Saturday, November 2, 2013

Food Blogging: French Mushrooms

Today I decided to get up the courage to try the fantastic-looking mushrooms that I've been seeing at the green grocers.  I'm very glad that I did.

I picked up a basket each of:
  • Cêpes
  • Girolles (Golden Chanterelles)
  • Trumpettes Noirs (black trumpets, another chanterelle)
To get an idea of the taste of each, we sautéed them in nothing but butter (as some reading suggested that most of the flavors popped when cooked as they are fat-soluble.

The Cêpes

The cêpes were very meaty, and due to the accidental use of higher heat than expected, they came out like mushroomy, meaty (pork), potato chips, but not quite so crunchy.  Very tasty.

Les Girolles

Fruity/flowery and peppery.  Apricot is one description that I read, and I'd agree with that.

Les Trumpettes Noirs

These taste like mushrooms.  Earthy, meaty, and delicious.  These are going to be fantastic in omelets.

And when mixed with the Girolles, they complement each other wonderfully.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Food Blogging: French Toast à la Française

Today I made one of those staples of American cooking, French Toast.

Doing this here in Paris isn't hard, since I don't follow much of a recipe to start with (I guesstimate all the ingredient amounts, and it's pretty forgiving.  But making it in Paris gives you access to a slightly different set of ingredients than normal

Qu'est que ce?

ooh, la la!  Fresh pain de brioche from the bakery a block away.
And with that, we need to add some other ingredients:

  • Fresh eggs
  • heavy cream
  • butter (unsalted)
  • vanilla extract
  • cinnamon
and, to give some extra flavor while cooking in the pan:

And of course, an assistant to help in the kitchen:

Slice the bread to your desired thickness.  I went with about 1cm (1/2") this morning.

In a bowl, whisk together:

  • 2 large eggs 
  • 1-2tbs of heavy cream
  • cinnamon
  • vanilla extract (1-2 tsp)
  • pinch of salt (since the butter is unsalted)
The proportions are all very hand-wavy, I'm not sure if these are even close, I just go "that's about right" every time.  I should really measure it all out sometime.

But, doing it this way causes the cinnamon to do that thing where it clumps up, instead of diffusing itself through the mixture:

There's an easy solution to that.  Put the cinnamon (or any dry powder) into the bowl first, and add a tiny bit of liquid to it, and mix.  I've found that the alcohol in vanilla extract, or fatty/oily liquids work better than watery ones (milk is awful for this).  After a very short bit, you should get a paste that you can then easily mix into your other liquid ingredients (and the eggs):

Pour your mixture (this is the first round, where the cinnamon wasn't properly mix) into a shallow dish with a flat bottom:

Drop in 1-2 pieces of bread, depending on the size of your pan, and coat both sides of the bread.  Don't let the bread soak up too much mixture, or it will end up being too eggy.

Heat up your pan to medium or so (about where you fry eggs at), and then add 1tbsp of butter to the pan, and some of the walnut oil.  Mix the oil into the melted butter, and coat the whole pan surface.

You want a pan with a flat bottom, not one with a domed surface like this one.  Our good pans are in storage, these are the ones in the apartment.  I miss our Le Creuset cast iron pan, which is wonderful for this sort of thing.

If you don't think you've got enough cinnamon on the bread, you can sprinkle more on while it's in the pan (on the wet side):

Cook to a golden brown on both sides:

Et Voilà, c'est fini!

Using fresh brioche (which isn't too dry), allows the surface to be nicely cooked with the egg mixture, but without making it an egg-bomb.  Notice how light and airy it is.  A brioche with a fine crumb will work better than one with big air bubbles in it.

And now, for the test:

What do you think, does she like it?

Yeah, that's what I thought.  She likes it.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Notre Dame

Notre Dame is probably Paris's second most famous landmark.  This is my quest to get some decent photographs it.

The first week we were in town, we went to the Île de la Cité, the Island of the City, in the middle of the Seine.  Unfortunately, it was overcast and grey.

The cathedral is amazing.  The scale is hard to wrap your head around as you walk up to it.

We climbed the temporary bleachers that face it (setup for the 850th anniversary of the cathedral), and admired it.  But none of photos from that really came out well.

We walked around it's south side, through the park between it and the edge of the island.

There's a great view from there of all the detail that went into the upper stories: the buttresses, sculptures, and gargoyles.

The best find there, though, was the small playground.  My daughter had a blast.  I love that Paris is sprinkled with little playgrounds.

We walked around the south side, and then crossed the bridge at the east of the island so we could go to the other island, Îsle Saint-Louis, to get lunch and (hopefully) some Berthillon ice cream.  No luck on the ice cream front.  But as we crossed the bridges, we saw that the view of the cathedral was better from the bridges and the Left Bank.

This is taken from Îsle Saint-Louis, right at the edge of the wall, above the quay.

But an overcast day just doesn't make for great photographs.

So during our week off that we took in July, we tried again.  No go, it was overcast again, and the lines were ugly, so we went to Ste Chapelle instead.

So about a week ago, the weather looked nice, with lots of big puffy clouds going past, so I decided to head back down while my daughter was napping, and see if I could finally wrangle some good photos of the cathedral.

And I planned ahead, thinking that I might have the best luck on the edge of the Left Bank.  And I think I was right.

I took the Metro to the Cité station, and then headed straight South, crossing the Petit Pont.  I was rewarded with a view of the cathedral that was about the right scale to actually see it, but there were trees in the way from here at the middle of the bridge.

So I finished crossing, and starting walking along the edge of the sidewalk, peeking at the cathedral through gaps between the sales stalls.

Getting better.  But it wasn't until I got to Pont au Double, the pedestrian-only bridge that runs to right in front of the cathedral, that I started getting some great views.

Then I went down the steps and started taking photos from down on the quay.  It's really a great place to view the cathedral from:

It's nice being able to get some glimpses of people for scale, too.

And from there, with a long lens, you can still make out all the wonderful detail, which is easier to see now that the sun is out.

I admit to having a soft spot for the gargoyles.

Once again, the view from Pont de l'Archevêché is wonderful.  Although not everyone is a fan of the locks.

I ended in Square Jean XXIII, which is at the East end of the cathedral.  It quite a lovely place, with the fountain and all the flowers.

The full set of photos from the last trip are here, with geo-encoding if you really want to see where I was standing.

Jurassic Paris

A Tyrannosaurs Rex in Paris?

Yep.  A parisian sculpter has created a 'life size' sculpture of a T-rex, in polished aluminum.  It's beautiful.  He created castings of a real skeleton to produce this.

It's been shown in various indoor spaces, but was recently installed at the docks of the Bateau Mouche on the bank of the Seine.  I headed down to see it.

 I would have loved to get closer, but I'd need to have tickets for riding the boat to do that.  So I had to settle to taking distance shots with the 200mm end of the lens

These zoomed-in shots show up much detail went into it.

It's sitting on a reflective sheet that lights it from below, creating beautiful effects.  It was a partially cloudy day, and as the clouds passed in front of the sun, it was continually changing in the light.  Wonderful.

And I had to take at least one image and turn it into a high-contrast black and white.

In some digging around for some night-time photos, I found this link which has some more details about it.

It was commissioned by the daughter of the owner of Bateau Mouche, to help promote contemporary art along the Seine.  I think this is a great idea.