French in a Flash: Tricolore Berry Meringue Creams

RECIPE: Tricolore Berry Meringue Creams
Tricolor Meringue Creams

Tricolor Meringue Creams

Get the whole story on Serious Eats.

Today is Bastille Day!  A veritable fête.  In the States, I always toast La France with an early evening pétanque game on the beach, and a twilit grill or picnic.  If I’m lucky enough to be in France—something worth celebrating on its own—it’s down to the fireworks show.

By way of a bit of history, on this day in 1789, brave French people stormed the Bastille prison, an uprising that contributed to the fall of the French monarchy and the establishment of the republic that France is today.  I often joke that culinarily speaking, France was never in a bad place.  Whether you were eating the bread and water of the Bastille (what is better than French bread and French water?) or Marie Antoinette’s cakes (to quote Ina, how bad can that be?), you were eating well.  Of course, that’s not really true, and in all seriousness, it is a very proud day, hoisted up by the triumvirate of ideologies that is still so powerful in France today: liberty, equality, and brotherhood, symbolized by the blue, white, and red of the French flag.

This sweet, simple dessert is only appropriate in the heyday of summer and its sweet, plump berries, coinciding just perfectly with Le Quatorze.  The white of the meringue (store bought, of course—it is to hot and humid to deal with homemade meringue) and French vanilla whipped cream stand for egalité.  The blueberries for liberté.  And the raspberries and currants for fraternité.  A fun, jaunty little tribute to Le Tricolore on this great summer fête.

Two Berry Meringue NestsMeringue Nests, French Vanilla Cream

Tricolore Berry Meringue Creams
serves 4

Tricolor Meringue CreamsINGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup heavy cream, very cold
  • The seeds from 1 vanilla bean
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 4 bought meringue nests, about 3.5 inches in diameter
  • 20 raspberries
  • 25 to 30 blueberries
  • 4 stems red currants

PROCEDURE

In a large bowl, add the cream and the vanilla seeds.  Whisk until stiff.  Stir in the sugar.

Arrange the meringue nests on a platter.  Fill each with a quarter of the vanilla cream.

Arrange the berries on top.  To make them look their best, arrange the raspberries first: a cluster of 3 opposite a cluster of 2.  Fill in the gaps with the blueberries, and top with a strand of red currants.  Serve right away, although these will keep okay covered with plastic wrap in the fridge for about an hour.

 

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Desserts, Easy, Eat, French in a Flash, Fruit, Recipes, Series, Vegetarian
 

Bastille Day Postcard

View of the Sea

Near Nice

Happy Quatorze!  I have just landed in the South of France, and this is the view from my window.  I am so excited for what this weekend has in store!  I will, of course, dutifully share photos and menus.  Bises

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Categories: Côte d'Azur, Voyages
 

Franglais: Merguez Baguettes

RECIPE: Merguez Baguettes
Merguez Baguette

Merguez Baguette

Get the whole story on The Huffington Post.

When it comes to French food, we always think of the ivory tower.  Not the gutter.  Charlottes and tians and soufflés are all well and good, but give me the choice between haute cuisine and a hole in the wall off a well-trod avenue, and there’s no comparison.  Hole in the wall, s’il vous plaît!

I am a French street-food-oholic.  Actually, I eat plenty of hotdogs and pretzels off the streets of New York.  So maybe it has nothing to do with provenance.  But French street food is spectacular.  I plan trips around the crêpe stuffed with bubbling, elastic Gruyère that I get to go from L’Avant Comptoir near Odéon in Paris.  In Nice, there are zucchini flower beignets and chickpea pancakes called socca.  And in the South, Pan Bagnat, giant and perfect tuna sandwiches that I take to share at the beach.  Gauffres, or really Belgian waffles, under an avalanche of sugar.  And of course, the omnipresent ice cream cones that parade around the country.  But the one that takes Marie Antoinette’s cake is possibly the world’s greatest sandwich: Merguez Frites.

Hold onto your berets.  It’s a baguette, stuffed with hot, smoky Moroccan lamb sausages flavored with garlic, harissa, chilis, cumin, coriander, and the kitchen sink.  And then stuffed into the baguette with the grill-charred sausages is a solid helping of frites.  Crunchy, salty, and ridiculous.  You can get the baguette slathered with garlic mayo, extra harissa, even ketchup.  It is so gluttonous, and so spicy, and so good.  Greasy and dirty in that too-much-lo mein way that everyone loves.  It makes a New York hotdog, heretofore my yardstick of perfection (with deli mustard), look measly.  It’s a heart stopper, in more ways than one.  And it’s worth it.

I love doing cookouts for Bastille Day (this Thursday, July 14th).  Instead of throwing some all American hotdogs on the grill, I give my grill a French accent.  I throw some Merguez sausages, long and lean, on the grill until black and hot and smoky.  I stuff them in an olive oil-seared baguette, with piquillo peppers, garlic-yogurt-mayo sauce, and a salad of cilantro.  Serve with some harissa for those that like it hot, or some grill lemons.  It is so different and so spectacular, you don’t need to make anything else.  Just buy some good French beers and call it a day.  Or a fête.

Merguez Baguette, ClosedMerguez Baguette, Cut

Merguez Baguettes
serves 4

Merguez BaguetteINGREDIENTS

  • 6 tablespoons Greek yogurt
  • 6 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 clove garlic, grated
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 8-inch baguette rolls, sliced horizontally like an open book
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 12 links Merguez sausage
  • 12 jarred, roasted piquillo peppers, halved
  • 1/2 cup torn cilantro leaves
  • Harissa (optional)

PROCEDURE

Preheat a grill—wood burning, charcoal, or gas.  In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, mayonnaise, garlic, and salt to taste.  Set aside.

Drizzle the cut surface of the baguette rolls lightly with olive oil.  Place cut side down on the grill until lightly toasted—about 1 minute.  Set the rolls aside, and place the Merguez on the grill, turning occasionally until the sausages are charred and cooked through—about 6 minutes.

While the sausages are grilling, assemble the sandwiches.  Slather as much of the garlic yogurt sauce on the bread as you like.  If you like it hot (like really hot), squirt some harissa onto the buns.  Scatter the piquillo peppers on the bread, and the leaves of cilantro.  As soon as the Merguez are cooked, pile 3 into each sandwich, fold the sandwich shut, and cut in half on a diagonal.  Serve immediately.

NOTES

You can find Merguez at gourmet stores, Kosher markets, and Middle Easter grocers.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Bread & Butter, Easy, Eat, Franglais, Recipes, Sandwiches, Series
 

An Interview with French Food at Home’s Laura Calder: Part II

KS: What was the first meal you remember eating?

LC: Fried potato skins.  My mother used to bake potato skins, and these are organic of course, they have to be.  You eat your potato flesh and then you have the skin.  She used to fry that with butter and it was absolutely delicious.

KS: What would be your death row dinner?

LC: Oh boy, I don’t think I’d be able to eat frankly, but… I think it would have to be something family-orientated, one of my mother’s soups.  My mother’s very good at, you know, hearty kinds of soups, so something like fish chowder or a beef stew.  Maybe a big beef stew.

KS: What food reminds you of your grandmother?

LC: Baked beans, baked homemade bread, biscuits and that kind of thing, and definitely all the fish chowder and corn chowder and beef stew with dumplings in it.  English cakes, you know, those English cookies with the thumbprint and the jam in them.

KS: What do you make when you are in love?

LC: I make everything, I cook like crazy, and preferably with the person I’m in love with.  Cook like a demon and eat it.  You work up appetite for another round.

KS: And what about when you’re out of love?

LC: The way I cook on the show is the way I cook for myself.  I don’t cook differently for me than I do for when people are coming over.  I cook, I don’t cook for other people.  I cook for me and whoever gets to eat.

KS: If there were a dish that was made à la Calder, what would be the recipe, something that’s signature you?

LC: Oh well there would definitely be orange and lemon zest in it.  Because people are always joking they know when I’ve been in their house because there’s not a skin left on an orange in the house.  I’m always running around with a zester putting it on everything.  So that’s kind of a touch.  And then anything that I serve, [it’s by] putting a big platter on the table.  If I can put it on a platter on the table, I do, and even if I have individually portioned things, like say a little pot de crème, I put them all on one platter and then put them out.  I can’t stand the little individual things.  It drives me nuts.

KS: The last question, what is your favourite restaurant in Paris?

LC: Actually, I don’t eat out very much at all.  I always used to say my preference is to go eat at someone’s house in Paris.

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Writing for a Great New Travel Site: Fathom

FathomFathom is a phenomenal new travel site founded by (in the spirit of full disclosure) my first editor Jeralyn Gerba and Pavia Rosati.  It’s set to fill the space between those flash sale mania sites full of luxury, and the unreliability of TripAdvisor.  Vetted travelers, from veterinarians to celebrities, send in “postcards” from the fabulous places they have been, and the cards, along with additional expertise, are turned into guides the rest of us can use to plan a trip that is interesting, stress-free, and quality.  In short, it’s a way to always have a friend in Paris to tell you where to stay, where to eat, and what to order.  I’ve started writing for them, and here is a peak at a few of the postcards I’ve sent in:

Fathom OctopiA Merry Band of Greek Tourists

Where to stay on the Greek island of Paros, and how to book the ideal boat trip full of sea-swimming and octopus-grilling while you’re there

French Quarter on a Dime

Where to stay in Saint Germain when you’re not made of a million

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An Interview with French Food at Home’s Laura Calder: Part I

Laura Calder

Photo from the Dallas Observer

A year and a half ago, I had the chance to interview Laura Calder, host of French Food at Home on the Cooking Channel.  She had lost her voice, because the night before, she had won her James Beard award.  Over the hour-or-so that I talked with this Canadian cook, I found out that Laura became serious about cooking only once she arrived in France (some things are inevitable).  That she hates tripe and horse meat (who can blame her?). That she has stick-to-your-ribs tastes (like her even more…).  And that Laura truly believes French food is unpretentious (after my own heart).  Here, the first of two parts of the interview.

This interview has been edited for brevity.


Kerry Saretsky: Why French?

Laura Calder: Well French was easy for me because… I grew up going to French school so I spoke French already, it wasn’t an intimidating place to go, and I love food.  So to me there’s no better place.

KS: How would you describe French cuisine to someone who had never encountered it before?  What makes it different?

LC: I think what’s nice about it in the modern world right now is it’s a very coherent cuisine and it’s not all over the place.  In North America right now, we’re trying out so many new things, sometimes we really need some grounding in something that’s not all fusion or confusion—as some of might say, confusion food.  It’s really solid back-to-basics cooking.

KS: What surprised you most about French cooking as you encountered in France?

LC: Well I think I saw it probably like a lot of people think—that somehow it was fattening or heavy or old-fashioned. What I discovered is that it isn’t any of those things; it’s incredibly healthy.  It’s very suited to the modern world.  It’s not like we think of French food as being what people made fifty years ago or a hundred years ago.  They’ve modernised just like us.  Women are working hard at home every day, people work, they’re busy.  So, you know, the cuisine has evolved along just like ours.

KS: So in what way do you interpret or impact traditional French cooking and what is your style or signature that you bring to it?

LC: Well my style is home cooking for one thing.  You know, what makes French food so exciting is it has so many layers, right?  You have the regional layer, the regional side of the cuisine.  You have home cooking.  You have haute cuisine.  My focus is home cooking, and I think that’s a side of French food that hasn’t often been focused on.

KS: What defines French home cooking?

LC: It’s not as foreign as people think.  It’s got a real style, but at the same time they use ingredients that I grew up with: apples, carrots, potatoes, milk, cream, eggs.  I don’t have to run around with a dictionary trying to find these ingredients and it’s really easy to get them anywhere in Europe or North America.  So I think that makes it really appealing; you can do something that’s different from, you know, English or American cuisine, but it’s very accessible.

KS: How will your show translate to an American audience?  I believe it’s the same show that was filmed for the Canadian audience to begin with?

LC: Yes, the Canadians really liked it.  I think everyone was just shocked to see that French food was actually not difficult… That they actually wanted to eat everything they saw.  It’s incredibly healthy, it’s all natural ingredients, nothing’s fake.  It’s [also] not only what the French eat, but how they eat. Meals three times a day.  And you sit down.  I think that kind of lifestyle around food is also part of what makes us healthy.

KS: What is the difference between the way the French and the Americans approach food?

LC: Oh, I think the French approach it with love and lust sometimes.  But I think in America it’s approached very much with fear.  People are very afraid to eat, they’re afraid they might get fat, they’re afraid there’s going to be something in it that’s not good for them, they’re afraid to cook because they don’t know how.  People are afraid of making fools of themselves because they’re not going to be able to cook like a chef.  But in France, when you go in to someone’s house, it’s very much home cooking and they’re not trying to impress you.  What’s important is bringing people together and making something delicious and hearty and homey.

KS: How can we all be more French in the kitchen?

LC: Do a lot less.  You know, just take the aperitifs for example.  In France the aperitif will be someone opens a bottle of Champagne, and you would have a glass of it, and there’s a bowl of olives and a bowl of pistachios or something…or just slice some sausage, and that’s the aperitif.  Completely unpretentious.

KS: Do you think [the fact that French food can be simpler than American food] is a result of the fact that the produce and the meats are superior, at least in flavor, in France?

LC: Yes.  That’s a big part of it.  It’s really easy to cook well in France because the food’s so good to start with.  I always look like a bloody genius when I’m cooking in France, but I have to work a lot harder when I come back.  And people don’t like to hear that, they don’t want to hear that the food isn’t as good here, but it just frankly is not.

KS: You went to a French school, but are you from a French background in Canada?

LC: My name Calder so I have a very English background, but I did grow up in a bilingual province.  I went to a French school from age twelve.

KS: Do you remember what you were eating when you decided to make this transition in your life to cooking?

LC: I grew up on the east coast of Canada.  The food I grew up with was, you know, chowder, milky fish chowder, brown bread with baked beans, that kind of sort of thing.  That’s another thing about French food that people forget, is that you don’t have to have it in isolation.  I have a new book called French Taste where I talk about this, where I say, you don’t have to – this is nothing against Julia Child because I love Julia Child…

KS: Right.

LC: But mastering the art of French cooking, holy Moses, that’s a commitment.  It’s a vast cuisine, I wouldn’t cook anything either if I thought I had to master all the bloody cuisine to make a chocolate mousse.

KS: Right.

LC: Whereas I say make a chocolate mousse and have it after your pasta or make a coq au vin and have tiramisu.  I mean these cuisines in the Western World really work very well together.  So I think we could mix it up a bit more.  Duck à l’orange doesn’t mean that you have to have strawberry soufflé for dessert.

KS: What do you see as the relationship between writing and cooking?

LC: I really love studying languages even just to keep my brain going, but I think it’s an obsession with my mouth, I love everything that goes in and I love what comes out and I love listening to different ways people speak.  I love poetry, I love literature, I love accents, but writing was my first love and I wanted to write about food.

Check back for the second half of the interview tomorrow!

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Categories: People
 

The Secret Ingredient (Ginger Jam) Part III: Sweet Ginger-Seared Tuna

RECIPE: Sweet Ginger-Seared Tuna
Sweet Ginger-Seared Tuna

Sweet Ginger-Seared Tuna

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

What I love best about ginger jam is the spicy caramel. Put it on anything, and add some sharp heat; the jam bubbles up, and darkens, and sticks, and turns straight to caramel with all that ginger flavor in the background. To me, there’s nothing like ginger and tuna.

Growing up, I always thought of ginger as medicine. When I was sick, my mom would smash together fresh ginger and garlic, and slather it into spoonfuls of honey I was forced to down by the hour. And when I flew and inevitably found myself nauseous, I would down cans of ginger ale. It was never a flavor I would turn to for fun, after all of those punishing applications. Until sushi.

I remember going out for sushi twenty years ago and thinking it was the most exotic thing in the world. Now, it’s a flavor and an experience that, when abandoned for too long, is as familiar as missing hamburgers or an all-American blue cheese wedge. For years, I shied away from the pickled ginger mounded in that little lump on the side of my sushi platter, but as I’ve started getting more and more into raw tuna (salmon was always my raw fish of choice), I’ve come to love how that slight sweet spicy zing cuts through the almost metallic flavor of the fish.

For this recipe, I soak tuna in a combination of ginger jam, soy sauce, and a touch of sesame oil. Seared quickly on the grill, the ginger jam bubbles up and forms that sticky-spicy-sweet caramel. Slice the tuna up, serve with extra soy sauce and a high pile of pickled ginger. It’s a unique, funky little take on the traditional seared tuna.

Buy Ginger Jam

Sweet Ginger-Seared Tuna
serves 2 to 4

Sweet Ginger-Seared TunaINGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ginger jam
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce, plus more for serving
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/3 pound sushi-grade tuna steak
  • Pickled ginger, for serving

PROCEDURE

In a bowl, whisk together ginger jam, soy sauce, and sesame oil.  Marinate the tuna in the sauce for 1 hour, covered in the fridge.

Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat.  Sear the tuna 2 minutes on each side.  Thinly slice the tuna, and serve with pickled ginger and soy sauce on the side.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Eat, Fish, For a Crowd, Individual, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, The Secret Ingredient