Friday, September 28, 2007
One evening, as we strolled along the Seine in the 6th, with our gooey, Nutella-filled crepes in hand, I had a little mental chat with myself. I resolved that, when we returned home, I would do my best to keep a little Paris in our lives.
Once back on native soil, one of the first things I did was pick up some really great French cookbooks. I bought Patricia Well's The Paris Cookbook and Simply French, as well as Dorie Greenspan's little gem, Paris Sweets. The dizzying array of mouth-watering choices on those pages was exciting, but a bit intimidating. I decided to start small. I needed a recipe that wasn't too complicated, but still whispered "Paris" in my ear. I chose madeleines, specifically the madeleines from Paris Sweets. I loved the idea of baking madeleines not only because they are so quintessentially French, but also because my daughter's name is Madeleine. I also loved it because of the Proust connection. In his novel, Remembrance of Things Past, the narrator of the story has an almost out of body experience upon tasting one of these buttery, shell-shaped morsels.
“She sent out for one of those short, plump little cakes called petites madeleines, which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted scallop of a pilgrim's shell. And soon, mechanically, weary after a dull day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid, and the crumbs with it, touched my palate than a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place…at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory…”
--Remembrance of Things Past, Volume 1: Swann's Way
All I can say is, that Proust really knew what he was talking about!
Here is my Madeleine, at the top of the Eiffel Tower.
3/4 c. all purpose flour
Sift together the flour and baking powder. In a mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the eggs and sugar together at medium-high speed until they thicken and lighten in color, about 2-4 minutes.
Beat in the lemon zest and vanilla. With a large rubber spatula, gently fold in the dry ingredients, followed by the melted butter. Cover the batter with plastic wrap, pressing it against the surface to create an airtight seal. Chill for at least 3 hours.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. If your madeleine pan is not nonstick, generously butter it and dust with flour. Set the pan on a baking sheet for easy transportability. Spoon the batter into the molds, filling them almost to the top. Don't worry about smoothing the batter. It will even out as it bakes.
In the center rack of the oven, bake large madeleines for 11-13 minutes, and small ones for 8-10 minutes, or until they are puffed and golden and spring back when touched.
Remove the cookies by either rapping the pan against the counter or gently running a butter knife around the edges of the cookies. Cool on a cooling rack.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Trim any extra fat from the chicken pieces and transfer them to a large roasting pan.
Mix the rest of the ingredients together in a bowl.
Toss together with the chicken until it is evenly coated with the sauce.
Roast, uncovered, until the chicken pieces are browned and the chicken is cooked through, about 25 to 30 minutes.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
In my inaugural post, I mentioned my grandmother's Sunday meat sauce. I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since. I decided that such a noble dish deserved more than just a passing mention. After all, this sauce (we always called it gravy), was an integral part of our family life when I was growing up. It wasn't so much about the sauce itself (though it was delicious), but what it represented. Family. Security. Love. In today's transient society, so many of the traditions and rituals we followed as kids have fallen by the wayside. Marriages, careers, births, deaths and other life-altering events chip away at them, a little at a time. Before we know it, they are gone. It saddens me to think that my daughter will never have many of these experiences that have formed and shaped me into the person I am. All is not lost, though. I can give her new experiences. I can recreate some traditions. I can make the Sunday sauce!
For the meatballs:
1 lb. ground chuck
For the sauce:
3-4 tbsp olive oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix all of the meatball ingredients in a large bowl until combined. Do not overhandle or the meatballs will be tough. The mixture should be moist, but hold together. If the mixture appears too wet, add more bread crumbs, a little at a time. If it is too dry, add a little more milk.
Form into balls, about 2 inches in diameter. You should get 18-20 meatballs out of this recipe.
Place meatballs and sausages in a shallow baking sheet and bake until they start to get browned, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Put whole tomatoes into a large bowl. With your (clean) hands, squish and mush them until they are all broken up. Then add the crushed tomatoes to the bowl with them. Set aside.
In a large stock pot or dutch oven, heat the olive oil on medium high heat. When the oil is hot, reduce heat to medium and add the onion, carrots and thyme. Saute about 6 minutes or until onion is soft and translucent.
Add the tomato paste and gently incorporate it into the saute. Let it cook for a minute or two.
Add the tomatoes to the pot and stir, mixing everything together.
Add the red pepper flakes and half of the basil. I usually like to add a little salt at this point as well.
Stir again, cover the pot and wait for the sauce to begin to bubble.
Gently lower the meatballs and sausages into the sauce.
Uncover the pot and let the sauce simmer for about 30 minutes more.
Fill another large pot with water and bring to a boil. When the water is boiling cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain
Add the rest of the basil and more salt to taste.
Place the pasta on a large serving platter and ladle the sauce on top. Toss well. Top it off with the meatballs and sausages.
Sprinkle some grated cheese on top.
Serve and enjoy!
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
But then, blog after blog had posts about this No-Knead Bread. Magazine articles were written about it. I saw it on TV. That crusty, chewy No-Knead Bread was everywhere! It had become a phenomenon. I started to feel left out. So, with my culinary reputation (and ego) at stake, I decided to go for it - and am I ever glad I did.
Recipe: No-Knead Bread
Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising
1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.
Monday, September 17, 2007
Posted by Susan @ SGCC at 10:41 AM