I was a big fan of Ottolenghi even before I stepped into one of their restaurants. When I got a copy of Yotam Ottolenghi’s first book, I was blown away by the photographs of gorgeous dishes, heaped with generous amounts of fresh chopped herbs, irregularly cut vegetables often seared and caramelized, and roasted, juicy meats accented with citrus or unexpected spices, usually with a Middle Eastern bent. The bold, big flavors came bounding through the pages and appealed to me as both a diner and a cook.
Results tagged butter from David Lebovitz
One of the great joys about having a blog is that your Inbox fills up daily with pitches for everything from chocolate shows in Pennsylvania (hello? I live in France…) to Superbowl Sunday and Forth of July article ideas (hello? I live in France…) There are quite a few products that I would laugh at if they weren’t so silly, and to be honest, my apartment is so overloaded with stuff that you couldn’t fit a stick of gum in here.
After my visit to the Vevey market with Chef Stéphane Décotterd, we headed back to Le Pont de Brent, his restaurant located above the lakeside Swiss town of Montreux. While he was laying out the fish for the day, which he had just sourced, I noticed the kitchen was unusually calm for pre-service and I didn’t see anyone in the usual panic that happens in restaurant kitchens just before the customers arrive. The cooks were quietly doing tasks like peeling and slicing vegetables into tiny pieces, rolling leeks around scallops with thin wisps of black truffles in between, and baking off miniature tartlet shells.
Laid out neatly on trays, he showed me the different fish he had, from a kite-sized Turbot to a blue lobster from Brittany, with tiny black eggs stuck in between all the craws and crevasses.
I was having a conversation a while back with someone who worked for an international hotel chain and she told me that their hotels in Europe don’t have alarm clocks in the rooms because Europeans – when they take their vacations – aren’t all that interested in keeping track of what time it is. We Americans, on the other hand, seem to have a need to know.
Last Tuesday morning I was invited to the market in Vevey to meet and shop with celebrated chef Stéphane Décotterd of Le Pont de Brent. I guess I’m now European because when my alarm went off at 5:45am, I didn’t really want to know what time it was either.
It wasn’t so long ago that if you were walking down the street, or eating in public in Paris, you might get tsk-tsk’d. When I first started visiting Paris, I remember disapproving stares if you were standing on the sidewalk, jamming food into your craw. Croissants got a pass, because they were sort of designed to be consumed on-the-go. And honestly, who can expect anyone to be handed a small paper bag with a steaming-hot buttery croissant in it and walk more than ten paces before diving in to it?
(I also remember way back in 1979 when I first visited Europe and went to a supermarket, and after my twenty items was rung up and paid for, I discovered that there were no bags to put purchases in. So I had to gather everything up the best I could in my arms and try to get them all back to the youth hostel.)
A couple of years ago there was an anti-eating campaign on the métro depicting an obviously Italian man eating a fat, presumably pungent sandwich, surrounded by other passengers who weren’t so happy sharing the same car with a man and his lunch. That set off another kind of stink and the ads were pulled down for being pejorative.
People come to Paris and want to try Kouign amann and I can’t say I blame them. And I truly feel for them when I tell them that although you can find Kouign amann in Paris, you really need to go to Brittany and have one. Well, I used to tell them that—but I don’t have to anymore because Brittany has finally come to Paris, courtesy of pastry chef George Larnicol.
Kouign amann is one of the most elusive pastries to make, not very tricky, but it involves a few steps..and a whole lotta butter. In fact, the name comes from the Breton language and translates to “butter cake”, and I don’t know of any cake (or dessert, for that matter) that has more butter than this. A few bakeries in Paris make them, and you can come across examples at some of the markets, but some foods don’t really translate outside of where they’re from (few outside of Norway really crave lutefisk, for example, and I can’t say I’m been on the prowl for haggis in Paris) and Kouign amann falls into that category.
I was actually thrilled to see a market of producteurs that was happening this weekend in Paris. We have some great food available in Paris but I don’t get the opportunity often to meet and shop directly from the people who are producing the food. This is especially true with meat, which is sold by butchers and not the people who raise it, but I also wanted to see some of the more interesting roots and vegetables that don’t always find their way in to Paris from the countryside.
Generally speaking, a lot of these tasting salons that are held around the year in Paris are well-stocked with three things: foie gras, mountain cheeses, and sausages. Wine doesn’t count as one of the three, as that’s a given.
There are lots of people offering tastes of wine. It’s one of the few things where samples of it at markets are gladly given. I remember a few years ago at a wine fair I told the seller that I’d take a bottle of his Muscadet, since I was having oysters that night, and he was rather shocked that I didn’t want to try it first. (So I did, just to be polite.) But I’m actually happier sitting in a café and enjoying a glass rather than manoeuvering around other people en masse, Costco-style, jostling for a little sip.
There are two things hard about living in France. The first is ….well, let’s not get into that today. The second is getting recipes from French women. It’s not because they closely guard their secrets, but it’s because they frequently use recipes as guidelines rather than making them by rote.
So if you ask a question, the response is often—”Because that’s always the way I did it.” Which was what I was told when I read the instructions on the hand-written recipe I snagged, that said to dip the bottom of the bowl of melted chocolate in a larger basin of cool water to bring down the temperature, where lazy old me would just let it sit on the counter until it was cool. Who wants to empty all those dishes out of the sink?
They often refuse to specify exact quantities. “Just add enough flour until the dough looks correct” is a fairly common response when I press for things like ‘details’, and I keep imagining how much easier writing a cookbook (and a blog) would be if I could give instructions like that.
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