A Moveable Feast… Away From the Seine

A Californian in Paris: Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake with Candied Slices

In Paris, we had a wonderful week of hot sun and picnics and afterward, four weeks of complete misery. Rain and the grey skies dominate Paris these days. Worst of all is the climbing water of the Seine, which threatens homes and metro stations. The roads by the Seine are completely flooded, causing terrible traffic jams within the city. This comes along with the several transportation strikes in Paris that are affecting RER trains as well as other trains to the suburbs. Many say the waters will slowly lower and so far, it has. Sadly, other areas in France were devastated by flooding. We’re wishing for the sun to reappear soon and for these cities to recover. As for the transport strikes, I’m not sure what is going to happen. France has made major changes to labor laws and if you’re interested in following up on the subject, read on here. If you’re coming to France soon and plan to take the RER B train from the airport, double check the RATP website (the official Paris transportation operator). You can always take a taxi or an Uber. IMPORTANT: A law has passed requiring all taxis and private drivers to charge a fixed rate for airport travel. This does not include Beauvais or the other smaller airports.

30 euros – Orly airport to and from the left bank of the Seine

35 euros – Orly airport to and from the right bank

45 euros* CDG to and from the right bank

50 euros* CDG to and from left bank

*There may be a 5 euro increase for tourist season but you should not pay any higher than 5 euros more on top of these prices listed above. Also, you may tip your driver if you wish, but it’s not necessary. One or two euros will do it.. five for excellent service, but not more than that, my friendly fellow Americans!

A Californian in Paris: Blood Oranges

I always complain about the weather in my posts but I think with this horrible flooding and raining, I can justify it just a little bit. I finally borrowed a light therapy lamp from a fellow Anglophone friend. I was expecting warm looking sunlight or maybe an array of lights… like a moody disco ball. Instead, when I turned on the lamp, I nearly got blinded by a hot, bright UV white. At first I was disappointed, but while working at my home office my mood definitely brightened. I felt a bit more stimulated… reminiscent of California. Maybe it’s also the fact that I’ll be visiting my home in Los Angeles next week!

A Californian in Paris: Blood Oranges

blood-orange-cut

While I dream about sunshine, beaches, and tacos, I’m also stressed out about finding gifts for family and friends. I’ll be writing a post soon about some suggestions on finding great but affordable gifts from France. I’ve got to catch up on this blog… I have so many posts about France and Italy that have yet to appear. I’m running out of space on WordPress, mostly because I’m a selfish photographer and refuse to resize or reduce the resolution of my images… I know, I know… I must do it and I know that I can preserve the quality of the photos at a smaller size. What can I say? I’m a purist. What is most important though is that I’ll be moving to my own domain soon so that I’ll be able to host my own images (at the right resolution, yes yes yes…) and hopefully develop this little project of mine. The trouble is that I just can’t come up with a better name! My blog is already called “A Californian in Paris” but it’s not unique enough… or rather, it doesn’t fully encompass what I’m doing on this blog or who I am. If you have any ideas, please let me know!

blood-orange-zest

A Californian in Paris: Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake with Candied Slices

This post was a long time coming. Before sharing this recipe with you, I had baked five of these babies already. But let me tell you, the first attempt was a ridiculous disaster. The cake rises a lot so make sure you have a lot of room in the cake pan (at least 2 or 3 inches) to let the batter rise. Otherwise, you’ll get a bunch of burnt batter on the bottom of your oven and a nasty smokey taste lingering over your cake.

A Californian in Paris: Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake with Candied Slices

The cake is moist because of the olive oil, but not greasy. The candied blood orange slices alongside its syrup is a wonderful companion (and maybe a dollop of crème fraîche on the side for us gluttons). Since I’ve made it so many times, friends and family have fallen in love with my cake. Blood oranges are unfortunately going out of season in France now (I no longer see them at the markets). The last ones we found were imported from Sicily and had a divinely sweet but tart taste. However, you lucky Americans may still find these jewels at a specialty market. You can also substitute blood oranges with regular oranges and enjoy similar results: a moist, citrous-y cake, light on the tongue.

A Californian in Paris: Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake with Candied Slices

For this cake, I don’t believe you need to use fancy olive oil. Though if you can find an affordable oil that would pair excellently with citrus, let me know!

Now, onto the cake…

Blood Orange and Olive Oil Cake with Candied Slices

some unsalted butter to grease the pan

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp of coarse salt

2 large eggs

2 cups of granulated sugar

2-3 tbsp blood orange zest (the more, the better)

3/4 cup of freshly squeezed blood orange juice

3/4 cup of olive oil

10-12 thin slices of blood orange

2 1/2 cups water

2 cups sugar

1 cup honey

1-2 cinnamon sticks

parchment or wax paper

1. Preheat oven to 375F (190C).

2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

3. In another bowl, combine the juice, zest, and olive oil. Stir well.

4. Using a mixer with a whisk attachment, lightly beat the eggs together for about 1 minute or less. Do not over-beat. Gradually add the sugar in.

5. Once the liquid is a nice pale yellow, slowly, in turns, add the flour and juice/zest/olive oil mixture. Stop the mixer and use a spatula to scrap the sides of the mixer and make sure there are no hidden chunks of flour. Mix again for another 30 seconds. Again, I must stress that you do not over-beat the batter.

6. In a greased cake pan, pour the mixture in. Make sure you have at least 2-3 inches of space on top as the cake will rise a lot in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes (or until your fork comes out clean after piercing the center) and then turn off the heat. Leave the cake in the oven for 5-10 minutes, until its top develops a nice, deep golden brown. Leaving it in the oven to gradually cool also helps the shrinkage that may happen because of how moist the olive oil cake is. Don’t leave it in too long or you’ll get an overbaked cake.

7. While you’re cooking the cake, you may begin preparing the blood orange slices. Using a mandolin or a very sharp knife, cut oranges into thin slices and discard the ends. It is important to make several pieces if a few of the slices don’t turn out so nice after the cooking progress. The leftovers also make a great snack 😉

8. In a small pot, bring to boil the water, sugar, honey, and cinnamon sticks. Add in the slices and let boil for one or two minutes. Afterward, turn down the heat to a low simmer and cook your blood orange slices for 30-40 minutes, until rinds are somewhat translucent.

9. Carefully place the slices with tongs on parchment or wax paper. Let cool. Continue letting the syrup cook for another 10 minutes, until reduced. Set aside syrup for serving.

10. Once the blood orange slices have cooled, carefully peel them from the paper and lay them on top of the cake. When serving the cake, drizzle the remaining syrup on top.

I hope you enjoy this beautiful dessert 🙂 Bon app! Until next time. À bientôt!

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Our Last Meal of Winter

A Californian in Paris rejoices for spring.

Spring has officially started, but it’s still a moody grey here. However, we’ve noticed the ambience in Paris is a little more cheery, the sun shines brightly on some days, and we’re all getting ready for warmer weather. I’m starting to believe my mood is really affected by the very grey Parisian days. One day, Petit Copain and I would like to move south to where it’s warmer and brighter. But for now, I will have to embrace the cloudy days and probably buy a light therapy lamp. Well, not probably. That darn lamp is on my official to-do list. If you have any recommendations, let me know!

As for our first apartment, it’s still in the works. Our kitchen is great, but since we still have grey days, I don’t have much natural light for my photos. I’m working on creating makeshift studio light… but getting all the materials is an adventure in itself. If you’ve ever been to one of the bricolage stores in Paris, you’ll know it’s definitely a vocabulary lesson, even for those who have mastered French.

Everything takes a long time in France. From ordering your washing machine (5 weeks) to waiting for your doctor’s secretary to call you back (1 month and going). While it’s crazy frustrating, you learn to live with it here. The key to living in France is having a lot of patience. Despite the lackadaisical customer service, I love my life here and I especially love it with Petit Copain. For Christmas, he gave me a beautiful diamond promise ring. It is a simple ring (just like I wanted) that I put on my middle finger. Things are going very well in our cute Parisian apartment. Many have asked me if my ring is an engagement ring… well, not yet! But this is a surprise I will happily wait for.

We’ve been eating well now that we’re in a private space together. And now I present to you, Petit Copain’s newest favorite, Osso Bucco.

A Californian in Paris cooks Osso Bucco.

I usually don’t care for recipes that take longer than 1 hour to cook. However, I wanted to test my limits after staring longingly at this cut of meat at the farmer’s market. Osso Bucco is a traditional Italian dish made with veal shanks. It takes about 4.5-5 hours to cook. Before you get scared, preparation is about 45 minutes to 1 hr. So technically the hardest part is just waiting for this delicious dish to be finished.

A Californian in Paris is obsessed with her Le Creuset.

Another gift that Petit Copain bestowed to me is my beloved Le Creuset pot. I was so torn between Le Creuset and Staub, but ultimately picked Le Creuset. My mom loves this brand as well. It’s durable, long lasting, and gorgeously made. My Le Creuset was on sale during the soldes and we got it at a very good price (at least 120 euros off). I will have to write a post about how to shop the soldes. You must know I love a good deal.

vegetables-osso-bucco

A Californian in Paris cooks Osso Bucco.

My recipe is not so traditional. I’ve mostly based it off this recipe from the lovely blog, Taste of Divine. Please visit the blog and look at other great recipes you may want to try 🙂

A Californian in Paris makes Osso Bucco.

There are three things you must pay attention to when cooking this recipe. For the veal shanks, you’ll want to get ones with the most marrow. This will give your sauce great flavor. The trick is stuffing all the meat into your pot because you are a greedy glutton (or Petit Copain will eat it all). Secondly, you must watch how much salt goes into the recipe. Since it’s simmering into a thick sauce for 4 hours, you don’t want your salt to be overly concentrated. Also, you must decide what kind of texture you’d like with the vegetables. I tried completely dicing everything, but hated the texture. Instead, I’ve made the carrots and onions more chunky. Also, I discovered that I didn’t like the celery… but I’ve added it here for you to decide if you want to add it or not.

veggies-pot-osso-bucco

Spring calls for lighter foods, but who cares? One last big pot of simmering sauce and chunky meat just for you.

sautee-osso-bucco

The recipe makes the whole entire apartment smell like heaven. Petit Copain will repeatedly ask when it will be ready. I ask the same question but only I get the pleasure of tasting the dish as it slowly cooks down, checking the flavors.

pot-osso-bucco

Just look at this. Don’t you want to press forward a few hours and eat this RIGHT NOW?

osso-bucco-final

And here is the final product, 4+ hours later… SO GOOD.

Osso Bucco

Osso Bucco usually calls for covering the meat in flour or using white wine. I didn’t like any of those options, but you may want to try those out. I found dry red wine to be the tastiest.

Ingredients

  • 3 veal shanks (pick the ones with the most marrow)
  • pinch of coarse salt
  • pinch of pepper
  • 1 bouquet garni (fresh thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf)
  • 1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 3 tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 cups of dry red wine (try something from Bordeaux or Bourgogne)
  • 3 large tbsps of tomato paste
  • 4 cups of low-sodium beef stock
  • 1 cup canned plum tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped (optional)

 

Directions

  1. Pat the meat dry and bring to room temperature. Lightly season the meat with salt and pepper. Make sure to especially rub the bone and marrow. Do not oversalt.
  2. Place fresh herbs into a cheesecloth and tie with twine. As you can tell in my pictures, I did not do this. I highly recommend this step, as boiled thyme stalks aren’t tasty.
  3. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large dutch oven. Get that pot very hot. Sear the meat, 1-2 minutes on each side. Remove from pot. Lower temperature to medium heat.
  4. Using the same pot, add an extra tbsp of olive and put in the chopped carrots, celery, onion, and garlic. Sautée until softened, about 4-5 minutes.
  5. Add in the wine. Cook until wine reduces, half-way. This evaporates very quickly, so be sure control your heat. At this stage, you can always add in more wine as needed.
  6. Put in your tomato paste and stir.
  7. Return the meat to the dutch oven. Add in the bouquet garni. Then pour in your beef stock, making sure to almost cover the meat with liquid.
  8. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover your pot, leaving a slight crack for some steam to escape.
  9. Simmer for 4-5 hours, until the meat falls off the bone. Once ready, uncover the pot and let simmer for another 15 minutes. The sauce should thicken more. Season as necessary.
  10. Serve with gremolata or some chopped up fresh parsley.

 

I hope you enjoyed the post. À bientôt!

 

 

A Winter Feast for Two

Stuffed quails to keep you warm. A Californian in Paris.

We enjoyed an unusually warm autumn. There was even one or two days in early November where you didn’t even have to put a coat on. Suddenly, it got very cold during the last few weeks, and I’m back in heavy coats and hats. C’est dommage!

Bastille Market. A Californian in Paris.

Christmas slowly appeared this year. One by one, we saw Christmas markets, decorations, events, musicals, ice skating rinks, shopping specials… Everyone seems to be in better spirits these days.

My favorite market has become more empty, with less tourists and touristy stalls. What you get instead is the real deal as Paris is left only to the Parisians. You’ll see lots of winter fruits and vegetables here… squashes, apples, pears, potatoes, turnips, and other tubular goodies.

Meat at Bastille Market. A Californian in Paris.

During a French winter, we eat roasts and cheese dishes (hello, raclette!). The French have winter foods down to a t. There are so many dishes meant to warm you up… and fatten you a little. And you know what, I’m totally okay with that last part.

Things are slowing down and I have more time to reflect on the things I love. I’m really obsessed with the cute packaging from the markets. Look at how this cheese is wrapped up! I simply adore the little French foods printed on it.

Mushrooms from the market. A Californian in Paris.

And I always welcome these cute paper veggie bags. All the vendors use these bags at the market. I try to reuse them when I go to the market. Avoid plastic bags… any bags if you can.

Quails from the market. A Californian in Paris.

Quails from the market. A Californian in Paris.

Lastly, this is what brings us here today— beautifully wrapped quails! I love the rococo-inspired pink pattern.

Before cooking the quails, let’s get to the side dish first… a colorful array of baked veggies!

Red carrots from the market. A Californian in Paris.

My favorite vendor sells these intensely colored carrots. After peeling, they reveal an interesting interior— a bright maroon-red and orange center! Luckily, unlike my purple haricots, these carrots retain their color after cooking. A warning though… the carrots bleed red everywhere, kinda like the stains a beet would leave behind.

Red carrots from the market. A Californian in Paris.

Leeks. A Californian in Paris.

I like to roast these carrots with leeks. I find leeks to be extra delicious when baked… I even like them a little crunchy. Simply cut all the veggies length-wise, sprinkle with coarse salt, and bake at 200C/400F.

Roasted leeks and carrots. A Californian in Paris.

Roasted Carrots and Leeks

3-4 carrots, cut length-wise

2-3 leeks, cut length-wise

2-3 tablespoons of olive oil

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

coarse salt

pepper

1. Heat the oven to 200C (F).

2. Clean and peel carrots. Cut length-wise, being careful not to make them too thick. I usually get 3 long slices out of one medium sized carrot. With the leeks, wash them thoroughly. Make sure there is no dirt hiding between the leaves. Lop off the dark green tops and roots. Then cut the leeks in half.

3. Lay the vegetables on a baking sheet, alternating as you go. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. You can also add in your favorite herbs like thyme or rosemary. Loosely cover the vegetables with foil and pop them in the oven.

4. When the vegetables soften, about 6-8 minutes in, quickly take them out and add the chopped garlic. Recover with foil and continue to bake.

5. The vegetables will be ready to take out in 5 minutes. You should be able to pierce through the carrots easily. If you like your veggies to have a little crunch, remove the foil and bake for another 2 to 3 minutes.

Roasted leeks and carrots. A Californian in Paris.

Now, onto the quails. One of my first cooking adventures was with my first ever French friend. I am very proud to have this friend as she is the only French friend I’ve made outside of Petit Copain’s circle. She is also amazing. Let’s call her G.G.

Concerned about my poor American diet, G.G. invited me one day to cook French specialities. I believe it was winter time when we first made this meal. I will never forget gathering all of the ingredients and… stuffing the birds. It was a little intimate. You really gotta stick that stuffing in there. I’ll show you.

Farce. A Californian in Paris.

Stuffing is called farce here. It’s usually sausage meat mixed with herbs, onions, and bread crumbs. G.G. liked to mix hers with mushrooms. It’s best to cook the mushrooms first and then add them to the farce.

Mushrooms. A Californian in Paris.

This doesn’t look so appetizing, but I promise you, farce is delicious.

G.G. also gave me some amazing herbs to mix in with the farce— thyme and sariette (savory) from the countryside. I’m sad to say I used the last of these herbs in this batch of quails or caille as they are called in French.

After stuffing the quails, you’ll want to sew them up. Don’t pack too much farce in there or else it won’t cook in time, leaving you with a dried out bird, raw farce, or both. Another suggestion for this recipe is to bone out the birds, which allows the farce to cook faster.

Roasting quails. A Californian in Paris.

Roast them with some cut up onions or whatever other veggies you like with your roasts.

Stuffed Roast Quails

3 small to medium quails, cleaned

100 g farce (sausage meat)

6-8 mushrooms, cubed

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 yellow onion, 1/2 cubed and 1/2 sliced

1 tablespoon oil

2-3 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon thyme

1 tablespoon savory

coarse salt

pepper

needle and thread

1. Preheat oven to 200C/400F or as high as your oven will go.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in sauté pan on medium heat. Put in the cubed mushrooms and onions and cook until soft (about 5 minutes). Remove pan from heat and let the vegetables cool off.

3. In a bowl, mix together the farce, cooled down mushrooms and onions, herbs, salt, and pepper.

4. Stuff the quail cavities with the farce, being careful not to overstuff them. You will want to leave enough space to sew the cavities.

5. Once the quails are stuffed, take the needle and thread and carefully sew the quails shut.

6. In a oven-safe dish, place the sliced onions and any remaining herbs in the bottom. Rub the quails with the butter and a little salt, then put them on top of the onions. Pop them into the oven for about 5 minutes and then turn down the heat to 172C/345F. Bake for about 40 minutes or until the temperature of the farce reaches 76C/170F.

7. Take out of the oven and let the quails rest for 5-8 mins. Serve with vegetables and whatever grains you like!

Roasting quails. A Californian in Paris.

That’s all I have for today. As for next time, Petit Copain and I just moved into our first apartment together! I have so many stories about trying to buy a dishwasher in France, it’s not even funny. À bientôt!

A Tale of Two (or Three) Pork Chops

A Californian in Paris. A Tale of Two (or Three) Pork Chops.

Paris is still recovering but we are getting on with our lives. The air here is a little subdued and yet people are enjoying their lives as they normally do. Slowly, we have seen the return of young people crowding the bars. Parisians are all over the streets, doing their shopping and errands. The farmer’s markets were closed for a few days following the attacks, which was understandable as well as necessary. Happily though, the markets have returned. My favorite market reappeared this past Sunday and we were able to carry on as usual. Today’s post will celebrate French life as we always do.

A Californian in Paris. A Tale of Two (or Three) Pork Chops.

For a long time, Petit Copain had a strange aversion to meat. But it wasn’t just any meat. He would definitely eat any kind of meat his family cooked him. Or charcuterie at gatherings and parties. Yet whenever I proposed dinner with meat in it, he’d make an immediate objection. He especially didn’t want to eat any meat other than chicken. And that chicken wouldn’t be cooked by me, but bought as a roti (rotisserie) from the butcher. I then discovered his other picky habits like not liking chicken leftovers, even if the darn thing had been bought the same day.

A Californian in Paris. A Tale of Two (or Three) Pork Chops.

To this day, I can’t figure out exactly what Petit Copain’s reasons were. I can only speculate that the problem was related to my terrible, well-done American style of cooking meat. When I was an au pair, there were many times when I had to cook for the children. Most meals were easy to do, like put rice in the cooker or fry up an already prepared croque monsieur (a cheese sandwich with ham). A few times though, I had to make steaks. I failed to please almost every time. The kids loved their meat saignant, which is supposed to be rare but is in fact way too rare for my American tastes. All my life, I had been cooking meat well-done. I never really considered the benefits of searing either, because hey, if it’s all browned up, it must be good. So imagine the kids’ reaction when I served them steak haché completely done. Yes, they hated it.

A Californian in Paris. A Tale of Two (or Three) Pork Chops.

Coings, a fruit that’s somewhere in-between an apple and a pear. Great for tarts.

To be honest, steak haché is kinda weird already. It’s a “steak” made of ground beef… like eating a giant burger patty, but without the buns. Well, since I’m in France, and not the U.S., I decided to do what the French do. The next time I made steak haché, I let the little girl advise me. What came of it horrified me. I cooked steaks that were brown on the outside, but the inside was almost raw! It was so pink and bloody, I started to get scared, thinking I’d be responsible for the children getting E. coli or salmonella! I couldn’t even eat my own steak haché. I was that afraid of death. The kids made fun of me and when the mother finally arrived home, she also laughed and told me not to worry. This is the land of steak tartare (so gross), after all.

A Californian in Paris. A Tale of Two (or Three) Pork Chops.

After that incident, I learned a lot about meat in France. First of all, there are many regulations set in place to insure the quality of meat. The French don’t load up their animals with antibiotics and they definitely don’t add bleach or other chemicals into the final product. While there is industrial farming, you also have a lot of independent farms trying to raise animals the traditional way. Moreover, France hasn’t had too many deadly outbreaks of E. Coli, Salmonella, and other bacteria. Still, you should always be careful with meat, so if you want to eat it extra bloody here, make sure it comes from a good quality butcher. You can also find bio (organic) meat at grocery stores.

A Californian in Paris. A Tale of Two (or Three) Pork Chops.

Breton salted butter. Amazing on toast.

I still can’t eat my meat saignant, but I’ve accepted à point. À point is the equivalent to the US standard of medium rare, but I still think it’s a bit more bloody than we’re used to. However, I’ve dismissed some of my fears with meat and I trust the quality here in France. Petit Copain happily loves à point as well and I have slowly learned to cook our meat in this way. I can say now that Petit Copain doesn’t object so much about having meat in our meals. He still doesn’t like chicken leftovers, but he will eat the beef or pork I’ve cooked for him.

A Californian in Paris. A Tale of Two (or Three) Pork Chops.

Ham from our favorite charcuterie vendor who also sells raw pork.

A Californian in Paris. A Tale of Two (or Three) Pork Chops.

Smoked salmon from the same vendor. It’s seriously amazing.

While you wouldn’t cook pork bleu (super rare) or saignant, you should definitely make sure it’s cooked correctly. You don’t want dry, overdone pork. Luckily, I think I’ve got the cooking down on this one. My sage butter pork chops have won over other Frenchies as well (or so I think). At least Petit Copain likes them. For our pork, we go to a special vendor at the farmer’s market who also sells charcuterie and French side dishes to go. Petit Copain is obsessed with their paté, but that is a different story in itself.

A Californian in Paris. A Tale of Two (or Three) Pork Chops.

They were so big and thick, I could only fit two in my pan. I had to save the third one for later.

This past Sunday market, I picked up 3 côtes de porc or pork chops. I asked the lady for 3 small pork chops (petit! petit!). What I got were thick, manly pieces of pork. I can’t complain too much though, they were delicious.

A Californian in Paris. A Tale of Two (or Three) Pork Chops.

On my way out of the market, I also saw these amazing purple haricots verts. Curious to see how they would turn out, I brought some home with me.

A Californian in Paris. A Tale of Two (or Three) Pork Chops.

Chopping up the haricots, you can see that the inside is very bright green, like a regular haricot. I love the two-tone colors of this vegetable. Sadly, it doesn’t last, because as soon as you cook the beans, the purple disappears. I googled to see why this happened, thinking it was a cooking mistake. It is possible to keep some of the purple coloring if you give the haricots an ice bath to shock the vegetables after boiling. However, the coloring still fades after about 5-10 minutes of serving. This is because the beans are colored by something called althocyannins which break down when cooking. The purple isn’t part of the normal chlorophyll coloring that most veggies have. Here’s a better explanation if you’re interested.

A Californian in Paris. A Tale of Two (or Three) Pork Chops.

Still purple…

A Californian in Paris. A Tale of Two (or Three) Pork Chops.

Not so purple now…

I like to cook my haricots verts (green beans) using this simple recipe.

Haricots Verts with Garlic

12 oz or 350 g haricot verts, with trimmed edges

2-3 tsp butter (salted or unsalted… I prefer using my salted Breton butter*)

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

Salt & pepper to taste (if using salted butter, just add pepper)

Directions

  1. Boil a pot of water. Add a pinch of salt to the boiling water. Toss in the haricot verts.
  2. Cook haricot verts until the water starts to boil again. Use a slotted spoon or thongs to pick up the haricots and throw them into an ice bath.
  3. Drain the haricots after 20-30 secs.
  4. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat.
  5. Add the haricots verts to the pan, then the chopped garlic. Add salt if not using salted butter and the pepper. Stir occasionally and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the beans are heated through. I like to cook them until they are crisp-tender.

*Not all salted butter is the same. It’s always best to use unsalted butter so you can control the seasoning. If you have to, test your salted butter to see if it’s just the right amount of salt for you.

A Californian in Paris. A Tale of Two (or Three) Pork Chops.

Goodbye purple 😦

Now, onto my fabulous pork chops.

A Californian in Paris. A Tale of Two (or Three) Pork Chops.

A Californian in Paris. A Tale of Two (or Three) Pork Chops.

Pork Chops with Sage and Butter

2 1 1/2-inch thick bone-in pork chops

2-3 large sprigs of sage, crushed then chopped roughly

1 tbsp of vegetable oil

2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

2-3 tbsps of unsalted butter

Coarse salt

Pepper

Note: If your pork chops have surrounding fat caps, you should cut 3 or 4 vertical lines into the fat (do not cut into the meat). This will prevent the pork from buckling when you cook it.

1. Season each side of the chops with salt and pepper. Make sure to rub the salt into the bones as well.

You don’t have to season your pork chops in advance, but I like to. I do a dry brine with salt and pepper the morning before I cook them or I brine overnight.

2. Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. It’s best to get the skillet as hot as possible for a good sear. Once the skillet is super hot, place both chops into the pan. Be careful not to move the chops and allow them to sizzle and brown for about 2-3 minutes. Turn the chops over and repeat. Keep doing this for 8-10 minutes, turning each side every 2 minutes. You should be getting a nice crust. The chops should reach an internal temperature of 135C/58C.

Your pork can be a little pink inside but it should not be bloody. If your pork chops are a bit thick, you can throw them into the oven after searing and bake for 5 minutes at 400F/200C. Let them rest 5 minutes and then add them back into the pan for Step 5.

5. Put 2 tablespoons of butter into the pan and 1/2 tablespoons of butter on top of each pork chop. Add in the crushed garlic and sage, mixing them into the melting butter. Spoon the melted butter mix over the tops of the pork chops, including the bone. After about a minute or two, turn off heat. Turn over the chops and keep spooning butter over the other side, letting the chops get nicely coated.

6. Transfer the pork onto a cutting board and let the meat rest for about 5 minutes. You can cut off the bone if you like. Serve immediately with any remaining pork juices.

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That’s all I have for today. Until next time!

Giverny, Fall Feasts, and The End of Tomato Season

Monet, Monet's House, Giverny France

As I’m lamenting cold weather, there is something wonderful about fall in Paris. The best time to visit Paris is actually September because the weather is still a little warm and tourist season has come to an end. And it’s easier to go to beautiful sites like Giverny! Only 45 minutes away from Paris by train, this little town is a must for all coming to Île-de-France.

Giverny is a very small town that became famous when painter Claude Monet passed it on a train one day and decided he wanted to live there. Soon after, Monet moved his family into the house of Ernest Hoschedé. Monet then started an intense love affair with Alice, Hoschedé’s wife, and the land that would become the now famous Japanese water garden.

Monet, Monet's House, Giverny France

Visiting Giverny in the summertime is extremely beautiful but also crowded with tourists. Friends who have gone during this time have told me long queues ruined their experience. Me, being the internet monster that I am, scoured many travel forums to discover that Monet’s gardens are still in bloom until early October. While the weather is still tolerable, there are frequent (but very light) rain showers in September. Taking my chances, I took Petit Copain on a surprise birthday trip to Giverny.

Going to Monet’s house is quite a journey. We wanted to take our time exploring the area, so I booked a hotel in the nearby town of Vernon. Then, instead of taking a tour bus, Petit Copain and I rented some bikes (terrible ones… make sure they have air in the tires!) at a café in front of the Vernon train station. Biking to Giverny from Vernon is very, very easy. You must cross two “busy” streets in Vernon until you get to the Seine. After that, it is all small streets and then a very long bike path. However, I’m terrible at riding bikes even though I love riding them. Poor Petit Copain had to take care of me and make sure I didn’t fall over. In LA, riding bikes on the busy streets is like a death sentence. It just isn’t a very bike friendly city. This is why I’m so afraid of cars. Petit Copain is working on this, slowly but surely.

Monet, Monet's House, Giverny France, Old Mill

After our rough start, we crossed the Seine and took an immediate left to have lunch in front of the old watermill. The most interesting part about this area is not really the watermill, but the nearby remnants of the former Vernon bridge that spanned across the Seine River. Destroyed by the French Resistance during the end of WWII to deter German soldiers, you can spot the leftover debris and columns of the old bridge from this park.

Monet, Monet's House, Giverny France

The amazing tarte normande we had from “Ma Brioche”.

For our picnic, Petit Copain and I had a special meal. Earlier that morning, we went to the Vernon farmer’s market that happens in the city’s main square. You can catch the market on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. We bought bread from this wonderful boulangerie next door, called “Ma Brioche”, as well as cheese and dried meats from the market, to make sandwiches.

Vernon, market, Monet, Monet's House, Giverny, France

Vernon, market, Monet, Monet's House, Giverny, France

The market itself is amazing, as many vendors are actually farmers selling their own crops. You know from my second post how much I love produce from the region of Eure! The fresh fruits and vegetables are quite delicious and you won’t see too many out-of-season products here (like avocados… sigh….). Once lunch was over, we followed the signs toward Monet’s house. It rained a little on the way but it didn’t last long.

Water garden, gardens, Monet, Monet's House, Giverny, France

garden, gardens, Monet, Monet's House, Giverny, France

Monet’s house and gardens are worth the trip. Giverny, which is even smaller than Vernon, is very nostalgic of a different time in France. While you do have some tourist traps, Giverny still has the air of a small country town. Monet’s house is surprisingly big and his flower garden is a huge tangle of beautiful bright blossoms and aromatic herbs. You also have the stunning water garden, complete with a Japanese bridge.

Monet, Monet's House, Giverny, France

Monet’s living room, filled with his paintings as well as pieces from other artists of his time.

Monet, Monet’s kitchen, kitchen, Monet's House, Giverny, France

Monet’s kitchen!

One of the things I loved most about my trip was Monet’s kitchen. Just look at those copper pots… and those tiles! Perfect for roasting a chicken and preparing some vegetables.

Monet, Monet’s kitchen, kitchen, Monet's House, Giverny, France

The bike path to Giverny and Monet’s gardens.

Monet, Monet's House, Giverny, France

I also fell in love with the blackberries we encountered on the bike path. Wild blackberries are a little more tart than commercial ones. And there’s something very satisfying about searching for and picking your own berries. Blackberries are abundant on this bike path from late August to early October, so if you encounter them, please taste some! Blackberries turn black when they are ripe and the ones that are still white or red colored won’t be very tasty. Make sure to pick the berries with many drupelets (the round bumpy things). There are other types of berry bushes nearby but these berries are not edible.

After my trip to Giverny, I felt very rustic… wanting to cook roasts and snuggle up next to a Monet-style fire place while it rained. In honor of Monet and his kitchen, I bought the last of the in-season tomatoes and some chicken from my favorite Paris market vendor.

Monet, Monet's House, Giverny, France, tomatoes

These tomatoes were quite spectacular in color as they were in taste. Cutting into one, you can see that the inside of this tomato is a deep, purplish red/orange.

Monet, Monet's House, Giverny, France, tomatoes

Monet, Monet's House, Giverny, France, salad, salade

We also bought our favorite salad to go along with our roast chicken, which is a mix of wild roquette (arugula), dandelion greens, and some collard greens. And I couldn’t help myself… I had to add avocado. With winter approaching, I’ll have to abstain.

Monet, Monet's House, Giverny, France, chicken, poulet

Our free-range chicken was quite fabulous. We asked for half a chicken because it was such a huge bird. And… it was…. too fresh! Yes! You read that right! This is a serious problem. Chicken can’t be tender if it has been killed recently. When you cook really fresh chicken, it is too tough to eat because the flesh is still stiff from rigor mortis. You need to let the chicken decompose or break down a little bit before cooking. 2 days after slaughter is best.

Now here comes the fun part! Roasting the chicken! Mimi Thorrison has a great chicken recipe here, and I’ve incorporated some of her suggestions into my own recipe. You can use any of your favorite herbs. Traditionally, French chicken roasts include thyme, rosemary, and sage— which I definitely use with my chicken. I also use hyssop or sarriette (savory) when it’s available. For a truly infused flavor, I use fresh chopped herbs and lemon zest. If you want a more simple roast, try using just thyme, lemon zest, and paprika. The boucherie we usually go to adds parsley at the end of the roasting process. All of these combinations are very tasty.

Monet, Monet's House, Giverny, France, herbs

From the left: Sage, hyssop, thyme, lemon zest, and garlic.

Petit Copain loves to roast our chicken with carrots, onions, and potatoes. This is entirely optional though. If you do what Petit Copain does, you will need to bast these vegetables with the juices of the chicken while cooking to make sure they don’t dry out. Pre-cooking is highly recommended for the potatoes.

Monet, Monet's House, Giverny, France, roast, vegetables

The recipe is down below:

Roasted Chicken with Herbs

2-3 tablespoons of room temperature unsalted butter or olive oil

2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme

2-3 sprigs of fresh rosemary

1-2 sprigs of fresh sage

1-2 roughly chopped garlic cloves

1 crushed garlic clove

1 lemon, zested and quartered

2 cups of sliced carrots, onions, and potatoes (optional)

1 teaspoon paprika (optional)

coarse salt and pepper to taste

Meat of any type is best cooked when its flesh is at room temperature. This ensures thorough and consistent cooking. While you wait for the chicken to come to room temperature, pat the chicken dry and place it in a roasting pan. You can then add the seasoning in the following order…

Rub the 2 tablespoons of butter or olive oil all over the outside of the chicken. If using a whole chicken, add the last tablespoon inside the cavity as well as one of the lemon quarters, the crushed garlic clove, and some salt. Next, rub lemon zest, chopped garlic, coarse salt, and pepper into the skin. Strip off some of the thyme and rosemary and crush/chop into little pieces. This will release the flavor of the herbs better. Sprinkle the loose leaves over the chicken. Crush and chop up a little of the sage and also sprinkle over the chicken. Top off with paprika if desired. Stuff the rest of the herbs into the chicken cavity and place the rest of the lemon quarters around the chicken. Cover chicken loosely with foil and let sit for two hours or so until the chicken has come to room temperature.

Monet, Monet's House, Giverny, France, chicken, poulet, roast, roti, rôti

If adding carrots, onions and potatoes, now is the time to pre-cook the vegetables on the stove. On medium heat, cook potatoes first for 8 to 10 minutes and then add the carrots. After 4 minutes, put in the onions. Sauté until vegetables are slightly soft and the onions have begun to turn translucent. Add the vegetables into the pan, surrounding the chicken.

Once the chicken has reached room temperature, set your oven as high as it will go (about 250C or 450F). Once the oven has reached the correct temperature, put the chicken inside. Let the skin start to turn a nice shade of golden brown (5 minutes). Reduce heat to 200C (290F) and continue cooking the chicken for another 40 minutes.

This isn’t my best picture, but you can see how delicious this chicken was! Does it evoke warm fireplaces and rustic living? Can you see Monet eating this roasted chicken?

Monet, Monet's House, Giverny, France, chicken, poulet, roast, roti, rôti

I hope you enjoyed my adventure. Until next time!

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A Remedy for No Sunlight

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Potimarron (aka red kuri squash)

It’s almost winter. Actually, it’s winter for me already. Petit copain complains that it’s still fall, but all I know is that it is too cold for my Californian blood. My two year anniversary of living in Paris passed in September and you’d think I’d get used to this kind of weather by now. This is actually going to be my fourth winter in Paris, because my first time visiting Paris was during winter when it snowed like crazy. Yes, I’ve been to snowy places in the States, but something about winter in Europe is just too cold for me (perhaps because we’re so up north?).

Unfortunately, it hasn’t really snowed in Paris since that intense winter four years ago. Actually, I’m kind of glad. You’d think snow in Paris would be magical, but it makes a terrible mess in the City of Lights. The snow doesn’t keep for long and it melts into a horrible and dangerous cesspool of dirty city water. If you come to Paris when it snows, be sure to bring slip-resistant shoes!

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Okay, okay, snow can be quite pretty in the gardens and around monuments. But other than that, be very careful of slipping or getting soaked in the dirty, semi-frozen water. Petit copain doesn’t believe it will snow again this year, but I guess we’ll see.

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Since I’m always cold, I crave a lot of tea and soup. Soup is very different in France than it is in the States. Soups are usually made of pureed vegetables and never contain anything chunky like noodles or rice. I wasn’t such a big fan of these vegetable soups until I discovered potimarron, or red kuri squash. This bright deep orange squash can be prepared either savory or sweet. I’ve actually baked potimarron into a successful pumpkin pie! But in France, you will often find potimarron only in soup form.

Potimarron is an interesting name, as poti comes from potiron (squash) and marron means chestnut. Potimarron definitely has a chestnut taste and it’s one of the more sweeter squashes. I’m very addicted and I keep making soups out of it. It’s definitely my go-to winter soup now. The cheery redish orange hue makes me feel like I’m eating sunshine (or that’s what I tell myself!). Paris is too grey these days and I need a little warmth inside.

I’ve adapted my recipe from Chez Pim’s. Instead of thyme, they use sage butter. The original recipe is located here.

Red Kuri Squash Soup (Potimarron) with Thyme

1 small red kuru squash/potimarron (about 1-2 lbs or .9 kg)
1 big yellow onion, cut into cubes
4 thyme sprigs, fresh or dried
2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
4+ cups milk (about .8 to .9 liters)
2 teaspoons of unsalted butter or oil (about 10 grams)
salt and pepper to taste

Set oven to 175 C / 345 F. Cover a sheet pan with foil.

Potimarron can be quite hard to cut into, so I suggest microwaving it for a minute or two to soften it up. Be careful of handling the squash after the microwave. Use mittens to take it out and let the squash cool before cutting it in half. Once cool, cut off the stem and bottom bulb. Carefully peel the skin off both halves.

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californianinparis.wordpress.com

Cut the squash into slices or big cubes and lay them out on the sheet pan. Using butter or oil, rub each piece of squash.

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Lay thyme sprigs on squash (do not sprinkle) and put the pan in the oven. Be careful not to burn or dry out the tops of the squash. To avoid this, you can loosely cover the pan with a sheet of foil on top.

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After about 15 minutes or when the squash is halfway done cooking, sprinkle the garlic over the potimarron pieces. Recover with foil. Continue cooking or until squash is ready (when a fork can easily pierce through the flesh), about 10 or 15 more minutes. Pull out pan and set aside.

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While cooking the squash, place a frying pan on low heat. Add the onions with the rest of the butter or oil and cook until they caramelize, about 10-15 minutes.

Pick out the thyme and garlic from the squash and discard. Optional: I usually do include the herbs and garlic in the soup (I pick off the thyme leaves from the sprigs and sprinkle them into the soup), but it takes a lot of pureeing to make sure there aren’t large pieces of thyme or garlic floating around.

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Add the cooked potimarron and onions into a medium pot with four cups of milk, a few pinches of salt, and some pepper. Cook on low heat until the soup starts to slightly boil. Turn off the heat and blend the ingredients into a smooth puree. You can use a hand blender or a stand blender/food processor (the latter is preferred if you want to keep the thyme and garlic in your soup). After pureeing, you may want to add more milk to the soup, depending on how thick you want it to be. Add more salt and pepper as desired. Once the soup is at the right consistency, you can pour the blended soup back into the pot and again place it on low heat. Stir continuously until the soup boils again.

Serve with a dollop of crème fraîche or kiri cheese on top. Enjoy!

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Bon App!

How to Make An Endive Salad, or Why I Came to France

Endive 1

Endives are bitter, leafy vegetables. In the States, you see them often in gourmet magazines but never really on the table (at least for my Asian immigrant family). My kind of salad was iceberg or the occasional kale. Imagine my surprise when I started eating more greens with flavor. While endives aren’t extremely bitter, my first taste welcomed a slight kick in the back of my mouth. It was a little off putting. Yet I got used to the taste, addicted even, in that first bowl of endive salad. The amazing woman who I worked for at the time had cut up the leaves into little half circles, doused them with light cream and coarse salt, and tossed them with cubes of avocado. The fatty sweetness of the avocado as well as the sweetness of the cream did not curb the bitterness of the endives, but complemented it very well.

We all need a little bitter and a little sweet in our lives, don’t you think?

endive3

Exactly two years ago (and one year before my first endive salad), I made the big move across the ocean, not knowing if I was really going to stay in Paris or not. My life had always been a big mess… always in stages of collapsing or rebuilding, but never anything stable. The dream of Paris was born in this mess, so maybe that’s why most of my friends told me how stupid it was to try and live here. And it was stupid, but stupidly good with all the great cliches. I fell in love with the city and most importantly, I fell in love with myself (petit copain came later!). Paris is still a work in progress, but a work that I am proud of.

Another work in progress? My cooking!

After my first endive salad, I knew I had a new mission to fulfill… some sort of “Eat, Pray, Love” journey (but with more focus on the food). Although I had been living in Paris for about a year at that point, I didn’t really know anything about French food. My dinners were mostly recreations of food back home. This was also due to my terrible French and not understanding what things are… At Monoprix (big French grocery chain), I once tried to buy what I thought was salami. This shriveled little sausage was definitely not salami and tasted like a funky, sweaty, dehydrated meat stick someone left in the back of a closet. French products were mysterious to me and trying them one by one seemed too scary.

Working as an au pair really changed all of that. If you’re young and want to live in France, I highly suggest working as an au pair or doing “logement contre service”. Working so intimately with a French family is a valuable and unforgettable experience. Coupled with French classes, it’s total immersion into French culture. The mother of the family was always cooking something uniquely French. Her food was fabulous and I started trying out her recipes.


endive4

Endives are usually cut up into a salad or baked whole with ham and cream. I prefer to use them in a salad (mon copain says baked endives with ham reminds him of terrible French school lunches). There are many ways to make an endive salad… for me, the easiest, the better! The bitter greens are best paired with a sweeter ingredient, like avocado or a sweet firm cheese, in order to balance out the salad. Walnuts and grapes also go well with endives. If you don’t like the idea of cream, you can opt for the traditional French vinaigrette, which is red wine vinegar, mustard, and olive oil. Shallots and herbs can also be added. The order of these ingredients is very highly debated in French culture. Petit copain says mustard, THEN vinegar, and oil… Other French friends stress on pouring the vinegar and mustard together, then oil. Rules are meant to be broken though! I make my dressing according to what I feel like (or what’s in my reach).

Endive leaves are very crunchy and actually refreshing to the palate. They definitely have more nutrients than tasteless, watery iceberg (can you tell my love for this lettuce has faded?). Endives are part of the chicory family, which explains the bitter flavor. French people also eat frisée, another chicory relative, and that is good to eat in salads as well. In France, endives grow mostly in the north. I usually get my endives from one of my favorite vendors, farmers from Picardie who always have a stall at the Bastille Market.

Veggies are super cheap here in France, but it’s always best to buy fruits and vegetables when they’re in season. Peak seasons for Endives in France are usually in fall and winter months, from late September to November. Endives are also good during early spring, around April. The vegetables should have yellow tops and smooth (not sticky) white leaves. If there are any blemishes, you can simply peel away the damaged leaves.

More on vinaigrette and markets later!!

Endive Salad With Cream

2 servings

2 medium sized endives

1 small to medium avocado

4-5 tablespoons of crème légère (light cream)

Coarse salt, as desired

Wash endives, removing any damaged or blemished leaves. Shake off water and pat with paper towel to dry. On a cutting board, vertically slice each endive in the center. Then cut horizontally into little half moons. Throw the endives into your serving bowl.

Cut avocado in half. Using a sharp chef’s knife, smack the seed diagonally as hard as you can. Twist the seed and take it out. With the skin on, use knife to cut vertically and horizontally (making cubes) into the flesh of each half. Then take a spoon and fish out the avocado cubes. Put the pieces with the endives.

Pour crème légère over the salad, until you have covered everything. I usually use up to 1/3 of a very small carton (about 4 to 5 tablespoons or 6cl) and sometimes more when I’m feeling ravenous (like a cream bath!!). Sprinkle as much coarse salt as you like and toss together.