Yours Sancerrely,

RECIPE: Chicken with Sancerre, Mushrooms, and Thyme

The victor, with 45% of the votes, in June’s French Revolution “French Wine” poll is…

Sancerre!

Sancerre BottleCongratulations to all you Revolutionaries who chose the French white. In the spirit of fraternité, egalité, and liberté, I’m glad you exercised your right to vote. Read on to find out more about Sancerre, my favorite white wine, and for the monthly poll recette:

Chicken with Sancerre, Mushrooms, and Thyme

I recently bought a book of Roald Dahl’s short stories. Most of us revere Roald Dahl as the author of classic children’s books, from Fantastic Mr. Fox to Matilda, but he also wrote great handfuls of “mature” stories, stories that are sexy, racy, irreverent, and, above all, intoxicating, like “Taste,” in which the fate of a young girl rests on the outcome of a blind wine taste test. The wine is described as gentle, demure, and bashful. Not a Sancerre.

Knowing about wine is certainly a matter of pride; even if you don’t care much about wine except for its taste and its heady effects, you still feel like you’ve won a culture contest when you can hold up a wine list and at least look like you know what you’re talking about, and come up with some anthropomorphizing adjectives that reconstruct the flavor of the wine in the form of a tantalizing young Bacchanal.

Truth be told, my friend Julie introduced me to Sancerre. She was sitting across the table from me in that mythical, late Moules Frites haven La Tour that I mentioned in Flex!. “Mmm…Sancerre. We’ll have two glasses.”

Sancerre MapIn the vein of Roald Dahl’s “tasteful” language, I would describe Sancerre as fruity and flowery all at once, sparkling without the bubbles, the brighter citrus Champagne of flat wines. If she were a Bacchanal, Sancerre would have orange blossoms streaming from her hair and would dance the Charleston. Gentle, demure, bashful she is not; but she is gilded class in a glass. She is witty and elegant, wears almost too many ropes of chic white pearls, and always has the last word.

Sancerre is made from the Sauvignon Blanc grape, growing around the town of Sancerre in the Loire Valley. Sancerre is one of the original Appellations d’Origine Contrôlée awarded in the late 1930s—AOC is a way that the French government recognizes and regulates the point of origin of French food products, and is why so many of them are recognized by the name of their town of production, beginning with Roquefort, a blue cheese named after its city, in the fifteenth century. Red and even rosé Sancerres are made in the same region from the Pinot Noir grape.

Sancerre ValleyLike the life of any party, Sancerre gets along very well with almost anyone, or anything, on the table. But to show her to advantage, I’d sit her with goat cheese to her left and shellfish or whitefish to her right. And if you find you can only take such a spirit in small doses, make a Sancerre spritzer. Giada de Laurentiis makes a brilliant white wine spritzer by freezing orange and lemon zest into ice cubes, and then mixing with sparkling water and white wine. Replace Pellegrino with Perrier and Pinot Grigio with Sancerre. Finally, she’ll sparkle as she was meant to.

To taste! Chin chin!

Please vote in the July poll: which French colonial cuisine do you prefer? Creole/Cajun with its New Orleans beignets? Moroccan tagines and fragrant teas and salads? Quebecoise poutine? Or the salty sweet noodle dishes of Indochine? At the end of July, I’ll share a recipe from the winning cuisine! Oooh…which to choose? They’re all so good! I’ll let the Revolutionary public decide.

Chicken with Sancerre, Mushrooms, and Thyme
serves 4

Sancerre ChickenIngredients

  • 12 pieces of dark meat chicken (legs and thighs)
  • 500 grams of chestnut mushrooms, sliced (use cremini if you cannot find chestnut)
  • 4 shallots, sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • ¼ cup of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 8 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 cup of Sancerre
  • 1 cup of chicken stock
  • ¼ cup of cream
  • ¼ cup of chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • Salt and pepper
  • Herbs de Provence

Procedure

  1. Start by seasoning the chicken on both sides with salt, pepper, and a light sprinkling of herbs de Provence.
  2. Working either in batches or using 2 wide pots, heat the olive oil on medium high heat. When the oil is hot, brown the chicken on both sides, and set aside.
  3. Add the butter to the pot(s), and then the shallots. Sauté for one minute before adding the mushrooms and the thyme. Season with pepper, but hold off on the salt until the mushrooms have achieved a bit of color.
  4. When the mushrooms are about halfway cooked, and a bit seared, add the Sancerre. Allow the flavor to concentrate for a minute before adding in the stock. Bring to a simmer and lower the flame; then add the chicken back into the pot. Cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.
  5. Take the pot off the heat and stir in the cream and the parsley. Serve with crusty baguette or egg noodles, like in Alsace.
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Buckwheat Bronco

RECIPE: Crêpe Batter

Crêpes O Mania in Oxford, England

Basic Crêpe Batter

Brie Crêp-o-dilla with Avocado Crème Fraîche and Watermelon Salsa

Crêpe Salad Bowl with Cassis Mixed Greens and Warm Goat Cheese

Crêpe Monsieur

As you know, my mother and my grandmother and toute la famille are French. As a form of adolescent rebellion, I had stubbornly forgotten and refused to relearn the language of Proust and Saint-Exupery, of Candide and of Astrix and Obelix. I was a very naughty little girl.

So when I was fifteen, my mother suggested that I spend the summer completing one of those language immersion programs, where you attend school and live with another family, and where speaking English is as forbidden and ghastly as dumping ketchup all over a plate of escargots. After a refresher course in Paris, off I went to Brest, and after spending a day snickering about the city’s name, I then stumbled innocently upon something even better than French verbs: French food!

Brest is located on the coast of Bretagne, a province simultaneously French and Breton all at once. Though the feu d’articifice still dazzled the cold, dark sky on Basille Day, hints of the old Breton language permeated the Bretons’ speech; old, Saxon-like dances still were danced in large, pied circles at the center of town; and on every other corner thereabouts resided the most charming Breton of all: the crêpe man.

In New York, one comes to rely on street food. Central Park has become quite safe in the past decades, but hunger still stealthily burgles about. The knowing New Yorker need only walk several yards before finding rescue at the Hot Dog Stand. There, for a few (an ever-increasing few) dollars, the New Yorker can still his stomach on a hot dog with ketchup, or a salty pretzel with mustard. And the city streets are safe and satisfying once again.

I was on another English picnic recently, and when one is in England, I say do as the English—drink in the afternoon! I had cheers-ed my way through a whole bottle of wine spritzer when I stood up to stumble home, and on my merry way, I tripped disbelievingly up to a stand on which was emblazoned: Crêpes O Mania, Breton Pancake Specialist.

It is my steadfast and personal opinion that there is no better cure for the rumbling of an intoxicated stomach than the oozing, salty perfection of a crisp and gooey crêpe au fromage. I shouted up at the proprietor in glee: “Are you really from Bretagne!? Do you use gruyere!?” Tolerantly he chuckled, yes, he was Breton, and no, he did not use gruyere, though he claimed he could have done, just as well.

“Will you still try one?” Yes, of course. I never say to no to cheese crêpes. As a rule. To my surprise, he did not pull out a pre-prepared crêpe, but ladled a curiously dark batter onto a hot crêpe griddle. “Buckwheat?” I demanded. He told me yes, it is healthier, and makes a better crêpe, and he is the only man in Oxford with the secret. He then blanketed the crêpe with a combination of cheddar and mozzarella cheeses (I was skeptical), and expertly peppered the combination with salt before folding it up into the trademark rectangle of the savory Breton galette. I bit through the perfect eggshell of crisp, buckwheat pancake, and out oozed the cheese. M. Le Crêpe, mes compliments! He even gave me a frequent crêp-ers card, and I get my tenth free!

The crêpe is one of the most signature, and yet versatile, foodstuffs of France. It can be sweet or salé, served for breakfast or dinner, a midnight snack or dessert. It can be fancy, or be humble. This week’s installment is all about little unorthodox recettes for the crêpes that you make (I’ve included my go-to basic batter recipe) or you buy. Crêpe-O-Dilla is a French quesadilla that uses the pancake as a tortilla on the grill, stuffed with creamy brie, toasted, and topped with avocado crème fraîche and a tomato and watermelon salsa. The crêpe salad bowl is a crisp shell, filled with mixed greens, crisp goat cheese, and a cassis mustard vinaigrette. And finally, the Crêpe Monsieur is a savory prosciutto and gruyere pancake, seared, and then topped with a gruyere-Dijon béchamel and baked. Merveilleux!

M. Le Crêpe, merci pour le dessert dans le desert…

 

CrepeOdilla

Crêpe-O-Dilla

Crêpe-o-dillas with Avocado Crème Fraîche and Watermelon-Tomato Salsa

8 crêpes

250 grams of brie

  1. Divide the brie amongst the crêpes, lying the slices of cheese on one side, and folding the crêpe over it like a quesadilla.
  2. Toast the crêpe over medium heat in a nonstick, ungreased frying pan until crisp on both sides, with a melted brie center.
  3. Serve with Avocado Crème Fraîche and Watermelon-Tomato Salsa (recipes follow)

3 vine tomatoes, petite diced

¾ cup of petite diced watermelon

1 tablespoon of parsley

1 tablespoon of olive oil

Juice of 1 lime

2 pinches of salt

Pepper

  1. Simply toss all the ingredients together and allow them to sit in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.

1 avocado

¾ cup of crème fraîche

Juice of ½ lime

Salt

  1. Whirl the crème fraîche, salt, lime juice, and the flesh of the avocado together in the food processor until it becomes a smooth jade-green cream.

 

Crepe Salad Bowls

Crêpe Salad Bowls

Crêpe Salad Bowls with Cassis Mixed Greens and Warm Goat Cheese Medallions

4 crêpes

1 shallot

1 bag of bistro greens, including shards of beets

¼ cup of olive oil

2 ½ tablespoons of white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon of honey

1 pinch of herbs de Provence

1 tablespoon of cassis Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper

200 grams of cold goat cheese

2 eggs

1 cup of breadcrumbs or panko, or the two mixed together

Salt and pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Lay the crêpes over 6 small ramekins placed upside down on a baking sheet, so that the crêpes form bowls.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove the crêpe bowls from the ramekins and allow to cool upside down on the counter.
  5. Raise the oven to 425 degrees.
  6. For the warm goat cheese, divide the goat cheese into 8 pieces.
  7. Create a breading station, with one bowl containing the beaten eggs, salt, and pepper, and the other containing the bread crumb-panko mixture.
  8. Dip each piece of goat cheese in the egg, then the crumbs, then the egg again, and finally the crumb again, dusting off the excess between each step.
  9. Bake the cheese for 10 minutes on a lined baking sheet.
  10. Meanwhile, in the bottom of a large bowl, combine the olive oil, white wine vinegar, cassis mustard, herbs de Provence, salt, and pepper. Toss with the shallots, and beet-spiked greens.
  11. Divide the salad between the four crêpe bowls. Arrange 2 pieces of goat cheese to crown the top of each.

 

Crêpe Monsieur

Crêpe Monsieur

Crêpe Monsieur

6 crêpes

6 slices of prosciutto

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons of grated gruyere, divided

¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon of grated parmesan, divided

4 teaspoons of Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons of butter

2 tablespoons of flour

1 ¼ cup of milk

Butter for dotting

Salt and pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Heat the milk in a stock pot on medium-low heat.
  3. For each of the 6 crêpes, place the slice of prosciutto and 3 tablespoons of gruyere in the center of the crêpe. Then fold in the four sides so that it forms a stuffed square.
  4. Toast the stuffed crêpe in a dry non stick pan on medium heat so that the inside melts, and the outside toasts to a crisp shell.
  5. Meanwhile make the béchamel by melting the butter in a stock pot on medium heat. Add the flour, and stir, allowing the roux to toast lightly.
  6. Add the mustard and toast for 30 seconds with the roux, along with salt and pepper.
  7. Add in the hot milk, and stir so that the milk begins to simmer.
  8. Add in the two cheeses, and allow the béchamel to simmer until it thickens, so that if you dip a wooden spoon into the sauce and run your finger down the back, the sauce stays separated.
  9. Ladle some of the béchamel in the bottom of a smallish square baking dish.
  10. Arrange the six crêpe packets overlapping in the pan.
  11. Spoon most of the rest of the sauce over the crêpes, creating another thin layer.
  12. Top with the remaining gruyere and parmesan cheeses, and dot the top with a little bit of butter.
  13. Bake for 15 minutes, uncovered, until bubbly and golden and serve very hot.

BON APP!


Crêpe Batter
yields 10 to 12 crêpes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of whole milk
  • 1/4 cup of cold water
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, plus 1 teaspoon, melted and cooled

Procedure

  1. Put all the ingredients in the blender, and whirl them around until just combined. Be sure to scrape down the sides once to make sure everything is completely incorporated.
  2. Let the batter rest for 1 hour. Take this advice!
  3. Put a small, nonstick pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Ladle in a shy ¼ cup of batter, and, off the heat, quickly swirl it around the pan so it thinly coats the surface.
  4. Return the pan to the heat. The crepe is ready to flip when it naturally begins to slide around the pan when you shake it. Flip it in the air if you can…if not use a crepe spatula. When the crepe slides out, it is ready. Stack the crepes between pieces of parchment paper. Repeat until the batter is used up.
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Categories: Oxford, Recipes, Voyages
 

Dejeuner sur l’Herbe

RECIPE: Provencal “Soupe au Pistou” Pasta

Picnicking in Oxfordshire

scroll down for these picnic recipes…

Provencal “Soupe au Pistou” Pasta

Pan Bagnat

Watermelon with Rose and Raspberries

Oh, the great outdoors. The wide open country, the rolling hills, the heady blossoms of the early summer flowers…

I’m a city girl. Wide open country…agoraphobia! Rolling hills…I get seasick thinking of amber waves of grain. And flowers? Bunkers for kamikaze bees.

Now that my work is done for the summer, I have been participating altogether unseemingly frequently in, what I have learned to be, an English pastime as sacred as cricket and drinking Pimm’s: the picnic. Interestingly, I’ve found that one also watches cricket and drinks Pimm’s while on a picnic, so really the whole affair avalanches into a sacred ritual.

You may not know this, but my boyfriend is a zoologist here in Oxford. Thus, we see the concept of “picnic” from rather disparate angles. When I, the literature student and writer, think of an English picnic, I think of Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice, walking through the emerald English countryside, stopping for an apple just one mile shy of Pemberley. The green hills are plush as a penthouse carpet, and the cool indoors, replete with bathroom and rose-scented water, are just a stone’s throw off in the distance. When a zoologist thinks of an English picnic, however, he considers the offhand possibility of discovering a verminous new species somewhere in the thorny undergrowth.

Chris planned the picnic with scientific accuracy. I, naturally, would take on the food, and he got a car, scouted out the field, and arrived romantically with a kiss. We drove to the site and I stifled the New Yorker in me: the grass was thigh high. As I scaled the splintering old wooden fence, I could barely hear the warnings: “Watch those thorns!” I smacked a rogue ant that shimmied up my leg. Fresh! “Careful, Kerry, those are stinging nettles!” Stinging nettles? I thought the kamikaze bees would be the only Axis powers in the warzone. There I was—an American abroad, hacking through a jungle, ducking enemy fire. Typical.

When I finally arrived at the spot, I looked around. Grass, grass everywhere, and not a place to sit. I threw my blanket like a fisherman’s net over some spindly green leaves, and with a proud chin up, plopped down…as a thorn sank fatally into my derriere. I yelped, but then smiled lovingly and offered Chris some Provencal “Soupe au Pistou” Pasta and water spiked with elderflower and mint. I gobbled down my lunch as quickly as I could, and looked up at him expectantly. “Come on, I’ll take you home.”

Back at home, I reconsidered and compromised: I would only picnic on cricket pitches, where the grass is sure to be mown and a bathroom lurks just behind that ominous bunch of trees. I have since been on two other quite successful outings. I always did love to picnic in Central Park with sandwiches from Yura, or to barbeque salmon on the beach, and I just had to find the right way to do it across the pond.

This week’s recipes are perfect for packing to take along with you, be it to Central Park’s civilization or the uncultivated warzones of the wild. As ever, they are cheekily Francophile. Provencal “Soupe au Pistou” Pasta is a twist on the Provencal classic soupe au pistou, a vegetarian broth laden with petite green vegetables and spiked with basil pistou. Pan Bagnat is a southern tradition—salade Nicoise on bread and the best tuna fish sandwich you’ll ever have. And the all-American picnic staple, watermelon, is reset, jeweled with ruby raspberries and washed in rose water.

So pack up that Citron Pressé and get going. Just be careful where you sit…

Pan Bagnat Oxford

Pan Bagnat

Pan Bagnat

1 loaf of ciabatta, halved horizontally

1 head of green little gem lettuce, washed and cored, leaves separated

1 half of an English cucumber, thinly sliced

200 grams of albacore or yellowfin tuna packed in olive oil

200 grams of albacore or yellowfin tuna packed in water

¼ cup of mayonnaise

½ cup of pitted olives, preferably nicoise, divided and roughly chopped

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

Zest of ½ lemon

1 tablespoon of capers

½ teaspoon of anchovy paste

10 chives, snipped

Black pepper

  1. Toast the two ciabatta halves in a very hot oven for 3 minutes, or until the bread hardens a bit, but does not turn golden.
  2. Prepare the olive mayonnaise by blending together the lemon zest, ¼ cup of olives, and the mayonnaise in a mini food processor.
  3. Drain the tuna, and combine with the olive mayonnaise.
  4. For the dressing, combine the anchovy paste, olive oil, lemon juice, black pepper, chives, capers, and the remaining ¼ cup of olives.
  5. To assemble the sandwich, press the tuna onto the bottom half of the ciabatta. Then line up the lettuce leaves and then the cucumbers on top. Pour the dressing over, and top with the bread lid.

Watermelon Rose Salad

Watermelon Rose Salad

Watermelon with Rose and Raspberries

¼ seedless watermelon taken off the rind, cut into ¼-inch slices

1 ½ tablespoons of rosewater

A handful of raspberries

  1. Arrange the watermelon in a kind of zig-zag pattern with the points facing up. You could also use a melon baller and mix the watermelon balls with the raspberries.
  2. Spoon the rosewater evenly over the watermelon, and scatter the raspberries over the top.
  3. Garnish with pink or red edible rose petals, or a small edible rose amidst the watermelon balls.

BON APP!

Picnicking at the Cricket Fields

Provencal “Soupe au Pistou” Pasta
serves 4

Soupe au Pistou PastaIngredients

  • The florets of 125 grams of baby broccoli (about 10 stems, or 1 ¼ cup of florets)
  • ½ cup of petite diced asparagus tips (8 stems)
  • Full ½ cup packed of petite diced zucchini (½ of a large zucchini)
  • ½ cup of petite diced haricots verts
  • ¼ cup of fresh, shelled peas
  • 500 grams of orechiette pasta
  • 1 cup of fresh green pesto

Procedure

  1. Set two pots of water to boil, and salt them when they begin to bubble.
  2. Cook the pasta according to package directions to al dente in one pot.
  3. In the other pot, blanch the vegetables, all at once for 1-2 minutes, and then cool them immediately in an ice bath or under very cold running water.
  4. Toss the vegetables, pasta, and pesto sauce together. Serve hot, warm, or cold.
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Blog Update!

Good news, French Révolutionnaries! French Revolution has been updated and now has new features:

  • Links: Most of the restaurants that I love enough to mention are now linked in grey. Click on the link, and you will be transferred to the restaurant’s home page so you can check out the menu or make a reservation. Ingredients that may be hard to find are linked to online sources so you can find whatever you need to make these recipes.
  • Email Subscription and RSS Feed: You can now subscribe to French Revolution in one of two ways. Subscribe to receive emails of new content to the right of the page in the Subscribe section. Or scroll down to the bottom of the page and sign up for an RSS Feed through Google Reader. If you have a Gmail account, you are already registered with Google Reader. Go to www.google.com/reader to sign in and subscribe, and, like with the email feed, you will receive any new French Revolution content. Please do visit the site to count as a reader once you receive your weekly email!
  • French Revolution Recipe Archive: At the bottom of the page you will find a list of all the recipes featured in French Revolution. Click on the recipe, and you will be automatically redirected to the entry in which it was included. I hope this will allow you to use French Revolution as a cookbook, so you can just click and make dinner.
  • Monthly Poll: In the right sidebar, there is now a monthly poll, so French Revolution readers can compare their preferences on French food. This month? Wine! Make sure to vote! I will include a recipe on the winner.
  • English-Metric Culinary Converter: Because I use both English and Metric units, I’ve included a link to an automatic converter, to make your life easier.
  • Blogroll: Here you will find other related blogs that I find relevant and interesting…Just consider it your personal guide to the francophile Internet.
  • Email: Email me at FrenchRevolutionFood@gmail.com
  • Sources: Here I list online sources for buying ingredients that I feature in French Revolution, or that will be useful and delicious to any modern French cook.
  • Cookbooks: I’m foremost a writer and a reader, and here I list the cookbooks that I have on my shelf and that inspire me–ones I hope you will love as well.
  • Ads: At the very bottom of the page, Google provides linking advertisements related to French cooking. Feel free to explore!

I hope you will sign up for the emails, and find French Revolution more accessible and more enjoyable, and stay tuned for this Sunday’s post! Future improvements are on their way…

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A Moveable Feast

RECIPE: Nutella Pot de Crème

At Blenheim Palace

scroll down for these Father’s Day recipes…

Lavender Steak

French Fried Leeks

Nutella Pot de Crème

My relationship with my father has been something of a moveable feast. I have written about our trip to the Ivy in London, and our fall-back meal plan after our dinner in my Oxford hall. And as I think back on it, nothing could be more appropriate than to chart the last twenty-five years with my dad one meal at a time. Every repast is a remembered photograph, because, ever since my parents separated twenty-two years ago, my father and I have been doing the unthinkable: talking with our mouths full.

My father knows many things, but he does not know how to boil water; like many New Yorkers, he uses his oven for storage. Also like most New Yorkers, he has a profound respect and relationship with food. I remember his colleague saying at a boisterous dinner party once over a decade ago that nobody was as small or had as large a stomach as my father. Ever since I was three years old, my father has been taking me out to dinner—as often as four or five times a week. It was our time together. It was not the traditional American six o’clock family dinner, but it was just as important and personal and special.

My father and I may have different culinary aptitudes, but we are exactly the same person in every other regard, most saliently in our self-definitions as “creatures of habit.” We rarely have more than 5 restaurants in heavy rotation at any one time, with the occasional and exhilarating jaunt to somewhere new—an awning glimpsed on a long walk, an overheard tip of gastronomical gossip, will send us on an expedition that will be talked about for hours, or weeks, or years afterward. When we remember the restaurant, we remember the hours we spent together, 1 year ago, five years ago, fifteen years ago, back to the beginning.

When I was about nine years old, my father would pick me up when I was still in my school uniform and take me to Steve’s pizzeria on Second Avenue, where we would share a whole pie, garlic bread, and salad. The place was a ’50s throwback, and we were regulars. They didn’t even take our orders, and we would be deep into conversations of Greek mythology or Egyptian mummification rituals over the Elvis soundtrack by the time the cheesy feast arrived. I taught my father about Athena and the Olive Tree, and he taught me how to fold a slice of pizza over my finger like a real New Yorker and to dip my crust in the olive oil that had dripped onto my wax-paper-lined paper plate. By the time I was fifteen, Steve’s had shut down, and so closed a chapter of my life. As I commenced the universal exploration of self known as adolescence, my father and I began to explore the world, sampling piquant Mexican at Maz Mezcal and colorful sashimi at Haru. While he taught me about the benefits of an Ivy League education or torts law, I taught him that green salsa is actually made from tomatillos, not green tomatoes, and that Japanese white tuna is actually a fish called escolar.

Now that I am, I suppose, something of an adult, my father doesn’t pick me up at home anymore. We meet all over the city, sometimes at places we’ve never tried before, like Big Daddy’s Diner on Second Avenue, and sometimes at places we’ve been going to since I was just born, like Malaga on Memory Lane, where I order the same Daily Double lobsters that I began eating as a culinarily precocious six year old. And now we order wine. But whatever the table, I realize now that my father who cannot boil water instilled in me a love of food that stems not from its creation, but its appreciation. Because a meal is not just about the flavor, about the art, about the science; it is about the people who look at you across the table, when you are talking with your mouth full, because there is just too much to say, because the table is where two autonomous people sit down together and admit through their fondness and through the frequency of their meetings just how emotionally unautonomous they truly are as loving human beings. Food becomes the ritual and the occasion that brings us all to the same place in space and time, and allows us to share it.

So these recipes this week are to my greatest partner in culinary crime: my dad, who cut up my pizza into bitesize pieces when I was small, and who lets me order the sashimi and the wine now that I am big. My Father’s Day menu takes the ultimate man meal, the steak, and gives it a characteristically French and unexpected twist. Lavender Steak is a spinoff of steak au poivre, but my filets are crusted instead with cracked black peppercorns and heady, peppery lavender blossoms for something sophisticated. The onion ring is given a facelift with my French Fried Leeks. And for dessert, something sweet: Nutella Pot de Crème that can be made in a flash.

I hope today, on Father’s Day, you can talk to your dad with your mouth full too. A moveable feast is a party that lasts a lifetime, that is spontaneous though it never ends, that is inspired though it never changes. Dad, to all the breakfast, lunches, dinners, and teas in between. To many fêtes…

Lavender Beef

Lavender Beef

Lavender Steak

2 .2 kg filets of beef

2 tablespoons of black peppercorns

1 pinch-½ tablespoon of dried edible lavender blossoms

Salt

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 teaspoon of butter

*Lavender is strong, and its potency is a matter of personal preference. Use as much or little lavender as you feel comfortable—it will be flavorful in any amount.

  1. Put the peppercorns into a plastic baggie and hit them repeatedly with the back of a pan to crush them roughly.
  2. In a bowl, mix the lavender and crushed peppercorns.
  3. Season the filets with salt, and press them into the lavender-peppercorn mixture so that the blossoms and pepper crust both sides of the meat.
  4. Heat the olive oil and butter together in a small sauté pan over medium high heat. When the oil is very hot, gently place the meat into the pan. Cook for 5-6 minutes per side for medium. Let the meat rest before cutting into it!

French Fried Leeks

French Fried Leeks

French Fried Leeks

The whites of 2 leeks, cut into long, thin strips

2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour

Salt

Vegetable oil for frying

  1. Fill a deep pan halfway with vegetable oil, and heat on medium high to 325 degrees, or until a pilot leek bubbles and fries in the oil without burning.
  2. Toss the ribbons of leek with the flour and dust off any excess.
  3. Fry the leeks until crisp and just golden—about 4 minutes.
  4. Remove to paper towels to drain, and crown immediately with a touch of salt.

BON APP!

Nutella Pot de Crème

Nutella Pot de CremeIngredients

  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 160 grams of dark chocolate
  • ¼ cup of Nutella
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 scant teaspoon of granulated sugar

Procedure

  1. Heat the cream until it is just scalded.
  2. Put the sugar, chocolate, and Nutella in the blender, then add the hot cream.
  3. Careful of the steam, blend the ingredients together on low.
  4. Once the ingredients are combined, add in the egg yolk with the blender still running, and let blend for about 20 more seconds.
  5. Pour the mixture into little ramekins or egg cups, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 4 hours, or overnight.
  6. Serve with a large tuft of fresh whipped cream over the top.
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Categories: Chocolate, Desserts, Eat, Recipes
 

Chinatown

RECIPE: Crispy Cassis Duck

scroll down for these “Chinese” French recipes…

Brie and Avocado Spring Rolls

French Onion Soup Dumplings

Crispy Duck Cassis

It seems that over the course of culinary history, nations east to west, north to south, have all come to apply French techniques of haute cuisine to their native flavors. Think back on the salmon mousse in Japanese restaurants, the asparagus and egg tarts in England that bear an astonishing resemblance to quiche, or the pistachio beurre blanc for that southern catfish near our house in Florida. French culinary techniques are sophisticated and insightful, that they are necessarily applied to all cuisines represented in the United Nations. But today, I’m reversing the usual, and conducting one of my favorite experiments: applying exotic preparations to French ingredients and flavors.

Chinatown is always an adventure. When I was a little girl, although our apartment and Mulberry Street occupied the same small island of Manhattan, going to Chinatown nearly required a passport and a three-hour boarding window. My mother and father and I would get out our old navy blue diesel Mercedes, and I would shimmy onto the perforated tan leather of the backseat, strap myself in, and stick my nose to the window. All the way down the FDR drive, I would stare from left to right, from the dark, coursing waters of the East River and the neon stare of the advertisements on Long Island, back to the gleaming, polished landmarks of the city, the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, Sutton Place. After a few turns around the narrow, haphazard streets of the Lower East Side, the yank of a parking break, the unclick of a seatbelt, and the definitive bang of an old Mercedes door, we had arrived.

One of the most blessed things about New York is that a twenty minute jaunt down along a riverside highway can take you from the staid life of 90-degree corners on the Upper East Side to the tangled, heady and perfumed, sparking maze of Chinatown. It radiated red. From the curling, flaming dragons that seemed to come alive from the flags that marked the restaurants to the pop of the firecrackers at the Chinese New Year, to my young eyes, I had taken some version of the Orient Express. And the food was just as exotic. Every restaurant had its own flock of ducks, plucked and glazed, roasted and crisped, hanging from the neck from the poultry galleys before the windows. We walked in one cold winter night to the sight of two old Chinese women, seated on both sides of a plate of snails, and with one suck, followed by one spit, they chewed their way through the mountain faster than Far Eastern gun powder. My standard order at the time was baby corn with brown sauce—not very adventurous or very Chinese—and though I found the culinary habits of the place positively barbaric, I prided my young ego on the knowledge that I was adventurous and brave and located somewhere entirely too exotic for words.

I miss having Szechuan Hunan Cottage on York Avenue on speed dial. I miss being able to get the Cold Sesame Noodles and Scallion Pancake for lunch for less than five dollars, and have enough food to tide me over for dinner the next night. I miss Ollie’s green dumpling wrappers and the finger-painted mess of spare ribs. Chinese food is so much a part of a New Yorker’s culinary upbringing, that being away from the takeout mainstays of my childhood has relegated me to ceaseless, gnawing hunger—in my heart and in my stomach.

So, this week, I have created three Chinese-inspired French recipes. The first, Brie and Avocado Spring Rolls, keeps the best part of the spring roll intact: the crispy, crunchy shell. Inside, however, is filled with the creamy, mild combination of brie and avocado, and once fried, the little cigars are dipped in a French take on Chinese mustard: a Dijon and sundried tomato crème fraiche. The second recipes comes from a great restaurant on the Lower East Side called the Stanton Social that serves little “tapas” plates from every walk of cuisine. The French Onion Soup Dumplings show how East, in the form of wonton skins, and West, in the form of Gruyere cheese, can coexist in perfect harmony. And the last, Duck Cassis, is a take on the crispy ducks for which Chinatown is famous, but bathed in a rosemary and black currant glaze, and eaten, to allow for a certain amount of indulgent ignorance, without the neck.

Buckle your seat belt, and stick your nose to the window. We’re going down to Chinatown.

Brie and Avocado Eggrolls

Brie and Avocado Eggrolls

Brie and Avocado Spring Rolls

20 spring roll wrappers

135 grams of brie, cut into matchsticks

1 avocado, cut into matchsticks

Salt

Vegetable oil for frying

2 tablespoons of crème fraiche

2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard

½ tablespoon of grain mustard

½ tablespoon of sundried tomato paste

  1. Fill a deep pot halfway with vegetable oil, and heat it on medium until it reaches 325 degrees.
  2. Meanwhile, assemble the spring rolls. Use to spring roll wrappers per finished spring roll, lining one simply on top of the other. Fill with avocado and brie, equal parts each, and a sprinkle of salt. Be sure not to overstuff!
  3. To complete the roll, dip your finger in a bowl of water, and wet the edges of the pastry, as though you were licking an envelope to seal it. Then roll it like a burrito, tucking up first the corner nearest you, then the left and right corners in, and finally roll into the familiar cigar shape.
  4. Once you have assembled your rolls, be sure all corners are sealed, and fry them gently in batches until they are crispy and golden, about 4-5 minutes.
  5. Serve with the sauce, made simply by mixing the crème fraiche, mustards, and sundried tomato paste together.

French Onion Soup Dumplings

French Onion Soup Dumplings

French Onion Soup Dumplings

2/3 cup of onions from the bottom of a French onion soup pot (homemade, Whole Foods, a deli, or, if at a loss, try sauteing onions for a long time with instant French Onion Soup mix)

10 store-bought wanton wrappers

4 fresh chopped mint leaves

¾ cup of shredded gruyere cheese

2 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese

1 pat of butter, divided into smaller dots

Snipped chives for garnish

  1. Preheat the broiler.
  2. To assemble the dumplings, take a wanton wrapper in your hand and stuff the middle with about a tablespoon of the onions. Dipping your finger in some water or cool soup, moisten all the wanton’s edges, and then twist them together to form a little dumpling package.
  3. Arrange all ten dumplings, knot-side down, in a small gratin dish that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.
  4. Sprinkle the mint on top, followed by a blanket of the gruyere, and finally the parmesan. Next drop the little dots of butter over the top to help the cheese to bubble and brown.
  5. Broil the dumplings for 5 minutes, or until the cheese is entirely melted, golden, and irresistible.
  6. Snip chives over the top, stick a sophisticated toothpick in each, and serve.

BON APP! SIHK FAAHN!

Crispy Cassis Duck
serves 4

Duck CassisIngredients

  • 1 5 ½-pound duck
  • 1 cup of black current jam
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon of rosemary

Procedure

  1. Cut little holes in the skin of the duck, not going quite down to the meat.
  2. Place the duck in a deep pot and cover with water and a lid. Boil the duck for 45 minutes, allowing some of the fat to escape from beneath its skin.
  3. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
  4. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, heat the jam, butter, garlic, and rosemary together until they become a loose and smooth glaze.
  5. Transfer the duck from the boiling pot to a rack on an oiled roasting pan.
  6. Pat the duck dry with paper towels, season with salt and pepper, and brush with olive oil to get the skin really crispy.
  7. You will roast the duck at 500 degrees for 30 minutes total, but you should baste it with the currant glaze after 20 and 25 minutes. Serve the rest of the glaze as an accompanying sauce.
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You Can Lead a Horse to Water…

RECIPE: La Vie en Rose

At Tortilla Flats, NYC

scroll down for these cocktail recipes…

Panache

La Vie en Rose

Kir Royale Glacé

Last Wednesday I attended the opening night of Sex and the City—the movie—appropriately enough, with my girlfriends. As Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte sat around the table, sipping those Jem-pink Cosmopolitans they made famous, one of them asked, “Why did we ever stop drinking these?” Another retorted, “Because everyone else started!” But alas, Cosmos are “an oldie, but a goody.”

It got me thinking about cocktails, probably because while the girls on the screen were drinking like fish in the sea, the girls in the seats were drying up like camels in the dessert. As finals approach, and my dissertation deadline is one week away, I have seated myself comfortably on the wagon, which is hopefully following the road to success.

My first week at Princeton, I was walking across the campus late one night with my best friend, and we ran into a fellow freshman. He was a boy who had clearly spent his entire pre-adult life on the same wagon, following that same long and winding road, and once it had reached success, had tumbled out into a river of vodka…and beer, and whiskey, and possibly champagne. The boy had become so drunk that he walked into a moving police car. It seemed that what he needed to learn at Princeton wouldn’t be taught in lecture—maturity.

I could never sympathize with excessive drinking, because alcohol had never been forbidden to me. French parents wean their children onto wine from the beginning, and when I was five years old, I went up to my mother, intrigued by the ruby liquor before her, and asked if I might taste it. “One finger,” she told me, and so I gingerly dipped one curious, childish finger into her wine and licked it. I promptly fell asleep for twelve hours. And while I would like to say that I never overdid it again, in vino veritas, and I so I can’t tell a lie. But an apple martini has never been forbidden fruit to me, and so what I love about alcohol, which I think may be a bit rare, is not its privileged properties, but its taste—mainly in the forms of Champagne, gin, and whiskey.

As the girls from Sex and the City would tell you, cocktails in New York are a matter of fashion. First there was the tall and fruity and psychedelic trend, like the Cosmopolitan and the Sour Apple Martini, then the cool and classic and understated trend, like Prohibition Punch and the Sidecar. When I left it seemed that Champagne was making a comeback, and now that I’m in England, I’ve discovered the Collins: Elderflower and Mint, Blackberry and Violet.

So this week I offer you three ways to toast. The first is a drink I discovered in Brest when I was fifteen, and hoping to pass as eighteen, at a pub in Bretagne. It is called a Panache, and is an example of how the French, so comfortable with the idea of alcohol consumption, have no problem diluting it—because for the French, like for me, it is about taste, not intoxication. Beer is mixed with ginger ale for a slightly sweet, easier drink for watching the World Cup with your Mr. Big. If you add a slug of grenadine, the Panache becomes a Monaco—perfect for poker night with just the girls. The next recipe is inspired by one of my favorite New York restaurants, often featured in Sex and the City as well—Pastis. La Vie en Rose starts with a sugar cube in the bottom of a Champagne flute, that is then doused in heady rose water, and set to sparkle with a top off of rosé Champagne. And last, I have a reinvention of another “oldie, but goody,” the Kir Royale, with my Kir Royale Glacé. In a champagne flute, I drop a tiny ball of cassis sorbet, tempered with a shot of Absolut Kurant, and finished with a shower of Champagne.

Even if you have a dissertation to write, life is always full of things to toast: great friends, a great city, or even just a great movie. As they say, you can lead a horse to water…

And this is how you make him drink.

Panaché & Monaco

Panaché & Monaco

Panache & Monaco

6 cans of Kronenbourg 1664, or any beer, ice cold

3 cans of ginger ale, ice cold

A good slug of grenadine

Orange slices

  1. Pour the beer and soda into a pitcher for a Panache, and add the grenadine for a Monaco.
  2. For a touch of Parisian glamour, throw in some orange slices.

Kir Royale Glacé

Kir Royale Glacé

Kir Royale Glacé

Cassis, or black currant, sorbet

Absolut Kurant, from the freezer

Champagne, chilled

  1. Pour ½ shot of vodka into the bottom of each champagne flute.
  2. Use a melon baller or a teaspoon to drop one or two balls of sorbet into the flutes as well.
  3. Top each glass with cold champagne.

CHIN CHIN!

La Vie en Rose

La Vie en RoseIngredients

  • Pink champagne, chilled
  • Sugar cubes
  • Rosewater

Procedure

  1. Pour 1 tablespoon, or ½ shot, of rosewater into a champagne flute.
  2. Top with cold pink champagne.
  3. Drop a sugar cube into each and watch them fizz.

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Categories: Cocktails, Drinks, Eat, Recipes