Friday, January 31, 2014


Per Nana~
When Tricia and I traveled to the Loire Valley last summer,
 one of the chateaux that we visited was the Château de Cheverny. 
After much sightseeing and photo taking, we stopped
 in the  little village for our usual café crème. 
Across from the cafe was a small pâtisserie, so we decided to 
treat ourselves to some goodies. One of the pastries on display
 was the Paris-Brest. At that time I had no idea why it was named 
that,  but the fact that my father came from Brest was enough for me
 to buy one. We brought our treats back to the hotel to enjoy 
later in the day and it was so delicious. 
The actual "Cheverny" Paris-Brest, shot in the hotel room before enjoying~
For this week's recipe, I was absolutely positive that making
 the Paris-Brest at home would be a disaster. I remember that
 when we made the eclairs in 2011 as part of this cooking group, 
Tricia and I could not find the right sized pastry tips and ended 
up with skinny little eclairs. Knowing that this recipe was 
coming up, I researched and found the larger tips at 
A package of four tips in various designs, all 3/4 in size
 plus ten disposable bags. Perfect.  
So far, so good......
Preparing this recipe in stages is the way to go. 
My biggest problem was making perfect rings. 
I don't think I made them wide enough so 
they did not rise as expected.
When the shell was baked it looked pretty good, but since
 it was fairly flat I had difficulty cutting it. After I filled
 it with the cream I sort of patched the top on.
It looked ok and since Hubby thought it was
 very pretty, I considered it to be a winner.
 Not perfect, but it sure tasted wonderful. 

Per Tricia~
This turned out to be a very busy week at work, with a project 
that kept me busy over the entire weekend (sorry for lack of blog
 post commenting) and through the week. Paris-Brest was NOT a
 recipe I wanted to be churning out on Thursday night but there I was. 
Not only did I start late, but had to run to the store for corn starch 
after work. Don't cry for me though, I also get lots of help-especially
 in the form of a certain Dorista who delivered my own little 
set of pastry bags and tips to ensure I had a fighting chance.  
Special Delivery à la Nana
Even with the late start, I still made the components one at a time
 over the course of the evening.  This actually consisted of 3 separate 
recipes- the dough, the filling, and then the actual pastry "assembly"
 and baking. The recipe(s) were straight forward but overall I need to
 hone my pastry piping skills. (that, Nana could not deliver in the
 cute little baggie). So much for the "baker's treat" Dorie referred to as 
being made out of the extra dough- I actually ran out before 
finishing the third circle and got a bit creative. 
 For some reason the pastry simply did not rise as I would have hoped. The coloring was lovely, the almonds looked great on top and thankfully did not get over-browned. 
Filled ~
Cutting the very flat pastry was a bit of a challenge but with all
 those   yummy ingredients and lovely filling, not to mention
the forgiving coating of confectioner's sugar on top, my husband
couldn't wait to  give this a try. And it did not disappoint. 

 It was delicious and the vanilla creme filling with the
 sugar coated almond bits mixed in was out of this world. We both
 gave it two thumbs up and I will definitely work to perfect my skills
 on this one because it really was an impressive looking as well
 as delicious recipe. 
This was a fun adventure, even on a busy deadline, but I have
 to admit that it is also the memories for me that make many 
of these recipes so special. Cheverny, my Grandfather, patisseries, 
travel and of course- French Fridays with Dorie.  
Amazing kitchen gardens at Cheverny.

Pastry was not the only treat that made it back to the hotel...
The memories of our trip to the Loire Valley and Cheverny were a 
welcome distraction from cold weather and too much work :)

Happy French Friday ~

Friday, January 24, 2014

Moules Marinière & Some Catching Up

Per Tricia
With the boys back to school the only mussels eater between my house and Nana's is  my own husband. He got to enjoy 2 pounds of this recipe all to himself, and he just about finished it all in one sitting. Easy, fairly inexpensive, and different from the typical weeknight fare.
 While my husband feels a loyalty to Dorie Greenspan based on the enjoyment he has gotten out of French Fridays over the past few years, he also knows which side his bread is buttered on and declared that he prefers Nana's recipe. She makes a similar dish each Christmas Eve as part of the Feast of the Seven Fishes, and I imagine he wants to ensure he still gets invited. 
Speaking of redemption, I needed a "do over" on the recent stuffed apples since yours truly managed to screw up the simple recipe by using cider vinegar instead of cider. I am glad I have a great sense of humor. And forgiving taste testers. 
With homemade whipped cream and gold sugar ~
I went ahead and did these individually this time. One thing that struck me on the first foray was that the stuffing seemed to brown and frankly, almost burn. I went ahead and loosely covered each bowl with foil from the get go. Was I glad I did. As the pictures show, the lighter colored fruit and nuts kept their color and the final result was truly spoon soft juicy decadence and they cooked beautifully in just about an hour. 
Drizzled "Fat Toad Farm Vanilla Bean Caramel" finishes it (and me) off ~
Per Nana~
Since our Feast of the Seven Fishes, which included mussels, was less
 than a month ago, I could not possibly bring myself to prepare mussels again.
 I do enjoy them but Hubby does not eat them at all, so I decided to prepare
 two "catch up" recipes instead. The first is hachis parmentier. 
For Christmas dinner I had served a beef tenderloin and with all the meat
 trimmings left over I decided to use them in the recipe. The combination of 
beef and sausage was out of this world. I added the remaining cooked
 vegetables to the filling and topped it all with mashed potatoes. 

The melted Gruyère cheese and grated Parmesan gave the topping a beautiful 
color and added delicious flavor. A wonderful dish that I will be making again, 
but maybe not with a beef tenderloin.  
My second catch up recipe was Gougères.  
 This turned out to be so easy that I wondered why I didn't try it earlier.
 I had leftover Gruyère from the hachis parmentier so it all worked out quite well.
 These little morsels of cheesy dough were wonderful and they go
 perfectly with a glass of Kir, Champagne or even wine
Absolutely delicious.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Christine's Simple Party Soups

Per Nana~
This week's selection of vegetable based soups was interesting and a great way to use vegetables in the summer when they are in abundance. I made the broccoli soup with zucchini and it was delicious. I served it as a hot soup the first night, and then chilled on the second day. 
After reading the P&Q's and wondering about amounts of water, etc, I can honestly say that Dorie's quantity of ingredients for the broccoli/zucchini soup was perfect.  My soup turned out not too thick or thin. It was just perfect. 
I'd like to share a seasonal story about "La Galette des Rois", or Twelfth Night cake. The Twelfth Night Cake is an essential holiday tradition in France. In Paris it is usually a flaky puff pastry pie, either plain or filled with Frangipane almond paste, or the orange flavored brioche cake with candied fruit known as Provencial style.  It is intended to celebrate the week of January 6th, or Epiphany.
In 1999 Hubby and I were in Paris for the Millenium, and at one of the patisseries we purchased a small Galette de Rois. Inside was a small figurine called a "fève". Whoever ends up with the slice of cake with the fève is supposedly King or Queen for the day. Originally the fève was a small kidney bean but today they use small porcelain or plastic figures. I came across my fève the other day and thought I would share it with you all.
Per Tricia~
These soups were a treat.  While I have knocked out some homemade soups in my time I have not used a set "formula" like Dorie's friend Christine, who basically uses 4 cups of stock and then a set amount of whatever vegetable. Ok, actually Christine is a Parisian who uses bouillon and water instead of some homemade organic broth, which just makes me like her even more.
I went ahead and tried all 3 varieties even though I am down to one taste tester - my husband. We had asparagus/zucchini soup, red pepper soup, and then broccoli/zucchini soup.
I also would never have thought to add whipped heavy cream to a soup if not instructed in this recipe and it did turn the results into a "party". 
The soups looked extra special but it was not just aesthetics -the cream added a wonderful richness to each. I also added my piment d'Espelette as a garnish and it was perfect. I will absolutely be revisiting these soups in the summer, if not to host a party, then to use up all the fresh veggies (and leftovers......) of the season.

Happy French Friday ~

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Baked Apples Filled with Fruit & Nuts

Per Nana~
About a year ago, Hubby saw a bag of dried figs at Costco and just had to
 have them. After tasting just two of them, he decided they were not to his 
liking. Into the fridge they went while I hoped to find a recipe to use 
them up. When this recipe came along I decided that here was my chance. 
Well guess what. Even dried figs do not last forever. 
They had what Google tells me were natural sugars crystallized on
 them, but they looked absolutely gross. And we were nearing the expiration
 date on the bag so instead I went with raisins, prunes, toasted pecans and
 that delicious Manuka honey from our stash of Seattle goodies. 
I do not have an apple corer so I had to use a trusty knife and spoon. 
The apples took a lot longer to cook than I expected, almost two hours, and 
they were still not very soft. Tasty, yes, but a bit "al dente". I have to 
admit that I did like the filling and as most of you know, I hate raisins. 
I am really not a fan of baked apples but this was a nice recipe and I
 am anxious to see how the other Doristas made out. 
Per Tricia~
This was another case of expectations getting the best of me. 
With the ingredients involved- dried fruit (apricots, cherries & raisins)
 and pecans that I love, cinnamon, honey and sea salt, I didn't it was
 possible for me to end up disappointed. That was the fatal error. 
Those darn expectations. 
And did I mention the cinnamon ? Not just any old cinnamon was used
 but I dug into the stash from the Sahale Snacks swag at the International 
Food Blogger's Conference in Seattle earlier this year. Sahale gave us a tin 
of their special "Yen Bai" cinnamon and it is truly out of this world. Yen Bai 
is a province in northern Vietnam, near the China border and produces what 
is considered the champagne of cinnamons due to the fact that it has the 
highest volatile oil of any cinnamon in the world. All Yen Bai cinnamon
 is Vietnamese...but not all Vietnamese cinnamon is Yen Bai. 
We were off to a good start. I continued on the swag hit and dug into
 the delicious Manuka Doctor honey we also received at the conference. 
(I can still hear the New Zealand accent of their spokesperson) We were
 all sold at the table while taste testing it and I have since learned that 
the benefits of this honey produced from bees that feed off the Manuka 
trees found in New Zealand. It is earthier and richer than other honey, 
and while it tastes delicious, it is also known for its health benefits. In fact,
 some folks literally use it right on their skin as a topical solution.  I focused
 on the taste, however, and was ready to eat the filling before even 
baking the apples.  In hindsight, I probably should have.
An apple corer appears to be the only kitchen gadget on earth that I do
 not own, and I had a tough time understanding how I was to core the 
apple while being careful not to cut through the bottom. I also felt 
horrible wasting much of the  apple to dig a wide hole for the filling so as
 a result I think the filling cavity was undersized. My bad. 
The top of the stuffed apples seemed to darken well before I could get
 them  past the al dente stage and I even threw foil on to protect them. 

I served it with a dollop of vanilla yogurt on top.

I came into this recipe liking baked apples and excited at the filling Dorie suggested, 
but there were simply too many prep steps for the apple, not to mention the
 task of having to baste them every 15 minutes, for me to want to revisit this. 
The taste testers was similarly neutral. Certainly not bad, just not a repeat for us. 
Happy French Friday ~

Friday, January 3, 2014

Dressy Pasta "Risotto"

Per  Nana~
This tops "Hamburger Helper" any day. Only kidding. 
 This was so delicious and simple to make. I could not locate 
any tubetti pasta so I used small elbow macaroni.  
The combination of the onions blending with the macaroni while it
 cooked gave it such flavor, and then adding cream and the cheeses 
made it perfect. We love cooking risotto, it is one of our favorite side
 dishes, especially when I blend some Gorgonzola cheese into it.
 I mentioned to Jim that I would like to try this recipe with the Gorgonzola 
but he said it was good as it is.  As with most pasta dishes, this is a recipe
 that can be made quickly for a weekday dinner for busy working people. 
Per Tricia~
Pasta with butter and cheese has long been a staple "kid's dish" in my
 house. Not that it was passed over by any adults, mind you. Suffice it to 
say that it was easy, inexpensive, and best of all - even  the most finicky 
kids typically would go for a bowl. Which saved a meal, holiday or other
 celebration.  That said, I have to chuckle because while I love the dish, 
I always tried to talk my kids out of ordering this in a restaurant. I figured
 it was about 22 cents worth of ingredients that typically get tagged
 with a price MUCH higher. But to save a night out, we pay......
Now the recipe results. Lovely, easy, inexpensive and made from 
items I have on hand. What's not to love ? I have made pasta a million 
times and  somehow never prepared it with the onions in the broth first. 
As usual with FFWD- Dorie's recipe opened my eyes to a new way. 
A very delicious new way to enjoy  our pasta. All taste  testers 
gave two thumbs up, remarking on how creamy it was. Yum.
Happy New Year ~