Wednesday, June 1, 2022

A Somewhat Exotic Meal

My friend Nancy asked if she could cook with me sometime, and last night we finally did it.

We were only four, so I tried not to go crazy. Just some spreads, soup, a main and dessert.

I love to share the method and quasi-recipe for my ricotta, sun-dried tomato and lemon zest spread, so that was one of the hors d'oeuvres. The other was more exotic, muhammara, a walnut and roasted pepper dip from Claudia Roden's Mediterranean. Both easy and delicious, served on crispy chips that I make from soft wheat tortillas.

Ricotta and sun-dried tomato spread; muhammara

Dinner started with tanabour, an Armenian barley and yogurt soup, using the recipe from Cook's Illustrated, September-October 2021. Tartness supplied by the yogurt and chewiness from the pearled barley, a nice combination.

Tanabour yogurt and barley soup

For the main, I made the same Palestinian upside down chicken, from the Milk Street Cookbook, that I made at Passover (see earlier post). A wonderful confection of chicken thighs, cauliflower florets, eggplant and abundant middle-eastern spices.

Palestinian upside-down chicken

For dessert I made my blueberry (and raspberry) tart from Food52 Genius, but since Nance was interested in working with puff pastry, I made a puff pastry crust rather than the ususal pâte sucrée. It came out great this way, and is even easier to make.


Blueberry and raspberry tart with puff pastry shell

It's fun to cook with friends

Bobby Jay

Macarons 2022

I generally make macarons when Joan is exhibiting at an art fair, to give to customers and dealer colleagues. Not that the other dealers don't like me, but they REALLY like my macarons. Of course, there were no art fairs for a couple of years due to the pandemic, but this year's Winter Show went forward, albeit in Spring.

So back to macaron-making, too. This year I invited my friend Odette to join me in my macaron manufacture, as she has been asking me for years to help when I next made them. It was fun having the company, and the extra pair of hands was very helpful.

We made Pierre Hermé's marvelous macarons mutines, from his cleverly named book Macaron. Probably the best translation of mutine is mischievous, although it literally means rebellious; in any event I am not sure why this name.

The macarons have lots of coconut, in the shell and, combined with good chocolate and cream, in the ganache. Lord, they are good.

Macarons mutines
 We had some pastry left after making the boxes, so made two giant 2-1/2" plus) ones, one for each of us.

Jumbo macaron mutine
 Nice to have art fairs back, and nice to oblige our friends.

 Bobby Jay




Belated Passover Post

As was the case before the pandemic, I made the family seder this year. Pestilence and illness reduced our company to ten, and no one was able to bring matzoh ball soup.

We had lots of hors d'oeuvres. There was Michael Solomonov's fantastic smooth tahini from Zahav,

Michael Solomonov's hummus


my own ricotta, sun-dried tomato and lemon zest spread, gefilte fish bites made from Citarella's excellent fish, with homemade horseradish from America's Test Kitchen's DIY, bar nuts from The Union Square Cookbook and tuna tapenade from Joel Robuchon's The Complete Robuchon.

For matzoh ball soup, I went to Friedman's, a quite good Jewish deli/restaurant with numerous branches around the city. I was thrilled to find a sufficient quantity of soup, but really disappointed when I tasted it.. Weak, salty, with not great matzoh balls. I doctored it as best I could be cooking it with some chopped parsnips, dill and parsley, but to little avail. It was barely adequate.

The first main course was Palestinian upside-down chicken  (maqlubeh), in which chicken thighs are cooked with cauliflower florets, eggplant slices, tons of spices and basmati rice and almonds, which are supposed to crisp up like Persian rice. (Recipe courtesy of The Milk Street Cookbook.) It was delicious! Although I didn't get a photo, I have stolen a photo from my dinner of May 31, 2017, which will be covered subsequently.

Palestinian upside-down chicken
The second was a pretty classic seven-hour lleg of amb, with the principal recipe from Bones, by Jennifer McLagan, but with the addition of anchovies, rosemary in garlic in finger-sized holes, as suggested by Simon Hopkinson in his lovely Roast Chicken and Other Stories. Absolutely perfect, without the dryness this dish is prone to.

You can't have a seder without haroset, great on its own but also on matzoh with lots of extreme horseradish: the famous Hillel sandwich. As always, I made two kinds First, figs, date, and apples and walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds, from Judith Nathan's Quiches, Kugels and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Food in France. My second was a Syrian-style dried apricot and pistachio puree that I got from Jennifer Abadi's blog, Too Good to Pass Over. Both incredibly simple and tasty.

Finally, dessert. Ginger molasses cake from David Lebovitz's Ready for Dessert, in homage to my late mother, who adored this cake and anything else with huge quantities of ginger. And my fresh blueberry tart (to which I add raspberries from Rose Levy Beranbaum, by way of Food52 Genius Recipes, always a hit.

Blueberry and raspberry tart
Ginger molasses cake
For post-dessert, assorted brownies and cookies made by Vicki and homemade chocolate covered matzos from Rebecca.

All in all, it was quite a feast!

Bobby Jay


Sunday, January 16, 2022

Back to bread baking

Olive and walnut sourdough bread

I haven’t been making bread for nearly 18 months due to our having to move out of our apartment for four months while renovations were being done, and then our having bought a country home where we spend weekends. I have missed the thrill of home bread-baking so decided to resume, finding a new schedule that avoids weekend preparation.

I bought a lovely new book called Upper Crust: Homemade Bread the French Way, by Marie-Laure Fréchet, and thought this might offer some new opportunities; after all -- France and bread. Maybe it’s me, but my first two tries at a “tourte de meule,” a pretty basic white whole wheat sourdough, were abject failures. Lead weights, useful as a stone for olympic curling , but not fit to eat.

Pretty, but inedible tourte de meule

So I returned to my tried and true sourdough walnut and olive bread for which a use a hybrid of ????‘S levain method, as described in Chad Robertson’s brilliant Tartine Bread, and the sourdough method published by King Arthur Flour Company. Wow, nailed it the first time!

And when I sliced it several hours later, it did not disappoint: salty with a nice texture and an unctuous mouth feel.


I haven't given up on the French method book yet, but I'll try to combine the author's ideas with techniques that I know work for me.

Bobby Jay

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

La Rôtisserie de l"Argent: The best oeuf mayonnaise in the world

I haven't posted lately due to a sort of paralysis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. While I continued to cook, and to read about and study cooking, someohow the zest was not there as in normal times. Perhaps because I had to cook, all the time, and was unable to mix it up with dining out at our normal haunts. Particularly difficult was not getting to Paris for nearly two years. 

However . . . we did get to Paris for a few days in December, before the raging Omicron virus spooked us and caused us to leave early. Still, before we left we were able to return to one of our favorite restaurants, La Rôtisserie d'Argent (formerly Rôtisserie du Beaujolais), and found it better than ever. They have gradually raised the level of the cuisine over the years to much better than very good bistro food to quite elegant, while maintaining the casual, friendly atmosphere that has prevailed there for decades.

In two visits, one with a friend, we sampled quite a few of the restaurant's dishes -- duck several ways, pork, salad and dessert -- and all were excellent. But for me the highlight was their oeuf mayonnaise, which I had both nights and which had recently won the Championnat du Monde de l'Oeuf Mayonnaise, sponsored, of course, by the Association de Sauvegarde de l'Oeuf Mayonnaise. Only in France, the land of AAAAA andouilette (which carries the certification of the Association Amicale des Amateurs de l'Andouillette Authentique) and other organizations watching over the most traditional French foods, including cheeses and cassoulet.

What's so great about La Rôtisserie's oeuf mayo? Everything. Look at it:

 

Oeuf mayonnaise at La Rôtisserie d'Argent

perfect texture, a yolk that straddles the middle ground between hard- and medium-boiled, a yielding white, a wonderful mayonnaise with just a hint of cumin, mustard seeds cooked in a lovely balsamic vinegar and twigs of thyme, all bundled up in a glorious package.

 No wonder it was declared the best in the world! 


Oeuf mayo may not be the height of gastronomy, but there is something about being in Paris, partaking of a perfectly rendered French classic dish, that never gets old.

Bobby Jay