The Perfect Pair: Chocolate & Brie Baguettes

RECIPE: Chocolate and Brie Baguettes
Brie and Chocolate Baguettes

Chocolate and Brie Baguettes

It’s almost Valentine’s Day. Sigh (with a French accent). It’s time to sit and ponder all those perfect pairs, those historic and romantic couples, that have defined love throughout history. Romeo and Juliet. Antony and Cleopatra. Bella Swan and Edward Cullen. Lady, and the Tramp.

Yes, hindsight is twenty/twenty. But what must their contemporaries have said? “Romeo? Juliet? It will never work.” After all, he was a Montague, and she a Capulet. Antony was a Roman; Cleo an Egyptian. Edward a vampire, and Bella a human. Lady was a pure-blood spaniel, and Tramp–well, his name says it all. Perfect pairs to us, but at the time, they must have seemed very unlikely indeed.

Mr. English, for example, is a British scientist, a man who revels in tradition and rationality. And he chose me, an American writer, who lives for potential and actually does happen. Certain things shouldn’t match, but they do. It is a matter of chemistry.

It is chemistry, not reason, that crowns Chocolate and Brie this Valentine’s Day’s perfect pair. He is a dark candy. She is a light cheese. Just like Romeo and Juliet, or me and Mr. English, you may think at first, “That just won’t do.” You’ll just have to take my word for it, but there’s something about the chemistry, and the bit of heat between the sheets of metal on your panini press, that melts the pungent, savory cheese with the sweet, bitter chocolate into nothing short of a culinary orgasm: surprising, overwhelming, wonderful.

These tiny little sandwiches take just minutes to throw together, and make the perfect lover’s snack. Throw together a stack of Chocolate & Brie Baguettes, and offer some of this perfect pair to the other half of your own.

BON APP, et BISOUS!

Brie Chocolate Baguette Ingredients

Chocolate and Brie Baguettes
serves 4

Brie and Chocolate BaguettesIngredients

  • 12 3/4-inch slices baguette
  • Butter for lightly spreading
  • 20 grams/1.25 ounces dark chocolate (I prefer 70% cocoa) or semi-sweet chocolate
  • 92 grams/3 ounces brie

Procedure

  1. Preheat your panini press.
  2. Very lightly butter both sides of each of the 12 baguette slices. When you slice the baguette, do not do it on an angle, but rather straight across for petite rounds. Put the buttered bread in the press for a few minutes, until they are crisp and golden.
  3. Take the baguette toasts out, and divide the chocolate equally onto 6 of the baguette toasts, and the brie onto the other 6. Press each chocolate side together with a brie side, and place the sandwiches back into the panini press for just a minute or two, until the chocolate and brie have heated through and just begun to melt. You don't want to wait for the chocolate and cheese to melt completely, or they'll just run out of the bread.
  4. p.s. If you want something even more decadent this Valentine's, use the same amount of brie and chocolate, but substitute 3 plain croissants for the 12 slices of baguette. The result is a sort of brie-stuffed pain au chocolat.
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Categories: Bread & Butter, Eat, Recipes, Sandwiches
 

French in a Flash: Coeur à la Crème with Strawberry Sauce

RECIPE: Coeur à la Crème
Coeur à la Crème

Coeur à la Crème

Everyone knows that the French are a romantic people; so what better way to celebrate your Valentine then with a French sweet heart? This week’s French in a Flash on SeriousEats.com is Coeur à la Crème, a traditional French dessert of cream and cream cheese, sweetened and flavored with vanilla and lemon, and set to drain until thick, sweet, and creamy in a heart-shaped mold. The red sauce all around is the flourish of a bleeding heart. It’s the best no-bake dessert on the books–decadent, over-the-top, sweet, and a bit irrational and fun, like love.

BON APP, et JOYEUX SAINT VALENTIN!

Coeur à la Crème
serves at least 4

Coeur à la CrèmeIngredients

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 cups heavy cream, cold
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped of its seeds
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 pound frozen whole strawberries
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons sugar

Procedure

  1. Prepare the Coeur à la Crème mold by lining it with 2 paper towels. Use a pastry brush to lightly brush the bit of paper towel that touches the bottom of the mold with water. This will allow you nestle the paper into the shape of the heart more easily.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy—just about 1 minute. Add in the cream, and beat until just before the mixture looks like whipped cream. Add in the sugar, vanilla seeds, and lemon zest, and whip until the mixture does resemble whipped cream.
  3. Decant the cream cheese mixture into the paper towel-lined heart-shaped mold. Fold the excess paper towel over the top, and set the mold inside a shallow bowl to catch the liquid that will drain out. Chill in the fridge overnight.
  4. To make the sauce, put the strawberries, water, lemon juice, and sugar in a sauce pan on high heat, and simmer for 10 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved and the strawberries are soft.
  5. Use a submersion blender, or a regular blender, to puree the sauce. Strain it through a sieve, and cover. Chill until cold.
  6. Invert the creamy heart in a large, shallow bowl. Pour some strawberry sauce all around the outside, so the heart is floating in a pool of red sauce.
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Categories: Desserts, Easy, Eat, French in a Flash, Recipes, Series, Vegetarian
 

French in a Flash: Chilean Sea Bass with Bouillabaisse Broth

RECIPE: Chilean Sea Bass with Bouillabaisse Broth
Sea Bass Bouillabaisse

Sea Bass Bouillabaisse

I want to announce something new and very exciting: I now have a series over at SeriousEats.com, where I just completed my internship, called French in a Flash. It shares a lot of the same philosophy as French Revolution, but more specifically, it takes traditional French ingredients, flavors, and dishes, and transforms them, in the words of a commenter, “with a few short cuts and economies,” into meals that we can make very quickly and simply and easily, but that still present with a lot of chic and finesse. After today, they will be running every Thursday, and I do hope that you will stop by and see what is sur la table.

This week, it is Chilean Sea Bass, seared, and served in a Bouillabaisse broth, perched on a bed of fennel, onions, and tomatoes, studded with rock shrimp and mussels, and stained with saffron. It’s lovely.

So, BON APP à tous, et MERCI!

Chilean Sea Bass with Bouillabaisse Broth
serves 4

Sea Bass BouillabaisseIngredients

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil, plus more for sautéing the fish
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 fennel bulb, thinly sliced, with fronds reserved for garnish
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) petite diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 1/2 cups fish stock
  • 1 teaspoon saffron
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 dozen rock shrimps, peeled and deveined
  • 1 dozen mussels
  • 4 fillets (4- to 6-ounce) Chilean sea bass

Rouille with Baguette Toasts Ingredients

  • 1/2 day-old baguette, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 5 filets roasted red pepper from a jar
  • Salt and pepper

Procedure

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-low heat in a heavy-bottomed, wide pot with sides high enough to contain 3 cups of liquid—I use my risotto pan. When the oil is warm, add the sliced onion and fennel to the pot, and season with salt and pepper. Allow the vegetables to sweat for 2 minutes, and then add in the sliced garlic. Cook the vegetables for another 3 minutes.
  2. Next, add in the can of drained petite diced tomatoes and the white wine. Raise the heat to high, and allow the wine to reduce slightly for about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the fish stock to the pot, and add in the saffron and the bay leaf. When the stock comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and allow the stock to simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. It is this part of the process from which "bouillabaisse" gets its name: the first part of the word means "to boil," and the second, "to lower." The saffron will bloom in the simmering liquid, and will steep like tea in the stock, causing it to turn its trademark marigold color. Season again lightly with salt and pepper.
  4. After 10 minutes have passed, add in the rock shrimp and the mussels, and stir them around in the bouillabaisse broth. They should take no more than 3 minutes to cook; the shrimp will turn from grey to coral in color, and the mussels will open.
  5. While the stock is simmering, cook the sea bass. Begin by seasoning the sea bass well with salt and pepper on both sides. Then cover the bottom of a large nonstick sauté pan with olive oil—a typical pan will require about 2 tablespoons. Heat the oil on medium-high heat, and when the oil starts to shimmer, add the four filets of fish. Cook for about 3-4 minutes per side, until golden.

Rouille with Baguette Toasts Procedure

  1. To toast the baguette, arrange the slices in a single layer on a baking sheet, and run into a 350-degree oven until dry and golden, about 10 minutes, but keep an eye on them!
  2. For the rouille, combine the mayonnaise, garlic, lemon juice and zest, and roasted red pepper in a mini food processor, and season with salt and pepper. Blend until puréed and combined. Rouille, which translates to "rust," because of the color it traditionally takes on from saffron and peppers, can be served alongside the bouillabaisse with these little baguette toasts—perfect for dipping and shoveling in the broth.
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Categories: 30 Minutes, Eat, Fish, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Recipes, Series
 

Mac & Me

This month’s quiz has been my favorite of all. Macarons are, appropriately enough for this Valentine’s week, the loves of my life. They are the ultimate menage a trois (which literally translates, for the dirty-minded, merely as “household of three”), consisting of two almond-based cookie shells sandwiching a filling of cream or jam or ganache or caramel.

Laduree in Paris

Laduree in Paris

The cookies themselves first emerged from the Versailles ovens in the 1700s. The famed cream-filled version that we know today were invented by my favorite Parisian patisserie, Laduree, in the 1800s.

The Macaron Topiary at Laduree

The Macaron Topiary at Laduree

Anyone who has seen Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette knows how these neon and pastel-hued confections can be as adorning to a room as gems are to a person. Opening up a Laduree box stained with mint-green pallor is like lifting the creaking, rusted lid of a pirate’s treasure. Will it be a sapphire-stained lily flavor? The emerald pistachio? The silvery jasmine? The golden cafe? The onyx licorice? The ruby “Diva”?

Laduree MacaronsMacarons are the pictures of prim flamboyance. Never a hair out of place, just the perfect circle and the perfect size. And yet, the ruffle around the base of the cookies, concealing the filling, is the perfect example of the French practice “mettre en valeur,” or to show to advantage. Just as a diving ruffled collar could be unbearably enticing to a lascivious lover, so the ruffled cookie’s edge is almost indecently evocative for a hungry macaron-craver like myself.

The Macaron Counter at Laduree

The Macaron Counter at Laduree

I love to walk up to the counter in Laduree, and just imagine tasting the rainbow. The flavors, beyond being beautiful, are so unusual. They play hard-to-get, if you will. My favorites, for instance, are rose and orange flower, but I’ve seen citronella and gingerbread and lily of the valley and sweet-pea-black-pepper. You lift the little disc to your mouth, and take a bite. The outside cracks with the dainty chip of a robin’s egg. The inside of the cookie yields with the chewy crumble of marzipan-scented cake. And then, just when you’d forgotten all about it, the cream releases any pretense of staying demurely tucked beneath that ruffle. It oozes and explodes out, all around the cookies, in the most obliging and satisfying of fashions. You close your eyes, and smile. Some pleasures, the French know well, are as polite as they are primal–and always perfect.

Le Petit Dejeuner chez Laduree

Le Petit Dejeuner chez Laduree

I know those of you who voted in this month’s poll feel the same way, and I was curious about your favorites. Pistachio was the winner, with chocolate as runner up. But me, I still vote for rose. I attended a class on macarons at Ecole Lenotre this past summer, and if you want that method, click here.

Making Macarons at Ecole Lenotre

Making Macarons at Ecole Lenotre

Be sure to vote in February’s quiz: Which French Delicacies Have You Tried?

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Categories: Finds, Paris, Restaurants, Voyages
 

Serious Super Bowl Eats: Loaded Baked Potato Potato Chip Nachos

RECIPE: Loaded Baked Potato Chip Nachos
Loaded Baked Potato Chip Nachos

Loaded Baked Potato Chip Nachos

This week on Serious Eats, I published my new favorite all-American game night recipe: Loaded Baked Potato Potato Chips Nachos.

Loaded Baked Potato Chip Nachos IngredientsI slather all the ingredients from a loaded baked potato (creamy mashed potatoes, extra sharp cheddar, homemade bacon bits, scallions, and sour cream) onto a bed of crisp, salty kettle chips. Run them in the oven, and you have baked potato nachos.

They may not be French, but they sure have joie de vivre. Bon app!

Loaded Baked Potato Chip Nachos

Loaded Baked Potato Chip NachosIngredients

  • 1 seven-ounce bag of kettle-cooked potato chips
  • 1 medium russet potato, peeled, and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 strips thick-cut bacon
  • 1 cup grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 to 3 scallions, sliced
  • 1/4 cup sour cream

Procedure

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Place the peeled and cubed potato in a small sauce pan, and just cover it with cold water and a pinch of salt. Place the lid on the pot, crank the heat up to high, and cook the potatoes until they are fork tender.
  3. To make the mashed potato topping, drain the potatoes and put them back in their hot pot (but not on a lit burner), just so a bit of the excess moisture will evaporate. Then pass the potatoes through a ricer, and add the butter and milk to the potatoes and mix to combine. Season with salt and pepper. If you do not have a ricer, don't despair. Just add the butter and milk to the chunks of potatoes and mash with a potato masher.
  4. For the bacon bits, slice each thick-cut strip of bacon in half lengthwise, and then cut the thin strips about every quarter inch to create little squares. Put the bacon pieces into a small sauté pan over medium to medium-high heat, and cook until crisp, but not crisp all the way through, because they will continue to crisp slightly when you melt the cheese in the oven, and you don't want them to burn. Drain on a paper towel.
  5. Fill an oven-safe wide plate with the chips. You don't need to use all of each topping; really, when building nachos, it depends on which chips and which dish you end up choosing. So just dollop away to your preference. Begin first with the mashed potatoes, then the extra sharp cheddar cheese, then the bacon bits, and lastly the scallions. Place the plate on a baking sheet, and bake for 10 minutes in the 400°F oven.
  6. Lastly, dollop some sour cream over the top of the nachos, and serve straight from the oven, hot and gooey and really, really good.
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Categories: Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Eat, For a Crowd, Recipes
 

Super Bowl-ed Over: Merguez Baguettes

RECIPE: Merguez Baguettes
Merguez Baguette

Merguez Baguette

I may not like chicken wings, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like it hot. I like hot dogs on a New York City corner, but at a party, they’re just too weeny. Instead, I serve the hottest, juiciest sausage in North Africa: Morocco’s fiery Merguez. A colonial acquisition to French cuisine, Merguez is made from lamb and spiced with anything from sumac to harissa. Above all, it is hot as the desert sun.

Merguez BaguetteI love my sausages grilled, smoky with char, and crisp. But because the Super Bowl is in the winter, I grill my sausages on my panini press. Then, instead of doughy hot dog buns, I stuff them into hearty, crusty baguette, lined with not one, but two sauces. The first is a fiery harissa mayonnaise. The second is a crème fraîche cooled with grated cucumber and shredded fresh mint. Baby spinach leaves and crumbled Terra chips finish off this gorgeous Merguez baguette.

If hot dogs are chihauhaus, then this Merguez baguette is a pit bull.

Merguez Baguettes
serves 2 to 4

Merguez BaguetteIngredients

  • 4 Merguez sausages, equaling 1 pound total
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon harissa
  • ½ cup crème fraîche
  • ¼ cup grated cucumber, from a cucumber that has been peeled and seeded
  • ¼ cup, or about 50 leaves, chiffonade of fresh mint
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½ cup baby spinach
  • ¼ cup Terra chip crumbs
  • 1 baguette, slit in half horizontally, but not all the way through, so it sits like a hot dog bun, then cut four pieces.

Procedure

Preheat your Panini press.
Rub the sausages with just a drizzle of olive oil, and sit them inside the Panini press for about 7-8 minutes on a medium-high setting, until cooked through and crisp.
Meanwhile, prepare the harissa mayonnaise by mixing the mayonnaise with the harissa. Set aside.
Prepare the cool crème fraîche by mixing the crème fraîche with the cucumber and mint, and season with salt and pepper.
Assemble the baguettes. First, smear the bottom half of each baguette with the harissa mayonnaise. Then, smear the top more liberally with the crème fraîche. Nestle in a handful of spinach all along the baguettes. Place one cooked Merguez sausage into each dressed quarter baguette, and top with some crushed Terra chips or other potato chips.

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Super Bowl-ed Over: Crudités Vinaigrette with Sauce Roquefort

RECIPE: Crudités with Sauce Roquefort
Crudités

Crudités

I have a somewhat shameful secret. You know those big Super Bowl platters of hot wings and blue cheese dressing? I am the one who steals all the celery. I know, who does that? It’s not even for dietetic purposes. I just don’t like chicken wings. I think they’re fatty and stringy and puny and bony, and I love for everyone else to eat them, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Actually, I don’t even really like celery, but dipped in blue cheese dressing, that’s another story.

If there’s one tradition I must keep alive on my Revolutionized Super Bowl table, it’s the blue cheese. So, in homage to my celery-stealing fetish, I am putting together crudites, the French way, tossed in a Dijon vinaigrette and served with a homemade Roquefort sauce.

In France, there’s not such things as carrot sticks or celery sticks, per se. Instead, when you order crudités, you get served a rabbit’s lunch: carrots with the fronds still jetting up like mohawks from their heads, radishes still showing off long Merlin’s beards. Rustically beautifully, arranged in anything from mason jars to planting pots, they are served with an aïoli or vinaigrette for dipping, and that’s that.

Crudités RoquefortIt’s amazing what a little thought on presentation can get you to eat–even celery. Instead of buying precut carrot sticks or “Frenched” carrots at the supermarket, try to find baby vegetables like carrots and squash, and simply cut them in half. The effect is far more lovely and appetizing. And if you can’t find those, don’t worry! Just cut a carrot yourself, thinner and longer than you normally would. You just want your vegetables to look like they knew this was a party, and got dressed for the occasion. Also, variety is the spice of life, so try just a few of many vegetables, from little baby cremini mushrooms to fennel to scallions to haricot verts, in addition to the old standbys of carrots, celery, peppers, and cherry tomatoes. Anything in your veggie drawer is a candidate.

Roquefort Sauce

Roquefort Sauce

Speaking of dressing for the party, the secret to not-boring crudités is to toss them very lightly in a lively dressing BEFORE dipping them into the acutal Roquefort sauce. You won’t believe the difference it makes. I use my standard Dijon dressing recipe that I make weekly and keep in the fridge. The Roquefort sauce itself takes less than a minute to make, and I’ve known people to lick it out of the bottom of the bowl. That’s what happens after too many Monacos!

BON APP, et BONNE CHANCE!

Crudités with Sauce Roquefort

CruditésNote

An assortment of mixed vegetables, including cucumber, baby squash, fennel, scallions, haricots verts, radishes, carrots, grape tomatoes, cremini mushrooms, celery, and bell peppers. The trick to keep in mind here is, don’t let them look like regular old carrot sticks. By the baby carrots with the greens still on; don’t trim the fronts off the radishes, and look for baby varietals of everything. If you can’t find those, use a bit of extra knife work to make the carrots super skinny—just more elegant, and more rustic.

Vinaigrette Ingredients

  • ¼ cup light olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon honey
  • Dash of grated shallot (maybe ¼ small shallot, if that)
  • Salt and pepper

Sauce Roquefort Ingredients

  • 2 ounces Roquefort, crumbled
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup crème fraîche
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • Salt and pepper

Procedure

  1. Put all the vinaigrette ingredients into a mini food processor, and whirl until emulsified.
  2. Trim the vegetables as desired, and toss with just enough vinaigrette to coat.
  3. Stir all the ingredients for the Roquefort sauce together, and decant into a decorative bowl.
  4. Arrange the vegetables in a mason or jam jar, and serve alongside the Roquefort sauce.
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Categories: Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Eat, For a Crowd, Recipes, Vegetarian