Manger

Parmesan soup from ‘l’ami Jean’

Stéphane Jégo

Stéphane Jégo

Last friday I was in Paris for the week-end. A bit of business and a lot of pleasure. What a better way to start a Friday night than with a dinner at one of my favourite bistrots in Paris, l’ami Jean. I can’t tell you how much I love this place. Not only is the chef Stéphane Jégo a friend, but he is also a genius in the kitchen. His cuisine matches my taste. He cooks in the true bistrot way, which is, in my opinion, gastronomy without the ‘chichi‘. At l’ami Jean, you dine on wooden rustic tables, the room feels like a tavern, you can see, feel and hear the chef. The heat and wine flatter my cheeks, and yes, I feel full and happy when the meal is finished. That’s how I like to eat, enjoying the food, the quality, the atmosphere and the talent. You can just go there for a drink and a charcuterie plate, or have a culinary feast.

All the simple ingredients

All the simple ingredients

When I lived in Paris, I was a regular at l’ami Jean, a few steps away from the Eiffel tower. Not only was it a street away from my apartment, but I also met Stéphane on a daily basis outside our kid’s school as his daughter was in the same class as mine. While waiting for our kids, Stéphane would talk about his latest dishes, making me hungry as a wolf by 11:45 am. At l’ami Jean, you instantly feel the strength in the kitchen. The high-powered energy, fuelled by the rugged Breton Stéphane, makes this place a tour de force.

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In the kitchen at l'ami Jean

In the kitchen at l’ami Jean

There’s nothing more comforting than finding out that the soup you had once upon a ‘memory‘ is still on the menu. I am talking about the famous Parmesan soup, a must-have at l’ami Jean. I just had to order it once again, this very rich and decadent soup filled with bits of deliciousness – shallots, chives, croûtons and bacon sitting impatiently at the bottom of a soup dish, ready to be immersed in a velvety and creamy Parmesan ‘émulsion’, as Stéphane calls it. What can you say when a soup hits all the right notes? C’est si bon!

mfsoup

loutulips

Stéphane was kind enough to share this recipe. As soon as we were back home in Médoc, I found myself making the soup for lunch. The kids loved it so much at the restaurant, and wanted to know if I could re-create it at home. It was so good, so delicious, I think I’ll be making it again for Christmas. Merci Stéphane! I feel like I have Paris on a plate again.

L’ami Jean, 27 rue Malar, 75007, Paris France.

Ingredients: (Serves a very generous 4-6)
2 onions (coarsely chopped)
50 g/ 1/4 cup unsalted butter
200 g/ 1/2 pound parmesan (sliced)
1 liter/ 1 quart chicken stock
2 liters/ 2 quarts cream
1 liter/ 1 quart milk
50 g/ 1/3 cup bacon (finely chopped)
10 branches of chives (finely chopped)
1 shallot (finely chopped)
2 tbsp croûtons (fry some diced small cubes of country bread in olive oil until golden)
Salt and pepper (for seasoning)

Coarsely chop the onions. Melt the butter in a large pot, add the onions and fry on a low heat for 10 minutes.
Add 150 g of sliced parmesan, chicken stock, milk and cream. Simmer on a low heat for 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, chop finely the bacon. Fry for 5 minutes until crispy. Seta side. Finely chop the chives, shallots (as fine as possible). Set aside.
When the soup is ready, add the remaining sliced parmesan. Simmer for a further 10 minutes. Mix in a food processor, and strain through a sieve. Season with salt and pepper. Keep the soup warm.
Place the shallots, chives, croûtons and bacon in a soup dish, serve soup immediately.

Once upon a time in Paris after a big meal at l'ami Jean

Once upon a time in Paris after a big meal at l’ami Jean

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Sarah Bernhardt cakes

SarahBernhardtcakes

As my husband Oddur is Icelandic, I’ve had the pleasure to discover Iceland in all its splendor, especially around Christmas time, when local traditions come to life. I am so enchanted by Icelandic folklore, where fantasy meets reality. Christmas preparations are as important as the festivities themselves. Friends and family gather to bake, create and enjoy anything relating to Christmas. One of my favourites rituals for children is the ‘Shoe in the window‘. On the night before December 12th, Icelandic children put one of their shoes in the window. That’s the night the very first Yule Lad (jólasveinn) called “Stekkjarstaur” comes to town from the mountains. According to Icelandic folklore the thirteen jólasveinar live with their father Leppalúði, their hideous mother Grýla, and the much maligned jólaköttur (Christmas cat). This is the Icelandic version of father Christmas, instead of one, they have thirteen of them. They are much cheekier than Santa Claus! The shoe stays on the window sill until all the Yule Lads (all 13 of them) are in town. Each jólasveinn leaves a little present in the shoe. Only well-behaved children will receive these goodies. The naughty ones get a potato instead. We have pulled the potato trick a few times on our kids, just for fun. You should have seen the look of relief when they found the real goodies tucked away in the shoe!

SarahBernhardtIngredients

My mother-in-law Jóhanna and her best friend Hrafnhlidur bake traditional cakes called Sarah Bernhardt every Christmas. Originally a special festive treat from Danmark, it has become a must-bake in most Icelandic homes during the holidays. Legend has it the Danes were so mesmerized by the French actress Sarah Bernhardt, a cake was created and named after her. There are a few versions, but these almond based meringues covered in a coffee chocolate cream frosting, dipped in dark chocolate, are simply exquisite. Hrafnhildur was kind enough to share her lovely recipe. I just love their crunchiness, to be eaten cold from the freezer. They are exceptionally delicious, I love how you can make so many and store them in the freezer, ready for your guests at any time of the day.

SarahBernhardtinthemaking
SarahBernhardtcake&coffee

Ingredients: (makes about 40-50, depending on size)

Preheat the oven 180°C/ 350°F

For the meringues:
4 egg whites
230 g (2 and 1/3 cups) icing/ confectioner’s sugar (sifted)
250 g (2 cups) ground almond

In a large glass bowl, whisk the egg whites (I use a pair of electric whisks) on a high-speed until frothy – try to keep the whisk position as horizontal as possible. Add the sugar (1-2 tbsp at a time) gradually and continue whisking. You should add the sugar in small quantities until the end of the process. When the egg whites form stiff peaks (this usually takes about 10-15 minutes), gently fold in the ground almonds. With the help of two slotted spoons, spoon the egg whites (you can also use a pastry bag with a large round tip) onto the parchment-lined baking tray. The meringues should be about 4-5 cm large/ 1-1.5 cm high (there are no rules, you can make them any size you want!). I like them ‘macarons’ sized, but they can be smaller if you wish.
Bake for about 10-12 minutes on 180°C/ 350°F. Leave to cool for 8-10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. When cooled store in freezer for 15-20 minutes (on a plate covered with cling film).

For the cream:
300 g (1 and a 1/4 cup) unsalted butter (room temperature)
250 g (2 and 1/2 cup icing) confectioner’s sugar (sifted)
3 egg yolks
3 tbsp instant coffee powder (mixed with 1.5 tbsp hot water to dissolve)
3 tsp cocoa powder

Dissolve the instant coffee with 1.5 tbsp hot water. Set aside to cool. Mix the sifted sugar with the butter. Whisk the egg yolks till light and fluffy, the gradually add in the butter mixture. Pour in the dissolved coffee gently, then add the cocoa powder. Mix well to form a smooth and thick cream/ frosting. Cover with cling film and refrigerate.

Chocolate:
300 g/ (2/3 pounds) dark chocolate, melted (for dipping)

Break the chocolate into pieces and place in a heat-proof recipient. Melt over boiling water for a few minutes until chocolate is completely melted. (You can also use the microwave for those who prefer).

To assemble:

Take out the meringues from the freezer and cream from the refrigerator. Spread the cream (about one and a half tsp) over the base of each meringue (see photo). It should look like a small dome. Use the spoon or a palette knife to smooth the surface. Place in a container and return to the freezer for 15 minutes so they can harden.

After 15 minutes of freezing, take out the cream covered meringues (they should be hard by now) and dip each one in the melted chocolate so the cream side is entirely covered. Make sure the chocolate is not too warm. Leave to set.

Line a large tin/ container with parchment paper and place the meringues inside. Cover with paper and close lid tightly. Keep in freezer (they can keep for up to a month). They should be eaten cold and taken out 5 minutes from freezer before serving. Perfect with tea or coffee.

SarahBernhardtbox

Caramelized beetroot tarte tatin

Beetroot tarte tatin

I just can’t shake off that Christmas spirit. As soon as December 1st arrived, the kids opened their chocolate Advent calendar and I started unpacking the Christmas ornaments stored in the attic. I had been eyeing the packed boxes for weeks, patiently waiting for the right moment. I couldn’t wait to meet our old friends again, the ballerina that Mia refuses to part with after every Christmas, the spaced-out monkey, the dog Hudson sadly broke two years ago, whose spirit remains intact ever since. And those cubes, my all-time favourite… For this special occasion, I wanted a to make a festive meal winning me back to childhood days. I made a caramelized beetroot tarte tatin, flavoured with red onion and balsamic vinegar. The deep-red velvet color is so theatrical, perfect for this magical moment . There I was, a plate on my lap with a slice of this tarte, enjoying each bite as the luscious crème fraîche generously coated the beetroots and croustillant pastry. May the holiday season begin!

Beetroot tarte tatin slice

My Christmas ornaments

Caramelized beetroot tarte tatin

Ingredients:

800-900 g beetroots/ up to 2 pounds beetroots (approx. medium-sized 6 beetroots cooked and peeled)
1 large red onion (sliced)
2 tbsp brown sugar
40 g/ 3-4 tbsp butter + butter to line the cake pan
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt & pepper (for seasoning)

Pastry:
For the shortcrust pastry:
200 g/ 1 & 1/2 cup plain flour
125 g/ 1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled and sliced in cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
3 tbsp cold water

In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt in a bowl. Add the butter and mix using your hands until dough is crumbly. Make a well in the center, add egg and water. Mix well until dough is soft and form a ball. Roll dough on a floured surface, adding flour if necessary if dough is too sticky. With a rolling-pin, roll dough large enough to cover the cake pan.

For serving:
Crème fraîche (or sour cream) – 1 tbsp per person
A large handful of chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 180°C/ 350°F

Remove the skin from the cooked beetroots and slice in quarters. In a large frying pan, heat the brown sugar. As soon as it’s starting to melt, add the butter and stir. Add the beetroots and red onion, fry (on a medium to high heat) for 10-12 minutes, until they start to caramelize, add balsamic vinegar, reduce for 2 minutes until sauce is thick and glossy. Set aside.

To assemble:
Butter a round cake pan, layer the beetroots so the surface is entirely covered (try to pick out the red onion for the surface layer) – make sure to ‘display’ them nicely as the tart will be inverted. Add the red onions and sauce. Place the pastry sheet on top and tuck in at the edges. Prick the pastry with a fork all over. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes until the crust is golden brown. Leave to cool for 10 minutes before turning it out gently. Place on a serving plate. (Don’t worry if a few pieces of beetroot fall out-of-place, you can simply re-arrange them like a puzzle).

Hound

Brocante in Bordeaux

Brocante Mimi Bordeaux

What a pleasure it was to visit our friends at the autumn brocante fair in Bordeaux. Eric and Virginie Bernard, art curators, also have a store selling lovely vintage furniture. Place des Quinconces is a beautiful square overlooking the Garonne river, where you can enjoy, twice a year, a charming antique and brocante market. There’s so much to see and discover, depending on your mood and passion. I was mainly looking for anything linked to the kitchen, and fell madly in love with an old 1950’s butcher table and a rustic dining table in a grey blue tone. I also found a set of festive plates (the ones pictured in the recipes below – twelve euros for twelve plates in perfect condition. Now that’s a steal).

Scottish

comedian

mia

We decided to have lunch together at Eric and Virginie’s stand, after all, it looks like an apartment from the 70’s. I enjoyed seeing all the brocanteurs and antique dealers taking a break, eating alone or with their families and friends. It was such an original sight, seeing each merchant in their ‘lost in time’ environment, from 17th century château style to 70’s groove. One thing everyone had in common was the food. The renowned Dieu sisters, all seven of them, are responsible for most of the meals. This family restaurant ‘on wheels’ has been around for sixty years, serving good old traditional French food. I had a delicious duck confit and a glass of red, my husband Oddur had andouillette sausage with Savoyarde potatoes. The kids had roast chicken, French fries and crème brûlée for dessert.

The 'Dieu' family has been catering for more than 60 years on Place des Quinconces.

The ‘Dieu’ family has been catering for more than 60 years on Place des Quinconces.

Virginie with Paloma and Paul

Virginie with Paloma and Paul

brocante36

Lunch ambiance Brocante

Serving Basque ham for lunch

Serving Basque ham for lunch

Virginie introduced us to her neighbour and friend, Bernard Vandevoorde, antiquaire specializing in 17-18th century art and furniture. He is also a fine gourmet, jazz lover and ex-restaurateur for thirty years in the Pyrénées region and Bordeaux. He swept me off my feet with his food stories, especially his technique for roasting lamb in his fireplace. It was only a matter of time until I asked him to share more recipes, especially some of his favourites for the cold days to come. One of them was the garbure des Pyrénées, a rustic vegetable and meat soup. The other dish was the eggs in cocotte à la Bordelaise, a recipe Bernard loves to make when he comes home late hungry for comfort food.

Chatting with Bernard Vandevoorde

Chatting with Bernard Vandevoorde

brocante1

Kids

Let me elaborate more on the ‘garbure‘ des Pyrénées. The beauty of this soup is in its simplicity. Coarsely chopped vegetables, white lingots beans, a large chunk of pork knuckle (perhaps also a pig’s tail) and water is all you need to make this traditional soup filled with so many deep rich flavours. The longer you cook it, the better it is, and you can look forward to an even tastier soup the next day. There are so many versions, with duck or sausages. I remember, as a child, the souvenir of eating a similar soup in a little auberge off the roads in Gascony. How intrigued I was when the men poured wine and soak bread into their soup. It’s called ‘faire Chabrol‘ or how to really enjoy your meal. Why don’t you try it!

Place des Quinconces, Bordeaux

Place des Quinconces, Bordeaux

patrick

Bernard

shallots

The eggs en cocotte is a delightful dish, again, so easy to make, you’d wonder why you ever thought cooking French food was so complicated. It takes such little time to make this basic Bordelaise sauce, and let me assure you the smell is captivating. Cooking with wine is not only delicious, but the evaporation of the alcohol is purely enjoyable. The special touch I loved was Bernard’s recommendation to serve both meals with mouilletes (grilled bread) rubbed with garlic.

Merci Bernard pour ces délicieuses recettes! Je me suis régalée!

Ingredients:

La garbure des Pyrénées

La garbure des Pyrénées

Bernard’s garbure des Pyrénées (serves 6-8)
4 onions (cut in 4)
5 garlic cloves (cut in half)
6 carrots (cut into sticks)
5 leeks (coarsely chopped)
1 medium-sized Savoy cabbage (chopped in 8 parts)
6 small to medium potatoes (whole)
300 g/ 2/3 pounds white beans (haricots blancs lingots – soaked in water overnight)
1 kg/ 2 pounds pork knuckle/jarret de porc (soaked in water overnight)
1 pig’s tail (optional)
4 tbsp duck fat (you can use butter or olive oil as an alternative)

In a very large pot, melt the duck fat (or olive oil/butter), add all the vegetables (except the potatoes and drained beans) and fry for 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the meat (knuckle and pig’s tail), cover with water until all the ingredients are covered. Bring to a soft boil, cover and lower heat. Cook for 3-4 hours. After 3 hours, add the potatoes (whole) and beans. Cook for another hour, or until the beans and potatoes are cooked and tender. Serve as a generous soup, filled with vegetables and meat. Serve immediately with grilled bread. To add extra flavor, rub a garlic clove on the bread.

oeufcocotte

Eggs in cocotte à la Bordelaise

4 eggs
1 garlic clove (minced finely)
3 small shallots (chopped very finely)
250 ml/ 1 cup red Bordeaux wine
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp granulated sugar
1/2 garlic glove (for rubbing)

Preheat oven to 210°C/ 400 F
For the sauce:
In a saucepan, melt the butter, add minced garlic and shallots, fry for 3-4 minutes, until slightly golden and soft. Add the wine, 1/2 tsp sugar and leave to reduce by half on a medium to low heat (this should take approx. 6-8 minutes).
To make:
Rub the inside of the ramekin/ cocotte/ oven-proof pot with the garlic clove and crack the eggs into the recipient. Pour piping hot Bordelaise sauce onto the eggs and place in oven for 5-7 minutes, until the eggs are poached (you want your eggs slightly runny).

Serve immediately with grilled bread. To add extra flavor, rub the remaining garlic clove on the bread.

brockakiminni

Autumn vegetable tarte tatin

There are meals that leave a mark, forever engraved in your mind. Years ago, I had lunch at Le Dôme in Paris, a seafood restaurant in the 14th arrondissement. I had coquilles Saint-Jacques (scallops), pan-fried in a lemon butter sauce. But the main attraction was the side-dish, the endives (chicory). They were so delicious, the semi-bitter taste of the vegetable melted in my mouth, catching up with the caramelized butter sweetness. That and a glass of crisp white wine was an ‘inoubliable‘ food moment in my life. Ever since that day, I associate endives with butter. Last Sunday, I was in the mood for a rich savoury tart, so I started with my cherished caramelized endives, and went from there. It was such a pleasure to make this dish, layering slices of chestnuts, topinambours and potatoes with goat’s cheese. It’s very simple to make, and you can improvise with any vegetable and cheese you wish. Nothing beats the excitement of turning the pan upside down. It always makes me feel like a magician in the kitchen. The result is a beautiful autumn bouquet, in the form of a tart.

Ingredients:
6 endives (chicory)
2 small shallots (finely sliced)
1 clove garlic (ground)
6-8 small potatoes (cooked and sliced)
250 g/ 1/2 pound chestnuts (peeled, cooked & sliced in half)
5 topinambours/ Jerusalem artichokes (peeled and sliced in ‘rondelles’)
125 g/ 2/3 cup Sainte Maure de Touraine goat’s cheese (or any of your favourite cheese – one that will melt beautifully!)
2 tbsp brown sugar
40 g butter
Salt & pepper (for seasoning)

Pastry:
For the shortcrust pastry:
200 g/ 1 & 1/2 cup plain flour
125 g/ 1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled and sliced in cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
3 tbsp cold water

In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt in a bowl. Add the butter and mix using your hands until dough is crumbly. Make a well in the center, add egg and water. Mix well until dough is soft and form a ball. Roll dough on a floured surface, adding flour if necessary if dough is too sticky. With a rolling-pin, roll dough large enough to cover the cake pan.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 350 F

For the filling:
Cook the potatoes (peeling the potato is optional – if you are using new potatoes I would suggest to keep the skin) in a pot of salted boiling water until tender. Set aside to cool and slice them. Rinse the endives and pat them dry. Slice them in two and peel off a few leaves. In a large frying pan, heat the brown sugar. As soon as it’s starting to melt, add 30 g butter and stir. Place the endives and fry (on a medium to high heat) for 10-12 minutes, until they start to caramelize, season with salt and pepper. Set aside. Add the rest of the butter, fry the shallots for 3-4 minutes, add the topinambours/ Jerusalem artichokes, garlic and chestnuts. Cook for 10-12 minutes, or until the topinambours/ Jerusalem artichokes start to be tender, season with salt and pepper. Don’t worry if they are slightly undercooked as they will be baked. Add the sliced potatoes, sprinkle with cheese and mix gently.

To assemble:
Butter a round cake pan, layer the endives all over so the surface is entirely covered – make sure to ‘display’ them nicely as the tart will be inverted. Add the rest of the endives, proceed with the rest of the vegetables. Place the pastry sheet on top and tuck in at the edges. Prick the pastry with a fork all over. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes until the crust is golden brown. Leave to cool for 10 minutes before turning it out gently. Place on a serving plate. I served this tart with sausages (from Queyrac, a nearby village). It was a perfect combination.

Winter cocotte


I was so delighted to see all the carrots with character at the market on Saturday. All the deep shades and smells inspired me to make a hearty dish filled with warmth. So I picked a few purple and yellow carrots, parsnip for its sweetness, a small pumpkin for the fleshiness, topinambours for the unbelievable nutty after-taste, a fine match with chestnuts. All the ‘best of‘ the season gathered in one dish. I rushed over to my butcher, ordered one slice of poitrine fumée. I get such satisfaction from details, like a perfect slice of bacon, proudly shown to you on a sheet of white paper. I also knew that it was going to dramatically change my dish, turning it into a richly flavoured burgundy colored winter’s stew. It’s amazing what a little piece of meat can do.

Ingredients: (serves 4)

15 chestnuts (peeled and cooked)
1 small pumpkin (peeled, deseeded & cut into small slices – I used the ‘mini’ pumpkins )
2 carrots (diced)
1 parsnip (diced)
1 celery branch (sliced)
4 small topinambours/ Jerusalem artichokes (sliced finely in ‘rondelles’)
1 garlic clove (sliced finely)
1 onion (sliced finely)
150 g/ 1/3 pound slice of bacon (whole or diced)
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp red wine
80 ml/ 1/3 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1-2 tbsp butter
A small handful of fresh chives (finely chopped)
A small handful of parsley (finely chopped)
Salt & pepper for seasoning

In a medium-sized cocotte/ pot, heat olive oil (on a medium heat) and fry the onion until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the bacon and fry for another 4-5 minutes. (Note: If you are using poitrine fumée/ smoked slab bacon like I did, I would suggest to blanch the meat in boiling water for a few minutes before frying). Add all the carrots, topinambours, celery, parsnip, garlic, squash, chestnuts and stir until the vegetables get coated. Season with salt and pepper. After 5 minutes add the red wine, reduce for 2 minutes, then add the chicken or vegetable stock. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 20-25 minutes. The vegetables shouldn’t be overcooked as it is nice to keep everything on the crunchier side. When ready to serve, add butter, chopped chives and parsley. (For those who like a little extra taste, you can drizzle a hint of vinaigrette (2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp mustard, 1 tsp wine vinegar, salt & pepper – mix well).

Who says dogs can’t read!

A French Thanksgiving in Médoc

After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relatives. Oscar Wilde

My family and I are from all over. My mother is French, my father Chinese, my husband is Icelandic and a quarter German, my grandfather was Polish… Une famille bien mélangée as one would say. French is the main language at home, but so is English, followed by Icelandic and Chinese (Mandarin). Whatever works.
Culture defines who we are and enables us to express ourselves. When you have so many different ones within your family, you start combining all sets of beliefs and try to be as open-minded as possible. I call it wisdom.
I have been so inspired lately by the Thanksgiving preparations from my friends and fellow bloggers. Having been invited to a few Thanksgiving events in my life mostly through American amis, I have never had a chance to truly celebrate it at home. So last night, I decided to prepare a little French Thanksgiving repas familial.

We are all so busy, so caught up in our daily lives that any reminder to stop and think ‘What am I thankful for’ is wonderful. It’s a beautiful thought, and there aren’t enough of those these days.

I am so thankful for my family, they are my love and inspiration, my raison d’être. It’s been two years since we embarked on an adventurous move to Médoc. It’s been a sensational world of discoveries, stimulation and revelations. I love the nature that surrounds us, the new friends we have met, the freedom we give to our dogs, the joy we share at the table.

Château Lanessan

One of the perks of living in this part of France is being able to drop by a château to buy wine. I recently went to château Lanessan to get a few good bottles and walk through the vineyards. I always make sure to bring my friends there. We enjoy the wine-tasting and visiting the property surrounded by beautiful horse stables. It’s one of my favourite châteaux in Médoc, so enchanting in its neo-Tudoresque style. There’s something terribly romantic about that place. It certainly stirs one’s imagination. My children call it the Scooby-Doo ghost castle, I call it the ‘Bonjour Tristesse’ château.

Right here, right now, the best place to be is in the vineyards. The golden leaves are dancing away from the autumn wind, soon the trees will be bare leaving me chagrined. For now, I am reflecting on the honeyed caramel hues, so pleasurable to the eye and to the soul. Could these gourmand colours be an appetite opener? I would like to think so.

Honey Bee

So here was the menu for my improvised Thanksgiving. We started with a potage de topinambours (Jerusalem artichokes) with parsnip chips. Just the word topinambour sounds so festive, like a soup with drum beats! We then enjoyed a cocotte de daube de boeuf (beef stew) with autumn vegetables. For dessert, I chose my all-time favourite, a Mont-blanc. It’s my version of a Mont-blanc (classic dessert that looks like snow-capped mountain), a meringue with whipped cream, the all mighty god of all goodies crème de marron, and marrons glacés (chestnuts candied in sugar and glazed). It’s about time I share my love and passion for chestnut vanilla cream from Clément Faugier. I am a huge fan since I was a kid, eating it straight from the pot or mixed with fromage blanc. It’s a cream made of chestnuts, vanilla and sugar. I hope you can all get it, one way or another, for it is my most treasured péché mignon (sweet weakness)!

As if our family tree was not complicated enough, it recently grew a few more branches. Our dog family is as diverse as the human one. We have two new additions, an American and a Hungarian. Miss Honey Bee, (a smooth fox terrier from American lines) and Luc (another smooth born to our two wonderful Hungarian imports Yul and Sky). Now that’s something to be thankful for!

Black pig sausage & Luc

Ingredients: (Serves 4-6)

Topinambours potage
500 g/ 1 pound topinambours-Jerusalem artichokes (peeled and sliced coarsely)
500 ml/ 2 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
1 shallot (sliced)
20 ml/ 2 tbsp olive oil
100 ml/ 1/2 cup crème fraîche
A pinch of fresh parsley
Salt and pepper (for seasoning)

Parsnip chips:
4-5 parsnips
Vegetable oil for frying
Salt (for seasoning)
In a large heavy saucepan, fill oil no more than halfway and heat to 180°C/ 350 F. You can test one slice of parsnip, drop it in the oil – if it starts sizzling, the oil is ready. Fry parsnip slices by batches, 2-3 minutes each, or until golden. Set aside to drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt. Set aside.

Peel the Jerusalem artichokes, slice coarsely and set aside. In a large pot, heat olive oil and fry the shallots for 3 minutes. Add the Jerusalem artichokes and continue frying for 3 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add chicken stock. Lower heat, cover and cook for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Mix in food processor until you get a smooth and velvety soup. Return to pot, season more if necessary and add crème fraîche. Serve immediately with sprinkled parsnip chips and parsley.

Daube de boeuf (beef stew – to be prepared the night before)
1 kg/ 2 pounds paleron de boeuf (beef shoulder, or preferred stewing-type beef)
150 g chunk of bacon/ 1/3 pounds (cut in sticks, lardons or sliced)
250 ml/ 1 cup red wine
250 ml/ 1 cup beef stock
2 small parsnips (cut in chunks)
1 carrot (cut in chunks)
5 small topinambours/ Jerusalem artichokes (sliced in semi-thick rondelles)
1 leek (sliced in two pieces)
2 cloves garlic (sliced)
1 large onion (sliced)
1 shallot (sliced)
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 tbsp flour
1 bay leaf
A small handful of chopped chives
Salt and pepper (for seasoning)
50 g/ 1/4 cup unsalted butter (for frying)

Place beef with sliced onions, 3 cloves, bay leaf and thyme in a bowl. Pour wine, cover with cling film and marinate overnight in the fridge. You can add a bit of water so the beef is covered. The next day, drain beef and pat dry, reserve wine and herbs, discard cloves. In a large cocotte/ pot, melt the butter, brown beef on all sides and set aside on a plate. In the same pot, add a bit more butter, fry the onions, bacon and shallot for 3 minutes, add the garlic, carrot and beef. Take off the heat, add flour, mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Return to heat, add reserved wine and leave to reduce for a few minutes. Add the stock. Mix all the ingredients with a wooden spoon, add the thyme, bay leaf, parsnips, leek and sliced topinambours/ Jerusalem artichokes. Cover and simmer on a low heat for 2-3 hours, or until beef is tender.

Mont-blanc
6 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
1 + 1/2 tsp cornflour
A pinch of fine salt
320 g/ 1 1/2 cups sugar
350 ml/ 1 1/2 cups whipping cream
300-400 g/1 1/2 cup crème de marrons/ chestnut cream
6 marrons glacés/glazed candied chestnuts (cut in small chunks)
Icing sugar (for garnishing)

Preheat the oven to 140° C. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Meringues:(makes about 5-6 meringues)

In a large glass bowl, whisk the egg whites (I use a pair of electric whisks) and salt on a high-speed until frothy – try to keep the whisk position as horizontal as possible. Add the cornflour and sugar (1-2 tbsp at a time) gradually and continue whisking. You should add the sugar in small quantities until the end of the process. The egg whites should form stiff peaks (this usually takes about 10-15 minutes). With the help of two large slotted spoons, spoon the egg whites onto the parchment-lined baking tray. ‘Twirl’ your spoon around and finish off with a spiky peak.
Bake for about 1 hour. Switch off the oven, and leave them to cool inside the oven with the door slightly open for 15 minutes.

To assemble:
Whip the cream, place 2 tbsp on each meringue. Pipe the chestnut cream (pastry bag with a small round tip), add small chunks of marrons glacés on top and sprinkle with icing sugar.

Purée aligot

I was so happy to be part of Joanna Goddard’s ‘A cup of Jobest recipes series again this week. I hope it contributed to a few Thanksgiving meals!

Here’s ‘The Best Mashed Potatoes You’ll Ever Have’ as featured on ‘A cup of Jo‘.

Aligot is a traditional mashed potato dish from the Aubrac region in France. They’re the best mashed potatoes I’ve ever had—the melted cheese is so rich in texture. Combined with garlic and crème fraîche, aligot is the star of all side dishes. The mash is so thick, forming ribbons of cheesy strands on your plate—it is quite an experience for any cheese lover. Tomme de Laguiole cheese is traditionally used for this dish; however, it’s not always easy to find. You can substitute this cheese with Cantal, Lancashire or Cheddar. Serve aligot with a juicy steak and a smashing glass of Bordeaux red wine. Satisfaction guaranteed!

Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 kg/ 2 cups potatoes (bintje or Yukon Gold), peeled and cut into chunks
150 g/ 4 tbsp. butter, cold and hard, just taken out of the fridge
400 g/ 14 oz. Tomme de Laguiole cheese, finely sliced (or substitute a cheese like Lancashire/Cantal/Cheddar)
1 clove of garlic, minced
150 ml/ 2/3 cup crème fraîche
100 ml/ 1/2 cup warm milk
Salt and pepper (for seasoning)

Cook the chunks of potato in salted boiling water for 20 minutes, or until tender.

Mash the potatoes with a potato masher. When properly mashed, place the potatoes in a large pan and start the heat on low, stirring for 2 minutes to ‘dry up’ the mash.

Take off the heat, and add the butter one square at a time, stirring in a circular motion. Gradually add the warm milk to smooth the potatoes, continuing to stir.

Place the pan back on a low heat, and add the finely sliced cheese, minced garlic, crème fraîche, salt and pepper. You should be constantly stirring in a circular motion, lifting the spoon high so you get a nice ribbon-like effect, as if you were pulling strings with your spoon. Continue this process for up to ten minutes, or until all the cheese has melted.

When the cheese has melted perfectly, your aligot purée is ready! Voilà, c’est prêt! Serve immediately.