Category — Good Eats
Last week we exchanged our usual view for the one above. We stayed in an apartment right around the corner from the Eiffel Tower in Paris. We went sightseeing and we shopped, but that was just to have something to do in between meals. As always, the city lived up to its reputation for great food. Just about everything was delicious, from the superlative bread (and amazing butter!) to the luscious slow cooked meats, and the incredible pastries and chocolate.
For our first dinner, we ate at La Fontaine de Mars, a classic bistro, where the Obamas ate on their visit to Paris. I started with pumpkin soup topped with sauteed foie gras. The buttery meat juices added another dimension to the smooth creamy soup. A rich stew of duck legs in red wine was the main course. For dessert, I opted for an old favorite, Floating Island, poached meringue on a sweet creamy pool of vanilla sauce.
The next day we had dinner at a favorite bistro, La Regalade. It is always crowded, but I it is one place I have to go when I am in Paris. Their coarse country pate was as good as I remember it, and I loved the crackling crisp pork belly with lentils and celeriac puree that followed. For dessert it was a perfect Grand Marnier Souffle. On Sunday we explored the stands at the outdoor market on Avenue Woodrow Wilson. The vegetables and fruits were hard to resist…
…and so was the seafood. There were stands selling shrimp, scallops and many varieties of oysters. These oursins, or sea urchins, were tempting.
If you think all butter tastes alike, I wish you could try this kind from the Normandy region that I tasted at Drouant, a classic old restaurant that has recently been done over. I liked the butter so much, I took it’s picture. BTW, our lunch was excellent. I started with 4 little vegetable appetizers, including a tiny cup of jerusalem artichoke soup and 3 fresh salads: beets, curried carrots, and fresh coco beans. The main course was perfect roast chicken, thick cut French fries, and a green salad.
One day, we had an all-chocolate lunch at Jacques Genin, an elegant tea room and chocolate shop in the Marais District. The mille feuille is a specialty and each one is filled to order so that the buttery puff pastry layers stay crisp when sandwiched with the creamy filling. We ordered one filled with chocolate caramel ganache along with a pot of hot dark chocolate as thick as melted ice cream to drink. Was it too much chocolate? Yes! And it was soooo good.
March 12, 2012 7 Comments
Winter or summer, I like to eat a salad at least once a day. In the summer it’s easy to slice up a perfect tomato and toss it with some fresh picked greens, sweet radishes and a sweet onion, but in the dead of winter, it can be challenging. Packaged greens are tasteless and lacking in crunch and the tomatoes are cottony and not worth buying.
It’s time to look to other ingredients that are at their best in winter. My favorites are radicchio, either the round Chioggia variety or the elongated Trevisano. Other members of the endive family, like escarole and frisee, can be substituted, though they don’t have the gorgeous burgundy wine color that adds to radicchio’s appeal. Tossed with a flavorful
dressing and a handful of fruit to contrast and sweeten the flavor, this lively salad is a perfect starter to a winter meal.
Radicchio and Grape Salad
If the grapes don’t look so good, try substituting an apple, pear or even orange wedges.
1-1/2 tablespoons minced parsley
1 tablespoon minced scallion
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon mustard
Salt and freshly ground pepper
8 ounces radicchio, torn into bite size pieces
1 cup green seedless grapes, halved
In a salad bowl, whisk together the parsley, scallion, oil, honey, vinegar, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste.
In a serving bowl, toss together the radicchio and grapes. Add the dressing and toss well. Taste for seasoning. Serve immediately.
February 12, 2012 3 Comments
After weeks of eating and drinking far too much and too often, Charles and I decided that a little austerity would be a good thing for a change. Since January 2, we’ve been eating very simply. Poule au Pot might sound elegant, but it’s just the French way of saying Chicken in the Pot, a recipe in The French Slow Cooker. I decided to make it the other night when the sudden cold snap had us craving something comforting.
Basically, Chicken in the Pot is a one-dish dinner with chicken and vegetables steaming in a bit of broth. I bought a nice fat chicken and put it in my slow cooker on a bed of leeks, carrots, celery and rosemary, added some chicken broth and turned on the heat. That’s about it.
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January 6, 2012 1 Comment
A few years back, my friend Donna and I decided to make cassoulet, a hearty French bean and meat stew. First we made stock, then we soaked and cooked the beans, marinated the meats, made duck confit, then simmered it all together. It took several days to get it ready and along the way we scrubbed a mountain of pots and pans. The finished cassoulet tasted great, but neither of us attempted to make it again. It was just too much work. Until it dawned on me one day that cassoulet was a perfect dish for the slow cooker!
A slow cooker (also known as a Crock Pot, though that is a proprietary name belonging to the Rival Company) is ideal for simmering, stewing, and braising. If you start by using good fresh ingredients, you are sure to have delicious results. Since a slow cooker cooks with gentle heat over a long period of time, it gives all of the flavors a chance to blend together. For my slow cooker cassoulet, I put the beans, broth, meats, and flavorings into the pot, skipping the traditional marinating step since everything would be cooking together for hours. I put the cover on and set the timer. There was nothing else to do, so I went out for the day.
When I got home, I closed my eyes and inhaled. Enticing aromas filled the air. I felt as if I had arrived at the farmhouse kitchen of the French grand-mere I never had! The meat was fall off the bone tender. The beans were creamy-soft and had soaked up all the flavors of the meats, garlic and herbs. Best of all, it was just as good as the classic version. We had a great meal and since cassoulet is so simple to put together in the slow cooker, I don’t have to wait for a special occasion to make it again.
French food has a bad reputation for being fancy and difficult and that may be true for some restaurant fare. But in my new book The French Slow Cooker, you will find recipes for simple, rustic food, the kind of things that French home cooks make every day. No special equipment or tricky techniques, and all of the ingredients are available in a well stocked supermarket. Add a little French flair to chicken soup and try my Chicken Bouillabaisse. Or how about Short Ribs braised with dark beer and shallots. The Meatballs Bayonnaise simmered in a spicy sauce make a great sandwich on cold afternoon, maybe even Super Bowl Sunday. For a party, impress your guests with a country-style paté — which is no more difficult than making a meatloaf, or rillettes, French style potted pork to spread on a crisp baguette. And don’t miss out on the delicious desserts, like Raspberry Bread Pudding or Lemon Creams.
I’ll be posting some of the recipes over the next few weeks and I hope you will give them a try and let me know what you think!
January 3, 2012 No Comments
Several years ago, I was signing my book A Fresh Taste of Italy at the Greenmarket in New York’s Union Square. A man stopped by and told me he was looking for a recipe for vecchiarelle, meaning little old ladies. He explained that they were something like struffoli, only shaped like gnocchi and flavored with red wine. As he described them, I began to remember the struffoli my godmother Jean would bring us every Christmas. Somehow, I had forgotten all about them, even though my family loved them. We always called them Red Wine Struffoli.
As soon as I could, I called my mom to ask her if she had a recipe. She’d forgotten all about them, and she might have had a recipe at one time, but couldn’t find it anywhere. Disappointed, I mentioned the incident to my sister, who thought she had once had it, but couldn’t find the recipe either. One day, she was visiting our Aunt Millie and mentioned that she was looking for the recipe. Aunt Millie remembered them too, looked in her recipe book and there was the recipe, carefully handwritten by my mother on pink notepaper more than 30 years ago. When I finally got the recipe I knew how lucky I was since I hear stories all the time about family recipes that are lost because no one took the time to write down.
So here’s the recipe for Vecchiarelle, Little Old Ladies, or Red Wine Struffoli. Copy it, put it in a safe place, and I hope it inspires you to write down your family’s treasured recipes for future generations to enjoy and think of you.
LITTLE OLD LADIES
Serves 8 – 10
4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
3/4 cup robust red wine
1/4 cup olive oil plus more for frying
1 cup honey
Colored candy confetti
- In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt.
- In a small bowl, whisk the egg, wine and 1/4 cup oil until blended. Pour the mixture into the dry ingredients. Stir until the flour is moistened. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead until smooth.
- Cut the dough into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into 3/4 inch thick ropes. Cut the ropes into 1/2 inch lengths.
- Holding a cheese grater in one hand, use the thumb of your other hand to press and roll each piece of dough over the medium holes to roughen the surface on one side and form an indentation on the other side.
- Heat about 2 inches of oil in a deep, heavy pot until the temperature reaches 370° F. on a deep frying thermometer or use an electric deep fryer.
- Carefully lower just enough of the pieces into the pot so that they form a single layer and are not crowded. Cool, stirring occasionally, until they brown, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Remove the pieces with a slotted spoon and drain well on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining dough.
- Heat the honey in a large pot just until it warms and thins out. Remove from the heat. Add the fried pieces and stir well until the honey is cooled and the struffoli are coated. When completely cold, scrape the struffoli into a cookie tin and seal tightly. Sprinkle with the candy confetti just before serving.
December 20, 2011 3 Comments
Every year about this time, I hear from cooks with questions about struffoli. These little honey covered nuggets of fried dough are made in many places in Italy, but are most popular in Naples and the South. To many Italian Americans and Italians, it just wouldn’t be Christmas without them. Making struffoli is a great tradition to pass on to the next generation. I have given the recipe before, and it is in several of my cookbooks, but if you don’t have it, here is a link. This is a recipe from my book 1,000 Italian Recipes. http://michelescicolone.com/struffoli-christmas/
Now that you have the recipe, I thought I would pass along a couple of tips. [Read more →]
December 3, 2011 6 Comments