Wednesday, December 16, 2009

So cute, I could eat it!

Flax seed baguettes, walnut loaves and almond croissants are a few of the delicious items you can purchase at Chez Paul Boulangerie, a chain bakery in France. Chez Paul Boulangerie is like a French Starbucks, in the sense that they are all over the place, but the baked goods and coffee could not compete for a second. I love their tomato-mozzarella sandwiches on olive bread and chocolate chip brioche. Today when I stopped by for an afternoon snack, I saw these fantastic Christmas tree shaped brioche covered in dark chocolate and sprinkled with sugar. Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Nutella Cupcakes: A French Twist on an American Classic

This was such a fun idea to do with my French girlfriends because they are always asking me about "those brightly colored cakes you see in American movies and series". I used the Magnolia Bakery Cupcakes recipe, which is excellent, then we iced them with vanilla icing and Nutella. Without a doubt, the Nutella cupcakes were the best and most popular. We even ended up scraping off the vanilla icing and using Nutella for all of them.

Magnolia Bakery Cupcakes

Makes 2 dozen cupcakes


• 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
• 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
• 2 cups sugar
• 4 large eggs, at room temperature
• 1 cup milk
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake papers.

In a small bowl, combine the flours. Set aside.

In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not overbeat. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended. Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about three-quarters full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.

Cool the cupcakes in the tins for 15 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before .

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Marché aux Vins Chavanay 2009

Have you ever been to a book fair or bead show? Imagine that, but with only wine. A Marché aux Vins usually exposes wines from a particular wine region, most likely wherever it is being held. Marchés aux Vins are almost always held in the fall after the harvesting of the grapes and barrelling of the wine. The Marché aux Vins in Chavanay, which only exposes wines from the Northern Rhône wine region, started in 1924 and is still held every year during the second weekend of December.
Before entering into the large gymnasium where the Marché aux Vins is held in Chavanay (Loire 42), we strolled by stands of saucisson, cheeses, olives and tapenade. Some stands were selling sandwiches of sliced jambon cru and pain de campagne or fromage de chevre on baguette. Our taste buds were already watering by the time we got to the entrance. At the entrance, we paid 7€ in exchange for a wine glass each. Looking around the room wondering where to begin, Christophe pulled out a piece of paper where he had noted 7 or 8 vignerons that we should taste. We started our way around the gymnasium tasting and spitting (unless the wine was too delicious to spit), noting which wines we would like to purchase. Each vigneron had about 6-8 wines to taste, including St Josephs, Côte Rotie and Condrieu. After 3 hours of swishing voluptuous wines around in our mouths, we purchased several cases for Christmas gifts and personal consumption. A true French experience for anyone to try!

Here is a list of the Marchés aux Vins in France.

Our favorite wines from the Marché aux Vins in Chavanay:
  • Condrieu 2008 Louis Cheze
  • St Joseph white 2008 Domaine De Boysset-Chol
  • "Cuvée du Papy" St Joseph red 2007 Domaine Monteillet
  • "Amarybelle" St Joseph red 2007 Yves Cuilleron
  • "Fortis" Côte Rotie 2007 Domaine Monteillet
Marchés aux Vins- wine fair
vigneron- winemaker
jambon cru- cured ham
pain de compagne- country style bread, often times made with rye flour and shaped in a round
fromage de chevre- goat cheese

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Creamless "Potiron" Soup

The grocery stores are overflowing with all types of squash right now. Potiron, which is the French version of a pumpkin, is the most popular and widely used. The grocery stores will cut and seed a potiron and sell it in quarters which is great when making a smaller quantity of soup. If you can only find a whole pumpkin, it is easy to cut into quarters with a large, sharp knife and keep in the refrigerator for at least a week. You can also freeze part of the pumpkin for later use.

This recipe is inspired by my adoration for the Creamless Butternut Squash Soup that Terry makes at Sage Restaurant in Tallahassee. It is a hearty meal without all the calories. I make this once a week during the Winter and never get tired of it. This soup energizes me like spinach energizes Popeye!

Creamless Pumpkin Soup
serves 4

1/4 medium sized "potiron" or pumpkin, seeded (you could substitute with butternut squash)
1 large onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
2 medium potatoes, diced
6-8 cups vegetable or chicken broth
salt & freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350°F. Put pumpkin quarter on baking sheet and roast until tender. Let cool then scrap out the interior of pumpkin and set aside. Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot. Add onions and carrots, cook for 10 minutes. Add roasted pumkin, potatoes, broth and salt. Simmer for 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Blend the soup until smooth. Add honey, nutmeg, pepper and more salt if needed. If soup is too thick, add some water. Let simmer another 30 minutes. Serve with goat cheese or grated swiss cheese and croutons.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Boeuf Bourguignon

Winter has finally arrived and brought with it cold, rainy weather. It's amazing how our appetites change with the changing seasons. This summer I couldn't even think of eating a meat stew and now it's all I want!

Yesterday was a lazy day at home which was perfect to get some cooking done for the week. I decided to make boeuf bourguignon because it is an excellent dish to reheat over and over. If you make enough, it can easily last half the week or you can freeze it.

This recipe is easy and comes from Christophe's grandmother, Mémé.

Boeuf Bourguignon
serves 4

2 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 2-inch chunks
salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 medium onions, diced
1 large carrot, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 large button mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons dried herbs de Provence or dried thyme
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups red wine
1 teaspoon flour or cornstarch
2 teaspoons water

Pat beef dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil and butter in a large heavy pot over moderately high heat. Brown beef pieces well in several batches making sure not to overcrowd the pot. Transfer beef and it's juices to a bowl.

In the same pot, sauté the onions 10 minutes. Add carrots and garlic and continue cooking another 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the beef to the pot along with dried herbs, bay leaves, tomato paste and red wine. Bring to a boil uncovered for 10 minutes then turn down heat and cover pot. Let simmer for approximately 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Add the sliced mushrooms to the stew, cover and let simmer another 30 minutes. When the beef is tender enough to be cut with a spoon then it's done. Be sure not to overcook it because the meat will fall apart.

Stir together the flour and water in a bowl. This is called a slurry. Add a couple spoons of the hot bourguignon into the slurry and pour it back into the pot. Bring to a boil for five minutes while stirring constantly. You will see the stew thicken and become creamy. Season with salt and pepper.

At this point, you can either serve the boeuf bourguignon now or let it cool and refrigerate it for the next day. I think it is better reheated the next day but sometimes you just can't resist waiting. Serve this dish with fresh pasta, roasted potatoes or mashed potatoes. Bon Appétit!