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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.

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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.

 

The Menu Changes Every Day!

Check out the menu displayed here online to give you as idea of what’s cooking at Chez Nous these days.  The menu changes every day to show off what’s freshest and most delicious.  Merci!

Dark Chocolate Espresso Mousse Torte

Photos by Greg Nesbit Photography

I have what I like to refer to as my “pastry gurus. ”  These are the recipe-writers who not only care enough to only publish recipes for things that are yummy, but also to write their recipes and edit them so that they WORK. Many people tell me that they don’t like to bake, that it’s hard.  It’s true that there are a few tricks and things that are helpful to know when you go to bake, and it’s also true that if you forget something, you usually can’t correct it later (not like throwing the carrots in once the stew’s boiling).  But generally, my theory is that people think that baking is hard because so many recipes are badly written, or badly edited, and will NEVER work, no matter who you are and how good you are at baking.  Wrong proportions, left out steps, never mind just recipes that I believe no one’s even tested (seriously, sorry folks).

Certain magazines are wonderful, and they have test kitchens who make sure that none of us has to go through a melt-down of our own, or throw expensive ingredients in the garbage, or look silly in front of guests when our hard efforts in the kitchen look like crud or taste like it.  And certain bakers are gifted at writing up beautiful, delicious recipes reliably and consistently.  These are my gurus.  Dorie Greenspan and David Lebovitz are two of these special and wonderful people.  Since Franck and I are on our own here for the most part, working in the kitchen and developing menus and ideas, we really need these gurus to keep us inspired, give us fresh new recipes, and not waste our time with things that won’t be good.  Check out any books by these two that you can get your hands on, they are all fabulous.  And my latest favorite dessert, the Chocolate-Espresso Mousse Torte, is actually a marriage between two recipes, one from each of them.Choc-Torte000

After making approximately 2,000 Flourless Chocolate Devastation Cakes, I was beginning to get a little bored.  Never mind that I could continue to make & sell Flourless Chocolate Devastation Cake into eternity and no one would complain, I just wanted something different, more interesting, and equally wonderful to bake.  Since my goal these days is to keep everything gluten-free, that had to figure into my search.  Dorie and David, I believe, travel in similar circles and both spend all or much of their time in France, so I wasn’t surprised to find a couple of great-looking flourless chocolate desserts that had quite a few similarities between them on their websites.  It only took a couple of tries to work together the two recipes into what I believe is the ultimate Chocolate Espresso Mousse Torte.  Served with a squeeze of Salty Caramel Sauce, all of the flavors explode in your mouth, but the dessert itself has a lightness to it, it literally disappears on your tongue.  It’s remarkable that something so richly flavored can have such a lovely, light texture.  The Flourless Devastation will remain beloved by many, but for me, this cake’s depth of flavor and unique texture make it something special.  I hope you agree!

Chocolate Espresso Mousse Torte

The only other thing that this beautiful dessert needed was some crunch.  I looked around for something in my repertoire that was crunchy and gluten-free and came up empty-handed.  The crunch in the photo, and what we serve at the restaurant, is a simple and delicious mix of our wonderful 65% bittersweet chocolate, and a gluten-free cereal that we buy at the supermarket.  Spread thin on a piece of parchment paper and let set in the fridge and voila!  crunch!

 

-makes 1  8” cake

 

10 oz dark chocolate, chopped finely

1/3 c heavy cream

1 large espresso/1 T espresso powder

5 eggs, separated

Pinch salt

1/2 t vanilla

1/3 c sugar

1 stick soft butter

 

Line an 8″ cake pan with parchment.  Heat oven to 325F.  Bring cream to a boil and pour over to melt the chocolate  with the salt,  vanilla & espresso in a large mixing bowl.  In the bowl of a mixer with a whip attachment, whip whites to meringue, adding the sugar gradually as the whites develop volume.  Stop whipping when the meringue holds soft peaks.  Stir the yolks in to the chocolate mixture, followed by the soft butter and mix until smooth, then fold in the egg whites very gently.  Pour into prepared cake pan and place pan in a larger pan with warm water coming up about half way to make a bain marie.  Bake about 20 minutes until the edges look dry and the middle is still a bit shiny, but set.  Cool thoroughly then chill overnight before running a knife around the edge to release the cake.

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Tuscan Lemon Almond Torte

Photos by Greg Nesbit Photography

Everyone knows how I feel about secret recipes: they’re against my religion!  Enjoying a dish and then requesting the recipe is just the highest compliment you can give.  And some things are just so wonderful, they have to be shared.  I received this incredible recipe from an extremely talented pastry chef with whom I worked in DC at Lespinasse in Torte111996-97, Caroline.  She and I worked the pastry “line” together every night, plating elaborate desserts and enjoying the rush of service together.  I was totally green in the industry, and couldn’t have been placed next to a more perfect person to train me.  She taught me how to use a squeeze bottle of sauce and put it right back where it was, so we wouldn’t waste time looking up to grab it the next time.  Together we perfected spooning identital egg-shaped quenelles of ice cream and sorbet onto a beautiful silver platter quickly enough so that the 7th flavor was plated before the 1st ones started to melt (an order of 4 ice cream & sorbet samplers for one table was a particularly riotous challenge for us).  She, together with our boss Jill Rose, taught me that attention to detail is what changes something good into something great.  These lessons have stayed with me, and I teach them to every student who comes through our kitchen.  These women were talented, and I was so lucky to be in their hands so early in my career.

But the recipes…oh my goodness…the recipes!  We made some amazing stuff in that kitchen:  Lemon-lavender chiboust (the inspiration behind my popular Lemon-Lavender Posset), Ginger Souffles, Coffee macarons.  I gained skills and confidence with every new recipe.  So much of what I learned still peeks its head into something new that I might try today: a variation on a theme, a new twist.  There are some recipes that are so perfect, however, you just don’t want to mess with them at all.  This cake, for me, is perfect.  Caroline actually used to make it at home and bring it in for me; it wasn’t on the menu.  It was just the most divine, sublime, meltingly delicious cake I’d ever had and she would provide me with occasional fixes, taunting me that someday she would share the actual recipe.  It actually came from a fantastic San Francisco restaurant where she had previously worked, called Oliveto.  I don’t know where it was before that, or who exactly had the genius idea to schmear a load of tart and creamy lemon curd on top of a delicious almond cake batter, scatter it with sliced almonds, and then bake everything together into a bubbling, browned, rustic pan of deliciousness.  I just don’t know.  But I thank them with all my heart.  Please enjoy my most favorite cake:

 

Lemon Curd

You can buy a jar of lemon curd to put on the cake, or you can make a batch yourself.  The only change that I made to the original cake recipe (ah ha!  there’s always something, no??) was to use my own lemon curd recipe, given to me by some very proud and capable English farm women with whom I worked at the Sussex University farm shop when I was a student there.  Betty was so generous to share this gorgeous lemon curd with me:   the winner of the local Women’s Institute award, no less.  Enjoy the rest of the batch on toast, in tartlettes, or just keep making Tuscan Lemon-Almond Tortes, like I do…it keeps well in the fridge or the freezer for many weeks (if it lasts!).

6 oz lemon  juice

zest 3 lemons

2 1/4 c sugar

pinch salt

1/2  lb  butter

4 eggs

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, place the butter, sugar, salt, lemon juice and zest.  Over medium heat, let butter melt and gently bring contents of the pan to a simmer.  Whisk the eggs in a medium-sized bowl.  When mix is boiling, take off of the heat and drizzle a bit onto the eggs, whisking quickly to avoid scrambling the eggs (a helper can be useful at this point).  Once the eggs are warmed quite well, whisk them back into the pan and return the pan to medium heat.  Whisk constantly until entire mix comes to simmer to sterilize the eggs and thicken the curd.  Take off the heat and strain into a heat-proof container.  Allow to cool and then refrigerate until you’re ready to make the cake.

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Tuscan Lemon-Almond Torte 

The rustic look of this cake pleases me just as much as the cake itself.  It’s so unusual, I had to feature it when I first opened my bakery, Cakewalk,  in Lee, MA in 2002.  I just loved the contrast with the highly decorated and precisely-cut and designed things that were typically in a bakery case.  You just schmear the curd on with a spatula, scatter the almonds over, let it bubble and brown in the oven every which way:  each one looks different and irresistible with no fussing over it.  I wasn’t sure if it would hold mass appeal, but I just wanted to see it in the case next to all of the traditional cookies and tartlettes.  And I shouldn’t have doubted:  this cake was a huge seller every day at the bakery from day one. I have made this recipe with good results with Jeanne Sauvage’s gluten free flour blend, as well as with Einkorn flour.  Use the same amount as the cake flour indicated.

Oven 325, makes One 9 inch cake

Line spring form pan:  butter, parchment, butter

1/2  cup almond fl.

1 cup cake flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 oz soft butter

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla ex.

2 eggs

2/3 cup lemon curd

1/3 cup sliced almonds

-Prepare the pan with the parchment liner to prevent sticking.  Preheat the oven and start creaming the butter in the mixer with the flat beater, then add the sugar.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. The mixture will get very fluffy, double the volume.   Sift the dry ingredients together.  Add the vanilla to the mixer and then fold in the sifted dry ingredients.  Scrape into the prepared pan and spoon 2/3 cup of lemon curd onto the mix.  Spread out the curd over the top of the batter, leaving about 1/2 in border.  Scatter 1/3 cup sliced almonds over the mix and bake for about 25-30 minutes, until a tester is clean (it’s hard to test!  I usually put the tester in at a sharp angle to go underneath the curd as best as I can to see that the batter under the curd is cooked).  The cake will be set in the middle, bubbly and brown.  Take out of the oven and allow to cool thoroughly before slicing into it.  It is actually one of those rare cakes that tastes even better after a day or two.

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Salade Lyonnaise: Red-Wine Poached Egg & Salad

Photos by Greg Nesbit Photography

We may not think as often about salad for dinner in the winter.  In summer we love to make large composed salads with hard boiled eggs, a piece of seared fish, boiled small red potatoes.  The lightness and the freshness are perfect for the season.  But what about salad for dinner in the winter?  Why not?  The classic Salade Lyonnaise is delicious, and could easily be a one-dish meal on a cold night.  A balanced combination of hot and cold, rich and light, this salad is a treat either as an appetizer or a main course.  A heavier leafy green is a good base for the salad; the traditional frisee can hold up to the warm bacon and egg, and its bitterness cuts a nice contrast to the heavier ingredients.  If you don’t care for all frisee, you can mix it with some shredded romaine for an equally refreshing base for your lovely red wine poached egg.

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Classic French Red Wine Vinaigrette

makes 1 1/2 cups

2 T dijon mustard

1/4 c red wine vinegar

3/4 c oil oil

1 shallot, minced finely

salt, pepper

-Whisk together vinegar, mustard, shallot, salt and pepper.  Gradually whisk in the oil to form an emulsion.  Scrape into a jar or container and store in the refrigerator. This dressing will keep in a container in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

Salad Components

Assemble your salad components for the desired number of people:

Frisee or other sturdy salad green

Fresh eggs (preferably organic farm eggs)

enough red wine in a saucepan for the eggs to be completely immersed to poach

Thick bacon strips cut into 1/4 inch batons, sauteed until crispy

Toasted baguette slices to hold the egg

Slices of pancetta, baked in a 300F oven for about 10 mins, until crispy

Bring the wine to simmer, season with salt, pepper and a bay leaf.

Break egg into individual ramekins, swirl the simmering wine in the pan and pour egg in when it’s rotating well.  The wine should never boil with the egg in it.

While the egg is cooking, toss salad with vinaigrette, flip the egg in the wine carefully, poach until desired doneness, approx. 2-3 minutes.  If the white is not cooked, the egg might break when you take it out, but you still want the yolk to be runny.  Put the crouton on the top of the salad, scatter warm bacon around, carefully remove the egg and blot it on a piece of kitchen paper, and place it on top of the crouton.  Top with a slice of crispy pancetta. Can drizzle with red wine reduction if desired.

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Breton Buckwheat Galettes

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When you hop out of your vehicle and wander through the medieval walls into the center of Saint-Malo, Britttany, it is quickly clear that there is no doubt what you are going to be eating for your next meal:  Galettes & Crepes!  Literally every other storefront is a Creperie and each follow a very similar, carefully honed formula of serving Savory Buckwheat Galettes for your main dish, followed by white-flour Crepes for your sweet finish.  Until I’d been to Brittany, before I met Franck, I’d never tried a Buckwheat Crepe.  In the States we have tended to overlook them and save buckwheat for pancakes (which is a beautiful thing to do, don’t get me wrong).  Buckwheat crepes, or “Galettes” as they’re known in Brittany, however, are something special for many reasons.

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Buckwheat happens to be a really nutritious fruit seed, related to rhubarb & sorrel and not at all related to wheat or other grains in any way.  Known as “farine de sarrasin” in French, it”s high in phytonutrients, minerals, B vitamins, and is a superior source of protein than many grains.  It’s also really satisfying and helps control blood sugar.  The interesting thing about working with buckwheat flour is that since it’s completely gluten-free, it needs to be worked fairly hard.  Originally I thought this must be developing some kind of “gluten-like” strength in the flour.  Franck distinctly remembers the “thwack thwack” of the wooden spoon in the bowl as his grandmother or mother mixed their galette batter hard for quite a long time.  When we (who can’t be bothered to mix many things by hand, actually) put all of the ingredients together in the Kitchen Aid, we let the flat beater work the mix at medium speed for more than five minutes, or the galettes are too fragile.  In fact, before I was focusing on gluten-free cooking and baking, my mother-in-law had instructed me to add a spoonful of wheat flour to the mix, which I think was her way to make it easier for the batter to come together by strengthening it with a little gluten.  In any case, we now make our mix 100% gluten free by using only buckwheat flour, and occasionally a spoonful of gluten-free flour mix just to lighten up the flavor a bit, since buckwheat is strong.  By working it very long and hard either with a wooden spoon or the beater of the mixer, you are actually gelatinizing the starches in the buckwheat which help make the mix hold together better.  After that it’s good (but not essential) to let the mix rest in the fridge to fully hydrate the flour.  The final mix should have the consistency of heavy cream.  It will thicken during the resting time and then you can thin it out with a bit more water before cooking.  Your first galette will be your test for consistency:  a thinner mix allows a lacy, crispy galette which has a toasty, warm buckwheat flavor.  It’s addictive!

BGThe traditional galettes in Brittany are served with a number of savory fillings, making them completely fun and versatile for the cook.  We usually put out a bunch of popular choices, and everyone can customize their meal.  A nice fresh egg cracked over the top is the most classic finish to a true “Galette Complete”, whether you put ham, spinach, cheese, tomato, mushrooms or ratatouille inside.

Buckwheat Crepe (Galette)

Photos by Greg Nesbit Photography 

2 c buckwheat flour

1 egg (optional if you want vegan)

1/2 t salt

1 c beer (optional)

4 c water (plus one or two more cups)

 

In a large mixing bowl or Kitchen Aid bowl, place your ingredients and mix thoroughly for at least 5 minutes.  We like to use a little beer (hard cider would be appropriate to Brittany, too), as this gives even more flavor and lightness to the mix.  Many folks (including my sweet mother-in-law) skip the beer, though, so it’s not essential.  Add water until the mix has the consistency of heavy cream.  As the mixture beats, the buckwheat gelatinizes and the batter gets a satiny sheen to it.  Transfer to a container and let rest in the fridge 30 minutes-a few hours.

Heat a heavy skillet, non-stick pan, or crepe pan over medium heat, then grease with plain oil.  Rub the oil to a thin, even coat with a folded-up paper towel, then ladle the batter into the pan, turning with your wrist as you pour to evenly spread the mix.  This is not easy at first (the mix pours slowly since it’s a bit heavier than a white-flour crepe mix).  Spread with a thin spatula if that helps.  Let the galette set and start to brown, then put about 1/2 t of butter in the pan and flip to cook the other side, about 2 minutes per side.  You can continue to cook galettes in this way, and pile them up on top of one another on a dinner plate.  This can be done in advance, and then you can finish them in the pan later with everyone’s preferred fillings and serve them hot.

For fillings you can slice ham, sauté spinach, sauté mushrooms, slice tomatoes, grate cheddar or swiss cheese.  Grilled sausages are really popular rolled into a fresh, buttery galette, or we like to julienne and sauté root veggies and roll them up as a side dish to fish with a beurre blanc sauce.  Enjoy the chance to get creative with your galettes; if you’re being really classical, though, you won’t put a sweet filling inside (Franck cringes when I spread them with jam, but it’s absolutely delicious.  The French are just so traditional this way, it’s amazing).

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Franck’s Bouillabaisse

I guess that part of the appeal of cooking and baking is the magic part.  Watching or assisting in transformations is really what it’s all about.  When I was a little girl I would hunt out the tv section of the newspaper to find when Julia Child’s The French Chef was going to be on.  My nana and I were both devoted fans and I can still remember certain episodes so clearly, such a firm impression was made by the impressive transformations on the program.  Shredded potatoes were formed into potato baskets and deep fried into crispy bowls!  Cream, sugar and eggs were set in dishes in the oven and caramelized with a blowtorch afterwards!  I was amazed, my eyes were dazzled, and I really wanted a blowtorch.

Some of the transformations which we enable in the kitchen are less dramatic, of course, but the delicious results speak for themselves.  Bouillabaisse remains one of our favorite dishes, and it’s clearly one of those things that’s better than the sum of its parts.  Delicious fish soup is brought to a boil, then drop in a few chunks of your favorite shellfish, fish, a few boiled potatoes, and let them simmer together until cooked through.  A dollop of spicy garlic mayonnaise and a dried crouton or slice of grilled or toasted bread and voila, you have a bowl of simple ingredients, deliciously transformed.

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There are so many theories as to what a “real” Bouillabaisse is supposed to have in it or NOT have in it – yes shellfish, no shellfish, broth base or thick soup base.  We really can’t speak for everyone’s “classic” or “dream” Bouillabaisse, we can just show you how we like to make ours.  Even Julia Child agreed that Bouillabaisse should have what your taste and budget allow, and that is exactly how we make it.  The classic flavors:  a great fish base, some garlic, onions, olive oil, fennel and saffron are the key to distinguishing Bouillabaisse from another fish stew.  Some like a broth base, while we love to use Franck’s delicious classic Fish Soup as the base.  The first step is to make a fish stock, which is actually not that hard at all.  If you’re not up for it, however, you could purchase the stock or use bottled clam juice if you’re doing a Bouillabaisse that’s going to include shellfish.

 

Fish Stock (makes enough to freeze in containers for future use)

4 lbs clean fish bones (no gills, eyes, etc.  ask at the fish counter for them to save some for you)

1 onion, diced

1 stick celery, diced

1 leek, cleaned well and sliced

10 cloves garlic (can leave whole)

-Sweat the above ingredients until translucent over medium high heat in a large soup casserole and ¼ c olive or plain oil.  Add:

1 bouqet garnie (a bunch of herbs tied together with kitchen twine or wrapped in cheesecloth:  1 branch fresh thyme, 2 branches fresh parsley, 1 branch rosemary, 2 bay leaves)

2 c white wine

And then cover with water and bring to the boil.  Skim the top of the stock and then turn down the heat and let cook slowly for about 25 minutes.  Strain through a sieve and cool.  You can freeze this until you’re ready to make your fish soup.

French Fisherman’s Soup

This soup is delicious on its own, with the traditional garnishes which are croutons, spicy aioli, and shredded gruyère cheese.  It also makes a wonderful base for a classic Bouillabaisse.

The day before, marinate:

5 lbs mixed fish of choice (cod, sole, halibut, salmon, etc.)

1 large sliced onion

5 cloves chopped garlic

1 diced carrot

1 diced celery stick

1 T ground coriander

1 star anise, ground

2 pinches saffron

1/2 t pepper

½ c olive oil

2 diced fresh tomatoes

The next day,

Separate all of the fish from the vegetables and then sweat the veggies until soft over medium high heat in soup pot with the olive oil.  Add 2 cups white wine, 2 quarts fish stock, 2 diced potatoes.  Bring to simmer and add fish.  When potatoes are soft, the soup is done.  Purée in a blender; adjust seasoning and thickness of desired.

Bring soup to boil and add boiled potatoes, mix of fish/shellfish that you prefer.  Serve with garlic crostini and rouille (spicy garlic mayonaisse).

Rouille

This magic sauce gives a creamy kick to the final dish.  It also is amazing on sandwiches or as a dip for any kind of fritter, crab cake, whatever you’re in the mood for.

 

½ c store-bought or homemade mayonnaise

½ clove crushed garlic

Juice of ½ lemon

½ t chili paste, harissa, hot sauce

Pinch toasted and crushed saffron

 

Chez Nous’ Blog is an On-line, In-progress Cookbook! Check it out!

Don’t miss our blog, where we are posting popular and requested recipes, along with some great food photography from our friend Greg Nesbit.  Maybe someday this will become a book, but right now we’d like to share our tried-and-true recipes with you!

Chez Nous Cookbook.indd

Dark Chocolate Praline Crunch Torte

Photos by Greg Nesbit Photography

If they say that music tames the savage beast, my research reveals that Dark Chocolate Praline Crunch Torte tames the savage restaurant guest.  Imagine one of those normally-really-quiet Berkshire winter evenings: I have my knitting ready to keep me occupied, one server on, Franck and maybe one helper in the kitchen, and we’re ready to be extremely bored.  Imagine our surprise as the restaurant starts to fill up.  At first we’re happy, then we start to be doubtful, and ultimately it starts to get kind of ugly.  All twenty tables full in three different dining rooms, and just two of us to take care of them.  Those last folks seated weren’t too lucky.  By the time I pant up to their table to ask if I could help them, the response: “Some service would be nice.” Ugh.  Can this be salvaged or is it hopeless?

This night happened in the early days of Chez Nous, but of course I’ll never forget it.  By the time that (now smiling, well-fed, and hugging me) gentleman left he was actually proposing that we go into business together (I’m really not joking), to make and distribute this cake.  It’s really that good.Praline Crunch Torte

Dark Chocolate Praline Crunch Torte

I’m going to give you here the complete recipe, with all of the components, for this torte. It is a French-style “entrement” which just means a mousse torte with different components/textures layered into it.  Don’t be intimidated:  the cake can be done in multiple steps, over a few days, if necessary.  It’s actually better to do it in stages.  It can also be done in a modified way.  For one thing, I love to make the crunchy center with praline paste, but everyone (except for Franck, we’ll forgive him, he’s French) loves it with (the much easier-to-find and cheaper) peanut butter instead.  Also, it doesn’t have to have a crunch center.  Instead, you can put two layers of cake.  The glaze is also optional.  I love it for the shiny finish and fudgy flavor that it gives the final product.  But at home, a slice of this cake with a drizzle of chocolate sauce would not only be perfectly acceptable, it will render you beloved by everyone present for a long, long time.

For the Mousse: -the mousse is the one part of the recipe which can’t be made ahead.  Go ahead and make everything else in advance and then the day you want to put it all together, make the mousse.  All of the other components need to be in place before the mousse gets poured over them and chilled to set.

4 oz.           dark chocolate, melted

1 1/2 c     heavy cream whip

3         yolks

1            egg                          

1/3 c    sugar

1/3 t     plain gelatine powder bloomed in 2 T cold water

Praline Crunch Torte1 Praline Crunch Torte2 Praline Crunch Torte3 Praline Crunch Torte4 Praline Crunch Torte5

This classic chocolate mousse works well because it is light, delicious, and can be cleanly sliced as part of a cake.  The first step is to get your chocolate melting over gently simmering water, so that you don’t over-heat your chocolate (it gets grainy).  The second step is to softly whip your cream.  By this I mean soft peaks.  If you over-whip the cream, you will need to mix it too hard to incorporate it into the mousse and you will lose lovely, precious volume and the texture will be much denser.  Stop when it’s nicely and gently holding peaks, then put it aside until it’s time to combine everything.  You will finally need to make a “pate a bombe,” which is a sabayon, or cooked sugar (soft ball, 248F) poured onto whipping eggs/yolks, and then whipped until cool.  Usually this at least triples the volume of the eggs and makes them very stable for mixing into your mousse, as well as sterilizing them by getting them quite hot.

To make the pate a bombe, I thoroughly clean a small saucepan and leave a little water in the bottom to dissolve the sugar.  I put the yolks and eggs in the Kitchenaid fitted with the whisk attachment.  Let them go on very high speed to start getting fluffy while the sugar cooks.  Soft-ball sugar can be measured with a thermometer, or by plopping a drop of it into cold water and feeling the texture.  Either way, you must go quite quickly about measuring, since it changes temperature fast.  Too hot and it will solidify before it incorporates into the eggs, making candy blobs around the mixer and not getting in the recipe.  Too cool and it won’t sterilize your eggs or get them as stable.  When the right temperature is reached, carefully pour the sugar syrup into the still-turning Kitchenaid, drizzling down the side of the bowl so that the beater doesn’t whip the hot sugar out into your face, please!  Then let the mixer beat the mixture on high speed until it is cool.  Put the little bit of gelatine into the hot sauce pan for it to melt.  Pour this onto the pate a bombe when it’s completely whipped.  Fold in thoroughly and quickly.

Place your melted chocolate, your semi-whipped cream, and your pate a bombe all on a table in front of you and get ready to combine.  (*also your prepared ring should be next to you with your cake layer and crunch inside)  Quickly fold 1/3 of the cream into the chocolate, then all of the pate a bombe, and then the rest of the cream.  Work gently and quickly to make a light, fluffy mousse.  (see below for the rest of the assembly instructions)

Chocolate Cake Layers: (can be made with gluten-free, einkorn or regular flour, same quantity of each) (can also be made ahead of time and frozen, with the layers individually wrapped – wonderful!)

-This recipe will make more layers than you need, but they freeze wonderfully, tightly wrapped in plastic, and can be pulled out to make different tortes with different fillings, or just to eat on their own!

-Butter and flour, or line with parchment circles, 3X 8″ cake pans

2 c sugar

1 3/4 c  flour

75g/5 T cocoa

1 t baking powder

1/2 t baking soda

1 t salt

2 eggs

1 c boiling water

1 c milk

1/2 c canola, or other plain oil

-Sift all the dry ingredients together into a large mixing bowl and add the sugar.  Stir in the eggs, milk, and oil.  Make a smooth paste, then add the boiling water.  Divide evenly between the pans and bake at 325F until a tester comes out clean, about 25 mins.

Chocolate Glaze

 Boil: 1/2 c milk

Pour over:

1/3 lb. pate a glacer (a pastry product which is a kind of baking chocolate.  Substitute more dark chocolate instead if you can’t get it)

2 oz  dark chocolate

-Whisk until smooth and set aside.  Reheat about 1/2 c to cover the cake.  This topping keeps for about 2 weeks in the fridge and makes an amazing hot fudge sauce.

Praline Crunch

175g/3/4 lb. praline paste or peanut butter

375 g corn flakes

75 g/2 1/2 oz. white chocolate

-melt the white chocolate in a metal mixing bowl over a pan of simmering water (not too hot or the chocolate will get grainy).  Stir in the praline paste until smooth, then fold in the flakes.  This mix can be refrigerated for up to 3 weeks.  Pull out to come to room temperature before using, and don’t eat it all before it makes it into the torte!  It’s like a grown-up candy bar!)

Assembly: 

Slice a 1/2 inch disc of cake and place at the bottom of a 9″ ring mold or spring form pan.  Cover the cake with about 3/4 inch of praline crunch.  Set aside.  Make the mousse and pour directly on top of the crunch and around the sides.  Put in the fridge to set.  (overnight is fine now, or the torte freezes perfectly at this point for up to 2 weeks, well-wrapped.)  Melt the chocolate glaze and pour over the tart, spreading quickly with an offset spatula.  Let set in fridge again, then unmold with a blowtorch or a warm cloth and slice with a hot, clean knife.