March 18, 2014

Bacon Brittle

8 SLICES BACON (NOT thick slice)
2/3 CUP SUGAR
2 TABLESPOONS SESAME SEEDS

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a non-stick pan liner.  Set aside.

Slice cold bacon crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces. In a cast iron or heavy skillet, cook bacon until almost done.  Remove from pan, draining all but 2 tablespoons of the fat.  Add sugar, sesame seeds and drained bacon.  With a heat proof spatula, stir continuously.  Sugar will melt. Continue stirring until it is a rich chocolate color and you see a small wisp of smoke.  Immediately and quickly pour onto prepared pan.  Spread around as thin as possible.  Let cool. Blot to remove any extra bacon fat.  Break and store in a tin.

NOTE:  Have everything ready before beginning the recipe....it goes fast and there is a very limited window of opportunity for spreading the hot brittle.

January 3, 2014

La Poutargue ... New Years Day 2014


Or 'boutargue' in the ancient Provençal language. La poutargue is the caviar of Provence and is the roe, or eggs, of the gray mullet (mulet cabon). The egg sacs are removed, being careful not to pierce the thin membrane covering them.

They are then salted, pressed, and covered with a thin layer of wax.




They will now keep for at least a year refrigerated.......BUT, they never last that long with me around.

So what to do with it?!


Sliced on a baguette with a slab of butter.



Shown here with  foie gras....What a combo!

OR

Spaghetti and Poutargue
The poutargue is actually grated for the pasta....sauté shallots, garlic, fennel...add cream....reduce with white wine....you know the routine....finish with the grated poutargue and parsley....season....garnish with slices of poutargue!

OR

A spoonful of grated poutargue on a slice of baguette with a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.


Poutargue is not inexpensive.  This last purchase was 160 Euros per kilo but who purchases that much at once.  Our 200 gram piece was about $45.

If you are interested in seeing the whole process from 'fisherman to table', French celebrity chef, Cyril Lignac, shows you HERE.  Yes, it is in French but the video is all you need to understand.  Enjoy.








November 19, 2013

Xavier's Vinaigrette Revisited and Updated

Xavier and I welcome many people to Provence every year and absolutely every week we find ourselves explaining his vinaigrette and its' infinite number of variations.  Yes, it is in 'Mary James dishes it out', but there is so much more that I can say about it.  So here goes......

Base:
1 1/4 CUPS FRESH LEMON JUICE
2 TBS. DIJON MUSTARD
1/4 CUP RAW BLANCHED ALMOND BUTTER*(see note)
The base stores  in the freezer. I vary the size of the jars. 
2 1/2 CUPS OIL* (see note)
1 TBS. SALT
FRESHLY GROUND WHITE PEPPER 

Combine these ingredients and whisk to make an emulsion.

*The fact that the almonds are blanched i.e. no skin, makes a difference.  The almond butter should be almost white.  In fact, they call it Naked Almond Butter.  I order it online here.  Xavier also uses this same almond butter, instead of cream,  for thickening savory dishes.  

*For the oil, we use a combo usually.....sunflower seed oil, olive oil, grapeseed oil....Lately I have not used the grapeseed here in the USA as it is expensive and seems to have an almost rancid taste.  

Marinated Onions:
2 CUPS ONION, SMALL DICE


Place diced onions in a jar (yes, another jar).  Pour base on just  to cover and let stand for several hours before using to make vinaigrette.  Stores for 2 weeks refrigerated

VINAIGRETTE:
To make the finished vinaigrette, it depends on what he wants (his words, not mine....this is like hitting a moving target).  SO...ideally, you don't make up a batch ahead of time but rather mix it up in the bottom of the salad bowl that you are using.  For salad greens for 8-10 people, begin with about 1/4 cup base, add 3-4 TBS marinated onions, a splash of good red wine vinegar (see note below) and minced parsley.  Taste for acidity and seasoning and add more salt and pepper, or vinegar, or olive oil if needed.

Other things you could add:  minced garlic or chives or basil or pecans.....I have seen him add a diced hard boiled egg.  Possibilities are endless.  And you can also use the base just as it is.  Once you start using it, you'll get the hang of it.

Other uses for the marinated onions:

  • Shred purple cabbage into a flat casserole.  Spoon marinated onions over the top...just here and there...don't cover completed...add some chopped parsley and gently stir around to evenly distribute onions.  Bake in a 325 oven until cabbage is just tender....long and slow ...45 minutes or so. 
  • Shred 1 raw apple and 2 raw beets.....add marinated onions, a chopped hard-boiled egg, stir.  Serve room temp
  • Xavier and MJ's stand-up 'no supper'.....a slice of baguette, a bit of your favorite cheese topped with marinated onions, maybe even a little piece of butter for overkill.......a glass of red wine.


A note about RED WINE VINEGAR:

It wasn't until I started making my own red wine vinegar that I felt like the vinaigrette was right.  I know many of you have seen the vinegar barrel at Xavier's and he is right....there is nothing like your own.  Such great flavor.

I purchased my 5 liter barrel and 'mother' online here.  I love using it. I love sharing it.  If you want to try it, give me a call or email me.

Don't want to go to this extent?  Then buy the best organic vinegar you can find, preferably one that you can see a bit of mother floating around.

FINALLY....this has to be more than you ever wanted to know about Xavier's Vinaigrette.....let us hear how you are using it.



Caramelized Garlic Goat Cheese Tart








This was a big hit with our Provence groups this 2013 season.  Go to the blog here for a better view.

I am giving you the recipe pretty much as it is in Yotam Ottolenghi's book "Plenty", but, of course, I have added some of my usual tips, hints, and observations.

 About the garlic:
  •  the caramelized garlic keeps at least 10 days or so when sealed in a small jar  (love my jars)
  •  or caramelized garlic can be done ahead and frozen, great to have on hand  
  •  caramelized garlic is just sweet and unctuous, don't be afraid of the amount
Cleaning the garlic used to be the most time consuming thing about this recipe until I saw this video........IT WORKS like a charm.  You must try it.  Wish I had had this trick 6 months ago.  Thank you Saveur magazine...and to Undercurrent Restaurant for posting on FaceBook.  This works with the typical head of garlic we have here in the States but not on the fresh spring garlic of Provence.

About bought puff pastry: 
  • Pepperidge Farm works. It  is less expensive than Dufour and double the amount.  Dufour is great but not necessary for this
  • In France , the Hyper U Bio feuilleté is perfect....Xavier has a stroke when I don't make my own. #justnotnecessaryforthis.
  • Works best when thawed slowly overnight in refrigerator
  • Pastry can be blind baked ahead, covered and refrigerated until filled
You will see my changes in parentheses.....More balsamic because I love the flavor....savory instead of thyme because I think thyme overwhelms and savory is a close, milder cousin.....I buy the 2-pack of Montrachet at Costco (for my French friends, I buy fresh goat cheese at Hyper U)......I find hard goat cheese at EarthFare but, if not, just use Comte (yes, I know that is cow milk).  In France, I use a goat tomme

This looks like alot of explanation.....once you have made it the first time, you will get the picture and find it soooooo easy....otherwise I would not have been making this every week for the past 6 months!

CARAMELIZED GARLIC TART
From Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

13 OZ. PUFF PASTRY (375 g)
Roll pastry to line bottom and sides of a 28cm (9") tart pan with removeable bottom.  Cover with parchment, add pie weights or beans and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350.  Bake blind for 20 minutes.  Remove beans and paper and bake another 5 or 10 minutes or until pastry is golden. 

3 MEDIUM HEADS OF GARLIC, separated and peeled
Place peeled cloves of garlic in a small saucepan and cover generously with water.  Bring to a simmer and blanch for 3 minutes.  Drain well. Dry the saucepan.  This step is not necessary if you are using fresh spring garlic.

1 TBS. OLIVE OIL

1 TSP. BALSAMIC VINEGAR (I use 1 1/2 Tablespoons)
1 CUP WATER

2 TSP. SUGAR
1 TSP. FRESH ROSEMARY, CHOPPED (I use 1 1/2 tsp)
1 TSP. FRESH THYME, CHOPPED (I use a 3/4 tsp. dried savory)
¼ TSP. SALT (I use 1/2 tsp gray salt)
Add olive oil to saucepan.  Add garlic and saute until nicely browned. Stir around to prevent burning.
Add water and balsamic vinegar.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add sugar, herbs and salt. Continue simmering on medium heat for 10 minutes or so or until most of liquid has evaporated.  Garlic should be coated in a dark caramel syrup.  Set aside.

4 ¼ OZ. SOFT, CREAMY GOAT CHEESE (such as Montrachet)
4 ¼ OZ. HARD GOAT CHEESE 

2 EGGS
½ CUP (100ML) HEAVY CREAM
½ CUP (100ML) CRÈME FRAICHE
SALT AND BLACK PEPPER

ASSEMBLY: Crumble the soft goat cheese over the cooked pastry.  Top with grated hard goat cheese.   


Whisk together eggs, cream, and crème fraiche.   Season.  Pour over cheeses leaving room for the garlic.  Scatter garlic cloves over all.  Drizzle with any remaining syrup (there won't be much)

Bake in preheated 325 oven for 35-40 minutes or until set and golden.

Serves 8 as first course.

P.S.  Did you notice the squash blossom in the center of this tart.....Didn't really add any flavor but love the look....If you want to make Squash Blossom Beignets next summer, go here.

November 11, 2013

Courge de Muscade (French Pumpkin Soup)....Made in the USA

I have a feature in this month's O.Henry magazine. It is one one of my favorite soups and I want to elaborate more on its preparation and give you a head's up about the difference between the pumpkins that I use in France vs USA.  

Left: The French Courge de Muscade pumpkin  Right: My Greensboro pumpkin (back left)   Almost the same....but not quite.           

Don't let that stop you.  You just need to make a slight adjustment.  It is  a simple soup and oh so good.  

Now that I am back in the USA, I shopped our local markets for the pumpkins.  I struck out in the grocery stores but found what I wanted at the Yanceyville Street Farmer's Market or so I thought.  They were not sure of the variety but it looked close.  However, when the pumpkin was cooked, it released soooooo much water.  With this in mind, you need to change the recipe as it is written in O.Henry magazine.  Instead of the 10 cups of water, just add 4-5 cups and if you need to add more later, you can. 

Finished product....made in Greensboro. Ready 
for the truffle oil drizzle. 


The chanterelle des pins add alot but you can certainly substitute fresh shiitake....choose small ones and sauté briefly before adding to soup at the end.  
Now for the recipe......
3 ½ - 4 LBS. MUSCADE *

OLIVE OIL
1 ½ CUPS ONION, COARSELY CHOPPED
4 CLOVES GARLIC, TRIMMED

4 SMALL POTATOES, PEELED
½ TEASPOON SAVORY
NUTMEG
BAY LEAF and PARSLEY BOUQUET GARNI

½ CUP CREAM
SALT and FRESHLY GROUND PEPPER

CHANTERELLES des PINS, lightly sautéed in olive oil *

TRUFFLE OIL

Garnish:  Homemade CROUTONS
    or a few pieces of POPCORN that has been tossed with truffle oil.

Serves 6-8

Cut muscade into large chunks and peel.  Set aside.

In a large pot, sauté onion and garlic briefly in small amount olive oil.  Add muscade, potatoes, savory, nutmeg, bay leaf, and bouquet garni.  Add about 4-5 cups water.  (I have found the American pumpkin releases much more water so less is better to start and add more if needed later).  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook gently until muscade is tender.  Remove bay leaf and bouquet garni. Using an immersion blender, puree until smooth.  Add cream. Season to taste with salt (don’t be shy, it needs alot) and pepper.  At this point, you can freeze or store. 

Just before serving, stir in chanterelles.  Serve hot garnished with croutons or popcorn and a drizzle of truffle oil.

Homemade Croutons:  Dice stale bread, baguette preferred, into petite squares.  Heat olive oil in skillet.  Add croutons.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and a bit of savory.   Toast,  stirring almost constantly until dry and crunchy.  Store in a tin or glass jar.

*USA SUBSTITUTIONS: 
For the muscade:  Hubbard Squash worked very well but not as fleshy so I purchased a 6 ¼ lb squash.  Great flavor and very similar to the muscade.  Be careful with the amount of water added.

For the chanterelles des pins:  Need a small mushroom that can be sliced thinly....small shiitakes work well...just need to saute a bit.   I have seen dried mushrooms at Whole Foods that appear to be like the chanterelles des pins. They would need to be reconstituted and also sauteed.

MENU SUGGESTIONS:   It is a ideal first course or use as part of a soup, sandwich salad menu.  See my Country Ham Past and Present blog for the perfect match. This soup freezes beautifully.

Some step by step photos....


And now just a bit of whimsy....photo taken in 2010 in the local market of Arlon, Belgium



July 24, 2013

Le Puy-en-Velay

In the 80's, I spent a week in the Auvergne, a region visited infrequently by Americans.  I was there with  Bob Noah who had arranged for a group of us to have private classes at the French National School of Pastry (Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Pâtisserie) in Yssingeaux.  That's a whole other blog. The region intrigued me and I had always wanted to go back. I got my chance this past Fall.


                                Xavier and I stopped in Yssingeaux briefly...had to see it again


then on to
 Le Puy-en-Velay
Not only is Le Puy known for being a stopover on the The Way of Saint James to Compostele (Chemin de Saint-Jacques de Compostelle), it is also well known for handmade lace and lentils.  

These volcanic peaks seem to just shoot out of the landscape....

We parked our car and began the walk up to Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-l'Annonciation, a stopover on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain.  It was a climb and steeper than it looks!



Just when you think you are at the top, you enter the church and there are more steps.





I thought I was there.....









View from the top














    

Altar  







                                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                                                          Sacristy                                      

Read here about John Adams journey in 1779, 10 years before he was 2nd President of the USA.  
(For this story, scroll down this link to 'history' )
and then think 1779!!

Local granite dominates the architecture....


The lace making fascinated me....




How does one keep track of all these pins and bobbins?



And finally, something we all know about...the green Le Puy Lentils.  Les Auvergnats call them 'le caviar végétal'.

Le Puy Lentils

2 CUPS Le Puy LENTILS
DUCK FAT  or OLIVE OIL
1 CUP CHOPPED PURPLE ONION
1/2 CUP CHOPPED CELERY
1 CUP FINELY DICED CARROTS
DUCK, CHICKEN, OR VEGETABLE STOCK

Wash lentils in several changes of water.  In a large saucepan, heat chosen fat and sauté onions, celery and carrots until tender.  Add lentils, and then stock to cover by 1-2 inches.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 20 - 30 minutes or tender.  Drain if necessary. 

Serve with sausages...How about a Toulouse sausage?

NOTE:  No need to soak lentils, a good rinsing is all that is necessary.  Be careful not to overcook.  Too many people put these into the dried ean category and think they need to be cooked for hours.  Lentils should be tender with a slight bite and you should be able to separate them with a fork....no mush!

June 8, 2013

Why ENGLISH MUFFINS in the South of France??

An unlikely topic but when there was one day after another of rain and cold, I thought it a perfect time to experiment with making English Muffins...

And since I am here in Provence, I decided to use the flour of grand épeautre, a grain grown in Provence since the 5th century BC.  And, yes, the flavor paid off big time.  Epeautre is  spelt in English and there is alot of misinformation about it. So, from about.com, we get this explanation "While not appropriate for individuals suffering from celiac disease, it is much lower in gluten than wheat and thus can be tolerated by many with minor wheat allergies. Its' taste is often described as nutty and sweet."


Enough technical stuff.  But I wanted you to know that this flour + the use of fresh yeast yielded the tastiest English Muffin I have ever had.  I will give you the alternative of dry yeast* as well. 

Here's the recipe which I adapted from several sources.  I began with a Momofuku recipe (3 pages long!) and then read and combined with others on the internet.

18 GMS (1/2 cube here in Provence) FRESH YEAST
1 CUP BUTTERMILK, ROOM TEMPERATURE
2 2/3 CUPS (300 gms) EPEAUTRE (spelt in English)
1 1/2 TBS. SUGAR
2 TSP. SEA SALT ( I use the gray salt)
2 1/2 TBS. BUTTER, ROOM TEMPERATURE

CORNMEAL (in Provence, I had to use polenta)

Combine yeast and buttermilk and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt.  Use a whisk to combine.  Make a well in the center and add yeast/buttermilk mixture all at once.  Stir vigorously to combine well.  The add small pieces of the room temperature butter and stir to incorporate.  Dough is sticky.

Leave at room temperature until double in bulk.  OR for slower fermentation, refrigerate for several hours (I found that overnight was too long for the fresh yeast).

Spread a thin layer of cornmeal on a sheet pan.  Remove risen dough from bowl to a very lightly floured counter and quickly (don't over knead) shape into a log about 2-3".  Using a dough blade, cut the log into equal pieces (about 2 ounce portions yielding 10 muffins) .  Place on the cornmeal and gently flatten into circle.  Turn over and do same on second side.  

At this point, I let them rest in the refrigerator for about an hour.  They will not have risen much.  That is ok.  

Preheat a flat griddle or cast iron skillet.  Sprinkle griddle or pan lightly with cornmeal and transfer muffins from sheet pan. Heat must be VERY VERY low.  Cook  until just beginning to brown....about 5 minutes.  Using an offset or flexible spatula, turn and cook other side for 4-5 minutes.  For the next 25 minutes or so, turn back and forth about every 3-5 minutes.  Transfer to preheated 250 degree oven and cook for another 10-15 minutes.  Cool on rack.

To serve:  Split with a fork and toast.

*Dry Yeast alternative:  Simply add 1 package dry yeast to your flour mixture, whisk with other dry ingredients before adding buttermilk. 


Extra added bonus for making these in X's kitchen... the French flat top stove was PERFECT for moving the pan around and keeping the heat where it needed to be . Hmmmmmm..wonder how an electric griddle would work....probably great! 

#butnomoreappliancesforme

Like many recipes, the first time you make these, you probably won't see the simplicity of them.  However, second time around, you will understand how little time they require.
The plan was to have a final photo of a toasted half with generous slab of butter and the season's homemade fig confiture! Sad to say for you, it was eaten before I realized I had not taken the photo.  Next time!

November 29, 2012

Bûche de Noël

I adore this showy Christmas dessert.  Most people pass it by thinking that it is too much trouble, but break it down into its parts and it is really not that hard.  BUT you do have to have a plan.   Making it all in one day would be daunting, whereas doing it over time makes it fun and rewarding... It is sure to put you in the Christmas spirit!


Day 1:  Make the cake.


Cake:
6 EGG YOLKS
½ CUP POWDERED SUGAR, sifted
1 TSP. VANILLA
6 TBS. COCOA, sifted
1/8 TSP. SALT
6 EGG WHITES

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Butter a 10x15 jelly roll pan.  Line with parchment. Butter and lightly flour the parchment. Using an electric mixer, beat egg yolks until light.  Add sugar gradually and beat until very creamy.  Blend in vanilla, the cocoa and salt.  Set aside.

In a clean bowl, beat egg whites until stiff but not dry.  Fold into cocoa mixture. Spread into prepared pan and bake until cake tests done, about 20 minutes.  Immediately turn onto a barely damp teatowel (cotton or linen, not terrycloth).  Carefully peel off parchment.  Roll from long side enclosing towel in roll.  Set aside to cool at room temperature.    DO AHEAD TIP:  Cake can be made ahead and refrigerated or frozen, rolled with towel and wrapped in plastic wrap  Allow to come to room temperature before unrolling and proceeding with recipe.

Day 2: Finish the cake.

Chocolate Buttercream:
2 OUNCES UNSWEETENED CHOCOLATE
1 OUNCE SEMI-SWEET CHOCOLATE
1/3 CUP SUGAR
1/4 CUP WATER
3 EGG YOLKS
1 CUP UNSALTED BUTTER, ROOM TEMPERATURE

Melt the chocolate.  Set aside to cool.  In a small saucepan, combine sugar and water.  Bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes over medium heat.

Using an electric mixer, beat egg yolks briefly and then with machine running at medium speed, slowly add the hot sugar syrup.  Increase speed to high and continue beating for 5 minutes or so until mixture is thick and pale yellow.  Decrease speed to medium/low and add the softened butter, one small piece at a time, until buttercream is smooth.  Add room temperature melted chocolate and beat until smooth.

Chantilly Cream for filling:
1 CUP HEAVY WHIPPING CREAM, very cold
2 TBS. SUGAR
1 PACKET Dr. Oetker's WHIP IT (baking section of grocery store)
1-2 TBS. GRAND MARNIER or KAHLUA or 1 1/2 TSP. VANILLA (You choose your flavor!)

Whip the cream with the sugar, Whip It, and your choice of flavoring until firm.

Assembly:  Unroll cake and spread evenly with the whipped cream to within 1 inch of the edge of the cake.  Using the towel to help lift, beginning from the long edge, roll the cake into a log, ending with the seam side down.

Trimming the cake: Trim each end about one inch to make even.  Then, cut one end on the diagonal about 4" in from the end of the cake.  This will be your 'branch' to place on top of the log.  Cut the other end straight.  Place branch (the diagonal cut will be against the log) on top of rolled cake.

Spread with chocolate buttercream covering the branch joint. Spread buttercream over remaining cake.  If desired, you can ice the ends or leave them showing as the 'rings of the log'. Pull the tines of a fork along the log to emulate bark.  Refrigerate uncovered until icing is set, then cover gently with plastic wrap.

Presentation: Place on serving platter and garnish with Meringue Mushrooms (see the following post) and fresh greenery.

Photography credits:  Completed buche: Sam Froelich, Froelich Photography.  'How To' photos by Mary James.



Glazed Cipollini & Mushrooms

I have just finished the magazine article for O'Henry's Christmas issue where they featured some of my favorite Christmas recipes.  After what is usually a gargantuan spread at Thanksgiving, my family is saying 'Where's the beef?!"  But I am personally ready for the sides....

                                                                                    The Cipollini:
16 CIPOLLINI ONIONS, TRIMMED
WATER
2 TSP. OLIVE OIL
1 TSP. SUGAR
3/4 TEASPOON SALT

The Mushrooms:
1 TBS. OLIVE OIL
8 OZ. WHITE MUSHROOMS, QUARTERED
8 OZ. CREMINI or BABY BELLA MUSHROOMS, QUARTERED
3-4 TBS. RED WINE
SALT & GROUND BLACK PEPPER

In a small wide-bottomed saucepan, cover onions completely with water.  Add olive oil, sugar and salt.  Bring to a simmer and cook until onions are tender and water has evaporated.  If water evaporates before onions are tender, add a bit more water.  Once water has evaporated, continue cooking until onions are well browned and glazed.

In a separate skillet, heat olive oil and add mushrooms.  Saute until golden.  Deglaze with red wine and cook until wine is evaporated.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Add onions, toss, and serve.

Photo credits:  Sam Froelich, Froelich Photography

French Meringues

Foolproof and Versatile


Who doesn't like a big ole fluffy, crispy sugary meringue?  You can do whatever you want with these.  Drop with a spoon into blobs on a cookie sheet......pipe into elegant swans....or make mushrooms for a Buche de Noel cake....a Christmas Yule Log.

The French secret for this recipe is the powdered sugar and the method for making them.  No graininess or stickiness ... they are resistant to humidity ... they store beautifully in tightly closed tins.  You can even make them on a rainy day.

4 EGG WHITES, room temperature
PINCH OF SALT
2 TABLESPOONS plus 1/2 CUP GRANULATED SUGAR
3/4 CUP POWDERED SUGAR

Preheat the oven to 200F degrees.   Place the egg whites in a large mixing bowl with a pinch of salt and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar.  With an electric mixer, start at medium speed and beat for 2-3 minutes or until meringues are stiff.  Increase the speed to high and add 1 tablespoon more sugar.  When the egg whites are very stiff, add the remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar and beat for 30 seconds longer.  By hand, gently fold the powdered sugar into the egg whites.

Using a pastry bag fitted with the #6 closed plain tip, pipe the meringues onto parchment-lined (or grease and heavily floured) baking sheets.  Or if shape does not matter, drop with a spoon. Place in preheated oven and bake for 2-2 1/2 hours, being careful not to let them brown.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Store in airtight tins.

To make mushrooms:  Pipe 2" rounds onto prepared sheet.  Wet your fingertip and gently tap tops to make smooth.   Pipe an equal number of stems  (do extras for insurance) by pulling straight up on the bag.   Don't smooth these.  Once baked and cooled, assemble mushrooms by taking the tip of a paring knife and carving a small hole in the base of the rounds.  Dot with melted chocolate chips and place stem.  Set aside for chocolate to harden.  Dust lightly with cocoa if desired.







OR for truly perfect mushrooms (and no stress!)
order these from
Lori's French Connection Bakery....



August 26, 2012

Lunch in Nancy...the good, the bad!

We begin by our usual walk perusing menus (no "this is the dish" photos), clientele (look for locals) and setups (neat, clean & chef not smoking out front!).


We choose La Gentilhommiere because menu is not too big, plus our favorite dishes are offered.  For him, it is Tete de Veau, and for me, it is Ris de Veau.



Our local aperitif arrives...Grés Rosé..with puff pastry twists & olives.  Simple, but a perfect start


My Ris de Veau with capers, brunoise vegetables and croutons was probably the BEST I have ever had. I have never thought of the caper/lemon juice finish for sweetbreads.  Work beautifully on these perfectly cooked sweetbreads.......Thennnnnn
Let's talk about the Tete de Veau....wrong wrong wrong.  I knew it as soon as they set it on the table.  And though he shared his comments only with me....here are just a few.  It was steamed when it should have been cooked for several hours with vegetables and seasoning...court bouillon....so no juice/sauce on plate...now check out those raw onion rings on the plate...& finally the sauce gribiche did not even come close....So, let's move to dessert...

My favorite French dessert, Iles Flottante.  Perfect Creme Anglaise with flecks of vanilla bean, tender meringue and delicious caramel (though I would have liked more).  Plus it was not stuffed in a parfait glass like so many restaurants are doing. Thennnnn.....

Here comes his Mirabelle Creme Brûlée....What's with the ICE CREAM....Heaven forbid!! Anyway, the creme brûlée was delicious by itself but the cherry ice cream totally hid the flavor of the mirabelle.  Don't think I have ever seen ice cream on crunchy creme brûlée


Bottom line....I loved and thoroughly enjoyed this restaurant and was dying to go back. I tried all during the 2 weeks we were there...to no avail.

But, I have to snicker about it.....for once, he was the chef who ordered wrong.....but who knew.

July 29, 2012

French Villages: TOURNUS


From time to time, I want to feature some of my favorite villages of France.  First up is TOURNUS, a village in Southern Burgundy just north of Lyon not far from Macon.  Why this one, you say?  Well, on our treks north to Lorraine and on to Belgium, this is always our first stop.  It is one of the few locations off the auto route where there are gas stations at the exit. Plus fuel is 10-11 centimes cheaper per liter than at the auto route service areas.  And as you will see, it is a beautiful place to take a break.  Let's go.

Street into the village  leads to the 11th century church  
St. Philibert.


Crypt (upper left) is one of the most beautiful I have seen.

Below:  the cloister


Our jaunt through the village always takes us past beautifully restored places....


..... and finally to a stop at the artisanal boucherie where we can purchase a hard to find Saucisse de Morteau, a smoked sausage not from this area but from the Franche-Comté region...

Great saucisses et saucissons but look at the nice Bresse chicken in the upper right photo (first one on the left)....

In the end, we find ourselves on the Saone River....time for lunch...

I know, I know....lunch looks kinda meager, but we still have a long drive ahead of us......However, we have usually made a stop at the patisserie during our walk .. no yummy desserts this day....it was exceptionally closed ....c'est dommage!