Remembrance Risotto

2 01 2010

The Christmas goose may be gone, but its memory lives on in the two quarts of stock I made from the carcass.  Périgord month may have gone the way of 2009, and porcini (aka cèpe, another gourmet classic grown in Périgord) season may have wound down for another year – as evidenced by my fruitless search of Paris’ biggest outdoor market a couple of weeks ago – but at least they can be a year-round treat if they’re dried.  The season for fresh peas was so long ago that it’s once again in the near future, but their spirits lie dormant in the freezer, awaiting only a little warmth to bring them back for a meal.

Pea and Porcini Risotto

Throw some short-grained Italian rice into the mix, and these memories become very much a part of the present, as a warming dinner for a cold winter night.

I find the more often I make risotto, the less it seems like a big deal.  In my kitchen repertoire, risotto is edging its way into the “weeknight quickie” category, because really all you need is some stock, rice, and something fresh (or frozen, or dried) to give it personality.  It can serve as a hearty first course, but I like to scoop up a heaping bowl and make it the main event.

One-dish meal.

Happy 2010 to all.  May it bring joy, luck, new discoveries, and delicious memories.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.

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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.





A Silk Purse from a Sow’s Ear

7 09 2009

Back in the States, Nick and I have some friends from New York who turned us on to the slurpy, mouth-burning delicacy that is xiao long bao.  For the uninitiated, xiao long bao, or soup dumplings, are a specialty of Shanghai.  Intricately folded dumpling wrappers enclose a bit of seasoned meat and a gush of rich soup.  They’re supposed to be an appetizer, but the four of us would usually get two or three orders apiece and call it dinner.  Every other blog post I’ve read about soup dumplings claims that they’re something you just have to try at least once in your life.  I’m not going to tell you that, because if a steamed dumpling filled with a mouthful of meaty broth, served with vinegar, ginger, and chili oil doesn’t sound good to you, who am I to try and change your mind?  Just leaves more for me.

So thick, you can stand a spoon in it!

We visited said friends in June in their new hometown, San Francisco.  They had done some research and had a list of soup dumpling places to try, a quest in which Nick and I were more than willing to participate.  The ones we got at a restaurant were only okay, but the ones we bought freshly made to cook at home were outstanding.  More importantly, the whole adventure reminded Nick and I how much we love soup dumplings, and we vowed to redouble our efforts to find a good source in Paris once we returned home.

Pork dumpling filling

Browsing the aisles at my favorite Asian supermarket, Paris Store, I glanced into the frozen dumpling case and what did I see?  Xiao long bao, or “raviolis de Shanghai” (ravioli being the term the French have adopted to describe anything wrapped in dough).  The frosty dumplings in the bag looked like about the right shape, so I bought them, and a bamboo steamer that miraculously fit perfectly over my saucepan.  Sadly, the dumplings were not what we were looking for.  The filling is mostly meat, with just a hint of juiciness as a nod to the soup that’s supposed to be there.  Good, but not the soup dumplings we crave.

The right soup-to-meat ratio

Walking down the rue de Belleville one night, Nick and I spotted a little hole-in-the-wall with a sign that said “Restaurant Raviolis.”  Needless to say, we went there for dinner at the first opportunity.  The menu consists of about a dozen types of soup and a dozen types of dumpling.  We ordered three kinds of dumplings (shrimp, chicken, and pork), and two bowls of soup (duck for me, pork rib for Nick).  The food was delivered quickly, and smelled great.  But none of the dumplings looked like they contained any soup.  We asked the waitress if they made xiao long bao, explaining that we were looking for a dumpling with soup inside, and she said she had never heard of such a thing.  Disappointed, we turned to our soups, which brightened our spirits considerably.  The broth was extremely flavorful, and the rustic-looking noodles had a great texture.  It was then that an older woman came out of the back and began rolling dough on a long table.  We watched, slurping our soup greedily, as she hand rolled and cut a new batch of noodles.  Despite the place’s distinct lack of décor or atmosphere, we will definitely be going back for more of those handmade noodles.

But the soup dumpling jones was getting stronger.

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A Treatise on Stock…

8 04 2009

…Written by yours truly can be found today at Where’s My DAMN Answer?  These four creative, thoughtful, and hilarious women asked me to write a guest post for them, and I was more than happy to oblige.  Check out my thoughts on stock making (it turns out I have quite a few!) here.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Fish Stock Use #2: Trout with Polenta

29 04 2008

We woke up on Sunday to a gloriously sunny morning, perfect for hunting and gathering at the market.  When we got down there, Nick spotted some trout and decided that was what he wanted for dinner.  We learned the French word for “gutted” or “cleaned”in reference to a fish: vidé, as in “emptied.”  Good to know.  But how to prepare it?  Sometimes I find it hard to make decisions like these at the market, with so much going on around me.  All the smells and sights and sounds cause me to go into sensory overload, and my brain kind of shuts down.  The only cure is to find a wine booth that gives out samples. 

Eventually, after wandering the aisles and perusing the wares, we came up with a goat cheese and piquillo pepper stuffed trout, served with fish stock polenta and tomato salad.  We thought the piquillo peppers would be easy to find at one of the Spanish/Portuguese specialty booths, but we were wrong.  At the first one, the conversation went something like this: (translations my own)

Me: (pointing to a bin of roasted peppers) Ces sont quel type de poivron? (What kind of peppers are these?)

Girl at counter: Buh… rouge.  (What are you color blind?  Red!)

Me: Ummm… je cherche les poivrons “piquillo.” Je ne connais pas le mot en français, je connais le mot espagnol. (I’m looking for piquillo peppers, I don’t know the French word, just the Spanish one.)

Guy at counter: Doyouspeakenglish?  English?

Me: Oui, mais… I’m looking for piquillo peppers.

Guy at counter: Hablas español? (Do you speak Spanish?)

Me: No.

And it went on like that.  Red is not a variety, people!  Anyway, we did end up finding some beautiful fresh peppers at one of the produce stands.  They smelled great, so we bought those to roast at home.  What were they called?  “Poivrons Rouges Espagnols.”  “Red Spanish Peppers.”   Arrrrgh!

Fresh roasted piquillo peppers

The tomatoes were no problem, as almost every stand had gorgeous coeur de boeuf  (beef heart) tomatoes.  Goat cheese was, of course, plentiful, but by the time we got around to looking for it, many of the booths had begun to close down.  We were turned down at one fromagier, where the woman told us the goat cheese was already put away.  End of story.  But we persevered, and found a nice little ball of fresh goat cheese at the Auvergnat cheese stand.

Coeurs de Boeuf

After all that, actually cooking the meal was a piece of cake.  I started with the tomato salad.  This is one of the easiest, tastiest things you can do with a tomato.  The better the tomato, the better the salad.  Just dice up some tomatoes, add sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, a minced shallot, and some chopped fresh parsley.  Drizzle with good olive oil, toss, and serve at room temperature.

Easy, delicious tomato salad

On to the fish…

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Fish Stock Use #1: Seafood Risotto

28 04 2008

Almost as soon as I asked the question, “what should I do with leftover fish stock?” I had an answer for myself.  Shrimp risotto!  With some of those fresh spring mushrooms from the market, and maybe some peas… this is sounding good already!

Since I already had the stock, and arborio rice, I just needed to pick up my fresh ingredients at the market.  I got leeks and parsley with no problem.  I was tempted by the fresh morel mushrooms, but chose the more economical (yet still exquisitely tasty) girolles.  Then I hit the fishmonger.  Only cooked shrimp.  Ok, I’ll just go to the next one.  Only cooked shrimp.  Next?  Same.  Well, I’m headed to Montmartre later, and I know of a market street there, I’ll check the fishmonger up there.  Guess what?  Only cooked shrimp.  Fine, I’ll get langoustines instead.  Life is hard sometimes.

My delicious shrimp stand-ins

I boiled them alive, like the mini-lobsters they are, in some fish stock.  Now I had langoustine-fortified stock for the risotto (skip this step if you’re afraid of flavor).

Contrary to popular belief, risotto is not difficult to make, nor does it require hours of hovering over the stove, stirring constantly.  There are five basic steps in risotto making.  I learned them in Italian, so that is how I will share them with you.

All my risotto secrets revealed, after the jump.

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Shou-DAIR

25 04 2008

It’s chow-dah! Say it right!

Earlier in the week, before the sun came out, it seemed the right kind of weather for some New England clam chowder.  Just to underscore the point, Mother Nature decided to dump rain on me while I was at the market shopping for the ingredients.  But I was not to be deterred.  I managed to procure the necessities, including a salmon carcass with which to make fish stock.

I know, you’re not supposed to use salmon for fish stock.  Well, I had originally intended to just buy a few fish scraps for the cat, but the fishmonger(ess) informed me that she only sold scraps in 3 euro lots.  I didn’t want nearly that much, so when she offered up the salmon carcass, I took it.  The cat wasn’t nearly as excited about her gift as I had hoped*, so I was left wondering what to do with the majority of this salmon carcass.  (Don’t worry, I cut the salmon into pieces before trying to give it to the cat – what I gave her, she kept, and the rest stayed clean.)  Then it dawned on me that I could use it to make stock for the clam chowder instead of using my precious chicken stock.  Personally, I think the fish stock made with salmon came out just fine.  I had to skim a little more than usual, but no more than your average chicken stock.

Stock at the ready, I began the preparations for the chowder.  All good chowders start with bacon, at least in my house.  So I cut a few slices of smoked bacon into small pieces and set them in a saucepan over low heat to render.  I put in a little butter to help it get going, because, as one of my chef-instructors used to say, “a little bit of butter helps the bacon fat go down.”

Rendering bacon

While the bacon cooked, I steamed the clams in a little fish stock.

Steamed clams

I reserved the resulting clam juice-enriched liquid to use in the chowder.  When the bacon was getting nice and crisp, I added a diced onion to the pot and scraped the bottom to pick up the fond.

Bacon and onions - the basis of a great chowder

Once the onions were beginning to soften, I added a minced garlic clove and a pinch of flour.  I stirred these around until the garlic was aromatic and the flour evenly coated everything.  Next I whisked in the fish stock (to ensure there would be no lumps of flour in the final dish) and added some diced potatoes.  I put in some fresh thyme and a bay leaf and brought the whole mess up to a simmer.

Only missing one thing...

When the potatoes were tender, about 15 minutes later, I added the clam meat and stirred in some cream.  I fished out the bay leaf, adjusted the seasoning, and served the chowder with bread and a Riesling from Alsace.  (Bacon and potatoes being staples of the Alsatian diet, plus the bottle said the wine went well with seafood.  Sounds like a good match to me.)

Clam chowder supper

If you look closely at the spoon, you can see Nick taking this photo, as well as the awesome exposed beams in the ceiling.  At any rate, it was a hearty and satisfying meal.  Now, does anyone have any suggestions as to what I should do with all this leftover fish stock?

*She did, however, love the couple bites of clam Nick gave her.





Where am I?

14 04 2008

I had a very frustrating afternoon today.  My plan was to pick up some chicken bones/necks/whatever at the butcher to make stock for the risotto I have planned for tonight.  Don’t get me started on the lack of liquid broth available here.  You can’t tell me that an entire nation of supposed cuisinophiles is content with bouillon cubes!  Anyway.  Monday is the day that all the butchers close, of course.  I don’t know why.  But only about 1 in 10 butchers is open on Mondays, seriously.  I noticed that the closest butcher to me was, in fact, open today, and thought it was a good sign.  However, when I went in and asked for chicken bones or turkey necks for stock-making purposes, the butcher looked at me like I had three heads.  He offered me feet, and then wings.  Not what I was looking for.

Oh well, I said to myself, surely there is another butcher nearby who has something like that.  I must have walked past two dozen butcher shops, all of them closed.  Realizing I was fully two Métro stops from home, and getting thirsty, I headed back on another street.  I stopped in one butcher shop where I was ignored for a full 10 minutes before leaving in disgust.  Next I found a Jewish butcher, who I figured would be long on chickens, at least.  Nope.  I overheard the guy on the phone telling someone that he was completely out of chickens.  I left in disbelief.  The next open place I found returned pretty much the same reaction as the first guy.

Now am I wrong, or is this really weird?  It can’t be that strange to request stock-making bones, can it?  You would think that if there was anything I could do in France that wasn’t a hassle, it would be making a simple chicken stock.  And you would be wrong.

I ended up in Franprix, a depressing little discount grocery store.  I picked up a whole chicken to butcher myself (and that I did) and a bottle of wine, because hey, I need it now.  Waiting in the checkout line, the stooped old man in front of me was trying to buy a large plastic bottle of red wine.  The cashier told him it was 3 euros, and he kept handing her the few coins he had, insisting that it was only 1.40.  I considered just buying it for him, but then I didn’t want to be an enabler.

So here I am, at 8:00, still simmering my chicken stock and hoping that it’s had enough time to cook because I should really be getting started on dinner.

Update after the jump…

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