Friday, May 29, 2015

Celebration Week #1: The "Aha" Moment & 5 Favorites

Per Nana~
There were so many favorite recipes it is difficult for me to select just a few. 
If I had to pick just one, I would choose the Herbed Olives because it is a recipe
 I make over and over again. I love having them on hand because they go with 
everything - lunch, cocktail hour or just plain munching.   When we originally 
prepared this recipe I had a plumber/contractor working on a new bathroom in
 our house. I started sautéing the herbs and spices and suddenly I hear someone
 saying "Mrs D, you're killing me with that aroma". I just laughed. 
I think my "aha" moment really hit when I decided after cooking the Twenty 
Minute Honey Glazed Duck Breasts that I could cook just about anything. 
 They turned out fantastic. Then there is the Pâte à Choux, which sounds 
difficult but is actually easy.  Without that technique I would not have been 
able to conquer the gorgeous pastry known as Paris-Brest.  Learning how to 
make a sweet tart dough gives you an opportunity to prepare some of the
 most delicious tarts which look so professional and elegant.  
Dorie's instructions are plain and simple and when she tells her stories about
 each recipe it is truly a joy to read.  There is always a "bonne idee" (French for
 "good idea") that works well if you have to make a substitution for ingredients, 
like chicken for veal or shrimp for scallops.  If you can't find an ingredient or 
one doesn't work for your family it is wonderful to have these options offered. 
Gérard's Mustard Tart
I have been cooking routine family recipes for many years but I found that following 
along with a specific recipe is fun.  I came across so many different techniques
 that I had not tried before, such as peeling celery, removing the "germ" from 
garlic or preparing orange segments (supreme) for a tart. These little tricks of
 the trade make a big difference.  I could go on and on but will just conclude by
 saying this has been a fantastic experience and I have enjoyed every minute. 
                                                                      Five Favorites:

  1. Herbed Olives
  2. Gérard's Mustard Tart
  3. Slow Roasted Tomatoes
  4. Rice Pudding
  5. Veal Chops with Rosemary Butter
Per Tricia~
If I had to pick one "Aha" moment from this adventure it would be my 
experience in posting the Almond Orange Tuiles. I say posting instead
 of cooking because the lightbulb went off AFTER the dust settled. 
We made these fancy little cookies in December of 2013, about halfway 
through the adventure and far enough into it that I had a firm trust in 
opening the recipes and following Dorie's instructions. I didn't worry about
 things being too complex because at this point I had learned to trust that
 Dorie would provide great instruction through anything on the pages. 
And had also learned to read the P's and Q's section of our site :)
Like the Nike slogan, at this point we would all "Just Do It". I benefited not 
only from the P&Q's that week but also Nana's delivering one of the key 
ingredients (blanched almonds). But the rest of the ingredients were 
purchased at 8pm on the Friday night the recipe was to be made
 and then taken home to cook at that later hour.  Tuiles are a fragile 
little cookie that involved some timing issues. And other hazards. 
But two years into it and with all that help, I really just dove in because it was 
simply habit by now. No waiting to find the perfect block of time or occasion 
to make a special little cookie. "Every week" means discipline and that you have
 made something part of your life, and the community members along with it. 
The realization hit when I read the comments we received along with my 
peer's posts, with the lightbulb going off that I had come a very long way, 
 with help on that journey. I absolutely would not have spent a Friday evening
 testing a challenging cookie recipe just to test, and share, it were it not for this 
book and group.  But what an adventure it was. That cookie and the rest of 
the book. No looking back, just lots of opportunities ahead in the kitchen. 
Five Favorites:
1. Beggar's Linguine.  This combo simply should not work, but it is crazy good. Folks I serve it to always end up asking for the recipe.
2. Goat cheese and strawberry tartine - Strawberries, goat cheese, balsamic and pepper. Who knew it would be addictive ?

3. Sable Breton Galette with Berries - Breton cake from my family "kicked up a notch" and just gorgeous.
4.  Twenty Minute Honey Glazed Duck Breasts - my guys adored this.
5. Cheesy Crème Brûlée - already decadent, I made it more so by serving it on home made bread toasted. I learned fellow Doristas refer to such a recipe as "stuff on toast". This wins the single recipe that added the most pounds award.....

 Happy French Friday ~

    Tuesday, May 26, 2015

    Rhubarb Upside-Down Brown Sugar Cake ~ Baking Chez Moi

    Per Nana~
    Believe it or not, I have never made an upside down cake before.
     This recipe intrigued me for some reason, probably because of the
     rhubarb, which is our new favorite fruit of summer.
    The whole recipe came together quite well and the aroma even before the 
    oven cooking was wonderful, it must have been the brown sugar and vanilla.
    I did have to add more baking time because after 25 minutes it was not totally 
    baked. The cake came away from the pan easily and the rhubarb looked good 
    and stayed in place. Unfortunately, after it cooled and I attempted to slice some, 
    I found the middle of the cake to be a bit soggy.  The outside portions and the 
    fruit had a wonderful taste but I was so disappointed with the rest of the cake. 
    The only thing to do is test my oven, it is possible that the temps are off and it 
    was not hot enough. With all the baking we have ahead of us, this will be first 
    on my list of things to do - pronto.
    Per Tricia~
    I was away for the Memorial Day weekend when I realized that this cake was
     "due" the following day. I only had an 8 inch Springform pan so I crossed my 
    fingers that this would neither leak not alter the cooking time too much. 
    Near the farm stand- view of Stratton Mountain
    I was also delighted to find the fresh rhubarb at a local Vermont farm stand 
    and counted myself even luckier that they same shop had rhubarb jelly. 
    Duttons Farm Stand 
    The proud owner suggested I photograph her beautiful asparagus too !
     The elusive "Fiddlehead Ferns"- very seasonal. Best to buy them because picking the wrong one could yield a carcinogenic variety.  Local restaurants relish in offering these as a delicious side dish.
    Were it not for this recipe, I wouldn't have 
    looked twice at that flavor and it was quite delicious. 
    My cooking time was also way off, in part because of the pan size and I think
     I also did not have my rhubarb drained enough or "al dente" enough. 

    It smelled amazing and the top was such a golden brown that I foolishly took
     it out after an extra 10 minutes, without using a tester. After flipping it onto
     the serving platter I found the bottom to be under cooked. As in gooey. 
    Figuring I had little to lose, I just put the entire platter back into the oven
     at 300 degrees for what ended up another 35 minutes. My husband had 
    questioned the rhubarb as soon as he saw it in the kitchen. His eyes opened 
    when I mentioned cake but because he was surprised no other fruit was going
     in - "you usually have to mix it with another fruit, no ? Isn't it pretty bad by itself ?" 
    I couldn't recall the last time I had rhubarb so this commentary had me anxious. 
    And for no reason. 
    It was a lovely, sweet cake and wonderful way to enjoy the season.
    Hubby enjoyed it and proclaimed it "actually quite good !".
     All that jelly glaze and brown sugar was the perfect compliment. 

    This marks another Tuesday recipe testing as we cook along with the "Tuesdays with Dorie" online group.  Please note that we do not post the recipes, per the group rules, but we do encourage others to RUN out and buy their own copy of Dorie Greenspan's "Baking Chez Moi".  Better yet, buy the book and JOIN THE GROUP ! 

    Friday, May 22, 2015

    Chicken in a Pot~the Lemon & Garlic Version

    Per Nana ~
    This week's recipe is not really about a "chicken in a pot", it is the
     end result of four plus years of cooking for this project.  As I am 
    writing this post I feel a bit sad knowing that it is the last recipe 
    that will be prepared from "Around My French Table". 
     We have been looking at this chicken on the cover of this wonderful 
    cookbook by Dorie Greenspan and now the time has come to duplicate it.
    This is probably the only recipe that I have made from the book where I
     did not substitute or omit any ingredients. I knew that browning a whole
     chicken was not going to be easy so I tied kitchen twine around the breast
     area to keep the wings tight and also tied the legs. That worked pretty well
    but trying to brown a chicken on all sides is almost impossible.
    After placing the bird in a Dutch oven with all the vegetable, I sealed it
     tight with pizza dough.  Following the directions, I roasted it for 55 minutes
     and the aroma was incredible. I was quite proud of the results. Both the
     chicken and vegetables were cooked to perfection and were delicious.
    Per Tricia ~
    I will save the reminiscing for the upcoming "fun weeks" when we
     celebrate what this blogging community has shared over the last 4 
    plus years, and today I will focus on that amazing chicken. 
    "Official Photo" -Ready for the oven
    My reality- "Sous Chef" laying in wait

    Just when I thought putting a whole chicken and veggies into a pot
     couldn't get much of a new spin, we made it to this recipe. It was not 
    matter of unusual spices as much as the instructions to brown the veggies,
     then whole chicken, prior to assembling them in the pot for cooking.
     Oh yes, and use some dough to seal the lid on. 
    Right out of the oven
    That was a new one indeed. And a fabulous one. 
    My husband and I enjoyed this one thoroughly and I will absolutely 
    be making it for my sons when they are home. I was eyeing a tool to
     use for leverage on that lid, but in an anti-climatic (but appreciated.....) 
    way my lid came off with one solid tug. It still felt fun and I know my
     kids will get a kick out of that step. 
    Thank you Dorie and thank you to our Dorista friends - old and new. 
    Those we have met in person and those will likely only know through this 
    amazing internet community. We look forward to the upcoming celebration
     weeks while cherishing the memories we have built through this adventure. 

    Happy French Friday ~

    Friday, May 15, 2015

    Food Revolution Day 2015

    Friday May 15th 2015 is the fourth annual Food Revolution Day – a day of global action created by Jamie Oliver and the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation to engage and inspire people of all ages to learn about food and how to cook it.   
    This year, Food Revolution Day is a global campaign to put compulsory food education back on the school curriculum. Jamie passionately believes that by educating children about food and cooking in a fun and engaging way, we can equip them with the basic skills they need to lead healthier, happier lives, for themselves and their future families.  Dorie Greenspan agrees – last year when our group Food Revolution Ambassador Mardi Michels ( chatted with her about food education, she said:  “I would love to see a generation that can cook and wants to cook for themselves and others.  The world would be a better place.”

    With overweight and obesity statistics increasing at an alarming rate, and preventable diet-related disease claiming more lives earlier than ever before, it has never been more important to educate children about food, where it comes from and how it affects their bodies. Food Revolution Day is about getting kids food smart and setting them up for a long, healthy life.
    At "French Fridays with Dorie", we were asked to choose a recipe or a technique you have learned from Around my French Table that we think is a “must know”.  

    Per Nana ~
    The most important thing I learned while cooking and preparing the recipes from Around My French Table was to try. 

    I was totally in my own little safe environment cooking what was handed down from both my mother and mother in law.  Traditional recipes are wonderful and as we teach our children and grandchildren, hey become recipes loved by all. 
    Nana's Cooking School- AMFT eclairs

    Now that we have been blogging for over four years I have done so much more. Some successes, some failures, and some I would rather not talk about. 
    Nana's Cooking School - AMFT Eclairs
    I have tried techniques I have never heard, tasted food I was certain would be horrible, and came away from this project with the understanding that you simply have to try. 
    Proud of lessons at Nana's

    One of the techniques I have learned was to make ganache. The first time that came up I thought that I would not be able to make it work, however it turned out quite easy and I was so proud. Over the years I had made many fruit tarts but I then found Dorie's recipe to be so easy and delicious that I haven't used anything else since. I learned to make gravlax, something that always fascinated me, and I actually ate it ! And then there is the dreaded scallop....five recipes in the book called for scallops. It wasn't until doing the make up recipes that I finally tried one and actually liked it. (to Hubby they are up there with mussels, which isn't a good thing)

    Nana's cooking school- ready to share.

    I have found this all so rewarding and I hope that every young person will attempt to learn how to cook, learn about proper nutrition and not be afraid to try anything.

    Years after Nana's Cooking School- the student meets Dorie.

    Per Tricia ~
    What I have learned from "Around My French Table" is that cooking, as well as enjoying what you have prepared, is much more fun as a team effort. Sharing and helping each other, as in all aspects of life, is the way to go. Win win. Really. 

    While Nana and I went into this adventure believing we would simply "test" a recipe and report back to the "internet" each week, the results have been more revolutionary than that. We have made cooking friends all over the world. Ones that know we like to source our flour locally when we can and that we break for fresh cheesecake when on vacation. Our families and friends know that we need taste testers with open minds and a love of food not only each Friday, but each meal. And they want in. Because getting there is half the fun. 

    We have learned that when things sound difficult or the ingredients have us thinking we will not like it before we have tried it, we had better go back to our youth when we were told to "just try it". Because that is also a pearl of wisdom. And Dorie has given us many such pearls. (Tuna and Mango Ceviche...I am looking at you).

    No one has to go it alone in French Fridays because there is community of folks posting in the "Problems and Questions" section each week telling you what issues they ran into and how they resolved them. Where to find Rose Water and that we should not use canned zucchini flowers if out of season because it is not the same. While this group reinforced the support system for us, others can find the same by being engaged in their local community or simply reaching out for advice on the many internet recipe communities. How about when my neighbor offered me heirloom tomatoes that were overflowing from her garden, serendipitously on the same day I needed tomatoes for a French Friday recipe ? And then started a food blog herself when I told her about our group ? By the way, even though we have moved across town she delivered me an heirloom plant last night for my new garden. Ties bind through cooking and sharing.  

    We have enjoyed watching our single friends share their prepared recipes with friends and neighbors who are just waiting for the results of the Friday adventures, witnessed others preparing dishes along side their own children or grandchildren who magically aged while we did not over the years :)

    I was supported not only by the community but directly by Nana, who often sourced and delivered the more unusual ingredient to me in the famous blue tupperware containers - sharing to help ensure I would be able to prepare the recipe. That is they key to success. Getting help and taking it - sharing the journey. Several years ago Nana had my younger son visit her after school and she did an informal "Nana's Cooking School" with him. It was fabulous (pictures shared here) and we then held a family dinner when we all joined to eat what they prepared. Love that idea ~

    Throughout AMFT Dorie tells us about conversations with her butchers, bakers and recipe sharing friends. Yes- that is what we need to get back to doing and of course, making sure to share this with the younger generation. To prepare food they do not have to simply go to the grocery store and then sequester themselves alone in the kitchen. These are key life skills to share and in busy times, it is all the more important to ensure they don't fall by the wayside. One unexpected joy of this adventure has been to see my son's reactions to our cooking on this site - how much they enjoy seeing us involved, helping with either cooking or taste testing and understanding that there are no guarantees but just trying is more than worth it.  

    Happy Food Revolution Day ~ Spread the word !

    Tuesday, May 12, 2015

    Nutella Buttons ~ Baking Chez Moi

    Per Nana~
    Let me start by saying that I REALLY need to work on my decorating skills. 
    When Dorie said the yield of this recipe was 24 mini cupcakes I filled 24 cups 
    with the first bit of cake batter plus the Nutella.  After doing that I realized I 
    didn't have enough batter to fill each cup to the top. 
     When I frosted them I made such a mess on the cupcake papers (the cupcakes
     were well below the paper line) that I decided to quit after a half dozen.  
    The next time I will do six at a  time. 
    I found the cake batter to be unusual at first, but after folding in the egg whites
     it all came together.  These little morsels were quite tasty - even the few that
     did not have any topping, and I will certainly be making them again. 
    Per Tricia~
    I was delighted that my younger son, who is a huge Nutella fan, made it 
    home from college in time for us to share these cupcakes. 
    He is here less than a week, then heads to London for a summer 
    program, so it was even more wonderful that the tight schedule worked 
    in his favor....because he would not have wanted to miss it. 
    "Nutella buttons" are basically a homemade cupcake with a spoonful of 
    Nutella hidden inside prior to baking. The chocolate on top is not actually 
    Nutella, but a home-made ganache found in the back of BAKING CHEZ MOI.
     While mine tasted fantastic, it was the ganache that gave me the most 
    difficulty.  I must have messed up my ratios because I simply could 
    not get it to thicken up. I went from counter tempering, to then trying
     the fridge, to finally trying the freezer.  Even that took a while.
    The batter did have me worried because it looked like no cake batter
     I have ever made before. It was mealy and did not resemble the "paste" 
    Dorie described until after the melted butter was added. I wasn't sure folding 
    the whipped egg whites was going to work. Luckily, Nana had given me the
     heads up about possibly coming up short on batter so I prepared six at a time. 
    I ended up with a dozen full sized cupcakes. It is a heavier cupcake than I 
    am used to but there were no complaints from this household for the taste.  

    Another fun week ~

    This marks another Tuesday recipe testing as we cook along with the "Tuesdays with Dorie" online group.  Please note that we do not post the recipes, per the group rules, but we do encourage others to RUN out and buy their own copy of Dorie Greenspan's "Baking Chez Moi".  Better yet, buy the book and JOIN THE GROUP !