Pay Dirt!

Why is it when you order French Fries, a disappointing majority of the time they come out in a limp heap, underbaked, greasy, and soft.
Does anybody really like their fries that way?

Anyone?

(start rant) I always want to take the plate back into the kitchen, present them to the cook, and ask why they didn’t leave them to cook until deep-golden brown and crispy? And don’t get me started on undersalted fries. French Fries need to get salted immediately when they come out of the blazing-hot oil, so it clings to the crunchy fries. (end rant)

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So imagine my surprise when my friend Dylan whisked me away from the recent culinary conference I was attending in Seattle to walk me a few blocks away to the Baguette Box.

The Baguette Box is a little hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop, owned by chef Eric Bahn, who also owns Seattle’s Monsoon restaurant where I’d eaten the night previously. I will spare you the details of the dreaded conference lunches I was forced to endure, but will let you know that it took very, very little prodding to get me to come along (and Dylan’s mom is the famous Fran Bigelow of Fran’s chocolate, inventor of the most amazing grey salt caramels, dipped in chocolate, and finished with smoked sea salt.) So since there the possibility of chocolate in there, it took little encouragement on his part to get me to play hooky for a few hours one afternoon.

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The Baguette Box is basically one long communal table with a chalkboard above the open kitchen announing which sandwiches were on offer that day. Feeling like I needed a break from all the meat I’d eaten in Seattle (more about that in a later post), I chose the Tuna Salad Baguette with Sliced Boiled Egg, which came with crisp-sliced radishes. Dylan wisely chose the Salmon Gravlox Baguette which looked delicious but once you pick up one of these hefty sandwiches, if you put it down you risk it spilling its contents all over the place.

But the French Fries were what really astounded me. A pile of just-fried French Fries were piled into a nice-sized paper cup and generously sprinkled with very good salt. In fact, it was just the right amount. They were dark brown and crackly-crisp. Outstanding, and when I told Eric that I they were the best French Fries I’d ever had in my life, I don’t think he took me seriously (he obviously doesn’t read my blog!) but they were. And at $2.50, they were the best bargain in town. Hedonists can opt for a drizzle of white truffle oil, but I think that might ruin the sheer perfection of les frites.

Baguette Box
1203 Pine Street
Seattle, WA
Tel: (206) 332-0220

Inside The KitchenAid Factory

mixer melange

“You’re going to flip out.”That was the message I got from a representative and friend from KitchenAid when he found out I was finally going to visit their factory. It was a visit I’ve been waiting years to make.

I’d been meaning to visit the KitchenAid factory ever they brought up the idea to me a few years ago, asking me to give a baking demonstration there as well. I can’t imagine life without my KitchenAid mixer and most other bakers I know feel the same way (and I love seeing how things are made, anything. I just find it fascinating, no matter what I’m watching being put-together.)

And if you have a KitchenAid mixer, you know what I’m talking about. It’s without a doubt the one essential tool that most home bakers can’t live without. The mixer we used at Chez Panisse was a solid performer after twenty years of hard restaurant use (it outlasted me!) and my personal mixer has been in service for well over 15 years. When I began doing baking demonstrations over a decade ago, I was so enthusiastic that I reached my arms around the one that I was using and gave it a big, generous hug.

Word of that hug reached KitchenAid headquarters and ever since then, I’ve been lucky to get to know many of the terrific folks who work for KitchenAid, both in the United States and Europe. And when they heard I was heading to the US this month, we worked in a date to visit their factory for a private look at how the mixers are put together. They gave me special permission to take photographs so much of what you’ll see here was generously allowed by KitchenAid.

A visit to the factory begins with a viewing of some of the classic stand mixers. The first produced was the Model H, introduced in 1919 and sold until 1927. It weighed a hefty 60-pounds and stores were so skeptical of its saleability that it was lugged door-to-door by housewives, hoping to convince other homemakers of its value.
The price? The Model H sold back then for $199 which is the equivalent today of about $1400.

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The First Ever KitchenAid Mixer


Over the next several decades the designs changed to reflect the times, with my favorite being this one, totally streamlined with swoops and curvilinear lines, suggesting speed and industrialism. Someday I hope this one is re-issued as a Special-Edition, since I think it’s the most beautiful of all the models ever produced.

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I love the graceful curve of the (useful) handle, which you grasp to lift the head of the machine. And I love the little ‘fin’ that’s affixed to the back.

Others models were made of materials strong enough to withstand the rugged KitchenAid motor within.

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There were contemporary mixers on display too, including custom models made to commemorate certain events, including this one. One hundred of them were made and donated as thank-you gestures to the New York City Fire Departments for their efforts and heroism after September 11th.

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Another 100 were made later and sold on eBay, with the proceeds going to 9/11 charities.

I learned that KitchenAid is the only company in America which still makes counter top appliances in the United States. All others brands are made overseas, although a few select KitchenAid appliances like the heavy-duty Pro-Line Espresso Maker (which I seriously envy) is made in Italy. Each and every KitchenAid appliance manufactured out of the United States is taken out of the box, vigorously-tested, then re-sealed before it’s ready for sale.

color samples at kitchenaid

The first thing that I saw when I entered the factory are the newest models and colored mixers lined up, practically floor-to-ceiling! They ranged in hues like sunny Meyer Lemon, Martha Green (named after…), Caviar (black with silver flecks), a cheerful Green Apple, Olive, and colorfully-red Bing Cherry.

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Mixers Ready To Be Dipped in Paint

If I didn’t already own several mixers, I would have tried to sneak out the brilliant-yellow Meyer Lemon model under my jacket, although it’s being considered for retirement. New colors are constantly introduced, then retired, sop that new ones can be added. So if you ever see a color that you like, get it while it’s hot. One enduring color that’s been offered for years, with a new expanded product line, is the pink mixer, with 10% from the sale of each going to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. There’s no plans to retire that one, and in fact, they’ve added other products in that color range.

mixer assembly line

Each KitchenAid mixer takes about one-day to assemble. The actual building of the mixer is done in several stages: The engines are assembled and installed in the cast-metal housing by one team, the parts are heavily oiled (using three-times the amount of lubrication required for a lifetime of use), then sealed tight by another group, then the mixers are tested in another area, replicating 30 years of normal home use. Once they pass inspection, they’re packaged up and ready to be shipped off.

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Blenders Are Tested With Cubes of Ice, Which Are Perhaps the Hardest Things You’d Put In a Blender.

Each person in the factory makes an average of 92 standing mixers per day, with 22 people working on the line at any given time. Christmas starts in June at KitchenAid, when temporary workers are hired to assemble mixers to meet the upcoming holiday demand.

I left my resumé.

kitchenaid

One of the newest improvements to the KitchenAid standing mixer is their sturdiest whip yet. Unlike the dough hook and paddle attachments, the whip has several different parts affixed together, making it the part that takes the most abuse (sometimes I think I know exactly how it feels.) I watched how each individual whip was spun around while a woman patiently threaded each wire, interlacing them and securing them to the core.

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A Woman Wields Her Whip


The happiest folks in the factory are not on the floor, but in a special, plusher chamber. These are the “call girls”, as they’re known. These happy cookers spend their days servicing clients, tirelessly, one right after the other. They’re the on-site customer service team, helping customers seeking advice about their appliances. Although the main call center is elsewhere (in Michigan), KitchenAid likes some of their customer service workers to remain in the factory, keeping them in touch with the manufacturing process, so they can respond to requests quickly and accurately.

So when you call KitchenAid, you can ask to speak to someone in the factory in Greenville. You’ll get connected to one of the highly knowledgeable service team members there (…and tell them I sent you…they’re not likely to forget me!)

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Is your mixer making a funny sound?
Hold the phone to the machine while it’s operating and they can diagnose it for you.
Wondering how you can raise the bowl so that the whip reaches the absolute bottom of it?
There’s a tiny screw located underneath the mixer head that you can turn counterclockwise (on the K5) that’ll do the trick. I’ve been using my KitchenAid mixer for years and never knew that.
Of course if I had read the instructions…and we all read instruction manuals, don’t we?

Just a short ride away is the KitchenAid Experience, an interactive center where everything that KitchenAid makes is available to try out and play around with.

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How Do You Decide?

There’s also a teaching kitchen with demonstrations throughout the day. I did one, making all sorts of chocolate treats for guests, including chewy Chocolate Financiers, Rocky Road with Homemade Marshmallows, Peanuts, and Cocoa Nibs, and Double Chocolate Ice Cream with Stracciatella, using the brand-new ice cream attachment, which works with all KitchenAid standing mixers.

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Homemade Rocky Road, Recipe From The Great Book of Chocolate


Each and every appliance is available on the floor to play around with and bargain-hunters should descend to the lower-level, a room packed floor-to-ceiling with factory refurbished mixers and blenders.

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When a KitchenAid product is returned to a store, it’s sent back to the factory. The box is opened, the appliance removed and thoroughly inspected and tested. Then it’s re-sealed and offered for sale at a substantial discount: Each appliance meets the same rigorous standards as a spanking-new model.

I saw hyper-powerful 6-quart KitchenAid mixers available for slightly more than $200 and chrome blenders being sold for less than half the retail price. And there was lots and lots of mixers and other appliances in colors that had been retired or in various experimental finishes that you won’t find anywhere else.
If you can’t make it to the KitchenAid Experience, you can shop find your own bargain on a reconditioned model at Amazon.

Big thanks to the staff at KitchenAid for taking the time to show my everything, as I poked through boxes and rifled through bins of parts. They answered all my questions and I’ll never rev up my KitchenAid standing mixer again without thinking of what went into it before it became a fixture in my kitchen and my life.

Related Links:

Bargain KitchenAid Mixers & Appliances

You can find amazing bargains on reconditioned KitchenAid appliances at Amazon, such as powerful K5 mixers for only $129, and gorgeous chrome-plated blenders for only $39, which will save you hundreds of dollars.

The KitchenAid Experience

The KitchenAid Experience is located in Greenville, Ohio, about 45 minutes from Dayton and 2 hours from Cinncinati.

The KitchenAid Experience
423 South Broadway
Greenville, Ohio
Tel: 1-888-886-8318

Factory Tours of KitchenAid

KitchenAid
1701 KitchenAid Way
Greenville, Ohio
Tours given Monday through Friday, at 10am and 1pm (subject to change, so call ahead.)

Local Bed & Breakfast

St. Clair Place
224 E. Third Street
Greenville, Ohio
Email: stclairplace@earthlink.net

110V-220V, and International Questions

Will my KitchenAid Mixer Work Abroad?

KitchenAid International

Au Revoir, David!

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Back in a bit…

Where to Get the Best Crepes In Paris

making crêpes

People that come to Paris commonly request “Where can we get a great crêpe in Paris?”

For street crêpes, in the area around the gare Montparnasse in Paris, there are a plethora of crêperies since the trains departing and arriving from that station go to Brittany and the immigrants set up shop there once upon a time. In an area crowded with crêperies, the one that stands out is Josselin. It’s noisy, bustling, and lots of fun.

galette

But no matter where I go, I’m a fan of the classic complète, a buckwheat galette (crêpe) enclosing a fine slice of jambon de Paris, grated gruyère cheese, and a softly-fried egg resting in the middle waiting to be broken to moisten the whole thing. I like my galettes crisp at the edges, with the earthy taste of real, freshly-ground buckwheat. Alongside, there’s nothing better than cider, such as Val de Rance, brut, of course, which is the driest of the fermented apple ciders. For dessert usually get just a simple galette smeared with salted butter and a puddle of honey, warmed by the galette.

One bit of advice; a regular crêpe made with white flour is called a crêpe, and one made with buckwheat flour is called a galette, or sometimes crêpe au blé noir. Some menus list both, so you can choose between them. Desserts are usually served on regular flour crêpes, but you can often ask for buckwheat ones.

Here are some favorite places to indulge. Several are popular, so be sure to call and reserve if you can.

My Favorite Addresses for Great Crêpes in Paris

Josselin
67, rue du Montparnasse (14th)
Tél: 01 43 20 93 50

Crêperie Bretonne
67, rue de Charonne (11th)
Tél: 01 43 55 62 29

Breizh Café
109, rue Vieille du Temple (3rd)
Tél: 01 42 72 13 77

West Country Girl
6, passage St. Ambroise (11th)
Tél: 01 47 00 72 54

Little Breizh
11, rue Grégoire de Tours (6th)
Tél: 01 43 54 60 74


Related Posts

Breizh Café

West Country Girl

The best socca in Nice

Tips for Vegetarian Dining in Paris

Paris Restaurant Archives

Two Dining Guides to Paris

Neal’s Yard Dairy in London

Disneyland is often called ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’.
I don’t know about that.

For me, Neal’s Yard Dairy is that place.

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I’d been anxious (well, more than anxious, practically hysterical) to visit them in London ever since I first tasted their cheeses, which are imported by my gal-pals Peggy Smith and Sue Conley at Cowgirl Creamery in the San Francisco bay area.

Neal’s Yard Dairy has been making cheese since 1979. The founder, Randolph Hodgson stated the cheesemaking operation in London’s Covent Garden. On their web site, he states “We didn’t know what we were doing and so we gave the customers a taste of everything and asked them what they thought.”

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And indeed, I was a bit startled when I inquired about a cheese and the affable salesperson (who wear knee-high white rubber boots and other cheesemaking garb) grabbed a knife, plucked off a nice slab, and handed it to me. When I wasn’t sure (yes, really), he repeated the process with several of the other cheddars (someone once asked why in France they don’t give tastes freely, and a French friend replied, with a bit of derision, and perhaps sadness, “That wouldn’t be ‘correct’.”

(Incongruously, the fellow who helped me at Neal’s Yard was French. Maybe he should come back and start a new trend?)

When I entered Neal’s Yard in Covent Garden, there were huge rounds of cheddar piled way, way up high.

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And Neal’s Yard cheddars are the best in the world.
The exteriors are covered with dark, dusky rind, but when cut open, the interior is revealed. The cheeses are a sunny, golden yellow, often with little streaks of blue mold running through. Dry and crumbly, they left an indelible sharpness when eaten.

My favorite was the Westcombe Cheddar which was well-aged and had a sweet-sharpness that I knew would be fabulous. And it was.

I think I tasted every cheese in the shop, at their suggestion, and I waddled out with lots of wedges of English cheese to bring home and savor. The best blue, I think, was Harbourne Blue, a rather crumbly sort of cheese, yet soft and tangy. I purchased a stack (well, actually about 7 stacks) of oatcakes which are the perfect vehicle for the blue cheese.

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I also loved the slightly dry Gorwydd Caerphilly. Even though I could barely wrap my tounge around the name, the cheese went down quite well. Both cheese, including the Harbourne Blue, I’ve been enjoying with a salad every day since I got home.

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On Saturday at Borough Market, across the Thames, locals line up outside Neal’s Yard for freshly-grilled cheese sandwiches made with Montgomery’s Cheddar, finely diced red onions, and heated on a griddle between pain Poîlane. The other option (which I passed on…how can I pass up a perfect grilled cheese sandwich?) was raclette. Ok, it was an easy decision: My fingers were so frozen that I didn’t think I could wield a fork properly and was afraid that most of it would end up on the ground. The sandwich was the prudent option. I would hate to waste a single, delicious morsel.

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Raclette is often made over an open fire. The ritual is a big, sexy affair. A huge slab of cheese is heated until super-hot and bubbling, then the hot, gooey stuff is shaved over a plate of sliced potatoes and gherkins (or cornichons, but it’s a relief to me typing in English and not having to code everything in HTML, so I’m using gherkins today.)

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I also brought back several blocks of Montgomery Farmhouse Butter, which boasts a whopping 85% butterfat (I think. I was in a butterfat-induced haze by that point.) I thought it would be tasty when spread over a warm, toasted crumpet, and sure enough, I was right. I ran out of crumpets at home before I ran out of butter and will have to make a batch to finish off the buttery block. I guess I wasn’t spreading on enough butter?

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If you’re interested in learning more about Neal’s Yard, I urge you to visit their website, which is full of excellent information and lots of terrific photos of the cheesemaking operations.

In the United States, Neal’s Yard cheeses are available at Cowgirl Creamery and Central Market stores. If your local cheeseshop carries any of their cheeses, don’t hesitate to bring a slab or two home.

You won’t be disappointed. Just make sure to pick up plenty of oatcakes, and perhaps some crumpets, as well.

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Neal’s Yard Dairy
17 Shorts Gardens, Covent Garden
and
6 Park Street, Borough Market
London

London Called…So I Went!

With the Eurostar, London is just a 2 ½ hour train from the Paris gare du Nord. Why wouldn’t you go for a weekend? I guess I could think of a million reasons why I haven’t been to London but none are very compelling. When an email from some friends who live in Hawaii announced they were coming for the weekend (which involved several flight across multiple time zones), I couldn’t come up with an excuse not to go and meet them.

People (myself included) often wonder why Europeans don’t travel more outside of their country (in fact, just a slim minority of Americans have passports) when Italy, Spain, and London are just a hop, skip, and a jump across the frontière.

So I found myself speeding Chunnel-ward for the weekend. In winter, London is bone-chilling cold. Truly. I was surprised it was so much colder than Paris. An icy-blast of wind ripped through whatever layers of clothing I was bundled up in. Another surprise was the cost of most things. A trip on the Tube was a startling 3 pounds (about $5). And although England is a nation of beer drinkers, most pubs only had French or Belgian beers.

Except for one woman I had a tangle with at Monmouth Coffee (who shall remain faceless and nameless…although the nice woman there gave me my coffee for free because the other woman was so nasty), the Brits were chipper, friendly, and witty. At the astounding Borough Market, the cheery vendors braving the cold were happy to chat and offer tastes. I had a cream scone, stocked up on cheese (more in a future post), and my first gooey Treacle Tart from &Clark’s, Sally Clark’s bakery that was deliciously sweet. Of course, I loved it.

And my dinner at Fergus Henderson’s restaurant St. John was great fun, a wonderful place. Instead of heaping on the pretense like so many other well-known restaurants, the room is block-white with pegs on the wall, like meat hooks, for hanging your coat. They’re the sole decoration in the sparse room which I believe was formerly a butcher shop as well.

We started with a big platter of rock-hard bones brimming with warm marrow, accompanied by warm grilled sourdough bread, coarse grey salt, and a garlicky parsley salad. Another salad was Shaved, Dried Venison Liver with Radishes, Capers, Soft-Cooked Egg, sauced with a warm mustardy dressing and that was followed by my main course of roasted Pintade, Guinea Fowl, with Braised Cabbage and Salt-Roasted Potatoes. Dessert was a Warm Treacle Cake for 2 that was big enough for 8 and tasted like an upsidedown cake without the fruit. It was served with a large pitcher of warm creme anglaise. We also had a decent, but unexceptional Date Cake with Spiced Ice Cream and Hot Caramel Sauce. A scoop of just-churned Chocolate Ice Cream with an unusual red dessert wine (whose name escapes me) was a nice finish to the meal, and it was all quite lovely.

Here’s some of the other things I found to eat in London:

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The Brits sure like their bacon, at Borough Market.
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I didn’t know what this was since the box doesn’t have much information. When I asked, I was told, “It’s a big block of sugar, covered with chocolate.”
Sounds good to me! And indeed it was. In fact, it was so delicous, I bought a few more to take home. As you can see, it’s like a big peppermint pattie. I’m going to crumble one into my next batch of brownies, if there’s any left.

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Is it almost Easter?
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This is Luis, who spends all day at Borough market slicing ham as thin as possible. He offered me a taste of the two he was working on that day and if you’ve never had real Spanish ham, it’s really incredible and puts all other hams out of business. The best is made from pigs which feed on wild acorns so the ham takes on a deliciously nutty flavor because of that. Food blogger Joanne, who I met up with, along with Jeanne, bought several slices for her lucky dinner guests that evening.

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I don’t know how they got the brownies to stack so tall, but they didn’t believe me when I requested the extra-large one, located near the bottom. My friend bought one, but neglected to share it with me so I’ll never know if they’re as good as the young bakers said they were. Still, that’s quite a tower.

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Sam, please explain your people.
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Apparently a good plate of Fish and Chips is rarely found in London. You need to travel to the smaller villages, I’ve heard. However in London we got a list of a few good spots, including North Sea Fish Restaurant (7-8 Leigh Street). Our taxi driver knew the address well, so we assumed that was a good sign. And we were right. It was great. A huge piece of cod and fries, accompanied by malt vinegar and homemade tartar sauce, enlivened with horseradish and capers.

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That’s an awful lot of beef fat, don’t you think?
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At the chic Harvey Nichol’s store near Hyde Park, I scanned the chocolate aisle looking for new taste treats. I passed on this one.

Homemade Cottage Cheese Recipe

Where did I find the inspiration for this little bowl of white, creamy cheese? At the pharmacy in Paris, which are at the top of my list of favorite places to visit in the city. There’s everything you can imagine at la pharmacie, like thyme oil. And Rescue Remedy. And baking soda. And Bio-Gauze (the world’s best burn treatment). And pills that will make you thin and give you the most amazing abs like the male model shown in the window no matter how much cheese you eat or wine you drink.

Aside from their ability to spend an unusual amount of time with the person in front of you (especially when you’re in a hurry), French pharmacists are also trained to identify any mushrooms to determine which are poisonous, and which are okay for la bonne cuisine. If you go to a homeopathic pharmacy, you step up to the counter and stick out your tongue. Then they give you a few bags of pills and cures. And not all of them are administered orally. (Although thankfully, they don’t “dose” you there.)

What also impressive, though, is that I found out that you can order présure, or rennet, at the pharmacy, which is used for making cheese. And I missed the taste of cottage cheese, and I wanted to see if I could replicate it at home. Although Americans eat lots of cottage cheese, most of it’s bland and watery. It’s nothing like real cottage cheese.

So I made cottage cheese at home. It’s remarkably simple and tastes great. And you can make it too! You’ll need to get rennet, and I’ve listed a few sources below. Do give it a try. It’s so much better than the store-bought stuff, and pretty easy to make as well.

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Homemade Cottage Cheese

All utensils should be cleaned very well before beginning.

  • 1 quart (1l) whole milk
  • 4 drops liquid rennet
  • ½ teaspoon of salt, plus more to taste
  • 6 tablespoons heavy cream (or half-and-half), or a mixture of heavy cream and buttermilk
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Heat the milk very slowly in a medium-sized, non-reactive saucepan. Use the lowest heat possible and if you have a flame-tamer for underneath the saucepan, now’s a good excuse to use it.

Insert a thermometer into the milk (I use a chocolate thermometer, which is easy to read) and heat until the milk reaches 85º F.

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Turn off heat and stir in rennet. Stir gently for 2 minutes.

Cover the saucepan with a clean tea towel draped over the top and put the lid on. Let stand at room temperature for 4 hours.

After 4 hours, the mixture will be very softly set and marvelously jiggly. Take a sharp knife and cut the mixture diagonally 5 or 6 times, then do the same in the opposite direction.

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Sprinkle in the salt then set the pan over extremely low heat and cook, stirring gently, until the curds separate from the whey. It will take just a few minutes.

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Do not overcook it at this point or your cottage cheese curds will be tough.

Line a strainer with cheesecloth or étamine, and set it inside a large bowl. Pour the mixture into the cloth and stir it gently to drain off the copious amount of whey. (You can use it in bread making or in soups in place of water.)

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Fold the ends of the cheesecloth over the cheese and chill the strainer (keeping the bowl underneath) in the refrigerator. Let drain for about 1 hour, stirring once or twice.

Spoon the cottage cheese from the cloth into a bowl and stir in the cream, or cream and buttermilk. Taste, and add more salt if necessary.

Here are a few sources for liquid animal rennet in the United States, available here, here, and here.

For more information about liquid rennet, check out Rennet FAQ.

Le Nemrod: Paris Pleasures

croque monsieur (or madame)

Paris abounds in cafés. There is one on each and every corner. In your quartier, you’ll have a favorite, your place to hang out which you affectionately call ma cantine. You go for the camaraderie and the ambiance. Sometimes the food is good, sometimes not so terrific. But that’s not the point. You go since it’s close by, the patron greets you by name, and the wine is drinkable…and promptly refilled.

Café Breakfast

With the weather still chilly and damp (which hasn’t thwarted the hordes of people protesting new government work proposals this week in Paris), those of us with cabin fever (who are protesting the outdoors until the weather becomes more hospitable) find that cafés become the perfect place to hang out and watch the world go by…and beats staying indoors after five long months of grey, dismal weather, when you just can’t take it anymore. In addition to the strikers, there are other signs of spring everywhere: tiny blossoms on the trees, long underwear being tossed out of windows (well, maybe just mine), and the optimistic glimmer of sunshine every now and then peering through the grey skies.

Going for a walk, I like the idea of stopping for lunch in a café since the food is generally simple, modestly-priced, and decent. And with a petit pichet of red wine, the afternoon does drift by rather pleasantly. But most often if you order a salad, it’s terrible. A few tired, leaves of wilted lettuce, the omni-present mustardy vinaigrette, tasteless tomatoes, and green beans so limp you can forget any final money shot. Then there’s the final insult: a spoonful of canned corn plopped smack in the middle of the whole mess, impossible to shove aside.

And don’t get me started about the pile of rice that’s too-often plunked down on la salade Niçoise. They should bring back the guillotine for whoever came up with that brilliant idea. And please, allow me to be the one to release the handle.

While wandering through the 6th arrondissement this week to visit a favorite fromagerie in the area, we decided to stop for lunch at a café I’d heard about, passed by several times, but never sat down for a meal. The menu, frankly, never looked exciting enough to make me want to eat there rather than another favorite lunch spot in the neighborhood.

But we sat down and since I had reservations that night at Le Meurice, the swank restaurant in the Hotel Meurice, I wanted a salad. Scanning the menu, I noticed an entire portion devoted to French Fries, les frites. My interested piqued, certain they were à maison, made in-house. So with little convincing, we ordered a plate to share. I decided on the salade œuf mollet, whose brief description didn’t do it justice.

salad at le nemrod

When the salad came, I was thrilled to find it practically perfect. Each bite was a wonderful revelation of textures, contrasting salty bits of meat and croûtons with the perfect ratio of crispness to tenderness. Fresh lettuce leaves topped with enormous lardons, cubes of smoked bacon fried extra-crispy with just a bit of fat to bind the pieces of succulent pork together. Mixed in were cubes of brioche, perhaps tossed with butter or bacon fat then toasted until crisp and toothsome. (Have I used the word crisp enough?) Moistening everything was the soft-cooked egg resting on top. Once split open, the runny yolk invaded everything, melding all the crisp (!) ingredients into a gorgeous and exceptionally tasty lunch.

Wine Glasses

And the frites? No bad at all. They would have benefited from an extra minute in the deep-fryer (What’s up with that? Does anyone really like soft French Fries?) but they were very good and fresh. After a sprinkle of fleur de sel, they disappeared tout de suite.

At the next table the waiter set down one of the most magnificent Croques in Paris. (It’s a favorite lunch of mine so I’m in a position to know.) The version at Le Nemrod is served on a jumbo crusty slab of pain Poilâne, topped with a smear of béchamel sauce, then a few choice slices of ham and cheese. It arrives at the table still sizzling, the smell of soft, caramelized cheese bubbling away. It made me want to summon up a little bravado and ask for a bite. But I kept my attention digging into my salad but made a mental note to order that next time. And there will certainly be a next time. Any takers?

For dessert we strolled a few blocks to Sip, a corner cafe specializing in house-made ice cream, but I had heard about their hazelnut paste-infused hot chocolate and was anxious to give it a try.

paris menu

It was good, not great. It wasn’t too thick, nor too thin. It was pretty to look at and went down rather smoothly. I loved the interior, a 70′s palette of pink and gray. Lots of chrome and mirrors and perhaps the goofiest clock in Paris. And being Paris, there was just a smidgen of attitude from the server. As anyone know who lives here, the fun is learning how to win them over and get what you want (…if you’re lucky!)

Back in the drizzle, I headed home, stopping by the pharmacy for a tube of la présure (to make homemade cottage cheese), which, due to my accent, they kept thinking I was asking for la pleasure.

Which I already had that day. Twice, in fact.

Le Nemrod
51, rue du Cherche-Midi
Tel: 01 45 48 17 05
(Map)

Sip Babylone
46, Boulevard Raspail
Tel: 01 45 48 87 17

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