Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Pierre Hermé et moi

When I was in Paris last month (Don't you just love the way that rolls off my keyboard?  As if I am a big shot?  Actually, I am still in awe of the fact that I get to go to Paris at all, let alone two times in the space of two months-- but back to today's story...), I went into FNAC, kind of the French version of Barnes and Noble-- books, music, movies- but on a larger scale.  There is one right around the corner from the hotel my students and I will stay at next week.  This is the first book that caught my eye.  It is a delightful cookbook put together by Soledad Bravi, a cartoonist who wanted to learn some tricks for making better cakes, and Pierre Hermé, my macaron idol.  I couldn't resist it, even at 19.90 euros.  The drawings alone are enough to buy the book, but to have simplified recipes from M. Hermé?  Oui!  Here is one of Soledad's quotes:  "Je fais un livre avec Pierre Hermé, oui je sais, il a trop de chance."  "I am making a book with Pierre Hermé, yes I know, he is very lucky."

I decided to start with Riz au lait vanillé.  Vanilla rice pudding.  It is one of my favorites.  I wanted to see how Pierre would make it.

Infuse the milk with vanilla bean-- my kitchen smelled heavenly.  Will someone get to work on the camera that records smells as well as photos, please?

Cook the rice in the vanilla milk

Cover with plastic wrap and allow it to "rest"

Add in mascarpone

Experiment... add in some frozen cherries (fresh would be better, but not the season, alas)

Taste three versions- without mascarpone, with, with cherries

How would I eat it?  Which did I like best?  Truthfully, warm before it went into the refrigerator, no cheese or cherries mixed it.  (Yes, of course, I sampled it then, too!)  But all versions are good, and all are different.

I ate some for dessert when I was in Senlis in January.  We had dinner at Le Scaramouche.  The riz au lait was served with little bits of candied fruit.  Isn't it beautiful?

I am translating from the French recipe.

Riz au lait vanillé
Prepare the evening before

125 g of round grain rice (Arborio-- the same kind as for risotto-- this is about 3/4 cup)
600 g of whole milk (about 2 2/3 cup)
2 vanilla beans with the grains
1 pinch of fleur de sel salt (use sea salt, if you have it-- I just happen to have fleur de sel thanks to La Brune)
30 g of sugar (about 1/8 cup-- the French do not make their desserts as sweet as we Americans do... I guess you can add more sugar, if you wish, but don't overpower the dish by making it too sweet- you can serve it with fruit to sweeten- see Pierre's suggestions at the end of the recipe)
400 g of mascarpone (I found it in containers of 225 g each)

I cut the vanilla beans in two, longwise, I scrap the interior with a knife in order to get all the seeds.

I bring the milk, with the vanilla seeds and the pods, to a boil.  I take it off the heat and I cover the top of the pot with plastic wrap in order to let the vanilla infuse the milk for 30 minutes.

I strain the milk with a sieve (I used cheesecloth because I do not have a sieve that fine) in order to catch the fibers of the vanilla bean, I crush the pods in order not to lose any of the flavor and I leave the seeds.  I put the vanilla milk back into the pot.  I add the rice, the salt, and the sugar, I mix it all before bringing it to a boil.  As soon as it begins to boil, I lower the heat and gently cook it for about 20 minutes, stirring it regularly because it sticks quickly.  The rice should be "al dente."

I pour the mixture into a dish (it calls for a 20 cm one-- I have no clue what size that is!  I just chose one that looked like it would all fit into, leaving room for the addition of the mascarpone later.).  I put plastic film over it, making sure the film touches the surface of the rice mixture, and let it cool for 2 hours before placing it in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day

I put the mascarpone in a bowl and stir it in order to make it smooth.  I add it to the rice (or add the rice to it) and I stir.  It's ready!

A little extra from Pierre Hermé

The rice pudding is not very sweet on purpose because this way one can add honey, raspberries, strawberries, kiwi, cooked fruit or dates cooked in tea and lemon.  (I didn't try the dates but am including the recipe below. Afterwards, I thought that fruit preserves from Bonne Maman- maybe blueberries, would be delicious.)

Dates in tea
Prepare the evening before

200 g of dates
100 g of water
12 g of Earl Grey tea
5 g of sugar
10 g of lemon juice
1 drop of Tabasco

I heat the water to 80˚C.  I add the tea and allow it to infuse for 3 minutes, but no longer because that would make it too strong and bad; I filter it without pressing on the tea bag or leaves.

I put the whole dates (with pits) in a pot and cover them with the hot tea.  I add the sugar, the lemon juice and the Tabasco.

I put it on very low heat and let it cook for 15 minutes.  I pour it into a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap and allow it to soak overnight at room temperature.

The next day

I drain the dates, remove the pits, and cut them into 6-8 pieces lengthwise.  I put them in the refrigerator.

I can eat them with rice pudding or with plain yogurt.

Bon appétit and merci, Pierre Hermé and Soledad Bravi!  I love your book!

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