Archive for the french Category

Garlic-studded Pork Neck

Posted in american, condiments, corn, crossover, discount, french, mediterranean, pork, roast, yogurt with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 30, 2013 by oskila

Went to the store to catch up on vegetables a bit. Not a lot of those at home lately. Stumbled upon an almost suspiciously good offer on pork neck for members of the cooperative.  Took one home, studded it with garlic.

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I didn’t bother with tying it this time. There’s a limit to how fancy one manages to be on a Monday afternoon. Apart from (fresh) garlic it’s been brushed with dark soy sauce and sprinkled with crushed black pepper and thyme. If you have the time, do brine your pork neck before roasting. It just gets so much better.

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Here’s the pork neck after perhaps an hour in the oven. I relied solely on the meat thermometer’s alarm (which was a bit off this time. Had to microwave the sliced meat a bit since I don’t trust even slightly pink pork.)

While the roast was roasting, some corn on the cob got prepared, along with a simple but effective tzatziki.

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Those three elements are seldom seen on the same plate, but they were all good!

 

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Non-opulent Green Pea Soup

Posted in french, soup, vegetarian with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 21, 2013 by oskila

The classic green pea soup, or Crème Nignon, is an exercise in slightly restrained luxury with its whipped cream and champagne garnish.

But what if one simply wants a green pea soup, without bells and whistles? That’s fine too.  (we only decided to have soup for dinner since it’s quick and cheap and Star Wars was going to be on in ten minutes)

Mine contains onions, green peas, vegetable cube stock, milk and a dash of lemon. Put the hand blender to it for as long as you can be bothered to and then add some more whole peas.

Soup made from about 2 lb of frozen peas and two pints of fluids is enough for two large helpings or four small.

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Croûtons and/or a dollop of some reasonably thick dairy product is nice garnish. Omit dairy products altogether for a vegan dish.

Moules au Safran

Posted in bread, condiments, french, mediterranean, sauce, shellfish with tags , , , on August 5, 2012 by oskila

Hey hey hey! French title! That’s because I spent ten days in France and picked up a word or two. It says ‘mussels with saffron’. A fairly French (or Provençal)  dish. Originally, I had planned on trying razor clams since the grocery store happened to have them, but a combination of economic sense an a failure on the clams’ part to look attractive upon close inspection, steered us towards the trusty old blue mussels instead.

Ingredients for the main component of tonight’s dinner: Blue mussels, white wine, lemon, garlic, saffron, shallots.

Sweat shallot and garlic in a large pot, then add mussels, then saffron, lemon juice and wine.

Remove mussels and start reducing the broth. I strained the solids from the broth and then reduced the broth with the sieve partially submerged in it, to get more flavor from the shallots and garlic. Thicken the broth to sauce using a dairy product or two. I used crème frâiche and Greek yogurt to avoid the worst greasiness that can happen if one’s too generous with for example double cream.

Plate the mussels and drizzle some nice saffron sauce over. We had fries on the side, as in a classic moules frites, but the fries are prefab and therefore not shown.

I will, however, gladly show off the bread I baked. It’s pretty nice to have something to slosh around in the sauce after you’re out of mussels.

And it’s of course not a proper French dish if there’s no aïoli to add more fat to your fried stuff. It’s the first aïoli I’ve made (in excellent teamwork with my fiancée) and also probably the best I’ve eaten. The trick is apparently to skip the vinegar and add small amounts of lemon juice and slightly too much salt – which will turn out to be the perfect amount of salt if the fries are underseasoned.

To sum up, it was very good eating, but I think I still prefer my mussels cooked by someone else, to save me the trouble of scrubbing and checking for bad ones and so on. I’d happily provide the aïoli though.

 

Using harvested stuff – Pistou

Posted in cheese, condiments, french, herbs, italian, mediterranean, vegetarian with tags , on July 31, 2012 by oskila

Today it’s not about pak choi again, but about basil. Claiming that I’d be using freshly harvested homegrown basil would, however, be a slight lie. The basil wasn’t really harvested – more a matter of thinning out the leaves that looked a bit sad. And I didn’t really grow it; I bought a pot at the grocery store, split the root clump in four and repotted it. I did get it to grow quite a bit though, so it’s not all smoke and mirrors.

Pistou is what it sounds like – a French pesto (or, more correctly, a pesto from Provence) differing from its Italian counterpart by not containing nuts or seeds and that the cheese is optional. I opted cheese in, since one of the reasons I had for making this was to use up the Grana Padano in the fridge so we can start on the Parmigiano reggiano. Basil, cheese, garlic, salt, oil. All you need, but more salt and less oil than you will actually need.

Just as the names pistou and pesto indicate, it’s traditionally made using a mortar and pestle. Sometimes ‘traditional’ only means ‘the hand blender wasn’t yet invented’. If I was making a larger batch and in possession of a better mortar and pestle, I’d probably think differently.

Three minutes or so later, a small bowl of pistou. The bowl holds about three tablespoons.

In Provence pistou is often served with bread or with vegetable soup. We used it to liven up an otherwise potentially boring dish of pasta and bratwurst.

The French Adventure

Posted in cheese, french, fruit, shellfish with tags , on July 25, 2012 by oskila

Some may have noticed that NerdCuisine hasn’t updated in about two weeks. The main reason for this is that I’ve spent ten days in France, where I’ve spent more time pointing at stuff in menus than cooking, and gone online almost only for important stuff and only with an iPad. I don’t fancy writing and photographing whole blog posts with an iPad.

And now I’m back home, feeling a need to post something, anything, and thinking that the popular type of food blogs other than those with recipes is the kind of blogs where people simply tell their readers what they’ve been eating lately. That’s what I’m going to do now.

First of all I must say that I’m impressed with the French food stores that I visited. The sheer difference in selection is humbling. Needless to say, I had a ball every time there was food shopping that needed doing. Even the gas station supermarkets had more stuff than many medium sized grocery stores here in Sweden. I certainly don’t know about any gas stations here that offer foie gras or fresh mushrooms.

We spent large parts of the trip in the small village of Blauzac, about 10 miles north of Nîmes, in the region of Languedoc-Roussillon. One of the more obvious features of the house was the fig tree in the courtyard.

I didn’t encounter a fresh fig until I was 23, and most figs I’ve ever seen in Sweden have seemed to be hours away from rotting and sold at 7-15 SEK each (about 1-2 USD), not to mention the dried ones, which I’ve never liked. Will look into the possibilities of pot-growing a fig tree on the balcony (might be too windy).

On the second day in France, I fell in love with Coeur de Boeuf tomatoes. I think they’re much more interesting than the more ordinary looking beef tomatoes we usually get in Sweden.

They turned out to be very good for grilling.

The next day was Saturday, which seems to mean market day in rural french towns, in our case Uzès, a short distance from Blauzac. The importance of the market is even more apparent when you consider that it was held as usual even though it was also Bastille day and the day when the Tour de France was going to zip through town.

Garlic is obviously important. This wasn’t even the largest pile.

Bought a piece of Gruyère-like cheese at the market to have something to snack on while waiting for the bikes. We had laid siege to a couple of café tables and ordered a steady stream of coffee in order to keep our seats without complaint.

After the spectacle had died down (see, the competing bike riders were harbingered by a continuous flow of more or less fanciful sponsor trucks, making noise and handing out free samples for several hours) I was glad to go home to Blauzac and finish off the cheese along with a fig.

This is probably the closest this post will get to a recipe. I was charged with the task of dessert. Figs with Brie, black pepper and balsamic vinegar. The vinegar came in a spray bottle. Very convenient.

Now I’m skipping a couple of days, not because the food wasn’t interesting, but because I didn’t take any pictures. We headed for the Mediterranean coast to have lunch in Bouzigues, a small town, but very big in the seafood business.

Huîtres gratinées – Gratinated oysters

Moules à l’aïoli – Mussels with aïoli

Moules farcies – Stuffed mussels

Not only did the restaurant we visited know very well how to make sure lots of molluscs hadn’t died in vain. They also were quite good at desserts.

Crème Catalane (which is quite similar to brûlée, only with milk instead of cream)

Fromage blanc au coulis de fruits rouges et yaourt – Quark with red fruit sauce and yoghurt

After the lunch in Bouzigues, we spent a few days in nearby Balaruc-les-Bains. Apart from an accidentally ordered starter of whelks, the food was good considering that we didn’t pay very much, but it wasn’t mindblowing either. Either way, I didn’t take any pictures since dinner often happens late in the day in France, and I didn’t want to use flash.

Having spent four nights in Balaruc, we headed back to Blauzac to settle down a bit before heading home again via Marseille. Cooking dinner at the house there is a collective effort since there’s often a lot of people to feed. We had previously provided a potato salad, grilled tomatoes and a brie and fig dessert but were completely in charge this time. We decided to grill some lovely merguez sausages and serve them with ratatouille and hand cut pommes frites/french fries/chips since the kitchen equipment included a deep fryer. I’ve eaten ratatouille on several occasions, but never made it myself before. It turned out rather nice, partly, I’d like to think, because of coeur de boeuf tomatoes.

The camera battery died before I could get a proper photo (which also happened a couple of minutes before the Tour bikes raced past us) so we’ll have to make do with a phone photo. The ratatouille pan and frites bowl looks a bit small in the picture, but they contain food for 12 people.

It’s only good and proper to also mention that while at the beach in Sète, near Balaruc-les-Bains, I asked my girlfriend to marry me, which she graciously agreed to do. Now you know, in case this and future posts are unusually silly or chipper.

The Hollandaise Hassle

Posted in baking, cheese, eggs, french, sauce, vegetarian with tags , on June 28, 2012 by oskila

I’ve been watching a lot of cooking shows lately and looking especially at the competitive ones, it’s obvious that making Hollandaise sauce is considered a basic skill. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a hollandaise made from scratch. In fact, I think I’ve only eaten Hollandaise when at my parents’ and while I’m pretty sure my mom is fully able to make a real one, we’ve only had powder sauce as far as I know. Since emulsified sauces seem to often be a hurdle for amateurs in competition shows I figured it was best to do some research before starting to separate eggs.

While the Internet is good for many a thing, the scores upon scores of foodie blogs (calling the kettle black here, yes) can be more hindrance than help sometimes. I turned instead to mrs. Child. The Hollandaise recipe in the Swedish paperback edition of Mastering the Art of French Cooking covers a page and a half, which meant it was going to be too meticulous. I figured Ginette Mathiot’s Je sais Cuisiner  would be more down to business, and indeed, the recipe was only 14 lines long. With the combined wisdom of the two grande dames of French cuisine under my belt I got cracking.

Since Hollandaise is pretty labor intensive, I wasn’t able to pause for photographs, but I can tell you that, while I was a bit nervous at times, it certainly wasn’t as tricky as expected. Or I’m just a natural, who knows…

After completing a lovely lovely sauce (or as Gordon Ramsay would say – ‘THE most amazing’) I turned to a small container of egg whites that was surplus to requirements. I don’t like to waste perfectly fine food, so I did the only thing I could think of; meringues.

To be honest I don’t like meringues  very much and have therefore not made any in the last 20 years. Since they didn’t turn out all that great, either because of insufficient beating, too much beating or not enough sugar, I shall not linger on the subject, but will still insert a picture of when they were still looking good. (Time to clean the oven door though)

Moving on, I needed something to serve the sauce with. It’s very good on its own of course, but doesn’t really constitute a proper meal. In my experience, Hollandaise is, in Sweden that is, pretty much only served with poached fish, but the scripture indicated that it goes well with other stuff. Vegetables for example.

In reality I had already planned to serve the sauce with vegetables and decided on mushrooms and zucchini. Since the mushrooms in the store were such pretty ones I made quite a large batch.

While the mushrooms sauteeeeeeee away in their pan I turned my attention to the zucchini, which had already been sitting in brine for a couple of hours, the reason being that I find zucchini quite hard to season properly – everything you throw at it more or less bounces off.

The zucchini were poached using the pot that I used to melt the butter for the sauce, hoping for a subtle glaze and butter flavour. After poaching for a little while, the zucchini too went into the sauté pan to get a bit of a sear. Now, zucchini, mushrooms and Hollandaise sauce isn’t really the ideal meal either, so I ended up serving it like this:

Sautéed mushrooms and zucchini with Hollandaise sauce, rotini with mozzarella, salad of cucumber, tomato and fresh basil and garlic bread. Nice, light summer eating at its best.

A duck and a sauce

Posted in discount, duck, french, sauce with tags , on October 21, 2011 by oskila

This recipe is literally ancient by today’s internet standards (originally posted on Facebook in January 2009). I forgot to photograph the completed dish, which at the time didn’t seem an important thing to do. As with most of my other recipes (they will be posted soon enough) the recipe was triggered by a discount product, in this case duck breast. The supermarket in question also had pheasants and quails but that seemed a bit over the top for a weekday dinner.

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

This is what a duck breast looks like. I’d say one of these babies serves two unless you’re decadent and truly starving. Since the ideal core temperature for a cooked duck breast is about 55º Celsius, it still being frozen in the middle when starting is probably just fine.

Ingredients for the sauce. Cream, wine, mushrooms, garlic, basil, carrot, celery, leek. Forgot to put obvious ingredients like butter, flour and vegetable stock in the picture.

So basically the sauce is based on an adulterated mirepoix (it’s supposed to be onion or shallot, not leek), in creole cooking also known as the holy trinity. The basil was probably added just because we had it already. If aiming for proper orthodox French cuisine-ing there would have been several other fresh herbs included.

In hindsight, white wine would probably have been better, mainly because sauces with flour and cream look really ugly when you add red wine. This can be averted with a splash of soy or food colouring though.
  

The ducky getting a quick fry. It’s especially important to sear the skin side so it doesn’t get soggy and boring later.

The copious amounts of butter used are more planning ahead than decadence – after the duck was removed I started on the sauce in the same pan. For a less festive dish one would still have settled for a bit less fat though.
  

Birdie goes in oven. Nothing added but thermometer, salt and pepper. Since a simplistic view on quality protein was maintained for this recipe, the aim is to preserve the taste of duck and not clutter the palate with marinades, bastes, overseasoning and whatnot.

The acutual cooking temperature is a matter of debate. Either you want a good crust by applying lots of heat or by making sure all the fat is rendered and removed. As long as the inner temperature ends up around 55º C it’s not important which.

Frying (or perhaps sauteeeeing) the mirepoix, garlic, basil and mushroom. Once again, if going for purist french cuisine, the vegetables should be cut Brunoise – that is, in 3 mm cubes, which is basically a hard and tedious task that will go unnoticed unless you brag about it at the table.

Add a tablespoon or two of flour and let it brown properly before also adding wine. Simmer for a while.

Here stock and cream has been added, along with a splash of soy, since purplebrown isn’t the best color. Keep the sauce warm over low heat while moving on to the next step.

With any luck and depending on oven setting, the duck is probably finsihed by now. Remember that temperature will continue to rise for a while after removing it from the oven, so wrap it up in tinfoil and let it rest while setting the table, tasting the wine or preparing the side dishes, which we won’t be doing in this recipe since I forgot to photograph it. If I recall correctly we had King Bolete-flavoured tagliolini which seemed awesome on paper but wasn’t all that great, especially considering it was pretty expensive. A traditional side dish for duck is chestnut purée, but I’ve attempted that on other occasions and failed spectacularly.

A connoisseur snarkier than me might argue that this duck is overcooked, but it’ll still be awesome since it’s only off by a few degrees and thus it hasn’t had a chance to go dry or chewy.

Subcutaneous fat, the breakfast of champions.

The natural thing to do was of course to add it to the sauce. In hindsight one will want to go a bit easier on the butter if doing so, since the sauce got a bit greasy, which some people like and some don’t.

Anyway, thank you for reading. Next time there will probably something more rustic and Mediterranean.

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