Friday, September 28, 2012

Mirabelle Fruit Tarte

sablé (cookie dough): 
175g ( 6.5oz) butter, Very soft but not melted 
Zest of 1 lemon or orange or lime (optional) 
1 heavy pinch of salt 
90g (3oz) icing sugar 
2 egg yolks 
80g (2.5 oz) almond meal 
125g (4 oz) of all purpose flour

crème patissière : 
450g/1lb whole milk 
4 egg yolks 
120/4oz sugar
60g/2oz corn starch 
60g/2oz butter 

1 tbsp vanilla extract 

Mirabelles cut in half  

For the pastry cream: Dissolve cornstarch in 1/4 of the milk, combine rest of the milk with sugar and bring to a boil, whisk eggs in the cornstarch mixture, pour 1/3 of the boiling milk over the eggs, then return milk and milk+egg mixture to the heat. Boil for about 1 minute whisking. It will look lumpy when it starts boiling, keep whisking until smooth then remove from the heat and whisk in butter, vanilla. Transfer to a cold container, press some plastic film directly on the cream and refrigerate.
For the sablédough: Put soft butter (zest if desired) and sugar in the bowl of a stand up mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk at low speed until the sugar is incorporated then increase the speed and go for a couple of minutes until the mixture is fluffy. Stop the mixer and scrape the bowl if you see that the butter is sticking to the sides of the bowl. Add the yolks, one at the time and mix until incorporated. Stop the mixer add the almond meal, whisk until incorporated, then finally the flour. Whisk 10 seconds at highest speed after having added the flour. Stop and transfer mixture into a piping bag fitted with a round tip. Preheat the oven at 180C/350F. Line a cooking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon mat. Butter the inside of some ring molds. Pipe the dough about 1 cm high inside metal ring molds and bake for about 12 minutes. The cookies should be golden, not too dark. Take out of the oven and gently remove the ring molds while still hot. Let the cookies cool and wipe the ring molds clean.

When cookies are room temperature spread a thin layer of pastry cream on top, and then arrange the fresh mirabelles halves or fruit of your choice on top. The make the fruit shiny use some melted apple or apricot jelly. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios for some specks of green.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Mirabelle Plum and tarragon-stuffed Chicken


6 free-range chicken breasts
2 minced shallots 

2 T. olive oil 
1 t. apple cider vinegar 
1 bay leaf 
4 sprigs fresh tarragon 
Salt, pepper 
2 C. pitted, halved plums


Start by making a simple chicken stock to deepen the flavor of the sauce: sauté 1 carcass or 5 wings and optional 1/2 onion, carrot and celery in a non-stick pan till browned on all sides. Drain excess fat and deglaze with 1/4 C dry white wine. Cook 2 minutes, then cover with cold water. Add 2 bay leaves, 2 sprigs of thyme and reduce over high heat till 1-2 cups liquid remain. Strain and reserve stock.

For the plum filling, gently cook shallots covered in 2 tablespoons olive oil, about 10 minutes with no browning. Add all other ingredients except for tarragon and simmer 5 minutes covered, 5-10 minutes uncovered to evaporate some of the liquid. Add chopped tarragon at the end of cooking. Be sure to test for a good balance of sweet and sour before using.

Place 6 skinless chicken breasts skin side down, flatten fatter half if necessary for rolling with meat tenderizer, and tuck cooked plums and shallot into cavity between filet and underside. Reserve more plums for sauce. Season, roll up and place in smallish oiled baking dish that will only snugly hold all the rolled breasts. 

Cover with sauce:
Meanwhile, make a sauce with 1 C. cream, 1 C. chicken stock and extra chicken stuffing. Bring to simmer, season, and pour over chicken, and place in oven to bake, about 15-20 minutes at 350 F. Sauce should be simmering in dish, but not boiling or chicken will start to unravel. Remove chicken from sauce and cool 3 minutes before slicing and placing back in hot sauce (check a piece from the center to ensure doneness.)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Crème Brûlée a la Lavande (Lavender Crème Brûlée)

Crème Brûlée is a French term for what the English refer to as Burnt Cream. It is very popular, so much that we continue to teach the recipe to our happy students in the French Desserts Class! 



2 Cups cream 
1⁄4 Cup 2%-4% milk 
6 large egg yolks 
2 Tablespoons dried lavender 
120 g (4 oz.) sugar


Heat the cream and milk with the lavender, simmer 5 minutes. Beat the egg yolks with the white sugar, just till combined. Strain cream then pour slowly while beating into eggs. 
Ladle into crème brulée ramekins, place them in a pan with rims high enough to contain 1/8 inch water, and place on lower rack of oven at 250 F (120 C). 
Before closing oven door, pour hot water from tea kettle into the baking pan around the ramekins, about 1/8 inch deep. 
Bake 25 - 30 minutes, watching closely to avoid overcooking (bubbling) or browning. When just set, remove from oven and cool, then refrigerate at least 2 hours, or overnight. 
Cover each with 1 T. sugar just before caramelizing, and brown surface with propane torch. Optionally serve with some tart berries.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Our favorite Wine selections from the Paris - Foire aux Vins

Preston MOHR gives us some great recommendations for selecting wine while shopping in Paris. He teaches regularly the Champagne Day Trip in Reims, the French Wine Tasting Class and the Cheese and Wine Tasting Class at Cook'n With Class.

It's fall in Paris and the time has come for the big supermarkets of Paris to have their annual “Foire aux Vins” or wine festival, offering a larger and improved selection of what most supermarkets offer during the rest of the year. In general, you can find great wine in French supermarkets if you know what you're looking for, but the Foire aux Vins is the best time to go.

These large companies have great buying power and order in much larger quantities than your typical neighborhood caviste that they are able to price their wines very competitively during the Foire aux Vins.

Here's a short list of some of my favorite selections from Monoprix Foire aux Vins (now until September 16th at all Monoprix stores):

Pouilly-Loché Clos des Rocs 2010 – 14.95
Pouilly-Loché Clos des Rocs
This lesser-known appellation from the Maĉonnais region of Burgundy offers great value for lovers of Chardonnay wines.  This wine offers the richness, density and finesse that one could expect from a wine twice its price. Rich and appropriately oaked Chardonnays of this quality make for great food wines. Pair this one with a savory leek tart, pâtés, roast chicken or with creamycheeses such as Brillat Savarin or Chaource.

Saumur Soliterre 2011 – 12.50
Saumur Soliterre
Zesty and refreshing, this Loire valley white from Saumur (grape variety Chenin Blanc) explodes with green apple, lime zest and white pepper. A wonderful wine on its own before dinner or with coquilles St. Jacques in a citrus sauce, simple seafood dishes or would make a satisfying partner for goats cheeses or chicken in cream sauce with wild mushrooms. 

Brouilly Château Thivin 2011 – 8.90
Brouilly Château Thivin
When I'm in a hurry and forced to make quick wine decisions in a supermarket, I will often go for one of the 10 crus or villages of Beaujolais, such as Brouilly, that make the highest quality wines of a region otherwise associated with cheap plonk. These wines are always affordable and offer an excellent value when from a good producer such as Chateau Thivin. This is the epitome of a “week night” wine for me: juicy, refreshing, not too complicated but very satisfying and it goes with absolutely any kind of cooking. This example is rich in raspberry and cherry with a hint of licorice.

Crozes-Hermitage La Matinière Ferraton Père & Fils 2010 – 9.95
Crozes-Hermitage La Matinière
Heading down towards the sun of the Rhone Valley, this Crozes-Hermitage is an explosion of aromas. Spices such as black pepper, cinnamon, clove and licorice dominate the nose. The palate consists of dried herbs, stewed plums and jammy blackberry. This would make a great pairing with a daube de boeuf or grilled steak, long-cooked lamb or aged cheeses, a wine well suited to the comforting cuisine that the French do so well.