Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Crab and Orange Summer Duo

Here's something different and fresh for your next dinner party.

I had already discussed verrines in a previous post a few months ago. They're  appetizers and desserts served in a little glass, like a parfait. They've been very popular in France among homecooks over the past few years. You see them everywhere!

This crab and orange verrine recipe is the perfect answer to a warm day. They're wonderful served as an appetizer. I make them ahead of time and leave them in the fridge until ready to serve. 

My personal tip is "don't forget the orange". It really makes the whole dish and adds absolute freshness. I've made it with pink grapefruit as well, and it's also wonderful. 

If you're wondering what kind of glass to use, I personally found tiny glass prep bowls at Ikea (it's important to be able to see through to see the layers), but you could use anything small, narrow and small. The smaller, the better. 

Crab and Orange Summer Verrines
(makes 6 individual verrines)

1 ripe avocado, cubed + 1 tbsp lemon juice
6 oz of good quality lump crabmeat, drained
1 orange, segmented 

1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp French mustard
1 tbsp ketchup
10 drops of Worcestershire sauce
1 drop of hot sauce (I use Cholula)
Salt, Pepper

Goat Cheese Whipped Cream:
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup fresh goat cheese
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tbsp chopped chives

Measure the heavy cream for the Goat Cheese Whipped Cream, place it in a large bowl, along with the beater or whisk, and leave in the freezer until ready to use. 

Segment your orange and reserve in a bowl, in the refrigerator. 

Prepare the sauce by mixing together all the ingredients. Reserve in the refrigerator.

Prepare the goat cheese whipped cream. Take the bowl, the cream and the beater out of the freezer. Season with salt. Using an electric beater, start whisking at low speed until foamy. Switch to high speed, until you see very soft peaks (after about 2 minutes). Quickly whisk in the goat cheese, pepper and chives. Do not overbeat. Reserve in the refrigerator. (You could cut thin pieces of orange segments and incorporate it in at that stage to add some flavor. Just make sure to keep enough orange segments to decorate the top of each glass) 

Peel and cube the avocado into a bowl. Pour some lemon juice over it and gently stir with a spoon. Add the crab meat and some of the mayonnaise sauce. Incorporate one tablespoon at a time, tasting every time, to make sure the consistency isn't too creamy and the flavors too strong. Less is more. Use only what's necessary.

Fill in the bottom of 6 little verrines or glasses with the crab/avocado combo, that's the first layer of the verrines. The second and last layer is the goat cheese whipped cream. Smooth out the top with the back of a clean tablespoon. 

Decorate each glass with an orange segment and one or two chives. Chill until ready to serve. Enjoy!

Monday, May 18, 2009

One Dish Meal - Potato Criques

Summer is around the corner, and it's time for salads, grilling and wonderful fruit and vegetables.  

With our baby only 4 weeks away now and my energy slowly dwindling (in case you haven't noticed, I've been blogging less lately), I decided to write down a list of simple quick fix meal ideas to put on the door of my fridge, as a reference. No more long meditation moments when it's time to plan the week's meals ahead, if you know what I mean! 

We all get tired of the same old recipes over and over again, so to me it's a good way to dust off some old forgotten ones. And it's towards France and my Mom that I turned for inspiration, once again... I have such wonderful memories of any Summer meals my mother prepares; as simple as it can be, from a freshly picked tomato from our garden - still warm - with salt, to melon and Aoste prosciutto. 

The recipe for Criques de Pommes de Terre or Potato Criques (a cousin of hash brown and latkes if you will), is a specialty from Lyon. They're basically potato "crepes" prepared with onions and parsley. They make a complete meal, and they are wonderful served along with a green salad and a strong vinaigrette (with red wine vinegar and lots of garlic), and a glass of Beaujolais. My Mom's touch? Squeeze a good amount of fresh lemon juice directly on your plate, right before eating. To me, it makes the whole dish. Trust me.

Criques de Pommes de Terre / Potato Criques (serves 4)

2 pounds of potatoes (Idaho, Russet, Long White)
2 white onions
3 eggs
1 good handful of chopped parsley
salt and pepper
2 tbsp butter
4 tbsp olive oil
1 lemon cut in half or in wedges

Peel the potatoes, wash them and dry them carefully in a clean cloth. Grate them, using the "big holes" on the grater. Reserve in a bowl. Peel and finely slice the onions and add them to the bowl. 

Beat the eggs in a separate little bowl and add to the potatoes and onions. Fold in the parsley. Season with salt and pepper. 

In a large pan (a cast iron works best here), heat half of the butter and oil. Once the pan is very hot, pour the preparation. Using a spatula or a fork, make sure everything is flat and even. Cook on medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, or until brown and crispy. It might take less time, so keep an eye on it!

Place a large plate on top of the pan and turn it upside down, to flip over the crique or crepe. 

Heat the remaining butter and oil in the pan. Once hot enough, slide the crique or crepe back into the pan and cook on medium heat for another 10 minutes, or until brown and crusty under. 

Flip the crique back onto the big plate, cut in slices, like for a pizza and serve right away, along with a green salad and a generous squeeze of lemon juice. Season with sea salt if necessary.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Baby Shower & Lemon Tart

I survived my first baby shower! I thought I should print it on a tee-shirt and wear it! Our friends Stephanie and Phil threw us a shower last weekend, and it was just perfect. 

I was reluctant to have a baby shower at first when I found out I was pregnant - I felt bad someone was going to go out of their way for me to organize something. But then I realized how it can be a good way to gather everyone I love before the big day. 

There aren't any particular tradition in France when someone has a baby. Overall, French people don't buy gifts to the parents-to-be before the birth. Why? Superstition perhaps?  Everything is done after the birth. Now I did read an article recently in the French Parents Magazine, that the American craze of "baby showers" is slowly making its way to France. And apparently, baby shower is how we call it in French too. Here's the article (in French).

Stephanie and Phil had prepared fantastic little tea sandwiches. They were simply wonderful. Cucumber sandwiches (those were my favorites), egg sandwiches, mini steak sandwiches with chutney and havarti cheese, just to name a few. It makes me want to throw a baby shower for someone now, so I can have the excuse of making miniature food like that!

I couldn't resist to contribute to the food table and decided on making une tarte au citron - a lemon tart - which was a success. What you might find different in my recipe is the crust (I made a Pate Sablee) and the filling (I used cornstarch and very little butter). If my lemon tart had to have a synonym, it would be decadent

La Tarte Au Citron - Lemon Tart 
(serves 6 to 8)

Pate Sablee:

2 cups flour
1 pinch of salt
9 tbsp cold butter, roughly diced
1 egg, previously beaten
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract


3 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar + 3 tbsp
1/3 cup cornstarch
a pinch of salt
The zest of 2 lemons
The juice of 3 lemons
4 tbsp butter, cold

On a flat surface, or in a big bowl, combine together the flour, the salt and the butter using the tip of your fingers to "break" the butter. Rub the tip of your fingers together, until the butter and the flour blend in together and the consistency is coarse (butter should be pea-size). Add the egg in the middle, along with the sugar and the vanilla. Mix everything together using your fingers, until the whole thing comes together. It will be very sticky at first but as you knead, the dough should start forming somewhat of a ball. Flatten the dough with the heel of your hand once or twice (that's called fraiser in French), and transfer everything onto a plastic wrap. Wrap and shape into a ball. Flatten into a disc and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. I prefer to make it one day ahead. Take the dough out of the refrigerator 45 minutes prior to rolling.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9.5" inch tart pan, with removable bottom.  Flour a clean surface and roll out the dough, making sure to keep moving the dough around; it will prevent it from sticking to the surface.The Pate Sablee dough is easily breakable, so be patient as you roll it out! Place the dough in the pan and cut off the excess. Prick the bottom of the shell with a fork, cover the bottom with wax paper (or foil) and fill with pie weights, or dried beans (that's what I use). 

Bake for 25 mins, on the lower level of the oven. Remove the pie weights (or dried beans) and wax paper, move to upper level of oven and bake for an additional 5 minutes. The dough should be a nice golden color.

Beat the yolks and the sugar together. Combine the lemon juice and the zests. Whisk in the cornstarch and the salt. Transfer to a saucepan and heat up, until it all thickens, about 10 minutes or so. Keep stirring the whole time, using a whisk. When the consistency starts thickening, remove from the heat and stir in the cold butter

Pour onto the baked shell. Allow to cool at room temperature. When cool, you may refrigerate it just a few hours before serving, along with fresh homemade whipped cream for example!