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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Takoyaki (Japanese Octopus Balls)

Since moving to the US and particularly since a year ago, I have been introduced to a variety of food that I had never had before. France has great food but it must rank pretty low for the variety of foreign food it offers. When I was eating out in France I would never wonder whether I wanted Thai, Chinese, Indian... My options were mainly between different types of French food and Italian. Living close to Spain Tapas was also a possibility. But Asian food in particular is not very popular, most people don't know it very well, and the numerous documentaries on TV about the questionable hygiene of a few chinese restaurants didn't contribute to giving them a good reputation.


The only Asian food that is very popular is sushi. In fact, most people associate Japanese food only with Sushi and I was one of them until recently. Since I moved to Boston, even though I tend to think that the food in Boston is not the best, I have been able to eat a much larger variety of food. Whenever I go out I ask myself if I feel like having Japanese curry, Korean bbq, Chinese hot pot... Understanding these types of food helps me appreciate the countries much better and I can't wait to visit all those places to try the authentic recipes.


In January we got hold of an authentic takoyaki machine! I was very excited to cook them by myself since I had only tasted them once when I was visiting Hong Kong in December. Tako means octopus in Japanese, and takoyaki are known as octopus balls. Takoyaki is a very popular street food in Japan. To make takoyaki, a cast iron or electric takoyaki pan with many half-spherical molds is used. The pan needs to be very hot when cooking the batter. Making the batter in itself is pretty simple, but the tricky part is to cook the takoyaki as a ball. The pan is in the shape of half balls, so you need to turn the balls when they're half cooked in order to shape a nice ball. It took us several tries before we managed to find the perfect technique.


Takoyaki recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 2/3 cup flour
  • 2 1/2 cup dashi soup
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 lb. boiled octopus, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped pickled red ginger
  • 1/4 cup dried sakura ebi (red shrimp) *optional, I didn't use it
  • *For toppings:
  • katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes)
  • Takoyaki sauce (you can find it at the asian supermarket)
  • mayonnaise

Preparation:

Mix flour, dashi soup and eggs in a bowl to make the batter. Thickness of the batter should be like a potage soup. Preheat a takoyaki pan and grease the molds. Pour batter into the molds until almost full. Put octopus, red ginger, green onion, and dried red shrimp in each mold. Grill takoyaki balls, flipping with a pick to make balls. When browned, remove takoyaki from the pan and place on a plate. Put sauce and mayonnaise on top and sprinkle bonito flakes and aonori over.
*makes 4 servings


If you want more directions on how to cook the takoyaki, you can look at this funny video on Youtube!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Best. Dinner. Ever.


This would probably seem crazy to most people, but when I am in France with my family, it is very common for us to have only cheese for dinner. By only cheese though, I mean cheese with a salad and some really good bread like you find only in France. And it's not the kind of cheese you find around here in Boston. It's 20 different types of awesome cheese. 
On a typical day in my parents' fridge you would find around 20 types of cheeses, that we would eat for dinner or a quick snack. I am always surprised how Americans eat cheese as an appetizer. In France we always eat cheese between the main dish and the dessert. A four course meal (appetizer, entree, cheese, dessert) is very normal. That's also why we eat smaller portions. There is no way I could eat all that food with American sized portions!

Cheese is one of the foods I miss most here. I've found that Whole Foods or specialty stores have good ones but they're just too expensive, it hurts my feelings. So whenever I go to visit my parents, one the first things I do is opening the fridge, taking a slice of bread, and enjoying a bite of tasty cheese...
Preview

Friday, April 1, 2011

Cannelés

I think I really started cooking more this year because it has been a year since I left France and I realized I was missing the food. Last year I was still in the excitement of being in Boston for the first time, being at school and taking time to cook was the least of my worries. Now that I have settled down and found my routine, I need to spend time cooking, not only because it allows me to eat food that brings back memories from my years in France, but also because, well, I just love it. Cooking relaxes me.

I have been asked to do more French cooking, and it has been a good challenge for myself, because when I was home with my parents, they were cooking all the traditional dinner dishes and I was more the baker. So now I get to cook a lot of traditional French dishes for the first time. This recipe for cannelés combines my passion for baking and this first time experience of French baking. My mum makes cannelés quite often and they're so good I've never attempted to bake them myself. And it seemed like a lot of work. But when I saw this recipe for cannelés on one of my favorite food blogs, I knew I had to try them.

For those of you who don't know cannelés, they are a specialty of my hometown, Bordeaux. They are delicious pastries that we usually eat as a snack or for dessert with a crème anglaise. The batter is almost like the one you use for crêpes. They can now be baked in silicone molds which are much cheaper than the traditional metal ones. You can find them easily on Amazon. The key to a good cannelé is to have a brown, crunchy outside, and a very soft inside.

Unfortunately, although the recipe I used gave a very good taste to the cannelés, in the end they were not brown and crunchy enough. After asking my mum (expert es cannelés), I think it is because the recipe calls for baking at 180°C for 60 minutes, when cannelés are usually baked at a very high temperature like 220°C for 10 minutes and then you turn the temperature down for 30min. I will definitely try another time, and even though they wee not perfect, these cannelés were still delicious and reminded me of Bordeaux. 
You can see the recipe on kokken69's blog . She also tells you about the story around cannelés that even I didn't know :) !


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

These cookies come from a recipe I found on Tracey's blog. I will be honest and tell you that  I had never made cookies before, but Tracey was so enthusiastic about these ones that I felt compelled to try them. It did not disappoint. The cookies were delicious, not too sweet, not too hard, just good. Between myself, my coworkers and my roommates, they were eaten in a day.

Until I make more cookies, these will be my favorites. You can find the recipe on Tracey's blog. I followed it step by step. Let me know if you like them! They're the perfect treat to bring to work and make all your colleagues happy!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Flat Roast Chicken

I have always loved roasted chicken. This might be due to the numerous roasted chicken I've had in my childhood. For me, roasted chicken means having my grandparents come from the north west of France with 10 chicken in their trunks, and these chicken come directly from a farm where they have run freely outside eating only good stuff until they make it to my plate. These chicken are usually twice the size of the ones I find around here and the meat is much more tender. I always have trouble understanding why american people eat so much chicken when according to me it's pretty hard to find good chicken in this country. I always either buy organic chicken or I go to a local poultry shop that sells one of the best chicken I've had in the area.

So when I found this recipe for roasted chicken on Tracey's blog, I really wanted to try it. First I thought it was interesting because I never had chicken like that before, second I thought it would be a good cooking challenge for myself since I had never deboned anything in my life. If only I had known how much work this would be, maybe I wouldn't have felt so excited. The result is definitely pretty tasty. The chicken was tender and juicier than when you roast it without deboning it. The cooking time is also less than what it would normally be.


However, deboning that animal was A LOT of work. You need to remove the backbone of the chicken in order to flaten it. Maybe I should say first that I didn't have scissors, which might explain a lot. I had to remove the backbone with a big kitchen knife that is not very sharp. Also, I am not a big fan of working with raw meat. I can take a steak or a chicken thigh, season it and cook it, but working with a whole raw chicken to debone it was not my cup of tea. When I was done, I felt like I had accomplished something extraordinary and the result looked like this:


Overall, I would say it was a very good chicken, but was it worth the work? I am not sure. Maybe it's much easier with scissors... I encourage you to visit Tracey's blog for the recipe. As a suggestion, you can serve it with a side of pan fried potatoes. You only need to cut them and then they will cook in the pan while you work on your chicken.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Parmesan roasted Lobster (Homard rôti au parmesan)

Now that I live in Boston I can eat as much lobster as I want for a reasonable price. In France I could never imagine doing that. Lobster is very expensive and is considered a luxury good. We occasionally eat it for Christmas or New Year. I probable had more lobster in the year and a half that I spent in Boston than in my whole life before that. Now that I can enjoy lobster without thinking about how much money I spent for it, I have been thinking about finding a good way to cook it. Everytime I have lobster, I enjoy it but it never blows me away. I think the meat is very chewy and is not as good as crab meat for example or a good fish. Also, in Boston it is usually served with melted butter and this is just something that I don't get. Dipping your lobster in pure fat is not a concept that suits my French tastes...

So I finally decided to get out of the traditional boiled lobster served with coleslaw and fries that all the cheap seafood joints will serve you and cook my own lobster. I went to the best fish market ever, New Deal Fish Market. This place has awesome seafood and I'm lucky enough to live 5 minutes away. I bought two delicious alive and kicking lobsters and looked online for a recipe. At that time I was not following all the cooking blogs yet, so I searched my favorite French recipes website and I found this recipe for Parmesan roasted lobster. I had to make a few adjustments to the original recipe to reach the desired result but in the end the lobster was delicious and a great change to the traditional plain boiled lobster. Of course the recipe calls for boiling the lobster at the beginning, so you have to be brave and throw the kicking lobster in the water, and opening it afterwards is not an easy job either, but in the end it is delicious. Try it and tell me what you think!



Parmesan Roasted Lobster:

Ingredients:

2 lobsters of around 2lbs each
1 cup of Parmesan
4 tbsp of xeres vinegar
1/2 stick butter
1 pinch of paprika
1 pinch Cayenne pepper
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large heavy bottomed sauce pan, bring 3L of water to a boil. Throw the lobsters in the water for two minutes. Drain them and cut them in half. Dispose the lobsters on a baking sheet, meat on top. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and mix it with the vinegar. Add salt, pepper, Cayenne pepper and paprika. Pour the flavored butter on the lobsters, let them rest for 5 minutes. Sprinkle some parmesan on the lobsters and roast the lobsters in the oven. The original recipe said to leave the lobsters 3 to 4 minutes in the oven, but in my case the lobsters were really undercooked so I left them around 10 minutes and they were perfect.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Eggs benedict (Oeufs bénédicte)

I am a big fan of Sunday morning brunches. I usually love to cook and eat everything that is on a typical French brunch menu: crêpes, waffles, french toast... But believe it or not, only a few months ago I had never eaten eggs benedict. Like never ever. I didn't even know what eggs benedict were like. I was asked for eggs benedict on a Sunday morning for brunch and I had to google it to find a recipe. And without having the slightest idea of what it would look like I just made them, and absolutely loved them. It is now a regular item on our Sunday brunch menu.

I have kept the recipe that I found on that first day, but made a few adjustments to it. For example the recipe called for ham, and I now use prosciutto. I think that the strongest and salty taste of the prosciutto complements very well the egg and the sauce. I also tend to not use as much lemon in my sauce because I happen to find the taste of the lemon too overwhelming in the original recipe.

This is a very simple dish to put together and it is delicious. I encourage you to try it!


Eggs benedict recipe:

Ingredients:

English muffins
Prosciutto
Eggs
Salt
Pepper
1 tbsp Lemon juice
10 tbsp unsalted Butter
3 egg yolks
Rice vinegar

Fill a large skillet with water and bring to a boil. Pour some rice vinegar in the water and keep to a simmer. Then prepare the hollandaise sauce. In a small sauce pan, melt the butter and whisk the butter, egg yolks and lemon juice together. Season with salt and pepper. Keep whisking in a warm place, but not over fire or the egg yolks will scramble. If your sauce is too liquid, you can add a little bit of flour to thicken it.

Toast the muffins sliced in half. Put one slice of prosciutto in two layers on each half of muffin.

Poach the eggs. Crack each egg in a small bowl and pour the egg from the bowl to the simmering water very slowly. Then try to bring the egg together around the yolk with two spoons. The timing depends on the size of your egg and how hot your water is, but the eggs will be ready pretty quick (around two minutes). You can then remove the poached eggs from the water using two spoons, and dispose them on the prosciutto. Take two tablespoons of hollandaise sauce and pour it on top of the egg. Enjoy!