Thursday, April 29, 2010

What is your péché-mignon?

I've learned a new French vocabulary word.  One I really love and have given quite a bit of thought to during the past 24-48  hours.  It has to do with food, of course, and is very interesting.  Le péché-mignon.  It is a masculine noun.  Its literal meaning is "cute sin."  It's figurative meaning, however, is guilty pleasure.  I discovered it as I was contemplating gourmande and gourmandise.  Recently, a Frenchie described me as greedy, an expression I've always associated with money.  Mais non!  It was being used as the translation for une gourmande.  I looked that up in Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary and discovered that its English meaning is "one who is excessively fond of eating and drinking."  Bingo!  That's me.  Gourmandise in English is "appreciation of or interest in good food and drink."  Once again, c'est moi!  The French can say all of that with just one word.  How clever of them.  What a great language.
So, while thinking about my own personal péché-mignon (how on earth can one even begin to choose when there are sooo many yummy things to eat and drink?), I decided to conduct a little unscientific research.  I emailed some folks who I know love to eat and/or drink.  People answer back fast when you ask about food.  Much more interesting than some questions you could ask, right?
Here are the responses--
From Jeremy (a 16 year old chef-- check out his webpage):  goat cheese
I snapped this photo of him last summer while he was sampling chèvre at Elodie Farms.

BK, a science teacher buddy, answered dark chocolate with raspberries.  She got a bar of her very own from Foster's Market (she proofreads my progress reports and deserves much more than that). It was a Lake Champlain Raspberry Truffle Filled Dark Chocolate bar.  She said she ate the whole thing in one sitting- well, who wouldn't?  No one I am friends with would be able to resist!
My sister, Moo:  chocolate ice cream, banana pudding with strawberries -- sorry, this one has no berries in it... love you more, moo-moo

Salamanzar:  hamburger (not sure he is really telling me the truth...)  Would it be an OnlyBurger Breakfast burger... fried green tomato, fried egg, pimiento cheese...?  When will you give me the real response??

Timmy D:  freshly baked chocolate chip cookies (he used to make them for us at school for our first faculty meeting of the year... the good old days really were good)

Tammy, Queen of AZ:  mimosas made with OJ or guava with pink champagne-- oh là là (they drink those out there?  You sure you're not a Southern girl??)
Un-ex:  grilled seafood, good bread, beer on a hot day, red wine on a slow day.  Here's his hot day treat- taken at the Durham Bulls Park last summer...)

Arles Lucy:  strawberries dipped in dark chocolate -- ahhh!  And it's strawberry season in NC.  Get yourself to the Durham Farmers's Market, honey!  I promise not to embarrass you...  ok, no promises, but I'll do my best.
BFF:  (she could not make up her mind... she emailed me back multiple times and kept adding to the list)  cheese and bread, pomegranate martinis, mushroom risotto, the pesto we had in Italy (she said she would WALK back for that-- and yes, it WAS really that good!); newsflash-- she is sitting here dictating!  "Oh, add this-- Chef Érick's homemade confiture (yes, she actually knows a French word and can pronounce it properly...) jam, and fresh bread from Leblanc's bakery in Arles."  "Anything else you want to add?"  I asked.  "OH!  And that stir fry stuff he made the first night I was in Arles.  Ok, I'll try to stop."  Promises, promises.  **(a few days after the original post...) We saw poundcake yesterday and she told me that I HAD to add that to her list.  She wouldn't be a good Southern girl if she didn't love that??  I do, too!

Signora:  she couldn't make up her mind either!  I'll just go with the first two she listed...  freshly baked bread, Italian ratatouille (I have to ask her about that- what's the difference?)
DD:  dark beer (he went to England with his new bride just so he could hit the pubs...)
AT:  WINE  (yes, she capitalized the letters)
Chef Do:  stinky cheese, bread, wine (we've have shared quite a bit of that in the past few years- here in NC and in Arles and here's to many more!!)
Señor:  fruit tart- how's this one??  Elle est très belle, n'est-ce pas?

Or maybe this one...

 Lucy2:  bread-- who could just eat one??

JMG:  fresh summer fruit and good bread and butter (from the bakery at Weaver Street Market in Hillsborough)

Julien:  (he is a bit conflicted... professes to love animals, hates to see them suffer, but...)  northern Rhône Saint Joseph Red and fatty duck.  I have absolutely no conflict at all.. I love duck.)
High school-age son:  lasagna (his mama's, of course!!)
College age-son:  Bojangle's sweet tea and their french fries (hope he lands a job where there is a Bo's)
Lyndola:  dark chocolate with anything!!  How about these treats made at Heron's?
Ann Prospero:  dark chocolate mousse or cake  (this is one was made by the pastry chef, Daniel Benjamin, at Heron's, one of the restaurants featured in your book!)

High school-age son's baseball coach:  frozen chocolate chip cookies-- huh??  the dough or the cookies?
Brad: still hasn't gotten back to me.  Hmmm... not sure what to make of this? 
Arles Betty:  brie and crusty bread

This bread was made for me by one of my 8th grade boys... I am so proud!!  His dad took a bread-making class through Durham Academy's Academy Nights classes.  They gave me the notes and the recipes.  I am not sure I could ever make bread as good as this.  I hid half of a baguette from my family so that I could take it for my own lunch- with butter and gruyère cheese...
(the BFF is now drooling...  understandable, but not attractive- she should be glad I don't have my camera)
Pat, my favorite boyfriend:  ristotto-- oh mon dieu  (his risotto recipe will follow soon)-- he is an excellent chef and I  love him... I really do;  he calls me Melanie
Pat's lovely bride:  dark chocolate (do we see a theme here with les belles dames?)  Here is one of Dolly Mama's turtles...
I did ask some of my students, to round out the survey--
Milk chocolate was a big winner with the boys- quelle surprise, hein?
La mère Catherine-- vanilla macarons (PB Carol is soooo proud of you!  Et moi, aussi!)  I promise I will try again to make them for your class.
Cécile:  spaghetti-type pasta with grilled chicken and tomato sauce with cheese on the top-- she is Italian and has very refined taste!! 
The best response I received was from my biology prof friend at Ole Miss.  He is a member of the Arles 6.    I quote:  "Crusty end of a fresh-baked loaf of bread.  If with cheese... all the better.  But it isn't a guilty pleasure.  I feel guilty about eating crappy food (succumbing to the afternoon munchies by eating a sweaty glazed donut that has been sitting in the mailroom since 8am!)."
Many, many thanks to all who answered.  I love all of you.  I am a lucky woman to have so many wonderful friends.  Here's to the top vote getter-- French bread and cheese.  Even better when paired with a nice Côtes du Rhône red.
Mon péché-mignon, you ask?  Simple really.  I have to admit that I craque (I am learning some slang, my dears, or at least I am trying) for cold, dry, French champagne, my first photo, and, although I really do not have it very often, I love it because it is so good, but also because I associate it with celebrations-- birthdays, anniversaries, meeting someone for the first time, coming home after six glorious months in France... champagne is what we need at important occasions.  This champagne, Canard-Duchêne, was consumed during my sabbatical in France.  In November 2008, my dear friend Ghislaine and I spent a glorious fall weekend in Champagne.  The first champagne house we visited was Canard-Duchêne.  We had a personalized tour of the cellars and tasted their blancs de blancs.  I was in love with champagne before that, but after that tour and visit, I was enthralled.  By the whole region and the experience.  Ghislaine and I got lost, looking for a certain champagne cellar.  The result?  We ended up driving through the vineyards as the sun was just beginning to think of setting...
and, just as it is with most of the things that happen to us, we stumbled upon Canard-Duchêne.  I will love it forever. 

Bon appétit, tous mes amis!  Et à tous les péchés-mignons.  They add excitement to our lives.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Cream puffs, cake, and crêpes

OMD- oh mon Dieu- it was quite a wonderful food week for moi.  La Princesse brought in these beautiful cream puffs for her classmates.  She and her mom baked the shells and in class we filled them with whipped cream and we melted chocolate for the tops.  Her pâtisserie was delightful.  Merci, mademoiselle!
The un-ex was tired of hearing (and reading) about my obsession with cake, I suspect, because one late afternoon this week,  I got a text message from him telling me he would come find me in about 30 minutes, to stay put.  (I was hanging out at Wine Authorities with the BFF, so that was not a difficult order to follow.)   He showed up with a box and look what was inside it!!
He apologized for not being able to find raspberry cake (yes, the wedding cake in Kings of Pastry is still on my wishlist), but how about vanilla cake with fresh strawberries and cream?  Ah oui, that fit the bill.  It came from Nantucket Grill at Sutton Station on Fayetteville Road here in Durham (we were written up in the NY Times this week as "Durham, a Tobacco Town Turns to Local Food").  We eat there sometimes or just go for appetizers and drinks and I drool over their desserts-- their Mile-High Dessert Cakes, in particular.  My mom always asked us (four kids born in the span of four years, bless her heart) what kind of cake we wanted for our birthdays when I was growing up in Spruce Pine.  Strawberry shortcake was my choice every July 27.  I even shared my lovely slice of cake.  The BFF took a bite, so did the un-ex, I took a few (it was my cake, afterall) and high school-age son finished it off in record time.  He did leave me one last strawberry...
Crêpes were also offered to classmates by another young chef, La Mère Catherine.  With Nutella, bien sûr!
She did love eating and making crêpes while we were in France last month.

She has been practicing on her family.  Bravo!  Her classmates volunteered to be her taste-testers any time.
Did you know that Nutella comes in 11 pound jars in France?  It didn't take the girls long to find a jar that big in the Gourmet department at Galeries Lafayette.
And we also discovered what a mess a glass jar of Nutella makes when it is dropped on the sidewalk in Arles...
 Hmm... wonder who did that??  A very sad sight.
And how about Nutella to go-
Or Nutella & Go!
Not a bad idea.  But why is that Nutella just tastes better in France?  I honestly believe it is made differently.  The standards are probably higher there.  I will need to investigate this theory further on my next trip.  Did you know that February 2, 2010 was World Nutella Day?  Me neither until I googled it.  Wish I'd known.  I would've sacrificed for the cause and whipped up something yummy.  As if anyone needs an excuse just to open up the jar and eat a spoonful.  Nutella would be good with these cream puffs, too, instead of the chocolate chips, I think.

Cream Puffs
(yields 12 medium puffs)

1 c. water
1/2 c. butter
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
4 eggs
1 pint heavy cream
1 Tbsp. white sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 450F.
In medium saucepan, bring water to a boil.  Add butter and stir as it melts, then return to a boil.  Add flour and salt all at once and stir vigorously until mixture forms a ball.  Remove from heat and add eggs, one at a time, stirring vigorously after each until smooth.  Drop by heaping tablespoons, 3 inches apart, on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven, then reduce heat to 325F and bake 25 minutes more.  Remove puffs from oven, split and remove soft dough from center.  Turn oven off, and replace puffs to dry in cooling oven, 20 minutes more.  Cool completely on wire rack.
In medium bowl, whip cream with electric mixer until stiff peaks form.  Stir in vanilla and sugar.  Fill puffs with whipped cream.  Melt chocolate chips in microwave or in double boiler on stove top.  Drizzle melted chocolate over tops of cream puffs.  Serve immediately.

Bon appétit, to everyone who made this a delicious week!  Une semaine délicieuse!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

New Herald-Sun article!

My article about Kings of Pastry is in today's edition.  I want cake!  I need cake!  Where's my cake?  Raspberry purée, caramel and vanilla mousse, crunchy hazelnut cookie base...  Maybe if I close my eyes and wiggle my nose a slice will magically appear.

Bon appétit, Chef Jacquy!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Contests and free stuff

Here's today's story...
One beautiful, sunny day last fall the 3 Lucys were sitting at a table outside Wine Authorities enjoying a glass of rosé.  (I do not have a picture of that particular day, just the one above with one Lucy MIA-- oops!  Sorry, Mo.)  A man buying a whole entire case of wine came out of the shop and we commented on his t-shirt.  I had seen it before at the Durham Farmers' Market-- Downtown Durham- Find Your Cool. 
It turns out that our new friend, Mr. Kalkhof, is President of Downtown Durham Inc.  He gave us his business card and told us to drop by his office for a FREE t-shirt.  The BFF and I just couldn't pass that up, so one day we headed downtown to get our shirts (I was stalking the OnlyBurger truck at that point in time, so we also had lunch since the truck was parked nearby).  Mr. Kalkhof told us that each month there is a contest.  The person photographed in his or her shirt the farthest away from downtown Durham (and who submits a photo as proof) wins a gift certificate.  The contest is monthly.
I took my Durham t-shirt with me to France in March.  I took it as a gift, though.  I had decided to give it to my penpal Olivier.  He periodically sends me stuff from Provence-- lavender sachets, books, magazines, brochures, etc.  He knows how much I love his little corner of the world and he happily contributes to my addiction.  Olivier and his wife came to Arles to shop at the Saturday market with me.  I decided to ask him to wear his new t-shirt so that we could have our photo taken in front of the Roman arena, my favorite monument in Arles.
When I got home, I sent the photo off through cyberspace to the Downtown Durham website.  It is, by the way, 4284 miles from Durham to Arles.  Or 6894.5 kilometers. Or 3722.7 nautical miles (I do not even know what nautical miles are, truth be told).
Lo and behold, last week I got an email telling me that I am the March winner!  My gift certificate to Toast restaurant just arrived.  I have heard great things about it and can't wait.  I promised Olivier I will send him photos.  I don't think one of their Italian-style sandwiches would mail well.

Bon appétit, beautiful downtown Durham et M. Kalkhof!

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Monday girlfriend

This is what a girlfriend offers you on a Monday morning.  She shares her stash of Godiva chocolates with you.  Just because.  Now, if I could only convince someone to run out to Starbucks or Foster's for a cup of coffee...

Bon appétit, mon amie Anna et lundi matin!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

It's a matter of age...

Doesn't that say it all?  I could just post that photo and say nothing at all, but I rarely pass up a chance to express my opinion or thoughts.  One of my 8th grade girlies, Mlle Arles, found it and emailed it to me.  She knows me pretty well, n'est-ce pas?  After spending two years in my French class (well, only 1 1/2 due to the sabbatical) and 12 days traveling together last month, I suppose she should.  I had a conversation with some of the girlies this past week about how they have so much to look forward to in life.  Never believe anyone who says high school will be the best years of your life.  You just do not want to peak in 8th grade or 12th grade or even as a senior in college, for goodness sake.  I am 51 years old, quickly approaching 52 and I do not think I have peaked yet.  I hope not-- I still have so much to do and see.  Lots of music to listen to, books to read, blogs to write (and maybe a book one of these days?), places to visit (I still want to visit every département of France and every little village in Provence), yummy food to eat, new wines to try, new friends to find...  The list goes on and on. 
Revenons à nos fromages...
Let's get back to our cheeses since that's the way we started.  Bring on the photos--
The un-ex had a cheese danish at the Durham Farmers' Market from Angels Nest Bakery.  (I had a to-die-for cinnamon bun...)
This is the BFF's favorite cheese.  She is addicted and will not be seeking treatment.  It is Bloomin Lunitas from Hillsborough Cheese Co.  She gets her fix at the Wine Authorities.  She shares once in a while.
I bought some pimiento cheese at Foster's Market last week.  Très bon!
This is my favorite cheese at Wine Authorities, Bûcheron.  The bread is from Guglhupf Bakery in Durham.
This is the cheese plate we served at The Sabbatical Chef dinner for the Durham Academy Auction.
Now, off to France we go...
I took this photo in the Paris métro-- cheese from Casino supermarket.
These lovely cheeses were for sale at the Boulevard Raspail Sunday morning organic market.  Perfect for a pique-nique...
 That is quite a knife, monsieurFaites attention, s'il vous plaît.  But I guess it takes a big knife to cut through that block of cheese...
 (photo by Catherine Yang)
I've stressed the importance of photographing one's food to my students.  One of them got this lovely picture of her salade de chèvre chaud before diving into it!  Bravo, ma petite!
Another one got this photo of une pizza au fromage at some point during our March trip.  Miam, miam.
A croque monsieur would not be a croque monsieur without the melted gruyère or emmental on top, now would it? (It becomes a croque madame if you add a fried egg to the top!)
More fromage for sale at the market-- comté this time.
Here we have brébis, sheep's milk cheese.
The whole tome would be too hard to fit into my suitcase, I guess...
One of my all-time favorites... brie de Meaux.  I eat beaucoup of this cheese whenever I go to France.  There's a little cheese shop on Rue Cler in Paris with the absolute best.
I ate this soupe à l'oignon at a café in Montmartre while watching my students get their portraits drawn at Place du Tertre.  It was a very chilly, windy day and this soup hit the spot.
Oui, another salad with fromage on top.  This was at at La Mule Blanche in Arles.  I love this restaurant.
Back home again with my caramelized onion and goat cheese tart.  Perfect for a warm spring/summer evening paired with a rosé from Provence. 
I have many more photos of cheese, but I'll stop here for now!

My recipe for today comes from the Spring 2010 edition of  Fifteen501 magazine and Chef Tara Davis.

Croque Monsieur
(4 sandwiches)

For the Béchamel:
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 c. milk
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
Kosher salt and pepper to taste

For the Croque Monsieur:
8 slices rustic French boule or Italian bread
1/2 lb. Black Forest ham
1 lb. gruyère, grated (Swiss, emmental or a favorite cheese can be used as well)
4 tsp. Dijon mustard

To make the béchamel, melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat.  Once butter is melted, whisk in flour.  Cook for about 2 minutes until mixture smells slightly nutty and color is a pale blond.  Add nutmeg.  Gradually and constantly whisk in milk, making sure that no lumps form.  Season with salt and pepper.  Reduce heat and simmer until thickened, approximately 10 minutes.

On a clean surface, place four slices of bread in a row.  Spread each slice with about a teaspoon of mustard.  Place a few slices of ham on each and top with half of shredded gruyère.  Top with remaining slices of bread.  Spread the top of each sandwich with béchamel, then sprinkle each with remaining cheese.  On a lightly greased cookie sheet, broil sandwiches for 8-10 minutes or until cheese is golden and bubbling.

Bon appétit, le fromage!