Ça me touche que tu continues de consulter mon blog malgré le fait que le dernier article datte de plus d'un an. Mais c'est sympa de relire mes anciens articles; et pourquoi pas laisser un petit mot? :)
Did you know that some cheeses have seasons like fruits and vegetables? And there are some cheeses that you simply can't find in stores when it's not their season? Well the liquid gold otherwise known as Mont d'Or is one of those cheeses. It's a special cheese made right here in the Doubs department (that's where I live, FYI) and you can only get it during the fall and winter months. What's that you say? What does one do if one suddenly wants some of this rich, creamy, raw milk cheese in July? Well first of all, I highly doubt that you'd want to eat something so filling and heavy in July, although in parts of the Doubs it has been known to get very cold during certain summer nights, or so I have been told. According to my butcher, from whom I bought the cheese pictured above, Mont d'Or can be frozen just in case you want some in the off season.
Around here when Mont d'Or season is in full swing every restaurant is boasting some special limited-time-only dish featuring the cheese. Mont d'Or pizza, savory crêpes, fondue, etc.
Yes, the butcher also sells some regional cheeses, namely Comté, Morbier, Mont d'Or, and sometimes Bleu de Gex. But it's the end of the season and I just couldn't resist buying one knowing that I wouldn't see it again until around November. When you buy it, it comes in a little pine box all shrink-wrapped in plastic so that it can be stored at room temperature until the plastic is removed. You can enjoy this luxurious cheese as is with some bread, or you can eat it hot...which is probably one of the best things you will ever eat. The flavor is unique, and it depends on how ripe the cheese is, but if you have ever had a real raw milk Camembert I would say it's similar in flavor. It can be quite strong and "barnyard-y", but in a really good way. And, yes, the rind is totally edible. The cheese is very runny to begin with, so when you put it in the oven it becomes pourable. Many recipes have you dig a little hole in the center into which you put one smashed clove of garlic, a large splash of wine (I used a local wine from the Jura department, another very unique flavor that pairs perfectly with cheeses from this region), and a bit of pepper.
A word on the wine: wines from Jura are often referred to by the French as "spécial" which doesn't quite mean the same thing as "special" - well, it can, but it can also carry the connotation of "odd", "bizarre", or "different". It's somewhat of an acquired taste, but one I would highly recommend acquiring because I've never tasted any wine like vin de Jura. It's yellowish in color and it has a very strong, sweet hay scent. It should be served like a red wine, that is to say cool, around 50°F. It has notes of saffron and spice and it can have almost a sweet aftertaste, like honey. I would describe it as tasting "warm", if that gives you some kind of idea.
The whole thing should be wrapped in foil, the put into the oven at around 300°F for about 20 minutes. Really, the time doesn't matter, you just have to let it melt. While that's happening, cook some potatoes and some sausages if you want. Spoon the cheese over the steamed potatoes and sausage and serve with a green salad (the vinaigrette helps to sort of cut through the richness of the cheesy potatoes, but even then, this is a very filling meal).
In France cooking Spanish food... I've always wanted to make paella, and while I'm certainly no expert in Spanish food, my impression so far has been very good. Usually there are lots of vegetables, seafood, olive oil, and an abundant use of almonds in Spanish cooking, all things I love. I'll be honest: one of the reasons I haven't made paella yet is because of the fairly pricy ingredient list. Usually there are three proteins: chicken or rabbit, and two kinds of seafood, usually white fish and either shrimp, mussels, squid, clams, or snails. Living in Kansas, these last ingredients can be a bit hard to find and also quite expensive, however, thanks to the seafood monger in the place de la Révolution, finding mussels and fish for this recipe was easy and relatively inexpensive.
Before getting on to the recipe, I just have to say how much I love these cookbooks. There are several different ones, and they are all incredibly clear, with lots of pictures and detailed instructions. I even think they exist in translation, but that's no fun!
On to the paella, which requires lots of steps, so if you want something fast and easy, well you can go get yourself an Uncle Ben's rice bowl or some lame shit like that.
In a big stainless steel pan (or paella pan if you happen to have on lying around...) sauté half of a finely diced red onion, half of a green and red pepper. Add some diced chicken or rabbit. While that cooks, bring 50 mL of water to boil for the mussels (the cooking liquid is added later to the dish). Toss in the mussels, cook till they are all opened.
Back to the big pan: add a diced tomato, two cloves minced garlic, some chopped parsley, fresh thyme, paprika, salt and pepper.
Now add the fish (I used trout, but I think technically it really should be white fish, like cod or halibut or sole), diced like the chicken, and 250g, or like a cup and a half or rice. Ok, the rice is important. It has to be short grain rice, like arborio rice used for risotto. There is a special paella rice, although I couldn't find any. This recipe turned out really well using arborio rice, which is easy to find. Another important part: you can't stir it once the rice and liquid (stock, mussel cooking liquid along with saffron) are added. You want a crust to form on the bottom, which is why when you add the rice and liquid you pour a few tablespoons of olive oil around the edges of the pan that seeps down and helps the crust form.
All you should do is gently shake the pan from time to time while the rice cooks. It takes about 20 minutes, and once the rice is cooked, the final touch is some diced chorizo, some frozen peas, and the mussels which you arrange nicely on top! Serve with a lemon wedge and maybe some extra chopped parsley sprinkled on top.
After my first attempt at paella, I was quite pleased with the results. My advice would be to have the ingredients all prepared and ready to go before starting anything. There is a lot of prep work involved, and it's best to just do that before starting any cooking, otherwise things will start to burn, you'll be rushing around like crazy chopping and draining mussels and measuring. Also, you can't really make paella for one person, so it's best to have a little paella party (note to self: plan paella party), however the leftovers do reheat nicely.
Last week in Besançon, particularly toward the end of the week, we had some really nice weather. There was no rain, we have begun to see the sun for the first time in (literally) months, and the days are getting longer. So I was really excited at the prospect of having a lovely sunny weekend, and then this:
Not a ray of sunlight to be seen. So much for my grand plan to run this weekend...I mean, I guess I could still go running, but with this weather, I would rather stay inside and make something delicious... and the Alsatian classic, tarte au fromage blanc, is just the thing. First, an explanation for those of you who aren't familiar with fromage blanc (or fromage frais - honestly I have no idea what the difference is). It's kind of like a mix between sour cream and plain yogurt. Less tart than sour cream and not as thick, but not quite plain yogurt. I think a good substitution would be Greek yogurt. And it come in big tubs, like this one that has a whole kilo of the stuff:
This tarte is very similar to a cheesecake, but lighter. You can flavor it with whatever you like: vanilla, orange, lemon, or kirsch which would be quite nice with some cherry preserves along side. The first step is to make a sweetened pâte brisée, let it rest in the fridge for 1 hour, roll it out, then blind bake it (that's all the first step, ok?). Then the filling comes together really quickly. Separate 4 eggs, whisk the whites to stiff peaks.
Whip the yolks with 150 grams of sugar until fluffy. Add 40 grams of cornstarch, then 10 cL of liquid crème fraîche (or just regular cream if you can't find crème fraîche or you're too lazy to make your own), along with a splash of Cointreau and the zest of an orange.
Fold in the egg whites.
And bake at 175 C for 35-40 minutes. I then like to do what I do for cheesecakes to prevent the top from cracking: when it's done, turn off the oven and let the tarte sit until the oven is cooled down. This allows the filling to cool very gradually, preventing cracks on the top. Then remove from the oven and let it cool to room temperature. The refrigerate, or serve at room temperature, which would be nice.
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.