Blog

Cream Cheese Mousse “Cheesecake”

 And voila!  Here it is, the most-requested recipe of the summer, our unbaked, creamy cheesecake.  This recipe is so versatile; we enjoyed making it with vanilla bean this summer, serving it with fresh berries, sour cherry compote, and lemon curd sauce.  It would be fabulous, however, with a gingersnap crust and pumpkin pie spices folded into it; or with chocolate cookie crumbs and chocolate ganache swirled through the filling before chilling to set.  Consider this recipe a base, and have fun transforming it into a new special dessert!

Cream Cheese Mousse Cheesecake

 

1 9” springform pan

2 c cookie crumbs (can use plain or chocolate graham crackers, butter cookies, ginger snaps)

6 T melted butter

-Preheat oven to 325F.  In a mixing bowl, stir together crumbs and butter, then press into the pan and place in the oven for 10 minutes to toast the crust.  Remove from oven and let cool thoroughly before adding the mousse.

 

Mousse:

2 t gelatin powder

3 T cold water

2 ½ c heavy cream

1 ½ lbs soft cream cheese

½ c sugar

1 T vanilla

(optional: zest of 1 lemon or orange)

-Place the gelatin powder in a small cup or bowl with the cold water and set aside to “bloom” the gelatin (thoroughly hydrate it so it dissolves nicely).

Softly whip the cream (not stiff peaks, just lightly holding) and set aside.

Cream the cream cheese with the sugar and vanilla (and zest, if using) until soft and fluffy.  You can use a mixer with a flat beater, or a spatula and your own big muscles!  Fold in a bit of the whipped cream to loosen the mix, then the rest of the cream, using a spatula.  Melt the gelatin and water mixture, in a microwave is easiest for about 10 seconds until clear and fluid, or you can place the dish directly down into a pan of simmering water and stir the gelatin to melt.  Switch to a wire whisk to quickly and thoroughly whisk the gelatin into the cream mixture.  This recipe is a good work-out:  you need to whisk very hard and fast to avoid the gelatin clumping up and hardening, and to make sure that it is evenly distributed.

Spread the mixture into the pan with the crust and smooth the top (or swirl! Express yourself!).  Pop into the fridge to chill thoroughly, at least 4 hours or overnight.  Serve with seasonal fruit, lemon curd, drizzle with chocolate ganache…possibilities are endless!

Spicy Moroccan Harissa

We have so many requests for this recipe, we thought it was time to share it here.  This harissa has a great balace between spicy and sweet, with a large amount of roasted red peppers & sundried tomatoes blended in to the spice mix.  Perfect with grilled fish, kebabs, on the side with your Moroccan Tagine, as a marinade, schmeared on a grilled vegetable sandwich…endless possibilities!Harissa

1.5 T Cumin

1.5 T Coriander

1.5 T Anise seeds

2 T Caraway Seeds

½ c Chili Flakes

-Toast in a dry pan until fragrant 

-powder in spice grinder

 

1.5 T Salt

8-10 cloves garlic

2 c roasted red peppers

1.5 c sun-dried tomatoes

-puree in food processor with spices

-drizzle with olive oil for consistency of smooth paste

 

Easy Pickles for “Real” Gardeners

Where are you, cucumbers???

Where are you, cucumbers??

In the kitchen, and in the garden, there’s the fantasy, and then there’s real life… I love the idea that I’m going to go to the farmer’s market in the summer, bring home loads of yummy local produce, cook lots of delicious stuff for our family to work on through the week, and repeat the following Saturday.  The reality, or course, is that the restaurant is too busy in the summer for me to go to the farmer’s market and buy anything beyond a few peaches to snack on because I’m not going to be cooking anything at home.  I also love the idea of having a big, beautiful garden, with tons of my all-time favorite food, fresh heirloom tomatoes.  With these tomatoes I will feast on salads with feta or mozzarella cheese and the copious amounts of basil that I plant alongside them all summer long…  The reality is that I’m a terrible gardener.  I haven’t got the time or the patience to baby plants, pulling off all of the suckers, tying them up diligently as they grow, feeding them and watering them sufficiently.  It’s taken me years to accept this reality.  But this year I finally accepted the situation; I flattened the entire garden and bought a few Earthboxes to house just a few plants.  So far, so good.  The Earthboxes are nice and easy to maintain.  The tomatoes have grown enormously big:  I may end up with more than I did with 8 times the amount of plants before!  The cucumbers remain challenging — they’re growing fantastically well but they are STILL so hard to see!  In the small, contained space of the Earthbox, the little, pickling cucumbers that I always like to plant, are growing like the Little Shop of Horrors, and are bound to produce a ton of cucumbers, which is great for a challenged gardener like me.  In the ideal world, they would each be picked at the same size, so all of my pickles would be uniform.  The reality is, every day I go out to check if anyone’s ready to come to work with me and get pickled, and no matter how hard I look, the next day when I come back there are ENORMOUS cucumbers instead of dainty little cornichons, and I end up having to slice them to get them in the jar.

 

But the pickles…oh my gosh, they are so EASY!  They are so good and even I can manage to make them with this terrific method, via my mother-in-law in France.  We usually end up with a couple of half-gallon jars of these pickles by the end of the summer, despite my gardening challenges and my inability to see what’s in front of my eyes.

My pickle jar now, at the beginning of the season…

The best thing about these pickles is that you do them as you harvest throughout the season and you season them however you want.  I assume that everyone’s fantasy is like mine:  to raise a bunch of cucumber plants with attention and love, bring in a huge harvest of cucumbers all together, and spend a hot and steamy afternoon pickling them and lining the shelves with the glimmering, green jars.  And in fact that’s not reality — some days I have 2 cucumbers ready, some days I have 10 (and don’t forget that they’re all of varying sizes!) — this method allows you to just work with what you have on a given day, and keep adding to a jar in your fridge until it’s full.  At that point, you shove the full jar to the back of the fridge and forget about it for a month or so while everything finishes pickling as much as it’s going to.  We usually enjoy these in the winter with Raclette cheese, our favorite winter-night-off-with-friends meal.  We hope that you enjoy them, too!

 

Easy Pickles for “Real” Gardeners

The Materials:

1 very clean glass jar with a lid (more as needed throughout the summer)

1 large bottle of distilled white vinegar

garlic, shallots, sweet onion

peppercorns, bay leaf, mustard seeds, sprigs of dill, anything else you fancy

kosher salt

freshly-picked cucumbers

The Method:

Bring in your cucumbers and give them a good wash.  If they’re different sizes, cut them into vaguely the same size pieces (if they’re fairly small, you can leave them whole).  Place the cucumbers in a non-reactive bowl and cover with kosher salt (a few tablespoons).  Leave on the counter while you go about your day.  The amount of time that they stay in the salt determines how strongly salted the pickles will be at the end.  I usually leave them for 3-4 hours.  After that, I find that they are too salty for my taste.  If you’re not sure, rinse one after a few hours and slice off a bit.  Make sure it tastes nicely salted.  Rinse the cucumbers with cold water, drain and then place in the jar.  At this point you add whatever seasoning you like.  I usually add a couple of garlic cloves, peeled and sliced in half, a couple of shallots or a small sweet onion, sliced, about 1 T peppercorns, 1-2 t mustard seeds and 1 bay leaf.  Hot pepper flakes are wonderful if you want them to be spicy.  Cover everything with some vinegar, close the jar, and pop it in the fridge.  The next day, or whenever you’ve collected a few more cukes, repeat the process, and just carry on until the jar is full.  If the cucumber to seasoning proportion seems to be off, you can throw in a few more garlic cloves, etc. as you go; just make sure everything is covered with the vinegar. Since some of the cucumbers have been in the jar for a few more days/weeks than the others, I just leave the jar alone in the fridge for a month or two once it’s full, so everything finishes preserving itself to more or less the same degree, and then we can enjoy them for months afterwards.  Pickles done this way keep in the fridge all winter long.  

Franckie’s Turmeric Tonic Ice Cubes

We’re never really about moderation around here…we love what we do, we love to eat, it all goes hand in hand.  The results can be euphoric or destructive…it’s a mixed bag and often both at once.  For cooks, it’s really hard to find a balance between not standing too much, not lifting too much, not eating too much.  Now we find ourselves looking at maybe a bit more weight than we’d like to be carrying around, a bit of back pain here and shoulder pain there.  One remedy that caught our eye was Turmeric Tonic, a refreshing beverage based on the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric.  Why not give it a try? we thought.  And, going along with our tendancy towards a lack of moderation, why don’t we make the stuff in massive quantities so that we can drink it every day??  And why don’t we make it super-concentrated and freeze it in the ice cube trays we used to make baby food in way back when??  And then all we have to do is just dilute it in hot or cold water, depending on season/preference/mood??I assure you, this stuff is actually delicious.  And extremely handy to have around.  Making a smoothie?  Throw a couple of cubes in.  Feel like you’re coming down with a cold?  Boil water and add cubes and a touch of honey.  Why not try it in a cocktail?  Looking to make your sparkling water into a tasty spritzer…voila!  It’s a great way to get some healthy fresh tumeric into your diet on a regular basis.  We love it so much we wanted to share it with you.  Now that the garden is blooming we’re thinking about whirring some fresh mint into the next batch.  Feel free to multiply the recipe…

Franck’s Turmeric Tonic

-makes 4 ice-cube trays worth of concentrated tumeric cubes

1 large ‘hand’ fresh ginger

1/2 lb fresh tumeric

1 lemons, zest & juice

2 oranges, zest and juice

1 t black pepper

pinch salt

optional: honey

Bring 2 qt water to boil in a large saucepan.  Wash the tumeric and ginger thoroughly, then puree in food processor.  When water boils, off heat add the tumeric & ginger puree, the zest and juice, pepper and salt and optional honey.  Allow mix to steep at least 1 hr or overnight in the fridge.  Press through a seive to remove the solids, then pour into ice cube molds and freeze.

Anson Mills Cornmeal, Einkorn & Cranberry Cakes

This recipe has very good origins:  Pierre Herme & Dorie Greenspan, two of the world’s greatest bakers.  Dorie says it’s “hip” to use olive oil & cornmeal in a cake; I say it’s even “hipper” to use Einkorn flour instead of all-purpose flour, too.  I’m even taking it a step further these days, and milling the Einkorn in my new, beautiful grain mill.  Then I went beyond and called Anson Mills in North Carolina to get their beautiful, milled-to-order cornflour.  Our photographer, Greg Nesbit, is luckily just as wacky as I am, because I made him take a picture of the flours, I think that they’re so beautiful.  What do you think?

Cormeal, Einkorn & Cranberry Cakes

You don’t have to go and buy a mill or order your cornmeal online (unless you’re crazy, like me).  These cakes are luscious, melt-in-your-mouth fabulous any which way you choose to make them.  Of course, we live for great ingredients, but a great recipe will take you far.  I love Cranberry with orange, but I can’t wait for summer to make these with Blueberry and Lime or Raspberry & Lemon.

1 1/4 c fine cornmeal

2/3 c flour (I used Einkorn flour, but all-purpose is fine)

1/4 c cornstarch

1 1/2 t baking powder

1/2 t salt

1 c sugar

zest & juice 1 orange

4 eggs

1 t vanilla

7 T butter, melted

1/3 c olive oil

1 c cranberries, chopped

Glaze:

1/2 c confections sugar mixed with juice & zest 1 orange

Prepare pans:  this recipe makes either 4 5X3 inchi mini loaf pans or two 8 inch rounds, or 10 individual cakes.  All should be greased and lined with parchment on the bottom.  Heat oven to 350F (325 convection)

In a stand mixer with the whisk, or a large mixing bowl, whisk eggs, sugar and zest until tripled in volume.  The mix will be pale and thick.  Whisk together all dry ingredients. Slow down the mixing and add vanilla and juice, then the dry ingredients.  Add butter and oil in a steady stream while mixing.  Finally, fold in the fruit. Transfer batter to the baking pans and bake until golden and a tester comes out clean (loaves, about 30 mins, small cakes, about 14, and large cakes about 24).  While warm, prick cakes with a toothpick and brush over with the glaze.  Allow to cool slightly, then unmold onto cooling racks and cool completely.

 

Really Excellent Rugelach

From a baker whose first words were “cookie good,” here is a recipe for one of my first favorite cookies.  A beautiful one for the holidays, a must, actually.  If you’ve never made Rugelach before this is the recipe to start with.  My “jelly roll” technique is much quicker and easier than the way many Nana’s (mine included) used to roll them, croissant-style.  I actually prefer (sorry, Nana) them this way because I thought that the ends of the little croissants tended to brown too much and get bitter.  If you prefer them as croissants, then roll out your band of dough and cut it into long triangles after spreading with the filling.  Or if you’re like me, and love to make these tender, sweet cookies faster and easier, roll the band into a jelly roll and cut with a sharp knife.  This recipe is also a bit unusual for having a small amount of powdered sugar in the dough.  Many Rugelach dough recipes are sugar-free, all of the sweetness coming from the filling.  Of course, I don’t mind things a little sweeter and I do think that the dough is a little more tender this way, too.

Rugelach

1 c soft butter

8 oz soft cream cheese

1 t lemon zest

2 c all-[urpose flour

¼ c powdered sugar

½ t salt

-In mixing bowl, cream the soft butter & cream cheese until fluffy.  Add lemon zest.  Sift dry ingredients together and add all at once to the creamed mixture.  Gently incorporate until a soft dough forms.  Place dough onto a large sheet of plastic wrap. Let chill for at least 2 hours or overnight (dough can be made ahead and frozen at this point).

When you’re ready to make the cookies, prepare your choice of fillings.  Can use jam, cinnamon sugar & nuts, chocolate chips, any combination thereof.  Melt 1/2 stick of butter and have some cinnamon sugar handy to sprinkle on the cookies before they go in the oven.  Preheat oven to 350F.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or butter well.  Roll out the cookies as shown:



Brush each cookie with melted butter and sprinkle with a little cinnamon sugar.  Bake in preheated oven about 15 mins until golden.

 

Not Your Average Crackers

Houseguests last summer arrived laden with gifts:  home-made jams (they’re jam junkies), books, fresh-picked fruit from a farm close to their Vermont home, and huge tins of home-made…um…crackers…

I have to admit, the last part left me a little less excited.  Never really been a particularly keen cracker-eater.  Always preferred my carbs in bread or cookie form, it must be said.  Good scones, too.

But then we politely tasted the crackers.  And of course, we should have known (not just because we love these friends and they are amazing cooks), but also because isn’t home-made just always going to be BETTER??  Isn’t that just the rule?? These crackers were so delicious, and so packed with good-for-you stuff, it really was a revelation.

And of course, I wanted to make them myself now.  And I wanted mine to be better than theirs.  Of course.

Just before summer hit, I had collected a copy of a new cookbook, hoping to have some time to play with it before I got too busy, which of course I didn’t.  But I remembered seeing pictures of crackers in this book.  And I remembered how uninterested in them I had been compared with all of the other delicious things.  And I realized that this book was probably going to be the perfect place to start my mission to out-cracker my friend.  And it was. 20160226_140032

I have recounted my journey to gluten-free baking here and will only say that the first reason why I love this cookbook so much is that it doesn’t claim to be a gluten-free baking book, even though that’s exactly what it is.  But, unlike many of the books and blogs and magazines which have lots of not-very-good stuff in them, “Flavor Flours” is by Alice Medrich, an acclaimed and experienced baker and cookbook author.  She’s absolutely fabulous.  And she’s written the book that we’ve been waiting for:  a gluten-free baking book which focuses on FLAVOR!  Alice Medrich is a skilled technician, and all of the recipes in this book work beautifully, but they’re also delicious in a way that gluten-free goods made with blends of rice flours and starches aren’t: the flours impart distinctive and yummy flavors that take everything to the next level.

Now, onto the crackers.  Alice Medrich has a few recipes for crackers in the book, since each chapter focuses on a different flour, and I started with her “Seed Crackers” since they were the most similar to the crackers that my friend had made.  The list of ingredients may be a little bit daunting, so I apologize for that.  If you’re into gluten-free baking, then you may already have a few of them around.  All of these ingredients are now readily-available, if that’s some comfort, and also if you would allow me to take this moment to once again recount the benefits of baking with a gram-scale (trust-me, it makes baking quicker, cleaner, more accurrate and more fun!  for $25!), that will make it less annoying to handle all of these ingredients, trust me.  I just bring the gram scale and the Kitchen Aid bowl right over to the counter in front of where I store all of the stuff and start throwing things into it.  Doesn’t take more than a couple of minutes, I swear!

And did I mention that this copious list of ingredients happens to be comprised of tons of nutritious things?  And that they’re dairy-free?  And that they’re absolutely addictive?  And finally, it really makes a lot, so at least you’ll be rewarded for your efforts for a longer-than-usual time after baking something delicious. Give them a try and let me know if they make you into a cracker-convert, too.

Garlic & Paprika Seed Crackers

Preheat oven to 400F

Measure into a mixing bowl:

1/2 c  (80 g) brown rice flour

1/2 c (80 g) white rice flour

1/3 c (40 g) oat flour

2/3 c (80 g) cornmeal

1/2 c (65 g) sunflower seeds

1/4 c (35 g) sesame seeds

1/3 c (40 g) flaxseed meal

2 T (25 g) brown sugar

1 1/2 t (8g) salt

3/4 c water

2 t rice vinegar

1 t (5g) baking powder

1/4 c plain oil

4 cloves crushed garlic

2 t sweet paprika

Mix everything together for about 3 minutes with a flat beater or spatula until thoroughly combined.  The dough is soft, but not particularly sticky.  The best way to work with it is to roll it between two pieces of baking parchment.  That way you can get them fairly thin and even.  I use an ice-cream scoop to portion out similar-sized lumps of the mix onto the parchment.  Cover with another piece of parchment and then roll out with a rolling pin, until you have long ovals (you do need to flip over and peel away the parchment from time to time, so that it doesn’t impede the rolling out of the crackers). You can always dust them with a bit of rice flour, too, to help, if you’re not comfortable with the softness of the dough.  Just play with it a bit and you’ll see, it’s very forgiving and you can patch it back together if it does tear.  Then I like to just peel away the top piece of parchment and flip the parchment and cracker-dough together onto a baking sheet so that the dough is touching the metal (they toast better this way, rather than baking them on the parchment).  Bake for about 5 to 6 minutes, then check on them and remove the parchment.  You can flip the crackers over to toast the other side, and bake for another 3-4 minutes, until well-browned.  Let cook completely and enjoy!

 

For the Love of Couscous

couscousEveryone has their “guilty pleasures” when it comes to food…and for many chefs it can be something really out there, think steamed cheeseburgers, Hostess Cakes, greasy poutine.  I guess it’s something that usually hearkens back to childhood and a time before any culinary careers and regular contact with luxury ingredients took off.  In any case, I was surprised when I first met Franck and we were living together in London to find that his passionate craving, his deep-seated desire on his night off wasn’t to eat buffalo wings or Taco Bell, but to enjoy a nice couscous from a can: couscouspouletmerguezgarbitUnfortunately, this isn’t really easy to find in the UK (guess we can’t stay here), and we don’t really have this product in the US (he was despondent).  As pre-made foods go, it’s not as bad as Twinkies or some such, but it’s really really salty and really really cooked.  I was concerned…he really missed the stuff…but I love a challenge.  How would I recreate this beloved couscous and win his heart at the same time?

Now I love a good Moroccan dinner as much as the next person, and for vegetarians it’s always a real treat.   In France, they sell the boxes (pictured above) with pre-made couscous “stew” or “tagine” in them, and the dried grains in a separate box on top to steam as you heat up the stew.  The stew comes with chicken, merguez, vegetarian, whatever you fancy.  For the more adventurous, those who want to work with fresh ingredients and make their own “tagine,” most French grocery stores sell a pre-mix “Epices Couscous” “Couscous Spices,” which are usually delicious and perfectly balanced when you want to make your couscous from scratch.

Since I also love to cook Indian food, I have up my sleeve a proportion for “the trinity” of Indian spices: dried Coriander, Cumin, and Turmeric, which is a never-fail (passed to me by an Indian gentleman who was briefly my landlord in England).  I started here when I wanted to create my own “epices couscous” to make my delicious “tastes-just-like-you-got-it-out-of-a-box” couscous for my beloved. The balance between the spices is perfect, and with the addition of a pinch of cinnamon and a good dash of paprika, I actually started to approach the desired flavor, miraculously.

Enjoy this recipe as a base, and add whatever protein you like.  At our house, we cook the stew in a saucepan and brown any meat in another pan on the side.  A few ladles of the vegetable & chickpea stew go into the pan to finish cooking with the meat/chicken/merguez sausages for the last 15 mins or so, and the rest can stay on the side for the vegetarians.  We also now prepare millet on the side, as tastes and nutrition have evolved since when we first met.  It might not be quite as salty or overcooked as the one in the can, but on a cold winter night, with a pot of spicy harissa on the table, this dish is satisfying and delicious.

Vegetable & Chickpea Couscous

serves4-6

3 T olive oil

2 onions, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks

3 celery branches, cut into 1 inch chunks

1 purple-topped turnips, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks

1/2 rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks

1 small eggplant, cut into 1 inch chunks

1 zucchini, cut into 2 inch chunks

1/2 green cabbage, cut into 1 inch dice

1 small can whole peeled tomatoes

2 c cooked chickpeas

salt, pepper

1 T ground coriander

1 1/2 t ground cumin

1/2 t turmeric

1 T sweet paprika

1/2 t cinnamon

1 bunch cilantro

In a large saucepan, warm the olive oil over medium high heat and add the onions.  When they are golden, add the rest of the vegetables and saute until beginning to soften.  Add all of the dried spices and let cook together, stirring, for 1 minute, to cook out the spices.  Add the can of tomatoes, broken up, and the chickpeas, salt and pepper.  Add enough water (or stock, if you prefer), to cover all of the vegetables, bring up to simmer, then cover and lower heat.  Let cook slowly for about 30 mins, until all of the vegetables are cooked through.  Meanwhile, prepare the couscous (or millet, or cracked wheat, rice or whatever grain you like to soak up the juices) and brown the meat that you would like to use, if desired.  We love to serve this with plain yogurt and harissa on the side, and we always finish it with a bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped and added at the last minute. (Keep in mind that the list of vegetables can be adapted based on season or availability!  Why not put butternut squash or sweet potato in the winter and eliminate the eggplant and zucchini? Add some frozen peas?  Use this as your guide and enjoy.)

Braised Chicken with Olives and Peppers

What’s with the recent backlash against the word “foodie”?? A recent issue of one of our favorite cooking magazines recently went on a minor diatribe about this “catchall word for people who appreciate a great meal and what goes into it” and it’s not the first we’ve seen…The editor claims that the word is “goofy” and “infantilizing” and he prefers the term “culinary enthusiasts.”

Where’s the problem?  We love this word precisely for it’s fun and silly overtones:  one thing that we have never done in our careers as food professionals or culinary enthusiasts or whatever you want to call us is take ourselves too seriously.  While our compulsion to cook lots of food for lots of people in a very short amount of time — known as a normal dinner service in a restaurant — comes from a complete place of masochism, our belief in food as delicious, important and fun is elemental.  That’s why you’ll never see us micro-oxygenating your dinner; or adding chemicals to make it appear like somethings it’s not (though this, in the right hands, sounds like fun, it’s something completely different, like spray-painting graffiti vs. oil painting on canvas).

We love it when people come into our restaurant and self-identify as “foodies.”  Of course, we’re happy and grateful when anyone comes into our place just to sit down and fuel up, too.  When someone describes themselves as a foodie it’s a signal to us that they want to have some fun — they want to enjoy being surprised by the unusual and delicious results of poaching fish in red wine and serving it with a buttery and zing-y port sauce.  They like to be blown away by the real taste of local summer zucchini in a soup… a taste that winters of spongy-mass produced zucchini had erased.  They want to dig down to the bottom of their blondie sundae, right to where the rum, the salty caramel, the ice cream and the warm blondie have merged together to create their own ultimate sweet euphoria.  And these foodie guests want to talk to us about food: about what they’re cooking, and what they’re tasting, and usually, what’s going on in food politics, too. It’s evident to everyone why they want to support an independent, chef-owned restaurant and not pull into a drive-through.

These foodies get why we’re here, they validate our work, and they’re fun.  We hope that this term lives on with pride for all of us who appreciate real food cooked right and with pleasure.  If you don’t want to be called a foodie, no problem, we’ll still love serving you a great meal and perhaps having a little “food-inspired” chat over a simple, delicious and nourishing dish, as well!

 

Braised Chicken Hero

Braised Chicken with Olives and Peppers

Foodies and non-foodies alike all know that a great dish doesn’t need to be complicated.  This simple chicken dish brings together a few easy French techniques with some everyday ingredients and will bring all of the warmth and good smells and satisfaction into your kitchen that you could want, without a tremendous amount of effort or time.  We also love how raiding the olive counter at the supermarket can bring a taste of sunshine to a wintery dinner.  Make this dish ahead of time if you’re one of those organized, cook-for-the-week-ahead- people.  It’ll reheat perfectly when you’re ready for it.

4 portions – can serve with rice or couscous

1 3-4 lb. organic chicken, cut into 4 pieces: 2 breast, 2 leg/thigh; save carcass for stock
1 onion, diced
1 green pepper, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
½ c green olives, pitted and sliced in half
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 roma tomatoes, diced ( or 1/2 c diced canned tomato)
1 qt chicken stock
1 c white wine
1 branch thyme
1 branch rosemary
Salt, pepper
2 T plain oil
2 T olive oil

Heat in a wide sauté pan (preferably one with a cover) 2 T plain oil over high heat. Season chicken pieces liberally with salt and pepper and place in pan to brown. Turn over and brown the other side. Remove chicken pieces with tongs to a plate. Pour out the old oil and replace pan on the burner without washing it. Add olive oil and the onion and peppers. Cook over high heat, stirring, to soften, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Deglaze pan with the wine, stirring to scrape the pan. Add the chicken, stock, olives, thyme, rosemary and tomato and bring to simmer. Cover and let cook through over low heat, about 20-30 minutes. Check for seasoning.

Braised Chicken01

Braised Chicken02

Braised Chicken03

Braised Chicken04

Braised Chicken05

Braised Chicken06

Braised Chicken07

Braised Chicken08

 

 

Dark Chocolate Pot de Creme

I have written before about how much I need and love my pastry gurus, and Joanne Chang of Flour bakery is certainly one of them. Right now I’m getting inspired by her newest book, Baking with Less Sugar, but her first cookbook, Flour, is one that I have used for so many delicious desserts here at the restaurant.  For Franck and I, working on our own in the wilds of Western Massachusetts, it’s like having a fellow friend/pastry geek to talk shop with when I open up such a smart and useful book.

One of the most popular desserts which it inspired, and somehow one of the most requested desserts in Chez Nous history, is the Dark Chocolate Pot de Creme.  This decadent and unassuming little dessert is truly sublime on every level:  incredibly rich flavor and smooth, luscious texture.  Not only is it a winner, but it’s also incredibly easy to prepare.  No baking in the oven in a bain-marie necessary:  Joanne ramped up the amount of chocolate so that the dessert sets on it’s own like a dream in it’s little cup in the fridge.  A perfect make-ahead, never fail dessert!

Dark Chocolate Pot de Creme, adapted from Flour, by Joanne Changbest pot de creme

Makes 5 desserts

180 ml  ½ and ½

220 ml  heavy cream

4 oz bittersweet chocolate

4 yolks

75 g  sugar

½ t vanilla

¼ t salt

2 T Kahlua, or other chocolate-friendly alcohol of your choosing

-Boil cream and milk in a heavy-based saucepan, whisk together yolks, sugar and salt, then slowly temper in (pour over gradually) the hot milk/cream, whisking contantly to avoid curdling the eggs.  Pour everything back into the pot and slowly bring up to barely simmer.  Off of the heat, add the chocolate and whisk in to melt, as well as the vanilla and the Kahlua.  Strain through a fine seive and pour into jars.  Allow to set in the fridge before serving.