Pain Complet aux Olives

Pain Complet aux Olives

Le Pétrin Médiéval is a little bakery close to our place. The name means “the medieval kneading-trough”, which doesn’t sound half as nice, I’m afraid. They happen to be the bread suppliers for Rose Bakery, where you can enjoy their excellent “pain intégral” with your salad.

Le Pétrin Médiéval sells an array of rustic breads and no-frills pastries, which all look very promising, and I bought a small loaf of their olive whole wheat bread the other day. It looked so nice and tasted so delicious, I thought I’d share. I intend to try the walnut version of this next time…

On another note, I went to pick up my second Campanier order yesterday. The vegetable basket contained a lettuce, a head of broccoli, a celery root, two little bulbs of garlic, and a string bag of Charlottes, those small thin-skinned and sweet-fleshed potatoes. In the fruit basket were nine blood oranges, two huge pomelos, and seven cute little pears.

Maybe it’s just me, but few things can compete with the joy of having produce drawers bursting at the seams!

Le Pétrin Médiéval
31 rue Henri Monnier
75009 Paris
01 44 53 05 02

The Poached Egg : Anatomy of a Disaster

The Poached Egg : Anatomy of a Disaster

I always tell you about the creations I’m happy with, so I thought I would share a bit of incompetence for a change. I cannot, for the life of me, poach an egg.

I have read that you should use super fresh eggs, and I have read that week-old eggs worked better. I have read that you should add vinegar to the water, and I have read that no vinegar was necessary. I have read that the water should be salted, and I have read that salt would ruin it. I have read the water should be barely simmering, and I have read you should bring it to a rolling boil. I have read you should just dump the egg into the water, and I have read that you should gently pour it out from a small cup.

I have tried any and all combinations of these factors, but all my efforts have gotten me were sorry-looking eggs, the white completely separated from the yolk in gorgon-like filaments, reeking of vinegar and/or oversalted, and just generally unappetizing and inedible.

Far far from the perfect, plump, oval, soft egg pillows I was trying to create.

Any advice?

Le Campanier, a Lucky Bag of Produce

Le Campanier, a Lucky Bag of Produce

Campanier is a porte-manteau pun on “campagne” (countryside), and “panier” (basket). It is also the name of a cool service in which you get a weekly basket of seasonal organic produce. The little Pousse-Pousse boutique at which I recently bought my sprouting gear happens to be a pickup point, and we decided to go for the four-week test subscription.

I went to pick up the first assortment this past Tuesday, and the vegetable basket contained :
– a head of red batavia lettuce,
– a bunch of parsley,
– a small head of cauliflower,
– two avocados,
– two panais (parsnips).

I was really happy to get parsnips : they belong to what is sometimes referred to as “les légumes oubliés” (forgotten vegetables), those vegetables we used to eat a lot in the past, but which have been more or less abandonned : panais, rutabagas, salsifis, pâtissons, crosnes… I have read that most of these were what people had to live on during the second world war, so they were promptly pushed aside after the war, because of the bad memories they brought back. Nowadays these vegetables aren’t very widely cultivated and can seldom be found at produce stands. Of course, I find the idea of forgetting a vegetable heart-breaking and cruel and terrible and saddening, it makes me want to save the vegetable and bring it back home and give it love and affection and decorate a little room for it with a little bed it can sleep in. Ahem. Anyway, I was glad to welcome those parsnips into my vegetable drawer.

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Pierre Hermé’s Aztec Entremets

Pierre Hermé's Aztec Entremets

As many of you guessed, the dessert for our dinner party last Saturday was ever so kindly contributed by pâtisserie expert and enthusiast Ulrich, he-who-works-with-Pierre-Hermé. You see, Pierre Hermé is a perfectionist and it really shows in the simple beauty of his creations. Extreme and skillful care is taken in the preparation, but once in a while of course, something goes wrong. In that case the product cannot possibly be sold as is, and whoever in the staff is interested (and the quickest, I guess) can have it.

And this is how Ulrich was able to bring a large Aztec cake (more precisely, Pierre Hermé’s cakes are called “entremets”). I will describe the Aztec cake for you, but before I do so, I feel I have to warn you to please take any action you deem appropriate to protect your keyboard from accidental saliva spillage. Ready? Here we go. The Aztec cake starts with a bottom layer of muesli biscuit, crunchy and tender at the same time, with teeny tiny bits of dried fruits and nuts. Then come several intermixed layers of flourless chocolate cake, dense and moist ; orange compote with balsamic vinegar, zesty and aromatic ; and chocolate mousse with specks of fleur de sel, mellow and soft with the subtle shadow of salt. These layers are topped by a final thin layer of macaron-like almond meringue. All of this is wrapped in a shawl of glossy frosting, of a deep dark chocolate color, luscious and velvety. The final touch of beauty on this cake is a disk of caramel, delicate and thin, brushed with a smooth and shiny sugar coating, the color of copper with specks of gold, deposited on four small dice of ganache, and seemingly floating just a few millimeters above the cake, like a nimbus.

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Which Came First Donburi

Which Came First Donburi

And this is the delicious main course that Maxence concocted for our dinner party this past Saturday! The recipe is from the same “Cooking Class Japanese” cookbook as his last cooking stint. I have taken the liberty to rename the dish though. Well, yeah, if I don’t cook, I have to at least do something!

In the book, the recipe is called “Chicken and Egg on Rice“, but the original witty Japanese name is “Oyakodon”, meaning “Mother and Child Donburi“. In case you’re not familiar with the term, “Donburi” means “bowl”, and in a typical case of metonymy, it is also the name of any dish served atop a bowl of cooked rice. This mother and child thing sounded somewhat morally disturbing, so I took matters into my own hands and decided, with no disrepect whatsoever for this traditional dish, to call it the Which Came First Donburi. Just because it amuses me. So there.

If anything (other than his talent of course), Maxence’s take on cooking a main course for eight proved this : we have two very different approaches to menu planning. Where I spend a whole week consulting, researching, thinking, leafing, jotting, striking, imagining and just generally obsessing, here’s what Maxence does : picks up the recipe book at 4pm on D-Day, two whole minutes before we are to go to the Japanese supermarket. Flicks through the recipes. Finds one that’s appealing. And… stops right there. Writes down what he needs. Closes the book. Gets up. Says “ok, let’s go!”.

I am Jack’s flabbergasted befuddlement.

And I must say, his style yields excellent results. We found everything we needed at the Japanese supermarket – a great store but pretty crowded on a Saturday afternoon – including a beautiful set of large shiny black bowls. Maxence prepared all of the ingredients ahead, and started the actual cooking after we were done with the first course.

We all enjoyed this very much : the eggs, still a little runny, have a creamy texture that complements the strips of chicken very well ; the shiitake pieces are their chewy and tasty selves ; the chives are very aromatic ; and all these elements, together with the excellent California rice, make for a very satisfying dish. With the added bonus automatically awarded to anything served in a bowl and eaten with chopsticks.

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