Scrambled Eggs à la Française

 Prepare a  bain marie .  Fill a pot up with water a little less than midway and bring it to a boil.

Prepare a bain marie.  Fill a pot up with water a little less than midway and bring it to a boil.

 In a heat proof bowl (we didn't have one here so we improvised) add your ingredients.

In a heat proof bowl (we didn't have one here so we improvised) add your ingredients.

One of the best ways to start a morning is when you are invited over for an impromptu breakfast.  What was supposed to be a quick café catch up turned into a simple power breakfast à la française.  Meet the man with the orange gloves, Fred, who is my neighbor down the road, an actor, and a clown...

 Fred, explaining the basics.

Fred, explaining the basics.

 Stir during this slow cooking process.

Stir during this slow cooking process.

Really , Fred is a clown.   I mean besides having a bit of fun in the kitchen, he is a professional clown in the performing arts.   You can usually catch his performance in Paris.  It's a fun family moment to share.   Check in for his next performance here.

Recently, he acquired some heavy duty, vibrant orange cleaning gloves and he was showing them off to me.   Parisian kitchens can be tiny and easily cramped with stuff so he decided to keep the gloves on to distract from the overflowing surroundings and to draw attention on his scrambled eggs à la française that he was about to cook up for me.   This was all in good fun but as an afterthought...probably a safety hazard to keep the gloves on.  Do Not Replicate!!  Burnt rubber stuck to skin will hurt!!

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This morning I was getting an all in one surprise package: a cooking lesson and a power breakfast. 

I thought scrambled eggs was just cracking an egg into a pan and stirring it all up until scrambled.  Who knew? 

Patience though.  This is a slow cooking process and adding good whole fat to the eggs adds taste to this creamy version of scrambled eggs.    Do not expect a light, airy, and fluffy version.   It makes a great spread over toast. 

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Et voilà...

 Scrambled Eggs and Beans

Scrambled Eggs and Beans

Scrambled Eggs à la Française

INGREDIENTS//Serves 2-3

• 6 eggs, preferably free-range or organic
• 2 tablespoons buttermilk, crème fraîche, crème liquide, or whole milk (something fatty will do—we even replace it with Philadelphia cream cheese)
• 10 grams butter



INSTRUCTIONS

First prepare a bain marie.    Fill a medium pot with water less than halfway and bring it to a boil.

During this time prepare your eggs.

Add the eggs in heat proof bowl and beat it with a fork. 

Add the buttermilk and stir. 

Now place the bowl over the pot of simmering water and stir your egg mixture around with a spoon. 

This is a slow cooking process.  It takes about 15 minutes or so.

Once it starts to get creamy, take the bowl off the pot and add the butter.

Continue stirring until it gets scrambled.

 

NOTE


Improvisation plays a huge role in the kitchen for me and as you see from the photos we don't have all proper or called for material like a heat proof bowl, nor buttermilk, etc.  Fred used Philadelphia cream and a heavy cream with the eggs.  It turned out fantastic.  So use your instincts and don't be put off from making something just because you don't have the exact ingredient.

Tiramisu aux Mirabelles

 Beautiful destoned mirabelles.

Beautiful destoned mirabelles.

 Cook down until nice and soft, almost mushy but still intact.

Cook down until nice and soft, almost mushy but still intact.

I love visiting kitchens that aren't mine and most of all I love it when people cook things up for me.   This week I had the pleasure of visitng Corinne's new home and we christened her kitchen with a tiramisu aux mirabelles.

 Corinne whipping up the filling.

Corinne whipping up the filling.

 Cream filling.

Cream filling.

I told you in my last post that I couldn't get enough of mirabelles.  I also couldn't forget the tiramisu aux fraises that Corinne once made for me.   Mirabelle season is in full swing and they are sold everywhere at the moment.  So when Corinne offered to make tiramisu aux mirabelles I thought aloud, "ooh, how could I refuse a beautiful invitation—double ooh—I never even thought of a recipe like this!"

 Cooking with style.

Cooking with style.

 Madeleines soaked in mirabelle liqueur.

Madeleines soaked in mirabelle liqueur.

For her recipe she used liqueur de mirabelle which she made herself.  I missed out on the "making of " this liqueur so I simply replaced it with Grand Marnier which I found much subtler than the liqueur de mirabelle.  I'm not a huge liqueur fan when it comes to mixing it with sweets but that's just personal taste.

 The first layer.

The first layer.

 Keep layering.

Keep layering.

Corinne, being her gracious, gorgeous, red-headed self was not satisfied with the overall presentation of the dessert.   It did not give off the tantalizingly delicious effect she expected but au contraire, I can tell you it certainly was delish. 

 Time to chill.

Time to chill.

 Hours later enjoying the fruit of her success.

Hours later enjoying the fruit of her success.

Her tip: try using non-transparent individual jars or glasses to fill your tiramisu and add some edible colorful flower or herb to give it that "pop!" to the eye for those special guests you want to impress.

Tarte aux Mirabelles

INGREDIENTS//Serves 6

• 400 grams mirabelle, destoned
• 30 grams butter
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier liquor (optional)
• 3 egg yolks
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 2 sachets vanilla sugar
• 375 grams mascarpone
• 20 cl heavy whipping cream (keep it in the refigerator until you use it)
• 6 madeleines
 

INSTRUCTIONS

Melt the butter in a medium size pan over low heat.  Add the mirabelles and cook it over low heat for three minutes and then add the sugar.

Keep cooking the mirabelles until they soften up and caramelize.  Add the Grand Marnier.

When the mirabelles are nice and mushy (similar to the texture of an over riped fruit) turn off the heat and let it cool.

Pass it through a sieve to collect the liquid.  Set it aside.

To prepare the cream filling first whip your cream. 

In a small mixing bowl add the heavy cream (it should be cold, right out of the fridge).  Use a hand mixer and begin to whip increasing the speed until medium.  Continue whipping until the cream stiffens.  It should take about eight to ten minutes.  Set it aside.

In another medium size mixing bowl combine the egg yolks and the vanilla sugar.  Then add the mascarpone and mix well. 

Add in half the liquid you strained from the cooked down mirabelles and slowly add in the whipped cream mixing by hand.  Combine well.

Save the other half of the liquid to coat your madeleines.  Set it aside.

You can use individual dessert jars or a small pan for your tiramisu.

Begin with a layer of madeleine, a layer of the cream, a layer of the mirabelles, and finish with a layer of cream.

Cover it up and place it in the refigerator to chill for at least 3 hours.  Take it out when ready to serve.



 

Christoph, the Man Behind the Mayo

 Separate the egg yolk from the egg white.

Separate the egg yolk from the egg white.

 Drizzle a thin stream of oil while whisking continuously.

Drizzle a thin stream of oil while whisking continuously.

 Whisk it up with Dijon mustard.

Whisk it up with Dijon mustard.

 After 4 minutes you will have thick mayonnaise.

After 4 minutes you will have thick mayonnaise.

We just spent the long weekend in Strasbourg, the capital of Alsace.  It is not only home to several European institutions, ahem, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe just to name one or two but it is also the new home to our ex-Parisian neighbors and friends who left us behind.  So we had to pay them a visit and found ourselves in the Upper Rhine Plain sandwiched between the Vosges mountains and the Black Forest.

Remember Lady Jo?  Well, take a look at her hubby, Christoph, making mayonnaise.   What a dynamic duo!  While she reigns over the sweets, he reigns over the savory bits.   It's a four minute process and it is way better than any of that store-bought stuff.  Trust me, I am documenting this for our own good.  You won't go back to mayo in a tube (that's how it's packaged in France) once you have tried this.

 Homemade Mayonnaise

Homemade Mayonnaise

"A successful mayonnaise is one with a standing spoon in it"  says the man behind the mayo.

 Christoph introducing a crémant d'Alsace, domaine Zinck.

Christoph introducing a crémant d'Alsace, domaine Zinck.

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While Christoph was making the mayo, our boys were out in the garden picking cassis or blackcurrant for our muesli breakfast in the morning.  By the way,  here's a post on my milk kefir,  those very same grains have spread and traveled to Alsace tooWhat did you think we were having our muesli with...kefir and cassis of course!  Leave it to Lady Jo to keep us nice and healthy before attacking the Black Forest—and I don't mean the cake, I mean the hike.

 Cassis

Cassis

Cassis is a small deep purple berry and —boy, it's tart with a mild sweetness and jam-packed full of vitamins and antioxidants. 

This Alsatian cake landed on our breakfast table too...

 Kugelhopf, Alsatian cake.

Kugelhopf, Alsatian cake.

Needless to say, we had a fantastic time with the dynamic duo and now I have another memory jotted down.  Sharing great moments with friends and recipes of course brings me joy.    We can thank Christoph for this one!

Christoph's Homemade Mayonnaise

INGREDIENTS

• 1 free-range egg, yolk only
• 150-220 ml sunflower oil
• 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
• salt, adjust accordingly
• pepper, adjust accordingly

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Whisk the egg yolk in a small bowl with the mustard, 

Continue to whisk and add some of the oil with a steady thin stream.   It will thicken up.

Then add more oil.  It will loosen the mayonnaise up.  Keep whisking until it thickens up again. You will find the color turning paler and brighter.

Gradually add the remaining oil while whisking continuously. 

Then add some salt and pepper accordingly.  Transfer it to a small dipping bowl and serve.
 

 

 

 

Les Chouquettes

Water, butter, and salt.

Melt it down.

Mix vigorously.

Dough paste balling up.

Mix one egg in at a time.

Achieve a glossy dough paste.

Fill piping bag and squeeze.

Pour pearl sugar along the top row of your choux pastry.  Shake the tray up and down to toss the pearl sugar around so that it moves its way down to coat the choux pastry.  See the ones with the pointy tips?—I squeezed out the dough there.  You don't want that.  To achieve a nice, round choux pastry, read my NOTE at the bottom.

Shake off the excess pearl sugar.

Ready to bake.

190° Celcius for 20 minutes.

Et voilà...golden chouquettes.  Lightly crispy on the outside.  Airy and moist on the inside.

I came home from the playground one day and put this on my list to make.  I was intrigued and inspired by an acquaintance deemed a Papa Poule, an attentive, protective, and doting father, who had his child's doll and scooter in hand, along with a bag of fresh chouquettes which he had just made at home. 

I gathered my ingredients and was hit with an obstacle: I couldn't find sucre en grains or sucre perlé in any of the supermarkets nearby.  Obsessed as I can become, I ran to every grocery store and bakery in the area in search of these sugary, white pearls.  Returning home, ruffled by defeat, and saving this battle for another day in another arrondisement, I recounted my story in quest for these sugary, white pearls to Denis and Sandrine, our building's concierge and my neighbor.  Denis also happens to be a wonderful, certified baker.  He gave me a few tips on how to make the chouquettes and told me he would pop by to check on how it was all coming along once I had found all my ingredients.  

Hours later, there was a knock on my door.  I swung the door wide open to find a bag of the sugary, white pearls dangling in front of me: behind was Sandrine.  Elle est trop chou!—She is such a darling!  She happened to be in the 2e and passed by G. Detou, the well-known bakery and cooking ingredients store, and picked me up a kilo of sucre perlé

Feeling like I just won the lottery, I ran down to tell Denis that I had a kilo of my sugary, white pearls.  Denis brought over his baker's toolbox, got right in the kitchen, and showed me how it's done.  Il est chou!—He's a darling!

Denis' Homemade Chouquettes

INGREDIENTS//Yields 80

•  500 ml of water
•  200 grams butter, unsalted
•  4 grams salt
•  300 grams flour (T45)
•  500 grams egg
•  300 grams pearl sugar (a.k.a. hail sugar and nib sugar)

INSTRUCTIONS

In a medium size pot, add your water, butter, and salt.  Bring it to a boil.

Take the pot off the heat, add your flour, and with a spatula, vigorously beat it in until you get a dough paste of ball.

Place the pot back on the heat and keep stirring until the paste of ball unsticks to the sides of the pot.  Shake the pot around so that the ball of dough paste rolls around in the pot unsticking itself from the sides of the pot.

Transfer the dough into a large inox mixing bowl.  Gradually beat in one egg at a time, and keep stirring until you get a glossy consistency.  If you scoop a bit of dough up with your clean finger, the dough should pull and fall back into place.

Denis used a 15mm tip for the pastry/piping bag.  Fill it half way with the dough, and squeeze out small rounds on a baking tray lined with parchment paper leaving an inch apart between them. 

Bake in oven at 190° Celcius (approx. 375° F) for twenty minutes.

NOTE

Using a piping bag looks easier than it is.  I kept getting pointy tips on the top of my choux/puff pastry.  Denis told me it was because I was lifting the piping bag after squeezing out the dough too quickly.  To get the choux/puff pastry nice and round at the top: squeeze out the dough, keep the tip in the dough, make an escargot figure, and then sweep off to the side.  This should give your choux a nice and rounded top.

I also ran across this article on French wheat flour explaining flour types.  I used T45 for this recipe which is regarded as a pastry flour.

Homemade Scones. An Afternoon with an Englishman...

 John's Scones

John's Scones

I had the pleasure of being invited over for afternoon tea at a true Englishman's home.  As I knew what was in the making, I asked John if I could come over earlier to photograph behind the scenes. 

 Curdled Milk

Curdled Milk

 Ingredients

Ingredients

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An excerpt from Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust:
"...And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it...And all from my cup of tea."

We all have those moments, don't we?  I was curious to ask John if there was a scent in particular that evoked a moment from the past.

"Hot milk reminds me of cold winter mornings getting ready for school; i.e., porridge for breakfast."

John's Scones

PREPARATION

Curdle your milk first and set aside while preparing the dough.

INGREDIENTS//yields 10

• 400 grams all purpose flour
• 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
• Pinch of salt
• 1 sachet baking powder
• 80 grams butter, softened
• 250 grams raisins
• 250 ml (8.4 oz) milk
• 1/2 lemon
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 egg

INSTRUCTIONS

To curdle milk,  add lemon juice and the vanilla extract to the milk.   Mix it together and set it aside to curdle for 15 minutes or longer.

Sift the flour in a large mixing bowl.  Add the sugar, salt, baking powder and rub in the butter.   Make a well in the middle of the dough and add the curdled milk, and stir it up with a spatula.

Stir in the raisins.

Gather the dough and place on a floured flat surface.  Knead the dough and keep adding some flour while kneading until you have a soft dry dough that's not sticking to your fingers.

Take a 5 centimeter round cutter and stamp out rounds from the dough.  There should be a "whoosh" sound when you plunge your cutter into the pile of dough.  

Place it on a baking sheet.  Continue to knead together the rest of the dough stamping out the rest of the dough in rounds.

In a small bowl,  crack an egg and whisk it for your egg wash. 

Using a pastry brush, slightly brush over the scone rounds with the egg wash.

Place them into the oven for 20-30 minutes at 170° C (about 335° F°).

Check to see if they have risen and if they are golden brown before taking them out.

Place it aside to cool.

Serve with clotted cream and a little jam.

 

Scenes from Chinese New Year...bring on the Prosperity Toss Salad.

I have my own version of the Joy Luck Club going on in Paris.  The scenes are centered around food and drinks rather than playing mahjong, and we have a cast of Parisian born kids in place of ABC's—American born Chinese .  We sure do eat, drink, clink, and talk a lot.   Ali is a member of the "club" and she is the hostess with the mostess.  We rang in the new year with a traditional Singaporean dish, the Prosperity Toss Salad.  That's where her orgins lie, though she's a SoCal girl at heart.  We've created our own tradition for celebrating CNY which is a hodgepodge of favorite dishes made by each one of us.  Suddenly we have a long table abound with food from various cultural influences.   For starters of course, we had to start off with some oysters.  It's difficult to escape France's fresh shucked wintery oysters.

 Prepping for the Prosperity Toss Salad, YúShēng (魚生)

Prepping for the Prosperity Toss Salad, YúShēng (魚生)

The Singaporean Prosperity Toss Salad or YúShēng (魚生)  is made up of several ingredients with meaning.  As a tradition, certain foods had to be served as they were symbolic based upon pronunciation or appearance of these foods.  Yú Shēng is literally translated as "raw fish".  The chinese character for fish (魚), pronounced sounds the same for the Chinese word "abundance" (餘), and shēng (生) which means raw and life also sounds the same as the character meaning to rise (升).  This all equates to wishing one abundance, vigour, prosperity, and long life.

 Prosperity Toss Salad, YúShēng (魚生). 

Prosperity Toss Salad, YúShēng (魚生). 

Everyone gathers together to toss, toss, toss...the higher you toss, the more fortunate you may be.

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Shout out "lo hei, lo hei" while tossing.  May your luck and fortune keep rising.

Then stuff yourself silly with everything else around you...

 Laksa on the Stove

Laksa on the Stove

 A Bowl of Laksa

A Bowl of Laksa

 Jiao Zi

Jiao Zi

 Pomelo Salad

Pomelo Salad

 Sapodilla Fruit

Sapodilla Fruit

 Litchis, Mangoes, and Starfruit

Litchis, Mangoes, and Starfruit

Growing up, we used to get pulled out of school for the day to celebrate Chinese New Year.   Lion dances, dragon dances, banging drums, clanging cymbals, crashing gongs, and firecrackers at the feet, hanging above or behind you filled the streets.  My sister and I would giggle watching the crowd of people milling about in Chinatown trying to catch a glimpse of all this with hands to their ears whilst jerking suddenly as a firecracker has just gone off in front of their next step.   This was way more exciting than sitting in the classroom for the day.  Everything on this day is colorful, exciting, and lively.  Happy to hear that it is an official holiday in NYC as of this year! 

Wishing you all a very happy and healthy Chinese New Year of the Monkey!

Ali's Prosperity Toss Salad

INGREDIENTS//serves 6

• 300 grams salmon, sushi grade raw
•  1/2 pomelo, peeled and seperated into small segments
• 2 cups carrot, julienned
• 2 cups white radish, julienned
• 2 cups cucumber, julienned
• 1 cup jelly fish (optional—for the squeamish ones)
• 2 stalks spring onions, chopped
• 5 wonton wrap skins, deep fried
• 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
• 3 tablespoons roasted peanuts, crushed

Sauce

•  6 tablespoons Chinese plum sauce
•  2 tablespoons sesame oil
•  1 lime, juiced
•  3-4 tablespoons hot water


INSTRUCTIONS

Peel and julienne all your vegetables with a mandoline or a julienne peeler: carrots, white radish, cucumbers.
Arrange them on a large platter next to another.

Slice the salmon into thin slices and arrange them on the platter wtih the vegetables.

Chop your spring onions and sprinkle over the ingredients on the platter.

Prepare your crispy wonton peels.   Cut your wonton wrap skins in 1/4 inch strips.  

In a pan, heat enough oil to cover the wonton strips.   Once hot, add the wonton strips in and fry until golden brown and crispy. 

As you take them out of the pan, place them on a paper towel so that the excess oil is absorbed.  Once it's cooled down, add it to the salad.

Prepare your sauce by mixing all the ingredients together.  Add water tablespoon by tablespoon to dilute the sauce and mix well so that it spreads easily over the salad.

Once the salad is assembled, gather everyone around it with a pair of chopsticks.

Sprinkle the crushed peanuts and the sesame seeds over the salad, finally pouring the sauce all over the top of the salad.

Everyone digs in and tosses.  Don't forget to shout out "lo hei, lo hei"!