Tools & Utensils

Fondue Pot

Fondue Pot

This is the fabulous gift that Maxence’s mother got us for Christmas: an electrical, nonstick, multiuse fondue pot!

We’ve already broken it in with a fondue bourguignonne shared with Maxence’s aunt and uncle: fondue bourguignonne (literally “fondue from Burgundy”) has you cook little cubes of beef in oil, to be enjoyed with a variety of dipping sauces (whipped up with talent by Maxence). This was my first fondue bourguignonne ever and I loved it: undoubtedly rich, but delicious and highly convivial.

Fondue is a great dish to serve for a casual dinner: most people find it fun to cook their own food (and if they don’t, do they really deserve to be your friends?), and everything can be prepared beforehand so you can fully enjoy the company of your guests. One word of advice: close the door to your bedroom before you start, unless you enjoy sleeping in the lovely fragrance of supersized fries.

As suggested by the multitude of recipes in the little accompanying booklet, our beautiful fondue pot can also be used for fondue savoyarde, fondue chinoise (slices of beef cooked in broth), fondue armoricaine (fish cooked in broth), or better yet, fondue au chocolat!

Egg Poachers

Egg Poachers

I finally caved in and bought a pair of stainless steel egg poachers, for 3€ each.

When even the best advice and tips don’t help and your poached eggs are ugly ducklings everytime, you can either settle for a life without home-poached eggs (too terrible to contemplate), or humbly admit to your own failings, and resort to the tool that some genius designed — probably because s/he was missing that same gene.

We tested the poachers the other night, bringing water to a boil in a large saucepan, breaking fresh eggs inside the buttered hollows, and lowering them carefully into the water. We left them in for three minutes, shuffling anxiously around, worrying about the hovering white filaments, relieved when they eventually disappeared. We lifted the poachers out by their convenient tails, drained the eggs on paper towels, and served them on warm slices of garlic-rubbed toasted bread.

The result? A slightly unnatural shape (a sharp half-oval with tiny spots from the holes in the cups), but a perfect consistency. Not to mention, the poachers look like cute little rodents that work as fuzzy inverted mirrors, should you feel like practising goofy faces while you wait for the water to boil. And just how many kitchen utensils will do that for you?

Marble Mortar Finds True Soulmate

Mortar & Pestle

Finally!

Finally, I have acquired a pestle to go with the marble mortar my dear grandmother gave me as a birthday gift last summer.

Okay, I make it sound like I’ve been searching high and low for one but it’s not quite true. It’s been on my mind all that time, I was thinking well, isn’t it a shame to have such a marble beauty and just use it as a vide-poche, a catchall for keys and loose change — but for some reason a part of me could not believe anyone would ever sell me a pestle without a mortar : who in the world would they then sell the pestle-less mortar to? (Well, whoever holds hostage the pestle that should go with my mortar, that’s who!)

So in fact I never gave the quest a real chance, until just recently when I found myself (an utter fortuity, I swear) at Dehillerin. I enquired about mortar-less pestles, preferably wooden, and the salesguy shook his head no. But his colleague, overhearing the conversation (they’re always eavesdropping on each other’s sales pitches, contradicting whatever is said or adding their two centimes, it’s fun to watch) said they did in fact have one left. He even went so far as to fetch it and hand it to me — probably they don’t see too many 25 year-old female customers.

Holding it in my hand, feeling its nice, balanced weight and waving it around a bit (causing the salesguys to look at me with alarm and take a half-step back), I had the sudden, almost magical certainty that this was a perfect fit for my lonely marble friend. This was confirmed when I got home and placed the pestle in its hollow, where it nested itself with an audible sigh.

They go everywhere together now, and look so happy it’s a joy to everyone who sees them. Ah, matchmaker to the cooking utensils, there’s a new career to consider!

Mamy’s Marble Mortar

Mamy's Marble Mortar

I love it when unexpected things — be they gifts, ideas or opportunities — fall onto my lap. Luckily, in this instance, the thing didn’t literally fall onto my lap or I’d be limping as we speak, but you get my drift.

Last Saturday, my sister Céline and I went to visit our dear grandmother, whom we call Mamy (although my sister insists on spelling it Mamie), who lives not far from us, in the 17th arrondissement. My grandmother would hate for me to tell her age, but let’s just say that she was a little girl during World War I, so you know, she’s seen a thing or two. She loves to talk and tell stories, fascinating memories of times past — some of my favorites being the ones about the sweet and clever boy my father was, and how talented he was at scarfing down camemberts and apple cakes.

She loves to cook too, although now her health doesn’t allow much of that anymore, and I know that she is particularly glad to see me so passionate about it. We talk about things we like to make, and I’ve often asked her for recipes. They are endearingly fuzzy, and it takes a little while to get her to tell me exactly what she means, but that’s all part of the pleasure of course.

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New Toys by Flexipan

New Toys by Flexipan

Two weeks ago, I attended a home sale of Demarle Flexipan molds, hosted by my friend and fellow food-blogger Pascale. Demarle is the original inventor of those nonstick flexible baking molds, made of silicon and glass fiber. Originally sold to professionals only, they have been available to happy home bakers for a few years : most brands distribute their products in department stores and such, but Demarle chose to sell their molds (and the other cooking/baking tools they make) in Tupperware-style meetings instead.

Pascale was there of course, as were her sister and our friends Alisa and Isabelle, of the Paris Potluck crowd. Pascale and Chantal, the Demarle representative, had prepared quite a few things for us to taste, to illustrate what you could make with the molds. In particular, Pascale had baked chocolate hazelnut madeleines, which she insisted were “ratées” (failed). We couldn’t have disagreed more, and in fact thought they represented such a high risk for the health and sanity of the general public, that we made sure to eat as many as we possibly could. It was tough, but I think we have reason to be proud.

It was my first time attenting such a meeting, and it was a lot of fun. Chantal presented the different products and their possible uses, they were passed from hand to hand, and we made a couple of recipes together (a really tasty spinach and fresh cheese roll, and some gougères, those little cheese puffs). I had a grand time, as I always do when I’m in the same room with other cooking enthusiasts, and Pascale’s bright and sunny kitchen, filled with goodies as it was, was the perfect place to be on that beautiful June day.

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