Sunday, January 25, 2009
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Sunday, January 18, 2009
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.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
- 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...
- Store bought pastry dough, for last minute quiches.
- 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)
- 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...
- 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.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
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
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!
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!
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!