I recently became the owner of a wonderfully subversive cook book described here as "La cuisine décalée, comme un théâtre" and the bit about theatrics I couldn't agree more with. The pictures are divine - just look at the cover. One of my favorites: a close-up of two bejeweled hands, nails lacquered in burgundy, kneading dough. Anyway, the point is I've been looking for any excuse to use a recipe from this cook book because it is so "me". There was an interesting recipe
for stuffed cabbage and I basically created an occasion to make it (dinner party for no apparent reason). The filling is not the usual pork, but lamb which I always love, and mixed in you find walnuts, grated apple and onion, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. No eggs, no bread crumbs which made me wonder if the filling wouldn't be too dense, but to my surprise it was far from being the case.
So step one is remove all the leaves from the cabbage and blanch them in boiling salted water so that you can roll them without them cracking.
The filling comes together quickly with the help of my handy food processor (I have to keep justifying this large purchase, but honestly I don't know what I would do without it - probably grate all my fingers off while making a batch of carottes râpées...) For 500g of ground lamb you need two small onions and two small apples.
Then some toasted walnuts: if you don't have a nut cracker you can use any old empty bottle you have lying around to smash open the shells, only be careful because they fly everywhere!
Then just mix all that together with lots of salt, pepper, and a pinch of cinnamon. Place a blanched leave on the board, fill with a large spoonful of the filling and roll.
Place each roll tightly into a baking dish, pour over about a cup of cream and some fresh or jarred chanterelles mushrooms (or any mushrooms, really) and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes at 400 F. A lovely sauce forms in the dish that goes well with thick-cut pasta, which is what I served with these.
If there is one thing the French love, it's verrines, or anything food that can be made "individual". The verrine trend seems to be being replaced by the "American" dessert trend in which French people make an adorable effort to make brownies, cupcakes, cookies, and cheesecakes. Although, as an aside, I did recently eat at a cupcake restaurant in Besançon (yes, you read that right, a restaurant devoted to cupcakes) called Cake and the City, and I was quite impressed with the quality of the cupcakes. Back to the verrines. Basically anything you put in a little glass jar and eat with a spoon, be it sweet or savory, constitutes a verrine. They are the perfect thing for a dinner party because it's better to make them in advance, they are individual so it seems special, and the possibilities are endless. Those of you who were at Prof. Hayes' dinner party for Intro to Graduate Studies may remember the panna cotta verrines with balsamic strawberries...
What I made was basically a cross between a tiramisu and cherry trifle. The creamy layer was the same creamy layer you find in tiramisu, and I started by slowly warming three egg yolks over a bain marie. All good tiramisu recipes have egg yolks, the question is whether to leave them raw or cook them gently over indirect heat. I always use cooked eggs for my fillings, and not because I'm some kind of raw egg sissy (I eat cake batter all the time and I love real Caesar salad dressing) but because I prefer the texture of the finished product. Cooked eggs yield a thicker custard, raw eggs in the mascarpone filling mean it will be runnier.
So cook the egg yolks with 100 grams of sugar until the mixture is pale yellow and very warm when you put your finger in it. You'll notice the texture change as well. Then remove from the heat and whisk in 350 grams of mascarpone cheese. Filling done! Now on to assembly!
I used jarred cherries and lady fingers (called boudoirs in French, lol) dipped in a mixture of the cherry liquid and kirsch. First put down a layer of soaked lady fingers and cherries. Then pour over the mascarpone. This recipe is so easy you don't even need to ask your French boyfriend to help, see:
Then another layer of lady fingers, cherries, then the mascarpone. Put it in the fridge overnight, dust with cocoa powder before serving!
Lucky you: two posts in the same week! I'm trying to make up for my extreme laziness when it comes to keeping this blog up to date by bombarding you with details of my culinary life! Anyone who has been to France and who is not allergic to gluten (can't even imagine...) can attest to the "cult of the baguette" (no sexual pun intended...well, maybe) that reigns supreme here. Fully indoctrinated into this cult, I can proudly say I have my own favorite bakery which makes the best bread in Besançon if I do say so myself, I buy bread almost daily, and I somehow feel I haven't eaten unless bread was involved. One thing I've noticed is that bread isn't really considered like a food full of carbs and simple sugars. For example, even if you're eating pasta, rice, couscous, or even pizza, you eat bread with it. When I once suggested that we didn't need to have some kind of grain as part of the meal because, after all, we'll be eating bread, the suggestion was quickly brushed aside and pasta was cooked. The bread is not just food but pain facultatif. So what do you do with leftover bread? No one wants to eat it the next day because fresh bread can be found within minutes and you can only make toast so much...Well you don't throw it away. One idea is to make bread pudding, sweet or savory.
All you need to make it are things that are probably sitting around your kitchen anyway: milk, eggs, leeks, and old bread. You can mix it up lots of different ways: you can add mushrooms, sausage, cheese, puréed winter squash, really any vegetable you want! So basically it's stuffing - how appropriate for after Thanksgiving!
I made mine with blanched leeks, dill and tarragon. Cut the bread up into cubes and mix it with a simple custard made with two eggs and about a cup of milk. You'll want to let the bread soak up the liquid before putting it in the oven to bake for about 30 minutes. If all the liquid gets soaked up too fast, just add a splash more milk - you want it to be a little runny when it goes into the oven.
This makes a relatively quick, very easy, and very cheap meal that keeps well for days. Just serve it with a salad and perhaps some pâté if you happen to be one of those people who can't imagine eating a "real" meal without some kind of meat. I made a very seasonal salad of endive, apple, walnuts, and comté (recipe here).
So here's the first post of the new and improved non-password-protected food blog. To celebrate let's make a cake! But not just any cake, oh no, something seasonal and delicious and, since we're in the country where all food is described as fondant, it better be that too! Sometimes I really just have to make a cake, but since I don't want to be stuck with an entire cake for weeks I don't make cakes as often as I would like, however when I do get around to baking one I spend way too long looking through cook books, recipes online, and other food blogs searching for the perfect cake.
Normally you would expect me to make something spicy with lots of cinnamon and cloves and "Christmas flavors", but actually I have noticed that in France they aren't so into cinnamon and what is considered "holiday" is not necessarily spiced. What is Christmas-y over here is chestnuts. I've seen carts out selling roasted chestnuts here and there which marks the beginning of the holiday season. This cake, which is incredibly easy to make, is flavored with a healthy dose of chestnut purée, something that can easily be found at any supermarket here (if you're in America, sorry, I have no idea where to find it and making homemade chestnut purée is a huge pain in the ass, especially considering the store-bought products is just as good and less grainy).
I must confess that I have an enormous weakness for this stuff. It's sort of like Nutella or Speculoos à tartiner: you go to use some, just a little to spread on a tartine, and you end up glutinously scarfing down two or three gratuitous spoonfuls - I completely lose all will power around this stuff. So it's a good thing I bought two cans when the recipe only calls for 200 grams...
Back to the cake! It's slightly adapted from this recipe - the only difference is I didn't have 50g. vanilla sugar so I just used half cassonade (raw sugar) and half regular sugar.
Waiting for the cake to bake and enjoying the warmth of my chestnut-scented living room, I looked out the window and to my delight there was blue sky! Today was a particularly nice day: it was freezing cold, but at least there was sun. Recently it has been raining, threatening to rain, or pouring rain. Plus it's cold - snow is coming. Cooking in a sunny kitchen is always so much nicer.