One chilly Parisian morning myself and Carol Gillot, author of the Paris Breakfasts blog, dared to enter the newly designed Hotel Meurice for breakfast. Carol paints food and I cook food, so we make a good team.
Carol rearranged the table over and over snapping dozens of photos for future paintings. The servers even offered to strike a pose, in hopes that she might immortalize them into one of her famous pictures – and me too, I might add.
Everyone in the French food industry knows Carol. She's hand-painted chef jackets for Paul Bocuse, champagne labels for Mumm, and has had carte blanche to capture many famous American and French chefs in action behind the line.
I was warned not to touch the bread basket when we got to the table. We were just going to share a pitcher of hot chocolate, you see.
But me, being the glutton, reached for a croissant. By doing so, I had instantly committed to the 36 euro (57 dollar) Continental breakfast. Which is unfortunate because, I'm not a juice drinker and I really didn't want more than one croissant. I just couldn't help myself, they looked so perfect.
I did consider stuffing the other pastries into my purse...
Then there was the hot chocolate. I like my chocolate chaud extremely chocolate-y. The service had no problem bringing me another beautiful silver pitcher that was more to my liking. (Wow! Am I in Paris? Pinch me please!)
Ahhhhh, much better...
I will vouch for the dazzling dinner at Le Meurice and Yannik Alleno's inspired menu, but It's still a very close contest between the hot chocolate taken next door at Angelina's or at Le Meurice. One most sample both side by side to truly be informed. Or at least dream about it while gazing at Carol's water colors.
There is a long stomach wrenching story that goes along with this video. I'm not sure if I should tell you, but I will anyway.
First, watch the video (4 minutes). It's the first part of two videos (the second on how to beignet oysters coming next week). I filmed it myself so you'll have to excuse the low lighting and the unintentional body shots. I got a little carried away with the Brittney Spears opening too. No regrets, oysters are an aphrodisiac after all... or are they?
I bought a box of 50 oysters on Sunday (my day off) for this video and throughout the evening while I shucked them and dipped them in batter to beignet, I ate about half raw and deep fried.
Monday rolled around and I met some friends that were visiting from San Francisco and the whole day I just felt groggy. I kept thinking it must be fatigue from cooking double shifts each day day. I felt so sleepy that I had to cut our date short.
Tuesday morning I returned to work at 8AM and felt like a tractor had run over me. Looking for a shred of sympathy, I told another cook: "You know I feel really tired, I don't feel so good". He responded: "You don't come to cook at a restaurant like this to be tired."
Well, no shit sherlock.
Right before our afternoon service I could feel my intestines rolling around and I knew something was wrong. Then came the sensation that I was being knifed repeatedly in the lower gut. It came and went throughout the lunch service but I managed to withstand it.
I should say, I managed to withstand it while totally messing up every order on the planet. I heard more than my fair share of, "Ah Amy, c'est quoi ça?" (Ah Amy, what is that?) It's really hard to hear all the long menus coming in when you're doubled over in pain. And you know we do everything verbally. Everything has to be memorized – no point of sale system – so you've got to listen and be sharp. I made it through the dinner service, but just barely.
I came home and slept and returned Thursday morning to work. This time the knifing in my stomach returned accompanied with some terrible side effects. Everything started coming out of me. I mean everything and everywhere. I felt like some one was taking my intestines and tying them in knots.
Now you have to understand that when you cook in a restaurant you don't get sick. It just doesn't happen. If you are truly sick then you better have pnemonia or the plague or something incurable. So I was back and forth to the toliet praying that my body would soon finish evacuating itself before the lunch service began trying not to make to big an issue of it.
Of course no one even asked if I was okay. They just kind of looked at me like maybe I drank too much or something the night before. I know I'm older, a woman, and American but, if some one is really sick don't you think you're going to ask if the obvious: Are you alright?
Thankfully one of the excutive chefs took interest in my well-being and asked if I was okay and offered to get me some medecin. I explained in my best French/American sign language that everything was coming out of me. "Tu as le Gatro" he told me.
I find this name for malady Gastrointestinal really funny because in Paris gastronomical restaurants are nicknamed "Gastros" as opposed to "Bistros". So yes, I had le Gastro while I was working at un Gastro. (no fault but my own though, they were my oysters)
The ever-kind chef, brought me back pills to stop me up and they worked. I managed to pull off another day of two services, lunch and dinner, thanks to the pills and basically slogged my way through Friday. However, I found out later that when you have "gastro" you're not supposed to take these pills while you're body is trying to rid itself of problem. It only prolongs the pain. Which it did. Enough said.
So now I'm okay. And what I've come to conclude is that I think I must be allergic to oysters. I always seem get sick when I eat more than three or four.
But honestly, I do love them. And I love to pop them open and eat them raw straight from the ocean with just a squeeze of lemon. I only wish that my stomach would be more supportive of this habit.
Here it is – the moment you've all been waiting for – another chicken recipe! But, this one is special because it has a French title which automatically elevates it from mundane to elegant. Why is that? Regardless, chicken breasts stuffed with wild mushrooms is anything but boring.
I wanted to post some recipes during the holidays that are easy to prepare for a diner party, light in fat, low in cost, French, and beautiful. Immediately chicken stuffed with wild mushrooms came to mind. Chanterelles, shitake, and oyster mushrooms are plentiful right now so take your pick or use all of them together.
If serving this dish to a crowd, stuff the chicken ahead of time. Cook it à la minute after your first course and let your guests marvel at your chef capabilities. The chicken takes 6 minutes to cook through and the sauce about 3 minutes. A word to the wise, practice once beforehand so you are comfortable with the time limitations.
Holiday shopping getting you down? Watch my video – at least you're not cooking on a two burner plaque! (okay, so it's in Paris, tant pis.) 'Tis the season to be jolly! (recipe on page continued. Click on the link at the very bottom)
This recipe is in no way shape or form French. Sorry! But, it is good – I promise that at least!
So here's my latest fusion offering: Japanese tempura served up alongside Baja style lime-cilantro marinated fish with Puerto Rican pickled red onions. Typically escabeche is a pickling marinade with cooked seafood added to it. But, I've used it for pickling the onions and the liquid as a dipping sauce for the green beans.
I've put together a short video (only 4 min) for the tempura. You've got to check it out because I found the cutest Moulinex Minuto deep fryer and I want to show it off! Seriously, I haven't been this excited about a new toy since I bought my first power blender in college. Tempura is super fast to prepare. It took 3 minutes to whip up the batter and 40 seconds to deep fry the green beans.
There are two basic types of tempura batter. One is thin and it works well for vegetables – especially for green beans where you want to see the color show through the batter. For fish I prefer the thicker batter, similar to a beignet batter, where the eggs are separated and the whites whipped up separately and folded back into the mix. This creates a big fluffy crunchy crust when deep fried that goes nice with jumbo prawns.
The fish is marinated in lime juice and cilantro for twenty minutes almost like ceviche but then it is baked or grilled to finish the cooking. I used cod because it looked fresh in the market, but mahi mahi would work better or even halibut. Any firm white fish will do that isn't too thin and doesn't fall apart easily.
The pink pickling marinade is a melange of cider vinegar, sugar, salt, peppercorns, and bay leaves with a thinly sliced red onion left to soak up the juice. For real escabeche, cooked shrimp or seafood is then added and can be kept up to 2 days in the refrigerator. With the added seafood, it's a refreshing sweet-tart starter or light meal.
After draining the onions, the pickling liquid tasted so good that I decided to skip the traditional tempura dipping sauce and use it instead. Just in case you're not a vinegar fanatic like me, I've included the recipe for the Japanese dipping sauce below.
Without fail, whenever I make a video on my terrace, it rains! Nonetheless, I think this video is still entertaining – in the same way rubber yellow chicken gags are entertaining. You'll see what I mean if you watch the video. I got the idea from ex-pat blogger Meg of La Blagueur À Paris who asked me if I would do a video on how to section chicken from a whole bird.
I prefer to buy whole chickens for many reasons: they are more sanitary and have had less contact with bacteria from packing facilities, I can make up to 8 servings and cut fancier sections for presentation, it's easy to make chicken stock from the carcass, it costs less per pound, and it takes five minutes extra of my time.
For this recipe the chicken was simply slapped on the grill with a little olive oil, salt & pepper, and some dried thyme. I like barbecue sauces, rubs, and marinades but I don't always think they're necessary if the product is great to begin with. My chicken was exceptional (mais oui, c'est français) and you can tell by the color of the yellow skin that it had a corn diet.
Different regions in France feed their chickens different diets and they are quite proud and protective of their particular poulet product. It is the French emblem afterall – Le Coq!!! France is probably most famous for it's Bresse chicken which is the only poulet in France to have it’s own Appelation Origine Controlée (A.O.C.). This means there are strict laws governing how and where these birds are raised. After thirty-five days exactly, the birds are range fed in a grassy area. This diet is supplemented with cereals and skimmed milk. The last phase of production is completed in ventilated wooden cages that are in a quiet and low-lit location in order to keep the chickens happy and calm.
I chose a yellow corn fed chicken from Landes, France for my recipe because they are hearty in texture (but juicy) and will stand up better to the smoke flavor from the barbecue. I find that chickens from Landes pair nicely with bacon, blue cheese, and other intensely flavored foods. I would never in a million years pair the delicacy of a Bresse chicken with anything so overwhelming in flavor as bacon or the value of the milk diet would be lost – quel horreur! However, poulet de Bresse does pair well with some rich foods including foie gras and truffles.
At the time I filmed this video new potatoes, chanterelle (girolle) mushrooms, and apricots were just hitting the farmer's market stalls in Paris. The grilled vegetable salad with mustard seed vinaigrette was a tribute to what started out as a promising hot summer. Oh well, at least we got a little sun in the beginning of the season! The apricots are simply brushed with a honey-basalmic glaze and grilled for a few minutes each side.
I think this video is pretty funny. I'm a total dork in it, so have a few laughs at my expense....
God forgive me for this video. It will either get passed around the Internet as a valuable guide to making sausage or used in 7th grade sex education classes. Even if I do rot in hell, it was a lot of fun to make. Very Satisfying.
Stuffing sausage is a little like crafting. It takes time, some specific knowledge, and is more fun to do with at least one other person. I made the traditional French sausage, Boudin Blanc, but added foie gras and black truffles. Tse, my blogging friend from Chez Tse, made two different types of Italian sausage: sundried tomato & basil, and traditional pork. All of our sausage turned out delicious.
We bought natural sheep casings, or intestines, from our butcher. He loves me because I make my own saucisse. I'm telling you, if you really want to know the quickest way to a man's heart, make him sausage. He also offered us his favorite recipes and a few kisses behind the meat counter. What a ham! Sheep casings are smaller than hog or cow. Make sure to buy the size that best suits the recipe or style of sausage.
If you stick to the basic measurements, experimenting with sausage and flavors can be a lot of fun. For 1 kilo of ground meat add 20 grams salt and 4 grams ground pepper. I used ground veal in my boudin blanc so I had to add some ground fat back or pure pork fat to my mixture so it would taste juicy and survive the cooking procedure. Tse did not add any fat to her ground pork shoulder.
I recommend letting the sausages refrigerate for at least 4 hours and overnight if possible, before cooking so that all the flavors blend. We poached our sausages in barely simmering cooking liquid before browning in olive oil. Fresh sausage tends to be delicate, and I find that poaching them first insures they won't explode over high heat. Make sure to prick them several times before poaching.
Note to self: never make a puff pastry video on a hot day, in 90˚F weather, after drinking a whole bottle of champagne! Whoo-eee!!!
Now that I've got that disclaimer out of the way, I can tell you about making puff pastry or Feuilletage with the fabulous blogger Tse of Chez Tse. We studied at cooking school together and later she joined me at Guy Savoy before interning at the famous patisserie, Pierre Hermé.
Puff pastry is easy. It really is. And it tastes better and bakes lighter than store bought dough loaded with hydrogenated oils. The ingredients are simple: flour, water, salt, and butter. If possible use beurre sec or "dry" butter that has a low moisture content and high fat content . It will make the process easier and help keep the flour from turning into a greasy mess. But, just to prove that regular butter can be used, we've chosen normal unsalted beurre for our video.
There are so many uses for puff pastry from easy fruit tarts to pastry shells for savory dishes. Make a big batch and freeze half!
For recipe click on "continue reading How to Make Puff pastry...."
In honor of the 60th Anniversary of the Cannes film festival I've created a decadent dinner to enjoy at home. Think of it like an Oscar party but French! Pour a glass of champagne and enjoy watching all the televised glitz and glamour while eating grilled veal finished with herb-orange butter and white asparagus topped with sauce maltaise (an orange flavored hollandaise sauce). This recipe is straightforward and elegant. Don't be afraid of the sauce, it's really not difficult...
Before moving to Paris I had never tasted fresh white asparagus. I had only tried it once from a can and it was stringy, wet, limp, and disgusting. Although I had seen it before in markets, I never attempted to try it because of my previous experience. When I arrived in Paris some friends invited me over for a dinner of filet mignon and white asparagus served with hollandaise sauce. I couldn't believe how sweet the asparagus was and how well it pared with with the creaminess of the sauce. (of course, what doesn't hollandaise sauce taste good on?). This recipe is inspired from that first meal – Thanks Jenny & Stuart!!!
White asparagus has a very short season from April to May. Although the stalks appear white, it is really green asparagus that has been covered with at least 8 inches of mulch to keep sunlight away from the ripening spears. The spears are harvested before their tips grow through the top of the mulch. The base of the stalks tend to be woodier than green asparagus and need to be peeled with a vegetable peeler. If this step is left out, the eating experience will be not-so-nice as fibrous strings will prove difficult to cut and chew.
Sauce maltaise is just a gussied up hollandaise sauce. I prefer to make this the traditional way over the stove, but it can be made in a blender as well. Instead of thinning the egg yolks with water add reduced orange juice with some finely chopped orange zest (1 Tablespoon per egg yolk). The egg yolk and juice is then whisked over an open bainmarie of water until it has tripled in size, lightened in color, and thickened enough to see the bottom of the bowl. Next, remove from heat and slowly drizzle warm (not hot!!!) clarified butter. Reserve in a warm place (it cannot be reheated!) for up to an hour, but preferably just minutes from serving it.
Veal tends to be a sensitive subject in the U.S. because of the way it is raised. I only buy veal that has been allowed to live life outside in the open as opposed to in a crate inhibiting ability to move or stand. I once viewed a baby calf that was raised this way at a dairy farm in Holland and that memory will forever haunt me when I shop for veal at the supermarket. Veal doesn't have to be raised inhumanely to taste tender. The herb-orange butter melts over the top of the veal fillets after grilling to give it a beautiful glaze and delicate flavor.
For recipe press continue reading at bottom of the page...
What is it about France in the summer – oops! – I mean France in the Spring, that inspires provençal fare? Nothing conjurs up Provence to me like ripe tomatoes, salty olives, astringent lemon, grilled fish & meats, and freshly picked herbs.
This simple recipe, Poisson Provençal, is herb roasted fish with a salsa of tomatoes and olives garnished with the first baby artichokes of the season. The fish is roasted whole so that it stays nice and juicy over the grill without drying out. Included are simple instructions for preparing whole fish from beginning to end and, of course, my quirky ways of getting the job done.
Although I love reading new recipes, I love to learn technique more. There are thousands of recipes in the world and I can never remember any of them past the meal that I've just cooked. However, technique enables one to walk through the farmers' markets and choose what is fresh without fear.
I sincerely hope that in my video series Paris On The Terrace, that I offer more than just a recipe, but technique in food preparation that will aid in exploration!
I'm impatiently waiting for my work visa to be re-issued so I can get back to work at the 3-star restaurant I cook at. In the meantime, I've decided to start a video series this Spring called Paris On The Terrace, which will include recipes for the barbecue. This series will also demonstrate food preparation skills that allow the home chef to prepare meat and fish from beginning to end.
This video recipe features St. Jaques or scallops along with instructions on how to shuck them. I love barbecuing scallops because they only take a few minutes to cook and they come with their own little heat safe dishes. Fill a few shells with vegetables to serve alongside the scallops. They make a beautiful presentation on the plate and I guarantee guests will be surprised.
Instead of hanging around in quiet Paris this Easter, my husband and I did something totally out of the ordinary – we left Paris for a weekend in London! Along with our close friend Marine, we carted ourselves over to London via the Eurostar for a long leisurely weekend of treasure hunting.
If you are going to London, I suggest buying this month's Time Out magazine. It contains a treasure hunt that takes you all over the city and it is much more fun than one of those silly tourist buses. For each city section it provides a pub, restaurant, and activity for the kids too. The best tour I've ever had of London – and I lived in the city for 3 years!
We made a video of our treasure hunt and the restaurants we ate at. Hope you enjoy it...
As featured in video...
Hotel: Miller's Residence in Notting Hill. 5 minutes from Hyde Park and 5 minutes from Portobello Road
Restaurants: Ping Pong for Dim Sum, Brown's Hotel for high tea
Perhaps this video is a little untimely considering that Easter weekend is coming up, but the hunting season is coming to a close here in France and I wanted to share this rare look inside a 3-star restaurant in regards to game preparation. I have never had the opportunity to work with game in the United States. Most of the meat we receive in the U.S. has already been cleaned and semi-prepared.
Although it was sometimes emotionally difficult to work with cute and fury animals, towards the end of the season I felt more connected to the food I was preparing. I prefer eating food that I know has lived a healthy life free from chemicals, pesticides, steroids, and unnormal/unnatural diets.
Meat does not come from the super market. It is bought at the super market. Funny how French kids inherently understand that while American kids are convinced chicken is born boneless and skinless. The other day while I was enjoying some sunlight at Le Jardin de Tuilleries, a toddler caught my eye running around one of the fountains. He was waddling after a little duck but eventually gave up his chase, pointed at it, and said, "mmm...." Then his mother reinforced this, "Oui, ça c'est colvert, mmmmmm....."
In the States, we tend to think of Daffy Duck before we think of dinner.
If you're ever lost in the woods, stuck in Appalachia, looking to impress a new date, or wanting to reconnect with the food chain here is my video on HOW TO SKIN A RABBIT. This is a wild rabbit or hare (not the petstore kind) and they are very big and have lots of lean meat. The French word is "Lievre".
The audition video is at the end of the post, but you've got to read the post first!
Just like I promised, I sent my video, resumé, and headshot into the Magical Elves (the name of the production company for the TV show Top Chef). Sadly the Magical Elves have not contacted me yet. They start filming in March and I just barely made the cutoff date so it's possible they've already filled their spaces. The application clearly stated to turn it in before the due date because they have a short period of time to cast the show.
But, there's still a chance that the Magical Elves might tip toe into my room at night with their little pointy shoes and striped stockings and whisper in my ear that I'm the next contestant on Top Chef. Or perhaps they are having trouble finding my Paris address? Oh, woe is me.
To complicate matters, I just found out that one of the sous chefs from Guy Savoy, Las Vegas applied for the show too and the Magical Elves went to film him cooking at the restaurant. Oh double woe is me!!! They wouldn't put two contestants from the same restaurant on the show would they? Not unless they wanted to see a bloodbath. I do meat and he does fish so there's lots of potential for drama and competition.
However, I really really like the sous chef. He briefly visited our Paris restaurant and we had a ton of fun working together. We joked privately about how different the cooking culture is in Paris compared to the States. I showed him how to de-feather, gut, and fillet wild birds and together we zipped through piles of recently hunted game birds. He was happy to have a break from fish and I was happy to talk with a fellow American and see what's new in the food world.
We parted ways and he gave me a chef's jacket from the Guy Savoy, Las Vegas restaurant that has the official logo on it. (We don't have those in Paris, I'm not quite sure why not)
So guess what, I'm taking my jacket and I'm going to Las Vegas to cook for a few weeks. It's his turn to teach me what he knows! I'm planning on staying at the Paris hotel. So for anyone that thinks I'm leaving France or that I'm no longer an expat blogger, think again mon cherie! I hear they've got an Eiffle Tower and everything!!! I'll be writing from Paris and cooking in a French restaurant... just... uh... not the one on Rue Troyon a block away from the L'Arc de Triumph.
The other Paris!
This is embarrassing, but here's my video if you need a good laugh. I look extremely tired (because I am) and I was only allowed 5 minutes of video footage so a lot of good stuff got chopped. It was challenging to film at the restaurant and I owe a lot of thanks to Tse, the newest American stagier who is also blogging about her experiences, because she came in early to tape me. And yes, I know the beginning is cheesy, but I wanted to make sure I had the attention of the Magical Elves. You know how elves are...
This recipe reminded me of Zuni's restaurant in San Francisco. (Haven't been? You must go!) The sauce was reminiscent of the jus they do for their specialty roast chicken. You know, the one you have to wait 45 minutes that's cooked in a wood fire oven and worth every second? This dish, Croustillant de Bar Au Pain Perdu, is fish, but it has a chicken jus combined with brown butter and the salad has a tangy red wine shallot vinegar dressing that compliments the fish and the chicken jus perfectly.
Even Jamie, my cooking partner at Le Cordon Bleu, who made the worst grimaces when the chef brought out a tin of capers during our demonstration, couldn't get enough of the sauce. And she's a vegetarian! I saw her gobble down the chicken jus like there was no tomorrow! I might have been sighted licking my plate, but I wouldn't want to admit to that in public.
The toughest part of this dish is wrangling with the sea bass. They are huge with fins that poke holes in your fingers, and big scales with tough skin. I filleted one huge one (1.5 feet) for us to share and it took me at least thirty minutes. Thankfully Jamie compensated and prepared our jus from carmelized chicken bones and chicken stock as well as most of the garnishes. By the way, if you haven't already check out my video on filleting fish it should be running smoother.
I have simplified the recipe because most of us don't have the luxury of using thirty million pots and pans and taking the time to make homemade chicken stock. If Rachel Ray only has 20 minutes to whip up chili, then how are the rest of us supposed to manage? The sauce is an old popular French recette that can be used to accompany poultry, white fish, or eve perhaps breaded veal.
Recipe is on the next page...
Just bought the Zuni cookbook and it's incredible. My French chefs would have a fit it they read some of her techniques, but I love it! She won two James Beard awards for outstanding restaurant and oustanding cookbook. Worth the splurge
Top five reasons why it's important to know how to fillet a fish:
1. Don't get voted off the island. Make yourself indispensable with your filleting skills.
2. Impress your boyfriend on his next fishing trip when you take out your leatherman and fillet the fish he just caught in less than five minutes.
3. Get a job on a private party yacht cruising around the Caribbean.
4. Precursor to becoming a sushi chef.
5. Fish stays fresher if it's whole and you can use all the bones and trimmings for one of those really tasty french sauces.
Quiche is easy to make and pleases just about everyone. It's great during the holidays when you need to feed a lot of people for brunch or lunch. Also, you can use up left overs in the fridge and mix them in with the filling. For example, sometimes I make the filling out of wild mushrooms and spinach or smoked salmon instead of the bacon for quiche lorraine. I've even seen quiches in paris with broccoli and sliced potatoes.
200g flour/ 1 1/4 cup flour
100g butter/ 1/2 cup butter
pinch of salt
1-2 Tbsps water as needed
150ml cream/ 1 cup cream
180g/ 3/4 cup thick bacon, rashers, or lardons
150g/ 2/3 cup gruyere cheese diced or shredded
salt & pepper to taste
pinch of nutmeg
1. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl and cut in butter until mixture resembles sand
2. Add egg and water and mix until just incorporated
3. Form a ball with dough and "fraser" crush dough with palm of hand against counter to incorporate all butter.
4. Chill for 15 minutes or up to one day.
5. Roll dough out to fit desired tart pan and prick with tines of fork.
6. Fill to the top with baking beans or beads to prevent shrinking (it will shrink considerably otherwise)
7. Blind bake for 5-10 minutes until golden brown at 160C/ 325F.
1. Whisk eggs, cream, nutmeg together
2. Fry bacon in a saute pan until cooked and then drain excess fat off in a sieve.
3. Brush pie crust with mustard
4. Fill crust in a single layer with bacon and then add cheese to cover
5. Pour egg/cream mixture over the bacon and cheese and fill to 1/4 inch of the top of the crust. If necessary make more egg/milk mixture to cover.
6. Bake at 180C/350F for first 10 minutes then reduce to 160C/325F and bake until center barely jiggles and the egg filling is set, about 15-25 minutes more depending on pan size.
7. Let cool slightly before serving to help the egg filling properly set
Note: If adding other filling make sure that they are cooked and drained of any liquid before adding to the cream/egg mixture. Also if the egg/cream mixture does not fill the tart pan to a 1/4" of the top of the crust then whip up another egg and some extra milk and add.
I've been receiving a lot of questions about the Tarte Aux Pommes receipe that I posted a while back. So I've decided to put together a short video to demonstrate the techniques used. Let me know if you have any problems or feedback regarding this video. If you like it, I'll do more.