Interviews

Mochi Truffles

Mochi Truffles

This is a good time of year to reflect upon one’s blessings, and among the very many things I feel grateful for is the way this blog connects me with remarkable people whose path I might never have crossed otherwise.

Case in point: Colins Kawai, the marketing director of the University of Hawaii Press, but also an artisan chocolatier and the founder of Choco Le’a (“chocolate pleasures”), a small chocolate company based in Hawaii that he started to raise funds for charities and non-profits around the world.

I met Colins and his wife Joan when they visited Paris in November: Colins and I had exchanged a few emails, and he had told me about his company, which does mostly catering for weddings and other receptions, and about the truffles he makes for those events, garnished with such exotic flavors as lilikoi (passionfruit), haupia (coconut creme), or lychee liqueur.

We arranged to meet at the Salon du Chocolat, the Henri Le Roux stall serving as our rendezvous. We chatted for a little while, and Colins and Joan handed me a few boxes of their truffles, which they had, amazingly, hand-carried from Hawaii for me, along with a few other gifts, including the most adorable onigiri-pattern bib for Milan.

Maxence and I enjoyed the chocolates a great deal (read: we inhaled them), and the ones I was most taken with were the mochi truffles, which came in four flavors: plain, strawberry, honeydew (my favorite), and orange.

I adore mochi in all its forms, as evidenced by my posts on the strawberry daifuku mochi and the warabi mochi, but this was the first time I’d witnessed its encounter with chocolate. I have since researched the subject, and while I’ve found many instances of chocolate truffles wrapped in mochi — delicious too, I’m sure — I haven’t found references to truffles with a piece of mochi inside.

Curious to know more about this novel treat, I asked Colins to answer a few questions.

Mochi Truffles

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Parents Who Cook: Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs

Amanda and Addie
Amanda and Addie, photographed by Sarah Shatz.

Parents Who Cook is a Q&A series in which I ask my guests about cooking with little ones underfoot. If you think of people you’d like to see interviewed as part of this series — especially fathers! — your suggestions are welcome.

I have long admired Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs for founding the Food52 website, and developing it with such savvy over the past three years. Originally created as a way to crowd-source a cookbook, it is now a remarkably rich website with lots of smart features, and a vibrant community of cooks.

The first Food52 cookbook came out last year, and the second volume, also crowd-sourced and edited with great care, has just been released.

Amanda and Merrill are both mothers, and I am delighted to welcome them as my first guests on the Parents Who Cook series.

Can you tell us a few words about your kids? Ages, names, temperaments?

M: Our daughter Clara is almost eleven months old. She has seven teeth and is determined to start walking. We think she’s learned her first word (hi), although it could just be a random sound she’s making. Clara is a really good-tempered baby and very social, but on the rare occasion that she’s unhappy or tired, she lets us know it!

A: We have twins, Walker and Addie, and they’re six. They’re losing their baby teeth, which they’re very excited about. Walker is methodical, competitive, and snuggly. Addie is social, a daydreamer, and willing to be amused.

Clara
Clara, photographed by James Ransom.

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Draw Me A Fridge: Dan Barber

For this new installment of our Draw Me A Fridge series (read about it here), we spoke with Dan Barber.

Dan Barber is the chef behind one of my all-time favorite restaurants, Blue Hill, in NYC’s Greenwich Village, and a farm-restaurant upstate, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, to which I’ve been longing to go for years. He is one of the most prominent chefs in the US, he’s an active participant in the discussion on ethics and sustainability, and he works with food and ideas with equal talent.

I recently had the opportunity to meet him in Paris, where he had been invited by Alain Ducasse to cook a special lunch at the Plaza Athénée hotel. Alexia Colson-Duparchy, who runs the Draw Me A Fridge series on Chocolate & Zucchini, joined me, and we talked about breeding, spoons, and fried eggs, among other things.

clotilde

Tell us a few words about this lunch that you’re cooking at the Plaza Athénée.

Dan Barber

Lately I’ve been devoting a lot of my time to breeding. It’s not genetic engineering, it’s natural selection done with modern technology to make it go very fast, so that you get to where you want to go in two years as opposed to a hundred years.

Many chefs and people who love food want to go back to old seeds, the so-called heirlooms. But what’s interesting to me is how we can use some of the genetics from the past and help move it to the future. Heirlooms mean you stop at a particular moment in time: somebody says, that’s a great tomato, okay, we stop, and we’re going to pass down the seeds. It may be a fantastic tomato, but I think we can do better. I know we can do better. You have to use these genetics and those breeders who help us concentrate on flavor and disease resistance. It’s very important for farmers.

Tomorrow’s lunch is about that idea. We brought ingredients for each course. Wheat is a big one for me, because I’m working with a wheat breeder very closely. There will also be celtuse, a type of lettuce. We worked with a breeder on it and we planted it in dust from hazelnuts. The celtuse took some of the flavors from the hazelnut. It’s great.

Usually I use local ingredients, but I feel the theme of this lunch is more important.

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Draw Me A Fridge: Clea

Clea's Fridge
Illustration by Olivier Valentin. Click to enlarge.

For this new installment of our Draw Me A Fridge series (read about it here), Alexia spoke with food writer Claire Chapoutot.

Claire Chapoutot is better known as Clea, of Clea Cuisine-fame, a food blog in which she’s been presenting her mostly vegetarian recipes (she describes herself as a flexitarian) since 2005. Claire has two new cookbooks out: Recevoir en bio and Solo et bio (La Plage editions).

Although her blog and recipe books are only available in French (for now), her recipes are so delicious they are worth brushing up on your high school French, or registering to your local Alliance Française.

But as a bonus for non-French-speaking readers, Claire has kindly allowed me to translate her pain d’épices recipe, one of Alexia’s personal favorites (see bottom of post).

AC: What are your fridge staples?

CC: Each shelf is dedicated to a specific category of products: on the top shelf are my homemade yogurts (with cow’s milk for my daughter, and vanilla soy milk for my boyfriend and myself). The shelf below is for jams — all prepared by my mom! Then on the shelf below, I store all sorts of condiments and mustards, umeboshi prune paste, marinated artichokes and other stuff.

The next shelf is for fresh products. Right now I have ham, tofu and ravioles in there. I also have a big Tupperware-like box, in which I store cheeses. And a bowl with eggs right next to it — I find they keep longer in the fridge.

In the crisper, I have vegetables that don’t do well in the open air, as well as fresh ginger and bags of prunes once they’re open, to keep then nice and moist.

Then you have the door… also very well organized! I have my more exotic condiments in there, such as tandoori and curry pastes, wasabi, ginger and preserved lemon paste by Le Voyage de Mamabé, tomato concentrate, small bottles of lemon and lime juices (which I use when a recipe calls for only a little bit), bottles of all sorts of non dairy milks and, when we have them, fruit juices.

I also store the more fragile vinegars in the door, such as a pomegranate-flavored one, and bouillon cubes that I find less gritty when kept cold. I almost forgot: you will also find my matcha tea, agar-agar and the more “alive” of organic flours, such as chestnut flour.

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Draw Me A Fridge: Hervé This

Hervé This

For this new installment of our Draw Me A Fridge series (read about it here), Alexia met with Professor Hervé This.

Hervé This (pronounced “tiss”) is an internationally renowned physico-chemist, a professor at the AgroParisTech institute, and the only person to hold a doctorate in molecular gastronomy, a cutting-edge field he co-created with Nichola Kurti. (See also: Notes from the moleculat gastronomy conference.)

A long-time accomplice to famed French chef Pierre Gagnaire, a popular French television personality, and a bestselling cookbook author, he uses the latest research in the chemistry, physics, and biology of food to challenge traditional ideas about cooking and eating.

Amongst his many projects, he has been commissioned by the Ministry of Education to create cooking workshops in French primary schools, and he is tirelessly determined to reinvent the way we cook. At the time of our meeting, Professor This was on his way to Canada to introduce his concept of “note by note cooking” or, in his own words, “the world’s next culinary trend” (more information on his blog). His latest, just-released book is called La Cuisine note à note en douze questions souriantes.

AC: What are your fridge staples?

HT: My wife laughs about the fact that there is always a piece of smoked lard to be found in the fridge, even though the lard is smoked and salted precisely so that it can be kept outside of a fridge!

My fridge is actually really, really, packed. On the top shelf, I keep all sorts of homemade preparations such as chutneys (that could be kept outside the fridge as well), harissa, ketchup, and ginger preserves.

The freezer is also very crowded. In it you’ll find meat filling for pâté vosgien* since I always make too much of it. You will also find small containers of stock from pork trotters Sainte-Ménehould [an age-old specialty made of pork trotters that have been bound and slow-cooked in white wine, with herbs and spices] that has cooked for over four days. The result is a stock so tasty that just a teaspoonful is enough to bring flavor to any dish.

AC: That sounds good.

HT: You bet. I make a mean pork trotters Sainte-Ménehould! Oh, you will also find a bottle of vodka.

But back to the fridge… I keep dried tomatoes in oil (baked at 95 degrees Celsius and preserved in olive oil with lemon juice, salt, sugar, thyme, and rosemary); lemons preserved in salt; homemade pissalat [a condiment from Nice made with puréed anchovies, flavored with cloves, thyme, bay leaf and black pepper, and mixed with olive oil] of which I made three kilos — I should have enough for years since I only use a tiny bit at a time.

In the door of the fridge, I keep poutargue [a.k.a. bottarga, a sort of fish spawn pickle preserved in salt, also known as the "Mediterranean caviar"], capers, unsalted butter and salted butter, fat from foie gras, and a garlic saucisson.

You will also find foie gras that was cooked in the dishwasher (in a Ziploc bag closed with paper clips with a mix of white wine, port, salt and pepper). Obviously, we also have eggs, and yogurts for the whole family.

Right now, you will also find two small terrines, one with a beautiful bread dough that I had to retard because it was proofing too quickly, and the other one for an Arabic-style bread. There is also a shrimp curry — for tomorrow probably –, shrimp bisque after a typical regional recipe from Charentes, and an asparagus and watercress soup.

You would also find Laughing Cow cheese wedges, because they melt well and are quite handy to have. Also, some crottins de Chavignol [a goat cheese produced in the north-west part of the Sancerre wine region] that have been in there for ages.

And I always keep fruits and veggies on the countertop.

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