Monday, December 28, 2009

delicious christmas

Pretty loaves all in a row.

It should come as no surprise to any who know me that majority of the presents I both give and receive at the holidays are food-based. I also have a thing for homemade presents, whether edible or just delicious-looking. This year, Christmas for my family was a little homemade box of breakfast treats, perhaps a bit less ambitious than my original plan, but satisfying to give nonetheless.

A festive box, tied up in green ribbon, with two tasty loaves and two tiny jars. The loaves - lemon poppyseed and cranberry walnut; the jars - honey butter and vanilla cream cheese. Unfortunately, since my stove was only turned on two days before Christmas, (Merry Christmas to me!) my plan for some homemade orange marmalade didn't come through. Well, there's always next year.

And of course, for the receiving. Not just one, but two people gave me knives this year. A really cool Kyocera ceramic paring knife from Brother #2. I've always wanted a ceramic knife. And these beauties from my honey J-Cat; knives more lovely than I ever thought I'd own. A 3-piece set of Shun Classic knives. So pretty that I hardly dare to use them, except that I want to use them on anything and everything. Dicing onions is a dream.

And of course, as always the very best thing under the tree has her own set of knives built in, and can do plenty of slicing and dicing if provoked.

Happy Holidays to all, and to all two recipes for bread after the jump!

Adapted from

3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
13 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Lemon Syrup:
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup granulated white sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Butter and flour (or spray with a non stick vegetable/flour spray) the bottom and sides of 4 1/4-lb mini loaf pans. If the pans are not disposisble, line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper and butter and flour the paper. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla extract, and milk. Set aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, lemon zest, and poppy seeds until combined. Add the softened butter and half the egg mixture and mix on low speed until moistened. Increase the speed to medium and beat for about one minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the remaining egg mixture in two batches, beating about 30 seconds after each addition.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and bake for about 35-40 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. You may have to cover the bread with buttered foil after about 30 minutes if you find the bread over browning.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring the sugar and lemon juice to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

When the bread is done, remove from oven and place on a wire rack. Pierce the hot loaves all over with a wooden skewer or toothpick and then brush the top of the loaves with the hot lemon syrup. Store at least overnight before serving to allow the lemon syrup to distribute throughout the loaf.

Makes 4 mini loaves.

From, November 29, 2009

Non-stick cooking spray
4 cups cranberries
2/3 cup fresh orange juice (about 2 large oranges)
1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
2 eggs
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all-purpose white flour
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1 cup roughly chopped walnuts

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1 tablespoon sugar

Instructions: Preheat oven to 375°. Coat 6 mini or 2 regular size loaf pans with non-stick cooking spray.

Coarsely chop 1 1/2 cups of the cranberries by hand or in a food processor; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the orange juice, buttermilk and eggs. Whisk in the melted butter.

In a separate large bowl, combine the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cardamom. Stir with a fork until thoroughly mixed.

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and gently fold together with a rubber spatula until just combined; do not over mix. Gently add the whole and chopped cranberries and walnuts. Mix just enough to distribute them throughout the batter.

Divide the batter evenly between the loaf pans. Prepare the topping by mixing the cinnamon, cardamom and sugar in a bowl; sprinkle over the top of the loaves.

Bake until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean - 30 to 35 minutes for mini loaves, about 45 to 50 minutes for standard loaves. Let cool on a wire rack.

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Monday, December 21, 2009


J-Cat and I have bought into a pork CSA that we are splitting with Bosslady from an upstate pig farm called The Piggery. We bought a quarter hog share and get tasty piggy delights every week for 3 months. It's kind of like Christmas every Thursday evening when I rip open the box and find out what we'll be stuffing that night. Sausages, bacon, ham, spare ribs, pork chops, and my personal favorites - terrine, rillettes and pates. I am rather lucky that Bosslady is not into the potted meat family, I get all of that good stuff. Jars of cornichons are now a constant in my fridge.

Splitting the share has also brought about some interesting behavior. Last week I found myself planning a pork handoff on a subway platform to Mr. Bosslady when Bosslady wasn't going to be in the office. I handed him a bag with about 3 pounds of pork products and he got right back on the train. The swine has landed, handoff successful.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

holiday spice

Oh hai. I'm back. I still have no stove, but I do have an oven. So when Bosslady decided that we should have 12 days of cookies in the office I was happy to say that I could actually participate despite my partially crippled kitchen.

I decided to use my colleagues - who really, will eat pretty much anything as long as it's free - as guinea pigs for a little cookie experimenting. I've been wanting to play around with some fun flavors and spices for the holidays and here was my opportunity. The best base to play around with is, in my opinion, the simple shortbread cookie. Perhaps that is because it is my favorite kind of cookie. 90% butter.

One flavor combination that has been floating around in my head is inspired by the Indian ice cream Kulfi. Pistachio, cardamom, and a touch of rose. Now, both cardamom and rose are rather strong flavors that are perhaps less familiar to the average American palate. So I was a little conservative with my amounts, and found myself wanting much deeper flavor. Next time, I think I can even double the amounts of both and still not go overboard, but of course it's a matter of taste.

But nevertheless, I started to worry that my strange cookie experiments would disappoint my colleagues, who just want some holiday cookies. So I made a second batch of shortbread, this time with a somewhat more straightforward flavor - Earl Grey Tea. This is a recipe from my good friend Claire, and when she made this in season 1 of her show, I took home as many as possible. Addictive. The touch of citrus, the smokiness of tea, it is a perfect balance of flavors.

Shortbread is such an easy cookie to play around with, you'll see with these recipes how easy it is to swap out flavors and try something new. Plus, making these in the slice and bake style means you can actually whip up the dough days ahead of time and keep the logs in the freezer until you're ready to bake. And with a food processor the dough itself is the work of minutes. Now there are no excuses, you can't resort to buying pre-made cookie dough any more. Recipes after the jump:


1/2 cup shelled pistachios
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom (if using pre-ground you may want to increase this amount to a heaping teaspoon)
3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
2 teaspoons rosewater
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

In a food processor, process the pistachios into small pieces. You don't want to process too long if you like some bits of pistachio in the finished product. Add the flour, salt, and cardamom and pulse until well combined. Add the sugar, rosewater, and butter and pulse just until the dough comes together. Turn dough out on to a sheet of plastic wrap and shape into a log about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap well and store in the fridge for an hour until firm. You can also store in the freezer for a few days.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the chilled dough from the fridge and slice into 1/4 inch rounds. Place on a parchment lined sheet pan about 2 inches apart. Bake for 12-14 minutes until just starting to brown around the edges. Cool on the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar if desired.

Recipe 5 Ingredient Fix with Claire Robinson

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons loose Earl Grey tea leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

In a food processor, pulse together the flour, tea, and salt, until the tea is just spotted throughout the flour. Add the confectioners' sugar, vanilla, and butter. Pulse together just until a dough is formed. Place dough on a sheet of plastic wrap, and roll into a log, about 2 1/2-inches in diameter. Tightly twist each end of wrap, and chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Slice the log into 1/4-inch thick disks. Place on parchment or silpat lined baking sheets, 2 inches apart (2 probably needed depending on size of sheets). Bake until the edges are just brown, about 12 minutes. Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks and cool to room temperature.

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

battle no stove

No, seriously. I still have no stove. One month and counting. But no, this doesn't mean I'm not cooking. Granted, I'm not really cooking anything new and exciting. I think in this time of endless apartment frustration, I'm turning to some of my old favorites and amping up the comfort factor. Here are some of my favorite recipes that require no stove - turn on the oven, break out the slow cooker, you might even dust off the microwave.

Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup

Slow Cooker Chicken Adobo
Oven-Baked BBQ Brisket
Remy's Ratatouille
No-Fry Eggplant Parmesan

And then, of course, there's all those desserts...

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Friday, November 13, 2009

oh sad day

I've disappeared, I know. We moved. We moved into a half finished apartment with no gas. We have no stove. But we have an oven. And we have a slow cooker and a rice cooker and an electric kettle and a microwave. And we live closer to the arepas place so now we can get delivery from them. But it's really hard to live without a stove, because I used to eat this every morning for breakfast and now I can't:

It's just a simple oatmeal, with dried cherries and sliced almonds. So simple, so easy, but so impossible without a stove. I have packets of instant oatmeal, but it's not the same. Oh, sad day. When will my gas come on?

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Monday, October 26, 2009

in season: hide the cauliflower

That's not a particularly attractive dish right there. But it's one of those special recipes with hidden surprises. It is perfect fall food in several ways. Cauliflower is at it's best right now, and nothing is more warming and yummy on a chilly autumn day than a bowl of steamy, creamy risotto. This is a cauliflower and leek risotto. You can't really see the cauliflower hiding amidst the rice, but you take a bite and it bites back, just a tiny bit. Surprise. Need I say more? Recipe after the jump:


3 tbsp butter, separated
1 medium leek, chopped into half-moons
1 small head cauliflower, about 1 to 2 lb, cut into small florets
1 cup arborio or carnaroli rice
1 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken broth (vegetable broth if you prefer this dish vegetarian)
3/4 cup parmiggiano-reggiano, or more to taste
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the chicken broth in a medium saucepan until boiling, then lower to a low simmer. Melt 2 tbsp butter in a heavy 4-quart pot over medium heat until foam subsides. Add the leeks and cauliflower and saute until just starting to loose the raw color, about 2 minutes. Add the rice and toast, stirring about 1 minute. Add the wine and stir, allowing a strong simmer until the liquid is completely absorbed. Add 1/2 cup broth and repeat the stirring and simmering process. Continue to add broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring and simmering, until the rice is tender and creamy looking, about 25 minutes. You may not need all of the broth. Remove from the heat, add the cheese, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

sorry to the swine

Pardon my absence last week. I had been feeling rather craptacular for several days, and wondered if my commitment to a 16-week quarter hog share with The Piggery CSA resulted in a bit of porcine revenge in the form of swine flu. I don't really know if that is what I had, but it seemed like everyone around me was afflicted and it dragged on and on and on. Anyway, to get back in the cooking saddle, I focused on - what else - bacon. A pasta that truly highlights the smokey, fatty, delicious cured meat - Pasta alla Carbonara. Technically carbonara calls for guanciale, but this is one case where I break from tradition because the bacon-based carbonara is what we in the US grew up on, and thus what I was craving on a very rainy, cold weekend.

Carbonara is pretty much the simplest pasta you can make. It takes no more time that whatever you need to boil your pasta. You may have twinges of guilt when you realize that the entire point of this pasta is egg and bacon fat, but you get over it pretty quickly. I balanced out the richness with some broccolini. Okay, I sauteed that broccolini in the excess bacon fat...recipe after the jump:

Serves 4

1 pound spaghetti
6-8 ounces thick cut good bacon, pancetta, or guanciale, sliced 1/2-inch thick
3 garlic cloves
2 eggs
1/2 cup grated pecorino romano (or parmiggiano reggiano)
freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. As soon as you drop the pasta in, start to saute the bacon pieces and the whole garlic cloves, rendering the fat just until the bacon starts to brown and crisp around the edges. You don't want to get the bacon too crispy or it will not incorporate nicely into the pasta. Remove the garlic cloves and let the bacon sit until the pasta is ready. Break the eggs into your serving bowl and whisk with a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. When the pasta is done, drain, then immediately transfer to your serving bowl with the eggs and quickly toss to coat the pasta. Add the bacon, it's fat (as much as you need to coat the pasta nicely), and the cheese and toss well. Taste and adjust for pepper. You may not need to add any salt depending on the saltiness of your cheese and bacon. Serve immediately.

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

french food i DID eat in france: boeuf bourguignon

Technically J-Cat ate it, for our last dinner in Paris at "Josephine" Chez Dumonet. But obviously I had a few bites. With the weather getting chillier by the day, it's time to break out my favorite types of foods - slow-cooked, hearty, warming, intensely flavored, meaty.

There are thousands of recipes for Boeuf Bourguignon out there, ranging from the straightforward to the excessively complicated. And here is where I am conflicted. I love to make dishes in the most authentic way possible. But I also love simplicity and dislike fussiness. So where to find the balance without sacrificing authenticity? When it comes down to it, a dish like Boeuf Bourguignon just doesn't seem like it should be so complicated. Complex in flavor, yes, but at it's roots a simple, rustic stew. So this recipe by Ginette Mathiot, the "French Julia Child", which was published a few weeks ago in The New York Times, seems to strike a nice balance. Authentic in that it is the version that a French cook would cook in their own home, not the complicated beast of a restaurant version popularized by Julia Child. Both recipes authentic in their own way, and both yielding a more than satisfying result. Recipe after the jump:

Adapted from "I Know How to Cook" by Ginette Mathiot

1 tablespoon oil
3 ounces onions or shallots, chopped
3 1/2 ounces thick-cut bacon, diced
1 1/2 pounds stewing beef, cut into 1 1/2 -inch pieces, patted dry
Scant 1/4 cup flour
1 1/4 cups any type of stock, hot
1 1/4 cups red wine
1 bouquet garni (1 bay leaf, 3 sprigs fresh thyme and 3 sprigs parsley, tied together)
Black pepper
3 1/2 ounces mushrooms, diced

1. In a heavy pan over medium heat, heat oil. Add onions and bacon and cook, stirring, until browned. Remove them and set aside; leave fat in pan.

2. Add beef and brown on all sides (work in two batches if needed to avoid crowding).

3. Sprinkle browned beef with flour, stir until browned and add stock. Stir, scraping bottom of pan, then add reserved bacon and onions, the wine and bouquet garni. Season with pepper.

4. Simmer very gently for 2 hours.

5. Add mushrooms and cook 30 minutes more. Season with salt and serve. Or, even better, reheat and serve the next day.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

in season: italian plum torte

A recipe so popular that reader demand insured it's publication in The New York Times just about every year between 1983 and 1995. Now this is something that I had to try. It just looks so incredibly simple on paper, could it be so good as to develop this cult-like following?

Well, as I've said over and over, simplicity is often the best insurance that a recipe will be memorable and perfect. And this was the essence of simplicity. It took no time, it took very few ingredients, it took barely any effort, and it seemed like the kind of thing you can't really mess up. But it looks somewhat impressive, and tastes much more complex than it is. The sweet-tart of the plums, the warmth of the cinnamon, the slight crispness of the cake top dusted in sugar. Recipe after the jump:

From The New Elegant But Easy Cookbook, by Marian Burros and Lois Levine.

3/4 cup PLUS 1 or 2 tablespoons sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
Pinch salt
24 halves pitted Italian (aka prune or purple) plums
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or more
Vanilla ice cream, optional

1. Arrange a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. In an electric mixer, cream the 3/4 cup sugar and butter. Add the flour, baking powder, eggs, and salt and beat to mix well. Place in a 9- or 10-inch ungreased springform pan. Cover the top with the plums, skin side down. Mix the cinnamon with the remaining 1 or 2 tablespoons of sugar and sprinkle over the top.

3. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes (mine took a little over 50), until the center tests done with a toothpick. Remove and cool to room temperature or serve warm. Serve plain or with vanilla ice cream.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

j-cat cooks: chicken cordon bleu

J-cat is definitely showing a tendency towards cooking those old-school classic dishes with questionable heritage(Beef Wellington, Chicken Francese, etc.). This time it was Chicken Cordon Bleu, which I must admit I had never eaten before. I probably never ate it because the only places I ever saw it on the menu were diners, where it is not exactly wise to veer from the burger or breakfast realm. But if you think about it, there's no way it could be bad - chicken, prosciutto or ham, gruyere, bread crumbs. I always imagined it would just be layered but J-Cat got all fancy and made it roulade style. I did my best at slicing it to show off the fanciness.

J-Cat does not use single recipes, and he almost immediately forgets what he did, so it's pretty tough for me to post a recipe. But it was pretty straight forward - pound out chicken breast, layer prosciutto slice, layer gruyere slice, roll it up, do the flour, egg, panko bread crumb breading process, bake, yum.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

french food i did not eat in france: coq au vin

The French seem to really love their chicken. I was just craving some homey, classic, filling food as the weather starts cooling down. Coq au vin really hit the spot. Now, I did not have a rooster for this dish, so there is a disclaimer that this is not completely authentic.

I also didn't marinate the chicken in the wine before cooking, which many recipes call for. I think I might try that next time to see how much of a difference it makes, but I did not think this version was lacking flavor at all. In fact, the intensity of the wine and mushroom flavor - set off by the sweet pearl onions and the salty bacon - was really perfect for my taste. I almost felt like we were back in Paris, and it prompted J-Cat to say that he wants to do that whole trip over again, with more foods. Recipe after the jump:

Adapted from Simply Recipes

1/2 lb bacon slices
20 pearl onions, peeled (blanch in boiling water to ease peeling)
3 lbs chicken thighs and legs, excess fat trimmed, skin ON
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 garlic cloves, peeled
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups red wine, preferably pinot noir
2 bay leaves
Several fresh thyme sprigs
Several fresh parsley sprigs
1/2 lb cremini mushrooms, trimmed and roughly chopped
2 Tbsp butter
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Blanch the bacon to remove some of its saltiness. Drop the bacon into a saucepan of cold water, covered by a couple of inches. Bring to a boil, simmer for 5 minutes, drain. Rinse in cold water, pat dry with paper towels. Cut the bacon into 1 inch by 1/4 inch pieces.

Salt and pepper the chicken parts. Place in a large resealable plastic bag with the flour and shake to coat the chicken. Shake off the excess flour and set aside.

Brown bacon on medium high heat in a dutch oven big enough to hold the chicken in one layer, about 10 minutes. Remove the cooked bacon with a slotted spoon, set aside. Keep the bacon fat in the pan. Working in batches if necessary, add onions and chicken, skin side down. Brown the chicken well, on all sides, about 10 minutes. Halfway through the browning, add the garlic.

Discard any excess fat. Add the chicken stock, wine, and herbs (it is easiest to tie the herbs into a bouquet garni). Add back the bacon. Lower heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, or until chicken is tender and cooked through. Remove chicken and onions to a separate platter. Remove the bay leaves, herb sprigs, garlic, and discard.

Add mushrooms to the remaining liquid and turn the heat to high. Boil quickly and reduce the liquid by three fourths until it becomes thick and saucy. Lower the heat, stir in the butter. Return the chicken and onions to the pan to reheat and coat with sauce. Adjust seasoning. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Serves 6. Serve with potatoes or over egg noodles.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

what we look like when we talk about food

I think our hand gestures could be easily misconstrued. And yes, we still talk about food even when we're not at work.

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

j-cat cooks!: sugar raised doughnuts

Remember when I said that J-Cat likes to cook things that have good potential for being disastrous? Well he has truly proven this over the last few weeks, tackling several tricky recipes - most involving vats of oil. He's made French bistro-style fries, fish and chips, various crepes and blintzes, and much more. This weekend, he tackled one of my great loves in life: sugar raised doughnuts.

This was actually not his first foray into the world of doughnuts. A couple of weeks ago he made some delightful spiced cake doughnut holes. But the sugar raised is - in my opinion - the pinnacle of the doughnut repertoire. Simple, light, sweet but not overpowering, chewy, yeasty, almost melts in your mouth. It's not fussy, it's not fancy, it is just the essence of doughnut.

These were a bit of a handful, but they were quite successful. I helped J-Cat with the second part of the process - the rolling/cutting/frying/sugaring part, ie. the fun part. It was certainly an adventure, and there really is nothing like eating a freshly fried doughnut just minutes after it comes out of the oil, as soon as it is cool enough to handle. A touch of a crisp exterior, a light and airy interior, a good bite. I think perhaps our choice of canola oil to fry was not ideal for flavor, there was a mild flavor almost like soy milk that I am guessing was due to the oil. It was not a bad flavor, it would probably just be a little better without it. We're looking forward to trying this one again, but next time we'll make sure there are a few more people around to eat a dozen doughnuts within the few hours before they go stale...recipe after the jump:

Adapted from Betty Crocker’s Old-Fashioned Cookbook
Yields approximately 1 dozen large donuts and holes

5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt

2 packages active dry yeast
1 3/4 cups very warm milk (120º to 130º)
1/3 cup shortening
2 eggs
Vegetable oil

Mix 2 cups of the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, salt and yeast in large bowl. Add milk, shortening and eggs. Beat on low speed 1 minute, scraping bowl frequently. Beat on medium speed 1 minute, scraping bowl frequently. Stir in remaining flour until smooth. Cover and let rise in warm place 50 to 60 minutes or until double. (Dough is ready if indentations remain when touched).

Turn dough onto generously floured surface; roll around lightly to coat with flour. Flatten dough with hands or rolling pin to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut with floured doughnut cutter. Push together scraps and gently knead 2 or 3 times. Flatten dough to 1/2-inch thickness; cut with floured 4-inch doughnut cutter. Cover doughnuts and let rise 30 to 40 minutes or until double.

Heat oil (1 1/2 to 2 inches) in Dutch oven to 350º. Slide doughnuts into hot oil with wide spatula. Fry about 1 minute on each side or until golden brown. Remove carefully from oil (do not prick surfaces); drain on paper towels. Roll or shake in sugar.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

manti vs. manty

I find myself eating a lot of lamb in the summer. Perhaps that's a little odd given the hot weather, but I'm guessing it might have something to do with the abundance of lovely fresh mint. I'm craving middle eastern food quite often, so Melissa Clark's recipe for Pasta with Turkish-Style Lamb, Eggplant and Yogurt Sauce from the NY Times seemed like the perfect make at home fix. She gets the inspiration for this dish from Turkish manti, little lamb-stuffed dumplings served with yogurt.

Recently, while out having dinner with my mom, Brother #2, and his wife, we saw manti on a menu. Having had Uzbeki "manty" I assumed it would be very similar, and encouraged #2 to order it. It turned out to be rather different from the pastry wrapped lamb pies at the Uzbeki restaurants, but you could see the similar influences. It was also a very pleasant surprise. This pasta actually comes reasonably close in flavor to those little dumplings, and it's certainly a lot easier to make at home. Recipe after the jump:

From a recipe by Melissa Clark in The New York Times

1 large eggplant, about 1 pound, in 1/2 -inch cubes
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt, more to taste
3 fat garlic cloves, minced
1 large shallot, minced
1 pound ground lamb
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, preferably Turkish or Aleppo (see note), more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint or dill, more to taste
1/2 pound bowtie or orecchiette pasta
2 to 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, to taste
2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt.

1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Bring a pot of water to boil for pasta.

2. Toss eggplant with 4 tablespoons oil and a large pinch of salt. Spread on a baking sheet, making sure there is room between pieces, and roast until crisp and brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

3. In a large skillet, heat remaining tablespoon oil. Add 2 minced garlic cloves and the shallot and sauté until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add lamb, 1/2 teaspoon salt, red pepper flakes and black pepper to taste. Sauté until lamb is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Stir in mint or dill and cook for another 2 minutes. Stir eggplant into lamb. Taste and adjust seasonings.

4. Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt butter: the amount is to your taste. Let cook until it turns golden brown and smells nutty, about 5 minutes. In a small bowl, stir together yogurt, remaining garlic and a pinch of salt.

5. Drain pasta and spread on a serving platter. Top with lamb-eggplant mixture, then with yogurt sauce. Pour melted butter over top. Sprinkle on additional red pepper and more mint or dill. Serve immediately.

Yield: 2 to 3 servings.

Note: Turkish or Aleppo (Syrian) red pepper flakes are sold at specialty markets and at You may also substitute ground chili powder. Do not use crushed red pepper flakes; they will be too hot for this dish.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

omg stop it with the berries already

'Tis summer, didja know? It finally feels like it, with this gross hot weather. So of course it's only fitting that we are moving soon, because it is the rule in my family that we only move when it is blisteringly hot out. Actually, we still have a few weeks until the move, so I'm being dramatic. I imagine it will not be this hot out in mid-September, but for now I am neck deep in boxes and the cats are dropping piles of fur on all of it. Thus I label the boxes: Books-Office (Cat Fur).

So as a small snack to fortify myself between rolls of packing tape and sharpies, here are some summery Blueberry Crumb Bars. Honestly, these are just shortbread and blueberries, ie. butter in a bar. These are exceedingly easy to make; crust doubles as crumb topping, berries go in whole, impossible to mess up. Perhaps one of these days I will make a dessert that is not berry-centric, but I don't imagine it will be one of these hot days. Recipe after the jump:


3/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cold unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
Zest and juice of one lemon
4 cups fresh blueberries (2 pints)
1/3 cup white sugar
3 tbsp flour

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 9×13 inch pan and line with parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl, stir together 3/4 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, and baking powder. Mix in salt and lemon zest. Use a fork or pastry cutter to blend in the butter and egg. Dough will be crumbly. Pat 2/3 of the dough into the prepared pan.

3. In another bowl, stir together the sugar, 3 tbsp flour, and lemon juice. Gently mix in the blueberries. Sprinkle the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough over the berry layer.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 50-60 minutes, or until top is light brown. Cool completely. Using the edges of the parchment paper, lift gently out of the pan before cutting into squares. Refridgerate any leftovers in a sealed container.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

french food i did not eat in france: for julia

[Thanks to Tom for making this photo less beige and much more appetizing.]

It's been quite a Julia-centric week, with the long-awaited premiere of Nora Ephron's Julie & Julia. I attended a screening of the movie last week. I won't get into my feelings about it here, but I will say that I obviously have a great love for Julia Child and all that she has done for food in America. Julia influences not just my attitudes about food and cooking, but my livelihood as well. So here is a small tribute to her, Supremes de Volaille aux Champignons, from her 1961 masterpiece "Mastering the Art of French Cooking".

Now, J-Cat does not like chicken breast. Actually I don't like it either, for the most part. But it appears that saucing your chicken breast with copious amounts of butter, cream, port wine, and mushrooms suddenly makes it the most delicious meat you can imagine. J-Cat inhaled his before I even had two bites. He then put extra sauce directly on rice and ate it straight. This sauce is crack. I took the liberty of using more mushrooms than the original recipe calls for, partially because I assumed that our giant American-raised chicken breasts would be monsters compared to what Julia had access to in Paris in the early 60's. I was right, as the cooking time was quite different. I would recommend either flattening the breast just to even them out, or using the smallest chicken breasts you can find. Recipe after the jump:

Supremes de Volaille aux Champignons
(Chicken Breasts with Mushroom and Cream)
From “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia Child (Knopf, 1961)

4 supremes (boneless, skinless chicken breasts)
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
Big pinch white pepper
5 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon minced shallot or green onion
1/4 pound diced or sliced fresh mushrooms
1/8 teaspoon salt
For the sauce:
1/4 cup white or brown stock or canned beef bouillon
1/4 cup port, Madeira or dry white vermouth
1 cup whipping cream
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons minced parsley

Rub the chicken breasts with drops of lemon juice and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Heat the butter in a heavy, oven-proof casserole, about 10 inches in diameter until it is foaming. Stir in the minced shallots or green onion and saute a moment without browning. Then stir in the mushrooms and saute lightly for a minute or two without browning. Sprinkle with salt.

Quickly roll the chicken in the butter mixture and lay a piece of buttered wax paper over them, cover casserole and place in hot oven. After 6 minutes, press top of chicken with your finger. If still soft, return to oven for a moment or two. When the meat is springy to the touch it is done. Remove the chicken to a warm platter (leave mushrooms in the pot) and cover while making the sauce (2 to 3 minutes).

To make sauce, pour the stock and wine in the casserole with the booking butter and mushrooms. Boil down quickly over high heat until liquid is syrupy. Stir in the cream and boil down again over high heat until cream has thickened slightly. Off heat, taste for seasoning, and add drops of lemon juice to taste. Pour the sauce over the chicken, sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.

Serves 4.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

blackberry blossom

So, J-Cat plays the mandolin. He started taking lessons in January and he's really gotten quite good in a short period of time. It's fascinating to watch this grown man take music lessons for the first time, because I have been a musician all my life and was classically trained from childhood. I think it's a pretty different experience. I will say that he is more dedicated about practicing than I ever was when I was a kid. I practiced a lot, but I'm sure my mother would tell you that sometimes (most times?) it was a bit of a struggle to motivate me. So I'm so impressed and proud of J-Cat, and I try to be as supportive as humanly possible, but sometimes, when he's playing the same little song over and over and over and over again every night for over a week, it tries my patience a tiny bit. Teeeeny tiny bit. I do my best to bite my tongue, but I may have expressed my distaste for a song or two here or there. Not his playing, just the song. His playing is 100% lovely. Anyway, what's my point? One of the first songs J-Cat learned was a fiddle tune called Blackberry Blossom. And this is one of the songs that never ever bothered me, because I just like it. I like the old bluegrass fiddle tunes. I wish his teacher would only stick to those, but I guess it's good to branch out a bit. If you're wondering what it sounds like, go here.

And if you are anything like me and the thought of a song called Blackberry Blossom makes you crave berries, try out this recipe for Sour Cream Blackberry Muffins.

Adapted from Simply Recipes

2 cups all purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream or greek yogurt
1 tbsp milk
2/3 cup sugar
8 Tbsp warm melted butter (1 stick)
1 teaspoon vanilla
11 oz of fresh blackberries, cut in half (You can use frozen blackberries if fresh are not available, defrost and drain them first.)

Position rack in center of oven. Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a standard 12 muffin pan or line with paper muffin cups.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, sour cream, milk, sugar, butter and vanilla.

Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and mix together with a few light strokes, just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Add the berries. (If you are using frozen berries, defrost them first, then drain the excess liquid, then coat them lightly in flour.) Do not overmix! Overmixing will cause the muffins to be dense, not fluffy. The batter should not be smooth.

Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the middle of 1 or 2 of the muffins comes out clean, 17-20 minutes (or longer). Let cool for 2 to 3 minutes before removing from the pan. If not serving hot, let cool on a rack. These are best served warm, but keep very nicely in an airtight container.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

it's shameless plug time!

Claire is back! Tune into the-network-that-shall-not-be-named-on-this-blog to see new episodes of a show that I have poured blood, sweat, and tears into. Delicious, bacon-flavored tears. In celebration of the upcoming premiere, here's a sneak preview of one of Claire's delicious dishes that I just had to make myself - lamb chops with a mint-almond pesto. A perfect recipe for summer when mint is growing out of control in Beth's garden and she unloads piles of it on me. Recipe after the jump:


12 frenched baby lamb chops (3 per person)
1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds
1 1/2 cups fresh mint leaves
1 lemon, zest and juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat a cast iron grill pan over high heat until very hot. Season one side of the lamb chops with salt and pepper, and drizzle with oil. Place on the hot pan season side down. Season and oil the top side before flipping. Grill for about 3-4 minutes per side for medium rare, depending on the thickness of your chops. Remove to a plate to rest while you prepare the pesto.

In a food process, combine the mint leaves, almonds, lemon zest, and juice. Pulse to begin breaking down. Turn processor on and slowly drizzle in olive oil until the mixture resembles a thick paste. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If you would like a looser consistency, you can add a bit of water.

Serve lamb chops either topped with the pesto, or on the side as a dipping sauce.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

in season: blueberry buttermilk cake

When the summertime berries come into season, it is physically impossible for me to make a dessert that doesn't feature them. All I want to eat in the summer is fruit. This Blueberry Buttermilk Cake couldn't be easier; super moist, light, flavorful, not too sweet. My perfect summer dessert.

You can swap out any nice plump berry in this recipe, which was originally written for raspberries. I intend to try it with the raspberries soon, but the blueberries happened to look better that day, and in truth I love no berry more than a blueberry. Serve it with some fresh whipped cream, or a nice vanilla ice cream, or just eat it straight for breakfast. Versatility in a simple cake. Recipe after the jump:

Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, June 2009

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup fresh blueberries (about 5 oz)

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes, then beat in vanilla. Add egg and beat well. At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just combined. Spoon batter into cake pan, smoothing top. Scatter berries evenly over top and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar.

Bake until cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool to warm, 10 to 15 minutes more. Invert onto a plate.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

j-cat cooks (srsly!): beef wellington (srsly!!)

It must be freezing in hell right now, because a couple weeks ago, J-Cat decided that he loves to cook. I don't think it should be too surprising that I have mixed feelings about this development. On the one hand, it is awfully nice to get cooked for, for a change. It's also nice that he finally understands why I love it as much as I do. But on the other kitchen.

Because J-Cat is not just someone who wants to cook; he wants to experiment. It's not fun for him unless it is some complicated undertaking that has maybe a 50/50 chance of being a disaster. The first big dinner he cooked for me? Beef Wellington. Because cooking a nice steak or a roast the very first time he ever cooked meat is not enough of a challenge, he had to go that giant leap forward and tackle the infamously tricky Beef Wellington. But let me just say, it really was quite good. I only had to step in a couple of times, and I only had a small heart attack when I saw the state of my kitchen at the end of the night.

The mushroom duxelle that he spread all over the tenderloin was so yummy that we spread the extra on bread and turned it into an appetizer. The meat itself was cooked to a lovely medium-rare, and cut like butter. The puff pastry was appropriately thin and crisp and shining with an egg wash. It was thoroughly impressive. And thank god for that, cause we spent a small fortune on the ingredients. My nerves may have been shot for the whole afternoon that he was tinkering in there, but this lovely dinner - which he made for our anniversary - more than made up for it.

He served the wellington with a side of truffled mashed potatoes, proving that after all these years, he does know the way to my heart after all. Recipe after the jump:


1 lb beef tenderloin fillet
salt and pepper
1 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
8 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
1/2 cup mushroom duxelle, recipe follows
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, defrosted
2 egg yolks, beaten

Mushroom Duxelle (this recipe makes extra, and is delicious spread on baguette on crackers)
1 shallot, diced
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, rough chop
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, rough chop
1 tbsp unsalted butter
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400F. Generously salt and pepper the tenderloin fillet. Heat the canola oil in a heavy skillet over high heat. Sear the fillet on all sides until brown. Remove from the heat and allow to cool while you assemble the duxelle.

Place the roughly chopped mushrooms and shallots in a food processor and process until it turns into a paste. Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the mushroom paste to the butter and saute until it begins to release liquid. Lower the heat and allow to simmer until the liquid evaporates. Set aside to cool.

When the fillet has cooled, brush on all sides with the mustard. Lay out a sheet of plastic wrap. Place the slices of prosciutto slightly overlapping on the plastic wrap, making the layer of prosciutto about as wide as the fillet is long. Spread the cooled duxelle evenly on the prosciutto. Set the fillet on the edge of the prosciutto and roll the prosciutto around the fillet. Wrap in the plastic wrap tightly and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, roll out the sheet of pastry on a lightly floured board to a size that will fully wrap around the beef. Place the cooled fillet in the middle of the pastry. Brush the edges of the pastry with the egg wash, the fold over the fillet and seal. Fold the sides up and over to cover the edges. Make sure the seal the edges well with the egg wash. Turn the wellington seam side down, brush the entire surface with egg wash. Cut shallow slits in the surface of the pastry. Place on a baking sheet and refrigerate for about 10 minutes.

Remove the wellington from the refrigerator and give it an additional brush of egg wash. Bake for 25-35 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and the internal temperature of the meat is 125-130 for medium rare. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing. Slice into 1-inch thick slices to serve. Serves 4.

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Monday, July 06, 2009

changing my mind about chicken

I've been hearing about this famous Zuni Cafe roasted chicken for a while now. It's one of those recipes that every known food blogger seems to have attempted at some point. And I have a confession; I have a hard time imagining a roast chicken so good that it would cause this much commotion. This one singular chicken recipe. And that is probably because I don't love chicken. Is that horrible to say? It's not that don't like chicken, I just don't love it, and I am fully aware that this is a result of the fact that about 95% of the chicken I've ever been served in my life has been pretty lame. So at some point, I just stopped ordering chicken in restaurants. Unless it's fried, that's a different story. But I have just never been inclined to ordered a roast chicken in a restaurant - even a great restaurant - because I figure it's on the menu for the diners who are least adventurous. But now I am realizing that that is a pretty unfair way to look at it, because obviously there are restaurants out there that are doing such great roast chicken that people all the way on the other side of the country are talking about it. And talking about it, and talking about it. And since I'm over 3000 miles away from that famous chicken, it's pretty lucky that they shared their recipe so I could make it for myself.

What stunned me about this recipe was how simple it was. It appeared that the main secret to this lauded roast chicken was a dry brine, and a long dry brine at that. Just salt the heck out of that chicken, and stick it in the fridge for 1-3 days. That's it! And the result? Juicy, delicious, perfectly crisped skin, and a chicken that changed my mind about chicken. Recipe after the jump:

From The Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers

[Note: The originally recipe is written in conjunction with the bread salad that they serve with the chicken at the restaurant. I have pulled out just the portion of the recipe regarding the chicken because the technique for roasting is what I was most interested in. Go here for the recipe in its entirety.]

1 small chicken, 2-3/4 to 3-1/2-pounds
4 tender sprigs fresh thyme, marjoram, rosemary or sage, about 1/2 inch long
About teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
A little water

Rinse the chicken thoroughly in cold water. Using paper towels, dry the chicken inside and out very thoroughly. Slide your finger under the skin of the breast, carefully separating the skin from the meat. Place a sprig of your herb of choice under the skin. Season the bird inside and out with a generous amount of salt and the black pepper and rub into the skin. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-3 days depending on the size of the bird.

Preheat the oven to 475. Unwrap the brined bird and pat any condensation on the skin off with a a paper towel. Heat a saute pan or skillet just larger than the bird over medium heat for about five minutes. (I used a 10-inch skillet for a small 2 3/4 pound bird). Place the bird breast side up in the hot skillet and place in the middle of the preheated oven. Roast for 20 minutes. At this point, check that the skin is browning. If it is not, raise the heat to 500. If it looks too dark, lower it to 450. After it has roasted 30 minutes, flip the bird over. Roast for 10 to 20 minutes depending on size. Flip back to expose the breast and roast an additional 5 to 10 minutes. Total roasting time will be 45 to 60 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the oven and turn off the heat. Leave the bread salad to continue warming for another 5 minutes of so.

Lift the chicken from the roasting pan and set on a plate. Carefully pour the clear fat from the roasting pan, leaving the lean drippings behind. Add about a tablespoon of water to the hot pan and swirl it.

Slash the stretched skin between the thighs and breasts of the chicken, then tilt the bird and plate over the roasting pan to drain the juice into the drippings.

Set the chicken in a warm spot and leave to rest. The meat will become more tender and uniformly succulent as it cools.

Tilt the roasting pan and skim the last of the fat. Place over medium-low heat, add any juice that has collected under the chicken, and bring to a simmer. Stir and scrape to soften any hard golden drippings. Taste-the juices will be extremely flavorful.

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Thursday, July 02, 2009

french food i did not eat in france: gratin dauphinoise

I have actually eaten potatoes gratin in France before, just not on this trip. I once had them aside a steak and it was extremely memorable. My thighs still remember it. Nobody doesn't love potatoes gratin. In fact, gratin is the answer to everything, like getting people who don't like a vegetable to eat copious amounts of that vegetable. But this is the classic; simple yet complex in flavor, quick to put together, ultimate comfort food. And this recipe, despite being a little lighter than your classic gratin recipe, tastes as decadent as it gets. Recipe after the jump:


3 tablespoons melted butter, divided
6 peeled russet potatoes (about 2 pounds), cut into 1/8-inch slices
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded Gruyère or Swiss cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup milk
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
2 tbsp finely chopped chives

Preheat oven to 425F. Heat the milk in a small saucepan until scalding, then add the nutmeg. Spread an 11-by-7-inch baking dish or gratin dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter. Arrange half the potatoes in dish, sprinkle with half the garlic, drizzle with half the remaining butter, half the cheese, and half the salt and pepper. Repeat layers. Pour hot milk over potatoes.

Bake for 45 minutes or until potatoes are tender, milk is absorbed and top is browned. Garnish with the chopped chives.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

paris day four: murder by foie gras

How long will it take me to finish this vacation roundup? Day four dawned far sunnier and warmer than the previous three, a great day to climb some more stairs and see the city from the loveliest vantage point. Well, that photo looks ominously cloudy, but that actually passed quickly. After our obligatory baguette/butter/jam/tiny coffee breakfast at a nearby cafe, we hopped on the metro up to Montmartre and Sacre Coeur.

For once we were met with no line for a tourist attraction, and I realized why that might be so when we were about halfway up the steep, narrow, claustrophobic, slippery stone steps of the basilica. This was the opposite experience of climbing the Eiffel Tower. We had no idea when it would end. The climbing isn't tough, it was really just so narrow in those winding stairwells. Thankfully, portions of the climb went outdoors because I am claustrophobic. There's J-Cat, he was actually filming the whole climb with his little camera. I'd post it, but this is a blog about food and the video makes me want to vomit.

Montmartre itself is a lovely neighborhood to stroll around. The highest point in Paris, the steep streets and numerous stairways felt particularly Parisian to me, probably because this neighborhood is used in so many films to evoke that super Parisian Paris. We sat on the Sacre Coeur steps featured in Amelie and munched on baguette sandwiches (rosetto salami & butter for him, chevre & tomato for me), probably the cheapest thing we ate on the whole trip, but really quite satisfying after being trapped in a tiny stone stairwell for 20 minutes.

This is a sculpture dedicated to the writer Marcel Ayme. Apparently, this is a character from one of Ayme's stories about a man in Montmartre who could walk through walls.

After Montmartre, we made our way down to the Marais, one of the areas known for shopping. Because wtf, we hadn't done any shopping at all. But by this point, the sun was really shining and hot, and I was painfully aware of how much money we had already spent, and it was tough to spend more on clothes that I wasn't really loving. There seemed to be a bit of a hippy bohemian thing going on in most of the shops we came across. Kind of a disappointment. But what wasn't a disappointment was Breizh Cafe, where we had lunch. Second lunch. Ahem. Breizh Cafe, as the name implies, focuses on the food of Brittany, specifically crepes and galettes. This little cafe takes the crepes far above the simple street food to fine, thoughtful, impressive cuisine. We started with some fantastically fresh oysters, listed as huitres rares, special special. We followed this with a galette - a savory buckwheat crepe - filled with chevre and fresh greens. Super thin and delicate with edges that were almost invisibly thin, yet undeniably crispy. And of course we had to have something sweet, so we went with the super simple and classic crepe citron, with sugar and lemon juice. Perfection.

After some more shopping, we walked all the way from the Marais back to St. Germain. J-Cat pooped out at this point and decided to head back for a quick cat nap before dinner, but I still had a little shop in me and made my way around the neighborhood. (I may have possibly returned to Bread & Roses in the process and gotten a bit of an apricot pastry snack. It was a really long day.) Finally, despite eating all day, we were off to our final dinner in Paris, at the highly acclaimed "Josephine" Chez Dumonet.

Of all of the bistros we visited in Paris, Chez Dumonet feels the most classically old-school Paris, bright and cheery, with 1930's fixtures, leather banquettes, white linen tablecloths, and very jovial waiters. So it was only fitting that everything we ate that evening was classic French all the way. In fact, the chef made certain that I got even more than I bargained for. This dinner ended up being both excellent and overwhelming. It started normal enough, with an amuse consisting of a rich seafood soup and a glass of white wine. Then J-cat had a simple endive salad with roquefort, but the hunk of cheese was as big as my head. So much for small French portions. I started with a country terrine - a half portion, that was even bigger than the hunk of cheese. Then it got crazy. After clearing away our starters, the waiter sets down a plate of foie gras - a hunk just as big as the terrine if not bigger. I expressed my confusion and all he would say is that the chef sent it over to me. Was the chef trying to kill me?! I mean, it was really really nice foie gras, but I had just eaten a rich terrine, and my main course was a freakin' duck confit! My heart was going to explode. I managed a small portion of the foie gras, thinking the whole time of the rich duck that was to come. As much as I enjoyed the foie, I'm glad I saved room, though, because the duck was amazing. I'm talking best duck confit ever, anywhere. And to top that off, potatoes fried in duck fat. Oh yeah. J-Cat had an unbelievable boeuf bourguignon, also a half portion that was still too big, served with buttered noodles.

Dessert was totally out of control. I went with their most talked about dessert, the Grand Marnier Souffle, which was the size of a fat baby. J-Cat had a millefeuille, basically a cream napoleon. This thing was epic. So epic, in fact, that a lady two tables away from us spotted it and stated loud enough for half the dining room to hear that she wishes she had gotten it instead of the souffle because it looked amazing. Which it was, but we're talking a two-baby millefeuille here. So after J-Cat and I got through maybe 1/4 of this monster (delicious monster) dessert, it only made sense to pass it down. Why not? And it made it four tables away before it was devoured. At least it didn't go to waste.

So I guess it was fitting that on our last night in Paris, we truly had a dinner to remember, for so many reasons. We were perhaps so full we wanted to die, but boy was it all excellent. And because Chef Dumonet really did appear to want to kill me, he came out at the end of our meal and basically shamed me into downing the shot of Grand Marnier that came with my souffle.

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