Thursday, March 18, 2010

Bom chika wah wah ...

It's time for a little food porn.

Chocolate mousse with its crème anglaise and confit de cédrat.

Ok, so this dessert I'm bragging on isn't entirely homemade. Actually, it's mostly store-bought. I'm using the soft lighting and artificial glow that Picasa have provided me to (almost) hide the traces of the plastic mold that this chocolate dessert came in. (Welcome to the Semi-homemade with Sandra Lee episode of Mas de Bonheur!)

What you should really be looking at, though, is what's on top of the purchased chocolate dessert and crème anglaise. That's homemade confit de cédrat, or citron marmalade.

Last year in Grasse, we saw a citron tree, but I had never seen a fully ripe citron, until James brought this one home from the market.

They're all weird and knobby on the outside, and pithy on the inside.

So what to make?

The tarte lady's fiadone seemed like too much of a challenge. And, besides, we also wanted to see what the citron was like on its own. So candied citron it was ... until I cooked it a little longer than I had planned to and it became citron marmalade.

Citron marmalade
1 citron

Juice the citron and set aside what little juice there is for later. The juice is pretty intense. It was a little like *really* acidic grapefruit juice ... or something that's gross and would make you stay away from citrons. (And you shouldn't do that, because the end result is really tasty.)

Using a sharp knife, remove the outside of the peel in long strips. Cut the swaths of peel lengthwise into narrow strips. Try to resist rubbing the zest all over yourself and save it for the marmalade. (It really does smell that good.) You should also resist eating the rind because in its unprepared form, it doesn't taste as good as it smells.

Actually, there isn't much point in giving a recipe here, because there isn't really one to give. It sort of makes itself.

But in case you're actually reading down to the bottom, basically, you make some candied citrus peel, but with a little less water than you might use if you wanted a syrup. I used something like a little teacup full of sugar to two teacups of water (a scant 1/2 c. to scant 1 c.?). Stir the sugar into water over low heat until it dissolves, then add the citron peel and simmer while your dinner finishes baking (20mn?) and then cools enough that you can eat it.

Then add the juice and let it simmer until you're ready for seconds, or until what's in the pot looks like marmalade. Remove from heat.

It smells unbelievable while it's simmering. Just stick your nose over the peel and it's like the best lem-apefr-ange you've ever smelled, with a little something different and special that isn't entirely unlike something that's in molasses.

It's good on bread or brioche, and especially good with chocolate in both its homemade and not-so-homemade incarnations.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


This lovely (grainy ... sorry!) little pom-pon is all over southern France between late January and early March. This year, thanks to the especially cold and long winter, it peaked in mid-to-late February. Now it's all but gone. Which means that we missed the Route du Mimosa! It also means we won't be able to get any more at the flower market, so it's a good thing James got these when he did.

But it also means that maybe it will actually start getting warm around here soon.

Monday, March 15, 2010

It's Pi(e) day again!

Yes, it is once again pi(e) day and I'm letting myself off the hook with an easy post. Yes, that's right, you guessed it: a food post.

This year, unlike last year, we have an oven. And this means that unlike last year, when we had to have makeshift pie, we can have a real homemade pie.

So apple frangipane it was!

200 g flour
40g powdered sugar
pinch of salt
100g butter (only a little cooler than room temp if you're doing this by hand)
1 egg, beaten

Whisk the flour, powdered sugar and salt together, then mix in the butter until your mixture looks sandy -- with maybe a few larger blobs of butter. At least this is what happens if you do this by hand because you have no pastry blender or food processor and the two knives cutting technique never worked for you. (And if you're lucky enough to have hands that are like blocks of ice, melting the butter isn't a problem.) Then drizzle the egg over the sandy dough and cut it into the dough with two knives (they do work well for this part).

Chill while you butter your pie pan.

Pour the dough into the pie pan and pat into place. (If you are unlucky enough to have uncharacteristically warm hands during this part of the pie-making, you will end up with a somewhat tougher crust than you'd like to have.) Prick all over with a fork and chill for 30-60mn.

Then bake blind (with rice, beans, weights) for 20mn at about 400F.

125g almond powder
125g powdered sugar
100g butter, very soft
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. Amandine (almond liqueur)

Whisk the almond powder and sugar together in a bowl. Add the butter and work it with a spatula until it's well mixed. Add in the egg, vanilla and liqueur, still with the spatula, and mix until it's pretty smooth and homogeneous. Spread into baked shell.

3 medium pie apples (like Chantecler, a really delicious hybrid of a Golden Delicious and a Reine Grise), sliced thin and tossed with lemon juice. (You will probably have extra, which you can put in a 2010-style 1980s chef salad with ham, Comté and some sort of crazy mesclun mix, instead of iceberg.)

Arrange the apples on top of the frangipane and bake for 30mn at about 400F.

Then eat, from crust to tip.

And make your wish on the last bite.

Almost the ides

Ok, so despite my best intentions, this blog really hasn't existed since I started working full time. And even a little bit before then. I haven't given up, and we haven't stopped doing things, it's just that blogging can take a lot of time. At least for me. But like the dissertation that you put off writing because it's just so big that it's easy to put off, eventually you do it.

Now, however, the question is raised: where do I (re)start?

At the beginning of the things I didn't post about, but for which we have many albums on picasa?

Or maybe the bigger, more interesting things first? If any of it's interesting to anyone.

I'm thinking that reverse chronological order might be the way to go because it's at least seasonal -- in the beginning, but of course less seasonal as you proceed. But then I can mix in new things too.

So anyway ...

Here comes a new post to celebrate an especially special holiday: pi(e) day!