Saturday, 31 August 2013

Back in Business! (And Busier than Ever)

Oh là là ! It's been a while, eh? For those of you who don't know, I most recently came back from a five-week program via the Experiment in International Living, a return trip to France focusing this time around on language and cooking. I know I'm still far behind on even my first international leadership experience from a few years ago, so for the meantime I'll defer to letting my many photos (linked at the end of this post) do the talking.


Shortly after my return, I should note, I had a whirlwind foodie adventure in New York with two of my close Paris Internship Program (PIP) classmates and friends Pat and Camille, followed thereafter by a return home to Michigan for a few weeks. And as evidenced by the date of this post, it's taken quite a bit of time to adjust to life back in the States.

Jumping ahead to the weekend of the 16th, I made my much anticipated move back to Ohio, this time to Columbus. And since the move, accompanied by my sister Toni, I revisited some of my favourite Columbus food spots, namely Mikey's, Da Levee and The Crest, and also went to the Cincinnati Open (where we saw some of our favourite tennis players, and of course tried some of the stadium fare).

The week that followed was full of grad school and department orientations and already my first set of graduate school courses. The long and short of it for the time being is that I feel incredibly grateful and excited to be a part of this program; that said, I'm not entirely sure what space my blogging will occupy.

But alas, I have returned to the blogosphere (and hopefully I'll remain somewhat consistent) and for the remainder of this post I'd like to share with you my first big dinner post-move, the dinner which broke in our [i.e., my roommate Alex's and my] kitchen last week. To kick things off, I headed over to the Clintonville farmers market to source ingredients for my dinner with Marlaine and Dave. Needless to say, I ended up buying more than I intended to; especially geeking out on cheese curds, of which I fully intend to make poutine, from Blue Jacket Dairy.

After a quick stop at Kroger, I returned to our apartment and soon began prepping for dinner. In the process, I accidentally" made mango ice cream earlier in the day and with my dessert idea in mind, decided to concoct a dark cherry ice cream version.

Into a food processor, I twice put in about a cup of frozen cherries (seeds removed if you're starting from scratch), about 1/3 c milk and 2 tsps granulated sugar; adjust the milk to get to a smooth consistency, and adjust the sugar to taste. Once combined into a smooth consistency, I got the lot into a plastic container, topped with a bit of wax paper to prevent ice crystals from forming and then placed the lid and all into the freezer.

As the ice cream was setting, I got to work on my dessert plan: cinnamon chocolate cookies. At the time, we didn't have internet in our apartment--nor did I have any cayenne--to make these, so I had to work on this new dark chocolate cookie recipe. This time around I built the recipe from page 30 of one of my first cookbooks, Mrs. Field's Best Cookie Book Ever!

To begin, I used a fork to combine almost into paste-like form about 1 c semi-packed light brown sugar and 1 stick of unsalted butter. And once combined, I incorporated 2 large eggs. I then sifted in 1.25 c all-purpose flour, 1/4 tsp baking powder, a pinch of Celtic sea salt (we didn't have any "regular salt," but feel free to substitute with whatever you have), 1/4 c dark cocoa powder and about 1.5 tsp ground cinnamon, and gave all of this a good stir, finished with 1 tsp vanilla extract. Continue mixing the ingredients together until you no longer see any dry spots. I turned all of this out onto a large sheet of wax paper and formed it into a log, to then sit in the freezer (at least half an hour).

While the cookie dough rested in the freezer, I got my oven preheating to 300°F and moved onto on my take on a recipe we worked on at the Paul Bocuse Institute as part of the aforementioned France trip; the recipe itself was a take on bœuf bourgignon.

The recipe begins with clarified butter, so take a few minutes to actually clarify your butter if you don't already purchase your butter as such. The process is rather straightforward: heat up your butter in a small pan and skim off the foamy material; the stuff that rises to the top is actually the whey proteins. It's the clear liquid--otherwise known as ghee--that you want to use, which has a higher smoke point and non-greasy mouthfeel. In addition, there are actually some health benefits to cooking with clarified butter. And at institute which promotes classical French cuisine, much of which includes a lot of butter and cream, any healthier step is welcomed. So that you know, one stick of butter reduces to a little over half a stick of clarified butter (5-ish tbsp) in the end.

Into a large sauté pan went about 2 tablespoons of this clarified butter and once heated, I added 1 lb of diced [stew] beef (enough for 3-4 people). As I browned all sides of the beef, I went quickly to work on the rest of my mise en place, mincing 1 small-medium onion and 1/4 large shallot, and dicing 6 small (not baby) carrots and 2 celery stalks. As was the case with the beef, I bought already prepped mushrooms, of which I used and lightly rinsed about 75 grams (the package was weighed in grams, so I just guesstimated). Finally, I uncorked a 750 mL bottle of red wine. Note: Here I'd like to emphasize moving quickly with your mise en place, or at least fairly quickly, lest the beef overcook. If you feel more comfortable, go ahead and prepare the mise en place first before browning the beef.

With the beef browned by this point, it's time to singer (sehn-zhay) the beef, which basically means to add some (about 2 T or so) all-purpose flour. The flour, when combined with everything else, will help to thicken the sauce without taking away the flavour of the other components, especially that clarified butter. After the beef has been coated with the flour, I deglazed the pan with the red wine, pouring all of it in. To this lot, I added all of the prepped aromatics, covered the pan in tin foil, and carefully transferred it into the preheated oven.

The beef needs to cook for two hours, which gives you plenty of time to...work on more dishes! To serve with my opening course, I decided to caramelise three onions, cut in half and sliced into half moons. Into a skillet with a touch of the clarified butter and a pinch of Celtic sea salt, I left the onions to cook for about 30-40 minutes, stirring occassionally so they didn't burn.

As that was going, I put into a mixing bowl (for my final dish) about 300 mL (3/4 a pint) of heavy cream, 1/4 large shallot and 1 large garlic clove finely minced together, salt, pepper, about 1 tsp grated nutmeg. Using a box grater (or mandolin if you have one), I sliced up 5 peeled potatoes (1.5 lbs) and added this to the cream mixture. All of this got transferred to a baking dish and then into the oven next to the beef to cook for about an hour.The result is a reduced portion of potato gratin that we also made at the Institut Paul Bocuse.

The dinner hour soon approached (by the way, all of this should take no more than 2.5-3 hours to put together, if timed correctly, less depending on how much is prepped in advance and the number of people you may have around to help), and all that was left to work on were the garnishes. Mainly for colour but also for an extremely light microsalad, I earlier purchased at the farmers market both micro radish and pea shoots from Swainway Urban Farm. I washed and dried a bit of both, and also peeled and thinly sliced coloured carrots I also purcahsed at the market, and radishes from Kroger; these were dropped into a small bowl filled with ice water to retain the crispness.

And voilà ! It was time to plate and finally eat. [The potatoes had finished by this point and so I took them out to cool (which would make them easier to cut later).] For the first course, I placed a small brie wheel onto a bed made of the pea shoots. Served alongside it and some rosemary crackers I previously purchased were a roasted red pepper and onion jam, a gelée of piment d'Espelette (which I received from the Institut), and the caramelised onions.

Midway through our first course and dinner conversation, the beef had finished cooking and so this too was taken out of the oven and allowed to rest for a bit before plating. I used my moulding ring to plate a disc of the potatoes, and added the beef and veg to the plate, along with the radish sprouts (which I was told should pair up well with the richness of the dish, which it did), sliced carrots (which actually have different, nuanced flavour profiles) and the radish slices.

As we made our way through the second course, I took the cookie dough out of the freezer, sliced some of it and baked the cookie dough discs in the oven (which remained at 300°F when I took out the beef) for 12 minutes. I also took out the ice cream, which turned out to have more of a sorbet consistency than anything else (not that we were complaining), to give it a few minutes to warm up ever so slightly. As soon as the cookies came out of the oven, I sprinkled them with finishing salt (here, fleur de sel and Turkish black pyramid) and transferred them to a plate to cool.

And with that, I think it's safe to say our kitchen is ready to go for many more meals ahead! For these photos, as well as photos from last weekend's foodie weekend, click here.

FRLC 2013 - France Language and Cooking Photos (additional albums to be added soon)
   Travel to Paris via VT and NY
   First meal in Paris as a group, Marché des Enfants Rouges, Notre Dame, Polidor, group tasting: escargot, River Seine boat tour, Louvre
   Chocolate walking tour and tasting, Parc des Buttes Chaumont, Père Lachaise, intro to Slow Food with Slow Food Bastille (group tasting: terroir), Montmartre, M.A.'s favorite boulangerie for pain au chocolat, Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, meet-up with classmate and co-leader at The Great Canadian, group tasting: cuisses de grenouille
   Travel day to Montaignac, canoeing along the Vézère, pétanque tournament, visit to Lascaux II, tour and tasting at La Borie d'Imbert (group tasting: chèvre), Vièrge Noire at Rocamadour, karaoke and dance party
   Pastry tasting, Cro-Magnon demonstration, visit to National Prehistory Museum, Sarlat, group tasting: foie gras, final day of language class, Farewell dinner
   Travel day to Pierrelatte, outdoor concert celebrating music in film, walking tour of Pierrelatte, visit to market at St-Marin d'Ardèche, lake at Tricastin, introduction to rowing at the Pignedoré lake, host family photo
   Overview of Pierrelatte via La Garde-Adhémar, Saint Marcel caves, Pont d'Arc Ardèche, evening walk in Pierrelatte, visit to and demonstration at Le Chardron d'Or (group tasting: nougat), outdoor market in Montélimar, exhibit at the Miniature Museum, Crocodile Farm, visit to and guided demo at A & D Bory (group tasting: marshmallows),
   Market in Pierrelatte, visit to Aigueze, Dany Brillant concert, Bastille Day march in Pierrelatte, Bastille Day (eve) fireworks

No comments:

Post a Comment