Thursday, October 28, 2010
I needed my groove back soon or TERP would die!
I started to come back to the real world this weekend when Sunday night, SPP and I celebrated his birthday at The Iron Forge Inn. Even after Paris it's still my most favorite favorite favorite restaurant in the world. It helped me remember that I do dearly love the Good Old US of A and its deliciously varied cuisine. Heck, as we sat and ate our meal, we mused not so much on our meals in Paris (which we had certainly done enough of) but of our meals in Wyoming earlier this year.
So now that I was feeling local food love again, I still needed some ideas for what to make. I was still drawing blanks.
I decided to play the Random Recipe Game. You pull a random cookbook and open it to any old page and make whatever recipe it tells you to.
I closed my eyes and pointed at my cookbook shelf. I came up with this one. It's called The Uncommon Gourmet by Ellen Helman.
I picked this up while bored and browsing in my favorite bookstore probably 15-20 years ago. I was just really starting to get into non-dessert cooking in those days and would gravitate to any random cookbook. I never thought to grab the classics like Joy of Cooking or anything by Julia Child (Mom had those and I could always borrow them). I was looking for new, fresh, unknown recipes. (Ironic since I've developed a love of vintage cookbooks over the years.) The book isn't famous and I don't know much about the author, but it's filled with easy and interesting recipes (including delicious desserts like apple cake and chocolate amaretto pound cake).
The recipe I opened up to was in a section that centered around Thanksgiving recipes. Opposite the page that contained a recipe for herb roasted whole turkey, was a recipe for roasted turkey breast with peach chutney. It sounded good to me!
Oh wait, Sir Pickypants has made it clear he doesn't like peaches. Okay. Time to adapt. Time to get the creative juices flowing. Oh wow! I was about to get creative and make someone else's recipe my own.
Peaches were out of the question, but what about apples? He's not fond of them, but will eat them in certain forms. I decided to stick with the classic Granny Smith as they hold up well to cooking and don't get overly juicy when you cook them.
Next I thought about the small supply of hot peppers I had in my fridge. How about I make it a little spicy and add one of those. Would apples and jalapenos work together?
While in the produce department picking up the apples and onions, I saw a pint of cranberries staring at me. What if I made apple-cranberry chutney?
Now I was on fire. I hit a roadblock though when I reached the meat department. I know I can always get a whole turkey breast at Whole Foods (if I don't mind paying through the nose for it) and I just assumed my local, pedestrian A&P would have one. You know what they say about assuming?
I ended up with chicken. I didn't have time to roast one whole, so I bought one already cut up. As other food bloggers have been known to say, don't judge me. I poured a mixture of white wine and butter over them then sprinkled them liberally ('cause I do everything liberally ;-))with salt, pepper, and paprika. Into the oven at 350 for 40 minutes.
Here is my crazy pile of chutney ingredients. I know I say that one shouldn't load a recipe down with too many ingredients, but there is a difference between multiple competing flavors and the synergy of the right combination. I had apples, cranberries, jalapenos, brown sugar, cinnamon, coriander, chili powder, cayenne, balsamic vinegar, pecans, golden raisins*, onion and garlic.
Cook it all down to a delicious mess.
I served it with crispy roasted potatoes and steamed broccoli with garlic butter. It was a wonderful melange of tastes and textures: sweet and sour with just enough heat on the back of your tongue.
I loved it when SPP came home and said he could smell dinner as he came down the hallway and how good it smelled.
Chicken with Spicy Apple-Cranberry Chutney
1 whole chicken cut up into 8 pieces
2 Tbl butter
1/2 cup white wine
Salt, pepper, and paprika (enough to make your chicken pieces look well sprinkled)
Preheat oven to 350. Melt butter and mix with wine. Pour over chicken. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika. Bake for 40 minutes and serve with chutney.
Spicy Apple-Cranberry Chutney
2 Tbl olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, cored, seeded and finely minced
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1 cup cranberries
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup balsmic vinegar
3/4 cup chopped toasted pecans
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 Tbl finely chopped cystallized ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cayenne
Heat oil in a large pan. Add onions and cook until soft. Add garlic and jalapeno and cook until they are very fragrant.
Add apple slices. Cook until they begin to soften. Add remaining ingredients and stir together well.
Bring to a simmer and simmer about an hour or until craberries have popped, apples have cooked down, and everything is thick and not at all watery.
Serve over chicken pieces.
*Yes, it's true, I don't like raisins and I used them. This is the funny thing about raisins. While I HATE them in my desserts and don't ever eat them out of hand, I do enjoy them in some savory foods. I like how they can counter spiciness. It's a weird quirk of mine.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
I'll come up with more recipes soon. Promise.
Monday, October 11, 2010
For a full set of photos, go here, here, and here.
Bonjour my TERP muffins! Hope you didn't miss me too much while I ate my way around a city my husband dubbed The Most Beautiful City in the World. I'm here to share all of the cool restaurants I enjoyed while there.
Kevin and I did a LOT of touring. During the day we kept ourselves quite busy, so sadly we had little time for leisurely afternoons in cafes and pastisseries. During the day our main goal was seeing the sights, which means I don't have much in the way of breakfast, lunch, or afternoon snacks (or cocktails) to share with you. I did try a few Parisan specialties though, and had some incredible dinners.
Day 1 - We arrived at our hotel much later than expected due to security checks and a slow shuttle. It was almost mid afternoon when we reached our hotel and we were starving. Once we were settled in our room, we asked the receptionist/concierge what he might recommend for lunch. He said the heart of the Latin Quarter was just around the corner and we would have endless options there.
We did as we were told and headed into the heart of the Latin Quarter.
Friends, family and internet reviewers previously told me avoid places with English on the menu and to avoid places where they try to pull you in. We ignored both of those rules and headed into the first restaurant where one of the many "barkers" managed to grab us, L'Auberge de Moulin.
It was a pleasant restaurant with an open front for outdoor seating. Despite the English translations on the menu (I think that tip is a bit overrated since so many menus do have English translations and the restaurants are just fine) the place did seem to cater to French people as well as Americans.
Across the street the chef at the Greek place put on quite a show, brandishing his knives and cutting meat from him spits.
The meal itself was okay. I started with a bowl of tomato soup as I felt I needed some vegetable fortification. Kevin asked me how it was and I said, "I can make a better one." It tasted as if it might have come from a can.
I fared (NPI) better with the main course. I had a ham and cheese crepe with a salad on the side. Crepe was perfectly acceptable. Salad had very delicious dressing.
After an afternoon of walking around the neighborhood to get our bearings, we had to decide where to eat for dinner. We decided to try a place my father had suggested to me on the Ile St. Louis, called Le Sergent Recruteur.
It's funny how we found it. I had looked it up on the map, but while we were walking there, we crossed the wrong bridge to the island. We were still on Ile De Cite`. We walked over to St. Louis from the east end of Cite` and decided to just walk straight down the central street, seeing what we would find. I was looking in the windows of various restaurants when one in particular caught my eye. I looked up at the sign on the window and realized I had found Sergent Recruteur.
Dad said I would like this place because of its similarity to a favorite NY restaurant of mine, Les Sans Culottes. I should say the menus are quite similar. The atmosphere was totally wacked (but in a good way).
Decor was a real "anything goes" style. It seems they stuck whatever they had in the junk yard on the walls.
Bread was stored on this shelf hanging from the ceiling.
It was definitely a tad touristy. Everyone in that place was speaking English. Really, I didn't care. The menu was that wonderful.
We had an abundant first course. We were given a basket of sausages, a basket of fresh vegetables, and a chunk of pate (not shown here). This is just like Les Sans Culottes. They also gave us a tureen of vegetable soup (unlike LSC). The soup was delicious (I'm very picky about vegetable soups). The pate was divine (and since Kevin won't eat it, I had it all to myself). I made sure I tried a slice of every piece of sausage in that basket. They ranged from mild to spicy, from soft to hard, and from yummy to extraordinary.
Yes, I did have some vegetables too. I was a good girl.
After all that, we were served the main course. Kevin had roast chicken. I had duck confit. We both adored our dinners. I couldn't help noticing just how dark and rich the duck meat was. There is definitely a difference in how they raise animals in France from how they raise them in the US.
Next we had a cheese course. I was really feeling close to stuffed at this point, but I had to have a small sample of the brie, the camembert, the goat cheese, and the other cheese on the platter whose name I didn't catch, but had a mild cheddar-like flavor. The brie was the standout. Again, I could taste a certain sweetness, a certain vegetality (is there such a word) in the cheese that I never had in brie before. Clearly this cow is on a very different diet from American cows.
Finally dessert. We kept it simple with a very dark chocolate ice cream.
Did I mention the wine was unlimited? I was in the mood for red. Kevin only drinks white. We were given an entire bottle each.
The best part of the restaurant was the service though. The server was a hoot. Whenever someone ordered duck, he referred to it as the "Qua qua." If he saw an empty bottle of wine on a table, he would scream, "Mayday Mayday," and immediately bring over another. The evening was entertaining as well as delicious.
Day 2 - We had the misfortune of oversleeping today, so we missed breakfast at our hotel. We headed for the boulangerie down the street hoping for croissants. They were out of croissants, but they did have pain au chocolat. How could I resist?
How was my pastry? Delicious of course. Pain au chocolat is like sex though. Even when it's bad, it's still pretty good.
After a few hours of touring Notre Dame, we were hungry again. We found a creperie near out hotel and decided to try another French specialty. We had crepes filled with Nutella. I said to Kevin that nothing we had eaten that day hadn't been filled with chocolate. Oh well. That's what vacation is all about. Bring it on!
Later that afternoon I was strolling alone through the neighborhood and was listening to all of the hawkers at the restaurants. I was thinking about how much fun it would be to eat my way through the Latin Quarter and how long it would take. I knew that the area was well-known for its Middle Easter fare, and one cous cous place was catching my eye. I decided to persuade Kevin to have dinner there later on.
Au Bon Cous Cous was the name of the restaurant. It was a very plain, almost seedy kind of joint. I had hoped I had made the right choice.
They gave us a complimentary aperitif of some kind of sweet wine. We had another bottle of a drier rose wine as well.
I wanted the chicken and merguez combo and Kevin ordered just plain chicken. We were given a platter with all of the meats to share.
The couscous arrived in a big bowl with smaller bowls of raisins and chick peas.
They also gave us a big pot of spicy stewed vegetables. I'm not sure what all of them were. We just loaded up our plate with couscous, dumped our meat, veggies and garnishes on there and chowed down.
The surroundings might not have been upscale, but the food was delicious. I loved the merguez (me and my sausage).
We opted not to have dessert at the restaurant. We headed for Amarino, the gelato place down the block. Sadly, this was my only ice cream all week.
I chose a mixture of pistachio and tiramisu`. The pistachio was the best I had ever had. Kevin had only one flavor, but I don't remember what it was.
Day 3 - We tried out hotel buffet breakfast this morning. We weren't impressed. I liked the charcuterie, but there wasn't much there that Kevin could eat. One table in the breakfast room that had recently been occupied had an abandoned basket with a roll and croissant in it, but we had none forthcoming. We decided to eat breakfast elsewhere the rest of the week.
This was a very long day for us. We walked all over Paris. We started at the Musee D'Orsay, then walked back to the Place De La Concorde and took that all the way to the Arc De Triomphe. Somewhere in between, we had crepes. I had a ham and cheese. Kevin had an egg one. I never took photos. How many crepe photos does any blog need?
We were exhausted at the end of the day so we wanted to stick as close to home as possible for dinner. Kevin wanted to visit Shakespeare and Company that night and we thought we might try one of the places along that strip, but they were having live music that night and it was too crowded and the hawkers at the nearby restaurants were annoying anyway. Kevin was insistent that we go to a FRENCH restaurant that night. He spotted on on the corner that looked promising.
Jardin De Notre Dame lives up to its name on the outside with its pretty planting on the outside. Inside the decor is much simpler and more utilitarian cafe style. Food is classic French fare.
I started with onion soup. I'm not a huge fan of the stuff, but I figured I had always eaten it in the US where it's just a bowl of salt and cheese. I thought I should try it in Paris since the French know how to do it right. I did not regret that choice. It wasn't too salty. The onions were properly caramelized. There was almost a smoky flavor in it. I'd say it helped change my opinion about onion soup.
Next was poulet estragon - tarragon chicken. I like how they don't give you boring, boneless, skinless breasts in Paris. You get nice succulent flavorful pieces. This was good, although it walked the line of being a bit too tarragony.
This restaurant was totally into the pommes frites. They seemed to come with everything.
I had profiteroles (or are they cream puffs?) for dessert. Excellent chocolate sauce on top.
What I find funny about the places in the Latin Quarter were the attempts to be international to the point of parody. The hawkers outside of Mexican restaurants hammed it up in sombreros. They had faux Irish pubs with names that attempted to sound Irish like Polly Maggoo's.
Day 4 - Today we took a tour of Versailles. Our tour bus was picking us up early, so we went back to the boulangerie for a croissant and headed out of the city for the day.
Our tour included lunch. I wasn't expecting much. I figured we would go to some really touristy place that would serve high volumes of mediocre food. After touring the palace and grounds, we were told to meet the group at a restaurant called La Petite Venise. When we found it, I was impressed with it from the outside. It looked quite charming.
When we entered we settled in comfortably. It was equally charming from the inside. We were told when we sat down that everyone was going to have salad, chicken, mashed potatoes and chocolate cake. It didn't sound bad, but it didn't sound terribly exciting either. I knew the meal could go either way. It could be good, it could be mediocre, or it could be terrible. Wine was included with the meal, so if it was terrible at least we had that to fall back on.
The salad was a nicely-dressed arugula topped with parmesan shavings. The cheese was divine. French cheese really is the best. I wish I had more of it in Paris.
Then came the chicken. Oh the chicken! It was a boneless, skin-on breast, lightly drizzled with pesto oil. As soon as I cut into it, juices oozed out all over the plate. It was the juiciest chicken breast I have ever eaten. Whatever thoughts I had of eating mediocre chicken were immediately erased after eating this. The mashers were pretty good too, although not extraordinary.
The chocolate cake was actually a delicious tart. The buttery crust was filled with an intense chocolate pudding. This meal more than exceeded my expectations.
We returned from Versailles in the late afternoon. We had some time before dinner, so we wandered over to the Ile St. Louis to check out some of the chocolate shops we had passed on Sunday night. First we stopped at a pretty little shop called Cacao Et Chocolat for a supply of candies. This place had gorgeous artisinal chocolate and rich-looking cups of chocolate choud.
Then we went to La Cure Gourmande "Artisan Sucrecuitier". We LOVED this place. It was just wall-to-wall chocolate and cookies and other confections in the most beautiful boxes and tins. You know how some candy stores have bins of candy you can mix in a bag and buy by the pound? This store has bins of COOKIES. You can fill a bag or a tin. We filled a tin for ourselves with chocolate and cinnamon and coconut-filled and chocolate-filled, and raspberry filled, and...well you get the idea.
Between the sweet shops and some of the boutiques, we definitely got a head start on some of our Christmas shopping. Although we bought more than just sweets, we certainly bought quite a few boxes of treats to give away.
(Give away? Yeah right!)
The exciting part of the day was yet to come food-wise. You see, it was our anniversary that day. Yes, The Disorder-Pickypants family has been together 9 years now. We decided it would be fun to have dinner at La Coupole. After all, it's a Paris tradition, a historic landmark, and Sue recommended it.
The place is huge and bustling and noisy. It's almost like a boiler room setup with seemingly hundreds of tables in a big open space. Although the place is often accused of being touristy, everyone sitting at the tables around ours were French. You don't see too many high-end restaurants like this in the US.
I didn't take pictures of the dining room inside because we were in close quarters with the other diners and I felt it might be intrusive.
The place has an enormous seafood selection. When I saw the other tables chowing down on enormous platters of shrimp, oysters, and various other shellfish, I felt as if Chincoteague had gone upscale.
The staff was made up of quite a cast of characters from the host to the server. They really know how to put you at ease and put on a show, although they were far less over the top than the staff the Le Sergent Recruteur.
I had to carefully consider the menu. It was all in French, so I wanted to make sure I made no mistakes about ordering.
Since it was a special occasion and I was in Paris, I just had to have the foie gras for my appetizer. The foie gras was perfectly smooth and rich. The chutney on top was heavily infused with brandy. I can still taste this in my dreams.
Then along came the main course. I saw on the menu a dish with the words "porc", "braise`", and "choucroute". Pork braised in sauerkraut? Sounds good to me. Count me in!
After I ordered I had second thoughts. The full name of the dish was "Jarret de Porc." I asked Kevin if he knew what "jarret" meant. He didn't. He had also forgotten his phrase book.
I began to panic. What had I ordered? What if I ordered pig spleen? I said to Kevin, "What if I ordered brains?" He just said, "Then you're eating brains." "Adventure," I kept telling myself. "Paris is all about food adventures." Besides, even if I did order some unknown cut, it would be surrounded by sauerkraut right? That could cover up all kinds of weird tastes or textures.
My heart beat faster as I saw our server come with our plates. What was going to be on it?
I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that the pork was some kind of shank. In fact it was a very tender and tasty shank, surrounded with a rich coating of pork skin. The sauerkraut was mild tasting and infused with spices. Boiled potatoes never float my boat, but this one tasted as if it had been boiled in a mixture of butter and garlic. This dish was a winner all around. I knew the food of Paris would always take care of me.
There was more food on the plate than I could possibly eat. The server asked me if I wanted a doggie bag. Now that was a first!
With such a classic meal I wanted a classic dessert. Hello creme brulee`! This sucker was huge. Good thing I didn't eat all of my sauerkraut.
Day 5 - Another croissant from the boulangerie before we set off for the Eiffel Tower. We spent the morning going up and enjoying the view before coming down and having another Nutella crepe. Our next stop was the Louvre, so it was a day to eat on the run.
We were stumped as to where to have dinner that night. We had a few recommendations from family and friends, but most of them were not in our neighborhood and the last thing we wanted to do at the end of a long day was do even more walking, or subject ourselves to the Metro again. Kevin decided to mine the guidebooks for some inspiration.
He found it at L'Atlier Maitre Albert. I was a little surprised at his choice. When I was planning this trip I had noticed a Guy Savoy restaurant in the area, but didn't think peasants like us could get a table there, let alone afford the place. I jokingly told Kevin that a Savoy restaurant was near out hotel, but he was unimpressed (mostly because he didn't know who Guy Savoy is). Then he saw it in the guidebooks where the authors said it has consistenly remained their favorite restaurant. Kevin decided we should indulge and try it.
Decor was very simple and kind of funky with some rather unusual art on the walls.
They gave us a little plate of sausage on the table when we sat down. Another one of those moments when I was glad Kevin doesn't eat the stuff.
Although I didn't want to be intrusive and take a photo, one of the best features of the place was that the counter where servers picked up their orders was open to the dining area. Behind it were shelves of rotisseries, spinning all of the meats cooked in the restaurant. We could even see back into the kitchen. It was fun watching the chef and all of his sous chefs scuttling about back there.
I was pretty adventurous with my entree` here. I chose a dish of sprouts and mushrooms topped with a poached egg. I didn't know what kind of mushrooms I would be receiving and I'm really picky about mushrooms. There aren't too many varieties I like. Fortunately, these little shroomies were not too strong at all and everything was beautifully dressed.
For my main course I had a steak cooked on one of those many rotisseries served with bernaise sauce and dauphinaise potatoes. So rich. So good.
Then we had the best dessert I had all week. This was a layer of dark chocolate ganache topped with a layer of light chocolate hazelnut praline. In the middle was a very dark chocolate sorbet. When I say dark, I mean DARK. It was the most intensely flavored sorbet ever.
Really, the food just keeps getting better and better in this town.
Day 6 - Since it was our last full day in Paris, Kevin thought it might be nice to go for a nice, leisurely sit-down breakfast. The cafe at the end of our block had a breakfast special of croissants, toasted baguettes, a choice of hot beverage, and OJ. I had been brewing a cold, so I had mine with tea, but Kevin opted for the hot chocolate. He let me sample a bit of its yumminess.
We had the best weather we had had all week and after breakfast we enjoyed a leisurely stroll through Pere Lachaise cemetary visiting the graves of famous folks who have passed. Then we boarded the Metro for Sacre Couer.
I thought for our last day we deserved a sit-down lunch, so we found a cafe at the base at the hill. I had my croque madame. It wasn't that great. It was too dry. I like my cheese in my sandwich and not on it. Kevin fared much better with his fish.
Once we climbed to the top of the hill, we regretted having lunch at the bottom. All around Sacre Couer were booths and booths of regional specialties. There was ice cream and wines from all regions, and macarons, and cheeses and charcouterie (I think "charcouterie" is my new favorite word - it makes me instantly salivate).
On our way back on the metro we stopped on the Metro a few stops early and walked over to Place Des Vosges. There were a few interesting restaurants there and we considered them for later, but it was too early for dinner at the time. We walked back to our hotel and were too exhausted by then to consider going out of our neighborhood for dinner. Once again, Kevin hit the guidebooks for inspiration on the Left Bank.
We chose La Rotisserie Du Beaujolais. This is a small place, but very well attended with few Americans to be seen. I was having a bad night that night. Our hostess was not unfriendly, but she was a real no-nonsense kind of woman. I was slipping up my basic French words and basically acting like a bull in a china shop that night. I don't know what got into me. I felt like a schoolgirl who was doing all of the wrong things to avoid her teacher's disapproval.
This is another place with a big wall of rotisseries and that, as the name would suggest, is their specialty. I wasn't feeling grilled meat that night. I wanted some more French classics.
When we were served our bread they gave us butter (a first) and a small pot of pork rillette. How glad I was that Kevin doesn't eat pork.
I started with a pate de campagne. It came with a big crock of cornichons. Oh how I love this stuff!
Kevin and I split a big pot of coq au vin. I was a little skeptical when he said he wanted it since he wasn't too crazy about it when I made it. I think we both really enjoyed it though. Online reviewers tend to be a bit hard on this place, especially if you're not ordering grilled meats, but I didn't find anything wrong with my meal.
They had some tasty looking tarts on the dessert tray, but I went for the Ile Flottante. Floating Island is not something you ever see on American menus anymore, although I understand it was once pretty common. I had never eaten it before. I thought I'd give it a shot. The custard was clearly studded with vanilla bean and the meringue was huge. It was a very satisfying dessert and a nice ending to a perfect vacation.
The restaurant also had its own shopcat. This guy wandered back and forth through the dining room and eventually decided to join other diners in a booth for a while.
One thing I learned about globalization is that no matter where you go, there is always a McDonalds and a Starbucks. (There was a Subway down the street too.)
So ends my Parisian food adventure.