Sunday, August 10, 2014


When the movie Ratatouille came out, I was absolutely enthralled with it. And of course, I had to buy it. My husband made me promise not to make ratatouille though. Tomatoes don’t agree with him, and he doesn’t agree with zucchini. Not wanting to risk divorce, I reluctantly agreed to avoid that one.  And my husband also isn’t a huge fan of cooking with wine (I know, he’s the biggest baby in the house). This was certainly throwing a wrench into my choices though. But alas, I found some recipes that I think everyone will like. And I’ll just save the wine for myself. It’s a win-win.
Breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Or brunch, or linner, or midnight snack. Or the two-thirties, or the nine-thirties.
Yesterday, we made crepes from a recipe based on the book Recipe for Adventure: Paris by Giada de Laurenttis. I bought this book for my daughter, and it comes with two recipes in the back. It was pretty easy: mixing eggs, milk, flour, sugar, and salt into a bowl and whisking it until it’s a smooth, liquidy batter. Then I melted a pat of butter in a skillet and placed a ¼ cup of batter in the skillet, tilting the skillet to spread it around. This is one time I’m glad I have a skillet with a handle on both sides. After about a minute or so, I flipped it once to brown it on the other side. I was amazed at how light and airy it was. You can fill it with a variety of toppings, but we made Banana-Nutella crepes that were out of this world. We had them for dinner last night, and again for breakfast this morning (still just as good!).
Sometimes the things that take the longest to make taste the best. Like this right here.  
To start off today’s recipes, I had to look to Julia Child for guidance. I checked out her book Mastering the Art of French Cooking, vol. 1 from the library. I started off with her recipe for French bread, although I was tempted to try the croissants as well. (Croissants are one of my most favorites things in the world.) This French bread takes a long time to make, so it’s not something to make at the last minute.  I first mixed the yeast, flour, and salt into a bowl, slowly poured warm water into it, and mixed it. Then I added one more cup of flour little by little to make the dough smooth and elastic. I let it sit for three hours while I went shopping. After that time, it had almost doubled in size, and I punched it down, letting it rest another hour and a half. When it was time, I divided the dough into three pieces, folding each piece in two, covering it with a towel and letting it sit for another five minutes. Now it was time to shape them and lay them on parchment paper dusted with flour. And again, I had to let them rest for another hour and a half. Then comes the slightly difficult part because I don’t have the optimal baker’s oven or equipment. I placed a baking sheet with water in it on the bottom rack while the oven preheated to 450ºF. Then I sprayed some water onto the tops of the loaves and slashed it before transferring it to the oven to bake for 25 minutes. It took all day, but it was so worth it. I loved the crunchy, flakey crust and the soft inside. It was the perfect bread to dip in the soup.
So comforting. I want to make this when it's not 90º outside. 
And now we come to the main course: Julia Child’s Potage au Cresson. The recipe builds off of her recipe for potato and leek soup.  It starts off with simmering potatoes, leeks (and any other vegetables you would prefer; I didn’t add anything else), chives, water, and salt for about 40-50 minutes. Then add in the watercress and mash up the vegetables. The recipes calls to pass the soup through a food mill, but I just used my hand mixer to blend everything together and puree as much as I could. Then I added a little more salt and a little pepper to it. Once I took it off the heat, I stirred in the whipping cream just before serving and garnished it with a little more chives and watercress. I did have to add a little salt and some garlic powder to make it perfect.  I had never used watercress before.  It has the consistency and flavor of a strong-tasting spinach. I really liked it and thought it complemented the potatoes and the leeks. Next time, I might try adding in a little sausage or mini meatballs.
There are no words. It blew me away. It was a huge hit with the kids. Especially when I called it bacon pizza.  
Next, I made a dish that was recommended by a friend who had lived in France for a while: tarte flambé. It’s native from the Alsace area. I had to make my own crème fraîche by mixing half sour cream and half whipping cream, and I also had to substitute low fat cream cheese for the fromage blanc. I mixed the crème fraîche, cream cheese, nutmeg, salt, and pepper in a bowl and set it aside. I also mixed together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl, making a well in the center. Then I mixed the oil, egg yolks, and water together and poured it into the well, stirring everything to make the dough. After kneading it for a minute, I divided it into three parts to make into a 12” circle. For each circle, I spread some of the cheese mixture, leaving the edges free, sprinkling some chopped bacon and some of the chopped leeks that I had leftover from the soup. I don’t have a pizza stone, but I did learn this hack of making my own. I nested two baking sheets together, put them into the oven upside down, and preheated the oven to 500º. I put one tarte onto a piece of parchment paper and transferred it to the overturned baking sheets and let it bake for about eight minutes until it was crispy on the edges. Originally, tarte flambé was a way that bakers would test to see whether the oven was hot enough. I must really enjoy what I do, because sticking my head in a 500º oven on an already humid day sounds a little crazy. 
"'S'wonderful... 'S'marvelous... That you should care for me." -- from An American in Paris
I loved everything about this meal. I actually had never eaten French food before (well, besides crepes and baguettes). It was amazing.  Maybe one day, I’ll just go ahead and make the beef bourguignon without telling anyone and just serve it for dinner unannounced.  Sometimes, you just have to go for it. In the movie Ratatouille, Remy takes the chance to follow his dream to be a chef, even though it seemed pretty improbable. I lost my job in April working at a large insurance company for almost four years, but tomorrow I will be launching my own business, Da Capo Proofreading LLC. It’s an online proofreading and editing company. At times, it seemed fairly improbable as well. But I’m taking a chance on a dream to work from home doing something I enjoy. Even this blog project seemed an improbable feat. But in the meantime, I’ll have some really tasty food to remind me of how far I’ve come and how far I can go. (And this is the last “F” country!)
Up next: Gabon

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