The News From France: Tartelettes aux Champignons

Buttery, flakey, and Deeply Delicious

These Parisian mushroom tarts are insanely delicious. Buttery, flakey puff pastry encapsulates a rich and deeply flavorful mushroom, proscuitto, port wine, and garlic mixture that has other-worldly flavor. Serve as a wonderfully warming autumn dinner or as a welcome change of routine for lunch or dinner when the holidays arrive.

 

Ingredients:

For the Mushroom Filling

1/4 ounce dried cépe mushrooms

1/4 ounce dried morel mushrooms

1/2 cup vegetable stock

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 shallots, chopped

2 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped

1/2 pound fresh white mushrooms

1 1/2 teaspoon all-purpose flour

1/4 cup heavy cream

pinch of cayenne

pinch of nutmeg

coarse kosher salt

1 or 2 thick slices of dry-cured ham such as Bayonne or Proscuitto

1/4 cup port wine

1 egg lightly whipped with 1 tablespoon of whole milk

For the Puff Pastry

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

3/4 cup cold unsalted butter

Preparation:

1. Make the Puff Pastry

Start the dough

Place the flour in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the center.

melt two tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat taking care not to brown the butter.

Add the water, salt, vinegar, and melted butter into the well

Whisk the liquid briefly to mix

Using a fork gently fold the flour into the liquid

take care not to overmix, the less mixed the more flakey

You're done mixing when the dough looks like this.

When mixed knead the dough a few times with the palm of your hand

Form the dough into a ball and chill for about two hours

Add in the butter block

Lightly flour a large work surface

roll out to a rough rectangle about 1/4-inch thick

add the chilled butter to the very center third of the (rough) rectangle

Folding like a business letter fold the bottom third of the dough up over the chilled butter in the middle third

Then fold the upper third down over the dough covering the butter. Chill for 30 minutes

Do a series of three roll-outs, three-way-folds, and chills

Pull the chilled dough-and-butter "letter" out onto a lightly floured surface

roll out to a rectangle about 1/4-inch thick

fold the rolled-out dough rectangle back into a business letter starting with the bottom third...

...then folding over the upper third

Chill for thirty minutes. REPEAT THIS PROCESS OF ROLLING OUT, RE-FOLDING, AND CHILLING THREE MORE TIMES.

At the end of the fourth roll-out leave the rolled-out rectangle without re-folding and chill another 30 minutes

2. Prepare the mushroom filling

Combine the dried mushrooms with the stock and heat over medium heat to…

A simmer. Turn off the heat and let the mushrooms cool off for 30-60 minutes, this allows the flavors to infuse.

Chop the garlic and shallots

Slice the white mushrooms

Your ingredients will look like this

Cut rounds out of the rolled-out, chilled puff pastry

And line the tartelette molds you are using. Tonight I'm using a cupcake pan because I left my tartelette pans at the bakery where I am the pastry chef.

A cupcake pan will yield about 5 tartelettes, tartelette pans will yield about 4. Line the pans completely

For decoration I used a fluted-edge pastry roller to cut out leaves. Chill the lined pans, decorations, and remaining dough while you complete the next steps

Drain the liquid out of the mushrooms in the pan. Set the mushrooms aside. Reserve the liquid

Melt the butter in a large pan over medium heat

Add the shallots and garlic

Sauté until golden

Add the sliced white mushrooms

Sauté until golden. Remove to a bowl and reserve.

In the same pan over medium heat melt two tablespoons of butter

Sprinkle the flour over the butter

Prepare a blonde-colored roux. For details on the production and use of roux check out http://reclaimingthegoodnameoftheepicurean.com/2011/10/10/back-to-basics-blonde-and-brown-roux/

Add the reserved mushroom/vegetable stock and stir until the roux is combined with the liquid over medium heat

Allow the sauce to chicken slightly, stirring constantly over medium heat

Pour the dried mushrooms you cooked in the stock back in along with the Sauteéd white mushrooms, garlic, and shallot

Stir until combined

Remove the thick, golden mushroom and sauce mixture to a bowl.

Coarsely chop the dried ham or proscuitto

Heat another two tablespoons of butter in the same pan you've been using, when hot add the ham and sauté until golden and crispy

Deglaze the pan by pouring in the port wine and, over medium heat scraping all the dark little flavor nuggets off the bottom of the pan

It will look like this and smell amazingly good

Keeping the heat at medium add the saucy mushroom mixture back into the pan

Stir over medium heat just until combined

Fill the lined tartelette pans just to the top. Take a pastry brush and brush the exposed top of the puff pastry lining the pans with the egg-and-milk mixture (professionals refer to this as "egg wash")

Cut circles out of the remaining puff pastry and cover the mushroom mixture, pressing the dough down over the egg-washed pastry in the pan. Affix the decorations to the top and gently brush egg wash over the tops. The egg wash gived the tartelettes their golden brown color

Bake the tartelettes in a pre-heated 400-degree oven for 20-30 minutes. If you like your pastries darker cook them until they look like mine, but just pull them out sooner for a lighter, more golden appearance. When the crust is the color you like they're done.

Enjoy with a nice, slightly spicy French red wine. Bordeaux lends itself perfectly to this dish. I would recommend Château Lalande 2001 Bordeaux, for a review of this bottle check out  http://reclaimingthegoodnameoftheepicurean.com/2011/10/05/hump-day-vices-chateau-lalande-an-exceptional-value-from-bordeaux/. Bon Appétit

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Hump Day Vices: Les Demoiselles de Falfas Bordeaux paired with with Fromi Mon Sire Camembert

Autumn is very much here and the nip in the evening air stands as the harbinger of winter coming soon. As we begin to bundle up our palates too long for something warming. I can think of no better pairing to welcome the coming season than refined, bright, and spicy Les Demoiselles Bordeaux paired with decadently buttery rich Fromi Mon Sire Camembert. Do yourself a favor and indulge a little bit!

The Wine

Tasting Notes:

Wine: Les Demoiselles

Vintage: 2009

Price: $17.99

Producer: J et V Cochran

Region & Country: Côtes de Bourg, Bordeaux, France

Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot

Place and Date Purchased: 10/31/11 Whole Foods Market – Santa Monica, CA

Place and Date Tasted: 11/1/11 The Mesch-Ruskin Home – San Marcos, CA

Appearance: Striking appearance, brilliant ruby red with decently strong legs

Please forgive the dark background!

Nose: Raisins, Cassis, Rosemary, Sage, Rose Hips, Dry Toast

Taste: Elegantly light with cranberry tart/sweet and warm cinnamon spice

Finish: Medium-long with progressively intense tannin

Overall Impression: Les Demoiselles is a resplendent example of all that is best in Côtes de Bourg. The tradition of wine production in this small part of Bordeaux dates all the way back to the Romans and in the thousands of years wine makers have been perfecting their craft here they have developed a distinct, extremely elegant, balanced, and delicious characteristic for their wine. Les Demoiselles demonstrates all of these good qualities.

Food Pairing: The spice and tannin in Les Demoiselles makes it a perfect partner to any holiday dinner…be it a prime rib roast, roast ham with mango chutney, roast turkey with cranberry sauce, or something even more daring like a roast duckling. What you’re looking for with respect to pairing is fat, spice, and complimentary herbs. A creamy camembert is the ideal cheese to highlight the wine’s taste while reciprocally complimenting the cheese’s high fat content.

Overall Rating (out of 100 points): 87

Overall Value (1-5 stars): 4 stars

The Cheese

Fromi Mon Sire Camembert

Cheese Name: Mon Sire

Date and Place Purchased: 10/31/11 Whole Foods Market – Santa Monica, CA

Type of Milk Used: Bovine

Place of Origin: France

Producer: Fromi

Cheesemonger: Gladys Hernandez

Food Pairing: Dried fruits, rosemary, toasted nuts, toasted bread

Mon Sire is perfectly suited to Leslie Stowe's Raincoast Crisps, particularly Rosemary-Cranberry-Pecan

Wine Pairing: Any full-bodied, tannic red wine

Tasting Notes: Buttery smooth, sweet, and delicious

Rating (1-10): High 10

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Brace yourselves for some wine and cheese reviews.

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Hump Day Vices: El Presidente

My liquor cabinet. Seriously, what the fuck am I going to make with 3 different rums, half a flask of cognac, an anise liquer, vermouth, triple sec, a bunch of bitters, and an empty novelty ice tray?

If there is one thing you should know about me it’s that I will never be able to keep a fully-stocked bar. When alcohol comes into my home it tends to be consumed with singular focus until the bottle is empty, and there is rarely any overlap at all between one bottle and the next. This is not to say that I don’t desire a fully stocked bar, because I very much do. I have twelve different kinds of bitters on hand, several bottles of dry and sweet vermouth, triple sec, and a variety of other mixers but the bourbon, gin, vodka, scotch, and whiskey to mix with them seem to disappear as quickly as they came in. Gin always has the quickest turn-around, but once the Beefeater, Tanqueray, or Hendrick’s is exhausted there is little discretion used in the anhilation of the feeble stockpile of any other spirit in the house.

Rum seems to be the one exception to this rule. No matter how empty my freezer may be there always seems to be half a bottle of rum tucked away in the back of my bare liquor cabinet. Maybe it’s leftover from making rum cake at Christmas, maybe my WASP genetic makeup blinds me to it when something clearer and more junipery is on hand. At any rate it’s distilled and at the end of the pay period it’s often in the house. I first discovered El Presidente at the end of a particularly lean month. It was the night before payday and I didn’t have the means to fuel cocktail hour. Barnaby (my roommate at the time) and I sat in the living room and the confluence of evening and Curb your Enthusiasm seemed sadly incomplete without drinks in our hands. Thirsty and destitute we made an assessment of our liquor supply. Two empty bottles of peach schnapps, 1/3 of a bottle of triple sec, about 13 different kinds of bitters, a broken wine glass, two very old bottles of bizarre Romanian cherry wine (which must have been drank one night post-blackout or were incorporated into an unfortunate jungle juice at a party because I no longer have them), a full bottle of sweet vermouth, a scant bottle of dry vermouth, and half a bottle of gold rum were all we had.

Barnaby began counting quarters to go buy a 40 of Miller High Life ($2.25 out-the-door!) at the bodega where we often made fools of ourselves or flat-out insulted the proprietor in our various states of intoxication. I put pride aside and began combing over my bar book for a simple rum drink. Near the end of the chapter I ran across El Presidente. It called for rum, dry and sweet vermouth, triple sec, and an orange twist. My heart racing I looked at the fruit bowl. Two rotten lemons and YES, an orange! I screamed “we’re in business” and washed the cocktail shaker. We took sips and it was, very much to Barnaby’s surprise, totally drinkable. At the end of the night we had killed not only the rum but the dry vermouth and triple sec as well (as we ran out of supplies the proportions began to vary wildly) and we ended up having one of our better parties. Tonight is very much the end of a very lean pay period and instead of hocking something to buy supplies for this evening’s post I’m going to share with you the preparation of El Presidente. If you’re like me and can count on a rogue bottle of rum when your bank account runs low you will find this recipe a gem to be thankful for at the end of the month 😉

Ingredients:

1 1/2 ounces of gold or light rum

1/2 ounce dry vermouth

1/2 ounce of sweet vermouth

1/4 ounce of triple sec

twist of lemon

dash of grenadine

Preparation:

Mise en Place: Assemble your ingredients and fill a shaker half-way with ice

Measure out the ingredients

Pour into the shaker with the ice, add the grenadine if you forgot like I did.

Shake vigorously and pour into a cocktail glass

Garnish with a little twist of lemon and enjoy!

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Dinner in Florence: Crema di Ceci con Farro e Funghi Porcini (Puréed Chickpea Soup with Farro and Porcini Mushrooms)

Deep, flavorful, tomato-rich, mushroomy goodness.

Continuing on last week’s theme of Florentine cuisine I have followed up this week with a delicious chickpea purée, farro, and porcini mushroom soup. The soup’s flavor is deep and delicious, simply elegant and timelessly balanced…just like Florence itself. Enjoy with a nice glass of chianti and a crusty, rustic Italian loaf of bread.

Ingredients:

For the Purée

1 can of cooked chickpeas

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, smashed and roughly chopped

1 small, fresh rosemary sprig

1 tablespoon of tomato paste or one cup of prepared tomato bruscetta (from Trader Joe’s or a similar purveyor)

salt and freshly cracked black pepper

4 cups of vegetable stock or water

1/3 cup of farro

For the Mushrooms

1 1/2 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

4 ounces of dried porcini mushrooms

1 clove of garlic, smashed and roughly chopped

2 tablespoons of dry white wine

1 cup of water

1 fresh thyme sprig

salt and freshly cracked black pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons of butter

Preparation:

In a large sauté heat the olive oil to just under smoking, add the onion, garlic, and whole rosemary spring and brown over medium/medium-high heat for about 6 minutes.

Add the tomato paste or bruscetta.

Stir thoroughly to comine

Add the canned chickpeas and their cooking juices

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and simmer for about three minutes.

Add the water or stock and return to a simmer, simmer until the flavors have melded over medium heat...about 30 minutes.

Transfer the chickpea mixture to a blender

Purée in the blender until completely liquified and smooth.

Return the purée to a large saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the farro and stir in. Simmer over medium heat for about 25 minutes, stirring often.

Meanwhile prepare the mushrooms. Heat the olive oil in a large pan to just under smoking over medium/medium-high heat. Add the dried mushrooms and sauté for a few minutes until slightly browned.

Deglaze the pan by adding the cup of water, taking care to scrape all the flavorful brown bits off the pan. Simmer the water away over medium heat until the water is absorbed by the mushrooms

add the white wine and continue to cook over medium heat until...

The mushrooms are softened and smell very good.

Add the mushrooms to the simmering soup and farro

At the end of 25 minutes the farro should be al dente and the mushrooms should be diffusing their flavor into the tomato/chickpea purée. Serve at once.

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Back to Basics: Sauce Hollandaise – The Mother Sauces

Finicky and tempermental, the Hollandaise is the most catastrophe-prone and unstable of all sauces. A degree too warm or too cold and you have a mealy butter/egg yolk monstrosity. A draft and the emulsion breaks. A chef, cook, or epicurean can spend tearful hours in the kitchen asking “why me” when brunch guests are expected and dozens of sauceless eggs benedicts sit drying out and getting cold while Hollandaise after Hollandaise breaks (not that I’m speaking from any personal experience or anything). For all the trouble one silky smooth taste of a good Hollandaise makes all the anxiety and effort seem nothing at all. Hollandaise is, quite simply, delicious. It is also not that difficult to prepare when you know what to do and where things can go wrong. Think about preparing Hollandaise like white water rafting, it’s treacherous and scary but when you know where the rocks are you know what to do to stay in the boat.

Ingredients for 1/2 cup of Hollandaise

1 tablespoon of white wine

1 tablespoon of water

1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar

1 1/2 sticks of butter

2 egg yolks

kosher salt

freshly cracked black pepper

one lemon cut into wedges

Preparation:

1. Clarify the butter

Place the butter in your smallest saucepan and melt very slowly over the very lowest possible heat. If the heat is too high you will color the butter (this is called brown butter) and you do not want the butter to have any color at all for this preparation.

When the butter is completely melted take a spoon and carefully skim the white sum off the top taking care not to remove too much of the lemon-yellow butter oil in the process. The pure butter oil is what we're after when we clarify butter.

When you have removed all of the white scum you will be left with lemon-yellow butter oil.

Carefully pour the lemon-yellow butter oil into a small cup or glass measuring cup, be careful that none of the denser white milk solids at the bottom of the pan come up and end up with your butter oil. Clarified butter is the pure butter oil with all of the milk solids and impurities taken out of it.

These white milk solids are what you don't want ending up in your clarified butter.

Skim the clarified butter one last time.

These white milk solids are what you will have removed. They're the crap militant vegans are always telling us is in dairy. It's nasty, nasty stuff when you think about it...so don't think about it too much...just remove and discard it. Return the clarified butter to a small, clean saucepan and keep warm but not hot over very low heat while you prepare the rest of the sauce.

2. Prepare the Sauce

Begin by combining the water, vinegar, and wine in a small saucepan. Heat over high heat and...

...reduce au sec, au sec meaning until the pan is almost dry. The liquid will reduce rapidly so keep the pan swirling in a clockwise motion and make sure not to burn the liquid.

transfer the reduced liquid to a large stainless steel bowl, allow to cool for just a moment.

whisk in the egg yolks, the mixture should be well whipped and frothy before continuing.

place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, this is a double boiler, whisk vigorously and constantly so that 1.) the yolks don't turn into scrambled eggs and 2.) you are now going to begin emulsifying the warm clarified butter into the warm yolk-and-liquid mixture, it is imperative that the two are of roughly equal warmness....the emulsification will be held together by heat, the protein in the egg yolk, and the constant motion of your whisk. Begin by just flicking a few droplets of clarified butter in at a time, whisking constantly to start the emulsion

slowly, and I mean slowly, add more and more droplets of the clarified butter to the mixture being constantly and vigorously whisked in the bowl

once half of the butter is emulsified you can go from whisking in droplets to whisking in a very slow, steady stream of the remaining butter...like whisking the oil into a vinaigrette.

You should end up with a tightly bound, silky Hollandaise. Keep the sauce warm in the double boiler, whisking constantly until you pour it over your dish. The sauce will break if it cools down or gets too hot so work quickly. You want a pretty, tightly bound Hollandaise when you set the plate in front of whoever else will be eating it...there is nothing less appealing to the eye than a broken Hollandaise on a plate.

Today I made eggs benedict with sweet potato hash, the Hollandaise was made for this dish. Bon Appétit!

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Dinner in Florence: Risotto al Salto alla Parmigiana in Salsa di Zafferano

Risotto cooked al dente, parmigiano that will make your knees buckle, a deceptively light cream sauce with a decadent pinch of saffron. These are the innately superior components that make Florentine cuisine just…somehow better. I can think of no dish that better represents the simple, elegant cuisine of Florence better than these Parmesan risotto cakes with saffron sauce. A bite invokes the super-human grandeur of the Duomo, the silky finish of the saffron-laden sauce will haunt you like the gaze of the David. I’ve loved many cities but Florence is the only place that has truly stolen my heart, and her cuisine did not exempt me in that theft. Situated in the heart of Tuscany, Florence is the meeting place of all manner of inhumanly good produce, grains, and meat. Her cuisine is the earnest, elegant, and straightforward manifestation of these spectacular raw ingredients. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

For the Risotto

4 cups chicken stock

2 tablespoons of butter

1/2 white onion

1 cup Carnaroli rice

1/4 cp freshly-grated parmigiano reggiano

Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

For the Sauce

2/3 cup half and half

1 tablespoon of butter

2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour

Large pinch of saffron

salt

For finishing the dish

2 tablespoons of butter

1 tablespoon of olive oil

12 fresh shavings of parmigiano reggiano

2 tablespoons of coarsely chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley

Preparation

1. Prep the risotto cakes

Take your diced onion and run your knife rapidly over the mass a few more times to get a fine mince

Heat the butter in a heavy-bottom pan over medium heat until melted and the butter has just subsided

Add the onion to the hot butter and...

add the rice and...

...sauté for about 4 minutes or until golden

deglaze the pan with the white wine

meanwhile heat the chicken stock to just under simmering over medium-high heat

add one ladel-ful of stock and...

stir over medium heat until completely absorbed by the rice...

once completely absorbed by the rice add another ladel-ful and...

stir over medium heat until...

completely absorbed by the rice.

Repeat the process ladel-ful but ladel-ful taking care that the rice completely absorbes the stock after each addition. SO MANY chefs bastardize risotto by adding the stock all at one making a sort of foie gras risotto-style...which is to say they force feed stock into the rice until it explodes. Risotto is a delicate, elegant grain that needs to have the liquid coaxed into it ever-so-gently. In other words, risotto is a lady, don't rush her. At the final addition add the remaining stock and...

...stir over medium heat until...

...keep stirring...

...until the stock is completely absorbed. The total time of the additions and absorbtions is about 15 minutes but do it until your rice looks like mine. Be gentle, remember...risotto is a lady.

 

Add the freshly grated parmigiano reggiano

Stir to combine and add salt and pepper to taste

Transfer to a bowl and add the remaining butter, stir to combine completely and let cool, stirring occasionally until cool and congealed enough to handle when forming into cakes.

2. Meanwhile Prepare the sauce

Over medium heat bring the half and half to just under a boil

Meanwhile in a separate saucepan melt the butter and...

...sprinkle the flour over the butter

stir vigorously to for a roux. The roux will be finished when it is brown and has a faint nutty aroma. For more on preparing roux check out http://reclaimingthegoodnameoftheepicurean.com/2011/10/10/back-to-basics-blonde-and-brown-roux/

Pour the hot half and half over the roux whisking vigorously so that no clumps form. Clumps form easily so WHISK VIGOROUSLY

Add a very healthy pinch of saffron...come on, treat yourself!

Stir again to release the saffron's color. Season to taste with salt and keep warm to serve with the risotto cakes.

Form the Risotto Cakes and Chill

When the risotto is cool enough to handle form 4 equally sized balls. Place on a parchment-lined sheet pan and press into 4 equally-sized cakes. Chill in the refrigerator for about two hours or until totally solid.

Sauté the Risotto Cakes and Serve

Heat the butter and olive oil over medium/medium-high heat until the bubbles have just subsided

Place the chilled risotto cakes in the hot butter and oil and sauté for 4-5 minutes on the first side, taking care to get a crispy, fully-caramelized face on the first side before turning.

Carefully turn the risotto cakes over and sauté the other side for another 4-5 minutes.

While you sauté the second side prepare your plates. Take your plate and your hot saffron-cream sauce. Pour about 1/8 cup of the sauce into a disc onto the plate

Place a finished risotto cake onto the sauce on the plate

Pour a little more of the sauce over the cake

Garnish with chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley

Finish with 3-4 fresh shavings of parmigiano reggiano

 

 

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