TWD – Palats de Dames, Lille Style

100_3715This is my first post in the baking group Tuesdays with Dorie, now commencing baking through Dorie Greenspan’s new book Baking Chez Moi. I had baked a couple of times with the group when they started baking through the book Baking with Julia. But it didn’t really stick. I’d had the book for years, had never used it, and while the recipes were good, not really my thing. As the French Fridays with Dorie group approaches the few remaining recipes from Around my French Table, we’re joining forces with the Tuesday group, since we are all still fans of Dorie Greenspan after all these years and enjoy our online community so much.

That’s a long introduction to this recipe. In fact, I made these a couple of weeks ago, as part of a virtual birthday celebration for Dorie, as well as marking our 4th year as the Friday group, and the publication of the new book. It was a fitting recipe to start with, much like when we began with gougeres all those years ago. I was happy to prepare more, they are so delicious.

This is a simple almost-batter that really accentuates the flavors of vanilla and butter. This batter needs to be chilled for at least an hour before forming into cookies. The easiest way I found was to use a small cookie scoop as Dorie suggested. I still needed to roll them into more perfect balls, so that they would keep their appropriate shape. They also need to be pretty small. And when they are baked, you should just barely see a bit of browning around the edges.

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Once cooled, the cookies are dipped in a confectioners sugar glaze. I wanted a bit of embellishment, so thought some fall sprinkles would be in order. To me, the least messy way to glaze them was to place the racks over the top of one of my cookie sheets with parchment still in place, then dip each cooking into the glaze and set it on the rack and then top with the sprinkles. This made for pretty easy clean up, since the parchment caught every drip and sprinkle, so could be rolled up and tossed.

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I couldn’t help attempting some photographs that took advantage of the beautiful dappled light, as well as the lovely nasturtiums in the garden. I have been so enamoured by Andrea’s photos (of The Kitchen Lioness), that I just had to try something different. Anyone who has read my blog knows that I’m a bit behind the curve on photography, but these seemed to deserve a pretty presentation.

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These are certainly a recipe that I was happy to make again, and one that I’ll think of when looking for something simple but lovely for a cookie tray. They are exceptional with an espresso or a cup of tea. And they do lend themselves to embellishment of any variety. Certainly perfect on a beautiful fall day.

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I know that we will all enjoy baking through our new book, and I’m really looking forward to “meeting” new friends in this group as well. Every recipe looks fabulous, so there will be lots of sweet treats in our futures!!

ffwd – (faux) jerusalem artichoke soup

The fact is, I haven’t been able to find Jerusalem artichokes. I know I’m not alone, though others are so well-organized that they order them ahead. Not me. From the beginning of French Fridays with Dorie, for some reason, I always think that I should cook the recipe the same week that that it is due to be posted. My most successful months, I probably haven’t done that, but I can’t really get that “rule” out of my head. This past week I was out of the country, only getting home late on Thursday, so this was indeed a French Friday.

When I did my research on line, potatoes were suggested as a substitute. So I chose potatoes and thought I’d add some artichoke hearts for a little more flavor (though not fresh… that would have been better, but more time consuming – this was another between-conference calls-recipe for me) The ingredients are straightforward, the afore mentioned potatoes and artichokes, plus leek, onion, celery and garlic. Then a little chicken stock.

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The ingredients are prepped, with a couple of different rounds of sauteing – aromatics first, other vegetables second, then the broth is added to bring it all together.

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The mixture is turned into a smooth soup with an immersion blender – it does get quite creamy. The original recipe suggests a parsley coulis, but I didn’t have time – maybe for the leftovers. I used the suggested truffle oil instead.

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To be honest, this was yet another nondescript, beige soup. Maybe I’ll be able to doctor it up? Some parmesan? Some herbs (sage, thyme??) or pesto? Hopefully it’s gotten better in the refrigerator overnight! Not bad, just not memorable. If you would like to see how other Doristas’ soups turned out, you can check them out here.

 

 

A French Thanksgiving – 2009

The summer of 2009 ended up being an intersection of sorts. I had read the book Julie and Julia and had been introduced to a world that, for me, had not even existed – an individual person blogging! And cooking through an entire cookbook as a project!! The following year, I started blogging myself when I joined the group French Fridays with Dorie. Before that happened, however, We had a French adventure of our own.

In August of 2009, we went to see the movie Julie and Julia based on the book, and the idea was born – a “Julia” Thanksgiving. You see, since the mid-80s, I’ve been creating Thanksgiving menus for our family gatherings. They always include quintessential elements, but the menus change from year to year – some bringing back childhood favorites, others a departure. This was going to be a “big” year, all of my brothers and their families would gather with us. It was going to be an all-out feast.

I had a number of Julia Child cookbooks – of course notably Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Not every recipe is from that book, but the lion’s share are, or at least they are a riff on something that I thought Julia might make. I also always send out a document with the menu and recipes (the entire menu and recipes are linked). It’s fun to think ahead, and since not everyone can get together every year it’s also fun to share.

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The real stars of the show were the canards, the potatoes and the dressing. Even with a French menu, the sides steal the show. This was an all-day affair to put this together, and there was a lot of help – though to be honest, the ducks were really a one-person dish.

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It was a beautiful fall day, so my sisters-in-law were able to enjoy the sunshine while prepping potatoes.

Others spent time chopping pecans, baking pies and tarts, and prepping the massive amount of garlic for the potatoes. I can always count on my sous chefs; brother Clark, and nieces Kelsey and Jillian. Chris can be counted on for a grilled turkey

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The soup as a starter was a hit. and the meal itself was amazing. It was worth all of the effort to make the potatoes – and don’t be put off by the amount of garlic. Simmered and with the butter and cream. Divine!

The duck was a challenge to make, but so much fun. I’ve de-boned what seems like a zillion birds over the years, but ducks aren’t meaty, so not quite as forgiving as a turkey, but it all worked out. The bird itself is steeped in cognac and port, the filling is a savory meat filling (really, it is a terrine), with more booze and lots of spices. Finally, the duck is encased in pastry and baked. We needed two (!) to serve the crowd, and we planned on serving them warm, though classically I think it’s really served cold. Of course, being Thanksgiving, we had to throw in a bit of flourish with fall leaves decorating the pastry crust.

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We made a couple of kinds of pie as well – an apple galette and pumpkin praline pie – I thought that the praline would add just enough the right note of “French”.

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I don’t have pictures of it, but the dressing was fabulous – a mixture of mushrooms along with herbs and brioche. There were plenty of shenanigans, along with a lot of help. A true family effort.

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And of course, we had to have some French table settings too.

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We had such a fun time and even with the massive quantities, I think we went through most of the food (plenty of young appetites ready for a great meal after a hike!) it was all so delicious.

So, this was my start down the French Friday path.  We had such a great time making this absolutely amazing meal. And it wouldn’t be long before I started my own blog. So, Thanksgiving and blogging collided. As we wind down cooking through Around My French Table, I thought I’d share with you the menu for this amazing meal. Maybe you’ll find something to inspire your own French Thanksgiving – Julia style.

 

 

 

 

CCC – October Recipes – Brussels, Beets and Beautiful Pumpkin

October is one of my favorite months – perhaps my actual favorite. Not just because it’s my birthday month, but because I think it’s the perfect month of the year to travel anywhere in the world, it’s either spring or fall wherever you are, so it’s usually beautiful and the weather is inviting. Plus the added advantage of kids being in school. Lovely.

Of course, this October, while I did do a lot of traveling, it was generally all to one area for work. But I am fortunate to split my time between two destination spots (Scottsdale and Sedona Arizona), so at least if feels like a holiday sometimes!

I had great plans this month for my menu of recipes to complete from River Cottage Veg, the book we are cooking through as a group at the Cottage Cooking Club that is lovingly shepherded along by the immensely talented Andrea of The Kitchen Lioness. I ended up making a few, and adding a couple – not really completing my list, but it was a fun, delicious month of cooking more vegetables.

One of my choices was Roasted Brussels sprouts with shallots. I never really ate Brussels sprouts as a kid – they weren’t a favorite with my parents (lest you think that I was deprived, we had plenty of asparagus, avocados and artichokes – things not typical in a small midwestern town), and typically they were boiled (and boiled some more). Bah! But with the resurgence of this vegetable, I knew that they were much more likely to be delicious than in that preparation. Simply enough, the sprouts are cut in half, mixed along with the peeled shallots, a bit of fresh thyme, olive oil and salt and pepper – then roasted until nicely caramelized. I served them with a baked potato and the lovely roasted cherry tomatoes I’ve made before from the same book.

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Another recipe for this month was Baby beet tarte tatin. I’ve been wanting to make this from the first time I opened this book. It consists of small beets roasted with some vinegar, brown sugar and some seasonings. This is then covered with puff pastry and baked, then topped with a vinaigrette. I was quickly running out of time on this – I had planned on making it one time, then had to switch to another. A regional market carries very good quality pre-roasted baby beets, so I decided to switch to that. But still roasted them for a bit with the seasonings, then topped it with the puff pastry. I did keep the vinaigrette as well.

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I enjoyed this dish, but would do things differently next time (and there will be one)! I didn’t bake it long enough – the puff pastry wasn’t really as crisped as I would like – and I would consider making a few slashes so that the center would puff more. This did reheat remarkably well in the toaster oven, so even though the pastry was a bit soggy, it was still delicious.

What I would really like to do is make individual servings. Place 1/2 of one beet in a muffin tin (with all of the seasonings, etc.), and cover with a puff pastry round. I’d then serve it with the vinaigrette, but with a side salad of fresh greens dressed the same way, and a medallion of goat cheese with it. I wish I had time to make this again immediately, but I think this would be a very fun, elegant presentation for a starter course.

The other scheduled recipe I completed was the Pumpkin and raisin tea loaf. This is another recipe I was excited to try. Grated raw pumpkin! It sounded fun and the picture in the book looked delicious. Others who made this loved it. Finally, I had the chance to try it out. The batter was yummy, and the smell as it baked was divine. I served mine with some ice cream and a baked apple. Fall in a dish.

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I’m afraid though, that it was not my favorite. It could have been my pumpkin – I used a “pie” pumpkin, but the flesh wasn’t particularly orange. Or who knows? But it was pretty dense and dry. Not like what I had been expecting (and I was already intrigued by the variations – like beets!). I know that others really enjoyed this recipe, so it will be fun to read how theirs turned out.

I also made a couple of other items this month, though not officially part of the line-up. I used the leftover Brussels sprouts and beets for a fall frittata. I actually used the “summer” method for this, as it seems to work better for me. The only thing I wished? I didn’t have any goat cheese on hand, Parmesan had to stand in. I’ll admit – I also added some bacon – a perfect non-vegetarian addition. But this was delicious.

100_3670100_3672Finally, I had wanted to make the Zucchini and rice filo pie when it was on the list a couple of months ago. So, I ended up making it one weekend. It’s certainly beautiful. I think it would be fun to do as individual pockets for a beautiful presentation as well. I did get sidetracked, so this wasn’t as good as it could have been. I missed the onions (!), and I think I could have used more cheese and generally more flavoring. But I loved the concept and it was still quite good.

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I wasn’t able to get to a couple of other recipes that I had wanted to, but things happen. This was a delicious month of recipes though, and as always a great push to try new things. You can find out what other members made this month by clicking on the Cottage Cooking Club link.

ffwd – Happy Birthday Dorie! Palets de Dames

This week in our French Fridays with Dorie group, instead of making a recipe from Around My French Table, we were able to chose one of four recipes from Dorie Greenspan’s new cookbook, Baking Che Moi. All of them looked wonderful, and I would like to make the other three when I have a bit more time. I was, however, able to bake Palets de Dames.

This turned out to be exactly the kind of cookie I love – soft, a bit sweet, with simple flavors of vanilla and butter shining through. As it turned out, it was also easy, which was a good thing because some weeks, my life takes unexpected turns. I ended up getting home with a few minutes to spare for a conference call. I pulled the batter together, and then popped it, covered with plastic wrap, into the freezer to hasten the chilling time.

Once my first call was done, I had enough in-between time to bake and ice half a recipe prior to leaving for the airport.

100_3678Of course, I had to try  a couple – with the suggested accompaniment of a cup of coffee. My new obsession is coffee Cubano style, and it was perfect with these delightful cookies.

100_3683I was able to toast Dorie’s birthday, and enjoy these delightful cookies. With the very light glaze, and just a dusting of orange sugar sprinkles, they made a festive treat.

Of course, I had to get to the airport, so searched for a box to put them in. The only one I found was a Chanel box – a crazy container to take to a construction site! But it would fit in my bag, and was the perfect size to keep the cookies safe on their journey. My team thought that they were great, and even kept questioning – “you made these?” Needless to say, I took that as a compliment. The last few were taken off to sweeten the day of a building department official… cookies for good!

These were very fun to make. I was pleased at how they turned out, and am happy that the second half of the recipe’s dough is tucked away in the freezer waiting for another baking opportunity. There have been lots of sweet treats baked this week in honor of Dorie’s birthday. If you would like to check them out, you can find the links here.

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ffwd – celery-celery soup

This post marks the 4th anniversary of our group – French Fridays with Dorie. Over the past several years, we have been cooking, sharing, enjoying each others’ company and becoming friends. I’m not one of the lucky Doristas who have met other members in person, though I hope that I will one of these days. One of the best things about technology today is that we can often become friends with people around the country and around the world in a way that was difficult pre-1995 (to give you a snapshot, Compuserve was the only real email provider, DOS was still very much in use, 512mb was considered a LOT or RAM and there was no high-speed anything). So while I occasionally dislike technology, I also know that I wouldn’t be able to stay in touch at this level if we didn’t have it. That’s the good side.

My friend Teri got me involved in this project. She had been participating in a different group that was baking through Bread Baker’s Apprentice. She thought it would be fun to participate in this group too, and after she served Gerard’s Mustard Tart to us, I had to agree. Alas, Teri’s been busy with lots of other things, but I’m still grateful that she provided the push I needed to join this group.

While I would still say that this group of people is the primary reason for my continued participation; I also have to say that I’ve learned a lot of things, and have tried quite a few that I would never have without the project. Celery root is one of them. In fact, I have also learned to like regular celery much more as well. I like the celery root puree that we made earlier (and I’ve made since), but I also have also learned to love it roasted – it’s amazing paired with French lentils, with other roasted vegetables or not, hot or cold. So, while I didn’t know that this was on the top of my list of most exciting recipes (forgetting the part that it was 100 degrees when I made this – if I waited until the timing was right, lots of things wouldn’t get done!), I wanted to make it and try it out. Spoiler alert: it’s pretty delicious.

100_3652This is a simple mixture of vegetables tossed with a little butter and softened. Then vegetable broth along with fresh thyme and bay leaf are added. All of this gets simmered until the celery root is soft enough to mash with a spoon.

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Once all of the vegetables are soft, the soup is either pureed with an immersion blender (my choice), or blended in a regular one, or pressed through a sieve. I imagine it could mean that it’s a silkier texture, but certainly not something I thought was necessary.

One of Dorie’s ideas is to serve this with some freshly-made, curry infused croutons. I thought that this sounded good, and to be honest, took advantage of someone else choosing that garnish as well.

Cubed bread, toasted in a mixture of butter and curry powder. This one happens to be a little sweet, which goes well with this sweet, slightly-spicy soup.

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This was a surprisingly tasty soup. It would make a great starter, and was certainly nice as a light lunch. Maybe not gorgeous, but I loved the color that the croutons provided, a dressy finish to something simple.

I’m looking forward to the following months as we work through the final recipes in this book, and share our stories. If you’d like to see what others thought of this soup, you can find your links here.

CCC – September recipes

September hasn’t been my best blogging month. To be sure, not a bad month all around, but I have missed out on more than I’ve participated in. And that’s not good. And maybe because I was so scattered, none of the recipes turned out as well as I expected. I know from experience, that “it’s not you, it’s me!”.

For me, this has typically been a busy time of year for the last 20 years. I am a construction manager in the retail industry – so everything has to be completed in the early fall. It can get a little stressful. I have two huge projects going live this coming week, and for a new company. The odd thing is, I totally love it. But. It does get in the way of my cooking right about now. A bit later in the year and through the holidays, I will be more relaxed than others, simply because I’m already kind of done! It all works out. But, alas, that means that my month has been a bit hectic – and I have fallen behind.

I love so many recipes in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg. It’s really encouraged me to think differently about the meals I put together. Though I am not a vegetarian, I know that it’s a good idea to have a more plant-based diet. With his meals, I never feel like I’ve been short-changed. And of course, The Cottage Cooking Club is a wonderful group of cooks who are learning and sharing together. What could be better?

On to the recipes! I only complete three of the recipes that I signed up for this month. The first – Roasted squash – is something that I often make, though not exactly per “Hugh”. I wished that I had remembered to bring some rosemary from my garden up north. I think it would have made this even more wonderful. Sage too. Those herbs mean fall to me, and while it was probably 100 degrees (F) at the time, well, it’s still September and our habits need to change. This is super-simple, something that I would do with any winter squash, or a combination of vegetables. In this instance, an acorn squash, some smashed garlic cloves, some fresh thyme and a bit of olive oil (along with some course salt and tellicherry pepper). This gets baked at a 375 degree oven for about 40 minutes. I like my roasted vegetables a bit caramelized. This would be terrific with a combination of squash as well.

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I served mine with some lentils, other roasted vegetables and fresh pesto (including the honey-roasted tomatoes from the same book). (my ffwd friends will likely recognize this dish as presented with the French lentils!). Surprisingly, this wasn’t my favorite actual instance of roasting winter squash (though now that I think of it – using the same treatment for the squash as the tomatoes sounds pretty good!). But it was likely that actual squash – just not a particular flavorful specimen. But how pretty!

I have to come clean, I planned to use some of the same roasted vegetables for the Oven-roasted roots frittata. So, I gathered my roasted vegetables (the afore-mentioned squash and tomatoes along with red onions and celery root). The original recipe calls for root vegetables to be roasted in the pan that the frittata will later be cooked in. That ends up meaning that the eggs can be added and then just quickly baked for 10-15 minutes to get the eggs to set. The fact is, either method, it’s still a quick dish to prepare.

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This wasn’t as good as I’d hoped, mainly because the squash I’d roasted (see above) was surprisingly flavor-less. Not bad, just not as good as I know it could be. I need to make this again with the squash, but also some beets and maybe sweet potatoes. I could certainly have used more herbs as well. Poor execution, not the recipe. (again)

Finally, I made Mushroom “risoniotto”. I had a combination of shitake, crimini and white mushrooms. These get sautéed and caramelized. While all of that is going on, the orzo pasta is cooked. Once the mushrooms are browned, garlic, thyme and balsamic vinegar are added to cook for a minute or two. Next, a bit of white wine is added and reduced. Then, cream is added and the mixture is seasoned. Finally, the pasta is added, and fresh parsley is thrown into the mix.

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I served this dish with steamed artichokes, a perfect accompaniment. This was pretty tasty. I’m not sure that I’ve every had anything with too many mushrooms. This was getting close to that line. Since it already had cream, it wouldn’t have been too far of a departure to add some cheese. Parmesan would have been really good – though I’m sure others would have even better choices. But I did think it needed something else. I also enjoyed the leftovers (with a little cheese). This is a really good dish, just something that for my taste, could have used something else.

Alas, I did not get to the salad I’d chosen for this month. I hope to get to it soon. I’ve heard from my friend Andrea that it’s fabulous, and you can see her amazing writing and photography here.

So, all in all, I was a little disappointed this month – mostly in my execution of these recipes. But there was nothing that I wouldn’t make again, particularly if I had an extra 5 minutes to devote to the process. The truth is, none of the recipes that I made are difficult or time-consuming. Just not my best effort. But then again, there’s October? Right?