Getting Serious

Serious Eats Macarons

Image from seriouseats.com

Chers Révolutionnaires, I have more news to share! I have taken an internship writing for SeriousEats.com, a fantastic food blog dealing with all things culinary at the heart of the heart of the culinary world, New York City. Visit here to check out my work for them. Me and food writing? Looks like we’re getting serious!

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The Mousetrap

scroll down for a fondue recipe…

Those of you who know me know Cleo, the most forceful personality in my life from the ages of 6 to 24. Cleo was a cat (yes, a very old chat at that).

Some people in Manhattan call exterminators; we, however, had a far more merciless pest deterrent in the vicious and voracious Cleopatra Saretsky. In my most impressionable years, I would walk through the foyer of our apartment, only to find a poor lost soul, all ears and tail and whiskers, dragging a bloody and bedraggled grey body temporarily out of the clutches of the furry claws of dearest Cleo. Having been a mouse for Halloween, I immediately sympathized with the little victims, and scooped them up on two paper plates, placing them safely in the hallway, with a hunk of cheese to see them through to recovery.


I gave a great deal of consideration to their feline-recovery fromage. The fridge was, of course, stocked by my French mother, and the mice on East 68th Street were rarely treated to such commonalities as plain ol’ cheddar. No! Hunks of Saint Andre and Explorateur, the very best Parmigianino, and if I was feeling particularly empathetic, a whole wheel of bonbel (wax removed), which was, at the time, my absolute favorite. I do hope that with such a quality supply, I didn’t lure our little neighbors back into the danger zone.

It was all too appropriate then, that on the day of my cheese course at Artisanal at their headquarters on West 37th Street, that I was wearing my favorite pair of Marc Jacobs mouse shoes. Sometimes New York can seem like a pair of cat’s claws, batting you around all day until you are just so exhausted, you could just give up. Tuesday was just such a day, so that by the time I finally arrived, I felt like I’d been lifted up by two paper plates and dropped down, bedraggled myself, in the dim hallways of East 68th Street. I know that I was right to provide those happy mice with such delicacies, for by the time I walked out of Artisanal that night, I was very much recovered.

First, the greeting area was filled with bottles of Cava, and 10 different cheeses, with jams and nuts and dried fruit, and of course, crackers and hunks of baguette. Creamy rounds, fragrant tomes, pungent blues, bright chevres—I tasted them all. Ok, I more than tasted them all. Then, out came the fondue—no, they wouldn’t say what cheeses they used, but had I been a mouse, I would have considered the thing a delectable hot tub and decided to end my days surrounded by the creamiest of luxuries. Delicious and positively reeking of white wine.


Once inside the classroom, we learned with surprising detail about the different milks, the different washes, the different techniques and rinds and wrappers of cheese. Did you know that the way to “blue” a cheese is to pierce it with needles so the mold can penetrate all the way through, creating teal marble from simple milk and rennet? We learned how to properly taste cheese: pierce it with your fork (don’t spread it on bread!), sniff it, and then coat your mouth in it. We learned to pair it with wine, by matching the texture and weight of the glass with the cheese. I even, for the first time in my life, met a cheese I didn’t like (Brescianella Stagionata, ITALY, cow’s milk). It was so pungent that had I given it to one of Cleo’s victims, it would have finished off what she started.

At the end of the affair, was a crumbled, cheesy cheese cake, with praline crust and topping. I was speechless, if a bit drunk; quiet as a mouse in mouse shoes.

What can I say? Cheese is like catnip to me. I simply can’t resist!

Below, I have listed for you the cheeses that we tried, for you to sample as well. You can get them all at Artisanal. I also highly recommend their bistro. And below that, my fondue recipe. But here let me just share a few words of wisdom concerning fondue, and you won’t be disappointed. First, buy an electric fondue pot if you’re doing cheese; candles really only work on chocolate. Second, toss the shredded cheese with a bit of cornstarch—that’s what makes it smooth, and prevents the cheese from separating when it’s heated. Third, use more wine, or Kirsch, or beer, than you think necessary. Fourth, remember the famous rhyme: while the cat’s away, the mice will play. Play with any cheeses you like, and add herbs or garlic or ham—anything! It’s melted cheese; how could it be bad?

Bon app!

Artisanal Cheeses

  1. Roves de Garrigues
  2. Monte Enebro
  3. Ossau au Piment d’Esplette
  4. Chaource
  5. Montgomery’s Cheddar
  6. Brescianella Stagionata
  7. Tome des Bauges
  8. Blu del Moncenisio

Sign up for a class at Artisanal.

Basic Fondue

The Fondue

1 cup of white wine

5-6 cups of shredded gruyere cheese

1 tablespoon of corn starch

The Bathers

1 Belgian endive, end removed and spears separated

1 baguette, sliced thinly on an angle

2 granny smith apples, cored, and cut into wedges

2 dry sausages, sliced

1 head of broccoli florets, blanched in boiling water for 2-3 minutes and shocked in ice water

  1. In a sauce pot, heat the wine over a medium flame.
  2. Separately, toss the cheese with the cornstarch. This is the key step that most people tend to omit, but it is necessary to absorb the excess moisture in the cheese to keep the fondue smooth.
  3. When the wine is hot, add the cheese and cornstarch, and shut off the flame. Stir to melt.
  4. Pour the cheese into a warm electric fondue pot—these are easy to find and inexpensive nowadays. Arrange the beigneuses on a platter, and get dipping.
  5. I would recommend mixing the cheeses; adding perhaps a fontina, even a brie or a blue. Add thyme and garlic. Or add crumbled bits of crisped prosciutto. Enjoy!

My Serious Eats review of Artisanal’s cheese course…

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Dear Martha

The Martha Blog

Image from The Martha Blog

Dear Martha, Chers Révolutionnaires,

I have entered French Revolution Food in Martha Stewart’s blog contest, and this post is intended as a warm bienvenue for Martha.

At French Revolution, I create 2-3 recipes a week, all based around a central French theme, be it a broken oven in New York (that was “tartare” week), or a disastrous picnic date in England (“Déjeuner Sur l’Herbe”). The story is followed by the recipes, and some insights into the creation of the dishes. All the food is meant to be authentically French, but reinvented in a modern, chic, fresh, and easy way. For example, macarons are delicious, but they are more easily bought than made; instead, I take inspiration from them to create my Strawberry Rose Macaron Cupcakes. A Kir Royale is a perfect classic, but why not use the old as the foundation for the new, by creating a Kir Royale Glacé with cassis sorbet, Kurant vodka, and Champagne? As I mentioned in my comment on your blog, I believe (very Frenchly) that the occasion is as important as the food itself, for food follows life, and what a perfect pair they make. I try to create the story with as much chic and finesse as the recipes.

But I have forgotten my manners! Let me first introduce myself. My name is Kerry Lynn Saretsky, and I was born in Manhattan twenty-five years ago, the daughter of a mother from Paris and a father from New York City. My culinary career began with a burnt piece of London broil in 1985, and I have been training ever since, taking classes in New York and Paris, teaching myself, learning from the best, like you, and developing my own personal taste (style, as any Parisian or New York woman will tell you, comes from within). I am first and foremost a writer, having graduated from Princeton University with my degree in English, and a master’s in the same field from Oxford, in England, where I started my blog—a blog that I hope you will love as much as I do, and I invite you to visit France, my France, as often as you like. 
Merci bien, Martha, and encore, welcome!

Bisous,
Kerry

p.s. Please enjoy some of my favorite posts…or just wander through like a flaneuse on the streets of Paris! And do feel free to weigh in on this month’s poll, to the right…

Cold Child in the City (tartare)

All That Glitters (macarons)

Dejeuner Sur l’Herbe (picnic)

Primavera! (vegetables)

My Borough Man (Brindiza’s chorizo)

Baguette Lady (Paul’s sandwiches)

Révolutionnaires: have a look at Martha’s blog!

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Clammed Up

The Union Oyster House in Boston

Dear Révolutionnaires: I understand we are experiencing technical difficulties in some parts of the country. Please know that I am working on getting French Revolution back to normal. Until then, enjoy some clams!

The time has come, my little friends, to talk of many things; not shoes and ships and ceiling wax, nor cabbages and kings. But instead, of the little loves to whom that poem was addressed: the oysters…and, naturally, the clams.

This past weekend, I travelled to Boston. On the train, as we tore through the puddled green countryside, studded with rocking New England-white washed canoes, I made a promise to myself: I am going to eat lobster at every meal.

There are certain things in life that I love: lobster, for one, ropes of pearls, heaps of steaming mussels. Yes, they all come from the sea. But when it comes to that vaulted treasure of the Parisian bistro, the raw seafood platter, I must admit that I get a little clammy when I see the clams and oysters, floating like so many New England canoes within their shells, atop a sea of their own making.

So, when I paraded my friends into the Union Oyster House, the nation’s oldest restaurant, this past Saturday, I was confidently craving lobster, which sat naively waving their lantern-red antennas at me from their crowded watery cave. We had to wait, so I trotted over to the raw bar to see how the pros were shucking clams and oysters, thinking maybe I would get tips for a cooked dish I might try. Next thing I knew, I was sitting amongst the locals, who were packed like lobsters at the bar, with one of the shuckers topping off my raw clam with oyster crackers, Tabasco, and horseradish.

New England Clam Chowder!

The whole restaurant got involved; it was like the prizefights of decades ago. Who would win the rumble in my stomach? I couldn’t escape, so I did it. I gagged. Then I chewed. It was lovely; briny as the sea, hot as the sun. But I will say this; as for the oysters, I’ll stick with the crackers.

That wasn’t the only clam I tried that day; when I got to the chowder, I was happy as a clam. Maybe even happier, considering they’re the ones who got eaten!

And as for the lobsters, rest assured, I’d eaten everyone one.

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Categories: Boston, Restaurants, Voyages
 

Cold Child in the City

RECIPE: Tuna Carpaccio with Ratatouille Vinaigrette

Last night I bought myself a hot, sizzling romantic novel—or, as close to one as I’ll ever come. You wouldn’t know it from the 90 degree New York heat, but summer’s lease expires in just a few short weeks, and if you can’t bring yourself to the beach, bring the beach-read to you. Or maybe it was just a weak attempt at recreating myself as a hot child in New York City.

Perhaps it’s indicative that though I bought the novel to read last night, it sits next to me, unopened, and, now that I look at it, a bit pallid. It seems the cool onset of fall has crept into my life before the autumn cold fronts. You see, I’ve moved back to New York, leaving Mr. English across the Atlantic. I have no one with whom to steam up any windows. And, now, for my hot confession: I don’t have an oven to steam up any vegetables either. I confess: my New York apartment does not have a working range! Since it was installed in the 1950s along with the lemon linoleum countertops, I can safely say that it has been resting in peace in this apartment for decades. Perhaps it left its sweetheart safely across the seas as well.

So, my oven and I mutually agreed, in our aggrieved states, that we weren’t going to try to fake it for you this week. Now that we’ve exposed our raw underbellies, we’re going to expose someone else’s! Namely those of Timmy Tuna and Sammy Salmon. It’s carpaccio and tartare week for us, Revolutionaires!

Since I’m being so brutally raw, I might as well also confess that, possibly like you, I have never attempted to make carpacchio or tartare before, but, tartare at least, is a very common, classic French bistro dish. According to legend, the dish is so called because the Tartar people, having no time to cook their steak, would leave it under their saddles as they rode to tenderize the meat. I just always figured that the Tartars were a bloody people. Either way, I have often witnessed the waiters at the Closerie de Lilas in Paris plunge their arms elbow-deep into a sacred countertop and emerge time and time again with the perfect steak tartare.

Personally, I prefer raw fish to raw steak, which I can find a bit gamey. My first dish is Tuna Carpaccio with Ratatouille Vinaigrette, inspired by a similar plate at the New York restaurant Artisanal. The second is inspired by my favorite outdoor café on the Île de la Cité in Paris, which serves a lemony salmon tartare, which I sit on a bed of cucumbers and avocado.

Never has raw been so well done.

And for those of you who like it hot, the new oven is on its way. Misery may love company, but I love food more!

Salmon Tartare AvocadoSalmon Tartare on Avocado

1/3 pound of raw salmon, cut into a ½-inch dice

1 tablespoon of very finely chopped shallot

½ tablespoon of parsley (or you could use dill), chopped finely

4 chives, snipped small

Pinch of lemon zest

1 tablespoon of light olive oil

½ tablespoon of lemon juice

Salt and pepper

¼ avocado, sliced paper thin on a mandolin

¼ small cucumber, sliced paper tin on a mandolin

Wedges of lemon

  1. Place a ring mold on a plate, a build this little dish: avocado, then cucumber, and then the salmon tossed with all the other ingredients.
  2. Serve with snipped chives and lemon zest on the plate, along with some wedges of lemon.

BON APP!

Tuna Carpaccio with Ratatouille Vinaigrette
serves 2

Tuna Carpaccio Ratatouille VinaigretteIngredients

  • ¼ pound of raw tuna, cut ¼-inch thick against the grain
  • 2 tablespoons of very finely minced small tomatoes (like grape or cherry)
  • 2 tablespoons of very finely minced picholine and niçoise olives
  • 1 tablespoon of very finely minced zucchini
  • 1 tablespoon of very finely minced shallot
  • ½ tablespoon of very finely minced jalapeño pepper
  • ½ clove of garlic, grated
  • 2 tablespoons of light olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of sherry wine vinegar
  • Small squeeze of lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper

Procedure

  1. Slice the tuna and lie the slices flat on a platter.
  2. Mix everything else together, and spoon over the tuna.
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Categories: Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Eat, Fish, Individual, Main Courses, Recipes
 

Holy Crêpe

Summer is over! Back to the Revolution!

I suppose I do write a lot about crêpes, but I do hope you’ll indulge my indulgence. You see, the most miraculous thing of all has happened, and it is my duty to spread the good news.

I will be spending the next months chez moi in New York, and against all my expectations or better judgment, I began to feel sad at the prospect of temporarily leaving England. Of course, Mr. English is to be greatly missed, but above all, what about all my lovely French ingredients, like cassis mustard and lardons and fromage frais that are impossible to get across “le lac”?!

If France is my culinary Mecca, then I prepared myself for excommunication. And yet, I had a religious experience at Eli Zabar’s The Vinegar Factory on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. I stood in line for the register, clutching my champagne grapes and Lorina and baguette, and there was the vision. I believe someone once saw the Virgin Mary in a pancake; well, I saw the pancake itself! “Holy Crêpe!” I exclaimed. There, before me, was a French relic of unknown value, but priced fairly reasonably at around seven dollars: LeSter imported Breton crêpes, vacuum sealed and thin as the pages of the King James Bible. And next to the plain crêpes, folded in half like gossamer, sweet doilies, were little prepackaged crêpe “cigars” that came in flavors: chocolate (by Whaou crêpes), tarte tatin (LeSter as well), and the advertised but unstocked tarte au citron. I took home a chocolate crêpe cigar, put it in the toaster so that the crêpe crisped and the chocolate oozed, and soon I was speaking in tongues—or at least, tasting the crêpe while chattering excitedly and incomprehensibly to Mr. English.

When I wrote Buckwheat Bronco, a post offering innovative approaches to crêpes, I wanted to tell you to use store-bought crêpes, but after a definitive sweep of Oxford, I found none. So, I had to develop a recipe for crêpe batter. But my advice on crêpes is as follows: they are a street food, so you should never feel trapped in the kitchen in order to eat one. And LeSter is just proof that French people don’t like being crucified to the stove any more than we do. Either, use my batter recipe, and make them ahead—even a triple batch. Or, and I would say even better yet, buy Breton crêpes, and have them as I do: done simply as if from a Parisian rue-vendor, and eaten on the tip of the Ile de la Cite, surrounded by the Seine and the sparrows. Of course, Central Park and pigeons will do as well.

This week’s recipes are simple reconstructions of the Parisian street crêpe, to be made strictly with prepurchased Breton pancakes!: my favorite, crêpe with gruyere; with chocolate; and lastly, the classic Parisian crêpe, with sugar and lemon. I also offer little extras to make these traditional recipes a bit more unique. These recipes really don’t call for measurements. All you do is put the crêpe in a large, nonstick skillet over medium low heat, add so of the ingredients to one side of the crêpe, and fold away as they melt into it. Remember: triangular means sweet; rectangular means savory. Make them for breakfast, surely, but selon moi, they are the perfect midnight snack.

You can keep your daily bread. I’d rather be a little devil, with my holy crêpes.

Crêpes with Gruyere

For 1 large prepared Breton crêpe:
¼ cup of shredded gruyere cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

goutez avec: serrano or prosciutto ham
dijon mustard
freshly chopped herbs, like mint or thyme

Crêpes with Chocolate

For 1 large prepared Breton crêpe:
¼ cup of dark chocolate chips

goutez avec: bitter orange marmalade
dried, sweet coconut
fresh, tart raspberries and strawberries

Crêpes a la Parisian

For 1 large prepared Breton crêpe:
Several tablespoons of sugar
The juice of ¼ lemon (just squeeze over the crêpe as the sugar heats and melts)

goutez avec: lemon juice, lemon zest, and sugar
blood orange juice, zest, and sugar (lower the sugar content when using oranges)
fresh orange juice, sugar, and orange flower water

BON APP!

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All That Glitters

RECIPE: Macarons

Legend has it that there is a lost city of gold and treasure that stands proudly closeted behind a green-vine curtain in the misty jungles of South America. Legend has it wrong. As it happens the lost city of El Dorado is actually quite easy to get to, and is already known by another name. Simply book a flight on Air France and exit the plane at Paris.

I imagine that many a conquistador hoped he would find a trove of treasure, emeralds, diamonds, rubies, sapphires all tucked away and tumbled together in a chest, waiting to be discovered. But I have already found the treasure chest: rows and columns of perfect macarons hued like the gemstones of legend, packed neatly into a glass case at Laduree. Ecstasy, and a mint-green Victorian sign swinging Frenchly in the breeze, mark the spot.

If you read French Revolution at all regularly, chances are you’ve heard of my penchant for macarons, and the empty ache I generally experience in my daily existence without them. Macarons are rare in the States, and even more rarely any good, so it is likely that you’ll need an explanation. Macarons are little cookie sandwiches. Ganache, jam, or cream glues two almond wafers together. But unlike, say, a plain old Oreo, macarons are marked for their texture, like a crisp robin’s egg that cracks and melts and then oozes when you bite into it, and also their exquisitely whimsical colors and flavors, like lily of the valley, citronella, and violet-cassis to name a few of the odder ones. My favorites? Rose, pistachio, orange blossom, and lemon, in that order.

Like those conquistadors, I am often ready to lay down my life, or at least a day’s worth of complacent happiness, in a fit of absolute macaron lust. But several centuries have passed, and I believe the mindset here in the Americas has changed: who wants to be a slave to fate or the gods? Cities of gold have never been found, and macarons have never rained from the sky. So, I decided to turn to an even older legend. I made up my mind to become an alchemist.

To that end, I took the train to “El Dorado,” a name that bares shocking phonetic resemblance to Laduree, does it not? When in Paris, I enrolled at the premiere amateur cooking school, Ecole Lenotre, and signed up for a course on how to turn almond flour and egg whites into macarons, the modern gastronomic equivalent of spinning straw into gold.

For my day as Rumpelstiltskin, I began with lunch at the Ecole Lenotre café, tucked under the leafy branches of the Place de la Concorde end of the Champs Elysee. There, I indulged in a creamy, cold green asparagus velouté, served with blanched, salted asparagus tips, and, the end all and be all, a savory pea frozen macaron topped with cracked black pepper. Oh my little loves! So versatile! An emerald worth its weight…

I then embarked on the way to wealth. I, and seven other Rumpelstiltskins, swathed in white linen aprons, girdled in kitchen towels, and waving silicon spatulas, crowded around the Alchemist: our chef, crowned in a Lenotre white pillar chef’s hat, with his gallic profile, Frenchly trilling voice, and gilded secrets. There he told us that if you weigh certain amounts of almond powder, powdered sugar, and egg whites, and baked them on three baking sheets and parchment paper for around 10 minutes, along with food coloring in droves to color the golden wafers into the hues of lemon topaz, caramel citrine, coffee obsidian, you would have macarons! For the center, we conjured up lemon crème, fresh fleur de sel caramel, and chocolate ganache. Newly minted millionaires, we then decided to sit down and hide it all in the best place we could think of: our stomachs!

As I sat on a bench in the Place Saint Sulpice with a little bag of Pierre Hermé macarons, I knew that macarons constituted the fortune of the culinary world: hard, bright, flashy, and expensive like any jewel. In my hand I had two macarons. Of course, I ate the quartz-colored rose first, the pink shell cracking and exposing a rush of cream fresh as rose petals. And then, I tried it: the diamond. A jasmine macaron dusted in powdered silver, that flashed in the sun and smelt like moonlight. Mr. English tells me that jewels are supposed to only enhance a woman’s beauty; he also says that nothing is more beautiful on me than a smile. Macarons, then, are my greatest accessory.

I can’t give away (for free!) the recipe for spinning gold, Lenotre’s complete macaron recette, but I will tell you how to make the shells. The secret is, the shells almost all taste the same—of almonds—and are simply dyed to reflect the flavor that you imbue into the filling. You could make a lemon crème, a chocolate ganache, a raspberry confiture, a caramel—you could flavor them a million different ways. To be simple, just whip some cream and add vanilla extract, or something more extravagant, like jasmine extract. But here is how you make those robin egg shells…

Remember, all that glitters is not gold…no. It is pistachio green, rose pink, lemon yellow, licorice black, and, mmm mmm, chocolate brown.

This is my simplified version of the Ecole Lenotre recipe. For all the secrets, enroll yourself! It was the best 130 Euros I will ever have spent.

BON APP!

Macarons

Ingredients

  • 250 grams of almond powder mixed with 250 grams of powdered sugar (500 grams of what is known as tant pour tant)
  • 200 grams of powdered sugar
  • 200 grams of egg whites
  • 50 grams of white sugar
  • Food coloring

Procedure

  1. Whirl the tant pour tant and powdered sugar in a food processor, pulsing three times.
  2. Whip the sugar and egg whites until they are just stiff.
  3. Quickly, but gently and thoroughly and in three parts, fold the almond and sugar mixture into the egg whites.
  4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag with a number 7 tip.
  5. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C (320 degrees F).
  6. Stack 3 baking sheet, and line the top with parchment paper. Pipe, careful not to crowd, little macaron halves onto the parchment.
  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating the sheet once through.
  8. Leave to cool slightly, and then pour water between the parchment and the baking sheet. The macarons will absorb the moisture, and after a few minuets, you can turn them, and release them from the parchment.
  9. Allow to cool completely, and then fill as you will.
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Categories: Paris, Voyages