Results tagged French from David Lebovitz

Chocolate Mousse Cake

chocolate mousse cake

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?

chocolate mousse cake recette

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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Salted Butter Caramels

pouring caramel

I had a wee bit of a dilemma recently. In my refrigerator was a half-jar of crème fraîche, that I had to use up before I left for a recent vacation on the beach. I’d been thinking about making caramels with it, but I also knew that I would be slipping on a swimsuit within a few weeks. And being alone in my apartment with an open jar of ultra-rich crème fraîche was probably not a good idea.

bordier butter salted cup of creme fraiche

So what did I do? I hemmed and hawed about it, until I channeled my mother, who would have flipped out if I tossed away the rest of the crème fraîche. (Or anything, for that matter.)

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Antiquing Outside of Paris

I’m sure I’ve caused more than my share of near automobile accidents when I see a signpost by the edge of a road pointing towards a brocante or Depot Vente. After slamming on the brakes, I do a San Francisco-style U-turn, backing up to head into the parking lot.

(The week I moved to San Francisco, my roommates, who were natives, told me; “Whenever you see a parking space, no matter what you have to do to get it—do it.”)

coffee bowls my coffee bowls

Aside from parking spots, I can’t pass by a promising antique store without stopping everything. And there’s plenty of them dotted throughout France. Not all of them are great, but once you’re out of Paris, the prices drop by at least half, and once safely parked, I race inside in search of bargains.

If you go to La Chiffonière, near Coulommiers, don’t expect to buy those four blue café au lait bowls, because they’re sitting in my kitchen cabinet.

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Oursons Guimauve

oursons guimauve

There’s a misconception that the French don’t eat junk food. While it’s true that the drugstore shelves around here are lined with, of all things—drugs, there are some foods around that don’t quite fall into the high-fallutin’ AOC category elsewhere.

It’s become commonplace to see teenagers swilling la Coca from plastic liter jugs on the sidewalks and it’s not unusual to see a Parisian toting a bag from McDo. In the candy department, the dubious tagada, artificially-flavored strawberry marshmallow domes, I’ve unfortunately had served to me melted on top of a crème brûlée in lieu of a crackly layer of caramel (which was not an improvement, believe me…) and in more upscale desserts in trendy restaurants. Both I found rather icky.

But there is one junk food that I do share their affection for: les oursons guimauve.

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Panisse Recipe

A few months ago I was having drinks at a friend’s house up by the Place des Fêtes, outdoors on their patio, and I noticed something tucked away in the corner.

frying panisses

Me: “Hey! What’s that?”

Them: “What’s what?”

Me: “That! Over there…in the corner. Is that what I think it is? Oh my God!”

Them: “Oh, yeah, that. We put it in about fifteen years ago, but we never use it.”

And that, ladies and gentleman, is how I learned that my friends actually had—get this, a grill!

panisses

I didn’t think anyone here had a grill. And with the 4th of July en route, I immediately suggested we grill an all-American dinner.

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Carrot Cake, French-Style

Carrots

An American pal said to me the other day, “The French like carrot cake. You just can’t tell them what’s in it first.” Indeed, I remember making an all-American dinner for some friends and when I’d mentioned “carrot” cake coming afterward, the look on their faces was like, “WTF?

One mouthful, and of course, they loved it. But then again, you could slather cream cheese frosting on an Michelin tire and it would be enticing as well. There’s a certain amount of chefs in France who are experimenting with vegetables in desserts, with mixed results—a gâteau au fenouil (Fennel Cake) I had at Le Grand Véfour comes to mind which, after a few bites, the waiter swiftly offered to replace.

Grated Carrots

Much of it may be attributed to cultural differences. After all, when was the last time any of you Americans out there looked forward to digging in to a pile of sausages made from the bowels of pigs?

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Beaufort d’Été

When I was in Méribel avoiding the steep slopes waiting in line at the cheese coopérative, I wasn’t alone: the joint was seeing more action than all those gasp-inducing ski runs.

beaufortete.jpg

And just about every person ordered a nice hunk of Beaufort. And since they were in front of me in line, being France, of course each person had to have a 5 minute conference with the saleswoman about how to cut it, where they wanted it cut, exactly how much to lop off, if the other hunk on the shelf was better than the one they were getting, did they have another one in the back?…etc…etc…

The person in front of me scared me a bit when he requested a chunk that were as huge as a baseball mitt. It barely fit on the scale!

Naturally when it was my turn, it took me all of 1.3 seconds to tell her what I wanted and I ended up with a nice-sized piece as well—albeit of a more modest size—and could barely wait until I got home and dug into my chunk.

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Wanted: French Lesson

grue de cacao

In my never-ending quest to improve my French, I had some friends over for dinner last night and was asking them what the word ‘grue‘ meant.

After consulting le dictionnaire français (aka: mon ma bible), the only definition we came across was that a grue was a ‘crane’—as in the long-limbed bird.

Curiously, it’s sometimes used a slang for a ‘working woman’, if you know what I mean. Or one who is ‘facile‘.

So how does any of that relate to ground up cocoa beans?