My friend Chloé Doutre-Roussel, who is the esteemed chocolate-buyer for London’s Fortnum & Mason, finally came out with the book she’s spent a lifetime of tasting and working towards. The compact size of her book, The Chocolate Connoisseur, belies the depth of information within.
The Chocolate Connoisseur is a must have for any chocolate lover, and it’s my current bedside reading. Chloé, who was tapped to be the chocolate-expert by Pierre Hermé at Ladurée in Paris, was recently featured in the New York Times, and it’s a sweet treat to read about her chocolate adventures. There’s notes on tasting and sampling, comparison of brands with lots of opinions, a few decadent recipes, and some facts and fallacies explained and de-mystified. Very recommended reading for all.
Speaking of Paris, and chocolate, my friends at the Victoria Palace Hotel are offering a special for chocolate-lovers in April. All guests will receive a coupon redeemable for their choice of chocolates from several of the local chocolatiers, including La Maison du Chocolat, Jean-Charles Rochoux, and Patrick Roger. You can find more information about the hotel here.
Be sure to ask for the Easter Chocolate Adventure to get your vouchers.
And should you need help spending them, kindly let me know.
Another friend, Heather Stimmer-Hall, who lives here in Paris and writes the excellent (and free) newsletter, Secrets of Paris, has finally started a blog.
Well, actually two.
Secrets of Paris has lots of great tid-bits of information about Paris; where to go, special tips, and lots of sights to see that probably elude the typical visitor or resident to this special city.
Naughty Paris: The Good Girl’s Guide to Being Bad in the City of Light is a PG-13 guide to Paris’ Hot-Spots where they raise the curtain, showcasing the lascivious underbelly of Paris. Heather (and her co-conspirator Carolyn) are often a very naught girls and I hope someday they’ll let me tag along as a spectator.
If not, I’m ready to administer a couple of swift, San Francisco-style spankings.
Although French people never, ever go to the bathroom, the rest of us do. And the good news is that if you’re walking down the street and attempt to use one of the futuristic pissoires you no longer have to scramble to find 40 centimes….because they’re now free! Yes, now you just press the button and go.
So to speak.
But if you’re not near one, here’s a very funny and informative article about “Where To Pick A Flower” in Paris.
Tasting Menu is asking bloggers this week to name some of their favorite foods. Each day provides more treats to read about from all around the world. Delicious reading for sure and I’m checking daily to see what’s new and tasty.
San Francisco’s Ghiradelli Chocolate sent me a preview of their new dark chocolate bars to sample. With names like Espresso Escape and Twilight Delight I was a tad skeptical, but in the name of fairness, I timidly broke off a tiny corner of Toffee Interlude, and by the end of the day I had polished off the whole bar and was attacking the next.
I think at some point I’m going to need a chocolate-intervention…
And if you’re a science nerd (or not), you’ll love Heidi’s recent posting on making ice cream with liquid nitrogen. I’m not a big fan of messing around with good food, but when accompanied by Heidi’s terrific photos of steam cascading out of her KitchenAid while the ice cream churns, I found the entry fascinating reading.
Lastly, check out my Flickr page, which I’m going to update regularly with pictures of Paris and my culinary travels.
We’ve added a new icon with previews on the lower right side of this page to click on in the future.
An extraordinary tarte Tatin, the one I consider the best in Paris…
A clever ruse, and now that I’ve gotten your attention with something sweet and luscious, I decided I wanted to show how I got to the bottom of something that’s been bugging me all week: the difference between saucisse and saucisson.
So this morning I braved the biting cold and went to my local market with a real Frenchman, aka Romain, hoping to have him explain the difference between the two. And being 100% Parisian, I learned to set a few hours aside if I want something explained.
So bundled up in our wool coats, sweaters, long underwear (me), thermal shirts, gloves (him), a hat (him: I look funny in hats), mitten (me: my hands get cold, I don’t care how funny I look), and scarves (both), we wandered the market, first stopping at the stall with my favorite women from the Savoie, the mountainous region encompassing France and Switzerland, home to many of the finest sausages (and Comté cheese as well.) As we perused the piles of dried and fresh sausages, his explanation was this; “Saucisse is any little sausage, fresh or dried. Saucisse seche is the term used when it’s dried. Saucisson is any sausage that’s dried, but big.”
It all seemed a bit confusing, so I decided to ask a Parisian foodie Clotilde what was correct, someone who understands French ingredients but also has a fine understanding of American food as well as an excellent grasp of the English language.
Ok, so I didn’t actually ask her.
But instead checked out her useful Bloxicon of French-to-English food translations.
- Saucisson: dry sausage.
So I had confirmation that saucisson was dry sausage.
But what about saucisse seche?
What’s the dif?
Still grasping for knowledge (and a glass of Sancerre, which will come later) I checked my trusty Le Robert et Collins dictionnaire. You would think a volume that boasts 120,000 translations would have a bit more information about one of the most important and meatiest items in French cuisine.
Realizing perhaps that they’re treading on extremely thin ice, they offer these rather sketchy and non-committal responses:
- Saucisson: (slicing) sausage
- Saucisse: sausage
Patricia Wells, in The Food Lover’s Guide to Paris gets a bit more in-depth, although there’s a touch of confusion:
- Saucisson: Most often a large air-dried cured sausage, such as salami, eaten sliced as a cold cut; when fresh, usually called saucisson chaud
- Saucisse: Small fresh sausage
Wait a minute. When ‘fresh’ it’s called saucisson chaud (presumably when cooked), and saucisse if it’s small?
I know the truth is out there, but I needed to find it.
So I turned to a little volume that claims to be “An exhaustive compilation of terms from French gastronomy…”, The A-Z of French Food. I picked up a copy of this book years ago when I was at cooking school at Ecole Lenôtre and struggling with the subtle difference between Suprême de poulet and blanc de poulet and poitrine de poulet…
Geez, how many words for chicken breast does one language need?
Very informative, here’s what the The A-Z of French Food had to say:
- Saucisson: A large variety of sausage preparations of minced or chopped meats and organ meats, which are seasoned, cooked, or dried (often called saucisson sec. Saucisson is eaten sliced , and usually cold, as it is bought.
- Saucisse: The generic term for sausage (cooked, uncooked, or cured) which is served hot or re-heated, as opposed to saucisson which is generally eaten cold in slices.
So there you have it.
I hope that helps you next time you’re at the market in France and it’s your turn to order and the pressure’s on and everyone’s waiting for you to decide and madame behind you is not-so-gently pressing you forward and all you want to do is turn around and smack her upside the head which you can’t do (but boy, would that make you feel better.)
So now that we all completely and unequivocally understood the difference between the two (right?), I decided to reward myself with a nice Sunday lunch of chipolatas, highly-seasoned, meaty, and slender sausages, along with a few dozen fresh oysters.
(To be honest, by this point I was thoroughly confused and a bit terrified, so I let him do the ordering. But I did offer to stand guard and smack-down any ofles dames that tried to take cuts.)
Our next stop was for the oysters, and since we needed help making up our minds, the vendeuse was more than happy to pry open a few and let us pop them in our mouths. After much discussion (which always happens in France when there’s food involved) we chose 2 dozen No. 2 Huîtres de Normandie with the fresh, briny taste of the sea.
Once home, Romain expertly shucked the oysters while the chipolatas sizzled and the bottle of Sancerre, also chosen at the market (after the obligatory tasting), chilled quickly in the freezer (although with the freezing temperatures in Paris, the rooftop outside would have been faster.) The crusty baguette de pavot was sliced and each piece smeared with salted butter then I mixed up a simple sauce mignonette of white wine vinegar, cracked pepper, and lots of finely-chopped shallots.
And there we had it. A rather excellent Sunday lunch, my only consolation for another unsuccessful attempt at comprehending the nuances of the French language.
And the tarte Tatin?
Dessert from Berthillon, who I think makes the best tarte Tatin in Paris. An enormous wedge of caramelized apples resting on crisp pastry, served with a big, melting scoop of their amazing caramel ice cream alongside.
Now that’s something I have no trouble understanding…
31, rue de St. Louis-en-I’le
Tel: 01 43 54 31 61
Dinner in Paris generally starts at 8 pm, especially in restaurants. And most places don’t even open to take reservations until 7 o’clock. I once was talking to a visitor who was really upset as he recounted arriving 15 minutes early at a place that he had reservations for dinner. The staff was sitting down having dinner (how civilized!) and asked him to come back at 8, when the restaurant opened and the time of his reservation. He told me he threw a fit, not believing that they wouldn’t seat him, and stormed off. (I think I will try that next time I arrive at the airport early and throw a fit when they refuse to take off until the scheduled departure time.)
Anyone who’s worked in a restaurant knows how precious those few minutes of sitting down and eating are. Those moments of peace-and-quiet with your co-workers are the last chance to get off your aching feet for a spell and have a bite to eat. Especially since the next chance to sit down or eat something is likely to be well past midnight.
Parisians do dine rather late, and sometimes it can be a painfully long stretch between lunch and dinner. So French people often visit their local pâtisserie for an afternoon snack, known as le goûter, although nowadays Parisians often call it ‘le snack’.
Le snack is often nothing more than a buttery financier or a tender Madeleine. At home, French children at home are often given a split piece of baguette with a bâton of chocolate tucked inside to keep them happy until dinner.
But my snack of choice is invariably les chouquettes: Cream puffs covered with crunchy nuggets of sugar, then baked until golden-brown. The eggy, pillowy puffs are piled uneventfully behind the counter and sold in crisp little paper sacks, each one holding about 100 grams, or about 10. I found that engaging the counter person in a few words of niceties will often mean that before the ends of the bag are twisted shut, a few more will be tossed in as a petit cadeau for l’americain.
Nothing is easier to make than chouquettes and you can bake them tonight with ingredients you likely already have on hand. Unfortunately I don’t know where in your country you can buy the very coarse, crackly sugar that they use in France. But you can substitute any large-grained sugar that you have. And since I like to add chocolate to whatever I can, whenever I can, I press some chocolate chips into a few of the puffs before baking.
The ones with chocolate chips, needless to say, are always the first consumed once the puffs are cool enough to handle.
About 25 Puffs
From The Sweet Life in Paris (Broadway Books)
Shaping the mounds of dough is easiest to do with a pastry bag, although you can use two spoons or a spring-loaded ice cream scoop.
- 1 cup (250ml) water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 6 tablespoons (90g) unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
- 1 cup (135g) flour
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
Glaze: 1 egg yolk, mixed with 1 teaspoon milk
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees (220 C.) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
2. Heat the water, salt, sugar, and butter in a small saucepan, stirring, until the butter is melted. Remove from heat and dump all the flour in at once. Stir rapidly until the mixture is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the pan.
3. Allow dough to cool for two minutes, then briskly beat in the eggs, one at a time, until smooth and shiny.
4. Using two spoons, scoop up a mound of dough with one spoon roughly the size of an unshelled walnut, and scrape it off with the other spoon onto the baking sheet.
5. Place the mounds evenly-spaced apart on the baking sheet. Brush the top of each mound with some of the egg glaze then press coarse sugar crystals over the top and sides of each mound. Use a lot. Once the puffs expand rise, you’ll appreciate the extra effort (and sugar.)
6. Bake the cream puffs for 35 minutes, or until puffed and well-browned.
(If you want to make them crispier, you can poke a hole in the side with a knife after you take them out of the oven to let the steam escape.)
The cream puffs are best eaten the same day they’re made. Once cooled, they can be frozen in a zip-top freezer bag for up to one month. Defrost at room temperature, then warm briefly on a baking sheet in a moderate oven, until crisp.
Four Jobs I’ve Had:
1. Restocking the salad bar at The Vineyard restaurant.
You wouldn’t eat the hard-boiled eggs at a salad bar if you saw where they come from.
And I don’t mean the chickens.
2. The photo processing counter at Service Merchandise.
We would wait for certain customers to drop off their film.
Some were famous.
At least amongst us.
Especially Mr. Sabatini.
3. Bonanza Sirloin Pit.
My first job.
The waitresses wore naugahyde mini-skirts and the cooks wore leather-like aprons.
Reminiscent of a bar in San Francisco that I used to visit.
Except the women weren’t really women.
At least I don’t think so.
I loved the Texas Toast at Bonanza the most: A huge, thick slab of white bread, drenched with a melted butter-like-substitute, then char-broiled over the open fire until crispy.
If we wanted real butter, we had to pay 5 cents extra.
If caught using real butter, the manager would throw a fit and threaten to fire us.
Gee, I wonder what he’s doing now?
I live in Paris.
4. Scooping Ice Cream at the University Deli.
We were famous for giving HUGE scoops, really huge, of ice cream. Some jerk would invariably come in and say, “I want just one scoop, but one really, really HUGE scoop of cream!”
We perfected making that one HUGE scoop…one that was hollow inside. The moment they got outside and took their first lick, the ball of ice cream would flop over onto the sidewalk.
People never learn: Don’t mess with people serving you food.
They will mess back.
Sometimes you can even see it.
Four Movies I Can Watch Over and Over:
2. Auntie Mame
3. 9½ Weeks
4. Showgirls (The Unrated, Director’s Cut only, please!)
Four Places I’ve Lived:
1. Ithaca, New York
2. San Francisco
(Ok, I only dream about living in Hawaii.)
Four TV Shows I Love:
1. The Sopranos
2. Six Feet Under
3. Strangers With Candy
4. The Nanny
Four Highly-Regarded and Recommended TV Shows That I’ve Never Watched:
1. West Wing
3. The O’Reilly Report
4. A Very Brady Christmas
(Ok, I confess. I did watch the last one.
But only because it was “Highly-Regarded and Recommended”)
Four Places I’ve Vacationed:
2. Merida, Mexico
Four of My Favorite Dishes:
1. Fried Chicken, without gravy
3. Duck Confit
4. Hot Corned-Beef on Rye Bread
Four Sites I Visit Daily:
Four Places I’d Rather Be Right Now:
1. On a warm beach in Hawaii
2. On a warm beach in Thailand
3. On a warm beach in Mexico
4. Anywhere it’s not cold or raining
Four Bloggers I am Tagging:
If I have to put on a sweater and carry an umbrella one more day, I’m going to scream…
I’m very lucky that I live just one block from the biggest outdoor market in Paris, the Richard Lenoir Market. Beginning at the Place de la Bastille and radiating northward, Sunday is a particularly lively day, since almost all other shops are closed in Paris on Sunday. I guess the alternative, going to church, is a less-popular option here, even in this predominantly Catholic country. If God is everywhere, I suppose, he’ll find the heathen at the market, lugging around our loaves and fishes.
You can find just about anything at the Richard Lenoir market. (In fact, I found packaging tape this morning. I did look for thermometer batteries, but no luck.) I always set out with an empty basket with the intention of buying a few vegetables and maybe a slab of fish. But by the time I’m done, I’ve almost dislocated my shoulder hauling my market basket home.
It’s obligatory for me, and just about everyone else shopping the market, to stop at the stand of Jackie Lorenzo, one of the best fishmongers in Paris. His stand is always a buzz of activity and you need to push your way to the front to get help. I’ve nudged little old ladies out of the way in order to get served (and they’re not so kindly here, and are far tougher than they look; I’ve come home with bruises!)
Being the resourceful American that has to use his God-given talents to good use to get what he wants around this city, I’ve been known to ply the young men and women who work for M. Lorenzo with chocolate chip cookies on select occassions in the past, so l’americain sometimes gets priority placement in line. Consider it a job perk. The young men and women who work there are always friendly and willing to give advice about preparation too, as is the person behind you (…unless it’s madame that you shoved out of the way. Then it’s best to slide away without making eye contact.)
It’s scallop season, or as they’re called, les coquilles St. Jacques. At the stand today they were piled high, almost up to the top of my head! They’re normally sold in their shells with their orange ‘foot’ attached in France. and I bought four live ‘uns, which cost around 4 euros. For lunch, I pried them open with my oyster knife, removed all the gooey stuff, and sautéed them briefly with garlic and butter.
Monkfish is very popular in France, often referred to in America as “Poor Man’s Lobster”. It’s common for fish merchants in France to leave the heads on fish to prove they’re fresh (the eyes should always be clear). But monkfish are so ugly, they lop off the tête. I’ve never bought one. They scare me, even without their heads.
I don’t know if anyone purposely displays their dry sausages like a cobra, but that’s what they look like to me. One confusing thing for us non-native French speakers is the difference is the words for saucisson, which is a dry-cured sausage, and saucisse, the fresh sausage. Invariably I screw it up and they give me funny looks (another thing I’ve gotten used to around here.)
Since sunday is so busy, often the butchers will just put out some slices of…ok, quick!…it is saucisse or saucisson?…
They make a nice snack while roving the market too.
When I began cooking at Chez Panisse in the early 80′s, we would buy imported blood oranges from Italy and diners invariably would ask, “How do you get the oranges that color?”. If I was in a particular mood, I’d make up a good story. People would also ask if the goat cheese was tofu. Nowadays, I presume, goat cheese is more common than tofu in America. Even (or especially) in Berkeley.
If you don’t feel like cooking, you can buy long-simmered boeuf Bourguignon already made. Since the weather’s been especially cold here in Paris, you can see it’s rather popular.
Leeks are very popular in France and almost everyone’s shopping basket has a plume of green leaves poking out. Leeks are gets par-boiled, cooled to room temperature, then doused in vinaigrette. I also crumble hard-cooked eggs over the top, or mash some good anchovies into the dressing.
I know this isn’t good for me, but I can’t resist bringing home a perhaps not-too-healthy slab of terrine Gascogne. The butchers grind together long-simmered pork confit with savory bits of duck liver and duck confit, packed in it’s own fat. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever tasted and they always sell me too much. When they hover the knife over the terrine, so I can tell them where to slice, they invariably move the knife in the opposite direction that I tell them. I am sure they do it on purpose but when I get home and take my first bite from the rich slab, I know it will be gone within a few days so I’m happy to have it all.
Richard Lenoir Market
Begins at the Place de la Bastille
Mètro: Bastille or Bréguet Sabin
Market is Thursday and Sunday, between (approximately) 9am to 1pm