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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Categories: Bread & Butter, Eat, Recipes, Sandwiches
 

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
 

Super Bowl-ed Over: Avocado and Goat Cheese Dip with Root Chips

RECIPE: Chèvre Avocado Dip with Root Chips
Avocado Chevre Dip

Avocado Chèvre Dip

I ADORE chips and guacamole. My dad and I have a ritual: we show up at Rosa Mexicano in New York, a Mexican restaurant with a guacamole cart on which they smash, squish, and season your guacamole right at your table. For me, it is an event paramount to the Super Bowl itself. In go the jalapenos; I cheer. The cilantro; what a play! Lime juice; touchdown. They plant the heavy stone molcajete in the middle of the table between us, and we dive in, like honeymooners into a hot tub, pale jade paste adorning the corners of our mouths, turned up in smiles we just can’t repress at such a culinary victory.

Avocado Chèvre Dip with Root Chips

Avocado Chèvre Dip with Root Chips

For my French Super Bowl, I abandoned the South-of-the-Border flavors, but not the tradition. I renovated one of my favorite classic French Revolution recipes: Avocado and Chèvre Dip with Root Chips. I smash avocados with lime juice and garlic, just like in guacamole. But instead of chilies and cilantro and onion, I add crème fraîche, goat cheese, and chives. I stir it all together, and serve it with a colorful potpourri of root chips instead of corn chips. It looks beautiful and festive, and is a creamier, more elegant kick at the same field goal. And honestly, it’s easier to make.

Avocado Chevre Dip

Avocado Chèvre Dip

BON APP, et BONNE CHANCE!

Terra Chips

Chèvre Avocado Dip with Root Chips

Avocado Chevre DipIngredients

  • 2 Haas avocados
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice (from about 1 lime)
  • 2 ounces chèvre, room temperature
  • ½ cup crème fraîche
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 20 chives, snipped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 7.5 ounce bag Terra Original root chips

Procedure

  1. Press the avocados through a ricer and toss immediately with the lime juice. Add in the chèvre, crème fraîche, garlic, snipped chives, and salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly to combine.
  2. Arrange 2 chive halves in a cross on top of the dip as a decorative touch. And serve surrounded by Terra chips.
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Categories: 15 Minutes, Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Easy, Eat, For a Crowd, Recipes, Vegetarian
 

Super Bowl-ed Over: The Monaco

RECIPE: Monaco
Monaco

Monaco

To me, there is no better name for a Super Bowl beer cocktail than one that takes its name from the high-stakes betting grounds of the Riviera.

All this week, I’ll be featuring typically Revolutionized and glammed-up versions of Super Bowl favorites, from the fried to the intoxicating. Today, I begin with the Monaco, a beer cocktail that I began drinking, I hate to say it, as a very young and illegal fifteen year old. I always think that Super Bowl food is so male-oriented–lots of beer, and messy-fingered food, and chili. It’s not that I don’t like these sorts of foods, but a lot of my girl friends find them just about as palatable as the game itself.

Monaco Ingredients

Beer, Limonade, Grenadine

So why not make some Super Bowl snacks that are yummy enough to fill up the boys, and interesting enough to divert the girls? The Monaco is a great way to get those of us who may not love a lager, who may snub a stout, to drink beer. It is similar to the English shandy, and very close to the French panache. The beer is cut with limonade, and spiked with a splash of grenadine. In some ways, it is a drunken Shirley Temple–but it is rosy, convivial, sweet, hearty, and intoxicating. Needless to say, I love it.

The Super Bowl, like Monaco itself, is a place for heavy betting. I hope, for your sake, that after a few sips of this Monaco, luck will be a lady, and fortune will smile your way. May the best team win.

Check back every day this week for more French Revolution Super Bowl recipes…

BON APP, et BONNE CHANCE!

Monaco
for 1 24-ounce Pilsner glass

MonacoIngredients

  • 1 shot grenadine
  • 12 ounces French limonade
  • 1 12-ounce bottle of beer, preferably Kronenbourg

Procedure

  1. Pour the grenadine into the bottom of the glass. Top with the limonade, and then pour the beer in slowly to avoid having your cup runneth over.
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Categories: Cheap, Cocktails, Drinks, Easy, Eat, Recipes
 

Parsnipitty

RECIPE: Roasted Garlic and Parnsip Purée
Parsnip Purée

Parsnip Purée

Some girls’ boyfriends are persnickety. Mr. English is parsnippity. Frankly, I didn’t know what a parsnip looked like until a year ago. They are tooth-and-nails-tough white carrot-impersonators. Their hard backbone is the iron glove that covers their candy-sweet, velvet fist.

Normally, we just roast them, but we hosted some friends for a Hanukkah dinner, and I needed to dress them up. So I made parnsip puree. Sweet, but hearty. Decadent, but healthy (if you don’t count the half and half). It was gone with the wind. If you want some comfort food that can still play a bit of dress up, this is the veg for you.

BON APP!

Roasted Garlic and Parnsip Purée

Parsnip PuréeIngredients

  • 2 pounds parsnips, peeled, and cut into chunks
  • 1 medium white potato, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 10 cloves garlic
  • 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 tablespoons butter

Procedure

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. On a baking tray with a lip, toss the parnsips, potato, and garlic with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 1 hour.
  3. Move the roasted vegetables to the food processor and add the half and half, milk, and butter. Whip until smooth, and serve hot.
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Categories: Eat, Recipes, Sides, Vegetables, Vegetarian