Friday, December 31, 2010
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Jean has imaginative, attractively presented food in a comfortable setting with capable team-style service. There is a moderate-sized but very attractive à la carte selection, as well as a 3-course menu for 45 euros, a 4-course menu gastronomique for 65 euros and a 7-course menu gastronomique for 78 euros.
We opted for the 4-course and were very happy. After several interesting amuse-bouches, we started with an inspired cauliflower (yes!) dish, consisting of cauliflower puree and tiny cooked florets, topped with thin raw slices, perfectly perfumed with a hint of sancho pepper oil. Next was sauteed scallops with a creamy almond sauce, topped with small slices of sauteed abalone and served over crispy cabbage. The meat course was a perfectly cooked fillet of venison with a simple but classic jus (my wife, a non-lover of venison, was offered an excellent magret de canard instead).
Dessert was a heavenly chocolate disk filled with a creamy mixture of flavors that we could not identify, and some little pastries on the plate. The pastry chef is an American woman, Alison Johnson, who previously was pastry chef at Artisanal, Picholine and Eleven Madison Park in New York City. This altogether satisfying meal was completed by a complimentary cognac.
Our menu did not include a cheese course, but we were tempted by the relatively small, but well chosen, selection of perfectly ripened cheeses. However, we were lucky enough to enjoy the aromas as the woman at the adjacent table ordered a small piece of each of the ten or so cheeses on the plate.
Jean, 8 rue St-Lazare (Métro Notre-Dame-de-Lorette), 9ème.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Actually, I think the pork fillings at New York's Baoguette are better, but the great bread more than makes up for it.
I have to hand it to Clotilde: she is no snob. Saigon Sandwich is in a really terrible neighborhood, around the corner from the Belleville Métro station, and the sidewalks are so crowded with immigrants selling used clothes that you need to walk in the street. There are three folding chairs in the restaurant so you can eat on your lap, right next to the line of waiting patrons, if you don't want to take out. Having fully intended to eat sur place, I decided to enjoy my lunch at home.
Saigon Sandwich, 6 rue de la Présentation, Paris 11ème (Métro Belleville) (closed Sundays).
Monday, December 20, 2010
In the absence of Baoguette, I have tried Nicky's, 150 East 2nd Street, a charming deli-like place, with three little tables for the few customers who eat in. The classic bánh mì is good (but not as good as Baoguette's), and they have other bánh mì sandwiches, including a tofu one that I plan to try next time I'm in the neighborhood.
Also, I went to Num Pang, a very popular Cambodian sandwich shop at 21 East 8th Street. The specialty, pork belly sandwich, is flavorful, but does not have the complex layers of hot, sour, sweet, salty and bitter that one finds in a good bánh mì. Also, the eating area, upstairs, is really pretty bad, even by my relaxed standards for this type of place.
I am continuing to make the rounds, but look forward to returning to Baoguette when I get back to the USA. I hope they can get their Health Department rating up to "A."
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Today was a typical, and rewarding, day.
It being Saturday, I visited my favorite outdoor market, on Avenue de Président Wilson. It being a few days before Christmas, the market is full of wonderful luxury foods: foie gras, truffles, geese, ducks, etc. I bought a lobe of foie gras to prepare for a Christmas dinner to which we have been invited, and food for a couple of lunches and dinners.
For lunch I bought a coquelet (baby chicken) cooked over the rotisserie, half of which I pulled and mixed with rice and a little Sriracha (Southeast Asian, not French, but it is great) hot sauce. Then an assortment of cheeses I found at the market, including Mont d'Or, a seasonal cow cheese from the Alps that is one of the great things to eat in this world.
In the afternoon, I went to the famous marché aux puces (flea market) at the Porte de Clignancourt, where I picked up a Napoleon III picture frame that I had bought earlier, and had a brief but unsuccessful exploratory visit. There is always a lot to see at this market, which has numerous submarkets and many hundreds of antique dealers.
Returning to the apartment, I walked the dog and read for a couple of hours.
Dinner -- at home -- consisted of saucisse mourteau, a French garlic sausage with no real US equivalent, cooked with lentilles de Puy, amazing green lentils that keep their firm texture and are great company for pork of any kind. I had enough for another meal, probably lunch tomorrow or Monday.
Then followed an extremely chocolaty store-bought organic mousse au chocolat, to which my French friends had introduced me, and a satisfying square of Lindt's new "Mytille Intense" chocolate.
Not for everyone, perhaps, but for me this was a very nice day.
Monday, December 13, 2010
Kate McDonough, editor and founder of TheCityCook.com, an excellent web site, has recently published a book, The City Cook: Big City, Small Kitchen, Limitless Ingredients, No Time, which furthers her mission of encouraging busy urban professionals to cook at home and providing them with strategies to help them to succeed.
The first part, which is a concise but insightful look at how to cope with culinary life in the city -- shopping, equipping a kitchen, etc. -- will be particularly useful for Kate's target audience. Also the many bits of wisdom scattered throughout the recipe section, like "Eleven Easy No-Cook Hors d'Oeuvres," "Chicken Breasts Ten Ways," "How to Get Fish Smells Out of an Apartment" and "The Versatility of Rotisserie Chickens," to name only a few.
The recipe section provides about ninety clearly-expressed recipes. Most are quite simple, some amazingly so. The one recipe that I have tried so far, Broiled Black Cod with Miso, is wonderful: just two ingredients, almost no effort and a complex flavor profile that is a perfect example of what a little umami can do (I used mellow white miso). Next up are the Almond Cream Tart, made with whole unskinned almonds, and the Cacio e Pepe (a classic pasta with cheese and black pepper) for which I have not previously seen a recipe (who knew there was no butter? and note the tip on grinding the cheese in a food processor rather than using a Microplane, which would have been my instinct). There are many others that I plan to try.
The City Cook makes an excellent Christmas gift. In fact, I gave a copy to my French teacher, who has a tiny apartment kitchen and is always trying to make simple, healthy food for herself and her friends. Cookbooks that I have given her in the past include Jacques Pépin's excellent Fast Food My Way and slightly less excellent More Fast Food My Way, as well as Patricia Wells' Trottoria. Adding The City Cook to this group indicates my high regard for this book.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Lots of people ask me what I do for for Thanksgiving, so I thought I'd describe what I did this year.
The Turkey. I bought a 14.6-lb heritage turkey from Heritage Farms USA. It arrived, as scheduled, on Tuesday, cold but not frozen. I generously salted it under the skin on Wednesday morning, to give it 24 hours. On Thanksgiving day, I rinsed it well, then put it breast side down over ice packs. Just before cooking, I dried it and rubbed it with Michael Chiarello's fennel spice rub. Cooked on a V-rack 45 minutes breast side down at 450, then turned and cooked at 325 for 1 hour 45 minutes. The breast was perfect, the dark was not, so I put the thigh/leg quarters back for 15 minutes at 500. I have to say that I found the bird to be difficult to deal with because the joints were so tight; it was very hard to separate the thigh/leg quarters, which usually fall away of their own weight. The taste was excellent, particularly the breast meat, which was moist and had an intense turkey taste; the dark meat was almost too intense.
Gravy. Michael Chiarello's recipe for a classic roux-based gravy, made with fantastically rich turkey stock made with chopped up wings and necks. The stock (another Saveur recipe) made all the difference.
Dressing. On the side, not in the bird. Used the recipe for sage stuffing from an old Gourmet, but with mixed herbs. The crowd loved it. My wife and I thought it needed some crunch.
Sweet Potato Gratin, with lots of sage, from Ottolenghi. Wonderful and simple; I prepare it the day before and it was in a perfect state to cook on Thanksgiving Day.
French beans and snow peas with hazelnuts and julienned orange peel, also from Ottolenghi. Delicious and can be cooked in advance for assembly on the day of.
Pumpkin Pie. Used America's Test Kitchen's excellent recipe for a light yet flavorful pie, which incorporates candied yams, and an idea I got from Saveur to top it with some caramelized nuts and julieneed candied ginger. The result was deeply flavored (although different from the traditional pumpkin pie) and beautiful (see picture above).
Lots of other things, including a simple salad, desserts baked by my mother-in-law, cranberry chutney made by my mother, and hors d'oeuvres from my sister-in-law, but the foregoing is what I cooked.
Now the question is what to do next year. Which to repeat and which to change? But I have a little time.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Bobby Jay's Sugo con Petto di Vitello (Veal Breast Sauce)
- 3 TBS olive oil
- 6 ribs cut from a breast of veal, about 3-4 lbs
- 1 small-medium onion, cut lengthwise in quarters
- 1 large garlic clove, peeled
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- 1/2 cup white wine
- Heat pressure cooker over medium high heat. Add olive oil.
- Salt the ribs with kosher salt. Then brown them in hot oil (you probably have to do this in two batches). Put aside.
- Deglaze with white wine. Add ribs, garlic clove, onion and rosemary to pressure cooker. Cover, bring to high pressure, then lower heat to medium pressure and cook for 45 minutes.
- Let steam escape. CAREFULLY!
- Reserve sauce in a bowl or large measuring cup. When meat cools enough to handle, remove the rosemary sprig and separate the meat from the bones, cartilage and other unattractive bits. Add the meat to the reserved sauce. Add to pasta. Do not overdo it; the sauce is rich, and a little goes a long way.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Need to find another bánh mì source. I am now headed to Battle of the Bánh Mì to seek suggestions from the on-line community of bánh mì lovers.
Monday, November 1, 2010
I went to the Salon de Chocolat in Paris last week and found it to be boring. I love chocolate, but it turns out that there are only so many things to do with it, and there is little regional or even national variation. So what you are left with is a huge number of displays by chocolate makers from France and all over Europe, most of which look like what you'd see at their shops or even at the big department stores. The saving grace is that you do get a lot of free samples.
My big discovery was not chocolate, but rather an artisan pain d'épices maker from Aix-en-Provence, whose pain d'épices was the best I have ever tasted. Light (for this kind of mostly-honey cake) and incredibly perfumed, especially the orange, which I favored over the plain or the chocolate-flavored. I brought a chunk, cut from an enormous boule, to a friend the next day and she confirmed my high opinion as we gobbled it down for dessert.
My advice for chocolate lovers. Spend the 12.50 euros on chocolate, not admission to the Salon de Chocolat.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Recently I was watching an episode of Laura Calder's "French Food at Home" on the new Cooking Channel in which Laura served an assortment of artisanal tinned sardines, with wonderful French bread and butter, as an appetizer. This really appealed to me (but not to my wife, who was forced to eat sardines as a child and still harbors a grudge), and I vowed to myself to follow up.
The show included a visit by Laura to the little shop in Paris where she had found the exotic assortment, but without giving the name. I wrote to Laura, who kindly informed me that the shop is La Petite Chaloupe, 7 rue du Pont Royal, Paris 13ème.
This unique shop was my first stop on arriving in Paris earlier this week. They have dozens of kinds of sardines, all French and almost all millésimé (like vintage wines), with various spice profiles and packed in different oils. Also many other tinned fish products - tuna, mackerel, anchovies, etc. - of the highest quality. Needless to say, I bought a selection (pictured below) to bring back to New York, to eat myself or to share with friends.
Next time you're in Paris, I recommend a visit.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
. . . make this wonderful Fig and Almond Tart from the excellent blog "Lunch in Paris." It is easy and, as noted in the blog, the frangipane is light and therefore doesn't overwhelm the delicate figs.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
We loved it last year and it has only gotten better: the four stars are richly deserved. Not only is the very innovative Italian food excellent, but the room is beautifully designed and not densely packed and the staff are capable and welcoming. Given severe recent disappointments at Jean-Georges and Le Bernardin - our former favorites - Del Posto is now our number one New York dining destination.
I don't really review New York restaurants because there is more than enough information available to US readers, but this is a noteworthy restaurant that is worth the trip to 10th Avenue and 15th Street.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
As people arrived, they were plied with drinks, especially champagne, and a parade of hors d'oeuvres. I was quite happy with the way all of them came out, but I think the shrimp in kadaifa nests was the surprise star of the group.
Lettuce Waiting for Tomatoes; Chef Brendan and Bobby Jay
Finally, dinner was served in Bobby Jay's. The duck breast with port and plum sauce was fine, just what I expected, but the fish (which I didn't choose as my own main) was extraordinary. Brendan chose to use fillets of striped bass rather than the smaller Mediterranean sea bass that I had called for, and it was a great decision. The sesame crusted skin was crispy, and the pungent argan oil made its presence know while not overwhelming the other flavors -- a chick-pea purée and a Moroccan melange of fava beans and other vegetables.
Duck Breast with Plum Sauce; Sesame Crusted Bass
Then the cheese platter from Ann Saxelby's wonderful shop in the Essex Market, followed by a series of wonderful toasts that made me blush. Next, the blueberry almond tart, a speech by Bobby Jay and, finally, the trio of chocolates, macarons and mini-madeleines.
Blueberry Almond Tart with Lemon Buttermilk Ice Cream; Gourmandises
Saturday, September 18, 2010
While it was definitely work, it was also really fun. Essentially we got nine hours of hands-on cooking lessons from our designated chef, Brendan McDermott, his principal assistants Sue, James and Bianca and a host of other helpers from ICE. Brendan is a masterful chef and he and his team could not have been more accommodating and helpful; a huge plus is that they actually enjoy teaching.
Cooking for 60 is not like cooking for four, six or eight in many ways. First, there is just more of everything. But things also respond differently when made in larger quantities, so my recipes had to be altered. Finally, you have to make a lot of the food a day in advance, and it is important to know which things can and which cannot be stored for 24 hours. To read and see what happened, click on "More" below.
We accomplished an enormous amount on the first day. We made the cold corn soup, made and formed 240 crab cakes and made the relish and vinaigrette that would be used for final assembly, made an astonishing amount of risotto to be chilled overnight before, sauteeing at the last minute, we smoked and grilled the pork tenderloin, we made the purée for the fish dish, we made the ice cream, we made the mini-madeleines and attempted the macarons (more on this later) and we made the shells for the blueberry almond tarts. Left for the day of the event were the appetizer tomato salad, the main courses (fish or duck) and accompanying vegetables and one of the purées, the filling and baking of the blueberry almond tart and the chocolates. Piglet and I had worked with chef Brendan earlier in the week to make the foie gras, which needs five days or so to come to its full glory.
Although the orange lavender buttercream for the macarons was perfect, the shells were not, and had to be redone by me at home that night. Fortunately, I have done this often so, apart from the fact that I was pretty tired from the day's prepping, I had little problem knocking off ten trays of macaron shells, and the assembly was quickly accomplished the next day.
On Sunday we gathered to finish up. Making chocolate seems pretty easy, but making five pounds of it at one go is not. It takes nearly an hour to melt it over a bain marie, and tempering it by cooling and reheating to precise temperatures also takes a huge amount of time. And then you have to work with it pretty quickly or it starts to set. So this occupied a lot of time for the chocolate team. The results were great, however.
One of the highlights was making mozzarella for the tomato salad. Melting the curds (firm, roughly 2-inch cubes), then stretching them, tearing off bits and forming balls, always as gently as possible.
I had made the blueberry almond tart numerous times, so was confident that it would come out well. But it is not prepossessing while being made and at least one of the members of the tart team had grave doubts. But they came out beautifully.
The team also made the Moroccan vegetables for the fish dish and the root vegetable plum sauce to accompany the duck.
As the start of the event neared, crab cakes were sauteed and sauced, foie gras was cut into rounds and put onto brioche bread, smoked pork tenderloin was put on croutons (over a quickly improvised creamy lime sauce), corn soup went into little glasses, risotto cakes were sauteed and shrimp were embedded into kadaifa nests and deep fried. This was all done by ICE chefs and sous-chefs, as I and my team were off dressing for the party.
As the guests arrived and were devouring the hors d'oeuvres and champagne, the ICE team worked tirelessly to make and plate the main dishes.
Our guests started arriving at Bobby Jay's at 7:00, but more of that in the next and final post on this event.
Friday, September 17, 2010
I next mentioned the idea to my friend Piglet, who has from time to time appeared in this blog. An event planner who knows her way around the catering and food world, she agreed with my wife that what I wanted to do was definitely possible.
After considering teaming up with a catering facility and staff for the event, we met with the special events people at the Institute for Culinary Education (ICE), on West 23rd Street, a cooking school that offers professional training and also has a robust "recreational" program of classes for non-professionals. ICE's cooking facilities, of course, are perfect, and it turned out they had an appropriate space for the event. Also, they could provide chefs and assistants to help plan and execute the event. Most important, although this event was somewhat different from others they have done, it was perfectly consistent with their mission of teaching people how to cook.
So now it was up to me to design the event.
I quickly decided on the format: a sit-down dinner, preceded by a cocktail hour. The menu would consist of things I had cooked before and wanted to share with my friends. We would do six passed hors d'oeuvres, an appetizer, a main course (choice of fish or duck), cheese, dessert and after-dinner treats. I would try to use local ingredients and to reflect, to the extent possible, the late-summer early-autumn time of year.
Thus I decided to do Jamie Oliver's mixed heirloom tomato salad -- one of my all-time favorites and likely one of the last of the waning tomato season. Similarly, seared duck breast with a fresh plum sauce (from Gordon Hamersley), to take advantage of the red plums that are among the last of the season's stone fruits. Dessert would be an almond blueberry tart from Clotilde. This left the fish dish open, and I decided to go with a recipe I recently learned at cooking school in Paris: sesame crusted sea bass over a bed of Moroccan vegetables and a chickpea puree.
With the core of the menu set, I went to work on the hors d'oeuvres. Everyone (well almost) loves foie gras, and I have a nice recipe where it is infused with cinq épices and white port. I recently made a smoked peppered pork tenderloin that turned out to be even better cold. Also cold, my own corn soup, served in shot glasses. Then two hot favorites: sauteed veal and sage risotto cakes and Bobby Flay's incredible crab cakes with black olive and pepper relish and basil vinaigrette. Finally, shrimp with a leaf of cilantro fried in a nest of kadaifa, very fine threads of phyllo dough.
The Final Menu for My Big Night
Dessert would be a blueberry almond tart, from the recipe of my beloved Clotilde Dussoulier. For the finale, chocolates with fleur de sel or a pulverized 4-pepper brittle that adds a complex spice profile, lavender orange macarons (maybe the best thing I have ever made) and honey madeleines from Joel Robuchon.
As for the cheese plate, I went to visit Anne Saxelby, who promotes and sells a fantastic array of American artisanal cheeses, and selected three cheeses from Vermont: a creamy sheep, a complex clothbound cheddar and a creamy blue.
All that remained was to select wines that would complement the meal and to pick linens, stemware, flowers and other things to perk up the pretty banal room in which the dinner would be served. J took charge of the esthetic makeover, working with our even coordinator, and did a magnificent job. Although it's out of sequence, I can't resist showing you how great the tables looked.
Finally, invitations. To pique people's interest, the event was described as the one and only meal ever to be served at a newly created restaurant, Bobby Jay's, to be cooked by Bobby Jay and a carefully selected team of cooks (namely, the first 8 or 10 people who heard about the event and volunteered to help).
The final thing to do was to be nervous about how things would turn out.
But more on that in later posts.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
But here's an indicative recipe:
- Mix together 1 cup of freshly packed ricotta, 2 tablespoons of Greek style yogurt, and 1 tablespoon of best quality olive oil.
- Add 5 or 6 sun-dried tomatoes, diced as finely as possible, and about 1/3 cup of mixed chopped olives (I use pitted oil-cured and Gaeta olives but any kind, including ones with herbs or garlic, will do).
- Add about 1/2 teaspoon of lemon zest, a bit of salt and a good grinding of fresh pepper.
- Spread on small pieces of toasted bread - slices of baguette or a country bread of some kind - and top with a little fleur de sel and a small drizzle of olive oil.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
If you like Italian food (and who doesn't?), you must go. We went mid-morning and the shopping experience was great. It is reported to be very crowded at lunchtime and on weekends, however. Prices are quite fair, especially for the meat and produce.
Eataly is a joint effort of Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich, Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Oscar Farinetti, founder of the original Eataly in Turin.
Friday, September 10, 2010
I have mentioned it before on this blog, and given it to friends, but never felt comfortable putting the recipe on my blog, but now it is on the Internet, notably at Fine Cooking's recipe site, so I have no hesitation in sharing it.
So here it is. Simply click on "More" below for the recipe with my commentaries, based on about 50 tries, interspersed in brackets.
Gordon Hamersley’s Walk-Away Roast Chicken
• 2 Tbs. olive oil
• 2 Tbs. Dijon-style mustard
• 1 tsp. dried thyme
• 1 tsp. dried rosemary
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
• 1 lemon, halved
• 1 whole roasting chicken (about 3-1/2 lb.) [I like to use a 2 3/4 lb. bird if I can find one, preferably d'Artagnan, but always organic], rinsed under cold water and dried
• 1 onion, cut into thick slices [I like to use 2 good-sized but not giant red onions, cut in half lengthwise.]
• 4 medium red potatoes, washed (but not peeled) and sliced in half. [I prefer to use medium Yukon Golds, cut in half lengthwise.]
• [1/2 cup low sodium chicken stock or broth (optional)]
1. Heat the oven to 375°F. [I use my convection setting.] In a small bowl, combine 1 Tbs. of the olive oil, the mustard, thyme, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Squeeze the juice from one lemon half into the herb mixture; squeeze the juice from the other half into a small bowl and reserve. Reserve the squeezed lemon halves. Spoon the herb mixture over the chicken and inside its cavity, rubbing to coat the bird thoroughly. Put the reserved lemon halves inside the chicken's cavity.
2. Put the onion and potatoes in a roasting pan. Season them with salt and pepper and toss them with the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil. Scatter the ingredients around the pan to make room in the center for the chicken. [I put the onions and potatoes, cut side down, in the middle to make a rack for the chicken.]
3. Put the chicken in the pan, breast side up. Cook until the meat is tender and the juices run clear at the thigh, about 1–1/4 hours. [I find this time correct for a less-than 3 lb. chicken on convection setting; otherwise, allow 1 1/2 hours for an organic chicken.] By this time, the potatoes and onions should be tender.
4. Transfer the vegetables to a serving platter. Pour the juices from inside the chicken's cavity into the roasting pan and transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let it rest.
5. Spoon off and discard as much fat as possible from the juices in the roasting pan. Set the pan with the juices over medium-low heat and pour in the reserved lemon juice along with 1/2 cup water [chicken stock is better if you have it]. Bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
6. Cut the chicken into pieces (or serve it whole, if you like). Pour the pan juices over the chicken and serve.