Artichoke with Brie de Meaux Sauce

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I saw a woman at the vegetable stand buying two large,  purple, globe artichokes. Because I had never cooked a purple globe artichoke, I asked her how she planned to prepare it.  She replied, “You have to cook them.”  Sotto voce:  “Dumb bunny American!”  I replied, “Thank you.”  Sotto voce:  “Ignorant French cow!”  We smiled at each other artificially as we parted.

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I bought two also because I like artichokes and though not the same color as our California artichokes, I thought they looked interesting.  I don’t really care for stuffing the artichokes with bread crumbs; it’s okay but I think it’s some how too bulky.  I found this great recipe at Food Republic that I changed very little.  When you fill and broil the artichokes, you end up with a golden crust that you break open to access the rich bubbling sauce in which you dip the leaves.  This very same sauce trickles down and through the whole artichoke.  By the time you arrive at the heart, you feel a swoon coming on :)

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I do recommend that you remove the choke before steaming the artichokes.  You don’t want it in the way when you are savoring the artichoke heart with this totally decadent sauce.  Although the artichoke preparation is a little fiddly, this is an easy recipe and well worth the trouble.

Artichoke with Brie de Meaux Sauce

2 large globe artichokes

1 large pan of cold water

Juice from 1/2 lemon

1 lemon slice

1 bay leaf

1 large garlic clove, smashed

4 ounces brie de Meaux

3/4 cup heavy cream

1 egg yolk, beaten

1/2 cup parmesan, grated

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

2 tbsp crushed almonds

Almond flakes

Cut off the tips of the outside leaves in an attractive manner.  Cut off the stem so that the artichokes can sit level in the baking pan.  Remove the soft leaves at the center of the artichoke until you can reach and scrape out the choke.  Place the artichokes in the cold water with the lemon juice.

Bring to boil about 2 inches of water with the lemon slice, garlic clove and bay leaf.  Place the artichokes in a steamer basket, cover and steam for 30 minutes.  Remove and drain, top side down in a colander.

Over a low flame, melt the brie in the cream.  When smooth, turn off the flame and add the egg yolk, 1/4 cup of the parmesan, thyme and almonds.  Stir until well blended.

Place the artichokes in an oiled baking pan, fill the artichokes to over flowing with the sauce, sprinkle with the rest of the parmesan and a few almond flakes, then broil until golden brown.

Posted in Cheese, Cooking, Food and Wine, French, Italian, Recipes, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , | 70 Comments

Coquelet Sel Fou

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At the spice stand in the market, I found a mixture of salt, herbs and spices called Sel Fou or crazy salt.  Well, you know me, I had to try this!

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I had two coquelets in the refrigerator, so I spatchcocked them, rubbed them with a mixture of the crazy salt and some olive oil and roasted them in the oven.  Easy and delicious.  If you are not in France and can’t find this spice mixture, any good chicken rub will do, although it won’t be quite the same :)  I’ll try to find out the exact ingredients next Saturday and let you know.

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Nico, Babou’s husband made a red bell pepper stuffed with cream cheese,  herbs and tuna.  We ate it sliced as an entree.

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Very nice.  Thank you Nico!

Coquelet Sel Fou

2 coquelets or small Cornish game hens, spatchcocked

1 tbsp Sel Fou or Bavarian essence or any good chicken rub

2 tbsp olive oil

Mix the rub into the olive oil, then rub onto the coquelets.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Place the coquelets, skin side down in a roasting pan and roast at 400 F for 25 minutes, turn, then roast for another 20 minutes.

Posted in Cooking, Food and Wine, French, Main dishes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Georgian Inspired Romano Beans

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Today I went to the farmers’ market with Babou.  She wanted to introduce me to her spice seller.  What a revelation!  I’ve noticed his tables before but because he has placed bottles of wine at the front table, I assumed the side tables contained more wine.  Not at all.

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After trawling the supermarkets and health food store, I’ve pretty much given up on finding exotic spices here in Sens and, on trips to Paris, I load up with the things I need. Also a quick look into M. Parret’s barren spice cupboard confirmed my opinion that the French, while excited about fresh herbs and some spices, preferred the tastes of France. Fallacy.  I was just shopping and eating with the wrong people :)

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M. Henno has a shop, Ma Petite Epicerie Fine in Presnoy, about an hour away from Sens. He comes to the Sens market every Saturday.  This is a very friendly, knowledgeable man, happy in his chosen profession and willing to share his recipes.  He also told me about a spice shop in Paris, Izrael.  Best of all, if you are looking for a particular spice that he doesn’t have, he’ll try to find it for you!  I love him already :)

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I was so annoyed with the available light when I took the picture of the tomatoes.  These are local French tomatoes and they were red, red, red; you would think GM but they weren’t.  I was unable to capture the color with my camera.  This heavily photoshopped picture was the closest I could come.  I hate heavy photoshopping!

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But anyway, I like romano beans a lot and when I saw Georgia About’s recipe for Green Lobio with Tomatoes, I knew that I’d be doing that soon.  Attention!  My recipe is inspired by the authentic Georgian recipe, so be sure to check out the site to see how they actually make it.  It’s spicy :)

Georgian Inspired Romano Beans

1 1/2 lbs romano beans, washed, ends trimmed and each cut into about 4 pieces

1/3 cup lardons or chopped bacon

2 tbsp butter

1 onion, sliced

1 red bell pepper, sliced

2 large Roma tomatoes, cut into large dice

1 tsp blue fenugreek

1 tsp coriander powder

1/2 -1 tsp piment d’espelette

1 capsule saffron

1 tsp salt

2 cloves garlic, sliced

1/2 cup walnuts

2 tbsp water

Parsley

Scotch bonnet, seeded and sliced (optional)

Steam the beans, drain, rinse and set aside.

Brown the lardons or chopped bacon.  Drain on paper towels and set aside.  Add and melt the butter in the skillet, then saute the onion and pepper until soft.  Add the tomatoes, fenugreek, coriander, piment d’espelette, saffron and salt, then cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Add the beans and bacon, then continue to cook, stirring for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, grind the garlic and walnuts together, forming a paste.  Add the paste and water to the skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes more.

Sprinkle with parsley and scotch bonnet(if desired), then serve.

Posted in Cooking, Food and Wine, Georgian, Recipes, side dish, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

Teriyaki Salmon with Chinese Noodles

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Our son, who was not able to come home for Christmas, is in Sens/Paris for a few weeks. Really happy to see him and feed him.  Noticing I was having a hard time choosing from the ridiculous amount of food in the freezer, the salmon shouted out, “Me first!”.  So that’s why.

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I’ve actually been craving noodles for a while, so today was the day.  The herb lady had some lovely pleurotes or oyster mushrooms and gave me a little paper with preparation instructions :)  I love the look of these mushrooms.

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For noodles I used Chinese egg noodles that come in a package with 3 slabs of noodles.  I used 2 of the slabs but next time I think this dish would be better with udon or soba noodles.

Teriyaki Salmon with Chinese Noodles

4 salmon fillets, skin on

1/2 cup tamari soy sauce

2 tbsp mirin

2 tbsp brown sugar

3 tbsp white sugar

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 inch fresh ginger, chopped

4 large oyster mushrooms, sliced

1 tbsp butter

2 garlic cloves, slivered

1/2 inch ginger, slivered

1 spring onion, sliced

4 cups chicken broth

Tamari soy sauce

2 slabs of Chinese egg noodles or udon or soba

2 handfuls of baby spinach

2 tbsp olive oil

Mix the half cup of soy sauce with the mirin, sugars, chopped garlic and ginger.  Put the salmon in a zip lock and pour the marinade in the bag.  Squish around, then refrigerate for 4-6 hours or overnight.

Put the mushrooms in a dry non-stick pan over a low flame until the mushrooms have rendered their water.  Put into a large pot and set aside.

Soften the slivered garlic, ginger and spring onion in the butter.  Add to the mushrooms along with the broth and season with some soy sauce.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.  Bring back up to a boil and add the noodles, cooking until just done or according to package instructions.  Stir in the spinach and remove from flame, keeping warm.

Remove the salmon from the bag and pat dry.  Heat the olive oil in a pan, add the salmon, skin side down and cook, turning every 2 minutes for about 6-8 minutes.  Serve immediately with the noodles.

Posted in Asian, Chinese, fish, Food and Wine, Japanese, Main dishes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 39 Comments

One Day I Wanted a Burrito

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One day I wanted a burrito.  Not Tex-Mex or the new fangled kind with rice in it.  Do they even grow rice in Mexico?  No, I wanted a burrito like my mother made; refried pinto beans, green chilie, cheese and sliced scallions, wrapped in a warmed flour tortilla.

No pinto beans in France :(  But there was that lobio from Georgia About.  Because I had to soak the beans overnight, it took two days to make the burrito.  So, I took no more pictures.  I just ate it.  It was good.

Posted in Cooking, Food and Wine, Georgian, Mexican, Recipes, Sandwich | Tagged , , , , , | 33 Comments

Baked Chicken with Broccoli Pasta

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I’ve been thinking a lot about chicken tetrazzini.  That used to be one of my Mom’s special dinners.  In the 50s-60s, chicken tetrazzini was the Betty Crocker epitome of elegance a la casserole, ranking high along side banana pudding with vanilla wafers and sweet potatoes with tiny mashmallows.  Yeah.  Post war abundance that lead to, I’m sure, the present fattening of America; felled by casserole mania and the craving for large, over rich portions of whatever.   Still, chicken tetrazzini was good!

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Feeling fairly “blaise” this Sunday with Thierry and M. Parret coming to lunch, I just followed my instincts and cooked in a non-stressful, can’t be bothered way with fairly aggressive suggestions from my refrigerator.  The broccoli seemed to be particularly needy, so that was definitely happening.  Of course, chicken thighs with salt, pepper, garlic powder, flour and baked in butter goes with everything.  Ask anybody.

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I came nowhere near to making chicken tetrazzini but it was on my mind when I was making this pasta to accompany the baked chicken.

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Cheese plate beautifully arranged by M. Parret while whining about the shape of the platter I supplied.  According to Le Parret, cheese is always properly presented on a round surface.  While I, more courteous than he, suppressed wild, incredulous, ugly American laughter.

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M. Parret made his famous “creme” or custard, this time beautifully sprinkled with groseilles or red currants.

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Baked Chicken with Broccoli Pasta

1 head of broccoli, separated into florets

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp flour

2 cups of milk

Salt

White pepper

6-8 chicken thighs

Salt and black pepper

Garlic powder

Flour

2 tbsp butter

1 lb fresh pasta

Steam the broccoli for about 5 minutes, rinse with cold water and set aside.

Make a bechamel sauce by melting the butter, then whisking in the flour, cooking over a slow flame, whisking, for 2-3 minutes, just to cook the flour, not brown it. Whisking, slowly pour in the milk and continue to cook and whisk until the mixture is thick and bubbly.  Add salt and white pepper to taste.  Set aside.

Season the chicken with the salt, pepper and garlic powder, then dredge with flour.  Heat the butter in a baking pan in a 400 F oven until melted.  Add the chicken to the pan, skin side down, and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven and turn the chicken over, put back into the oven and continue to bake for 15 – 20 minutes.

Boil the pasta until just cooked, about 3-4 minutes, drain, then add the broccoli.  Reheat the bechamel sauce, adding a little milk if too thick.  Pour the sauce over the pasta and broccoli, toss and serve immediately with the chicken.

Wine suggestion:  Main course supplied by Thierry – Pouilly-Fuisse 2003.   Cheese course supplied by M. Parret – Pomerol Baron Philippe 1985

Posted in American, Cooking, Food and Wine, Main dishes, Recipes, side dish | Tagged , , , , , , | 42 Comments

Les Champignons de Babou

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The recipe today comes from the elegant and very interesting Babou, my coffee drinking “copine”.  Born in France, Babou’s father moved the family to Ivory Coast in the 50s where she spent most of her life.  Her father Raphael Matta, a wildlife conservationist ahead of his time, gave up a successful career in Paris in order to devote his life to the preservation of endangered animals, becoming the warden of Ivory Coast’s Bouna Reserve. Unfortunately, his commendable commitment was brought to an ignoble and tragic end when, stumbling upon a sacred manhood ceremony, the outraged participants incapacitated him with poison arrows and then finished him off with a primitive axe.  Boy Howdy!

Babou's Family 2

Photo of Raphael Matta, Babou (Martine) and her brother.

The book is called “Le Crepuscule des Hommes”, written by journalist Jacques Guillaume. I’m reading it now.

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Anyway, the mushrooms.  I always think that the French must all have an innately suspicious nature; always insisting on having the head to make sure it was a rabbit or inordinately satisfied with buying a chicken that includes feet, head and a few feathers, just to be sure. It’s the same with some vegetables; always a little dirt attached to the item so that you know that it was grown, in the ground, and had to be picked.  People please!  The dirt accumulating in my kitchen sink pipes is going to be a problem one day!

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The delicious idea is to pickle the mushrooms whole by boiling them with herbs, spices and cider vinegar.  After the mushrooms are cooked, you load them into jars and fill the spaces with olive oil.  They will be ready in 2-3 days.  Babou’s husband, Nico, suggests eating them as a side with chicken or veal.  If you just eat them plain, he won’t know :D

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I went outside to my neglected, moss ravaged garden to try some outdoor shots.  I think I wasn’t listening to Roger when he explained about taking pictures of dark objects in glass jars.  It’s either the lab specimen look or annoying glare.  Oh well.

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Babou’s Pickled Mushrooms

3 lbs mushrooms, washed and stem trimmed

1 1/3 cup cider vinegar

1 cup water

4 sprigs thyme

3 bay leaves

2 sprigs rosemary

2 large garlic cloves, crushed

1/2 tsp red or black peppercorns

1/2 tsp whole coriander seeds

5 whole cloves

1/2-1 tsp salt

Bring the vinegar, water, thyme, bay leaves, rosemary, garlic, peppercorns, coriander, cloves and salt to a boil.  Add the mushrooms and boil aggressively until all the liquid has evaporated.

Cool the mushrooms, then place in jars, filling in the spaces with olive oil.  Refrigerate for 2 or 3 days.

Posted in Cooking, Food and Wine, French, Hors d'oeuvres, Recipes, side dish, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments