CHICKEN KATSU

For something so simple to put together, it is amazing how this recipe delivers everything you’d need for a weeknight dinner. Hard to believe I had never tried to make it, as we love breaded and fried chicken breast, usually either plain or taken to the limit of the gastronomic naughtiness: Chicken Parmigiana. But, better late than never, this will definitely become part of our regular rotation.

CHICKEN KATSU
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by several sources)

2 chicken breast filets
2 eggs, beaten with 1/2 tsp salt
Panko bread crumbs, a cup or so
grapeseed oil or other mild tasting oil
for sauce:
1/4 cup ketchup
1 T soy sauce
1 tsp oyster sauce
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Dijon mustard

Make sauce mixing all ingredients and reserve.

Cut the chicken breasts in half lengthwise, and pound each half to have it thin and uniform in size. It needs to be thin because you will cook it exclusively in the frying pan, a few minutes per side.

Season each slice lightly with salt, dip into the egg and coat with Panko.  Heat the oil in a large skillet and fry until golden brown on each side and the meat is cooked through. Set on a piece of kitchen paper to drain excess oil. If you need to fry in batches, make sure to clean the skillet of burned up pieces of Panko, and add new oil for the second batch.

Serve over white rice, with the sauce drizzled on top.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: What a delicious meal this was! Phil is not that much into sauces, and was ready to enjoy his chicken plain. But he ended up trying a bite from my plate, and next thing I know, he was adding sauce to his too. It does add a lot to the chicken, that sweetness cuts through the fat, makes the whole thing more satisfying. I served with rice, as traditional, but also quickly sautéed zucchini, which went very well with the whole thing too.


I highly recommend you give this recipe a try!

 

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Whole-Lemon Marinade: Long Overdue

TWO YEARS AGO: Tomato and Cucumber Salad with Almond Vinaigrette

THREE YEARS AGO: Eggplant Tomato Stacks

FOUR YEARS AGO: The Couscous that Wasn’t

FIVE YEARS AGO: Apple-Cinnamon Bread

SIX YEARS AGO: Blueberry Galette

SEVEN YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, August 2011

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Journey to a New Home

NINE YEARS AGO: Friday Night Dinner

STRAWBERRY-MANGO ENTREMET CAKE

Pushing a little bit the boundaries of my comfort zone, with this cake I practiced making a pattern on the sponge component, baking a mango-flavored meringue, and using a gelatin-based topping. The basic recipe was from the book Modern French Pastry. The cake, called Moulin Rouge, is a looker. I modified the recipe quite a bit, so I share my version with you. Make sure to read my comments, as I consider this cake still a work in preparation.

STRAWBERRY-MANGO ENTREMET CAKE
(adapted from Modern French Pastry)

for the side-decoration:
50 g butter
56 g powdered sugar
60 g egg whites (about 2 eggs)
56 g all-purpose flour
red food coloring

Mix the butter and sugar in a Kitchen Aid type mixer with the paddle attachment until creamy. Add the egg whites very slowly, a little at a time. Clean the sides of the bowl often. Add the flour and gently mix on very low-speed, then add the food dye.  Lay the stencil you intend to use on a Silpat, or if drawing a pattern free-hand, lay the design on parchment paper to make it easier to draw with the batter.  Brush the batter on the stencil, then scrape all excess off with a bench scraper. You will not use all the batter made, but it is easier to work with more than you need.  Gently pull the stencil up. See my composite photo under the recipe.

Freeze the design for an hour or so. You can do this step the day before.  Do not remove from the freezer until you are ready to bake the cake layer.

Joconde Cake Layer
65 g powdered sugar, sifted
36 g pastry flour
65 g almond flour
100 g eggs  (whole eggs, at room temperature)
120 g egg whites (from about 4 eggs)
30 g granulated sugar
75 g unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Heat the oven to 400 F. Add powdered sugar, flour and almond meal to the bowl of a mixer. Mix gently to incorporate them.  Add the eggs and beat on high-speed for about 5 minutes, until very fluffy. Reserve.

Make a meringue with the egg whites and sugar, bringing it to soft peaks. Start with the egg whites in the mixer on low-speed, increase to medium, once you see a trail forming as the mixer is going, start adding the sugar slowly.  Once you get to soft peaks, stop. Over-beating the meringue will make it hard to incorporate it in the cake batter.  Gently fold the meringue on the egg-flour mixture that you reserved.  Add a bit of the mixture to the bowl with melted butter, mix gently. Pour that into the cake batter and gently fold.

Remove the stencil design from the freezer, pour the batter over it, trying to level it as best as you can with an off-set spatula. You want to keep the air incorporated in the batter, so be gentle. Run the spatula just over the surface, you don’t want to risk disturbing the pattern underneath it.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes. You need to start noticing a little browning on the surface, but not much. If you notice the edges getting crunchy, remove from the oven. Let it cool before proceeding.

Mango-Flavored Meringue
30 g powdered sugar, sifted
30 g pulverized freeze-dried mangos (use a food processor)
80 g egg whites
80 g granulated sugar

Heat the oven to 350 F. Trace two 8 inch circles on parchment paper, and place it over Silpat. Prepare a large piping bag fitted with either a large (1/2 inch) piping tip, or just cut the bag with that dimension.

Mix the powdered sugar with the pulverized mango and reserve.  Make a meringue with the egg whites and sugar as described for the Joconde layer. There is a lot of sugar in this version, so you don’t have to worry about over-beating.  Once you get to stiff peaks, mix the mango-sugar mixture, folding it delicately. 

Spoon the mixture in the prepared piping bag, and pipe it on the Silpat, in each of the circles, starting from the center.  Leave a little border empty, as you want the meringue to be smaller than the diameter of the cake. You can see in the central picture of the meringue composite that the pencil drawing is about 0.5 inch larger. You could conceivably draw a smaller circle, but it is easier to see where you are and stop short, then risk going too much over it. Still, do whatever feels better for you.

Bake for 20  to 22 minutes. Meringue should feel dry to the touch and just be starting to brown.

Strawberry Mousse
12 g powdered gelatin
60 g cold water to boom gelatin
350 g strawberry puree (use the food processor)
175 g powdered sugar
350 g heavy cream

Combine gelatin with cold water and allow it to bloom for a few minutes. Place the strawberry puree in a saucepan, add the powdered sugar and mix gently over low-heat until warm.

Whisk the cream in a Kitchen Aid type mixer to soft peaks. Do not over-beat.  Reserve.

Melt the gelatin in a microwave, in very short bursts, keeping a close eye, as you don’t want it to boil, just melt smoothly.  Add some of the strawberry puree to the gelatin to incorporate it in, then pour the mixture into the rest of the puree. Mix gently, but well, you want the gelatin to be fully distributed throughout the fruit.  Add 1/3 of the puree to the whipped cream, fold. Add the remaining of the puree, fold gently. The mousse is now ready to use.

Strawberry Gelatin Topping
5 g powdered gelatin
25 g cold water
75 g soaking syrup (water and sugar in equal weights, dissolved by heating)
75 g strawberry puree (passed through a sieve to remove seeds)
red food dye, just a tiny drop (optional)

Combine the gelatin with water to bloom for a few minutes. Heat the soaking syrup, add the gelatin and stir until fully melted. Slowly stir the strawberry puree, and the food coloring, if using. Refrigerate until needed. When ready to finish the cake, warm it in a microwave in very short bursts of heat, until it’s about 90 F.

ASSEMBLING THE CAKE
Dust the cold Joconde cake with granulated sugar. Place a parchment paper on top, and flip it. Remove the silicone sheet slowly, and marvel at the pattern that you see! Now you need to decide the dimension of the cake strips. In the book he recommends 1.75 inches, but I did about 2 inches. You need two strips of cake with the exact same dimension, and they will go around the perimeter of an 8-inch diameter cake ring.  With what is left of the cake, cut one circle a little smaller than 8-inches in diameter, as it will sit inside the perimeter laid by the cake strips.

Place an acetate strip inside the cake ring. Lay the cake strips with the design facing out, they should fit very snuggly, so it is best to allow them to overlap slightly, then force them into place. Now place one meringue ring at the bottom. Add one-third of the mousse over it. Top the mousse with the cake circle, the design can be facing up or down, it does not matter as you won’t see it.  Add another third of the mousse.  Place the second meringue ring on top, add the rest of the mousse, and spread as flat as you can, trying to make it almost leveled with the top of the cake strips.  Freeze overnight. If needed, you can trim the top of the cake layer with scissors before finishing the cake.

Remove from the freezer, and pour the warmed up strawberry topping. Do it quickly, as it will solidify. Remove the cake from the ring, pushing it from the bottom, gently but with authority… Place it on a serving platter, and decorate with freshly cut strawberries.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: You know that thrill of opening the lid of the Dutch oven and getting the first glimpse of the sourdough loaf inside? That is quite similar to the thrill of inverting the cake after baking, and peeling that Silpat to – hopefully – reveal the design. My heart was going at 100 bpm… The stencil I have is really big. I wish they made it in half-sheet size. I’ve been flirting with the idea of cutting it, as I will never need to lay such a huge pattern during my lifetime. Since it is so huge, I had to lay it over the Silpat on my countertop, with the stencil extending way beyond it, and making quite a mess on the granite. No way to avoid it, actually. But the process went more or less smoothly. I had to do it twice because on the first time I lifted the stencil too quickly and messed up the pattern on one of the sides. Live and learn.  Once the pattern is laid and frozen, the rest should go smoothly. The cake batter is poured right over the frozen design before it goes into the oven.

The meringue component was a bit challenging for me, particularly judging when the disk was properly baked. You do not want to have it too dark, because it gets brittle and breaks when moving it around. But under-baking is not a good idea. Mine was slightly over-baked in parts, but not fully baked in the center. I need to get a better “feel” for it, and also practice the piping to get a more uniform surface. Still, since the disk is hidden in the final dessert, any catastrophic events becomes a secret between the baker and the cake. What happens in The Bewitching Kitchen, stays in The Bewitching Kitchen.

I had to modify quite a few details in the recipe, mostly because the texture of my meringue was far from perfect. I strongly advise you to get the book if you enjoy this type of baking challenge, and try their version. Their meringue is flavored with coconut and black pepper (yes, you read that correctly). And they also add another layer of complexity with some jam. I say no more. You must get the book. Which, by the way, has one amazing recipe after another.  Like the one in the cover, yin and yang of mousse and fruits. Can you imagine bringing that to the table after a dinner party?

When I make this cake again, I will substitute the meringue layer for something else. Maybe a genoise with praline on top for texture. I have to agree with my friend Jennifer, that the meringue does not freeze as well as a sponge cake. For this type of entremet that needs to spend hours in the freezer, I think sponge layers work better. I cannot believe I am considering modifying a pretty complex cake recipe but… strange things happen in the universe. We are living in a twilight zone in ways that go beyond politics (wink, wink).

The topping reminded me of a mirror glaze, because you need to exercise patience and wait for it to cool to below body temperature. I actually find it easier to make it the day before, and warm it up for a few seconds at a time in the microwave, with super gently mixing (no whisking!), to avoid bubbles. Then it will be just a matter of minutes until you are done. Well, not actually you, but the cake.

The edges of my cake did not look as perfect as the picture in the book, so I added some sparkling sugar. Nothing like a little sparkle to cover sins. The flavor was spectacularly strawberry-ish, and the mango in the meringue a subtle added tropical bonus. By the way, when I was processing the dried mango to add to the meringue something quite funny happened. As I opened the processor, a fine dust of mango powder hit my nose. I got a severe case of…. Hiccups. Pretty funny. It passed quickly, though, but just in case you process dried mangos, avoid getting a deep sniff of the powder. Or, go for a full sniff and tell me if you get the hiccups too.

I feel I’m getting a little more comfortable with entremet cakes. The layers in this cake were better defined than my previous attempts, and the cake cut very nicely. Still,  there is a lot of room for improvement. One cake at a time, I hope to get there.

ONE YEAR AGO: Hommage to the Sun

TWO YEARS AGO: Tomato and Cucumber Salad with Almond Vinaigrette

THREE YEARS AGO: Eggplant Tomato Stacks

FOUR YEARS AGO: The Couscous that Wasn’t

FIVE YEARS AGO: Apple-Cinnamon Bread

SIX YEARS AGO: Blueberry Galette

SEVEN YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, August 2011

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Journey to a New Home

NINE YEARS AGO: Friday Night Dinner

A STAR FROM ENGLAND IN THE BEWITCHING KITCHEN

Kit Harington? You’d think? Well, that did not happen (Sally fans herself). But another superstar from England did arrive, albeit inside an envelope. Star, the sourdough starter produced by my dear friend Elaine, from foodbodsourdough.  I wasted no time. Opened the package, refreshed my new baby, made my first loaf a couple of days later. The starter is really powerful, I love it.  For my first adventure with Star, I chose a turmeric-scented loaf, full of black sesame seeds.

BLACK SESAME TURMERIC SOURDOUGH
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

200 g sourdough starter (at 100% hydration)
325 g water at room temperature
450 g bread flour
50 g dark rye flour
9 g salt
1/2 tsp turmeric
30 g black sesame seeds

Dissolve the sourdough well in the 325 g water. Add the flours, salt and turmeric, mix until a shaggy dough forms. Leave 10 minutes undisturbed.  Add the sesame seeds and mix well by kneading/folding.

Leave to ferment for 4 hours with folding at 40 minutes, 1 hour and 20 minutes, 2 hours, and 3 hours. At the end of four hours, shape as a round loaf, and place in a banetton, seam side up. Transfer to the fridge and leave it overnight (about 12 hours).

Remove the shaped dough from the fridge as you heat the oven to 450 F.

Invert the dough on parchment paper, slash and bake with initial steam (I use a covered Dutch oven for 30 minutes, then remove the lid).  Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, reducing the heat if necessary to 425 F.

Cool completely on a rack before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  Elaine’s Star Sourdough starter comes in a very nice package containing the dried up sourdough in small pieces, and a beautiful card explaining how to deal with it. A little water, a little flour, and you are done for that day.  The composition photo above shows in the bottom right the starter just a few hours after the first refreshment, and on the bottom left what I found on the morning of the day I made the bread. Star maybe missed his Mom and wanted to leave me?  It definitely seemed like it!

I used my regular method of folding the dough. As for slashing, the sesame seeds definitely prevent too much artistic input, as they make slashing a bit trickier, so I opted for a more random approach. The bread had tremendous oven spring, and when it was cooling, it sang “The Song of My People”, as great bread always do. I love it when it happens.

Phil went crazy for this bread, thought that the crust in particular was perfect. It turned out thinner than most sourdoughs I usually bake (no idea why), and the taste was spectacular. The turmeric flavor is quite subtle. Saffron would be equally nice too, I just did not think about it in advance to soak a little water with saffron threads and have it ready.  I prepared the dough on a Friday, end of the day, and the bread was in the oven by 6am next day. Nothing beats the smell of fresh bread to start a weekend.

Elaine, I wish you all the luck with your new adventure! For those who live in the UK, Elaine is offering sourdough baking classes in her home in Milton Keynes, north of London. She offers basic and advanced classes, so anyone will find a reason to join. She is a natural teacher, and passionate about sourdough baking. If I lived closer I would take her advanced class for sure.

Here is the address of her new website and Facebook group (closed group, she loves to get new members). In her site you can find all the information for her classes and how to order Star (she ships worldwide).

ONE YEAR AGO: Hommage to the Sun

PTICHYE MOLOKO, A RUSSIAN DESSERT

Have you heard of it? In plain English it means Bird’s Milk, a very traditional Russian delicacy, also common in Ukraine and Romania. The name originates from Greek, bird’s milk implying a delicacy very hard to obtain, a rare pleasure. My encounter with this dessert deserves further explanation.

I’ve been seriously bitten by the dangerous Silikomart bug. Silikomart is an Italian company specialized in silicone molds for cakes, mousses, chocolates, anything your mind dreams, they might just make it. They can be pricey, but I found out that ebay is a delightful source to make this type of obsession even harder to control. Oh, well. The bottom line is that somehow I found myself with a couple of amazing molds and not that many recipes adapted for them. A cart-before-the-horse situation. I put google to work and next thing I knew, I stumbled upon a blog that blew my little mind away. The blog is written in Russian and… wait for it… Portuguese!  I know, it was fate. The food blogger behind it, Ekaterina, is a fantastic professional patissière who trained with top chefs in Russia.  I still have a hard time believing that I found one of the best desserts blogs out there, and she writes it in my native language. Reading her blog (Verdade de Sabor) became my routine late at night, indulging in her gorgeous dessert posts before falling asleep. That’s how I became acquainted with Bird’s Milk. A cookie base. A milk souffle-ish on top. A thin chocolate layer wrapping it all.  And a big smile when you bring it to the table!

BIRD’S MILK (PTICHYE MOLOKO)
(very slightly modified from Verdade de Sabor)

for the cookie base:
80 g of softened butter
65 g powdered sugar
5 g sugar
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 egg yolks
90 g all purpose-flour
10 g almond flour
1/4 teaspoon of baking powder

for the milk filling:
100 g of egg whites
pinch of cream of tartar
180 g sugar
1/8 tsp vanilla extract
160 g water (divided in 60 and 100 g)
20 g gelatin powder
100 g of softened butter
100 g condensed milk

Chocolate cover:
400 g of chocolate 50-55%
100 g of oil (I used grapeseed)

Make the cookie base. Heat the oven to 350 F.  In a bowl beat the butter and the powdered sugar and the vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, one by one, constantly beating. In another bowl sift the flour and baking powder and add to the previous mixture. Finally, add the almond flour. Stir very well. The dough does not get too thick or too liquid, the texture must be creamy.

Spread the dough as a square, about 1/8 inch thick, smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake for about 15 minutes (depending on the oven) or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Then, cut circles just slightly smaller than the diameter of your silicone mold. You can also make the dessert as a single rectangle or square, using a ring to assemble it. Your choice. Allow to cool completely.

Make the milk souffle:  Hydrate the gelatin in 60 mL ice water. Then melt in a water bath (I placed it in the microwave for bursts of  seconds, watching it very carefully). Reserve. In a bowl, beat the butter well with the condensed milk until you get a fluffy cream. Reserve.

Add the sugar and vanilla in a small saucepan, pour 100 mL cold water. Put a culinary thermometer in the mixture and bring to medium heat. Meanwhile, in the mixer, beat the egg whites until foamy. When the syrup boils, add the cream of tartar. When the syrup reaches 240 F (116 ° C), remove from the heat, and add the hot syrup to the egg whites gradually. Continue beating the meringue for a few more minutes or until it forms firm peaks. Then slowly add the melted gelatin, and continue to beat. Reduce the speed of the mixer to the minimum and gradually add the cream of butter and condensed milk.

Pour the souffle into the silicone molds (I made 6 individual serving ones, but had leftover filling that I added to a smaller mold and saved in the freezer for later).  Place a cookie on top, and press it slightly into the mousse, but do not sink it in. Cover with plastic film and freeze. You can do that a couple of days in advance.

Make the chocolate coating: Melt the chocolate in a water bath or in the microwave. Add oil and stir well. Allow to cool at room temperature to 86 to 93 F (30-34 ° C). That is really pretty cold, below body temperature. You can also make that the day before and warm it up gently, without stirring with a whisk, as you don’t want bubbles to form.

Unmold the domes and cover with the glazing. Decorate with tempered chocolate if you desire. I used white chocolate drizzle.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I used this mold for assembly of our dessert. It is not a Silikomart, but I like the quality and they are quite a bit cheaper.  In Ekaterina’s blog, she used a different mold, in the “buche de Noel” shape, but you can assemble this dessert in a square format too. Whatever you do, the cookie base must be cut slightly smaller because the goal is to cover the dessert with chocolate and hide the base.  Alternatively, you could cut it exactly the same size, coat the frozen milky filling with chocolate, let it set and then place it over the naked cookie. But it would have a totally different look. I like the way she did it, so that the cookie becomes a nice crunchy surprise as you cut into the dessert.

To un-mold the domes, I advise you to get a hairdryer and heat the surface of the dome just for a few seconds – that releases them very nicely, as you can see below.  In fact, it’s amazing how often a hairdryer can come in handy when making more elaborate desserts. I rarely dry my hair, so it now lives in the kitchen… Go figure!

See the difference? I am so glad I thought about the hairdryer trick after un-molding the first one. In this type of dessert, any boo-boo makes the final product suffer. The trickiest part of the dessert is in fact the last one, the coating with the chocolate. It must be cold enough that it will settle right away instead of sliding down and not coating the surface. But that means you’ll have ONE SHOT at getting it right. I advise you to look at youtube videos to see how the pros do it, then cross your fingers and try it yourself.  Keep in mind that you won’t be able to fix the surface with an offset spatula, or go at it again a second time. Both options will result in a wavy, not-attractive coating. I opted for a drizzle of white chocolate in the end not only because of the contrast of color, but to hide some of the imperfections I left as I poured the chocolate over the dome. What can I say? I am still learning and making mistakes in the process… Speaking of the drizzle (and mistakes), my virtual teacher Gary gave me a nice tip to make them better. Go passed the dome as the chocolate drizzle falls on it, so that you get a straight line all the way across. It will be more elegant that way. Lesson (hopefully) learned.

The dessert is truly delicious and worth the effort of the preparation. In fact, it’s not that hard if you make the components in advance and take your time. You can definitely make the filling a couple of days earlier, bake the cookie in the morning, and assemble it all before a dinner party. Leave it in the fridge for a couple of hours, and remove to room temperature about 15 minutes before you want to enjoy it. Then you’ll have a perfect texture in the filling.

I know that her blog being written in Russian and Portuguese makes it a bit hard to fully enjoy it, but I urge you to go there and marvel at her posts. She is also a delightful person, very responsive and helpful. She reads and writes in English, so comments in English are not a problem.

ONE YEAR AGO: Cheesy Low-Carb Zucchini Tarts

TWO YEARS AGO: Blogging Hiatus

THREE YEARS AGO: Apricots, Three Ways

FOUR YEARS AGO: Up Close and Personal with Kale

FIVE YEARS AGOBlack Berry Cherry Sorbet

SIX YEARS AGO: Asparagus Pesto

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Chocolate and Chestnut Terrine

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Under the spell of lemongrass

NINE YEARS AGO: Greens + Grapefruit + Shrimp = Great Salad!

 

 

GREEN OLIVE SALAD

Sometimes you see a recipe and you just know it will please you. I’ve blogged about a similar version years ago, but this one is more substantial and even if you are a celery hater, you might enjoy it. My little tip: peel the celery before slicing it. It’s not that hard, just pull the strings that sit on top of the ridges, they come off easily and that unpleasant (for some) texture of stringy celery will be history.  Another twist that makes this salad special is adding the Parmigiano cheese in small chunks. Use a fork and go at it. I found this recipe over at Cookie & Kate’s blog, and made it almost on that same day.  They added garlic, I did not. Other than that, no changes.

GREEN OLIVE SALAD WITH ALMONDS, CELERY, AND PARMIGIANO
(from Cookie & Kate)

2 cups large pitted green olives, drained and torn into bite-sized pieces
1 cup sliced celery (from 2 to 3 medium ribs)
½ cup roasted almonds, roughly chopped
2 ounces Parmigiano cheese, crumbled with a fork or knife point
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (I added one extra tablespoon before serving)
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Kosher salt and red pepper flakes, to taste
Leaves from celery ribs, roughly chopped, for garnish

In a medium bowl, toss all of the ingredients except the celery leaves together. Taste, and adjust the seasonings to your preference.

Garnish with the chopped celery leaves. Refrigerate until needed. Leftovers are even better after a couple of days in the fridge. 

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This concoction not only works well as a side-dish for many types of protein, but you could slice some sourdough or simple baguette and use it as a topping, serving as appetizer before a dinner party, for instance. The flavors get more intense in a couple of days, and the almonds mellow down in texture a bit. Amazing what braces can do, I now have to worry (a lot) about texture. In fact, if you are cooking for someone wearing braces, opt for slivered almonds. They are a bit more “predictable” in terms of their crunch. When you chop whole almonds coarsely, some bits end up with incredibly sharp edges. Of course, I am aware that 99.99% of my readers don’t have to worry about it. Still, it doesn’t hurt to mention. Just in case. When I make this salad again, slivered almond will be playing…  Side note, I am almost reaching the 6 month mark of braces on a 2 year voyage, and I am so ready to be done (sigh).

ONE YEAR AGO: Coffee Macarons Dressed up to Party

TWO YEARS AGO: Blogging Hiatus

THREE YEARS AGO: Tomato Tatin

FOUR YEARS AGO: Headed to Colorado!   

FIVE YEARS AGO: Farofa Brasileira

SIX  YEARS AGO: Thai-Inspired Pork Tenderloin

SEVEN YEARS AGO: A yummy Brazilian cake: Bolo de Fuba’

EIGHT YEARS AGO:  Summer’s Tomatoes

NINE YEARS AGO: Leaving on a jet plane… 

 

 

PARISIAN FLAN AND COOKBOOK REVIEW: TASTING PARIS

After so many years of blogging, I tend to quickly group food bloggers into two categories, those who have been doing it longer than me, and those who are “younger” (for lack of a better term). Clotilde is part of the first group, in fact Chocolate and Zucchini was one of the first food blogs I started to follow years and years ago. Not only she is still actively blogging, but she has written several cookbooks (I own them all, in case you are wondering), and – wait for it –  writes the blog in two languages, English and French. I tried to do that when I started, writing each post in English and Portuguese, but after a few months, I gave up. It is a lot of extra work, so I truly admire her for doing it. This is a long overdue post. I had Clotilde’s newest book pre-ordered, the moment I got it in the mail I asked her permission to publish a recipe. She is the most gracious person ever, quickly answered with an enthusiastic “bien sûr”, but it took me a couple of months to finally share it with you. In part because I had a pretty tough time deciding which recipe to feature.  But I am very happy with my choice, it is a real classic…

PARISIAN FLAN
(published with permission from Clotilde’s Tasting Paris)

for pastry dough:
7 ounces (200 g) all-purpose flour (about 1½ cups)
3 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
7 tablespoons (100 g) cold unsalted butter, diced
1 large egg
Ice-cold water, if needed

for filling:
2½ cups (600 ml) whole milk
¾ cup (150 g) sugar
⅔ cup (70 g) cornstarch
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I used vanilla paste)
⅔ cup (160 ml) heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, for greasing tart pan

Make the crust, preferably the day before. Prepare the filling 5 to 8 hours before serving.

For the crust: In a food processor, combine the flour, salt, and butter. Process for 10 seconds, until you get a bread crumb–like consistency. Add the egg and process for a few more seconds, until the dough comes together into a ball. If the dough seems a little dry, mix in a little ice-cold water, 1 or 2 teaspoons at a time, until the dough does come together.

Tip the dough onto a clean work surface and knead lightly for a few seconds. Using a rolling-pin and working on a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out and transfer to a greased 10 inch round tart or quiche pan, pressing it up the sides to adhere. Prick the bottom with a fork. Freeze until needed.

Make the filling: In a medium saucepan, combine the milk and 6 tablespoons (75 g) of the sugar and bring to a simmer. In a large bowl, combine the cornstarch with the remaining 6 tablespoons (75 g) sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the cream and the simmering milk, little by little. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and return to medium heat. Bring to a simmer, whisking as the custard thickens, about 4 minutes. It is ready when the whisk leaves clear traces, and will continue to thicken as it cools.Pour the custard into a baking dish or other large vessel, cover, and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.

Heat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Whisk the custard to break it up, pour into the frozen tart shell, and smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake for 25 minutes, then increase the temperature to 450°F (230°C) and bake another 10 minutes, watching closely, until the top of the flan has dark brown spots. If you find the exposed sides of the crust are browning too quickly, drape loosely with strips of foil. Cool the flan for 1 hour, then refrigerate until cold, about 1½ hours.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I really liked the way this tart is prepared, freezing the crust and adding the custard to it still frozen. It baked very nicely, absolutely no soggy bottom, perfect texture. I did not have to protect the edge with foil, but watched it closely as a hawk in the final minutes, those brown spot start to show up pretty quickly.

The flavor and texture improve a lot once you bring the tart to room temperature, but it is mandatory to cool it in the fridge for a few hours after baking. Just plan your schedule and you won’t have problems. I made the crust on a Saturday evening, made the filling next morning, and baked it mid-afternoon.

This flan really brought me memories of Paris. I cannot say it was something I enjoyed often while living there, but because every boulangerie proudly sells them, just the image was enough to transport me back. Creamy, sweet but not cloyingly so. A perfect dose of indulgence.

Now let me take you through Clotilde’s book for a virtual tour.

What I love the most about Clotilde’s book is how it covers not just your typical French cuisine, but the many flavors that surround people living in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. During times  in which prejudice, racism, general anti-foreign feelings are getting way too common – worse than that – way too accepted as the new normal, it is nice to see a book that embraces differences, that shows that if you live in Paris, one cool thing to do is to walk all the way to Faubourg-St Denis arrondisement, and dig into a juicy Lahmajoun. I had never heard of it, even though I did enjoy many of the “exotic” delicacies found in often small, almost hidden places in the city.  Food joins cultures, and in her book Clotilde does exactly that. I cannot praise it enough.

The book is organized in a pretty cute way. Chapters are linked to times of the day: Morning, Noon, Afternoon, Early Evening, Evening, Late Night.  How cool is that? Let me offer you my favorites of each chapter.

Morning (Le Matin)

Poached Eggs with Bread Crumbs and Pickled Onions... it makes the humble poached egg perfect. Bread crumbs for texture, the sharp bite of pickled onions (probably the only way I truly enjoy them, apart from slowly caramelized).

Chocolate Bread... I don’t think I need to say anything about this one.

Fruit Compote with Yogurt... I tell you, the French know how to pull this one like nobody’s business. I definitely intend to make it for a post-exercise treat, as I don’t eat breakfast.

Moroccan Crumpets... My heart missed a beat. That’s what I’m talking about when I tell you she embraces the many cultures around town. Crumpets, so British, and all of a sudden she introduces you a version that screams Middle East. They look gorgeous, and I cannot wait to make them.

Also in this chapter you’ll have recipes for Croissants, Deviled Avocados, and many more.

Noon (Le Midi)

That’s a chapter I would love to cook everything from, but one recipe that intrigued me is the very first one… Potato Chip and Chive Omelette…  Clotilde got her inspiration from a Michelin-starred restaurant, if you can believe it, and I bet it is amazing, the texture of a potato chip adding a lot to the humble omelette. What a clever idea!

Frisée with Bacon and Egg… I’ve had this so many times in Paris, it’s filling and light at the same time. Love it.

Croque Madame, another super classic, you simply cannot go to Paris and not have one.

Turkish Lamb Flatbreads… These are the Lahmajoun I mentioned in the beginning.  A flat bread made with yogurt in the dough, a bit like a naan, and topped with well-seasoned ground lamb. Seriously good, I am sure.

Buckwheat Crepes... These have been on my list to make for a long, long time. Not surprised she included them, they are sold everywhere in Paris, not only in bistrots, but also as street food.

Carrot Chickpea Crepes… a departure on the crepe subject, another Middle Eastern twist on a classic. I almost picked this one to feature in the blog, but the Parisian Flan won me over.

Chocolate Mousse, Raspberry Mille-Feuille, and Floating Islands with Caramel and Strawberries are three desserts from this chapter that made me dream.

Afternoon (L’Après Midi)

With this chapter, Clotilde explains the famous “Le Goûter“, that time in the end of the afternoon in which your light lunch has been used up, and dinner is still a bit far away. Keep in mind that in France no one has dinner before 8 or 9pm. Le Goûter is a small offering of goodies to keep you going, or to give the kids when they arrive from school. Fifteen recipes total in this chapter, including the Parisian Flan I featured.

 

Here is my shortlist of favorites:

Earl Grey Madeleines... Nantais Cake (a very moist almond cake)… Chocolate Ice Cream with Nuts and RaisinsChestnut Cream Meringue (this looks absolutely spectacular)… Simple Chocolate Macarons (nothing like finding my obsession waiting for me)… But I guess my all time favorite would be Salted Caramel Flaky Pie. It is so tempting I must show you a picture from the book…

Don’t you feel like going to the kitchen and making it right now?

Early Evening (L’Apéro)

Another French habit is to have a drink and light food before going out for dinner, a show, or a movie. In this chapter, Clotilde offers 11 recipes, including a few drinks.  Some of my favorites:

Armenian Byoreks…   Armenian food is found mostly in the 9th arrondisement of the city, the original neighborhood that received the first immigrants back in the 1915’s. Byoreks are delicious parcels of flaky dough, usually shaped as triangles, and filled with many different types of delicacies, from meat to veggies or cheese. Her version uses spinach, cheese, and pastrami.

Butternut Kibbeh with Spinach…  I adore kibbeh, and normally have a meat-loaded version (I have one in the blog from years ago), but this one is definitely calling my name. So unusual!

Oven-Puffed Pancake... Baked Camembert with Honey and Apple Cider... Olive and Goat Cheese Quick Bread... The quick bread brought me memories of a couple of friends we visited often for dinner. She always prepared one of these quick breads as an appetizer if we were having dinner with them or perhaps going out for a meal somewhere. You know, just as a warm up to the evening.  I actually blogged about one version with zucchini in the distant past.

Evening (Le Soir)

What could be more magical than spending a romantic evening in Paris? Tough question. In this chapter, Clotilde talks about special recipes that you can cook at home but will have the aura of a fancy restaurant.  I could happily cook (and eat) every single one, but here is my selected list:

Roasted Squash Soup with Curried Cheese Quenelle…  Quenelle makes any meal feel special. Just a simple technique to shape it is all you need, and Clotilde explains how to do it.

Rice and Ginger Soup... when simplicity meets elegance, I so want to make this one when the weather cools off (well, hopefully not anytime soon!)

Cauliflower Brioche. You have no idea how cool that looks. Get the book, then we can talk more about it (wink, wink)

Tfaya Chicken Couscous… have you heard of tfaya? It is a condiment made with caramelized onions and raisins, in this case used to perfume couscous. O.M.G.

Spice-Crusted Duck Maigret… how could she not include a duck dish, right? So Parisian…

Mushroom Bourguignon… a vegetarian take on one great classic French dish. Must make it!

Every single dish in this chapter seems fit for a special dinner, either for a romantic evening with just you and your favorite human, or a couple of very dear friends. Some sweets included are the classic Pears Poached in Spiced Red Wine,  Caramelized Arlette Cookies (a version of them was a technical challenge in the Great British Bake Off years ago), and the recipe from the book’s cover: Ice Cream Puffs with Chocolate Sauce (no additional remarks needed).

Late Night (Tard dans la Nuit)

One recipe in the chapter. French Onion Soup. I don’t even know how many times I’ve enjoyed it with the most perfectly broiled Gruyere cheese on top of a perfect crusty slice of bread, cut in the exact thickness to make it stand against the hot soup without dissolving into nothingness. Au Pied du Cochon is a restaurant that still serves this soup pretty much the whole night. I’ve had the experience once. Yes,  Tasting Paris brought me a ton of fond memories indeed!

Clotilde, thank you for allowing me to share the flan recipe in my blog… 

For those interested in the book, it’s available in amazon.com. I am not affiliated, and won’t get a single penny from your purchase. I only recommend books I fall in love with, and this was definitely one…

ONE YEAR AGO: Beef Goulash, Slow-Cooker Version

TWO YEARS AGO: Post-workout Chia Yogurt Bliss

THREE YEARS AGO: Tomato Tatin

FOUR YEARS AGO: Best Thing I Ever Made: Chocolate Chip Cookies

FIVE YEARS AGO: Farofa Brasileira

SIX YEARS AGO: Thai-Inspired Pork Tenderloin

SEVEN YEARS AGO: A yummy Brazilian cake: Bolo de Fuba’

EIGHT YEARS AGO:  Summer’s Tomatoes

NINE YEARS AGO: Leaving on a jet plane… 

 

 

 

HICKORY-SMOKED BEEF TENDERLOIN

This could very well go into the Incredibly Simple files, but since it requires an electric smoker, I guess it would not be quite appropriate. When we think about smoking stuff (not talking cigarettes of any kind here), the mind gravitates towards pork ribs, briskets, perhaps salmon. But Phil wondered if cuts such as a T-bone steak or a tenderloin could also work. There are some recipes out there, for the most part they call for rubs or marinades that in my opinion don’t do anything for the meat. So we browsed around discussion forums and found what we were looking for: meat lovers raving about their smoked ribeyes, tenderloins, T-bones. And what’s even better, they were prepared like a Brazilian would: salt, pepper, and love.

HICKORY-SMOKED BEEF TENDERLOIN
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

2 beef tenderloin filets, 8 ounces each
(you can do the same for a 12 ounce T-bone steak)
salt
pepper
a few chunks of hickory smoking chips

Set your smoker to 175 F.

Season the meat with salt and pepper.  When the smoker reaches the proper temperature, place the steaks inside and smoke for 50 minutes.

Heat your grill or a cast iron pan to the holy-smokes-this-is-blazing-hot stage.

When the meat is done smoking, sear it on the grill or cast iron pan (if using cast iron coat it very slightly with olive oil). Just a couple of minutes per side will do.

Rest the meat for 10 minutes. Slice and enjoy it. You definitely will.

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: We smoked one tenderloin filet and two T-bone steaks using exactly the same timing and temperature. The texture of the meat was quite similar to sous-vide, which pleasantly surprised us. Definitely the lower temperature does wonders for texture, and the smoked flavor turns it into something special. It is much more subtle than adding a sauce to your steak (which Brazilians find borderline heretic). Next time we will use either orange or apple wood to see how the flavor compares. Hickory is pretty assertive.

If you are a bit insecure about cooking the meat without checking the temperature, you can always insert a probe thermometer and take it to 135 F for medium-rare. The Man was in charge of the smoker, and he is pretty good at judging doneness by pressing the surface of the meat with his finger. It always turns out perfect for us.

After inhaling the whole T-bone steak (ok, he did leave the bone behind after chewing on it like Bogey QT would), Phil said it was one of the best he’s ever had. That man knows about steak, trust me, so that is a huge endorsement.  I could not finish my tenderloin, but in part it was because I always have that possibility of a perfect leftover lunch waving at me. But if it wasn’t for that, I would have matched my beloved’s performance. Except for the chewing of the bone. Or the corn on the cob. Because… braces (sigh).

We’ve had the smoker since December last year, and I can tell you we are very happy with the acquisition. I cannot imagine salmon prepared any other way, and it’s quite likely that T-bone steaks and maybe even beef tenderloin will be following the same route…

ONE YEAR AGO: Spaghetti Squash, Revisited

TWO YEARS AGO: Stir-fried Chicken and Cabbage in Spicy Almond Sauce

THREE YEARS AGO: Fifteen Years!

FOUR YEARS AGO: Light Brioche Burger Buns

FIVE YEARS AGO: Sourdough Blues

SIX  YEARS AGO: Headed to Hawaii

SEVEN YEARS AGO: A yummy Brazilian cake: Bolo de Fuba’

EIGHT YEARS AGO:  Hidden Treasure

NINE YEARS AGO: Avocado Three Ways