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