The Rules: Bringing Food Home From France

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“Can I bring it back?”

Answering many of the questions visitors have about what’s allowable to be brought back into the United States (legally), here are some articles and posts about what can and can’t be brought back into the United States:

- Think Twice Before Stuffing Your Suitcase (USA Today)

-Transportation Security Administration

-Importing Food Products into the United States (FDA)

-Travelers Bringing Food Into the US for Personal Use (US Customs & Border Protection)



(Please note that rules and regulations are subject to change and revision, and it’s always best to consult with the US government websites for the most current information.)

Green Almonds

Unless you live in an almond-growing region in the US, I’m sorry to tell you that it’s rather unlikely you’ll come across green almonds in your market. They don’t seem to be as popular in America as they are here in France. And right now in Paris, they’re heaped up in big mounds at the outdoor markets.

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In San Francisco, I would find green almonds at certain markets, and they were plentiful and abundant in the late spring. What is a green almond? They’re unripe almonds, picked before the shell has a chance to harden, and before the almond has had a chance to become crisp and mature (I’m still waiting for both, myself. Does that make me ‘green’ too?)

To extract the almond meat, take a large knife and embed the blade in the fuzzy green outer husk. Lift the knife and the almond and crack both down with modest force on a cutting board, making sure your fingers are safely out of the way. The Italian woman at my market cracks green almonds using her teeth, a method countless dentists probably don’t recommend. Her teeth are not exactly a stellar advertisement for that method either. But do watch your fingers and keep them away from the blade of the knife. You’ll find typing very difficult with just 9 fingers.

Once split open, pluck out the little almond in the center with the tip of a knife and peel back the rubbery, shiny-smooth skin, a task which many people find pleasurable. I sprinkle green almonds over summer fresh-fruit compotes that include sliced nectarines, tart apricots, and juicy berries. They also liven up a simple scoop of ice cream as well, but I know many French people that just snack on them as they are, a nibble before dinner with an aperitif accompanied by a glass of icy-cold, fruity rosé.

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If a French cooks makes you a gift of a jar of homemade jam, you’ll often find a few green almonds tucked in, as I did yesterday when I made a few jars of Peach Jam. If you’d like to taste green almonds, visit your local farmer’s market and see if they’re available. If not, ask any nuts farmers there to bring you some. Otherwise, you’ll have to come to Paris.

But don’t wait too long; the season is short and they’ll only be around another few weeks.

Pain Auvergnate

Wandering the streets of Paris, I feel fortunate when I stumble across a great boulangerie. In a city with 1263 bakeries (at last count) many of them are good, a few great, and some are disappointingly ordinary.
So when I come one that looks, and smells, like it’s gonna be a great one, I hurry inside.

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Located on a plain, fairly-deserted side street in the vast 15th arrondissement, my nose filled with the unmistakable scent of yeast and wheat mingling in the air, tinged with an obligatory bit of butter, which I could smell from the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street.Traversing the street (which is always a dangerous proposition, since no one seems to have told Parisian drivers that when you see a pedestrian, you’re supposed to slow down, not speed up) I joined the line of hungry Parisians queuing up for their daily bread.

While I waited, I craned my neck to look at their beautiful breads on display. In Paris, once it’s you’re turn in line, if you haven’t figured out what you want, you’re messing up the whole system, since indecision is not a Parisian trait. But I honed in immediately on this pain Auvergnate, a dense, dark loaf dusted heavily with flour. Sliced open, the dense mie, or crumb, smelled rich, sour and medieval. I would imagine it going well with a full-flavored mountain cheese, like Comté or Cantal, or a tangy, fresh goat cheese with a dribble of dark chestnut honey.

I also bought several palets Breton, crumbly butter cookies, a specialty of Brittany where butter rules…especially butter flecked with fleur de sel. Unfortunately I made a stop to visit a local chocolatier, who helped himself to my stash. And before I knew it, they were gone and I had nothing but a bag of crumbs (which, by the way, were rather good.)

Luckily, he made up for it in spades, which I’ll write about soon.

Le Quartier du Pain
Boulangerie Artisanale
74, rue St. Charles
Tel: 01 45 78 87 23

(other location)
270, rue Vaugirard
Tel: 01 48 28 78 42

Solving Two Problems

I’m currently working on solving two problems, and I beg forgiveness.

I recently upgraded to a digital SLR camera, and I’ve been struggling to understand all those little dials, digital read-outs, flashing numbers, and the myriad of switches that will make me look like the pros.
So that’s one problem I’m tackling.

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The next problem: I have too much chocolate.
Here is Paris, the temperature is starting to soar and after a recent project I worked on with several of the top chocolatiers in Paris I was handed multiple boxes of chocolates to sample and taste.

(“What project?”, you might be asking. I’ll be sending more information about that to my Subscribers. What? You’re not a Subscriber? Enter your email address is the green box on the right and you’ll get wild and wacky updates from me.)

So I hope you indulge me in letting my try out my new camera photos here on the site, and I’ll be introducing some wonderful chocolates, and other French confections, in the next few postings. Some of the postings will be short and sweet, and others I’ll ramble like a madman on chocolate. And sugar.

The chocolates above are from Patrick Roger, one of my favorite chocolatiers in Paris. The collection is called Le Best-of and each stick contains something different:


  • Ganache baies de Sechuan: Chocolate ganache seasoned with grains of Sichuan pepper.

  • Gananche mandarine: Ganache infused with tangerine peel.

  • Ganache citron vert: Ganache with lime zest and a touch of the lively juice.

  • Pâde d’amande chocolat et châtaigne: Almond paste compounded with chestnut puree.

  • Praliné nougatine: Crunchy nougat paste. (my favorite!)

  • Ganache et gelée de coings: Jellied quince paste layered between chocolate cream.

  • Mousse caramel: Caramel mousse (ok, I lied…this is my favorite…or am I allowed two?)

Patrick Roger
108 Blvd Saint-Germain
Paris
Tel: 01 43 29 38 42
M: Odéon

47 rue Houdon
Seaux
(RER station B: Seaux)
Tel: 01 47 02 30 17

(And Muchas Gracias to a certain señorita too!)

Dulce de Leche Brownie Recipe

I thought I’d share this recipe for Dulce de Leche Brownies. I’ve had several jars of the dulce de leche in my refrigerator, waiting to be used. And since I happened to be craving chocolate brownies, I though, “Why not combine the two?”

In the past, I’ve used homemade Dulce de Leche in this recipe, although you can use store-bought. I think these brownies are really fun to make – who doesn’t like swirling caramel? Just be careful not to overdo it. You wanted big, gooey pockets of dulce de leche.

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Dulce de Leche Brownies
12 brownies

Adapted from The Sweet Life in Paris (Broadway Books)

  • 8 tablespoons (115g) salted or unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 6 ounces (170g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup (25g) unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup (200g) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (140g) flour
  • optional: 1 cup (100 g) toasted pecans or walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup Dulce de Leche (or Cajeta)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (175 C).

Line a 8-inch (20 cm) square pan with a long sheet of aluminum foil that covers the bottom and reaches up the sides. If it doesn’t reach all the way up and over all four sides, cross another sheet of foil over it, making a large cross with edges that overhang the sides. Grease the bottom and sides of the foil with a bit of butter or non-stick spray.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the chocolate pieces and stir constantly over very low heat until the chocolate is melted. Remove from heat and whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth. Add in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the sugar, vanilla, then the flour. Mix in the nuts, if using.

Scrape half of the batter into the prepared pan. Here comes the fun part.
Drop one-third of the Dulce de Leche, evenly spaced, over the brownie batter, then drag a knife through to swirl it slightly. Spread the remaining brownie batter over, then drop spoonfuls of the remaining Dulce de Leche in dollops over the top of the brownie batter. Use a knife to swirl the Dulce de Leche slightly.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes. The brownies are done when the center feels just-slightly firm. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

Storage: These brownies actually become better the second day, and will keep well for up to 3 days.



Related Recipes and Posts

Chocolate FAQs

Chocolate Milkshakes with Coffee and Almond

Cocoa Powder FAQs

Baked Mint Brownies

Chocolate Idiot Cake

Chocolate Sherbet



Blogging, Interrupted

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Someone has a lot of catching up to do.

Back soon…

The Worst Kitchen Gadget in the World

Almost every foodie worth their salt, including those who hang onto every word by that scary, bow-tied gent, adore their Microplane zester. The rasp-style graters have turned zesting into one of the hottest fads of the new millenium.

(Did anyone catch those steamy photos of Vince and Jen zesting lemons on their balcony? Or Brad and Angelina passing time until the baby came, grating orange zest for God-knows-what-those-wacky-lovebird were going to bake up?…Keep it in the kitchen, guys, okay? Or how about the worst culprit of them all; Britany almost dropping hers while the cameras snapped away? That girl is unfit for zesting, if you ask me.)

But in non-celebrity news, I just got the best non-kitchen gadget from Microplane…

In case you’re wondering why I’m so excited (or maybe you’re not, but if you’re reading this far, I’m assuming you are…or you’re just indulging me), this is the a Foot File. It’s not something you use in the kitchen. And if you do, please don’t invite me for dinner. Mine’s staying in the bathroom, just in case you get invited over.

But for those of us who spend a lot of time on our feet, it’s pretty easy to develop leather-like skin. I ordered one of these green-meanies, knowing that anything from Microplane would likely exceed my expectations, but I didn’t realize that within 30 seconds, 30 years of hard-earned callouses would disappear right down the non-proverbial drain.

One use, and bam!, my whole foot-care world turned upside-down.
I don’t know what to believe anymore (which may also be from watching White House press conferences, as well.)

I won’t go into the skin-cell-by-skin-cell details here, since you already know enough about me, but with sandal season coming, I’m going to be able to walk proudly down the streets and boulevards of Paris this summer. So forget anything you ever knew before about my foot care regime and get one of these. You won’t regret it. And remember; keep it out of the kitchen.

Paris is Degrading

According to LOI n° 2006-11 du 5 janvier 2006 d’orientation agricole, article 47

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…as of January 1, 2010, all plastic bags in France will be compostable and biodegradable. The new sacks are being introduced this week as part of a campaign to promote people shopping at the outdoor markets. What a great initiative. Go France!