate and bargaining with the butcher, it came out that that was the smallest bird they had received that day, and they had indeed reserved it for me.  A three-pound difference might not sound like a big deal, but when the bird costs 6 euros 50 a kilo, and we were already unsure if a whole turkey would fit into our tiny oven, and it was already 3pm on Thanksgiving Day, it felt disastrous.

After some oven reconfiguration, we managed to get the turkey in without it touching the heating element, and it roasted up beautifully – since turkey isn’t the commodity in France that it is in the US, the ones you get here are never frozen or wrapped in plastic.  The air-dried skin browns and crisps like no other turkey I’ve made, and the flavor, like that of French chickens, is somehow just more.  The menu went off just as planned, except in lieu of the brittle I served the potimarron pie with bourbon-maple whipped cream.

We were joined by five friends, and actually have very few leftovers (one scoop of mashed potatoes, one spoonful of Brussels sprouts, one sliver of pie…) except for the turkey, of which about two and a half pounds remain.  Having spent 35 euros – that’s right, upwards of 50 bucks – we don’t want to let a single scrap go to waste.  Yesterday afternoon I made stock from the carcass, after Nick had cleaned it of meat.  Meanwhile, he simmered a piece of kombu in a pot of water in preparation for a very welcome light lunch: turkey miso soup.

Post-Thanksgiving lunch, photo by Nick

If you’ve never made miso soup before, you’re missing out on one of the simplest, fastest, and tastiest soups around.  It’s as easy as whisking a couple of spoonfuls of miso into a pot of hot dashi (the Japanese staple broth made with water, kombu seaweed, and bonito tuna flakes – which we have as yet been unable to find in Paris, so we did without – steeped for about five minutes) and garnishing with a few little pieces of whatever.  It should be brothy.  In this case, we used a bit of shredded turkey and some snipped chives, leftover from the mashed potatoes.  It made a fantastic day-after-Thanksgiving lunch.

But there’s plenty more turkey to be eaten.  As soon as I’m done writing, I plan on heading down to the kitchen and mixing up a big batch of herbed turkey salad: mayo, sage, chives, parsley, maybe a bit of crème fraîche and shallot.  I’ll eat it for lunch on top of some lettuce with a dollop of cranberry sauce, and hopefully there will be enough left to make a couple of weekday sandwiches.

Tonight or tomorrow I’ll put that fresh turkey stock to use in a turkey risotto.  Garnishes will include the rest of the fresh sage, chopped turkey (duh) and grated aged provolone.

So what are you doing with your turkey leftovers?

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





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.





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.








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