A Cheesy Discovery

While looking for something new in the cheese section, I got pulled into a foodie conversation I could not resist. My new acquaintance was well informed on cheese, among other things, and told me that I must try the Fromage D'Affinois. He went on to recommend wines and the perfect cracker. I think my dedication to food pales in comparison.

A short car ride later, with knife in hand (as well as the perfect cracker) I was trying my Fromage. Wow. Where has it been all my life? Think brie (in fact the same preparation) with more creaminess and more sharpness in the rind. It's almost like the Saint Andre, but better. In fact, so much so that the last and final cracker is waiting for me by the keyboard as I finish typing.

Go get some.

picture from http://www.aoap.com.au

Lamb Shoulder with Cola Cous Cous

I've wanted to try this for a while - flavoring a stew with Cola. It was awesome with lamb shoulder. I substituted half-Cola for the stock I'd usually use to cook cous cous and the meat, after slightly roasting to give it color.

Lamb went very well with the tart cherries, raisins and figs I added. Perfect for a snowy night's dinner. Now I may actually consider having soda on hand for occasions like this. Just need to find a good hiding place from some people :P
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Chicken Tabaka and Country Hash

A few friends made this little number recently and I decided to join the ranks with the pair of Cornish hens purchased during snow-madness. (I am never leaving my house again before the "storm").

My preparation a little different...

1 Cornish hen, sliced at breastbone and flattened
3 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons + 1/2 cup of white vinegar
1/2 cup water
pepper, lots of pepper
1 foil covered very heavy brick or dutch oven

Dry the hen and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Rub in crushed garlic on both sides.

In a stainless or cast iron pan, heat some olive oil. I say some because it all depends on the size of your pan, you want to be generous, but you won't want to deep fry either. I used about 4 tbsp in a 12" pan. Place the hen skin side down into the heated oil, CAREFULLY. Sprinkle the inside (not the oil) of the hen with 2 tbsp of vinegar. Place the heat-proof heavy object of choice on top to flatten down as much as possible. Fry on medium heat for 5-7 minutes, flip with tongs. Again, carefully. Place the heavy object back on the hen, and fry for about 15 minutes. Slowly pour in the remaining vinegar and water into the oil/pan. Fry for another 10 - 15 minutes.

In the meantime make the dressing, as follows:

3 sprigs of dill, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp white vinegar

Serve the hen with dressing spread atop the crispy skin.


Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire

Well, almost. I am undecided if I actually like them.

Anyone else?

(the photo I took in Paris this fall, today's chestnuts are far less exciting looking)
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Blackberry Thyme Kuchen

Yet another type of a berry filled cake. This is a kuchen. I have been obsessed with them for the past few weeks ever since a colleague asked me to test her tart mix about to hit the market. (Post on that coming soon).

I think it must be my trying to resist winter onset and the painfully cold temperatures. That and these are so easy to make that, umm...a two year old can do it. :)

The flavor combo in this one is mine, but the basic recipe isn't.


Mixed Berry Buckle

cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanillin
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
3 eggs
about 1 cup of blueberries and strawberries

Sift all dry ingredients together (not the berries) and mix in chopped butter. Work with a mixer (I used my hands) until the dough starts to come together into a ball. Mix in the eggs.
Spread the mixture in an 8 inch tart pan with removable bottom. Sprinkle berries on top. No need to press them down. Place into a 350F preheated oven for 50-60 minutes.


Red and Black Currant Parsels

Looking for something warm and delicious to make on a chilly Sunday morning for the "leaf collection" department, as he's working hard outside. I settled on puff pastry. I wanted something E could help with and so making berry parcels seemed like a good idea. She helped mix the filling, roll the pastry, fill and paint the parcels with egg wash (this was her favorite part).

To make 3 parcels, mix the following for the filling:
1/2 cup black currant
1/2 cup red currant
1 tbsp flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp butter, chopped into small bits

Roll out 3 puff pastry rounds into 6 inch, thin rounds.

Fill each center with 1/3 of the filling, pinch together. Paint with egg wash. Bake on 375F for 25-30 minutes, until puff pastry is golden in color. Cool on a rack until warm, not hot inside.


Beef Wellington

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Butternut Squash Soup

For a first course for friends this weekend, I made this "portable" soup, though most didn't want to take advantage of its portability. I think the spice combo worked well, especially with the accoutrement's.
1/2 a large, cleaned butternut squash
1 potato
1 shallot, chopped
1 quart of chicken stock
2 slices of panchetta
2 tbsp butter
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp sriracha

Roast 2 slices of panchetta on butter. Remove the panchetta when it's starting to brown, add in the shallots. Lower the heat and bring the shallots to a translucent color, stir in the quartered potatoes and butternut squash cut into chunks. Pour in the stock to cover, and cook on medium heat until butternut is totally soft.

Blend with salt, pepper to taste and cumin. Add in more chicken stock to get to the right consistency, and whisk in the sriracha well.

Serve with balsamic glaze, crisped onions and pumpkin seeds.
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Zucchini Bread Mini Muffins

E and I made these one afternoon when she wasn't feeling so well. I promised she could help me mix and bake. She was very pleased with herself, covered in flour and bits of zucchini.

Preheat oven to 350F.

1 stick of butter
2 cups of flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Mix these ingredients together with your hands (or the hands of your child :-) ), it will resemble rough sand.

1 cup of yogurt (4 oz)
2 eggs

Whip the eggs together with a fork and add yogurt to incorporate.

1 large zucchini, shredded (about 2 cups)

Mix the zucchini, flour mixture and egg mixture together. Bake in a buttered mini muffin pan for ~20-25 minutes.

Serve with goat cheese whipped cream.
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Short Rib Stew

In my slow stream of dutch oven use (abuse) I made these short ribs for dinner to great success, however, I much preferred the pork shoulder to them.

1 large onion, chopped
4 carrots, chopped into cubes
2 tbsp butter
2-3 sprigs of rosemary and thyme
10 beef short ribs, bone in
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken or beef stock (I used chicken)
2 tbsp flour

Season the short ribs with salt and pepper and dust evenly in flour. Set aside.

Roast onions until golden brown in butter, add carrots. Mix with a wooden spoon. Set in the short ribs, bone up, so they are equally immersed in the carrot/onion mixture. Add stock and wine. Place herb springs atop the ribs.

Close the lid and place into a 350 degree oven for 2 hours.


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Pear Tart

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Pork Shoulder with Melted Apples and Celeriac Puree

With the recent gift to self of a dutch oven, I've been looking for and found beautiful things to make, including this one. I followed most of the recipe, however my rub of choice was thyme, rosemary, garlic and only 1 tbsp of salt.

As a side dish, celeriac puree (1 celery root and 1 potato) was a great, rich accompaniment.

Jicama, Apple and Smoked Salmon Salad

As I stood over the display of jicama in the grocery section, I was trying to equate it to something I knew...at least in texture. Sure, I've had it before, but never really used it in anything original. So, my description to those who haven't had the pleasure; think texture of an Asian pear with a raw potato / apple taste, but tastes a lot more appealing then I make it sound.

1 jicama, peeled
1 granny smith apple, peeled and cored
~ 4 oz smoked salmon, sliced
1 tbsp mayo

Slice all ingredients into strips of equal size, this will be a little difficult with the salmon, but try. Place in a bowl and mix with the mayo. Serve chilled with cilantro.
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Grilled Swordfish with Mango Caper Chutney

This swordfish simply marinated in lemon juice 15 minutes before grill time, begged for something refreshing and bright. I made a mango caper chutney which was just a perfect amount of sweet and salty.

Peel 1 ripe mango and 1 ripe tomato and use the medium side of a box grater to puree. Roughly chop 2 tbsp of capers. Mix and enjoy with your grilled swordfish.
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Crustless Pumpkin Pie-ettes

I made these for E - her first pumpkin! She loved them and kept referring to them as her little "cakes". The ingredients are basically that of your favorite pumpkin pie filling baked in individual ramekins. This is mine...slightly adjusted...

1 can, Organic Canned Pumpkin
1/2 can, Condensed milk
1/2 packet, plain cream cheese
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 eggs

Whip ingredients together and pour into ramekins. Bake 25 minutes at 350F.
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Pickled Green Tomatoes

It was sad to pick the last fruit last night off the tomato plants. With frost predicted overnight, I needed to do something with these otherwise they'd fall wastefully to the ground. I haven't pickled before it's very similar to the recent stint with butter pickles.

Mixed green heirloom tomatoes (pricked with a fork several times)
4 cloves of garlic
1 chili pepper
3 sprigs of dill
2 bay leafs

Arrange the ingredients in a cleaned jar, and pour boiling hot water over to cover to top. *Please make sure to use a tempered glass jar.

Bring the following to a boil to make the marinade.

1 liter of water
10-15 peppercorns
3-5 allspice
1 clove of garlic
1 teaspoon, chopped horseradish

Carefully drain the hot water from the jar, and pour in the strained marinade. Seal the jar and wrap to slowly cool. Place into the fridge when fully cooled. These should be ready in 2-3 weeks.
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No Knead Bread - So easy a 2 year old...

...can do it :-)

3 cups of flour
1/4 tsp dry yeast
1 tsp salt
1.5 cups of warm water

Mix the dry ingredients together, add water and twirl once with a spoon to combine (or with a tiny hand).

Let sit for ~15-20 hrs. Fold the dough over itself on a floured surface and place on a floured tea towel for 2 hours. Half hour before baking, heat a cast iron pot with the lid in the oven at 450. Place the dough into the HOT (the 2 yrs old was napping at the time) pot and cover with lid. Place back in the oven for 30 minutes, remove the lid at that point and bake another 15-20 to get the nice rustic crust.

There are many different, yet very simple versions of this recipe (I highly recommend to check them out) and mostly lack of work = longer rising time to get the awesome, ciabatta like center with crispy crust worthy of our the last vacation!


Lunch in Paris

A simple lunch can be amazing when shared with someone special, regardless of what it is. But, if that same lunch is spent outdoors, on a gorgeous fall day in Paris...well, there are few things that compare.

September in Paris is unique. As are the freshly baked, crispy baguettes filled with brie, jamon and apples. This sandwich is from Paul, a local boulangerie chain, as is the Cannelle. It's hard to imagine that "fast-food" as such can be up to par with the best of Michelin experiences.

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Luc Salsedo in Nice

The bistronomy movement is big in Paris, and apparently in Nice as well. The general rejection of Michelin as a form of rating and the desire of chefs to be closer to their patrons has taken a stronghold over the past 5 years. Reading a few of the more popular French food blogs before the trip, I found a plethora of delicious info on where to go and what to eat. A general who is who of the bistro community is almost as well known as the Michelin rating system itself, at least to the locals and foodies. Most of the chefs have been trained by a superstar, such as Alain Ducasse, as is the case of Luc Salsedo namesake restaurant we dined at in Nice.

The menu here changes every 10 days, is is thus very seasonal by nature. To put things in perspective, it is not the most amazingly creative food, however the execution of the beautifully written menu lives up to its advertisement. The food is perfectly cooked, the technique is great and the ingredients incredible.

The waitress, one of the two in the restaurant, was great, and spoke to us candidly about the Michelin "scene" and the chef's desire to do something different. "Michelin is a mafia of sorts", she said and asked if we were in town for a few more nights. She recommended a few restaurants, that share the camaraderie of same approaches and extend their own network of epicurean experiences.

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