Roasted Apple with Dried Fruits, Calisson Ice Cream

Pomme Rôtie aux Fruits Secs, Quenelle de Glace au Calisson

[Roasted Apple with Dried Fruits, Calisson Ice Cream]

My mother and I wanted to end our Christmas eve dinner with a dessert simple to prepare yet festive, and satisfying yet light – more or less. This is what we came up with!

The store Picard Surgelés sells excellent ice-cream created by François Théron. They come in a variety of flavors, all of which quite unusual and incredibly tempting, like marron glacé (chestnut ice-cream with candied chestnut pieces), mendiant (vanilla ice-cream with dried fruits and nuts), or calisson (almond ice-cream with bits of calisson).

A calisson is an almond shaped specialty from Aix-en-Provence (South of France), made with pâte d’amande (almond paste) and crystallized melons, with a layer of “feuille d’hostie” (the thin wafer the catholic host is made of) underneath, and a crispy sugar coating on top. In my family, we are all big fans of pâte d’amande in general, calissons in particular, and my parents happened to have a box of fresh calissons they had recently received as a gift.

Continue reading »

Scalloped Foie Gras Mi-Cuit, Poached Pear, Toasted Rustic Bread

Escalope de Foie Gras Mi-Cuit, Poire Pochée, Toast de Campagne

[Scalloped Foie Gras Mi-Cuit, Poached Pear, Toasted Rustic Bread]

Christmas eve this year was spent just the four of us : my parents, my sister and myself. A week before, having come to my parents’ on a weeknight, my mother and I had brainstormed over an after-dinner cup of tea, and we had come up with the Christmas menus. My mom having taken care of the grocery shopping, the afternoon of the 24th found us preparing the dinner together, in between miscellaneous tree decorating and last minute gift wrapping activities.

I enjoy cooking with my mother very much. Probably because I have watched her cook so often and also because she has taught me a lot of what I know, we just seem to move around the kitchen in unison, picking up where the other has left off, handing out the right tool at the right time without being asked, the different tasks dispatched seamlessly, chatting all the while.

On the special request of my father, the dinner menu started out with slices of smoked salmon. My mother had bought two kinds : Norwegian farm-raised smoked salmon and a pricier wild smoked salmon. While both were very high-quality, the latter, of a lighter pink shade, proved particularly succulent. Sprinkled with lemon juice, served with oven-warmed blinis and crème fraîche, this was a delicious first course. Smoked salmon seems a more and more common fare, but I’m wondering if one shouldn’t hold off eating it unless presented with the real thing.

We then prepared and served the main dish : scalloped foie gras mi-cuit with poached pears and toasts of rustic bread. Mi-cuit (“half-cooked”) is a way to prepare foie gras, in which the raw liver is cooked in a terrine, slowly and at a very low temperature, allowing the natural flavors and textures to develop in very subtle ways. The resulting product has a very short shelf-life, whereas regular canned foie gras can be kept at room temperature for up to four years. Foie gras mi-cuit can be bought whole, or in slices (“escalopes”) as was the case for us.

Continue reading »

Chocolate Truffles

Truffes au Chocolat

This year for Christmas, I made chocolate bites of two kinds to give to my family, and bought small confectioner’s crystal bags at a professional store to put them in. I also wanted to make little tags to tie around the bags. I bought delicate ivory paper, beautiful green leaves made of very fine thread, and some silver yarn. I cut out rectangles of paper, wrote “Chocolate & Zucchini” with colored pencils on them, and sewed each rectangle to a green leaf with the silver yarn, tying up the label to the bags with a little knot.

Pretty, and it packaged up my goodies nicely : in addition to the mendiants, which I told you about yesterday, I made an assortment of chocolate truffles.

Continue reading »

Mendiants

Mendiants

I have always loved the idea of giving out food gifts. As with any handmade present, it seems a very personal way to show you care, and that you love the person enough to spend a few hours making something nice for them. Last year, I didn’t plan for it early enough to make it happen : Christmas is always a busy period, and we had just moved into our apartment a month before. But this year, I thought about it well in advance, took care of the necessary planning and shopping and set out to make two kinds of chocolate bites to give out to my family on Christmas day.

The first kind of chocolate bites I made are called Mendiants, little bits of goodies atop disks of chocolate.

The Christmas tradition in Provence (South-East of France) is to end the celebratory dinner with “les 13 desserts de Noël“. However decadent this may sound, it is actually a pretty ascetic assortment of thirteen (as in Jesus and his twelve apostles) simple desserts : black and white nougat, olive oil bread, various nuts, and dried or fresh fruit. Among these are the four “mendiants” (beggars), symbolizing four mendicant monastic orders and the color of their robes : raisins for the Dominicans, hazelnuts for the Augustins, dried figs for the Franciscans, and almonds for the Carmelites.

This is the origin of the name “mendiant”, more generally given to food preparations that involve dried fruits and nuts : cakes, ice cream or, in my case, chocolate bites.

Continue reading »

Joyeux Noël!

Chocolate&Zucchini

Thanks for everyone’s well wishes, and Happy Christmas to you all! Tonight and tomorrow will be spent at my parents’, basking in the Christmas family glow and helping my mother with the cooking!

And I will be back with tales about the food, the gifts and the food gifts…

Get the newsletter

Receive a free monthly email with a digest of recent entries, plus exclusive inspiration and special announcements. You can also choose to be notified of every new post.