Hachis Parmentier

Well it’s another Friday so it must be another French Friday with Dorie, where we are cooking through her Around my French Table cookbook.  My schedule is pretty crazy and while I cooked ahead, I can’t take too much time to be witty or clever.   Maybe just a tiny bit clever.

I’ll hit the highlights, but it’s a little ironic because while I made this a while ago, I’m making beef stew again tomorrow to serve for Homecoming which is tomorrow.  Now don’t be afraid of this recipe from its fancy pants name, it’s really just a shepherd’s pie.

Now I don’t know about you, but my shepherd’s pie doesn’t call for sausage.  This one does, and while I think it added nice fat, I’m not sure I’d add it again.  I think for me it made it a little rich, but try it once and then use your discretion.

I also used some stew meat I had from a local purveyor, Stan Schutte of Triple S Farm at the Urbana Farmers’ Market.  The sausage was his too and both meats were delicious.  He has organic meat and sells at the market, try him out if you’re local.  He has chicken (the best eggs I’ve ever eaten), pork and beef.  You can get the staples, but the lesser known stuff too.  I have a tub of lard in my freezer as proof.

You put the veg and the beef and simmer like for a stew until the meat is tender.  It took me a bit longer than the recipe called for, but I wondered if this was because I used Stan’s stew meat and not cut Dorie used.

A revision I happily made was to use local cheese in lieu of the Gruyere the recipe calls for.  I used a wonderful cheese from Prairie Fruit Farm, a local goat cheese farm that is a true gem, not only for the Midwest, but really anywhere.  World class farmstead cheese, yum!  I used Kaskaskia, a dry parmseany type of goat cheese that was hard and grated up nice.  It didn’t get overly melty, but had a great distinctive nutty flavor and worked great.

You add it to the potato topping, she says on top, but I mixed a little right in with the potato mixture. Look at how golden and crusty it is.  It was both nutty and creamy and delicious.

This is the finished product.  You can actually see the steam rising off of it.  I tried to wait until it stopped steaming, but couldn’t.  It was good, like I said, a little rich, but a small serving with a salad makes a great fall meal.

Thanks Dorie!

Spicy Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup

We’re back with French Friday’s with Dorie and this week we’re doing the Spicy Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup.  Here’s my rundown.

So as I was making this soup and beginning to take my pictures, it occurred to me that “man, this soup is white”.  Let’s just say it was a theme, and for a cooking post that mainly relies on pictures, well, that wasn’t a very good portend of what was to come.  I made a white broth, cooked in it white meat (chicken) and added white noodles.  Hmmm, that sounds interesting…So there aren’t many pictures this week, just a couple of highlights and hopefully with my green on green garnish it jazzed up the final picture enough to let you get a glimmer of how delicious it was, and it was delicious!

My takeaway thoughts this week were if you’ve never made soup before, this is your soup.  It came together “Rachel Ray” fast, but actually tasted fancy and complicated.  This easily could be made on a busy weeknight and finished in under an hour.  Usually when a soup comes together fast it isn’t tasty, but Dorie layers the flavors and the coconut milk, chilies, lime juice and ginger all work together and create a wonderful harmony of flavors.  I will make this again.  You can find the book and the recipe here.

First I made the broth.

Ok, it doesn’t look white yet, but just wait.   It uses chicken stock (I had some homemade, lucky me), and coconut milk cilantro, star anise, coriander, onion, garlic ginger, red chilies, a touch of fish sauce (it scared me and I used very little), and a bit of brown sugar.  This is your soup base and you let it come together simmering the chicken in it.  I used boneless breasts and I’d use bone in breasts if I did it again.  I think they have more flavor and I think it keeps the chicken softer and more moist.

Now behold the whiteness.  There are charming little flecks of red from the chilies, but all in all pretty monochromatic.  A couple of hints here, simmer very gently and your chicken which is really poaching in the broth will be even more tender.

One thing I didn’t love was cooking the noodles in a separate pot, but I think it was necessary don’t want too much starch in the broth, but I hate dirtying another pot.  Anyhoo, I did what I was told and then added the noodles and shredded chicken back to the pot.  And, oh, YOUR DONE.

Isn’t this the perfect soup for a cold fall day?  I think it turned out perfectly, the heat of the ginger and the chilies was cut by the lime and the coconut milk and the noodles and chicken added enough presence to make it a real meal.  And it does look kinda pretty.   She suggests a host of condiments you can put on, but I only went with the lime and the cilantro, but it did break up and also called back to the flavors in the dish.  I served it with a salad and some crusty bread, I mean the broth was kind of begging for dunking.
Make this now, it’ll make you happy.

Gerard’s Mustard Tart

Coming off the fun of last week’s gougers I’m excited to try Gerard’s Mustard Tart. In her recipe she says it traditionally uses tomatoes, but I have yet to make a tomato tart that I like.  It always seems to me like they’re missing something.  So even though this is just a riff on the original, I was a little nervous about liking the end product.  But being an intrepid FFwD participant, I’m going to give it a go.  So once more into the breach.

I was reviewing the recipe and noticed the tart dough needs a 3 hour chill, and I needed to get going after all this tart isn’t going to cook itself.  I put the dough ingredients into the world’s oldest and most banged up food processor, note the large chunks of cold butter. 

I gave it a few whirls and then added an egg and a tiny bit of water.  Dorie cautions against over-mixing like with any good pie-type dough, you don’t want to over work and get too much gluten established.  We want tender flaky dough, people!

I usually like to leave rather large bits of butter in my crusts, and this is maybe a bit too fine for me, but it didn’t impact the taste or the flakiness.  It doesn’t come together in the mixer, but I put it on some cling film and it held together nicely when squeezed.  I made a little disk and put it in the fridge.  After about a half hour I moved it to the freezer, being that I am the Queen of Impatience and I don’t want to wait 3 hours to get the party started.

So I don’t think my, let’s call it eagerness, really impacted the crust at all.  It rolled out rather easily and I used her suggestion to roll it between 2 sheets of cling film.  I gently eased it into the pan and blind baked it.  I didn’t notice until after I’d baked it that she suggests doubling the sides to make it a little more formidable.   While I didn’t have any trouble with a crumbling crust, I think next time I’ll double it, even just for looks.

While I was waiting for the crust to cool, I chopped the veg, leeks and carrots and steamed them up.  I was pretty careful to gently squeeze as much moisture out of them without crushing the carrots, which were delightfully soft ( I hates me a crunchy veg).

Then I whisked up the filling, which is one thing that made it different from the other tomato tarts I’d made before.  They just had cheese and mustard on a bare crust.   This filling was luscious.  It was made with crème fraiche and two types of mustard, a grainy hearty mustard and a Dijon.  The combination was both tangy and creamy and added just the right amount of binding to the leeks and carrots.

In other veg tarts or quiches I’ve made you add the veggies to the crust and top it with filling.  This is the opposite, you add the creamy filling and then top it with the veg, almost like a garnish.  I’d initially tried to do some fancy arranging with the veg, some crazy basket weave design, but my carrots weren’t up to the task and began to fall apart.  Seeing the writing on the wall, I let that go and did a “full on Dorie” with the spoke pattern.

It baked up easy too, no water baths, just pop it in the oven and when a knife comes out clean it’s done.  Mine puffed a little and got nicely golden.  Oh and it was delicious.  I think it was the crème fraiche in lieu of heavy cream, which can be a little cloying to me, but regardless, it was very, very tasty and I would make this again in a heartbeat.  Might even have to try tomatoes…

The recipe can be found in the book Around my French Table, by Dorie Greenspan.

Gougeres French Fridays with Dorie

So if you’ve been following along, and if you are OMG you must be the most patient person EVER!  I have been hornswaggled and hoodwinked by this semester and I haven’t had the time or energy to blog or whatnot.  However, I’m turning over a new leaf.

What’s that you say, I’ve said that before and then proceeded to drop off the planet yet again?  Well, fear not my enmeshed friend I swear it’s different this time.  This time I’m trying out the new French Friday’s with Dorie.  This is an online cooking group that “cooks the book”, this time with Dorie Greenspan’s Around my French Table.  I purchased the tomb, and it looks fabulous!  I can’t be more excited and in fact today is my first entry in this new venture.  I also promise to share the good, the bad and the ugly.  I’m sure the recipes will all be awesome because that’s the kind of cookbook author she is, but my cooking mostly is good, but I can have spectacular epic fails as well.  C’est la vie, on with the show-Gougeres!

Gougeres are basically a cream puff with cheese.  What is a cream puff, you might ask, well it’s mainly just flour, egg, water and butter.  What makes them “puff” isn’t magic, it’s in the technique you use to assemble them.  You start by putting your butter and flour into a pan and bringing it to a boil.  When it’s boiling, you dump in all your flour and mix like mad.

Pretty quickly your dough begins to form a ball and you will see a film gathering on the bottom of your pan.  That is fine, in fact it’s what you want.  This drys out the dough and um, begins the puffily magic (I don’t know what it does, but I do what I’m told).  While you can do the next step by hand and possibly get carpel tunnel, I then dump the dough into my mixer and beat in the eggs.  When all your eggs are beat in, then with Gougeres, you add cheese.  In mine I added a nice English Cheddar.  I’m usually a total Wisconsin cheese junkie, but didn’t have any Hook’s 12 year on hand.

Dorie says she just spoons out the dough onto the cookie sheet, and I followed suit, being a dutiful recipe follower this time.  Okay, this isn’t especially pretty looking, but it did the trick.  The chunks you see are the cheddar which didn’t melt and I thought that added a nice cheezily bits to the puffs.  I then baked them starting at a higher heat and then lowering it, and got these…

Wow, they puffed and everything, they melted in your mouth and went down really nice with a sparkling rose that was just a little tart.  Interestingly I made two sizes smaller, like the recipe calls for and larger more heaped up ones, like one of my favorite restaurant in Madison, L’Etoile used to make.  The large puffed better and I wonder if it wasn’t because they were heaped up higher.  I will have to do more research to determine the cause.  Mmmm, delicious research.

Now I love the cheese and the crispy cheesey crust is awesome, but for me like with a popover it’s all about the fleshy innards.  When gougeres puff they leave a hollow, but moist center and I love that webby middle.  Some people cut a little hole in the tops of their puffs to dry them out, maybe more for cream puffs, so they don’t get soggy, but resist this, don’t mar the middle.  Trust me.

Well, thanks for stopping by and if you’re new to my crazy little world, take a step back and get caught up.  I’m going to try and catch as many of these along the way as I can, and I also am going to try and include some other things along the way too.  I have food journals from New Orleans and beyond to add (I know, promises promises).  With this cooking club we don’t include the recipes because seriously you should buy the book.  You won’t regret it.

To see others go to the FFWD site

Grits Gal