Parisian Fromagerie

April 30, 2011

A stroke of fortune has placed me next door to an amazing Fromagerie (cheese shop); located on Rue Cler in Paris. The close proximity has allowed me to try a different cheese each and every day. So far, my favorite is an Unpasteurized Goat Cheese. (pictured towards bottom of this post)

A small fraction (about 1/10th) of the available cheeses

Above are pictured mostly main-stream cows cheese. Pictured below are mostly goats cheese, and mostly from smaller producers. (well the back row is obviously bleu cheese). France sells both pasteurized and unpasteurized (cru) cheeses. After trying both, I see that it makes a huge difference. Unpasteurized has much more flavor.

Another 1/10th of the available cheeses. Amazing!

Now here is the secret: we Americans are being short-changed in our cheeses. Ironically, the saboteur was not necessary the FDA (which only mandates a 60 day aging process), but rather it is the Frenchman Louis Pasteur. Yes, I know, we all learned in school how pasteurization has made out food supply much safer. But the heating of the milk to 161-degrees not only kills most bacteria, but sadly kills off some of the milks natural flavors. Those flavors are supposed to get concentrated in cheese, so the effect of pasteurization is magnified in cheese.

But in terms of cheese (which is a different situation than milk), these bad bacteria will naturally die off after 60 days. So the bottom line; Pasteurization allows our cheeses to be sold too young and with too little flavor.

A different cheese shop 1 block away. Cows cheese.

Hard cheese at the farther Fromagerie

An interesting cows cheese. I'm not sure of it's name.

Rocamadour. Made from unpasturized goats milk. 1.50 euros for a tiny 35 gram piece.
Coeur de Lion, Camembert from Pasturized cows milk. 2 euros
Crottin Chavignol. Made from unpasturized goats milk. 3.20 euros.
My most unusual was an unpasturized sheeps cheese.

Unpastuerized Goats Cheese

Cheese made from unpasturized sheeps milk


Dinner at Cafe Tribeca

April 29, 2011

With the extended French holiday, the dinning options were fairly limited. We at at Cafe Tribeca on Rue Cler in the 7th arrondissement; about half way between the Eiffel Tower and Hotel des Invalides. From past trips I know that classic French recipes are difficult to find. There was no sign of Boeuf Bourguignon or Daube Provencal. Instead, modern Parisians eat delicious and lighter fare.  Both my mother and father ate Salmon served over a bed of green beans. The salmon was seared in a pan and served with minced onion, parsley, garlic and lemon.

Salmon served over a bed of green beans

Admittedly, I was also drawn to the salmon plate, but there was no way I was going to order the same meal as both my parents. No way! So instead I ordered the most traditional French dish I could see, rib-eye steak served with pan sauce and mashed potatoes. It was good, perhaps 4-stars, but was obviously not the type of food I was hoping to eat while here. My steak took perhaps 30 minutes to prepare; not 6 hours.

Rib-eye steak with creamy pan sauce.

Overall, my first few days have been busy with caring for my parents. I’ve driven 500-kilometers to the coast of Normandy, and am now settling down to the new routine here on a single street in Paris. The food is delicious, though not classic French cuisine, but even the food available in the supermarkets is so much better. And the wine; 6-euros for a very nice bottle of Borduex or Burgundy. Who could ask for anything more? Tomorrow I will try to post some pictures of my supermarket finds.


Breakfast at Cafe Central on Rue Cler

April 27, 2011

I had breakfast of croissants and cafe au lait with my mother at Cafe Central on Rue Cler. The coffee is the best I’ve have so far in France, but it’s double the price of the cafe across the street. US$7 for a cup of a cafe au lait (coffee with milk). It’s probably too expensive to return, but excellent quality comes sometimes comes at a price.

Simple breakfast of croissants and coffee with milk.

On the other hand, the croissants were acceptable, but there were better ones just 1 block away. Unfortunately, French bakeries do no sell coffee or have tables to sit. So I had no choice but to eat these delicious (but second best croissants). The delicious coffee being my primary solace.

Having breakfast with my mother in a Parisian Cafe

While you must pay for your ambiance, the best croissants were a block away at this Boulognerie . The croissants were lighter and the crust was just right. Tomorrow I will drink my coffee at the cafe, and eat my croissants while strolling.

If you don't mind walking while you eat, this bakery has best croissants so far.


Stuck for a week in Paris, France.

April 26, 2011

Yes, I know; it could be worse. My parents who were traveling in France, both ended up in the hospital for different reasons. So I am here for a week taking care of them. The only caveat is that I cannot leave “Rue Clar” for more than an hour at a time. So mostly I am enjoying the French restaurants and buying some delicious treats for the local shops. I have tried a few places for morning croissants, and also am envious of Parisians who can buy a delicious baguette for just 1 euro.

Enjoying the sights and foods of Paris

After some initial technical problems, I will try to post photos of the foods of Paris as often as I can.  Check back over the next few days.

Lunch in a random cafe in Paris. My parents are standing.

Below is a gallery of some of the sights I was able to see (click on image to enlarge).

Au revoir for now


Almost Hands-Free Risotto with Chicken and Herbs

April 19, 2011

On a cold February evening 10 years ago, I made my regular saffron-mushroom risotto for dinner using the traditional technique; i.e. keep stirring and stirring. According to family lore, it was so delicious that my 9-month pregnant, Panamanian wife wouldn’t stop eating it. My mother-in-law warned her to stop eating, but she stubbornly kept eating and eating, moaning about how delicious it was. Of course, a few hours later at 3AM we found ourselves driving through the Holland tunnel across town to Beth Israel hospital.  So my risotto gained the reputation of spontaneously triggering childbirth.

Nico, now 10 years old and himself a devoted risotto-lover, gives Chris Kimball’s Almost Hands-Free Risotto with Chicken and Herbs a full 5-stars, but my more critical view gives it a delicious 3-1/2 stars.  I really loved the addition of lemon juice; it really brightened the dish. The chicken certainly made the meal a bit more hearty, though I disagree with the implication that every “real meal” must contain meat. Though delicious, it falls to 3-1/2 stars for the very thing that sets this recipe apart, the fact that it is almost hands-free. By adding the full 5-cups of chicken broth at one time, I gave up the ability to simply stop cooking the risotto once it hits al dente. I had do continue to cook until the extra liquid had evaporated. In my case, that meant the texture was too mushy.

Hopefully the last of the cell phone photos; sorry.

This recipe swaps the traditional skillet for a Dutch oven, which distributes the heat more evenly.Chris Kimball tried adding half the 5-cups of chicken broth in the beginning, but by the time he was ready to add the second half the bottom rice was overcooked on the bottom, but still wet on the top.  I just saw the ATK episode last night (made the recipe a few days ago) , and his rice also looked too mushy for my taste, though Chris called it “creamy.”

Issues:

  • While the technique of trading in a skillet for a Dutch oven proves effective, adding the 5 cups of water in the beginning means losing control over the moisture level. Because all Arborio rice is not created equal, in my case, that lose of control meant mushy rice.
  • But Chris Kimball was able to “simplify” the recipe (his stated goal). The Dutch oven retained heat and heated more evenly that a traditional skillet. It was still very good and only needed a small fraction of the 25 minutes of constant stirring required by the traditional technique.

Rating: 3-1/2 stars.
Cost: $4.50.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Start time 5:40 PM. Ready at 7:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original is here.  He has a Saffron Chicken version here. The descriptions of how I cooked it today are given below:

5 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves (about 12 ounces each), each cut in half crosswise
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion , chopped fine (about 1 1/2 cups)
Table salt
1 large garlic clove , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)
2 cups Arborio rice (about 1 pound)
1 cup dry white wine
2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup)
1 teaspoon juice from 1 lemon
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Ground black pepper

  1. Boil chicken broth and add 2 cups of cold tap water in a large saucepan over high heat. When it begins to boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and maintain a gentle simmer.
  2. Add olive oil to Dutch oven and preheat over medium heat until the oil is shimmering. Cook the chicken, skin-side down, without moving for 5 minutes. Flip the chicken and continue cooking for 2 more minutes. Add the partially-cooked chicken to the saucepan of simmering broth. Cook in gently simmering broth for 15 minutes (ensure that the thickest part of chicken reaches 165 degrees). Remove chicken and place of a plate.
  3. Meanwhile dice the onion, and peel garlic.
  4. Add 2 tablespoons of butter to Dutch oven (still should be over medium heat). Once melted, add the diced onion and 3/4 teaspoon of salt. Sautee until the onion is softened for 4 to 5 minutes, but don’t cook so long as to allow the onion to brown. Push onion to side and press garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
  5. Add rice to Dutch oven and cook for 3 minutes; stirring the whole time.
  6. Add wine and cook until the wine has been fully incorporated; about 3 minutes.
  7. Here, Chris Kimball says to stir in 5-cups of chicken broth. I’d suggesting cutting that down to 4-cups to allow more flexibility to attain the proper al dente texture.  Reduce your burner to medium-low, cover your dutch oven. Simmer for about 16 to 18 minutes; stirring twice during cooking.  Towards the end of cooking make sure that the rice doesn’t dry out.
  8. If the texture of your risorro can handle another 3/4-cup of chicken broth, add it and stir for final 3 minutes of cooking. Add Parmesan cheese, stir, remove the pot from heat. Cover, and let everything rest for 5 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile, through away the chicken’s skin and bones from chicken. Using two forks, shred the chicken into bite-size pieces. Add the shredded chicken, 2 more tablespoons of butter, juice from 1 lemon, parsley, and chives into risotto. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Grilled Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Prosciutto and Fontina

April 16, 2011

I think my winter doldrums may finally be gone; I suddenly have the urge to cook, cook, cook. Four new recipes this week (which I will post over the next few days).  A sunny 65-degree on Thursday evening had me yearning to fire up my barbecue, so I found this recipe for Charcoal-Grilled Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Prosciutto and Fontina. While I’ve been stuffing my chicken breasts for years, the ability to do so on the BBQ is new. Overall, the results were fantastic; flavorful, well-balanced taste with minimal effort and clean-up. 4-stars.

Stuffing that isnt overpowered by the smokey flavor.

Instead of butterflying and stuffing the chicken (like here and here), I cut pockets in the chicken breasts in which I stuffed the prosciutto wrapped cheese bundle. This meant that I only had one side to try to seal up, resulting in fewer leaks; much better than the regular butterflying method. For this recipe, Chris Kimball chose Fontina because it’s slightly tangy, nutty flavor complemented the smokey flavor from the grill. Today I used fontina, but still it was quite mild. Next time I’d like to try some Jarlsberg, because it has a little more nutty flavor, it goes on sale for $5/lb (compared to the $10/lb I spent on the Fontina), and I love to munch on the extra Jarlsberg. But Chris Kimball is right; the fontina will melt better.

Comments:

  1. Chris Kimball has a bunch of different variations of this recipe. I’d also like to try the Salami with Mozzarella.
  2. This recipe comes with a new knot. But it left the chicken bundles very loose. So I gave up and went to a regular old double-knot.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $7.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Start time 6:00 PM. Ready at 7:45 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original charcoal grill version is here .  My descriptions of how I cooked it it today are given below:

4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves
Table salt
Vegetable oil for cooking grate
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium shallot
4 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
2 ounces fontina cheese ,
4 slices prosciutto (about 2 ounces)
Ground black pepper

  1. Remove butter from refrigerator and allow to soften on the counter-top. Trim and access fat or skin from the chicken breasts.
  2. Cut a pocket in each breast. Start on the thicker-side of the chicken, slicing hortizontally leaving a 1/2″ attached to hold the butter and melting cheese.
  3. In a medium bowl, dissolve 3 tablespoons of table salt in 1 quart of cold water. Brin the chicekn breasts in refrigerator for 30 minutes; covered with plastic wrap.
  4. Light a full chimney starter of charcoal (roughly 100 briquettes), allowing about 25-minutes for the coals to fully ignite. Dump coals over half of grill, leaving the other half empty to form two distinct heating zones. Replace cooking grate, clean, and then season the grate by dip a wad of paper towels in vegetable oil; then use tons to wipe grate with oil.
  5. With the charcoal starts, remove the rind from the Fontina and cut into four 3″x1/2″ sticks. Roll each stick cheese with a slice prosciutto.
  6. Mince your shallot (you should have about 3 tablespoons) and chop your tarragon; add to small bowl, the add softened butter; mix.
  7. Remove the chicken breasts from the brine, and dry the inside and the outside using paper towels. Sprinkle with ground pepper.
  8. Spread 1/4 of the butter mixture inside the pocket of each breast. Put prosciutto-wrapped cheese inside each breast and fold over to enclose. Wrap with three 12″ pieces of kitchen twine. Tie using a simple double-know, then trim away any excess twine.
  9. Start grilling the chicken, skin side down, over the hot side of grill. Cook for 5 minutes, then flip a cook the other wide until it is slightly browned; about 4 minutes.  Finish cooking the chicken on the cool side of grill (position so that the thicker end of the chicken is closer to the fire. Cover and cook for 25 more minutes. The internal temperature of the chicken from be 165 degrees.
  10. Tent with foil on carving board; and let rest for 10 minutes.
  11. Cut away twine. Carve breast meat away from bone using a boning knife to follow the contour of the bone. Slice into 1/2″ slices and serve.

Shrimp Potstickers

April 11, 2011

My favorite all-time recipe from Chris Kimball are these Pot Stickers, which are made with ground pork. My affinity for these potstickers coupled with my deep love of shrimp (well chocolate too) made me confident that this would be an out-of-the-park home run.  Kind of like 1 plus 1 always equals 2. So it was a huge surprise that I could not give them more than 3-stars. Don’t get me wrong; they are completely edible. But the subtlety of the shrimp was over-powered by the other ingredients and sauce. They might as well been made vegetarian-style without the shrimp.

Save your shrimp for Scampi or something. Pork potstickers are best.

3-stars is as high as I can go. I was very disappointed with their lack of potency, certainly not worth all the work. I still have leftovers to make tonight, but doubt that I can rally myself to put together another batch of 3-star potstickers. Maybe I’ll just cook the filling tomorrow in a skillet, without making the individual dumplings.

Comments:

  1. I started with an entire pound of IQF shrimp, but by the time I peeled and thawed them I was left with exactly the requisite 3/4-pounds.

Rating: 3 stars.
Cost: $9.
How much work? Medium/High.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 3:00 PM. Ready at 6:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original is here, and the dipping sauce recipe is here.  My descriptions of how I cooked them today are given below:

Filling Ingredients:

3 cups napa cabbage leaves
3/4 teaspoon table salt
3/4 pound
4 medium scallions
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 teaspoons soy sauce
1-1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 medium garlic clove
1 egg

Assembly and Cooking Ingredients:

1 package of round gyoza wrappers or square won ton wrappers
4 teaspoons vegetable oil (2 teaspoons per batch)

Scallion Dipping Sauce Ingredients:

1/4 cup  soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 medium scallion ,
1 teaspoon chili oil (optional)

  1. Finely mince cabbage leaves. Place cabbage in colander as toss in salt. Let stand for 20 minutes, then press the cabbage to squeeze out excess water.
  2. Meanwhile peel and devein the shrimp, then pulse it in a food processor 10 times. Mince the entire scallions (both white and green part), grate ginger and peel garlic cloves.
  3. Put cabbage in medium bowl and add all remaining filling ingredients. Lightly beat the egg and add to mixture, and mix thoroughly.
  4. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes ( or up to 24 hours).
  5. Working with 4 wrappers at a time, lay them flat (keeping all remaining wrappers covered with plastic wrap to prevent them from drying out). Add a level tablespoon of filling to the center of each wrapper. Moisten the edges with water using your fingertip. Fold the wrapper in half pressing any air pockets out of the dumpling.  Pinch the edges together to form a seal.
  6. Gently flatten each dumpling and press down on its seam to make sure it lies flat.
  7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 until all dumplings a made. (At this point the filled dumplings can be refrigerated overnight. Place them in single layer and wrap tightly with plastic wrap.)
  8. To cook the potstickers, put 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil in a room-temperature 12″ non-stick skillet. Use a paper towel to spread the oil evenly around the cold pan. Arrange 12 dumplings in skillet so that all the seams are facing the same direction, overlapping slightly as needed. Cook un-covered over medium-high heat without moving for 5 minutes. Reduce your burner to low, and add 1/2 cup water to skillet, covering immediately to trap the steam. Steam for 10 minutes; the wrappers will become almost translucent. Uncover your skillet and increase heat back to medium-high. Cook without moving for 4 minutes; the bottom of the potstickers will become well browned and crispy. Turn off the burner and put potstickers on a plate lined with two layers of paper towels, in order to remove any excess oil. They are best served immediately rather than trying to serve both batches at one once.
  9. While the potstickers are cooking, prepare the dipping sauce by mincing your scallion (both white and green parts), and stir together all other sauce ingredients in a serving bowl or gravy boat.
  10. Let your skillet cool until just warm. Wipe it clean and repeat step 8 with remaining dumplings.

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