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The Art of French bread

22 Mar

The Art of French Bread!


Making bread can seem a daunting task as it involves baking and exact proportions.   At least for me, I like to work in akitchen adding, screwing up, fixing, tasting… cooking as I please.  I enjoy having instant gratification as I watch and taste during the process.   With baking you put in the time and effort, just to find out 3 hours later the cake you had in mind didn’t turn out right and instead  it looks like something out of one of Dali’s dreams.

A cake of Dali's, "The Persistence of Memory."

A cake of Dali’s, “The Persistence of Memory.”

But we are in luck!  Here is a simple recipe for French bread that is hard to mess up and turns out great!  It only involves, ready…, 4 ingredients!!!   Water, flour, salt and yeast. And from start to finish about 3 hours (you’re only actually working for about 30 minutes).  You can follow the recipe by clicking on the link above.

The kneading is a bit more intense than you may think, especially towards the end when the dough finishes thickening.  Now I see why bakers have those Popeye forearms.popeye-arms

Dough before rising

Dough before rising

Dough after rising, about 2.5 hours later.

Dough after rising, about 2.5 hours later.

Before Baked

Before being baked

Baked with thyme and rosemary

Baked with thyme and rosemary

It yields 2 loaves.  If you want to dazzle it up, I sauteed some rosemary and thyme in olive oil and brushed the top of the loaves for the last 3 minutes of baking.  Actually there are many ways to customize your bread; dried tomatoes with cheddar cheese on top, toasted garlic bits, sea salt,  use your imagination!

Boeuf Bourguignon, Julia Child and I

12 Mar

Can you be French and have never cooked Boeuf Bourguignon?

Recently I watched again Julie&Julia, that movie that draws a parallel between the lives of a New Yorker cook and Julia Child, the famous American chef and author of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Julie, the young New Yorker, assigns herself the challenge of cooking the 524 recipes featured in the book within one year. One of the decisive recipe that appears in the movie is Boeuf Bourguignon. It is depicted both as complex to make and succulent to eat. It is also often presented as being the essence of French cooking. It is true, Boeuf Bourguignon seems to be in most of the French restaurants here and my cook friends quote it systematically when talking about French cuisine. Thus, I have been thinking about Boeuf Bourguignon for a while and last weekend I gave myself the challenge to cook Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon. My first Boeuf Bourguignon… by an American chef.

Getting ready for the Boeuf Bourguignon cooking night

I read that Boeuf Bourguignon is even better if cook in advanced and re heated. Sunday night was the perfect spot: nobody home, plenty of time, relaxed cook. I got everything I needed and followed the advice of the wine salesman: I took a French wine mixing Pinot Noir and Shiraz, good to cook and good to drink (in fact he was quoting Julia Child who said, “I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food I’m cooking. “).

I started at 9pm. By 12am, it was almost finished. I was surprised I did not encounter any major issue. In fact, I did not meet any issue at all. I carefully followed the recipe: cook the bacon, cut it into lardons, sauté the meat until brown, repeat with sliced onion and carrot, simmer wine, beef bouillon with the meat, add flour, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and cover for 2 hours. At the end, when the meat is tender, I added sautéed mushrooms and small onions cooked into the bouillon. I did not have the right pan to simmer it slowly in the oven so I did it on the stove on a big saucepan. I kept the heat very low and it was perfect.

So far, it tastes amazingly good. The meat is tender and the sauce is thick and sweet. I don’t know if it’s because it’s a Julia Child’s recipe, if I am influenced by the movie or just because it is Boeuf Bourguignon but so far, I think it is one of the best meal I have ever cooked.

Tasting and verdict of Tummy Boy tomorrow night though…

The ingredients:

• 9- to 10-inch, fireproof casserole dish , 3 inches deep

• Slotted spoon

• 6 ounces bacon

• 1 Tbsp. olive oil or cooking oil

• 3 pounds lean stewing beef , cut into 2-inch cubes

• 1 sliced carrot

• 1 sliced onion

• 1 tsp. salt

• 1/4 tsp. pepper

• 2 Tbsp. flour

• 3 cups full-bodied, young red wine , such as a Chianti

• 2 to 3 cups brown beef stock or canned beef bouillon

• 1 Tbsp. tomato paste

• 2 cloves mashed garlic

• 1/2 tsp. thyme

• Crumbled bay leaf

• Blanched bacon rind

• 18 to 24 small white onions , brown-braised in stock

• 1 pound quartered fresh mushrooms , sautéed in butter

• Parsley sprigs

In the kitchen with Julia child, here

Mushrooms in the closet

6 Feb

I love meat. Duck, pork ribs, carpaccio, hot and burning wings, I am a meat eater.  I can not resist to thin slices of saucisson for the apéritif or a fried bacon pizza. Roasting chicken at the market makes my mouth watering and even if I love pet rabbits, I also like them with apple cider, prunes and raisins. And yet, I had a homemade veggie burger this week. A veggie burger that tasted like meat. Except that it was not beef but the cap of a Portabello mushroom grown in the closet of my apartment.

In NYC, it is trendy to grow your own vegetables, brew your own beer or make your own cheese and yogurts. It is part of the new « homemade». So when A. said that he wanted to grow mushrooms, I was not so much surprised. After all, he had been growing mint and basil on my tiny balcony in Toulouse, why not mushrooms in NYC?

Growing mushrooms in an apartment is a funny thing. First he had to set up the closet, a sort of walk in closet where we put our coats or shirts. Call it dorm room life. He also had to control the humidity. Once the nest was ready, he prepared the growing materiel. It led to some funny morning discoveries : the mushroom kit in the bathroom (again, temperature control), hay boiling and cooling in a big pot on the stove, newspapers all over the kitchen to make papier mâché, pounds of wet coffee grounds in the kitchen sink… But the most interesting is to answer the questions of family and friends : no, we are not growing THAT kind of mushrooms, and yes, they grow in the closet.

Finally, last week he got his first three babies : more than one pound of meaty tasting Portabello. Very good in a morning omelet, delicious in a veggie burger with balsamic vinegar, cheddar, onion and spinach.

The Groupon Experience

20 Jan

What was thought to be a wine tasting experience, quickly turned into a Groupon experience.   Everyday I receive emails from this deal of the day website about their offers.  Well a few weeks ago I purchased one for a wine tasting with appetizers for two (4 glasses of wine each, appetizers and two take home bottles).  What a picture it had, a full glass of wine and assortment of cheeses around it.  The first hint that this would not be as sweet as it sounded was when calling for reservations. I was quickly told after referring to Groupon that I must come at 5pm, contrasting with what was written on the offer by 7pm. (After a little back and fourth we agreed on 6:30pm). It was not only this but the tone of voice that really gave away the fact Groupon customers weren’t so welcomed. Like the response you get when a salesman offers you a great deal and makes you excited but than immediately tells you about the hidden costs, that dramatic drop in your tone of voice…”oh, ok well I’m not interested.”

We arrived to the restaurant, a little, low lighted Italian place with candles and cheap looking deco. Immediately we are seated in the front and given the “4 glasses of wine each” as promised, they were tastings rather (about a few small sips). I should have read into this more, the title said tasting but the fine print said glasses. These were a pinot grigio, chardonnay, malbec and pinot noir, with a small dish of appetizers in between us. The night went well though, at least we had the equivalent of one glass of wine and some things to pick at while conversing, with the exception of the music selection, Celine Dion and some other really cheesy music. Coming out, I will say that they really tried to hard, over the top, to make it a nice place, kind of like a nouveau riche house.

We lingered soaking up the wine and cheesiness until feeling it was time to get our two free bottles to take home. Retrieving our coats and wine, I asked the manager if he wished he hadn’t signed on with Groupon.  Apparently most Groupon customers don’t tip very well and it doesn’t help businesses as much as predicted. Wow, the response was blatantly lying through the teeth with a smile, “No, we like our Groupon customers.” It did not take a lie detector to decipher that statement.  So we left and without a word walked right into “Big Daddy’s” burger joint next door as it was on both our minds and just laughed that we had just made this subconsciousness switch in atmosphere .  So much for the refined night we had been expecting…

Deep-fried party in a guerilla restaurant

17 Jan

“ Give the croquette to the dog and come in, you want a drink? ” says Kate while sticking a dog croquette in my hand through the still half open door. Me, babbling: “Hey, I’m Carole, you might be Kate?” Once the dog calmed, Kate, the host for the night, welcomes me with a glass of Cranberry Mojito in her red and white apartment. That’s how began last Saturday night, my first diner in an underground restaurant. A tummy temerarious experience…

Underground restaurants appeared in the US. Underground, pop-up, guerilla, at home, whatever the name, the concept is the same: an individual hosts guests, restaurant style, usually for a financial charge. Most of the guests and hosts don’t do it for money though. Nor to become hospitality professionals: experience, meeting new people and tasting unusual food prevail.

Last Saturday, I was on the guests list: 10 lucky people attending a Deep-fried party. Kind of unusual for the French I am. Kate, who is a chef in “real” life, had prepared 4 frying stations in her big kitchen. Professional utensils: large pots, thermometers, frying skimmers and oil cans. Don’t mess about frying! (I won’t mention the flour collection, the variety of whisks and peelers, the avocado pit utensil and the 20 spices pots above the sink.)

For my first Deep-frying party, I had decided to cook vegetables and cheese croquettes, cod-fish croquettes and banana/bacon donuts. Last minute I realized that: the cod-fish needed 24hours to desalt, there was no fresh mozzarella in my supermarket and they had a bargain on Plantain bananas. So I started improvising, 2 hours before the diner. Finally, after struggling with flour, eggs, bread crumbs and resilient bananas, I was armed with 30 croquettes: mashed potatoes-apples-curry, Plantain bananas-spicy mustard-bacon, butternut squash-onions.

On the menu: deep-fried mayonnaise, avocados, ginger, eggplant, lemon, kiwi, raspberries, risotto croquettes, steak meat, PB&J sandwiches,  crab cakes, broccolis, cheesecake… Unlimited wine and Mojito. My stomach stands and I try the deep-fried pizza. Last extravagance of the night.

Everybody being full and feeling a little bit crummy, the night goes on with a game and more cocktails. Some start being unsteady, eyes are closing, impossible to think, time to leave!

Conclusion: friendly and curious about food guests, fun, small investment and a very rich experience.

One lesson: deep-fry the peanut butter at last; it gives its taste to the oil.

Next diner theme: seafood tapas, at Alicia’s.

Hello tummy!

9 Jan

A collection of hungry tummies stories…

Why write about food, simply put because Tummy boy and Tummy girl love it. They love eating, and they love eating good: rich and creamy dairy, fresh vegetables and fruits, fish, meat or anything they can’t pronounce.

From this blog they just want to document their food experiences in creative way through Reviews (Tummy tips), Food history (Tummy traditions), Recipes (Tummy treats) and Travels (Tummy trips).

If you enjoy this make a comment or just keep reading!