CLEMENTINES IN CINNAMON SYRUP

Three ingredients.  Four if you count water. It was one of the best things I’ve made in the last few months, though.  Slices of clementine soaking in a light caramel infused with cinnamon.  First, let me assure you it is not going to be too sweet. It is a perfectly balanced mixture, the clementines lose any of that harshness often found in the raw fruit, and the syrup is so good that I drank what was left in my small bowl after enjoying the fruit. Yes, I grabbed the bowl and drank from it as if it was a glass. What’s more amazing, I did it in the presence of members of our department gathered in our place for a get-together with a guest speaker. That should give you an idea how irresistible it was. I found this gem of a recipe on the fun blog hosted by Zach and Clay, The Bitten Word. If you don’t know about their site, make sure to stop by, you will become a regular visitor… ;-)

ClementinesCinnamonSyrup
CLEMENTINES IN CINNAMON SYRUP
(seen at The Bitten Word, original recipe from Martha Stewart)

1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
8 clementines, peeled and thinly sliced crosswise

Bring water, sugar and cinnamon to a simmer in a small saucepan. Cook until sugar dissolves, about 1 minute.

Arrange clementines in a large bowl. Pour warm syrup over top, and let stand for at least 30 minutes.

Divide clementines and syrup among 4 bowls.

 ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

I hope you won’t let the simplicity of this “recipe” prevent you from making it, telling yourself that it cannot be worth it.  If you like fruit and a dessert that makes you feel light as a feather and pretty energized (must be all that vitamin C, and the cinnamon oils), this is it.  Maybe some might feel tempted to serve it as a topping for ice cream, but for my taste, nothing else is needed.  Just make sure you have enough caramel sauce to soak the slices, and to satisfy your desire to drink every single drop of it.  Slurping is optional, depending on the audience. ;-)

ONE YEAR AGO: In My Kitchen, April 2013 

TWO YEARS AGO: Thrilling Moments (CROISSANTS!)

THREE YEARS AGO: Maple-Oatmeal Sourdough Bread

FOUR YEARS AGO: Pork Trinity: coffee, mushrooms, and curry

 

 

SMOKED SALMON APPETIZER

If you want to serve an elegant appetizer for your next dinner party, but would rather pick something simple to prepare, this recipe is just what you are looking for. All you need is a couple of endives, some smoked salmon (get the best quality you can afford),  and a little Boursin cheese thinned with creme fraiche.

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ENDIVE WITH SMOKED SALMON AND CREAM CHEESE
(inspired by Gluten Free Blondie)

1 or 2 endives (see comments)
Boursin cheese, room temperature
creme fraiche to taste (you can also use sour cream or yogurt)
smoked salmon, very thinly sliced
ground black pepper
fresh dill leaves, minced
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Cut about 1/2 inch off the bottom of an endive spear. Start pulling off individual leaves. As you uncover leaves that are still attached at the base, cut another 1/2 inch off the bottom. Continue separating the endive leaves until you get to leaves that are too small.  One endive will give you about 12 leaves large enough to serve in this type of appetizer.

In a small bowl, mix the Boursin cheese with enough creme fraiche to give it a nice spreading consistency. Arrange the endive on a platter. Spread each leaf with about 1 teaspoon of the Boursin mixture. Top with a sliver of smoked salmon. Sprinkle all of the salmon and cheese topped endive with freshly ground, coarse black pepper, and a little dill.

Refrigerate until serving.
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ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  We loved this appetizer, it is luscious enough with the creamy cheese, but the use of endive instead of a cracker gives it a much lighter feel. Next time I will go one step further and add a couple of capers to each of the servings.  Two endives were butchered to get  enough leaves for the platter you see in the photo.   You might do a lot better than me, but just in case, save yourself some trouble and bring an extra endive home.  I made it 2 hours before serving and the leaves retained their texture reasonably well.  I would not make it more than 3 hours before serving.

I hope that next time you have a dinner party on the horizon, you’ll consider this recipe.
So simple to put together, but it will impress your guests for sure.

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Clementine Cake

TWO YEARS AGO: Springtime Spinach Risotto

THREE YEARS AGO: The end of green bean cruelty

FOUR YEARS AGO: Torta di Limone e Mandorle

 

 

 

 

IN MY KITCHEN – APRIL 2014

My dear virtual friend and blogger extraordinaire Celia started the series In My Kitchen years ago, and I try to participate as often as possible, because it’s so much fun!  Due to the increasing popularity of the event, participants now have to publish their posts before the 10th day of each month, so I hope I can still squeeze this post in her April’s round-up…

In our kitchen…

GIFTS!

CindyJars

From my friend Cindy, who evidently knows me very well, a collection of gifts in one of my favorite colors, shocking red!  Aren’t these containers super cool?  And how about the baking paper cups?

SauceDressing11The containers in action…  on top, yogurt-saffron sauce for some Pomegranate Gelee, and on the lower jar, a Cilantro-vinaigrette ready and waiting…  Life is good!

If that was not red enough, Cindy also gave me a bag of French-style flour, with a bright red label on it!  I am going to use it in some very special bread, still trying to choose the perfect recipe to showcase my gift!

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From Phil, a surprise gift he managed to sneak in the luggage while we were in Paris.  A cookbook from Christian Constant, the chef behind several great restaurants in the 7th arrondisement of Paris, including Les Cocottes de Constant, literally three steps from our hotel. He gave me the book after we arrived home, it was nice to have a souvenir from our short week in the City of Lights.  I might as well include a couple of photos of our dinner at Les Cocottes.

compositeWe both ordered the “cocotte du jour“, which happened to be a chicken with potatoes.  Delicious! But the best was probably the dessert we shared, “La Fabuleuse Tarte au Chocolat de Constant“. Outstanding. We learned from the waiter that one of Constant’s cookbooks for sale at the restaurant (and that I would later receive as a gift) has a recipe for tarte au chocolat, but guess what? The recipe in the book is NOT the same used for “La Fabuleuse” we enjoyed that evening. Constant tweaked that recipe up.  Oh, well…  better know the truth than be disappointed. Non?   :-)
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In our kitchen….

A gift from last Christmas that somehow escaped my previous IMK post.

Coffee

This is a container to hold the waste from espresso machines.  It works very well, you just bang the espresso thingie holder against the central bar, and the used coffee drops in the container.  Plus, the fact that it is black makes it look less messy. Before having it,  we accumulated our coffee waste in an empty yogurt plastic tub until we had enough to dispose in the compost pile.  Let’s say it was not a beautiful sight.  ;-)    If you are interested, amazon.com carries it.   Ours was a gift from one of Phil’s sons.

 In our kitchen..

A few things we brought from Paris…

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(click to enlarge)

Macarons… I fell hopelessly in love with the caramel fleur de sel… oh, my…  but we brought a small assortment of flavors like coffee, chocolate, blackberries, pistachios, raspberries… I am now obsessed with making macarons at home.  Seems like a very brave project to attempt.  Not sure I am up to the challenge, especially after reading a recent post  from Joanne, in which she mentions that her first batch didn’t meet the expectations.  She is an amazing baker, so… doing my own personal math, I am not optimistic (sigh).

Terrine

Terrine of duck with green peppercorns… no, not foie gras, we went a little more wallet-friendly.  This is waiting for a good opportunity to come out and play, possibly in a future dinner party.

 

Chestnut
A bag of chestnut flour, bought near our hotel in France, following the suggestion of Farine, the Bread Baking Queen of All Queens…  As a sneak preview to my readers, my first adventure with this unique flour.  Stay tuned for a full blog about it.

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Free advice: when you place the proofed loaves in the oven, avoid turning the empty banneton over your countertop.  It can get a little messy, and you might need some help cleaning it up…   ;-)

 

Napkins

Some paper napkins from Paris with a drawing of our beloved Eiffel Tower… a bit cheesy, maybe, but I love it! Look at all those red dots, I could not leave them behind…

 

 In our kitchen….

StretchTite

No, I am not completely crazy and obsessed with plastic wraps, but this is it.  No more.  This dispenser is so cool that I probably wasted a couple of meters just rolling out, cutting and aahhing and ooohing… Awesome. If you want to order it, click here. Best gadget ever.  Ever. I am naming it Neo. You know, The One.

 

Because life is not only about food, allow me to share two passions of mine…

Nail polish…

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and bar soaps…

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Love them. Cannot resist trying – daring?  ;-) – a new color of nail polish, or bringing a new bar soap home.  Every time we go to Brazil I get some of my favorites,  nothing fancy, stuff that you can buy at the grocery store. But, they have so many fragrances available: passion fruit, mint, lemon, honey, orchid, jasmine… In the US, I often get scented soaps at stores like Ross.

Back to nail polish for a second, a tip for the ladies who do their own manicure: get a product called “Seche Vite“.  I like to do my nails mid-week very early in the morning, right before leaving to work. Plus, once in the lab I often have to put gloves on, so Seche Vite is a life saver.  The nail polish dries in 5 minutes tops. If you cannot find it in a beauty store in your town,  amazon.com is your best friend.  ;-)

As usual, I close this post with messages from our pets. They are always anxious to share some of what is happening in their lives…

Chief was a bit unsure about cleaning the mess Mom made in the kitchen while preparing her chestnut sourdough bread… his short-term memory is a bit shot, but he still remembers the scalding he and his late brother got in the past….

ChiefFlour

 

Oscar won’t have anything to do with flour, he rather steal kisses from his Mom. She better move fast, or else a dog French kiss will be on its way!

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Oscar and Buck react to some of their favorite words in the English language…
Buck’s ear goes as high as it can possibly go before he goes crazy running in circles…

 

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ShamelessWell, my friends, I am pooped. That walk with Mom did it.  I am chillin’ out, and saying goodbye for now….  Hope you enjoyed Mom’s tour of our kitchen!

ONE YEAR AGO: Whole-Wheat Pasta with Lemony Tomatoes and Spinach

TWO YEARS AGO: Blood Orange Duck: A work in progress

THREE YEARS AGO: Grilled Mahi-mahi with citrus marinade

FOUR YEARS AGO: Memories of Pastéis (and my Dad)

ALMONDS, A COOKBOOK REVIEW

New Year Resolutions are so much fun to break!  I was doing reasonably well on the “no more cookbooks” scenario, but then I read a post on Taste Food that changed all that.  Lynda announced that her recipes would be featured in a soon-to-be-released cookbook, a collaborative effort with Barbara Bryant & Betsy Fentress.  I did not even blink: pre-ordered it right away at amazon.com.  A full cookbook devoted to almonds, with recipes from one of my favorite food bloggers!  That should not (and will not) count as breaking a decision. I had no choice. It was meant to be.

The book is called “Almonds: Recipes, History, Culture“, and you can get it with a simple click here. Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with amazon.com, will receive no compensation whatsoever if you get the book. I just happen to think it is a wonderful publication that my readers will certainly enjoy as much as I did.

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Almonds are a favorite ingredient of mine.  Interestingly enough, Lynda opened my horizons to almond butter a year or so ago, when she published a post on cookies using it. I made those cookies, and  have been a huge fond of almond butter ever since.  Clearly, you will all agree that her cookbook had to be in my kitchen. It was meant to be.  Have I said that already?  Hummmm…..   Without further delay, I share with you the first recipe I made from Lynda’s book.

FarroRisotto1

FARRO RISOTTO WITH ALMONDS, SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS AND BALSAMIC-GLAZED RADICCHIO
(from Almonds, reprinted with permission)

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/4 cups (45g) minced shallots
8 ounces (225g) shiitake mushrooms, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 + 1/2 cups (300g) farro
1/2 cup (125 mL) dry white wine
1 + 1/2 cups (375 mL) chicken stock
1 small radicchio, cored and sliced
1/4 cup (60 mL) balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup (60g) raw almonds, roasted, and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (60g) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
freshly ground black pepper to taste
minced fresh parsley leaves, for garnish

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat Add the shallot and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Saute until the mushrooms begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme. Continue to cook, stirring, until the mushrooms begin to release their juices, about 2 minutes more. Add the farro and stir to coat. Add the wine and cook until the liquid is nearly evaporated. Add the stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until the farro is tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 30 minutes.

While the farro is cooking, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet. Add the radicchio and saute for 1 minute. Add the balsamic vinegar and cook, stirring, until vinegar has thickened and coats the radicchio, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt.

When the farro is tender, stir in the radicchio, half of the almonds, half of the cheese, and season with freshly ground pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Place the farro in a serving bowl, sprinkle with the remaining almonds and the remaining cheese.  Garnish with parsley, and serve immediately.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

 

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Comments:  It took me quite some time to decide which recipe to feature, but I am glad I chose this one, even though I knew it would be tricky to get a good picture. It’s the karma of brown food, so unkind to the camera.  The flavors in this whole-grain risotto are simply spectacular, each component playing an important role, like musical instruments in an orchestra. The grains of farro will have just a little bite left, so the almonds, added in chunks, give this risotto a delightful crunch.  But, in my opinion, the addition of radicchio glazed with balsamic is the touch of genius!  I used a syrupy white balsamic, but I am sure any regular balsamic vinegar will be great too.  Radicchio can be bitter, in this preparation it mellows down and plays nicely with the almonds and the farro. Simply put: a perfect dish, hearty enough to stand by itself as a main dish, but by now you are probably not going to be surprised that we added a little bit of animal protein to our plates.   Sorry, Lynda, I hope you won’t mind…

FarroRisottoServed

 

Let’s take a virtual tour of this beautiful cookbook, shall we? 

The book opens up with an introduction about almonds, in which you will learn a lot about this exotic, versatile fruit, which is in fact not a true fruit, but a drupe.  From its origins in the Middle East, to the way it is farmed today, and its absolute requirement of bees for pollination. Did you know that to make sure the almond trees will bear fruit, farmers in California often have to order special shipments of bees, that travel by trucks sometimes all the way from Texas?  I had no idea. I often skip introductory chapters in cookbooks because I find them for the most part quite boring. For instance, cookbooks that start with “equipment needed”, “ingredients”, or “useful gadgets” just make me roll my eyes to the ceiling and skip those pages without feeling guilty. Not the case in this book. I savored each paragraph and could not put the book down.  The photos in the introduction are spectacular, and that quality is maintained throughout the whole book, almost every single recipe has a photo that goes along with it.  Very few exceptions.

IntroPhoto

And now, onto the recipes.  The book is divided in courses, and I will list the recipes that tempted me the most in which chapter.

Starters & Snacks : Salted and Spiced Green Almonds: this one made me dream, because I probably will never be able to get green almonds. They are available only for a very short time, and I am sure Californians won’t allow them to move too far from their trees…   Burnt Sugar Almonds…  Green Olive and Almond Tapenade: quite a change from the regular black olive concoction… White Gaspacho with Green Grapes and Almonds,  described as light and refreshing, perfect for Summer days. The photo alone made me swoon…  Almond Chai with Dates and Honey... In this page, a reproduction of one of my favorite paintings of Van Gogh, Almond Brunches in Bloom.  A touch of class. In fact, the book is full of reproductions of artwork relevant to the subject.  Humans have been in love with almonds for a very long time, a love absolutely justified.  ;-)

Salads & Vegetables : I wanted to make every single recipe of this chapter, but just to list a few, here we go: Asian Citrus and Almond SlawProvencal Tuna Salad with Almonds, Olives and Capers in Lettuce Cups…  Winter Kale and Quinoa Salad with Carrots and Raisins (amazing colors!)…  Zucchini Carpaccio with Toasted Almonds.

Soba

Pasta & Grains :   Soba Noodles with Spicy Almond Butter Sauce, depicted in the photo above…  I have a very soft spot for soba noodles, so this was a heavy contender for featured recipe in this post.  But there is also Toasted Pearl Couscous with Almonds and Harrissa (I know this one will be a total winner!), Almond and Saffron Rice Pilaf (a classic),  Bulgur Salad with Chickpeas, Pomegranate Seeds, and AlmondsBuccatini with Pesto Trepanese...

Land & Sea : One of my favorite sections of the book. Just to list a few recipes, she starts with Almond-Crusted Pork Chops with Sweet-and Sour Apricot Glaze (need I say more?), follows with Pulled Pork with Red Mole (I almost made this one for this review)… Wine-Braised Chicken with Saffron and Almonds… Mughlai Chicken Biryani… Lamb Tagine with Apricots, Almonds and HoneyRoasted Sea Bass with Orange, Olive, and Almond Gremolata…  Almond and Lemon Crusted Salmon…

Baked Goods & Desserts : Almond Flour Bread opens this chapter. I love using almond flour, so you can bet I’ll be making this bread in the near future,  the photo shows a soft crumb, with a dark crust, perfect toasting bread.  I can imagine the taste… Almond and Cinnamon Kringle... Salted Almond Butter Cookies with Chocolate ChunksAlmond Florentines (I’ve always wanted to try to make these… Pear and Almond Frangipane Tarte (the tarte in the photo is a culinary masterpiece!)… Lemon Semolina and Almond Cake with Olive Oil and Honey...  Almond-Fig Tea CakesAlmond Granita with Raspberries…

If you are a regular visitor of Lynda’s blog, Taste Food, you’ll know what to expect from this cookbook. If you are not, I hope you add her blog to your list of tasty places to visit in the blogosphere. I’ve made several recipes (and blogged on a few) from her site, and have many on my list to prepare at some point in the future. Her site is elegant, straightforward, a real pleasure to visit.

Lynda, thank you for giving me permission to publish this delicious farro recipe, I wish you, Barbara and Betsy a ton of success with this cookbook!

 

ONE  YEAR AGO: Pomegranate-Molasses Glazed Carrots

TWO YEARS AGO: Codruta’s Rolled Oat Sourdough Bread

THREE YEARS AGO: Roasted Corn and Tomato Risotto

FOUR YEARS AGO: Light Rye Bread

 

 

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: CHAI BROWNIES

March 31st. Last day of the month. Last Monday of the month. It can only mean one thing: it’s a food blog party, The Secret Recipe Club Reveal Day!  I knew that March was going to be a particularly busy month, with a trip abroad followed by Spring Break, which for us has little to do with a break, quite the contrary.  We profit from the fact that the students don’t have classes or TA duties to set the accelerator on experiments. So, I jumped on the assignment right away, and that was a good move because my secret blog, Healthy Delicious has been around for a long, long time!  Talk about a veteran food blogger, that is Lauren defined to a T. She is a recipe developer and food photographer, most of her recipes take less than 40 minutes to prepare, and are in perfect tune with her site’s name: healthy and delicious!  ;-)

I was having my share of secret fun bookmarking many options, but then I stumbled on her post on Chai Brownies and noticed the date of its publication. March 11th, 2007.  I know well a person who was born on March 11th.  No, not 2007, but who cares?  A few years here, a few there, compared to the time since the Big Bang, it’s a blink of an eye.  I looked no further.

Still, let me share with  you some of the other recipes I had in mind: Prosciutto and Artichoke Quiche (oh, my!), Baked Chicken and Spinach Flautas (check this recipe out, very nice interpretation of a classic), Lamb Meatballs in Cumin Scented Sauce over Spaghetti Squash (I must make this soon), Pasta with Brussels Sprouts, Pecans and Gorgonzola Cream Sauce , Mussels in Saffron Tomato Sauce (simple and irresistible), and her Lemon Chicken Soup with Tortellini.  But there’s a lot more, as you might imagine from a food blog that has been around for seven years!

And, before I move to the recipe, take a look at Dorothy’s site, Shocklingly Delicious, to see which recipe she chose from my blog (one of my favorite cakes ever and the most popular recipe of BK last year). She wrote such a wonderful post about it, I cannot stop smiling…. Thank you, Dorothy!

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CHAI BROWNIES
(slightly modified from Healthy Delicious)
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for spice mixture:
1/4 cup low-fat milk
a dash of cardamom
3 whole allspice
a dash of cinnamon
3 cloves
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for brownie batter:
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup butter
1 egg
1 + 1/2 cup  flour
3/4  cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder

Heat the oven to 350 F.

Add the ingredients for the spice mixture to a pot and bring to a quick boil. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes. Strain into a large microwave safe bowl.

To the bowl of chai, add butter and chocolate. Microwave about 30 seconds until melted. Stir until smooth. Let cool for a minute. Add egg.  Sift in remaining dry ingredients and mix until it forms a stiff batter.

Bake in a Pyrex dish sprayed with oil, about 25 minutes until set. Let cool, and cut into pieces.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Language pet-peeve alert! Language pet-peeve alert!  ;-)

In the United States,  chai often describes what should be instead called masala:  a mixture of spices such as cardamon, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, that can be used to brew black tea, creating masala chai. By itself, “chai” is a word that means tea, and has its origins in Chinese. Interestingly enough, it is the same word used in Portuguese – chá –  although the pronunciation is slightly different in both languages.

I love the flavors normally associated with masala chai, and thought that the marriage of a good old-fashioned chocolate brownie with such warm spices would be perfect. And perfect it was!

I did not have whole allspice berries in my pantry, but decided it was worth getting a jar, so now I am the proud owner of two allspice products, one whole, one ground.  Gotta put them to good use before they lose their punch.

These brownies brought a lot of excitement to a cloudy and cold Monday morning in our department.  I loved the delicate flavor of cardamon in the background, and the texture of the cake, with a crackled surface was wonderful too.

Lauren, it was great to get to know your blog better, and I urge my readers to stop by her site and browse through, particularly if you like to see recipes that are lightened up without loss of flavor.

For those interested in joining our virtual monthly party, click on the crazy-looking amphibian smiling at the end of this post.

ONE YEAR AGO:  A Small Tribute to a Big Man

TWO YEARS AGO: Still got stout?

THREE YEARS AGO: The Real Vodka Sauce

FOUR YEARS AGO: Spring Rolls on a Spring Day

PRIME RIB ROAST, MEXICAN STYLE

A prime rib is not cheap. Actually, I should be glad that we live in Kansas, where meat is of excellent quality and, compared to other places in the country, quite affordable. Still, it would be terrible to mess it up, something easy to do if you over-cook it.  I normally keep seasoning to a minimum, but for our dinner last Christmas we went with a recipe from Marcela Valladolid, that gave the roast her unique Mexican twist.  Yes, it is March.  Yes, it took me three months to blog about it.  Better late…. than never!  ;-)

Prime Rib Roast

PRIME RIB ROAST, MEXICAN STYLE
(from Marcela Valladolid)

1 (4 rib) prime rib roast with ribs  (9-10 pounds)
Salt as needed
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup assortment of ground peppercorns
1 tablespoon ground chile de arbol
4 garlic cloves, smashed
2 tablespoon ground rosemary
Beef broth as needed

Heat oven to 400°F. Let roast stand for 1 hour at room temperature.  Season the roast heavily with salt.

In a separate bowl, mix the rest of ingredients (up to rosemary)  to form a paste. Rub all over prime rib roast.

Place prime rib roast on a roasting rack, add 2 cups beef broth to the roasting pan. Roast for about 30 minutes, until it is browned. Remove from oven, and reduce heat to 350°F. With aluminum foil, form a tent over the prime rib roast to cover it. Make sure the aluminum foil does not touch the prime rib, since it can damage it crust that it is forming. Return to oven and roast for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until thermometer registers 110°F. Add broth to the pan while roasting if liquid begins to evaporate.

Remove from oven and let rest, uncovered, for a least 20 minutes before carving and pour pan drippings into a separate bowl, reserve and set aside for gravy. Internal temperature of meat should rise to 130°F for medium rare.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

What to serve with it?  You can go simple with a humble veggie like green beans decorated with toasted almonds, or you can tell  yourself what I did: there’s only one month of December in the year, and December means festive…  Therefore, green beans were out, cheese souffle was in.  However, there is also a single month of April in the year. May? Another only child.  Those are important things to consider when planning a side dish. In case I convinced you to indulge, follow this link for my default cheese souffle recipe.   ;-)

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This was a wonderful meal, the prime rib was perfectly cooked, with a delicious spicy coating, not so strong as to mask the flavor of the meat.  I strongly advise using a meat thermometer because just like Beef Wellington, a prime rib must be cooked medium rare and a few minutes longer in the oven can pretty much ruin it.  Marcela Valladolid did it again, another winner recipe at our table!

plated

 Dinner is served! 

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Sourdough Bread with Walnuts and Dates

TWO YEARS AGO: Braised Brisket with Bourbon-Apricot Glaze

THREE YEARS AGO: The Real Vodka Sauce

FOUR YEARS AGO: Pork Tenderloin and Blue Cheese

 

LASSERRE, A FRENCH CLASSIC

Our recent scientific trip to Paris was intense to say the least, and started with a curve ball from my beloved, who tried to be casual when he advised me – twenty-four little hours before our departure to “place a change of clothes in my carry-on.”  Because, “… who knows if the hotel room will be ready for us early in the morning?”   American visitors typically land in Paris around 7am, and on further (insistent) inquiry he revealed that “our first meeting at Institut Necker will be at noon.”  Five short little hours after stepping out of the plane.

I don’t do scientific discussions very well after an intercontinental flight, no shower, and with a sleeping pill hangover, so to put it mildly, I wasn’t thrilled. Our exchanges on the subject ended with his usual “it will all be fine.” Maybe that’s true, but I’d like to get some credit for it: I wrote the hotel and begged them to get us a room as early as they possibly could. The wonderful folks at “Hôtel Londres Eiffel” had our room ready by the time we made it to Paris, after the usual tribulations of customs, luggage retrieval, and train ride. So,  I only had to deal with the sleeping pill hangover. Isn’t life grand? ;-)

As usual in this type of trip, our schedule was hectic, but we promised ourselves three things: wake up early each morning to go running under the Eiffel tower like in the good old days, walk to all our commitments instead of taking the metro, and enjoy one special meal (just the two of us) on the weekend.   Phil made a reservation for lunch at Lasserre, a place we had been before when we lived in the City of Lights, back in 2002.

Restaurant_Lasserre_avenue_Franklin_D._Roosevelt_Paris
Lasserre opened in 1942, got its first Michelin star seven years later and its second in 1951.  The restaurant, under the talent of Executive Chef  Christophe Moret is located at Avenue Franklin Roosevelt in the 8th arrondisement,  a place surrounded by embassies and with that majestic aura that comes so naturally to some neighborhoods of Paris.  Once you set foot inside, the adventure begins… You will be greeted by a stylish maître d’hôtel and led to a cozy lift that will take you to the second floor where the dining room is located. In all its glory and splendor.  Glory and splendor are indeed the two words that will be in your mind throughout the whole meal.

Lasserre1
The restaurant offers many options for a lunch meal. You can order a la carte if you prefer, but a better deal is to pick one of their prix fixe menus. They have several kinds of menus: {Starter + main dish + dessert},  (Starter + two main dishes + dessert},  and also a more extravagant option with several desserts in very small portions at the end.  Their pastry chef,  Claire Heitzler, is well-known for adapting classic recipes and turning them into slightly lighter fair. That’s what we were told, but even with that assurance, we opted for one dessert only, merci beaucoup.   ;-)  Of course, Lasserre also offers a menu including one type of wine matched to each course, but I don’t care for wine at lunch (I know, I’m a bit odd, right?),  so Phil was happy sipping a single glass of Bordeaux with his meal.

On a quick side note: all my photos were taken after I asked for permission.  To keep things as discreet as possible, I used my cell phone and only snapped one picture per plate, so don’t expect great quality in the images.

Let’s get this show on the road…

Starter Course

FoieGrasSoup

Phil went with (no surprise!) foie gras.  The foie gras was first poached, then grilled, and served in a delicate ginger-broth with daikon, a touch of passion fruit juice and seeds (that gave an unexpected crunch!), mango and shaved, toasted coconut.  The foie was superb and the combination of flavors was delightful.

GreenPeaVeloute
I chose a green pea veloute’ soup, poured on top of lettuce leaves and very small croutons made of… foie gras. I am clueless as to how they were prepared,  but each small crouton retained a delicious,  rather subtle foie flavor, with a lot of crunch.  Wonderful!

Main Course

VealPicatta

For his main dish, Phil had the veal piccata. The preparation surprised me, I thought it would be a type of fricassee with the meat in small slices, but instead there were two large pieces of meat, cooked to perfection, in a wine-reduction sauce over wilted spinach.  Luscious…

Lamb

I opted for the lamb, served with farro in a sauce with dried figs and warm spices such as cinnamon and coriander.  The lamb was carved by the waiter using a spoon and a fork, so that the tenderness of the meat becomes evident, and acts as a great advertisement for other guests who might be trying to decide what to choose from the menu. You can see our waiter carving the lamb on the second photo of this post.

Dessert Course

Phil closed down his meal with their  version of tiramisu, which happens to be one of his favorite desserts… It was spectacular, with an absolutely perfect coffee ice cream crowning it.

tiramisu

I went with the Paris-Brest…which Claire Heitzler assembled with an almond-based whipped cream, and fresh raspberries. A small portion of raspberry sorbet was served alongside. The presentation was spectacular, as you can see.

Paris-BrestSorbet

Once our lunch was over, they offered a batch of very small lemon-scented madeleines, fresh from the oven – comme il faut – and tiny cubes of a chocolate concoction that reminded me of flourless chocolate cake in texture and taste.  Superb!

MadeleinesChocolateCubes

Back in 2002, when we were in Paris for a full year, we went to several special restaurants like La Tour d’Argent, Le Jules Verne (at the Eiffel), Taillevent, Le Violon d’Ingres, Benoit, Clos des Gourmets, and Lasserre (at that time for dinner).  In my opinion,  Taillevent (reviewed here) and Lasserre tie for first place as far as dining experiences go.  Of course, the view from Jules Verne is spectacular, the location of La Tour d’Argent cannot be beat, but Lasserre has a touch of elegance and charm that is quite unique. Also, a special added bonus: a ceiling that can be kept closed (showing a painting of dancers and angels by Touchagues) or open to the sky on beautiful nights and sunny days.

Ceiling

In our dinner in 2002, the ceiling was closed, but they opened it a couple of times during the evening.  In our  visit a couple of weeks ago, the weather was spectacular, so the ceiling stayed open full-time, except while the waiter was preparing Crêpes Suzette for guests, and getting ready for the final flambee. The ceiling slowly closed, the lights were dimmed, and the whole restaurant stopped to pay attention to the show.  If it was me trying to prepare that dish under the scrutiny of so many people, a lot more than the crêpes could be set on fire… but the waiter was impecabble, bien sûr!  ;-)

I hope you enjoyed our recollection of a very special time in Lasserre…  

I close this post with my favorite photo of the week, taken on our way to dinner with a colleague.

P&S_SunsetParis2Au revoir, Paris… et a bientot!

ONE YEAR AGO: Sourdough Bread with Walnuts and Dates

TWO YEARS AGO: Braised Brisket with Bourbon-Apricot Glaze

THREE YEARS AGO: The Real Vodka Sauce

FOUR YEARS AGO: Pork Tenderloin and Blue Cheese