Tuesday, May 31, 2005

I'll Always Love You

Yarzheit from the Rue des Rosiers

A year ago today, my dog, Blueberry, died. It was a month before his seventeenth birthday and I loved him very much. Today, walking around the Rue des Rosiers, I was hit by the fact that this weekend was the first anniversary of his death and I had done nothing to commemorate it. So I bought a yarzheit, the candle lit to commemorate a death, and recited a prayer for him tonight. Blueberry was like a brother to me and, needless to say, I miss him very much.

He was in Paris several times, so I like to think that woandering streets he had been down today, he was there with me in some way. I passed by Sacha Finkelstajn's, closed on Tuesdays, and remembered their delicious chopped liver and how Blue ate his fair share of it one afternoon when we were out sight-seeing, I believe at Giverny, and he was stuck in the car with the chopped liver. My dad says Blue liked Paris so much because so many dogs here looked like him. Maybe. I like to think it was because he enjoyed food as much as the rest of us. He joined us in a French restaurant one night and must have thought he had gone to Heaven. Well, he's there now and I only hope there are wonderful restaurants there for him, or whatever it is that he desires.

If you have a pet, hug him. Cuddle with her. Play with her. Tell him you love him.

Blueberry, I will always love you.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Queen of Cuisine: Chez la Vieille-Adrienne

Chez la Vieille. Is the stop sign referring to the restaurant?

Mom's last full day with me, we decided to treat ourselves to a special lunch. Thinking ahead to this week, I remembered Dine and Dish #2: Queen of Cuisine, hosted by Sarah at The Delicious Life. Mom and I had both read a lot about Chez la Vieille-Adrienne in Patricia Wells' tome on food in Paris. It also got a great review in Time Out Paris (which I've decided hates virtually everything), so we decided it would be great. It was run by Adrienne, but she has since retired and been replaced by the Corsican Marie-José Cervoni. Both Mom and I are quite fond of Corsican food, so we were really looking forward to the new influence.

I don't know if it was an off-day or what, but Chez la Vieille did not live up to any of our expectations. First, we walked into a deliciously smelling room downstairs and were quickly herded upstairs to what Mom referred to as "La Salle Americaine" as the only other diners there were an American couple. This room felt colder and more formal, though maybe that was just my imagination.

Chariot d'entrees et un farci

Of the three starters offered, the only one that appealed to us was the chariot, a general selection. Mom doesn't eat mammals, so we asked what was on the chariot. "Fish and pate," the waitress quickly responded. She brought us each a plate, mine with two kinds of fish and two pates, Mom's with just the fish--not more fish than I had, mind you.

The Pates were both pork-based and smoky tasting. The First was good, if a little salty, and large sprigs of thyme were placed on it. The Second was also smoky tasting, but placed in gelatin--not my favorite ingredient. In fact, I wasn't able to finish it.

The first of the fish was a Squid and Calamari salad with red peppers. It was a little oily for Mom's tastes, but I liked it. Rather plain tasting, but not bad. The second was Herring with Red Onions. This was also swimming in oil and so salty I couldn't finish it either.

Normally in France when someone doesn't clean their plate, the server is concerned and asks if everything was OK. Our server didn't even appear to notice. In fact, she came over several times while we were still eating to take our plates away!

Cannelloni au brocciu

Main dishes were better. Mom ordered the celebrated Cannelloni au Brocciu. Brocciu is a delicious Corsican cheese. The cannelloni also contained spinach and mint. They were very reminiscent of manicotti and were in a spicy tomato sauce with parmesan grated on top. The sauce wasn't so spicy it over-powered the cannelloni but rather enhanced the fresh taste of the mint and spinach. Mom find it slightly salty, but I liked it.

Poisson suivant le marche--Cod

For my main dish, I ordered the Fish of the Day, which was cod. It was lightly breaded and sprinkled with a healthy amount of parsley. It tasted fresh and simple and I liked it a lot. It was adorned with a light Butter and Black Pepper sauce. Nothing spectacular, but good, fresh food.

Puree de Pommes de terre, the best part of the meal

My fish came with a dish of Potato puree that was delicious though a little salty (notice a trend?). There was so much butter in the potatoes, though, that how could they not be good?

Flan a la chataigne--take as much (or as little) as you want

For dessert, we decided to split the Chestnut Flan. We both love chestnuts and something custardy seemed like a good end. We were presented with a giant dish of flan. I assume we could have had as much as we wanted, but we were content with two small slices each. It was heavy, quite sweet and a little too alcoholic tasting. One piece was certainly enough.

I don't know what happened when we went to La Vieille, but it was nothing like the reviews we had read. We tried our best to like it, but just couldn't. I must say we were quite disappointed and will most likely not return.

Chez la Vieille-Adrienne
1, rue de Bailleul
Metro: Louvre-Palais Royal.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Canard aux 4 epices et coriandre

Duck and my giant mound of Carrots

It's been beautiful here the past few days, so I wanted to spend as little time indoors as possible. It was also in the 80's this weekend, though, so I needed something a little spicy for dinner. On Friday I had no classes, so I had the time to cook and decided I wouldn't mind something more interesting that the turkey breasts I've been pan-cooking for myself. And I had a container of Creme Fraiche sitting in my fridge begging to be used up before it expired. So I searched through some blogs and found this duck recipe on Mijo's Je Mijote, a down-to-earth French cooking blog with some really enticing recipes. What really caught my eye about this recipe was that it needs to marinate for several hours, so I put it in the fridge while I went and read outside, then came home after sunset and cooked it up. I was as loyal to Mijo's recipe as I know how, though I threw in a couple of dried cayenne peppers for extra punch. The play of spicy cayenne and sweet 4 epices blend (it has nutmeg, ginger, cloves and white pepper) was perfect. As you can see, I served it with a giant mound of boiled carrots that worked very well in the excess sauce. Although I forgot to buy bread, I would strongly recommend a nice crusty baguette.

Canard aux 4 epices, coriandre et cayenne
Very gently re-worked from Mijo's recipe.
Serves 2 meat-eaters as the main course.

700 grams Duck breast (fillet de canard), cut into small strips
10 grains of Coriander, smashed (I used my mortar and pestle)
2 dried Cayenne peppers, smashed
1 tablespoon 4 epices (or equal parts Nutmeg, Ginger, Cloves and White pepper, all ground)
2 tablespoons Soy Sauce
Salt and Pepper
1 Onion
1 Red Bell Pepper
Olive Oil
25 cl Rose wine (I used the one still left from WBW)
2 spoonfuls Creme Fraiche

Marinate the Duck with the Corander, Cayenne peppers, 4 epices, Soy Sauce, Salt and Pepper. Place it all in a bowl in the fridge for 3-4 hours.

Finely chop the Onion and Bell Pepper, then cook them with the Olive Oil in a pan over medium heat, until Onion is golden.

Add the marinated Duck and cook about 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Pour in the Wine and let it cook 5 minutes. If the Duck is not yet cooked (this will depend on how big your pieces are), continue cooking until it is.

Take pan off stove and stir in Creme Fraiche, mixing everything together.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Le Bistrot d'Henri

Piece de Boucher aux echalottes with the famous Gratin Dauphinois

Before moving out to Paris, I already had a favorite restaurant: Le Bistrot d'Henri. Whenever I would come here with my parents, we always made sure we left one night to come here, as much for the charming service as for the massive portions and the best potatoes gratin ever.

Before he moved out here, while I was still living in a chambre de bonne on the outskirts of Paris, the Boy visited me and I took him to Le Bistrot d'Henri. He enjoyed his steak so much that, only a few days later when we were back in the St-Germain area, we returned for dinner on a Saturday night. We didn't really expect to get in, but Julian, who's the main waiter as well as the one who seems to run everything, told us to return in a half-hour. We did...and waited. But he brought us free glasses of wine and a plate of sausages and olives and we were eventually seated and had a wonderful meal. After that time, Julian knows us and whenever we returns he greets us enthusiastically, even beriding me for being late, which I often am.

This past year we even celebrated New Year's Eve at Le Bistrot d'Henri and had a fantastic time, toasting Julian at midnight. It is the epitome of a French bistro in our mind. When we leave Paris, we know we will always return here.

Last week, Mom was out here visiting again and overlapped with Davey her first night, so we all went out to Le Bistrot d'Henri, where I had the Piece de Boucher with a Shallot sauce and, of course, the Potatoes. This was actually off the regular menu although there's a big blackboard menu of specials that is bigger than the menu of most restaurants. Normally I only order off the blackboard, but I had never had the Piece de Boucher and I certainly wasn't disappointed.

Asperges Blancs, my entree

Entrecote aux herbes de provence...and potatoes, bien sur--Davey's main

The food may not be the most inventive, but it's always reliable and the service is excellent. Oh, and the Potatoes alone are worth the trip...

Le Bistrot d'Henri
8, rue Princesse
Metro: Mabillon.


I returned to Le Bistrot d'Henri and it's still as good as I remembered!

Sunday, May 22, 2005

IMBB #15: Creme cannelle

Cinnamon cream reversed on a plate.

When I first saw the topic for this month's IMBB, (Is My Blog Burning?) I wasn't sure I would be able to participate. The topic was "Has my Blog Jelled?" and was conceived by the imaginative Elise from Simply Recipes. (You can see her gorgeous write-up here.) I have to admit, I've always been scared of Jello, and, therefore, anything that jiggles. It may be because my cousin convinced me it was alive and would eat me when I was about five. Either way, I have never happily eaten Jello and was afraid I couldn't come up with something tasty and innocuous.

But then I started reading recipes using gelatin and found it's used for all sorts of cream-based desserts, such as Panna Cotta. I came up with this Cream, delicately flavored with Cinnamon and a little Vanilla Extract. It's somewhere between a Panna Cotta and the un-burnt part of a Creme Brulee. And the best part? It's exceedingly easy, once you figure out how to use sheets of gelatin, which, I admit, took me two attempts and some advice from Barbara of Winos and Foodies.

The only thing to watch out for with this recipe is that it really does need at least four hours and preferably overnight to set. So be sure to make it in the afternoon if you want it for dinner!

Creme Cannelle

Serves 4.

3 sheets Gelatin (6 grams)
1/2 liter Whole Milk
1/4 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 Cinnamon stick
4 tablespoons Brown Sugar
2 Egg Yolks

Place the Milk, Vanilla Extract and Cinnamon Stick into a saucepan and bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes. Soak Gelatin in a cup of cold water for 5-10 minutes.

Remove Gelatin from water and squeeze dry. Remove Milk mixture from flame and strain out Cinnamon Stick and any skin that may have formed. Stir in Gelatin until it dissolves. Whip together Egg Yolks and Brown Sugar, then add them to the Milk while still hot. Cool slightly.

Pour into 4 individual molds (I used ramekins) and chill for at least 4 hours.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Truite rose envelopee de la poitrine fumee et farcie par le romarin

I have a confession to make: I'm squeamish about fish. Not eating fish; I'm perfectly happy to eat it, including the gloopy jarred gefilte fish almost none of my friends can stand. And I rather enjoy cooking fillets. But I can't deal with a whole fish. First of all, in order to even cook it, you have to gut it, which is always a big bloody mess that makes your kitchen reek for weeks afterwards. I don't usually have a problem with blood; I eat my meat rare, or saignant [literally, bloody]. So maybe it's fish blood. I don't like fish blood.

But today I went to a market in search of fresh spinach and passed by a fish stand. The little pink trouts were so cute--just the right size for a meal for one. And they were inexpensive. Since Davey's in Amsterdam until tomorrow and the Boy is back in the States for a few weeks, it was just me for dinner tonight. And when I'm not feeding anyone but myself, I'm always more inclined to experiment. I decided to go for it and bought one trout, asking the saleswoman to "la vider, s'il vous plait [literally, to empty it out]." I brought the gutted fish home and it lay in its blue plastic bag in my fridge until I mustered up the courage to deal with it.

When I finally took it out of its bag, I almost hid it back in the fridge. There was blood everywhere, slowly dripping out of the hole in its stomach. But I rinsed it under cold water, convinced myself that it wasn't actually still bleeding, and set about making dinner.

You know what? It was delicious. I served it with my spinach and a thick slice of pain de campagne, also from the market.

Truite rose envelopee de la poitrine fumee et farcie par le romarin
(based on a recipe at Food Network.)

Serves 1.

1 whole pink Trout, cleaned
Salt and Black Pepper
1 sprig fresh Rosemary
3 slices Bacon
1/2 Lemon, sliced

Pre-heat broiler. If, like me, you don't have one, simply raise the rack of your oven so a glass baking dish will be close to the heat source. Then set the heat to about 300 C.

Dry Trout with paper towels and rinse off any residual blood. Stuff Salt and Pepper into the cavity, along with the Rosemary. Salt and Pepper the outside of the Trout and wrap three slices of Bacon around it.

Put the Trout in a glass baking dish and broil for 5 minutes. Flip the Trout, being careful not to let the Bacon fall off. Broil for another 2 minutes. Add Lemon slices to pan, lower heat to 250 C (if not using a broiler) and cook 2 more minutes, until Bacon and skin of Trout are crispy and Trout is cooked through. Serve.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Tagliatelle aux petits pois, asperges et lardons

Tagliatelle with fresh peas, asparagus and lardons, smothered in freshly grated parmesan cheese. Posted by Hello

Whenever I don't know what to make for dinner, I make pasta. It's usually a one-dish meal and, as long as I make sure to throw fresh veggies in, a reasonably healthy one at that. Asparagus has been beautiful lately and the fresh peas looked fresh as well. When I found out that Davey (a.k.a. Best Friend and Brother) had never shelled peas before, I knew he'd have fun doing so and that convinced me to buy some. He insisted on onions as peas and onions are a favorite combination of his. And we also added a package of lardons, one of his favorite French foods which apparently don't exist in the States. They're basically little strips of bacon, but they're full of flavor and, if heated up in a pan, add a delightful layer to an otherwise vegetarian meal. And if you're wondering why the bit of onion in the photo looks florescent, it's because of my favorite secret ingredient--saffron.

Tagliatelle aux petits pois, asperges et lardons

1 bunch Asparagus, ends removed
500 g Tagliatelle
.1 g powdered Saffron
3 tablespoons Butter
1 medium Onion
250 g shelled Garden Peas
1 package Lardons (substitute bacon bits or small pieces of ham)
1/4 cup Chicken Stock
Salt, to taste
Parmesan Cheese, freshly grated

Cut Asparagus into 1-inch chunks. Roughly chop Onion. Bring large pot of Salted water to a boil over high heat. Add Asparagus and cook 3 minutes. It should still be quite crisp. Using a slotted spoon, scoop out asparagus and set aside in a bowl. Add Tagliatelle to boiling water and cook according to package directions, approximately 7 minutes.

While Tagliatelle cooks, place medium skillet over medium heat. Add Saffron, then Butter. Cook until Butter melts, moving it around so the Saffron is evenly distributed. Add the Onion and cook until translucent. Stir in Peas and cook another 2 minutes. Add Lardons and cook 5 minutes, stirring continuously. Add Chicken Stock and Asparagus, cook another 5 minutes, until Asparagus is heated through and peas and asparagus are tender. Add salt to taste.

When Tagliatelle is ready, drain it and toss with the Asparagus mixture. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

WBW #9: Cotes du Rhone Rose

Cotes du Rhone Rose, bouteille pleine Posted by Hello

If I had to pick a favorite wine since I've been out here, it's Cotes du Rhone. A glass of red Cotes du Rhone is always the cheapest glass of wine at the bar and, in my opinion, the most reliably good. I recently discovered that there is also a white Cotes de Rhone, which was good, but had nowhere near the body of a red.

So last night, in preparation for Think Pink! Wine Blogging Wednesday, hosted by the delightful Sam at Becks & Posh, I headed to Nicholas, the chain liquor store near me and noticed, to my delight, that not only are they having a special on Cotes du Rhone, but there was also a Cotes du Rhone Rose for only 5,20!

This bottle is from Domaine de la Berthete. It says on the back of the bottle (I just found out that wine bottles often say things on the back!):

"Situe dans la plaine du Plan de Dieu, le Domaine vous invite a deguster ce Cotes du Rhone rose aux aromes fruites; rose de saignee elabore a partir des cepages: cinsault, grenache et carignan."

"Situated in the plain of the Plan de Dieu, the Domaine invites you to taste this Cotes du Rhone rose with fruity aromas; this blood-colored rose is particularly special because of its vines : cinsault, grenache and carignan."

Without food, and pleasantly chilled, this rose had a clean, crisp flavor, slightly sweet and almost no aftertaste. This makes it an excellent aperitif. Unfortunately, it works less well with food. In fact, the duck leg I served it with over-powered it so much that my Best Friend and dining companion refused to finish his wine until after the meal. Cherries didn't work well with it either, making the wine taste bitter and overly alcoholic. However, it might work very nicely with something lighter and savory, such as fish or chicken.

All in all, an excellent wine for an aperitif if not necessarily for a meal.

Cotes du Rhone Rose a cote de cuisse de canard, petits pois et pommes de terre nouvelles.Posted by Hello

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Oeufs brouilles aux crevettes

Scrambled eggs and shrimps Posted by Hello

Yesterday afternoon I was down in the fourteenth, which means near a really nice, big fish store. So, wanting an easy dinner, I bought some already cooked shrimps (they were having a special) and decided to make scrambled eggs, since the Boy had bought quite a few eggs before he left. I also picked up some crunchy Chinese noodles to sprinkle on top for a change of texture. It all came out quite good, rather light, with the world's largest artichoke and a vinaigrette to make it into a balanced meal (or something). And a fruity white wine.

Oeufs brouilles aux crevettes

4 Eggs
2 tablespoons Milk
Salt and Pepper
2 cloves Garlic, thinly sliced
250 grams cooked Shrimp, peeled
handful Chinese crispy noodles

Crack Eggs into bowl and beat, with Milk, until creamy. Add Salt and Pepper. Heat Oil in pan over medium heat until it spits when water is spritzed on. Lower heat to medium-low and pour in Egg mixture, stirring to keep it from sticking to the pan. Cook for about 3-4 minutes. Add Garlic and Shrimp, moving everything around, until shrimps are heated through. Remove from flame and crumble crunchy noodles on top. Serve.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Les patates douces sont oranges

Fuzzy Patates douces Posted by Hello

Intelligent as I am, it did actually take me until a few days ago to realize that sweet potatoes are orange, so mashed sweet potatoes would also be orange. Yeah, I know this kind of sounds like a cop-out, but the Boy left yesterday and I'm here with the Best Friend, or Brother, so I didn't want to do too much experimental cooking. Also, it was the Brother who took the photo, so don't blame me that it's fuzzy. And it would have been more orange if we hadn't mashed it with the skins.

Without further ado, here's my mashed yams, which, by the way, are Kosher for Passover even though I didn't happen to make them until after the holiday. And I promise I'll be better about the next IMBB.

Les patates douces fondantes

2 Sweet Potatoes
3 tablespoons Butter, melted
Salt and Black pepper
Pinch grated Lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
Generous pinch Brown Sugar

Preheat oven to 200 C. Poke several holes in Potatoes with the tip of a knife and place in a pan in the oven. Bake until tender, about 60-75 minutes. Remove from oven. Mash with a fork (with or without skins, as you desire). Add Butter, Salt, Pepper, Lemon zest, Cinnamon and Brown sugar. Continue mashing until smooth all over. Serve warm.