Sunday, January 25, 2009

Something Different: Tuna Quiche

Everyone has heard of a quiche lorraine. But have you ever heard of a tuna quiche? In France, we conjugate quiches in many flavors: with goat cheese, leeks, salmon, zucchini... 

Quiche lorraine (along with pizza) is a classic of many catering events in France. We serve them for cocktails or aperitifs for weddings, gatherings, and celebrations. It's very common to just order them from your favorite baker, who usually cuts them in 2 inch squares (easy finger food). That's what Juan and I did for the day following our wedding in France. Most of our friends and families from all over the world were still around, so my parents organized a low-key buffet-type get together in their backyard; the menu included wood-fire quiches (of course), pizzas, onion tarts, cheese tarts and sugar tarts. Have a big bowl of fresh lettuce and vinaigrette ready, wine, Badoit and Perrier (at least in my family) - and you have a party! 

Quiche lorraine definitely is the star but I think most French familes have at least one other quiche recipe that they keep on hand. My Mom's is a leek and blue cheese quiche, which I must share with you one day - it's fantastic. This tuna quiche inspiration comes from my aunt, Brigitte. The first time she served it, I was skeptical as to how tuna would taste in a quiche, but all I needed was one bite and I was hooked!

My aunt's recipe included green olives and cheese (which is wonderful), but for mine I chose to add a hint of lemon and chives, which lightly flavors the quiche and goes so well with the tuna.

I made my own pie crust this time, but I typically buy ready-made ones. Let's be honest, it's convenient and there's no shame in taking some shortcuts. 

I would suggest to completely let the quiche cool down before serving. It pairs wonderfully well with a simple green salad or with a dollop of savory lemon whipped cream (a squeeze of lemon juice can work too). All you need to do is beat 1/2 cup of very cold whipping cream (don't forget to keep the beaters and metal bowl cold too), 1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper until you have soft peaks. Then stir in 1 tsp of lemon juice. 

Tuna Quiche (serves 8)

1 store bought pie dough or your favorite pie dough recipe 
3 eggs
1 cup of heavy cream
1/4 tsp of salt
1/4 tsp of fresh ground pepper
1 tbsp of chopped fresh chives
1/4 tsp of dried thyme (optional)
1 tsp of fresh lemon juice
1 tsp of Dijon mustard
1 cup of shredded gruyere or cheddar cheese
2 cans of tuna

Preheat the oven to 350 F degrees. Roll out the dough (thin so it cooks through but not too much) and fit into a fluted tart pan (mine has a removable bottom, which is very convenient). Trim the edges.

In a bowl, beat the eggs and the cream. Combine the salt, pepper, chives, dried thyme, lemon juice and mustard. Add the cheese and the tuna and pour into the crust and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the top of the quiche is golden brown. 

Allow to cool completely before serving. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Food Goes High-Tech

If you live in Austin, be sure to stop by the Austin Forum on Wednesday, January 21st at 6.30pm for a discussion titled "Food Goes High-Tech". Austin American Statesman food writer Addie Broyles and Taco Journalism blogger Armando Rayo will talk about how new technologies and social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, help connect people who enjoy food. The forum will be held at the UT Pickle Research Campus - details can be found, here. I myself will be there, so hopefully I can meet some of you! 

Speaking of Addie Broyles, I'd like to thank her for choosing to feature The French Fork and my Gratin Dauphinois recipe in the Austin American Statesman, back in November. For a closer look at the article, go here

Stay tuned for some more food and culture!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

New Year, New Look

I'm sure many of you will notice the new look of The French Fork. I am so excited! Big kudos to Juan for designing it. He did a fantastic job.

I'll also be adding more to the website as time goes on, so stay tuned! And if you're so inclined,  and you happen to own an iPhone, you can now also add The French Fork as a button on your home screen: new posts will only be a click away...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Open Door to a French Fridge

I don't know about you, but just like I'm curious to learn more about what other cultures eat for breakfast, I'm also eager to discover what a simple "no brainer" dinner is in these same cultures. What do the Italians make, on those nights when you don't feel like cooking much? What about the Chinese? The Moroccans? I know that for Thomas Keller, it's Progresso Lentil Soup. Anyway, you get my point. 

Because that's a passion of mine -to find out more about food cultures around the world-, I get excited when people ask me about French people.

Let me open the door to mon frigo (or my fridge) for you... Here are a list of staple ingredients I always keep in my fridge / cabinets, for those lazy nights:

  • Good quality jambon (ham). I stay away from pre-packaged ham. I go to the deli and usually buy Madrange or Le Cochon d'Or. 
  • Smoked salmon (and I usually always keep fresh lemons to squeeze on top)
  • Parmesan cheese and shredded cheese like Gruyere. And I always try to have at least one or two types of cheese to eat. I vary and try new things: Manchego, Crottin de Chavignol, any new cheddar cheese that tickles my fancy...
  • Avocados
  • Store bought pastry dough, for last minute quiches.
  • Potatoes
  • Lots of frozen vegetables (I buy the Bonduelle brand and/or the Central Market brand).
  • Butter (European style, it makes a difference in the taste and it's worth the price)
  • Cornichons
  • Fresh pasta and dry pasta, rice (I vary between Jasmine, Basmati but right now I also have the boil-in-a-bag kind for very last minute), couscous and orzo.I always keep peanut butter on hand (since living in America).
  • Eggs (Yes I know it's considered a staple, but see what I do with them below)
  • I like to keep a saucisson in the fridge sometimes too but I only do it occasionally. This thing goes way too fast...

So here are a few dinner ideas that I make on these lazy nights:

  • Croque-monsieur: it's nothing more than a hot ham and cheese sandwich. Some people add Bechamel sauce on top of it, I usually don't. I've tried it with and it's not bad either. I absolutely love croque-monsieurs!!! 
  • A bowl of pasta with butter, salt, pepper and grated Gruyere cheese.
  • A simple omelet with nothing in it, served with a salad (omelets in France are considered dinner food). I like to splash my omelet with vinegar... 
  • Grated carrots seasoned with lemon juice and olive oil, with a hard boiled egg and a tomato.
  • A bowl of dehydrated soup that I bring back from France (supermarkets have a wide variety of flavors that I really enjoy) . My favorite is the cauliflower cream.
I'm curious to know what YOUR secret weapon is on these lazy nights... What do you do? 

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The King's Cake - La Galette des Rois

So easy to make with a unique but delightful flavor, this King's Cake can really be made anytime of the year.

In France, we refer to it as La Galette des Rois and it's a huge part of French culture. It is sold all throughout January in boulangeries all over France, to celebrate the Epiphany. The exact day to celebrate it is on January 6th but we like to enjoy this cake for as long as we can in France. In my family, we usually have it on Sundays and if we're ever invited at someone's house for lunch or dinner, we bring a Galette des Rois.

The fun part about eating this cake is that we hide a tiny king or queen figurine (which today, can really be anything from Homer Simpson to a boat), called "une feve” inside of it. The person who finds the “feve” in its slice of cake becomes symbolically the “king” or “queen”. In France, bakeries always include a paper crown with the cake that you purchase.

You might not find a paper crown or feve exactly like in France, but don't let it discourage you from making it; you’ll be amazed at how simple and delicious this cake is! Snuggled between two puff pastry sheets is an almond filling called frangipane, used in a lot of pastries in France. That's why sometimes you might hear French people refer to this cake as "une tarte a la frangipane". I made it for our New Year's Eve dinner and everyone enjoyed it a lot. It could even become a last-minute kind of cake, if you keep puff pastry in your freezer and almonds or ground almonds around the house... I was able to find ground almonds at Central Market in the bulk food section (anyone knows if it sold pre-packaged in the US? Let me know). In France, you can easily find ground almonds in the baking sections of supermarkets. Instead of rum in France, we often use kirsch in this recipe but I personally find rum to be more sweet and subtle. You could skip the alcohol part altogether if you prefer, but it really adds a nice warm background taste, without really tasting like alcohol.

If you make the cake in advance, I really suggest that you re-heat the cake before you serve it. For that, put it in a 240 F degrees oven for 5 minutes. Do not re-heat it in the microwave as it would make the dough too soft and less crispy. Serve with Champagne, a Clairette de Die or even a good quality cider.

Galette des Rois (a la Frangipane)

2 sheets of puff pastry

1 cup of ground almond (If you do not have any ground almond, pulse 4 oz of almonds to a fine powder in the food processor)

1/2 cup of sugar

4 tbsp of unsalted butter, at room temperature (it's very important that the butter is very soft)

1 egg, at room temperature

2 tbsp of rum

1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tbsp of water, for the egg wash

2 tbsp sugar mixed with 1 tbsp water, for the simple syrup

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter a tart dish. Prepare the frangipane by mixing together the eggs and the sugar until pale yellow. Combine the butter, the almond powder and the rum.

If the puff pastry you bought is rectangular, roll it out on a floured surface into a circle big enough to fit the tart dish. Lay the first puff pastry dough on the bottom of the dish and spread the frangipane filling all over, leaving a one-inch border all around. Cover with the second puff pastry sheet and seal the edges with your fingers or with a fork.

Draw simple straight line designs with the tip of a knife on the surface of the cake (without pushing too hard) and brush all over with the egg wash. Poke a tiny hole in the middle. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Meanwhile, prepare the simple syrup by bringing the water to a boil in a saucepan and completely dissolve the sugar into the water. Allow it to completely cool. Take the galette out of the oven, lightly brush the syrup all over (it will make it shiny) and put back in the oven for 5 minutes. Serve lukewarm.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Bonne Annee 2009!!

New Year's eve dinner is another big food moment in France; One Juan and I never miss, no matter which continent we celebrate the new year on. After a big trip to Central Market and Mandola's (for some of their fantastic bread), we headed back home to start on my cooking spree.

Nothing makes me happier than preparing a big meal and putting a lot of effort into making it fantastic. Even though, I have to admit, I am less able to stand on my feet in the kitchen for as long as I used to, now that I am pregnant. But it was worth it! I believe the secret really is patience and good quality ingredients - one should never neglect that.

I prepared some
cheese palmiers and some shrimp, ricotta and avocado mousse verrines as an hors d'oeuvre. Verrines are extremely popular in France; they are very small glasses filled with two or more layers of different flavors. Verrine in French means "little glass". They can be served as an appetizer or as a dessert. They can be cold or hot. There are no limits as to what you can put in them. The ultimate goal is to mix textures, colors, temperatures and flavors. Verrines are very slowly coming to America. I have mostly seen them sold for dessert (check out your frozen aisle). I love how versatile they are and best: they are prepared in advance, which makes them a number 1 choice for entertaining!

I also made a celery remoulade salad, which was not planned, but Central Market had a huge display of celery roots and I couldn't resist... I had never made it before because in France, we buy it at the deli. I'm not sure why, because it's very easy to make!! Celery root has a sharp and aromatic favor that really is unusual and wonderful. Think of celery remoulade as the French cousin of coleslaw, but stronger in taste. The remoulade part is nothing but a mayonnaise flavored with a lot of mustard, vinegar and lemon juice. It's truly wonderful and even better the day after!

My main dish was individual
bay scallop gratin, sauce batarde. The sauce is a simple bechamelle with creme fraiche, to which you add fresh lemon juice and egg yolks as a liaison. My favorite part is the gratin part, for which you pop your dishes under the broiler after covering them with bread crumbs. That's where your fresh loaf of bread comes in handy to soak up all the wonderful sauce at the end. Divine!

Of course, we had a nice big plate of cheeses and for dessert, I made a King's Cake Frangipane tart. But I will not tell you too much about it since I plan to share the recipe with you all in my next post! So come back next week!

I hope you had a wonderful end of the year celebration. During 2009, I plan to share even more French recipes and memories with you, always in the same belief that French home cooking is easy.
Thank you all for reading The French Fork and Bonne Annee a tous!