Sunday, April 11, 2010

Choux Pastry


I am very open about my fear of dough. I frequently think about my predicament. Not being able to create and manipulate dough is really a debilitating issue to have in the kitchen! Especially a kitchen often roamed in despair by a dessert-loving husband. The thing about Choux pastry that had me out of my chair is it isn’t technically a dough. Because it’s cooked.

First, boil together in a medium sized saucepan 1 cup water and 1 stick of unsalted butter. Once boiling, add 1 cup flour sifted with ¼ teaspoon salt. Stir together vigorously for a few minutes, then transfer to a mixing bowl.

With the paddle on, turn the mixer on low and let it knead the dough for about two and a half minutes to release heat. The next step is to add four eggs, one at a time, turning the mixer on medium high (5-7) after each egg to incorporate them well into the dough.

Next it’s on a greased or parchment lined baking sheet into a hot 450 oven for 15 minutes. Check on them then reduce the heat to 325 and allow to further cook the insides of the puffs. Otherwise, the dough will taste very much like an omlete bread. Transfer to a cooling rake and then do whatever you like with them. I split mine and added chocolate custard. Hey, I had two dozens eggs to use after coming home from nine days away!

One thing to mention, it’s very important to wait at least two and a half minutes for the mixer to release enough heat so that the eggs don’t curdle. I did this the first time when I tried to mix in the eggs by hand. It was an odd sight. The dough separated into lumps between the cooked farm fresh yolks.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Garden Party

Mr. Broccoli greets you first in the garden; a cheery “hello!” from between his leaves. 


You see the Sweet Peas have tackled their first climb up the trellis.


And at the end all huddled together, Baby Radishes waited next to the rows of their Turnip cousins. Not having thinned the rows at all, their greens are like a group of women in ball gowns gossiping close together, their skirts smooched and squeezed and popping out at every source of space.

Weeded, they weep about like they’ve fainted. The date is past the scheduled harvest time. You wonder if they’ll ever be any good. 


Cousin Turnip is still clearly in need of a weeding... You envision the small harvest that will come. Planted too compactly and without enough spacing, the yield will be tiny. 


More promisingly sprouts the spinach. Their seeds were sown a bit after all the rest after a packet of leftover seed from last year was found laying about.


And finally, your dear friends Mr. Chiogga and Mr. Detroit Beets, followed shortly by their friends, the lovely and dainty Misses Nelson Carrots arrived to the Garden Party.

IMG_3455 IMG_3447

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Les Bouquinistes

F. & I had lunch yesterday at Guy Savoy’s restaurant Les Bouquinistes on the Left Bank of the Seine. I took the set menu of entree, plat, et dessert and F. had a plat.

My entree was a sweet pea cream soup with crispy mushroom batons with salad. The chilled soup was refreshing and light compared to the savory mushroom batons, and the warmed salad complimented them both very well.


My plat was the celery ravioli with minced beef. What it turned out to be was medallions of celery root sandwiching braised beef patties. I thought it was an innovative way of recreating a braised meat dish. The “ravioli” were served with two small scoops of celery puree, a sauce, olives and a garnish of micro greens. Then, the waiter finished the dish by adding celery root sticks and baby white mushrooms in a butter sauce.


F'. had a delicious and perfectly cooked steak with seasoned potatoes cakes served in its juice with a roasted shallot and marrow medallions on toast. The marrow was unctuous like  what you would find in organ meats (such as liver or kidneys) and was incredibly smooth but a little too gelatinous for our tastes.


Finally, for dessert creme brulee with tangy clementine sorbet and almond brittle.


The meal was a great dining experience. The waiter was attentive and very professional, with his own preparation table in the dining room. My only qualm is that my glass of red wine had a fair bit of cork inside.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Broody Hen

Today when I arrived home from work, I had only two chickens in the yard in lieu of our three. I panicked and like a mother, immediately my mind went to The Bad Place: “Did a raccoon get her? Did she hop the fence into the neighbor’s yard with the huge black dogs? Is she dead somewhere?”

I wandered the yard after checking the coop. No chicken, only one blue egg. We hadn’t a brown egg in weeks, so the sole egg was not a surprise. I asked the other neighbors’ kids if they had seen our bird. The kids gamely pointed out the other two hens pecking about the yard, “There’s one!” Not Madeleine, the missing one.

Then, I remembered the other day she had run up the hill to underneath the shed’s stoop. Behind a forgotten can, she had crouched. I had done a cursory look under there, but when I couldn’t find her anywhere else I looked again. And there was the merest silhouette of her beak and crown. I grabbed a long piece of plywood and poked it back to scare her out.


She hollered and crowed for a good fifteen minutes after emerging from her nesting spot. And what a nesting spot at that – I uncovered 7 eggs in her little nest under that stoop.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

in the ground



Today, my garden is renewed. Seeds are nestled in the ground, and transplants are settling in. I succumbed to two impulse buys: a carton of six snapdragon transplants, and three small strawberry plants. The strawberry plants even have tiny green fruits and little white blossoms. This year, I’m trying to coordinate the timing of my planting/harvesting/replanting. The diagram below is what I put in the garden today. For the first time, I’m staggering planting. I have set up room for four different radish and two different turnips rows.





Monday, March 8, 2010

a savory start


This past weekend, we had the great pleasure of celebrating my grandparents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary. At a family brunch in their honor, my aunt made her fantastic Shrimp & Grits. She uses stone-ground grits and simmered them with chicken stock, cream and cheese. And one fortuitous byproduct of the happy event were a lot of leftover grits.

As my grandparents fervently attest, if the grits are packed in a container overnight they become sliceable. My grandparents prefer a glass sprayed with PAM; I used a tupperware completely filled to good success. And with those slices of grits mingling in a hot oiled pan, you can make the most delicious Grit-Cakes. 

Paired with a fresh fried egg and some tomato sauce, you have  savory start to the morning. Add some leftover roasted potatoes and it’s a delectable hash.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Planting Layouts

Today, we tilled and made our rows. We have three rows: two 2’ rows, and one 4’ middle row. Tomorrow, I’ll be planting seeds and transplants. These are my two planting layouts for our 10 x 16’ garden.


For early March planting:

garden layout


For early May planting:

may planting