Posts in France
Croissants

If I thought bagels were ambitious, croissants are just insane. Ok, maybe that is a little unfair, but it felt like a crazy endeavor and the timeline really does necessitate some commitment. 

Croissants

I'm going to be honest, I wouldn't dare put together my own version of a recipe or tutorial for croissants. There are so many steps and such precision in directions, times, and temperatures, I think I'll leave it to the experts. 

I followed Tartine's fabulous step by step recipe as shared by Saveur. I started them on Friday night and finished around 11:00am on Sunday. Though complicated and a little scary they were completely worth it for the steaming soft interior and the shatteringly crisp exterior. With a hot cup of cafe au lait and a French Grand Prix to watch, these were heavenly. 

Croissants and Cafe Au Lait

What I will share with you is the Almond Croissant variation from TARTINE. Because, OMG, Almond Croissants At Home. I feel like I have super powers. I made these. And then I ate them all. 

Almond Croissants

Almond Croissants

Adapted from TARTINE by Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson

12 Croissants
1 cup Frangipane Cream (below)
¼ cup Sliced Almonds
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

Bake croissants and allow to cool. When cool enough to handle, split each croissant in half, but not all the way through. Spread bottom half of croissant with frangipane cream, close croissant and top with a little more frangipane cream, just enough to allow some sliced almonds to stick. Top each with sliced almonds and arrange on baking sheet. Bake at 350 until hot, cream is melted, and croissants are crispy, about 20-35 minutes. Serve dusted with confectioner’s sugar.

 

Frangipane Cream

Makes about 3 cups

2 cups sliced almonds
1 cup sugar
¾ cup unsalted butter
a pinch of salt
4 tsp Brandy (optional)
2 large eggs
2 tbsp whole milk

Combine the almonds with ¼ cup of the sugar in a food processor until finely ground. Set aside.

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment beat the butter until creamy. Add remaining ¾ cup sugar and mix to incorporate. Add the almond sugar mixture and beat until thoroughly combined. Add salt, brandy, and 1 egg, mix until incorporated. Add remaining egg and the milk, mix until light and fluffy.

 

And a final note on the process... 

recipe timing croissants

Sometimes when I start to make complicated recipes I have to create a step by step timeline to figure out when I'll need to be available and how long each step will take. It helps me feel a little more like I can tackle a multi day project. I do this when I'm painting a room too. Clean, sand, putty, sand, clean, prime, prime, paint, paint, paint. Look back and admire. Same concept. Much tastier result. 

This was my croissant guide. My shorthand is probably not understandable to anyone else, but it helps me get through the recipe, even if it takes a few days :) 

 

Let me know if you decide to tackle some crazy cooking project! I'd love to hear about it. 

Classic French Cocktails

A few of my favorite cocktails have french origins. Simple, refreshing, and elegant. 

Sidecar

 

The Sidecar

1 1/2 oz cognac
2/3 oz triple sec
1/2 oz lemon juice

Optional sugar rim: slice of orange, white sugar

To add optional sugar rim: Place sugar on a small plate at least the width of the mouth of your martini glass. Slide a wedge of orange around the rim of your glass and then gently set rim of glass onto sugar plate, gently agitate or roll rim around, until rim of glass is completely lined with sugar.

Combine cognac, triple sec, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until combined and well chilled. Strain into a martini glass.

 

French 75

French 75

2 oz gin
½  oz simple syrup
1 oz lemon juice
3-4 oz Champagne or sparkling wine

Combine gin, simple syrup and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until well combined and chilled. Pour into a coupe or flute. Top with champagne or sparkling wine.

Endive, Roquefort, and Walnut Salad
endive salad

I need little persuasion to buy a nice hunk of cheese. Though I'm not sure my cheese monger (read: the lady behind the counter at Whole Foods) would appreciate me calling a perfectly beautiful wedge of Roquefort a "hunk of cheese". In the end though, it could look like anything as long as it tastes this good. 

I'm not sure when I became a stinky cheese fan. I'm sure as a little kid I did not enjoy the powerful smell much less the texture of a cheese like Roquefort or any blue cheese, brie, or even goat cheese for that matter. But like coffee, Brussels sprouts, and a seriously spicy curry, I'm a convert. 

This is a lovely composed salad with a perfect combination of crunchy, creamy, bright, bitter, and sweet. 

Endive, Roquefort, and Walnut Salad

Serves 4

Adapted from French Country Cooking: Meals and Moments from A Village in the Vineyards by Mimi Thorisson

3 tablespoons walnut oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt and fresh black pepper
3 endives, leaves separated, large leaves sliced in half
2 small apples, thinly sliced
10-20 walnut halves
4 ounces Roquefort cheese

In a mason jar combine walnut oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt and pepper, shake to combine to make dressing.

In a large salad bowl toss together endives, apple slices, and walnuts. Drizzle dressing over salad. Crumble cheese over top. Serve immediately.

Leek Gratin
leek gratin

One of the great things about cooking recipes from around the world is learning new ways to work with ingredients. Leeks are not a common vegetable in my house. I'm never quite sure what to do with them. They make an occasional appearance in a soup or in a braise, but rarely as the star. This dish makes them the star. 

This gratin is very rich and creamy. It would be especially good along side any bright salad or light fish dish. Topping it with prosciutto is optional if you want a vegetarian option, but if you do eat meat it adds a nice salty umami to the dish. 

Gratin de Poireaux
Leek Gratin

Adapted from Williams Sonoma Savoring France by Georgeanne Brennan

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 1 teaspoon butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
6 large leeks, white part and 2 inches of the green, chopped
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 cup milk
4 oz soft goat cheese
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
2 oz thinly sliced jamon or prosciutto (optional but recommended)
2-3 tablespoons grated Cantal or Comte cheese

1. In a large sauté pan over medium heat melt 1 tablespoon butter and olive oil. When the butter foams add leeks and cook until softened, 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside

2.Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 1 quart baking dish with about 1 teaspoon butter.

3. In a heavy saucepan melt 2 tablespoons butter. When it foams remove from heat and whisk in flour, salt, black pepper, and cayenne to create a paste. Return to medium heat, add milk in steady stream continuing to whisk. Lower heat and whisk until there are no lumps. Continue to cook until mixture thickens, 10-12 minutes. Stir in the goat chees until well blended.

4. Stir in the leeks, parsley, and jamon. Spoon mixture into prepared baking dish. Top with grated Cantal cheese. Dot entire surface with small cubes of remaining tablespoon of butter.

5. Bake until cheese on top bubbles and a golden crust forms. 20-30 minutes. Serve hot.

2018 French GP: Almond Sole Meunière, Leek Gratin, and Endive Salad

The return of F1 to France seems like a good omen for the sport. New races like Austin are going strong, and returning to classic tracks, and really where Grand Prix racing started, feels like progress and history getting along just fine. 

This is race one of an F1 tripleheader, and on a personal note, it is coinciding with a crazy work schedule, in-laws in town, and the World Cup. So many things to prep for, do, cook, watch, and recover from. So, forgive me for my delays. I do promise there will be delicious recipes and an assortment of fanfare… just doled out over time.

Sole, Gratin, Endive

For France, I couldn’t do just one thing, or even just one cocktail, or one meal. Every time I tried to rein in my menu planning I thought about just that one or maybe two other thing I wanted to make or eat and the recipe lists I came up with go on for pages. What I ended up making is my poor attempts at reining in, but luckily I wrote down all my ideas, and I am already drooling thinking about next year.

For this year I wanted to try my hand at some classics. We started the weekend with croissants. I want that to be what I say every weekend from now on. “We started the weekend with croissants.” Handmade or from the little patisserie we have fallen in love with downtown, I just want more croissants in my life. Although they took three days and a solid day or rolling, folding, refrigerating, waiting, rolling, folding, and so on... they were so worth it. The crispy outside shattered to perfection, the inside was steamy and light and oh so buttery. I am smitten. If you have 20 minutes on a Friday evening and a free weekend, I highly recommend you try your hand at croissants. It is soooo rewarding. And your kitchen smells like HEAVEN.

Croissants

For dinner we started with a favorite of my husbands, escargot. Our local Whole Foods had them pre-stuffed with an herb butter mixture so my job was easy.  A little toast and some clever tinfoil molding (to prevent the butter from leaking out of tipped over shells) was all I needed to do. 

Escargot

The main meal consisted of Almond Sole Meunière, Leek Gratin, and Endive, Apple, and Roquefort salad. I gathered all my French cookbooks and supplemented with another tall stack from my local library. I think I marked over a hundred recipes and read about French cooking and culture to my heart's content. I chose these to complement each other and because they kept catching my eye each time I flipped through the books.

French meal

As French culture requires, we followed this up with a cheese course. My strategy for cheese plates is generally one hard cheese, one soft, something stinky, and something I’ve never tried before. It works splendidly.

Cheese plate

Having all this deliciousness along with a couple cocktails, I cannot say that this weekend wasn’t one of decadence, indeed it was. But it was also one of memories, trying new foods and new techniques, and one of inspiration to remember in my daily life to enjoy the little things, especially when they are layered with butter. 

Speaking of memories, this weekend really brought back to mind one of my favorite trips of all time. Almost five years ago I got the opportunity to travel to Belgium, France, and Luxembourg visiting family of my husband's and exploring three beautiful countries. I had many wonderful experiences and quite a few food firsts along the way. That trip included my first experiences with escargot, frogs leg, Alsatian wine, foie gras, fondue, real Parisian croissants, saboyan, epoisses, and so much more. One of my favorite memories was of a picnic to end all picnics. We had a large family group and so we drove around in 4 or 5 cars, and one day our train of cars drove out into the country, each following the others trusting we would end up somewhere beautiful.

Once we reached the top of a hill, a view like no other, everyone piled out of the cars, popped the trunks and pulled out the most amazing picnic I have ever seen. Proper picnic baskets, a travel box filled with real wine glasses, cases of Alsatian wine we had picked up on our short stay there, pots of pate, foie gras, perfectly fresh bread, fresh fruit, so much deliciousness, and 20+ family members laughing, drinking, eating, and just enjoying each other's company. It is always my wish to bring that kind of joy into other's lives, and indeed to have it in my own. This French F1 weekend was a chance to do a little of that. I hope you enjoy the recipes and have an excuse to have your own virtual trip through the flavors of France. 

Sole Meuniere

Almond Sole Meunière

Serves 4

Adapted from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan

2/3 cup ground almonds
2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper
4 sole fillets, about 6 ounces each
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
2-4 tablespoons cold salted butter

Lemon wedges, for serving
Toasted sliced almonds, for garnish
Parsley, for garnish

1. Mix the ground almonds, flour, lemon zest and salt and pepper together on a plate.

2. Pat sole fillets dry. Using a pastry brush lightly coat one side of the fillets with beaten egg yolk. Dip the coated side of each fillet in the almond mixture.

3. Cook fish in batches if needed, do not crowd them. (Warm oven to 300 to keep fist set of fillets warm, if cooking in batches.) Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet until it melts and lightly browns, about 3 minutes. Add fillets to pan almond mixture side down. Season fish in the pan with salt and pepper. Cook on medium-low heat until coating is golden and fish is cooked halfway through. Add another ½ tablespoon butter, flip fish very gently. Cook until fully cooked, about 2 minutes. Repeat with additional fillets.

4. Serve fish with a squirt of lemon and lemon wedge. Top with parsley and sliced almonds.

 

Additional Recipes:

Leek Gratin
Endive, Roquefort, and Walnut Salad
Classic French Cocktails