Friday, January 7, 2011

An ancient tradition – The Galette of Kings

Yesterday we celebrated the Epiphany, or the Feast of the Kings with a delicious Galette des Rois. In France the tradition of serving this frangipane-filled tart can be traced back to the 14th century. A small bean, coin or porcelain fève is baked inside the cake and whoever receives the little favor is then crowned king or queen for the day. Tradition also dictates that the cake be cut into as many slices as there are people present, plus one extra. The extra piece is called either la part du Bon Dieu (God's piece), la part de la Vierge (the Virgin Mary's piece) or la part du pauvre (poor man's piece) and it is given to the first poor person who stops at the home.
Who will become king or queen for the day at your house? Bake a galette and have a little fun with the family. Make a foil crown to place atop the cake before eating it.

Et voilà:

1/2 lb (250g) almond paste
5 oz (150g) sugar [to be added only if the almond paste is unsweetened]
4 eggs
1/2 lb (250g) room temperature butter
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
2.5 oz (75g) all purpose/plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
You will also need 2 discs of puff pastry (fresh or frozen)
1 egg yolk beaten with 1oz of whipping cream (egg wash).

1. Combine almond paste [sugar, if needed] and 1 egg in a mixer with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until smooth.
2. Beat in butter and vanilla until smooth. Scrape bowl.
3. Add remaining eggs, one at the time, keep beating.
4. Combine flour and baking powder, add to the mixer at low speed and work just until absorbed.
Put cream in a pastry bag and refrigerate if too soft or runny.
On one disc of puff pastry, pipe a spiral of filling leaving about 2 cm border. Brush the border with the egg wash and place the second disc of puff pastry on top. With a fork seal the edges gently. Glaze the top of the cake with egg wash, cut a few vents and then with the tip of a paring knife draw some decorations (try not to cut through the dough).

Bake at 200C/420F until fully puffed and golden brown. Serve warm or cold, never hot.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Foie Gras au Torchon

Au torchon means "in a towel"


Eat a slice of this foie gras cold with an old fashioned country bread and a black cherry marmalade or a spicy fig jam…No toasted brioche and please, don’t drink a sweet wine with it. I know it's a tradition but it's not really the best. Have a glass of champagne, a glass of chardonnay or a Cabernet Sauvignon. The best match is to have a 3-5 year old glass of Chateau Neuf du Pape.

Serves 8

1 Duck liver (1 pound)
Fine ground salt 7 gr (1 tb spoon)
Black pepper 5 gr (1 ts spoon)
2 tbs cognac or armagnac or port

Soak the liver in luke warm milk to drain blood.
Let it rest at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours.
Dry it with a paper towel, then you take off all the nerves.

Add the salt and pepper and the alcohol of your choice.
Leave overnight (if possible) in the refrigerator, at least 3 hours.

Then roll the liver in cling wrap, 2 or 3 times, to be sure you don’t have any leakage. Tie a knot at both extremities.

Leave it in the fridge, for 2 hours again, and then cook it in simmering water for 7 minutes. Plunge the foie gras in cold water to stop the cooking and leave it in the fridge for at least one day before you serve it. (3 days is even better for the flavour)