Saturday, January 24, 2015

Bûche de Noël (Yule Log) from Charlotte

Bûche de Noël by Charlotte 

Today I asked Charlotte if I could post her plat de résistance from Christmas, as part of our French theme.

Charlotte says:
"I don't know exactly why they (the French) make it but is a traditional dessert for Christmas.  I made a bûche de Noël because I made one with my friends for my French class in school to give to teachers, and I wanted to make a better one for my family for Christmas.  I have always thought they were cool but my mom said they were too much work, but when I showed her what I made with my friends she agreed we could make one for our Christmas!"   --- Charlotte

Colleen (her mom) said:

"So Charlotte had to make a bûche de noël as an extra credit project for her French class.  She seemed to think it was not that hard so she made another one with my help.  We used a more challenging recipe.  We started to go off road fairly quickly.  Fingers crossed it tastes good - we sunk a lot of chocolate, cream and eggs into the project.  It was fun regardless.  We used a recipe from the The Joy of Baking, and made a ganache from Williams-Sonoma Holiday Baking.  And made decorations out of almond paste.  And added some coffee powder to the filling to get to a mocha moment.  The cake did start to crack when we tried to roll it up.  I would probably try a different recipe next time to see if we could find a cake that is easier to work with.  But cracks are easily covered with ganache and filling."  

Afterwards, she says " Ours was very chocolaty. Choco cake mocha filling and dark chocolate ganache. With marzipan decorations. Very good. We got recipe from Joy of Baking with ganache from Williams-Sonoma Holiday Baking. We added one packet instant decaf coffee from Starbucks to recipe for filling. And we did double recipe of ganache. It bakes quickly and you can make in about three hours. With all the prep and decor.  "  --- Colleen

Ted says:  " I can personally testify that this dessert was beautifully executed and amazingly good.   -- Uncle Ted
Links for the recipes and Colleen's notes:  Buche de Noel by The Joy of  Baking, click here but add one packet of Starbucks instant coffee powder to the filling to make it mocha and a packet of Whip it stabilizer to the filling.  Did not refrigerate for an hour.  And powdered sugar.  Dark chocolate ganache, click here.  But add 1 T. corn syrup to make the ganache glossy.  And double it. 

Thanks, Charlotte! 


Thursday, January 22, 2015

"Mastering the Art of French Eating" from Ted

Ann Mah's book

I received a surprise package from Amazon two days ago --- and inside was a gift from my older brother, Ted, as his contribution to this month's Feast Everyday theme of French cuisine: 

Mastering the Art of French Eating by Ann Mah, 
2013, a Viking book

She is a journalist and food writer --- and says she is a lifelong foodie and Francophile.  She is married to a U.S. diplomat and they found themselves fortunate enough to be stationed in Paris but he was called away to Iraq for a year and she was left alone in Paris.  

That's when she decided to travel around France and learn more about French food.  The book covers 10 dishes from 10 different parts of the country.  Examples:
  • Paris/Steak Frites
  • Alsace/ Choucroute
  • Burgundy/Boeuf Bourguignon
  • Brittany/Crepes
Looks like a great read.  

Thanks, Ted!


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Le Soufflé in Paris

Soufflé at Le Soufflé in Paris

One of my more memorable meals recently was a lunch last June at Le Soufflé in Paris,  It was a beautiful sunny, not too hot day, and we stopped here while we were sightseeing.

Tom was spending the day with my sister-in-law and nieces (at Disneyland Paris) so I walked the Champs Elysée with two history buffs, my brother and his college-age son.

Le Soufflé
36 Rue du Mont Thabor, 75001, Paris

My nephew, William, scoped out this restaurant for us for lunch.  He had recently spent time traveling with his college program, so he was very willing to take the lead.

White table cloth, excellent service, although touristy

There are three courses at lunch:  A savory souffle, a salad and a sweet souffle.

Soufflés are iconic French cuisine, especially a dessert soufflé.  A flavored sauce base is incorporated in to stiffly beaten egg whites (7 times their volume) and then it is baked and served hot.

At the table, the top is "cracked" and additional sauce is added.  Here is a video (in French) showing how they are made at Le Soufflé.

I don't think William had ever tried a soufflé before, so it was fun to share the experience with him.  Even if he didn't really like the texture of soufflés.

It was memorable because we all enjoyed trying something new, his restaurant choice was spontaneous and we got to spend time relaxing and talking over a long lunch together.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon by Tom

Boeuf Bourguignon
(Beef Stew in Red Wine, with Bacon, Onions, and Mushrooms)

Continuing on with our French food adventure, Barbara asked me to make Beef, or Boeuf, Bourguignon.  How hard can that be, I thought.  Just throw a piece of beef into a stew pot with a bottle of wine and bake for several hours.  She added one caveat.  It must be done as Julia Child does it.  No skipping of steps and no additions.  Follow the recipe to the letter.  Not my normal approach to cooking.

We had just watched "Season 10 Top Chef Boston" with Jacques Pepin and saw how the professional chefs struggled with the techniques of Julia Child.  So I knew I had my work cut out for me.

However it turns out that if you follow her instructions from her cookbook "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", you really can prepare a very good beef bourguignon.  It just requires patience and following her technique.

So, here goes.  Boeuf Bourguignon a la Julia Child as mastered by me.


Boeuf Bourguignon
Beef Stew with Red Wine, Bacon, Onions and Mushrooms
(Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck)

Serves 6

3 pounds lean stewing meat...I used a top round steak...cut into 2" cubes with most visible fat and silver skin removed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 sliced carrot
1 sliced onion
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons flour
3 wine
2-3 cups beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, mashed
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf crumbled
6 ounces bacon plus rind from salt pork

18-24 small peeled white onions...these will be prepared separately and added later
1 1/2 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup beef stock
Herb bouquet: 1 tablespoon dry parsley, 1/2 bay leaf crumbled, 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme all tied in a cheesecloth
Salt and pepper to taste

1 pound quartered fresh mushrooms...these will be prepared separately and added later
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Slice the bacon into 1"-2" pieces.  The rind as well.
Into a saucepan put 1 1/2 quarts of water.  Add the bacon and the rind, and simmer for 10 minutes.  This renders some of the fat from the bacon.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  The oven rack should be in the lower third of the oven.

Remove the bacon and rind from the simmering water.  Put the rind aside as you will put that in later.  Heat the olive oil over medium heat in the casserole dish that you will be using for cooking the meal.  Sauté the bacon for 2-3 minutes until lightly browned.  Remove the bacon from the casserole with a slotted spoon to a side dish.
Reheat the fat until it is almost smoking.  Dry the beef with a paper towel, and sauté it until it is nicely browned on all sides.  It is important to dry the beef before sautéing because it will not brown if it is damp.  It will steam instead.
Once sautéed, remove the beef to the plate with the bacon.
Slice the carrot and onion.  Note my "Happy Face" spoon.
Sauté the vegetables in the casserole.  Once they are golden, remove from the heat and drain as much of the sautéing fat as possible.
Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with salt and pepper.  Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to lightly coat the meat.  I did this in two steps to insure all of the meat had a coating.
Now place the casserole uncovered in your 450 degree oven for 4 minutes.  After 4 minutes, pull it out and stir it up.  Place back in the oven for another 4 minutes.  This browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust.  Once the time is up, remove from the oven and turn the temperature down to 325 degrees.
Stir in the wine and enough beef stock so that meat is barely covered.  Add the tomato paste, garlic, crumbled bay leaf, thyme, salt, and bacon rind.  Bring to a simmer on top of the stove.  Then cover the casserole and set it in the lower third of the oven.  Regulate the oven heat up a little or down a little to insure that the liquid simmers for the next 3-4 hours.  The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
While the beef is simmering in the oven, it is time to prepare the small onions and mushrooms.  We'll do the mushrooms first.

In a large skillet over high heat, melt the butter and oil.  As soon as you see the foam from the butter start to subside, add the quartered mushrooms.  Toss and shake the pan as you sauté the mushrooms.  To get a golden brown on the mushrooms will take 7-10 minutes depending on the size of the mushrooms you are using.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Once the mushrooms are golden brown, remove from the skillet and put on a plate.  Set these aside as these will be added to the casserole near the end of the cooking.
Now it is time to sauté the onions.  In a smaller skillet, heat the butter and the oil.  When it starts to bubble, add the onions.  Reduce the heat to medium and sauté the onions for about 10 minutes, rolling them around in the pan so that they will brown as evenly as possible.  Julia says that you cannot expect to brown them uniformly.

Once you have browned the onions, add the 1/2 cup of beef stock and herb bouquet.  Bring to a simmer, cover the pan, and simmer slowly for 40-50 minutes.  The liquid should be pretty much fully evaporated and the onions will be soft and tender.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Remove from the pan and put on the plate with the mushrooms.  These will be added later in the cooking cycle.

Note: our cheesecloth "disappeared", so I had to improvise.  I used a small strainer, placed the herbs in that, and placed it in the center of the skillet.  It worked very well.  My only adaptation of Julia's technique.  I think she would have approved.
Near the end of the 3-4 hour cooking cycle, find a medium sauce pan and place a large strainer on top of it.
When the meat is tender, remove the casserole from the oven.  You will see that some of the liquid has evaporated even though covered throughout the cooking cycle.
Dump the contents into the strainer over the sauce pan.  Rinse and clean the casserole while the meat is draining.
From the strainer transfer the beef and bacon back into the cleaned casserole dish.  Don't worry if you get a few stray pieces of carrot or onion.  Add the previously prepared mushrooms and small onions into the casserole with the beef and bacon.
From the sauce pan, skim off any fat that has accumulated on the surface.  Heat the mixture a little to bring a little bit more fat to the surface.  Skim it off as best you can.  You should have about 2 1/2 cups of liquid.  Dip a spoon in.  It should be coated lightly.  If too little, boil it down a bit.  If too thick, add some beef stock.  Taste carefully for seasoning.  Salt and pepper accordingly.
Add the liquid back into the casserole and stir the mixture up.  Simmer for 2-3 minutes.  Serve.
I complemented the beef bourguignon with small yellow potatoes and French style green beans.

Using Julia Child's technique was a labor of love.  But what it produced was well worth the effort.

Bon appetit!


Friday, January 16, 2015

What is a Financier?

Raspberry Financier

"It sort of looks like a muffin.......just tasted now. Perfection! Dense and moist and not too sweet." --- Mary

I didn't know what a financier is -- it's on the tablescape on the calendar -- so I asked Mary to check them out for us when she was in the New York city.  She went to the French bakery Maison Kayser on the upper East side.  Thanks, Mary.  

According to Dorie Greenspan, in her cookbook Around my French Table, financiers were invented by Patisserie Lasne which was a favorite of Paris stockbrokers.

She says that "the brokers, financiers, would rush in every day in search of a sweet and rush out, brushing little bits of it off their suits as they went.  It was Lasne's genius to realize that what his clients needed was a "fast food": a pastry that the hurried brokers could eat without a knife and fork, or fear of telltale crumbs.  He created an ingot -shaped cake that could be eaten on the run."

Traditionally, they are small rectangular cakes -- in the shape of a bar of gold.

The basic recipe is almond flour, butter, sugar, lots of egg whites and flour.  Over the years, many variations have been developed.

There are browned butter financiers, hazelnut or pistachio financiers with ground nuts, fruit financiers and even chocolate financiers.

fyi - Dorie has a new French baking cookbook, which I haven't purchased yet.  Looks beautiful.

And she has a very popular blog -- here is the link:


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Redux: Galette des Rois by Mary

Feves from Mary's collection 

Note from B:  This was originally posted 8 Jan 2013 but I thought it would be fun to re-post it since we celebrating all things French.  Thanks, Mary!

During the month of January, bakeries and boulangeries in France make the galette des rois in honor of the Epiphany or Feast of the Magi.

These cakes are often called “kings cakes” and are made of homemade, almond cream filling in between two, delicate, buttery layers of puff pastry.

In France, it’s customary to place a “feve” or ceramic religious figure into the filling. Whoever is served the piece with the feve is the king or queen for the evening.

Galette Des Rois

In addition to religious figurines, feves can be little cups and saucers and teapots, and they also can depict figures from history, characters from television, sports figures, etc.

The feves become highly collectible and are, in addition to the delicious taste of the almond cream filling, another reason why many galettes are purchased all during the month!

If you’d like to make your own galette des rois, here is a simple recipe….


Galette Des Rois
(also known as Kings Cake)

For the almond cream filling:
· ½ cup whole almonds finely- ground
· ½ cup sugar
· ½ stick unsalted butter at room temperature
· 1 T. all purpose flour
· 1 t. vanilla extract
· 1 egg at room temperature
For the cake:
· 1 17-ounce package of thawed puff pastry sheets (there will be 2 sheets inside)
· 1 egg at room temperature

Combine the first six ingredients until a smooth, creamy paste is formed. Refrigerate this for 30 minutes.

Roll out the sheets of pastry and cut out two 10-inch circles from them on a baking sheet.

Spoon the chilled almond cream onto one of the pastry circles and spread the cream to within 1 ½ inches of the border edge.

If desired, now hide a fava bean or feve ( can use 2 or 3!) in the almond cream.

Use a second egg with a little water to make an egg wash and lightly brush the pastry border.

Then top with the second pastry round. Crimp or press the pastry edges to seal the cake.

Brush the entire top of the galette with the egg wash. If you want, use a sharp knife to make a decorative pattern in the top layer of the pastry, without cutting through to the filling.

Bake the cake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 15 minutes or until the cake is puffed and deep golden on top.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer the galette to a wire rack to cool for about 15 minutes. The galette should be served warm.

Remember about the fava bean/feve so no one consumes it. Whoever gets the piece with the feve is the king or queen.

For decorative purposes, you can put a paper crown on top of the galette.

It serves about 8-10 people.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

For Julia and Jacques

Note:  I was horrified and saddened by the terrorism in France last week.   At first I thought blogging about French foods and culture here on Feast Everyday might seem insensitive, but now I believe that I should continue in solidarity with the French people and all the people who believe we should not cower. Je suis Charlie. - B
Last week's episode of Bravo TV's Top Chef series included a challenge to cook food inspired by the great Julia Child and one of the judges was her cooking show cohost and friend, Jacques Pepin.

If you missed it, you can still see it this week on Wednesday at 9 pm EST prior to this week's new episode at 10 EST.  Or you can always watch it on Bravo on the Internet via their app.

Look for Season 12 (Boston) Episode 10, the one which shows Andy Cohen as the guest judge for the Quickfire.  Here is the link:

Why I enjoyed it so much:

It was great seeing how technique won out in the end.

And how revered Julia is.

And to see Jacques talk about food again.  He is one of my favorites of the food TV educators.

He tastes everything --- sticks his fingers in everything.
A photo of Jacques Pepin from his PBS bio 

For those of you who might not know who Jacques Pepin is.  Here is a link to see his bio. 

I have read his autobiography, too.  It is an enjoyable fast read if you are a Jacques fan.  My favorite parts are his memories of growing up in France and how his mother cooked with her hands and how they used every bit of food.  Nothing was wasted.  And how he started in the kitchen prepping vegetables to high standards in France.  I think he was only 13 or 14.

Bon appetit!  was Julia Child's legendary sign-off at the end of her cooking shows.


Thursday, January 8, 2015

French-style Pork Chops with Apples and Calvados by Tom

French-style Pork Chops with Apples and Calvados by Tom

Continuing on our journey through "French foods", we found this recipe in the January-February 2015 issue of "Cook's Illustrated".  French food is known for its marvelous sauces, and this recipe is no exception.  I have made it twice now and it is really, really good.  But I have to admit, it is a time consuming recipe and one that requires attention throughout the sauce making process. 

But the effort is really worth it.


French-Style Pork Chops with Apples and Calvados
(from Cook's Illustrated, Jan/Feb 2015)
Serves 4

4 bone-in thick cut pork chops
4 Gala or Golden Delicious apples, cored - two will be used to make the sauce, two to cook with the pork chops
2 slices thick cut bacon, cut into 1/2" pieces
3 shallots, sliced
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1/2 cup Calvados, this is a French brandy made principally in the Normandy region
1 3/4 cups apple cider
1 1/4 cup chicken broth
4 sprigs of fresh thyme, plus 1/4 teaspoon minced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/2-1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Black pepper, ground

(Note:  The ingredients are for four servings, but I made ours for two and adjusted the ingredients accordingly.)

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

First step is to pat the pork chops dry with a paper towel and then generously salt and pepper them.  Cover them with loosely with Saran wrap and put into the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Now we start to make the sauce.  Core two of the apples and cut into approximately 1/2" small pieces.  Slice the shallots as well.

Cook the bacon in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  You want to render the fat from the bacon and cook until crisp, about 5-7 minutes.  Next add the shallots, nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Cook these with the bacon until the shallots are soft, about 3-4 minutes.  You need to stir constantly to insure the bacon does not burn.

Now the fun part!  Remove the pan from the heat and add 1/4 cup Calvados.  Let the Calvados warm up for just a few seconds.  Then with a long match or lighter, ignite the Calvados vapors over the pan.  BE CAREFUL when you are doing this as it will ignite quickly.  Swirl the contents of the pan around to evenly distribute the flames.  When the flames subside after 30-60 seconds, cover the pan for 15 seconds to insure the flame is out.

Then we get to do it again!  Add the remaining Calvados and repeat the flambéing.  You may need to heat the pan a little if you have trouble getting the second flambé to ignite.  After the flames have subsided, cover the pan again just to insure the fire is out.

Put the saucepan back on the burner and adjust heat to medium-high.  Add the apple cider and chicken broth.

Now add the thyme sprigs, chopped apple pieces and butter.

Bring the mixture to a rapid simmer.  Cook for about 30-35 minutes until the apples are very soft and tender.  You will need to stir this mixture frequently, but not continuously.  Just make sure it is not sticking to the bottom of the pan.  You will cook this mixture down until there is only about 2 cups of liquid left.

When the apples are soft enough, it will look like you have made chunky apple sauce.  Take the saucepan off the heat and cover.  Let stand until after the pork chops are in the oven.

Next step is to take your remaining apples, core them and slice into 1/2" rounds.

Remove the pork chops from the refrigerator.  Pat them dry.  Add half of the vegetable oil to a 12"  skillet and heat the oil until very hot.  Next carefully add the pork chops to the hot skillet.  Brown on each side for about 4 minutes.

When the pork chops are done browning, put them back onto the plate.  Next sauté the apple rings for about 1-2 minutes a side.  They will start to brown a little.
In a baking dish, put a little vegetable oil on the bottom.  Now place the apple slices on the bottom of the baking dish.  Put the sautéed pork chops on top of the apples. Put the baking dish into the preheated 300 degree oven and bake for about 12-17 minutes depending on the thickness of your pork chops.  Cook until a meat thermometer registers 135-140 degrees.

While the pork is baking, strain the apple mixture through a sieve into a bowl or large measuring cup.  I used a 4 cup measuring cup to do the straining.  Push the mixture through the sieve with a rubber spatula.  Be sure to scrape the underside of the sieve into your sauce.

As an added treat, try tasting what is left over in your sieve.  I found it to be very tasty!

Your sauce will be quite thick and emulsified.  This is where you now add the apple cider vinegar and the minced thyme. Plus salt and pepper to taste.

When the pork is done, take it out of the oven and let it rest for about 10 minutes.

While the pork chops were resting, we made French style green beans to go along with our protein.

Plate the apple rings on the dish and put the pork chop on top of them.  Add the vegetable.
Now generously pour the sauce over the pork chop.  And, voila!, there you have French-style pork chops with apples and Calvados.

Bon appetit!

 --- Tom