Thursday, January 31, 2008

Pan, Kettle, Black

I don't know how many of you remember my dilemna with the cast iron pan but lately, I have been incredibly fortunate to leap at an offer from Umami for another, bigger cast iron pan, seasoned by her wonderfully patient Gigi.

I received it just last week and have been told its gone through three rounds of seasoning.

The boy came home and saw it, compared it to my old pan and asked whether Umami was feeling sorry for him for having to eat off a greasy spoon cafe pan and so offered a pre-seasoned one.

I was a bit annoyed. Until we did a comparison.

I'm almost reluctant to post these pictures as I'm cringing from shame but here's my pan...

And here is my lovely new pan.

Words fail me.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Lucky ducky

I admit it. I am very lucky I have the boy.

Because of the boy, I got to fulfill my dream of living in Paris. And that's not the only reason I adore him. He was also raised right. By that I mean he thanks me for EVERY SINGLE meal I cook him. And this includes lunches which I rarely pack for him, and breakfasts on those rare occasions I wake up before the sun.

But yesterday he went grocery shopping at my request.

And forgot my list. Uh Oh....

He came back with this.

Apparently "for Sui Mai" but for him....and to impress my father.

Other things in the shopping basket: Ostrich steaks;

Kumatos (some new type of dark tomatoes that ripen from the inside, sweet and crisp);

and of course, he always gets overly enthusiastic in the fish section (ending up with 3 pieces of fish we need to eat within the next day!) and conveniently forgot that we had enough cheese to feed a small army when he hit up the cheese selection.

The boy's attempts to sabotage my diet is transparent.

And when he asked me if I needed him to go to the shops this week, I smiled widely and thanked him.

"Thank you but no."

Friday, January 25, 2008

A Fowl Attempt

I met Umami the other day at Atelier Maitre Albert for a roast chicken lunch. She had been craving roast chicken and having done her research on Figaro, was determined to try the best roast chickens in Paris.

We had an interesting discussing during lunch. The two dishes I never, ever order in restaurants is pasta and chicken. I always think that pasta is one of those dishes that unless its dead cheap or has something special, then ts one of those dishes you can make pretty well at home. As for chicken, it always seems dry to me when I eat it outside. And, surprisingly, roast chicken is one of the few dishes I pull off surprisingly well. Probably due to the ease of preparation.

However, always eager to share Umami's latest food obsessions, I tried the chicken. It was good ... very good ... but I still didn't think it was worth paying the 18 euro (a la carte) for. I don't think my home roasted chicken fared much worse. And had more of the crispy skin that I so love.

I don't often do recipes here and I'm not sure I want to start now but I thought that I'd share my seasoning and some of the tricks and tips I use. As you read through, you'll notice that my emphasis is on the crispy skin...

Chicken Seasoning

- handful of sea salt
- poultry seasoning (I use Schwartz's from Montreal) - this is optional, I leave it out sometimes and increase the other ingredients - about a third of the sea salt
- honey - generous tablespoon or two
- juice of a lemon
- a few drops of olive oil (flavored is fine)

Adjust all amounts according to side of the bird. I typically use approximately half a cup for a 3-4 pound bird

1. Mix until its a thick paste

2. Take a handful and smear, spread or dollop under the skin of the bird. I like to throw in a handful and massage all over so its spread under the skin. Use approximately half of the seasoning under the skin.

3. Take half of the remaining and spread on the outside of the bird and the other half on the inside cavity of the bird.

4. Shove cloves of garlic, the lemon halves, onions, shallots, celery, whatever you have inside the cavity of the bird.

This recipe is very very flexible so use whatever you have on hand. Rosemary or chili are also great additions. And yes, I have read that seasoning on the outside doesn't penetrate the bird. That's true but then I get lovely seasoned skin on the outside, which I think is still very enjoyable.

And again, yes, I know that the chicken has enough oil so there is no need for more oil but I like putting a bit of oil on as I believe it enhances the crispiness of the skin.

And as for all the onions, garlic and celery inside, you may or may not wish to eat it or add to your gravy but I think because it all steams inside the bird, it enhances the flavor.

The honey helps with the caramelization of the bird and makes it a nice toasty brown color and gives it a subtle sweetness I love it with the chicken.

Tricks and Tips:

- For a tender breast (of chicken): Roast breast side up as there's no 'weight' on the breast so the meat is more tender

- For a juicier breast (I prefer juicy): Roast breast side down so that the fat and juices run down and give it a constant basting

- Start the bird off in a very hot high temperature oven and let roast for approximately 20 minutes until slightly browned at top then turn oven temperature down to roast for the remaining time. There are various opinions about this. Some find that it "seals" in the juices, much like browning, whereas others feel that there is no difference. I like doing it this way as it makes the skin crispier.

- Once finished cooking, take out of the oven and let sit for 15 minutes to let the juices settle before carving. Sneak the wing tips and chicken bum as the 'delice du chef'.

A roast chicken is very popular with the boy and I. It's democratic eating. Breast for the boy, big drumstick and both chicken wings for me. A chicken oyster each when dissecting the remainder of the bird after the meal and the carcass saved for soup while the leftovers go into a chicken salad the next day.

Atelier Maitre Albert
1 rue Maitre Albert, 75005
Metro: Maubert
Tel: 01 56 81 30 01

Monday, January 21, 2008

Pickles and eggs

I was intrigued when my favorite veg-head (and soon to be bro in law) brought out a huge jar of pickled eggs during the Christmas season. Of course I had to try... if only to show the leafy ones that I was "down wit it".

Eggs and vinegar in my mind immediately screams, TUMMY ACHE.

However, seeing as the nut roast they procured at the festive table was nothing short of scarf worthy, I thought this must be a good thing. Besides. I enjoy eating sulphurous black duck eggs with sugar, don't I?

Well the egg white tasted mostly of pickle and the egg yolk nothing more than just yolky. What I found interesting was when the green one told me that you can make your own with nothing more than boiled eggs and vinegar.


Of course I needed to experiment. And, in an effort at one-upmanship, I had to do something different. And so this is where beets come in.

Having an almost empty jar of pickles, I polished off the pickles, added some vinegar to the remaining pickle juice, heated it all up and poured it over some peeled pickled eggs and diced beets.

Two days letter, I tasted one of them. Not quite pickle-y enough but a pretty and interesting shade of pink which contrasted nicely with the white and yellow of the egg.

Would definitely make a pretty addition to a Salad Nicoise.

(proper recipes can be found here)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Galette de Roi

T'is the season for Galettes des Roi, flaky pastries traditionally filled with either marzipan or frangipani. These King Cakes, associated with the festival of Epiphany in the Christmas season are on sale until the end of January and are a favorite of the boy's. Anything with frangipani or marzipan and the boy gets that glazed expression in his eyes....

In any case, having been invited to the lovely Umami's house for a day of majong and hotpot, we brought one from our favorite local bakery...the one with the impossibly thin apple tarts. Of course, knowing that Umami had a hankering for the apple tarts, we bought one of those as well.
Unexpectedly but happily, I won the coveted 'feve' or trinket, which was hidden inside, thus got to wear the crown for the rest of the dinner.

Having not had enough of the Galette de Roi, the boy went and bought a mini sized one from one of his favorite bakery shops, Malineau. The boy even had the gall to say that he bought it for my sake. For comparison reasons.

This one was very very flaky and buttery, and to my taste, a bit *too* flaky and dry. (and yes, in my world there is such thing as too flaky). I preferred the one from the local bakery which had texture and lovely layers to bite through to get to the rich frangipani.

And yes, we did end up buying a third one. From the local bakery to take to the boy's grandparents in Sunderland.... his grandfather ended up almost eating the feve!

Umami and I, in a fit of time indulgence, traveled all the way to the 13th arrondissement to find Pain et Passion, which was recently rated in the Figaro for having the best Galette de Roi. Although we only had a small individual one, the boy and I agreed for having been the worst of the three, all dry and heavy.

My advice is to buy your Galette de Roi from a local bakery from whom you buy your pies.

For a wonderful round up of Galettes, see Umami's latest post!

Monday, January 14, 2008

I'm a Winner!!!

Not to boast or anything, but I won, I won, I won!!!

And I won the prize I wanted too!!!

I've always, always wanted my very own logo and now I'll get one courtesy of Spicy Icecream.

I simply can't wait and I am grateful to Lisa for donating the gift.

A big thanks to everyone who also participated in Chez Pim's Menu for Hope.

Participate next year and you too can be a winner ... just by donating!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


For Christmas I got a great many lovely things, one of which was a packet of chocolate based food items. Do my future in-laws know me or what??

One of the items kept tempting me.... a chocolate marshmallow coffee from Cocoa & Co. Blasphemous to coffee drinkers I know but if you had to sleep in the room where this little sack sat, all innocent except for the lovely fragrant scent of rich dark coffee and chocolate, I dare you to refuse its mating call.

I was good though, I waited until I got home to try it out with my somewhat leaky Bodum press. And of course, to complete the slightly trashy picture, I decided to drink it out of my fancy Krispy Kreme travel mug. I'm all klass.

And how was it?
Tasty, not too 'marshmallow-y', the scent was mainly what reminded you of the chocolate marshmallow, the taste was thankfully more coffee.
In the box were also some interesting handmade chocolate bars, including a Strawberry Black Pepper one I hope to review once I get rid of this dratted *COUGH*

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Hippy New Year

This is going to be a problem.

I got myself into trouble, you see, over the holiday season.

I received a dress for the wedding and it was too big. No problem, took it to a local seamstress to take in. In a fit of ambitious headiness, I told to the seamstress during the fitting:

"Please make it very snug, I plan to lose a bit of weight"

Um. She kindly pinned it tightly. Very tightly. Let's just say the rolls, they were aplenty. The seamstress asked if it was too tight.

As my future Mother-in-Law was standing patiently nearby, having driven me across villages to make my appointment, I couldn't lose face. I also couldn't breathe.

"No, I'm sure it'll be fine", I said.

In my head, I was going "WHERE did those rolls come from? I don't really look like that do I? I have 5 weeks, what am I going to do?"

As to where those rolls came from, let's review shall we?

Over the last 10 days, I have had:

Homemade Almond Cherry Rocky Road (which I made myself, thank you very much!);

<------Fried Fish with no chips but a hunka fried haggis... do NOT recommend unless you're trying to kill yourself;

Cream tea with multiple cakes------->


and my first pickled egg. ------------>

Also countless cups of tea, ginger biscuits, fig rolls, cakes, puddings (all with custard of course), chocolates received for Christmas, and old fashioned sweets to keep us going while opening presents.

Luckily the boy was very good with Christmas presents this year. Besides particularly beautiful photographs he had put on canvas, I also received a red iPod nano, complete with...

Yup, you guessed it, the Nike + set....

Let's hope that if my rolls don't give me a fright enough to start exercising, than the music will get me moving.

So here's hoping you have a Happy New Year, regardless of the state of your own hips.