Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cooking in Paris: Part Deux

My last post featured our stroll through the markets and the cheese souffle we made and devoured. This week I wanted to spend some time talking about the cheese plate we munched on while other ingredients were simmering, sauteing, and otherwise being prepped for the next steps.

A fair warning.....because of all the cheese I ate in Paris, I am forever changed. It's like I encountered Cheese Jesus firsthand and I have a hard time going back to just my usual routine when it comes to purchasing and eating cheese.  Truth be told, when I got back from Paris, I took a break from the cheese aisle. One of my intentions is to become more acquainted with the local cheese folks in my neighborhood, particularly the folks at The CheeseStore of SilverLake in hopes that I can come as close as possible to what I smelled, ate and loved in Paris.

To accompany our heavenly cheese plate, we sipped on a delicate white wine from Touraine,  these grapes are grown in the center of the Loire Valley. The wine was crisp, fruity and fresh.  
We had two different chevre (goat cheeses) - St. Maure de Touraine and Crottin de Chavignol, a Camembert, blue cheese (Fourme D'Ambert) and a Comte.  Prior to eating cheese in Paris, I thought I "knew" goat cheese, that my friends, was a grande illusion.  The goat cheese in France is not to be messed with, it's rich and creamy, yet subtle. It's three-dimensional.  I learned so many things about cheese - the fact that it has a seasonality to it, that the milk milked in the spring is different then the milk milked in the fall. Also, like wine pairings, when indulging in a cheese plate, there are "rules" to enjoying more milder cheeses and working your way toward the more intense cheeses.  It was hard to resist the plate, but we needed to save room for the rest of our French meal.

For the main course, we made stuffed veal with spinach and mushrooms. I'm not going to entertain a debate about veal and the "cruelties" associated with how veal is raised, it's a touchy subject and I can respect all sides, but dude, I was in France....I had to eat and help make the stuffed veal!
We sauteed chopped mushrooms, shallots and spinach in a generous pat of butter and seasoned the mixture with salt and pepper. Paule shared a fantastic tip about cooking mushrooms - mushrooms are known for absorbing and releasing alot of water.  Consider them fungi sponges. Paule began sauteing the mushrooms in the pan without any fat.  Yes, you read that correctly, NO FAT. Cooking the mushrooms without any fat allows the mushrooms to release their water content and you let them cook until a majority of the water is absorbed, then add your butter or oil. By doing this, when you add the fat, you will fully infuse the mushrooms with all the FLAVOR. Genius!
 We put about a tablespoon or so of the filling onto the veal cutlets and rolled them up.  Then we trussed them together with some kitchen twine.
These bad boys were cooked in a pan, in yes, more butter, til golden brown of both sides.
While the stuffed veal cutlets were cooking, we had numerous other pots and pans bubbling away with goodness. On a whim, Paule bought celeriac (celery root) to make a puree) and we braised endive in maple syrup.  The celery root was boiled with some potatoes - after they were drained, we mashed the celery root and potatoes together, then added creme fraiche, butter, salt and pepper. 

Maple syrup is the "hot" ingredient to use right now in Parisian restaurants - mainly because it's not available to source in their country. Usually endive is braised with butter, sugar and a little lemon, but we were being spontaneous by substituting the sugar with Canadian maple syrup. Who thought braised lettuce would taste so good, but it was divine, melted on your tongue, the sweetness of the maple syrup and the char of the endive leaves.

And we finished off the stuffed veal cutlets with a pan sauce.  Deglazing the pan with white wine, we added dijon mustard and creme fraiche.  Brought to a boil and reduced to perfection, we seasoned it with salt and pepper to finish.  This sauce is so versatile and would work beautifully with poultry as well as other cuts of beef.

Of course, you have to save room for dessert, stay tuned for Cooking in Paris: Part Tres featuring a fig tart with almond cream.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Cooking in Paris: Part Une

Typing the title of my post fills me with glee, yet again! Yes, I took a cooking class while I was in Paris.  Wouldn't it have been a sin against God had I NOT taken a cooking class there?!?! I think so.  That's why months and months before I went, I started researching cooking classes. My research led down the foodie road to Promenades Gourmandes and Paule Caillat.  Paule has been teaching cooking classes in her home for several years now, thanks to a blog post written by David Lebovitz. In this post, Paule shares her family secret for french tart dough. I'll write more about that later on in the post!

I booked several months in advance and on the day of class, 5 students (including me, the only American, I might add) met in front of Patisserie Stroher for a priceless stroll through the open-air markets to purchase some ingredients for the meal we were set to prepare. This particular street is loaded with history, Patisserie Stroher is the oldest store front patisserie in Paris (opened in 1730).

 Based on questionnaires that we completed before our class, Paule composed a menu, fir for the French: cheese souffle, stuffed veal with a dijon creme fraiche sauce, pureed celery root, braised endive and a fig tart.  Oh, and a cheese tasting too. After picking up ingredients for our meal, we headed to the Marais arrondisement where Paule works and lives. It's so stinkin' Parisian! :)

The first dish we started working on is the cheese souffle (my first savory souffle).

The base of any cheese souffle is a bechamel sauce, a classic French sauce. The bechamel sauce is made of butter, milk and flour.  You melt the butter in a pan, add the flour and whisk together, until it comes together as a paste. Then you add warm milk and continue whisking until it thickens (should cover the back of your spoon). Add the cheese to the bechamel sauce and incorporate til it melts.  In this case, our souffle was made of gruyere, comte and parmesan cheese.

Egg whites are separated from yolks and the whites are whisked together in a separate bowl until stiff.The egg whites were then folded into the bechamel sauce before added to individual ramekins and baked for 20 to 25 minutes. To give our cheese souffles a little crust, we sprinkled some grated cheese all around the ramekins before we added the souffle batter.
 And......Voila! I was quite surprised by the texture of the souffle - so light, airy and the luscious notes of the three cheeses perfumed your palette ever so gently. A beautiful first course to our meal! Stay tuned for Cooking in Paris: Part Deux.......

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Foodie in Paris.

Paris - it's been a dream destination for me (for quite some time) and how can it not be? It's a foodie mecca. What I loved about visiting many speciality food shops and open air markets is how much love, creativity and pride oozes out of each creation.  The storefronts alone are mini museums, displaying their crowned jewels of culinary perfection. 

Of course, Paris isn't exactly the new kid on the block, every major city in the world takes it cue from the French when it comes to food and drink.  For example, Patisserie Stroher is the oldest storefront patisserie in Paris (it's 281 years old and she looks good for her age). On one side of the store you can find every sweet delight and on the other, the savory treats beckon your taste buds.

Pierre Herme, macaron king, is a place not to be missed.  Extraordinary chocolates, speciality desserts, and above all else, the macarons. A small, sleek shop, it was packed with those suffering from a bout of sweet-tooth.  You know what I'm talking about.  The presentation is a work of art. Picasso eat your heart out.

La Maison du Chocolat (The House of Chocolate) is another worthwhile indulgence, chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate. Studded in bronze, deep chocolate brown, and creams, this store looks good enough to eat.  I indulged in a box of their chocolate macarons and brought home several chocolate bars for those late-nights.

Poilane is one of Paris' finest boulangeries. In fact, Karen, from McCalls Meat & Fish Co. recently pointed out to me, that there are some photos of Poilane in the book My Life In France (a fabulous foodie read all about Julia Child's experience living in France and later intertwined into the film Julie & Julia). I bought a croissant here and a pain au chocolat for later. I am convinced that croissants are the epitome of happiness woven together with butter.

La Grande Epicerie is the specialty grocery store across from Le Bon Marche in St. Germain. It's the kind of experience that beckons you to deter yourself from ever shopping in a regular grocery store ever again. It's like Whole Foods on an Hermes level, but better. I was so overwhelmed with all the goodness here that I managed to forget the semi-snobbish attitudes of the cashiers (aside from the cashiers everyone else at the store was lovely).

E. Dehillerin was a lovely cookware store near O Chateau where I attended a wine and cheese tasting. Julia Childs used to shop at this tiny shop for all of her tools and other culinary accoutrements. And the guys who worked here were so friendly, helpful and overly excited about my tattoos. I went here with something very specific in mind to purchase, these top notch hermetically sealed food storage containers (will keep foods fresh for days longer).

P.S. - Many of these specialty shops were recommended in Clotilde's Edible Adventures in Paris, a must-have foodie destination guide should you find yourself hungry in Paris.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Preview to Paris.

I don't think there are adequate words to describe how I feel about Paris. Photographs will have to suffice for now. This city is dreamy, magical and mysterious. It's ancient, modern and everything in between. I spent the first two days pinching myself to make sure it was actually REAL.   After seeing the city of lights as a backdrop in so many films, it was hard to believe I wasn't on a movie set. Here's a little taste of Paris for those who have been anxious to see some of my Parisian adventures (more posts in detail to come in the next few weeks, including an in-depth post on the cooking class I attended!).

Notre Dame from the bridge entering the Ile De Cite.

 The street up to our apartment in the Latin Quarter.

 The fountain at Place Monge on market day (5 minute walk from our apartment).

The Eiffel Tower, breathtaking. I couldn't stop taking pictures of it.

 A typical Parisian meal at a brasserie around the corner from the Eiffel Tower.

 St. Sulpice Church. 

 Heaven at Pierre Herme. The most beautiful desserts and the best macarons on earth.

 The Pantheon from our terrace. Roughin' it.

 A view of Sacre Coeur from the Metro station, Anvers.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

I'm a Snicker, You're a Doodle

I can't tell you the last time I made a batch of snickerdoodles and in all honesty, I wasn't a big fan of snickerdoodles.  I have a slight issue with "too much" cinnamon.  Don't get me wrong, I really like cinnamon, but in minimal doses.  So this cookie hasn't been on my "favorite" list.

I was talking to one of the attorneys I work with about cookies and the snickerdoodle came up in conversation.  Something along the lines of...."Teryll, what's the status of this very important legal document, you know, the one about the history and legalization of snickerdoodles?".  Okay, maybe the conversation didn't exactly flow that way, but it sparked my interest to give them another try and bake a batch over the weekend.

I've recently been turned on to The Tasty Kitchen and have found great success with several other recipes. The snickerdoodle recipe I tried can be found here. Friends, the snickerdoodle has been resurrected.  I chilled the dough for about 15 minutes in the fridge so that it was easier to roll into balls and roll into the sugar-cinnamon mixture before popping them into a 400 degree oven.  The key is also not to overbake them, no more than 8 minutes. This cookie is soft, buttery, sweet, with a slight hint of cinnamon.  It's divine and addictive.  Perfect alone, with coffee, tea or milk. They would be delicious in an ice cream sandwich too. Go bake a batch, you know you want to.

Monday, September 5, 2011


Some of you may be following me on Facebook and Twitter - if so, you know that I've been gearing up for a lil' family competition that took place on Labor Day.  My family (dad's side) held it's second cook-off, this time the theme was pizza.  There were 6 contestants, 5 savory pizzas and 1 dessert pizza.  The game was on!

Earlier this year, we held a lamb burger competition and sadly, I came in third place. I tried to take the blow with my head held high, but my culinary ego was slightly bruised. I vowed to make my comeback next time around when we planned our pizza cook-off.

The competition was tough this year, all the contestants amped up their game, we were all pretty serious about making delicious pizzas and the hard work all paid off. When I initially began putting together my game plan for pizza, I was heavily focused on the pizza dough (note I was the only contestant who made their pizza dough from scratch), so I relied on Jim Lahey's recipe in one his brilliant book called My Bread. There are tons of sources, but this recipe was simple, straight-to-the point and I trusted his skill set and bread making skills.

About a week and a half ago, The Cooking Channel (my latest telly addiction) featured a week's worth of shows dedicated to the art of pizza making.  Was it a sign from the man upstairs? I stumbled upon a show on pizzas that were creative, "out of the box", so to speak and was instantaneously inspired as a result.  I've praised the Argentinians here in my post all about chimichurri sauce - it was this that sparked my imagination when creating my winning pizza!

Chimichurri sauce is a fresh herb sauce - it's made with parsley, oregano, red wine vinegar, garlic, olive oil, salt and red chili pepper flakes. And it goes with everything! With chimichurri as my finishing sauce, I worked up the foundation on my pizza.  I made a simple tomato sauce with San Marzano tomatoes, pureed and simmered in some olive oil with garlic, salt and a teeny tiny bit of sugar. 

With a couple spoonfuls of the tomato sauce spread around my pizza dough, I then topped it with caramelized onions, fresh mozzarella, feta and skirt steak.  I actually the pizza with the skirt steak until the last 5 minutes or so.  This kept the structural integrity of the melt-in-your mouth skirt steak. After I removed it from the oven and let it sit for a few minutes, I drizzled the chimichurri sauce all over it.

As I mentioned before, the competition was certainly not lacking, what I loved about the competition was how different and unique all of the pizzas actually were, nothing fell into the same category. It actually blew me away. 

Samantha made a rustic pizza with garlic olive oil, grilled onions and tons of feta! She served it with a variety of dipping sauces - baba ganoush, olive tapenade, cucumber yogurt, jalapeno yogurt, red pepper and walnut. It was straight up divine! A perfect appetizer pizza for any party!

Dorothy made a pesto sauced pizza with roasted chicken, grilled red onions, sun dried tomatoes, mozzarella, pecorino romano and pine nuts. All of the ingredients were layered to perfection. The sun dried tomatoes were sweet and juicy, the pesto was fresh and floral. I could easily see this on a menu!

Clarissa was inspired by Thai cuisine - she made a peanut sauce pizza with Thai chicken meatballs, carrots, green onions, bean sprouts and cilantro. Savory and out of this world, it was a decadent pizza! 

Dad took a more traditional route, he's always made a fabulous chicken parmesan and he decided to turn it into a pizza! Tomato sauce, chicken parmesan, mozzarella and pecorino romano.

Harrison took on the challenge on dessert pizza.  He used nutella as a base, added coconut flakes, marshmallows and crushed graham cracker crust.  Then he took a blow torch and melted the marshmallows - a fancy Smores inspired treat!

It was such a fun day and we look forward to the next food competition! I hope your Labor Day was just as much fun!