Elizabeth Bard Answers Readers’ Questions + 1001 Nuits Ice Cream!

RECIPE: 1001 Nights --Raz el-Hanout Ice Cream with Grilled Almonds

Picnic in ProvenceElizabeth Bard, author and ice cream adventurer, is back to answer ALL your questions.  Below, she discusses the virtue of fried dough and (my favorite ingredient!) orange flower water, hairy vegetables, sea snails, and, of course, picnicking in Provence!  Plus, if you haven’t already gone out and bought Picnic in Provence (it has nearly five stars on Amazon!), here’s a sneak peak at one of my favorite recipes: 1001 Nuits Ice Cream.

Thank you all so much for sending in these questions.  Because Elizabeth was so kind as to answer all of them, I’ve selected one entrant at random (I actually wrote everyone on slips of paper and picked blind from a bowl!) for the prize of a free copy of Picnic in Provence.

Readers’ Interview with Elizabeth Bard

@findingfrenchie: What is her favorite meal of all time?

Elizabeth Bard: Oh difficult, but I’d have to pick a dinner we had in Barcelona in 2013. Restaurant with no name, no sign, you have to pick the right door and walk down a florescent lit corridor. There’s no menu, it’s the chef’s choice. Out came course after course, baby squid in garlic oil, sea snails on a bed of sea salt, langoustines, and to finish – the most divine oxtail I’ve ever tasted.

@findingfrenchie: What is Elizabeth’s most used ingredient as of now?

EB: I’m obsessed with roasted cauliflower at the moment…I can never be without fresh herbs: parsley, cilantro, thyme, rosemary.

@akopald: Where should we eat in Provence?

EB: You should buy lots of tempting things at one of the local outdoor markets and find yourself a spot with a lovely view to picnic.

@ruths_collection: I’ve read Lunch in Paris and it’s one of my favorite books [and] cookbooks. Although I don’t really cook and my favorite recipe is the yogurt cake (which I make with pineapples). It seemed you were not a cook before you moved to Paris — but food brought you closer to the culture and suddenly you weren’t shy about trying. How has the Provence experience helped your cooking grow and mature — how is cooking in Provence and the market and foods availability there different from Paris?

EB: I’ve always cooked with olive oil, because I can’t stand the smell of melting butter, and Provence has really reinforced that habit. I do a lot more “naked” cooking in Provence – simple stacking, slicing and combining of great ingredients. It’s more like arts and crafts than cooking!

@lindar1: What is your favorite market in Provence?

EB: Apt on a Saturday for hustle bustle, or Reillanne on a Sunday to really do your weekly errands.

Michelle: Question for Elizabeth! What is your favorite ice cream flavor that you serve at your shop?  The 1001 Nuits sounds amazing.

EB: I’m a sucker for the Fraise a la Creme (Strawberries and Cream) ice cream. I forced my husband to make it alongside the more French style strawberry sorbet. 

Linda: I loved Lunch in Paris and can’t wait to read Picnic in Provence. Where will your next adventure be?  Maybe the west coast, Bordeaux area?

EB: I think with a new business and a great local school, we will be staying put for a while. There’s so much more to learn and do here.

Meridith: Elizabeth, do you incorporate any American food traditions into your holiday celebrations with your family?

EB: Of course, I make my grandmother’s mandel bread for Passover and a fab corn souffle and pumpkin cheesecake for Thanksgiving. 

Christine: When you moved, did you discover new breads or pastries (!) that are “native” to Provence?  If so, please tell us about your favourites!

EB: I love fried dough in any form, so I wait eagerly each year for the Mardi Gras “Bugnes” – fried puffs of dough flavored with orange flower water.

@JKDabrowska: Have you found a fruit or veg unique to France that we have yet to discover and try over here?

EB: Most people in the States have yet to experiment with the humble (and hairy) celery root. I think it makes the best mashed potatoes ever. I never tasted dandelion greens until I came to Provence, I love their bitter curly bite.   

Lacey: Really looking forward to this book!  Elizabeth, what is the best part about raising a child in the French countryside?  Thank you!

GoatEB: I love the fact that our son has a real relationship to nature (much more than I ever did). We did an Easter egg hunt out in fields behind a friend’s farm, and he recently adopted a baby goat.

Jennai: Have you ever eaten escargots and / or frog legs?  Do you like them?  Must take some getting used to.

EB: I love the chewy texture of escargot (not so different from clams) and frogs’ legs are really not that different than chicken wings, just more delicate flavor – but mostly it’s about the garlic butter they are often cooked in. There’s nothing like a sizzling platter of escargot with a piece of crusty baguette to sop up the garlic butter. 

Isabel: Do you think you’ll stay in France forever or do you envision living somewhere else someday?  And if so, where?

EB: “Forever” is about 18 months for us. Hard to say. There’s no 5-year plan in the world that would have gotten me where I am right now, and we are so happy in Cereste. We’ll just have to wait and see!

@findingfrenchie: What meal does her family most enjoy that she prepares?

EB: My son loves my sautéed haricot verts (green beans with or without bacon) and my carrot soup (those two recipes are in Lunch in Paris). Everyone loves the Gateau Maman – literally “Mommy Cake” – which is a pear quickbread (that recipe is in Picnic in Provence). 

Christine: What is your preferred writing environment?  Do you have a special spot?

EB: A café. Preferably a noisy one. I can’t concentrate alone. 

Christine: In your opinion, what is your most ingenious ice cream flavour?  Do your customers agree?

EB: The 1001 Nuits (our ice cream based on raz el-hanout, a North African spice blend) has been a big hit; it’s a bit like a spicier version of chai with grilled almonds mixed in.  (Kerry’s note: see below!)

Merci, Elizabeth!

1001 Nuits Ice Cream1001 Nuits Ice Cream

If you’ve read this blog more than once, you know that my mother was born in France, and my grandmother in Casablanca.  My mother’s cooking leans more towards the French – roast duck, potatoes au gratin, ratatouille.  Meme’s, decidedly more Moroccan: her mechoui and green olive stew are legendary (and my personal and much contested viewpoint: the best in the family!  Shhh…).  When I saw Elizabeth’s 1001 Nuits ice cream, inspired by The Arabian Nights, made with toasted almonds and ras el-hanout (a Moroccan spice blend that means “head of the shop” because each spice shopkeeper has his own secret blend), I thought, this is so us I have to try it!  My mother was coming into town, and I knew she’d flip.

The ras el-hanout has the ginger and clove spice that lends a Christmas warmth, but it’s also full of pepper and rose that give it so much more exoticism.  I churned it and served it with an extra crack of black pepper and a shower of almond shards over the top.  With my family’s predilection for Moroccan flavors (heat in sweets; sweets in savories), combined for their French enthusiasm for ice cream, they really did, in fact, flip.  She and my stepfather each had two servings.  My father, New York City through and through, had three!  Proving you don’t need to have Scheherazade in your blood to find this ice cream irresistible.  And like Scheherazade herself, it keeps you coming back for more.  Bon app!

1001 Nuits Ice Cream Collage

1001 Nights --Raz el-Hanout Ice Cream with Grilled Almonds
makes 1 quart. recipe courtesy Elizabeth Bard, Picnic in Provence, Little Brown, (c) 2015

1001 Nuits Ice CreamINGREDIENTS

  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons raz el-hanout
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted

METHOD

Toast the almonds in a small frying pan, until golden.  Let cool fully and set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat egg yolks with sugar until a light lemon yellow.  Set aside.

Prepare an ice bath — a large mixing bowl full of ice cubes will do it.  Set aside.  Find your fine mesh strainer and leave it near the ice bath.

Pour the milk and cream into a medium saucepan and add the raz el-hanout.  Heat over a low flame, unitl it’s just about to boil.  Shut the flame, then slowly add the hot milk to the egg yolk mixture, whisking quickly and continuously to combine.

Pour the mixture back into the saucepan, and cook over low heat, stirring continuously, until the cream coats the back of a wooden spoon.  About 5 minutes.

Immediately pour the custard through a fine mesh strainer back into the mixing bowl.  Cool briefly in the ice bath, whisking for a few minutes until the cream has cooled a bit.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge.  If possible, leave for 24 hours, so the flavor has time to develop.  Freeze in your home ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

After churning, mix in the toasted almonds.  Freeze in an air-tight container for an hour or two before serving.  Keeps for about a week, but in terms of texture, best eaten on the day it’s churned.

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Categories: Desserts, Eat, Finds, Frozen, People, Recipes, Vegetarian
 

Picnic in Provence, Apple Clafoutis, New York Parking Lot Markets, and Figapalooza

Apple ClafoutisSpring is finally here, but it’s been a long time coming.  When I received the galley of Elizabeth’s book, I sat down to read it, all along looking for ways that it would work on French Rev.  As I said in my review of the book, the pages transported me back to Provence.  And for me, Provence is a synonym for markets.  Mr. English and I pretty much ONLY picnic in Provence.  Stopping by markets for melons and white peaches, bottles of strange liqueurs, olives, tomatoes, and even saucisson.  The flavors are like prizefighters — so punchy they take up more space than they should, packing more force than they have any right to, filling the air with smells so strong you can actually taste them.

Feeling forlorn about the state of my New York produce, I saw Elizabeth’s recipe for clafoutis, and I thought, there is something that works anywhere and any time.  Just swap out the cherries for whatever is in season.  That is the French way!  That is why clafoutis was invented!  I can do that, even here!  Plus, I had just found out about a little farmers’ market just two blocks away in a small parking lot on Saturdays.  Not exactly Elizabeth’s Forcalquier, but something!

Clafoutis is a classic French dessert.  Like a soft pancake custard, sweet, fluffy, cream, and poured over the season’s prized fruit — usually cherries.  I couldn’t wait to see what my cherries would be.  The Saturday before last rolls around.  I am up; I am ready.  I run to the elevator, and out the door.  It never pays to be late to a farmers’ market.

I emerged into the snow.  Great flakes pouring down around me, so ridiculous I felt like I must be standing under one of those snow machines they use in the movies.  I was shocked to see that they really truly melted — real snow.  I arrived at the little market, looking for signs of life.  Daffodils.  Asparagus.  Spring!

Empire ApplesInstead, amidst the flurries, I found rows and rows of apples.  It felt nearly medieval — like these apples had been stored underground in some cellar as the only bit of freshness to tide us over until the spring that would never come.  This is New York, the Big Apple, so I shouldn’t have been shocked by the multitude of apples.  Apples I’d never heard of, that by the chalk signs on the crates were hybrid descendants of other apples I’d never heard of.  But when New York gives you apples, I said to Mr. English, we make apple clafoutis!

Snowy ApplesI have never heard of apple clafoutis, but in true Franglais fashion, that is what we had for our Sunday breakfast.  Apples, baked in the oven under a pillow of custard, biting their thumbs at the snowy drifts outside, as we tucked cozily in.

Of course, I used Elizabeth’s clafoutis recipe, simply swapping out the pound of cherries for a pound of peeled, cored, and sliced apples, and exchanging the amaretto for a spoonful of true Norman pommeau that I snuck back last spring.  I asked Elizabeth about clafoutis and markets down in Provence, and this is what she has to say…

Apple Clafoutis SliceElizabeth Talks Clafoutis

Kerry Saretsky: How did you learn to make clafoutis?

Elizabeth Bard: I played around with the custard base in Paris, but it was after we moved to Provence and our neighbor, Mr. Cappelletti, invited us to pick cherries from his tree that I had to get serious about perfecting my clafoutis. Like pancake batter, the key is not to overmix. 

KS: What produce most inspires you in Provence?

EB: I’m a fig lover, every year when the fresh figs arrive I throw myself a little fig fest – Figapalooza, if you will. 

KS: What is the market culture like in the South of France today?

EB: It’s still the best and cheapest way to buy seasonal ingredients. There are still a lot of small producers, people selling from their own farms or their own herds. I only go to the supermarket once every three or four months, for staples like pasta, chocolate, and cleaning products. The rest I buy at the butcher and the Sunday market in Reillanne. 

KS: Do you believe in clafoutis for breakfast?

EB: I believe in clafoutis 24 hours a day!

Merci, Elizabeth!  Picnic in Provence comes out in just a few short hours!  Pre-order it here.

PinP Cherry Clafoutis Card

Elizabeth’s Cherry Clafoutis recipe from Picnic in Provence

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Categories: 60 Minutes, Breakfast & Brunch, Cheap, Desserts, Easy, Eat, Eggs, Finds, Fruit, Pastries, Recipes, Sweets, Vegetarian
 

Eating Provence with Elizabeth Bard, Author of LUNCH IN PARIS and the New PICNIC IN PROVENCE (and a giveaway!)

I am honored to have kindred spirit Elizabeth Bard on French Revolution.  Any woman who grows up near New York, moves to France, marries a Frenchman, then moves to Provence, opens an ice cream store, and spends every spare minute writing about what she eats in her fabulous life is welcome to take over these pages.  She has chronicled it all in Lunch in Paris and her latest memoir with recipes, Picnic in Provence.  I am an unerring fan.  Here, a few of her thoughts about France, food, Twizzlers, and asparagus tongs.

Bon app!

I will be excerpting two of the recipes from Elizabeth’s Picnic in Provence over the coming days.  In celebration of the new book, Elizabeth has agreed to answer a question submitted by readers!  And one lucky reader will win a copy of Picnic in Provence.  So leave your questions in the comments section of this post, or on Facebook (#PicnicInProvence) or Twitter (@FrenchRev #PicnicInProvence) or Instagram (@KerrySaretsky #PicnicInProvence).  Pre-order Picnic in Provence here.

Picnic in Provence Market Pics

Photos courtesy of Elizabeth Bard

Interview with Writer and Entrepreneur Elizabeth Bard

Interview

Kerry Saretsky: What defines Frenchness?

Elizabeth Bard: Pleasure and moderation.

KS: What defines French food?

EB: Ditto, pleasure and moderation

KS: What makes food Parisian?

EB: Butter.

KS: And what makes food Provençal?

EB: Olive Oil.

KS: What are the best towns and restaurants to visit in Provence?

EB: We live in the Alpes de Haute-Provence, which is the less developed, some might say more authentic, part of Provence. A visit to the Monday morning market in Forcalquier is a real treat. Just outside Cereste is the hilltop village of Montjustin; they have a tiny Bistro de Pays that serves a “menu unique” – you eat whatever they are making that day. The terrace is sunny and protected from the wind; even in Feb[ruary], you can eat in a tee-shirt. Whenever we need a two hour vacation – that’s where we go. 

KS: Your favorite places to eat in Paris?

EB: Honestly, now that we live in the countryside, where there is no ethnic cuisine of any kind, when I go back to Paris all I want to eat is Thai and Vietnamese food in Belleville… 

KS: What ingredients and tricks have you picked up since moving to France?

EB: Don’t judge a book by its cover – my friend the hairy celery root is a case in point. 

KS: What was the moment when you thought to yourself, I’ve gone native?

EB: There was the almost tribal satisfaction of gutting by first whole fish…

KS: What foods do you long for when you come back to America?

EB: Crap – Twizzlers, Dots, Hershey’s Kisses. But my palate has changed so much that this kind sugar now gives me a migraine. I love a good rare hamburger with fried onions, my mother’s noodle pudding and the apple cider donuts from the farm stand. 

KS: What is the secret to perfect ice cream?

EB: If you want great texture from a home machine, it’s best to eat the ice cream the day (or even the hour) it’s made.

KS: What advice do you have for budding entrepreneurs?

EB: Dream big, work harder than you thought possible, be stubborn about your principals.

KS: Favorite food writers or food books?

EB: Like everyone I know, I’m cooking my way through Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem at the moment. I love reading M.K. Fisher. Nigella Lawson always makes me hungry – I love her dry, honest voice. I somehow reread Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential at least once a year. He’s got a fabulous ear for the kitchen. 

Elizabeth Bard Family

Photo by Cindi de Channes

The Epicurean Proust

1 What is your idea of perfect culinary happiness?

A really terrific fresh-filled cannoli. 

6 What is your greatest culinary extravagance?

A few Christmases ago, I bought myself a huge cherry red Le Creuset.

15 What or who is the greatest love of your life?

My husband.

16 When and where were you happiest?  In life?  In food?

On holiday with my husband in a tiny seaside village in Crete, eating grilled calamari and reading 19th century novels.

19 What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Doing something I love for a living, and recording family history in the process.

21 Where would you most like to live?  Paris or Provence?  Small town or big city?

I’m still a city girl at heart, but I love the neighborliness of the village. And my son just adopted a goat!

22 What is your most treasured culinary possession?

My mother’s silver asparagus tongs.

28 Who is your hero of food?

My friend Marion Peyric. She’s an organic farmer in Cereste, and she shares her love of all things true and tasty with her friends, her clients, her interns, her colleagues. She’s a wonderful ambassador for the land and foods she loves. 

35 What is your culinary motto?

Bon appetit!

Other reading: French Revolution’s review of Picnic in ProvenceFrench Revolution’s Review of Lunch in Paris from 2011The French Revolution Lunch in Paris Giveaway

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Reading Elizabeth Bard’s New Book PICNIC IN PROVENCE

Elizabeth Bard

Photo by Cindi de Channes

I may be a “millennial”, but I am old enough to remember a time that in order to make a friend, you had to be in the same room as her — at least once.

I am not a typical blogger.  I love writing about food, and sharing it, but it’s not in my nature to broadcast myself.  I am, I admit it, intensely shy.  Hence, my “Internet friends” are few.  And I can’t believe Elizabeth Bard is one of them.

I can’t remember exactly how we met.  I think it was around her first book, Lunch in Paris.  If you haven’t read it, you must.  I had thought it might be flippant, a chouquette-light, cavalier telling of a happy romance between an American girl and a French boy that ends in profiteroles and a balloon bouquet on the Eiffel Tower.  It was not that.  Elizabeth is a great capturer of the way things are.  Her books are poignant remembrances of her recent past.  Lunch in Paris is her love story with her husband, Gwendal, the love of her life (as you’ll find out in tomorrow’ interview).

But it was not all profiteroles and balloons.  She captures the difficulty of falling in love with an ocean between your passports, and only a handful of common words between you.  And as that love deepens, and you begin to come closer, losing part of your old self only to find a new self that is marvelous but unexpected, and going through the true trials of life (like the loss of Gwendal’s father to cancer and discovering one’s calling and career).  Anyone who has been deeply in love and lived a real life feels the reverberation of her stories, like a bell struck true.

Her new book, Picnic in Provence, which comes out on April 7th, picks up the story.  The happy couple is married and in Paris.  But even after professional success, getting everything that you worked your whole twenties for, the thirty-something couple can’t help but ask each other — what’s next?  Off to Provence, to a whole new adventure: a child, a tiny village, and a little ice cream shop recently voted one of the best in all France.

Again, Elizabeth’s frankness makes her stories intensely relatable.  She questions herself over whether and how to be a mother.  She stumbles at losing family income to pursue the family ice cream shop.  She struggles with an Americanness she at times describes as nearly gauche in a sea of seemingly effortless French perfection.  And through it all, is the view of village life from a city girl who always pictured success in the city, life in the city, love in the city.  And the picture left with the reader is one of aching nostalgia, the opposite of my friendship with Elizabeth, where neighbors become friends simply BECAUSE they are in the same room as each other, people harvest together, people gather.  Reading it, I felt galaxies away from my apartment in the sky over New York City, and began to wonder myself — what’s next?

Let me share my favorite metaphor, as she discusses the raising of her son:

“A baby is a wishing well.  We walk by, every day, and throw our pennies in.  Most are bright and shiny, full of smiles and possibility.  Some are tarnished with bad memories, unlucky genes.  Others have been hiding under the couch cushions all these years, just waiting for someone to dig them out.  A baby is a wishing well.  Everyone puts their hopes, their fears, their past, their two cents, in.”  Excerpted from Picnic in Provence by Elizabeth Bard, 2015.

And through it all, she eats.  Like me, and I am sure like you, she is a Prufrock, measuring out her life in coffee spoons and other meal-related metrics.  So each chapter contains the recipes that recollect the life described therein.  I still remember the bistro ribs from Lunch in Paris, shared at a lovers’ corner table, cozily tucked away from the street.  Mr. English and I are passionate Provence picnickers.  It is so ceremonial for us that we revisit the same markets each summer, have a Laguiole pocket knife and (I’m not kidding) weightless cutlery expressly for our Provençal picnics, and know to have the proprietor select our fruit for “today, tomorrow, and the day after”.  Elizabeth captures the sweet juiciness of Provençal produce perfectly.  The melons that weep.  The white peaches that explode with perfume.  The tomatoes!  I have to stop.  Again, as I stared at the sad city produce in my fridge I wondered what on Earth I was doing here.  Because Elizabeth writes not only to take you there visually, but also gustatorily, and you just cannot help being swept away.  And Haute Provence is DEFINITELY a place to which you want to be swept away.

And they are both memoirs with recipes.  Who doesn’t love that as a genre!?

PinP Cover

Picnic in Provence

Both books are ultimately about taking a chance — a big leap.  Doing something you didn’t expect to do — something no one around you expects you to do.  Cracking through the plaster mold you had for your life, going off piste, and come out through the anxiety of it, the work of it, the pain of it in a far better place than you could ever have imagined.  Better than profiteroles and a balloon bouquet at the top of the Eiffel Tower.  And in that, her books are inspiring.  Because she is real, she has fears — fears that I have too.  And she leaps anyway. And suddenly, as a reader, I question how much more I can push myself, how much more faith I should have, and how much more stake I should put in getting to that place just beyond comfortable.

After years of email back-and-forth, I finally met Elizabeth in New York a couple of months ago.  I was nervous — as I said, I can be shy.  Both online, and in analog.  But she is just like she is on the page — honest, open, razor smart, perceptive, generous, and kind.  I found so much in common with her.  A New York-area girl who loves books and food and her husband.  Just reading her interview, I realized that we both live for celery root and Ottolenghi and have the same culinary mantra.  But there was more — we spoke of real issues in the wake of Charlie Hebdo, of motherhood for type-A women in the twenty-first century, of careers in writing.  And I realized that in meeting her, I had taken one of the leaps that her books are always beckoning me to take.  That little chance to extend myself that results in something so terrific, I marveled that I ever hesitated, ever wanted to be shy.  Think of all I could have missed.  That is what Elizabeth’s books are.  Glimpses at all you could miss if you don’t follow that joie de vivre and take a chance at life.

COMING TOMORROW, AN INTERVIEW WITH ELIZABETH BARD.  MERCI, MON AMIE!

Other reading: French Revolution’s Review of Lunch in Paris from 2011; The French Revolution Lunch in Paris Giveaway

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Pot de Crème with Palais des Thés’ Chaï Impérial

RECIPE: Rich, Exotic Chocolate - Chai Pot de Crème

Chai Pot de CrèmeI like to listen to the Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong station on Pandora while I’m cooking.  There is a classic lightness to it that I find both grounding and energy-giving.  It has also accompanied me through not a few Excel models at the office – a true companion!  Yesterday, as I was whizzing together these little pots de crème, I couldn’t help despairing at the lyrics that floated through the kitchen: the snow is snowing, the wind is blowing, but I will weather the storm…

I cannot weather another storm!

I couldn’t believe it as I looked out my window that the snow really was still snowing, the wind still blowing.  I had braved my little local farmer’s market under an unrelenting dusting of flurries that morning in the hopes of finding seasonal wonders.  I had come back with apples – not spring asparagus or anything else of note – and the still snow paraded steadily past my window.

Chai Pot de CrèmeTimes like this call for pot de crème, or as I affectionately call it, old reliable.  I recently heard pot de crème described on the Cooking Channel as chocolate pudding your mom could never make – or something like that.  It is better than chocolate pudding – so thick you have to tug it off the spoon with your lips; so dense and velvety and intense it’s like staring down the maw of some chocolate demon.  It’s marvelous.  But, it’s also easier to make than chocolate pudding!  And what I love about it is that it’s a pantry classic.  You don’t need Mother Nature to cooperate in any way, and the little chocolate pots of wonder will offer you more comfort on a stormy night than even Ella and Louis.

Imperial Chai - Palais des ThesBecause after this New York winter I am starting to get my usual itch to travel to faraway (read: warmer) places, I spiked my classic dark chocolate pot de crème with a spicy, enveloping loose chai tea sent to me by Palais des Thés (merci!), a French maker of wonderful, approachable whole-ingredient loose tea.  When the spoonful of chocolate first hits your tongue, you taste that bittersweet dark chocolate, and then, after a second, the flavors of ginger, orange, pink peppercorns, cinnamon, and cardamom break through that bitter note to explode in this warm, exotic spiciness.  The chocolate warms your heart, the spices warm your soul, and the whole thing whisks you away to a better place.

Palais des Thés Chaï ImpérialI served it last night at a dinner party in our little Manhattan apartment.  And though the snow was still snowing, the wind still blowing under the streetlights far below, I have my pot de crème – and my friends, and my love, of course – to keep me warm.

Thank you, Palais des Thés for the Chaï Impérial.

I also think this pot de crème would work terrifically well at an Easter lunch or Passover seder.

Bon app!

Rich, Exotic Chocolate - Chai Pot de Crème
serves 4

Chai Pot de CrèmeINGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon Palais des Thés Chaï Impérial
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 ounces 70% cocoa dark chocolate, broken up
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Small pinch of sea salt

METHOD

In a small saucepot, combine the cream, chai tea, and vanilla extract.  Heat over medium heat until bubbles form around the edge of the cream.  Take off the heat, and allow to steep for 15 minutes.

Add the chocolate, egg yolks, sugar, and salt to a blender.  After the cream and tea have steeped, heat them again together just until bubbles form around the edges (you want the cream warm when you add it to the chocolate so they melt together).  Strain the cream into the blender.  Whiz everything together until smooth and incorporated.

Pour the pot de crème mixture into four small glasses or ramekins, knocking each one gently against the counter to burst any air bubbles.  Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least four hours, but preferably overnight.  Top with homemade whipped cream to lighten the dense, velvety chocolate.

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Cheap, Chocolate, Desserts, Easy, Eat, Recipes, Vegetarian
 

Rose Crispy Treats for Valentine’s Weekend

RECIPE: Rose Crispy Treats

Rose Crispy TreatsThis weekend, two of our best friends from London are coming to stay, and for one of them, it’s her first time in America.  I’m making them Bavette aux Échalotes for a double Valentine’s dinner at home, and a bay scallop version of this scallop persillade gratin.  But I wanted something homemade and typically American to greet them when they arrive very late tonight.  I settled on Rice Krispies treats, something that always makes me feel at home because, ironically, my Moroccan grandmother makes the best ones around.

I know they’re not very glamorous.  But in France, they have gorgeous, cloud-fluffy artisanal marshmallows, often flavored with floral waters, like rose or orange blossom.  I thought, can I bring a little bit of that French elegance to down home Rice Krispies treats?  Only one way to find out.

Late last night, long past my bedtime while my bavette was blipping away after three hours of post-work night braising, I stirred a spoonful of rose water into the classic Rice Krispies treats recipe.  I topped off each little square with a candied rose petal, and sprinkled them with white sanding sugar.  Honestly, I know this sounds like an exaggeration, but it was a revelation.  Just that hint of that sweet, grassy essence of rose takes the humble marshmallow from hermetic plastic bag to confiserie.  I am sitting writing this resisting my third crispy, gooey, flowery square of the day.

I know, Rice Krispies and rose water.  Very Franglais.  But hey, that’s me!

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Bises…

Rose Crispy Treats
makes 12

Rose Crispy Treats*Adapted from the back of the Rice Krispies box

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 10 ounces marshmallows
  • 1 tablespoon rose water
  • 6 cups puffed rice cereal

OPTIONAL

  • 1 drop of red or pink food coloring
  • Pink sanding sugar
  • Candied rose petals

METHOD

In a large stockpot, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the marshmallows and stir until melted through.  Take off the heat, and stir in the rose water.  If using food coloring, add now.  Finally, stir in the puffed rice cereal.  Spread into a 9 x 13 inch baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.  Spray a piece of parchment slightly larger than 13 inches long with cooking spray.  Spray-side down, lay the parchment on the rice and marshmallow mixture, and push down gently until you have a compact, even layer.  Remove the parchment and decorate with sanding sugar or candied rose petals if using.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours before slicing into 12 squares.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Cheap, Desserts, Easy, Eat, Recipes
 

Homey Crème Fraîche Baked Chicken

RECIPE: Homey Crème Fraîche Baked Chicken

Creme Fraiche Baked Chicken

Poor Mr. English.  He always asks me, what’s the point of marrying a girl that you can take-out-of-New-York-but-you-can’t-take-New-York-out-of-the-girl if she won’t make you chicken soup?

I’m chicken intolerant.  It’s not something I often confess in foodie circles, but it’s true.  To me, fried chicken is like ice cream to a lactose intolerant.  So unutterably irresistible, and so not worth the agony.

So the chicken recipes on this site are anytime Valentines to my husband.  I have a bite, maybe two, to assess my work, down a glass of seltzer, and pass it over to him.  Usually, I stare at him while he eats it.  Ask him over and over again what he thinks.  I eat vicariously, and he, bless him, is as tolerant of me as I am intolerant of the chicken.

I am particularly pleased with this Valentine: bone-in chicken marinated overnight in crème fraîche, woodsy herbs, shallots, and garlic.  The rosemary, thyme, shallot, and garlic permeate the crème fraîche and eventually the chicken.  And the crème fraîche, like buttermilk, tenderizes the chicken so it is soft, juicy beyond belief.  The crème fraîche on the skin causes it to bubble up, char, and blister.  But the inside remains pale, perfumed, and perfect.  I serve it with green salad, baguette.  It’s homey.

Because if you’re married to a food blogger, you eat your Valentine’s dinner at 11 AM the weekend before (perfect lighting, perfect timing), I already stared at him, asked him what he thought, and ate vicariously through him.  I have to say, I never feel more like a wife than when I am roasting chicken for my husband.  Maybe it’s because of the level of sacrifice in it for me.  After all, at least half the joy of cooking is the payoff of eating.  Maybe it’s because it’s my own extreme version of Engagement Chicken.  Maybe there’s just something primal-ly, traditionally devoted about roasting one’s man a chicken.  I don’t know.  But he smiled, and I smiled, and I thought, I am lucky to have someone to love so much that I would make him this homey chicken.

Maybe next year I’ll cave and make him chicken soup.

Bon app!

Creme Fraiche Chicken Legs - Marinade

Homey Crème Fraîche Baked Chicken
serves 4

Creme Fraiche Baked ChickenINGREDIENTS

  • 4 whole chicken legs or chicken breasts, skin-on and bone-in
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup of crème fraîche
  • 1 large shallot, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, barely chopped
  • The leaves from 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil

METHOD

Salt and pepper all sides of the chicken.  In a baking dish that will hold the chicken in a single layer, toss together the crème fraîche, shallot, garlic, rosemary, and thyme, and season the marinade with salt and pepper.  Add the chicken and toss, making sure the crème fraîche gets all over every bit of the chicken.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Lightly grease a rimmed baking sheet.  Turn the chicken over in the marinade once last time to coat thoroughly, and place in a single layer on the baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Bake 30 minutes (a little longer if using chicken breasts) until the internal temperature is 150 F.  Then crank up the oven to 500 F and bake until the skin puffs up and turns golden brown, about 5 more minutes.  Serve with a light green salad and baguette.

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Categories: Cheap, Easy, Eat, Main Courses, Poultry, Recipes