Walnut Butter from the Monastery

Crème de Noix du Monastère

[Walnut Butter from the Monastery]

I take bus 67 to get home from work every day. This bus line isn’t very crowded, and takes me from the South of the 13th to the 18th arrondissement along a very pleasant route. You can usually find me sitting by a window, reading, writing, or just gazing outside and observing. At one point, in the 4th, the bus drives up the rue du Pont Louis Philippe, a typical Marais street, lined with small and arty store windows. They all intrigued me very much, but it never seemed to be a good time to get off the bus and explore, so I never had.

But when I was out shopping in that area last Saturday, I finally walked up that street and spent some happy time going in and out of these beautiful – if pricey – stores : home decoration, jewellery, clothes, paper and calligraphy supplies, japanese earthenware and kimonos…

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An Index Of C&Z Recipes

I have worked on building an index of the recipes I share in this blog. It will allow you to browse through them in alphabetical order, sorted by date, or by category of dish.

It will of course be updated automagically as I add new recipes, and you will find a link to it in the “About” section on the left navigation bar…

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

Petit Gâteau Chocolat Noisette

I was out in the Marais area this afternoon, doing a little Christmas shopping (ok, a lot). And shopping, as you know, is a form of strenuous exercise. Especially ten days before Christmas. Especially in the Marais. That is why I entirely deserved a nutritious goûter, and I found just what I needed at a chocolate store called “Cacao et Chocolat”. I already knew that this Aztec-themed store sold excellent chocolates, ganaches and truffles, but I had never tried any of their pastries.

This little cake immediately caught my attention in the window, it looked so good. And you know how sometimes a pastry looks perfect, but when you bite into it, you’re a bit disappointed and find it somewhat lacking? It was not the case here, this cake was every bit as delicious as it looked. A small chocolate cake, of exactly the right ratio of crusty to moist, topped with crunchy caramelized hazelnuts and dusted with confectioner’s sugar. It had an Aztec-sounding name I forget, but I will make it my personal mission to go back, make a note of the name, and buy another one. I know, I know, don’t mention it. My sense of duty knows no bounds.

I would also love to reproduce this in the privacy of my own kitchen…

Cacao et Chocolat
36 rue Vieille du Temple
75004 Paris

L’Avant-Goût

L'Avant-Goût

From time to time, my dad offers to come and treat me to lunch on a weekday. My company offices used to be located in Nanterre, a cheerless suburban town, where we had to make do with an ordinary brasserie randomly called “L’Européen”. But last summer, to everybody’s relief and joy, we moved to the 13th arrondissement of Paris, close to the Parc Montsouris and the Butte-aux-Cailles and the Place d’Italie. A much much much better environment, it goes without no saying, and a great opportunity for me to discover an area of Paris I knew very little.

Last Tuesday, my father asked me on one of those father/daughter dates I enjoy so much, leaving me the choice of the restaurant. I accepted with glee, and in a heartbeat suggested we went to “L’Avant-Goût”.

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Oeuf Cocotte

Oeuf Cocotte

When I was 9 years old, I was in the last year of primary school while my sister was in junior high. On Wednesdays, I didn’t have class, but she did, and my parents considered us old enough to be home without a nanny, so I would make my own lunch. Maybe my memory fails me, but I seem to remember that this involved a lot of canned beef ravioli, warmed up in a saucepan. From time to time, scorched ravioli in a saucepan, the reward for getting a bit too engrossed in some paper-cutting activity or other.

It’s around that time that my parents got our first microwave oven, for which I had an odd fascination. I remember very clearly the amazement when we brought the first glass of water to a boil, the solemn warning about not running it empty and not putting anything with metal in it, the panicky fright when I accidentally did (maybe a can of ravioli?) and the mini-fireworks that ensued.

I remember that this microwave oven came with a little recipe booklet. I knew nothing about cooking back then, but I read this little booklet carefully, and spotted the one thing that seemed doable: a recipe for Oeuf Cocotte. And that’s how oeuf cocotte went into the Wednesday lunch rotation, keeping the beef ravioli company.

Oeuf cocotte is made by cooking an egg in a little ramequin, on top of other ingredients – usually ham and crème fraîche, with an optional topping of grated cheese. “Cocotte” is a cute word for a hen, and is also an old-fashioned endearing – or condescending, depending on the tone – term for a girl. So I guess “Oeuf Cocotte” could be accurately translated as “Chick Egg”.

And this was, in effect, the very first recipe I ever followed, the very first dish I ever prepared from scratch and unsupervised. Of course, eggs cooked in the microwave are impossibly rubbery, and sometimes they even imploded if left to cook for too long. But the pride of eating something I had prepared myself more than made up for it.

And then I grew up, I moved on to other gastronomic pursuits, and somehow the oeuf cocotte was left by the wayside. Until last week, that is, when I bought a package of Boursin — a soft garlic and herb cheese — the lid of which offered a simple recipe for oeuf cocotte, baked in the oven. And that’s what we had for dinner the other day, to deliciously simple and satisfying results. Not to mention that in my book, anything served in ramequins automatically earns 5 points.

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