vendredi 30 novembre 2012

Chaud Cacao! Or the French and perfect Chocolate cake

My dear, poor, non-French people,

What does a girl need to be really French and Perfect? A pair of Louboutin? A glass of Demoiselle Champagne? The last Vanessa Bruno it-bag?  
Non non non les amis! Pas seulement!  
What she needs is also a recipe for an easy, festive and délicieux chocolate cake.   

Un gâteau au chocolat, oui madame!  

The one you can decide to bake from scratch at the last minute to celebrate a sister’s birthday, impress a mother in law, or comfort a friend (and/or yourself).
I’ve been looking for it everywhere, and I’m extremement happy to share my best find with you poor non-French people:

Le fondant au chocolat de Pierre Hermé


4 eggs

1 cup sugar

8,8 oz butter

8,8 oz dark chocolate (65%)

3/4 cup flour

Pierre Hermé is French pâtisserie mega star. 

Tell his name to any French and perfect woman and she will faint quicker than an American teen in front of Justin Bieber…


If Parisiennes can queue for hours in front of a store, it’s not to get the best rebate on the next Ipad mini mini: it’s just that Pierre Hermé released his new macaron collection
(yes, there's a fall, winter, spring, summer collection, just like haute couture).

Ah la la… 
(rasberries and sweet rose cream flavoured with litchi in a sandwich of rose flavoured macarons) 

or his incredible olive oil or figs and foie gras macarons… 

I for one am forever grateful for his great classic recipes in “Larousse des Desserts”, the French pastry cookbook bible...

And for this amazing and sooooo simple flourless chocolate cake.

Ok, it’s not diet at all…
Tons of butter, sugar and chocolate, but you just need a small bite to go straight to paradis: a place where everything is as cozy and comforting as the arms of an ideal prince charming… 

The only important thing is to use the best chocolate you can find. 
65% cocoa is obligatoire. I chose to bake this one with my precious “Piment d’Espelette" chocolate that I snuggled from my last trip to the Basque Country. The delicate red peppers add a twist of spice that I love.
If you can't fly to La Confiserie Daranatz and buy this amazing chocolat right now, you can also just add a tablespoon of Piment d'Espelette or even paprika. 

La recette

Melt the chocolate and the butter in Bain-Marie (sloooooowly)

Preheat the oven at 350°F

Mix the eggs and the sugar

Add the chocolate and the butter

Then the flour

Pour in a buttered pan

Let in the oven for 25 minutes, with the door slighly open (use a wooden spoon to put in the door for example)

This gâteau is even better the next day.
You can add apricot jam for example, and of course icing.
But I love it like that, "raw", with its cracks on the top...

Now have a bite. Did I tell you what the name of the cake "fondant" means in French?
Now you know what a French and Perfect chocolate cake is...

Bon appétit les amis!

samedi 24 novembre 2012

Be a good poire ! Teach your pears how to swim in wine!

My dear, poor, non-French people,

Let me be a good pear today, or "Une bonne poire":  this is how my French friends call someone who’s always helping everybody, even if people are taking advantage of it. 
It’s nice, at least it’s much better than being “une vraie dinde”, “a real turkey”, which is how we call people who are stupid and brainfree, I would say…

Anyway, after all your stomach has suffered last Thursday, I’m sure you’ll love this delicious and healthy dessert.

Les poires au vin


4 pears

1 bottle of red wine

3 tbsp honey

1 tbsp vanilla seeds

3 Cloves, Anise, Pepper

This recipe is actually very similar to the strawberry wine soup I wrote about this summer. Let’s say it’s the autumn, warm, version of it. 
It’s the perfect way to end a good meal : no need for another big fluffy pie that will only stay on your hips and not on your palate as a souvenir…

I love doing it too because it reminds me of winter time and skiing vacation: you actually cook the fruits in something that is very similar to vin chaud, mulled wine.  

The best after a day of slaloms in poudreuse, powdery snow. (Or, after visiting half a dozen fromageries for the best Tomme de Savoie: why ski when you can prepare a Raclette or a Fondue?).

Poires are such great autumn fruits! 

Where I come from, in the Center of France, they are deeply used. 
You can find "poires tapées" (beaten pears): pears that are pealed and dried during three days in special wood ovens, and then "beaten" with a special instrument and laid in a traditional basket. 

But my favorite is la poire my grand father used to make with the fruits left at the end of the season: a pear brandy he would always serve to his good friends at the end of a great meal. 
Adults would sip a glass of this gorgeously perfumed "eau de vie" (litteraly "water of life") while we kids would try not to be seen trying to soak a sugar cube in their glass: it's called "un canard", a duck, and it's a little piece of drunken sweet heaven...
"Eau de vie"... almost like water, makes you really feel you're alive!

La recette

Put the red wine to a boil

Add the spices: the cloves, the star anis, the vanilla, and a little bit of pepper
Melt the honey in it

Peal the pears, leaving the stem and gently plundge them in the wine

Put on sim and Cook for 25 minutes

You can eat them warm, but I prefer them cold, they can be kept in the fridge for days.

Bon appétit les amis!

lundi 19 novembre 2012

A magic soup just for you

My poor non-French people,

I guess you all know now that "French women don't get fat".
Mireille Guiliano, who I was lucky to meet a few years ago and interview her for a profile of her I directed for French TV, has explained to the whole world the basics of the French and perfect silhouette: eat everything, not too much, enjoy it but pay attention, and when you've forgotten all the rules, try and detox with a good leeks soup.
She's totally right, of course, but I prefer another magic soup...

La soupe de Cresson comme à la maison


2 bunches of Watercress

2 cups chicken broth



and some Creme Fraiche...

One of the best surprise when I arrived in LA was to find upland-cress so easily at the market.
It's actually quite rare in Paris, only in season and in some very specialised primeurs (fresh vegetables grocery shops).
But my mom would often cook it when I was a kid : in Sologne, where my village is, the land is very wet in some parts, and you could sometime find some fresh one while walking in the woods.

Cresson is so full of flavors, you would almost forget that it's very good for your diet, and for your health.
The Romans thought it was a good way to prevent baldness, the Greek imagined it was a good detox after a big hangover... 
Now the scientists have discovered a new incredible benefit: it is full of isothiocyanates, a good prevention against cancer, and mostly lung cancer I understand.

My uncle Bernard loved to use it in a salad in his restaurant, but I prefer it in a soup.This one is great to get comfort and energy at the end of a long day.

And the taste of the cresson?
I've spent the last three days trying to define it, and am still wordless.
So let me quote my boyfriend on that: "subtle, a bit astringent, it's kind of like a time bomb... Gosh, I don't know, why don't you cook some more so I can taste it again ?"

La recette

Put the chicken broth to a boil.

Wash the upland cress, cut it in half and plunge it in the broth.

Let it simmer for 20 minutes.
Put the leaves in the blender and mince them.

Then mix with the chicken broth

Add salt, pepper, and at the very end, add the touch of paradise: a tablespoon of creme fraiche...

(it's hard to find a good one here, so I use Crema Mexicana, which is very easy to find in the supermarket)

C'est tout!

Bon appétit les amis!

dimanche 11 novembre 2012

Be Chic! Cook Grilled Chicon!

My dear, poor, non-French people,

Let me tell you one thing. "La vie, c'est de la m...", as my grande amie Maha always says. Life is a bitch. You never get exactly what you wish for and alway miss what you don't have. 
Take me for example. I live in California, where the weather is 600 times better now than the rainy foggy Paris in November. 
And what do I dream of ? Cobb Salad on Malibu Beach ? Pas de chemin Joseph (I guess that's how you would translate "Now way Jose").
I dream about endives au jambon, les amis.

Endives au jambon


6 Endives

6 slices of Jambon blanc

1,5 oz flour

1,8 oz butter

2,5 cup milk

Grated gruyere

Jambon blanc is one of the best jewel of French charcuterie. Sérieusement
My dear uncle Bernard pretends that the best in the world is made and sold in the Rue de Verneuil, not far from the Orsay Museum in Paris. 

But I can't afford the jet ticket to the Left Bank every other day, so I was delighted when I found a fairly ok one in the market this week.

Click on the pic to know where to buy this jambon

This white cured ham is in every French fridge. It's the main ingredient of the popular "Sandwich Parisien" (Baguette, butter, gruyere cheese on Jambon blanc) and also a must have for all the "never getting fat" Parisiennes: this ham is poor in calories and rich in protein.

Now it's parfait grilled with Endives. 
This strange vegetable is grown in the dark, mostly in the North of France, where it's called Chicon. 
You can also eat it in salad, with some blue cheese and walnuts for example, but it is a totally different plaisir when cooked: it gets bitter, but in a great way, the kind of taste you pull a face at when you're a kid, but adore when you get older. 
And it's a great veg' to keep your youth in, as it's one of the rare natural ingredient full of selenium, a great anti-oxydant.

And how do we marry them? With a great white dress, and a perfect sauce: béchamel. This French classic was invented 4 centuries ago for the young duke of Bechameil and is now synonym of French and Perfect comfort food. It's not that diet, so I invented another "girly version" without it, which is also a délice, a delight.

La recette

Preheat the oven at 450°F

Trim the endives, and caramelize them in a non stycky pan. (you can add butter if you want, but you can also try not to get too fat)

Add one inch of water, cover and let simmer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, go for the bechamel...
Mix the flour with 10cl of milk.
Put the rest of the milk into a boil, and add the flour mixture when the milk is bubbling.

Stir Stir Stir Stir Stir Stir Stir Stir Stir Stir Stir Stir Stir

Add salt and pepper.
When the sauce has reduced enough to your taste, add the butter in small bites.
Lick the spoon and go to heaven.


Lay the cooked endives in an oven pan

Dress them each with a slice of jambon

Pour the bechamel

Add the grated cheese
(or, if you're going léger skip the bechamel part and add a pinch of cheese)

Put in the oven for 20 minutes (15 for the without sauce version)


Voilà !

The French and perfect way to eat your veggies and yout protein and your calcium while giving an orgasm to your palate...

Bon appétit les amis!

lundi 5 novembre 2012

Hey pal! Come and enjoy these palets!

My poor non French people,

Le monde est petit. Really. It's a small world, and not only in that strange and non-French place called Disneyworld. 
That's what I discovered a few days ago while scrolling on Instagram. 
There it was, a picture of my favorite French petits gâteaux: Palets solognots (my whole childhood is in those two words).

Except that the caption read "Shriini Keshmeshi", which, may I tell you, is no French at all. How could a traditional Iranian cookie look so much as my very French and very perfect palets?
As the investigative reporter I still am, I decided to search this new mystery... in the kitchen of course!

Petits palets comme en Sologne (Raisins cookies made from scratch)


4,5 oz butter
4,5 oz sugar
5,2 oz flour
2 eggs
3 oz Raisins
1/3 cup of Rhum

To tell you the truth, I had never baked Palets Solognots before.
We used to buy them directly to one of my mom's cousins, who owned a little fabrique a few miles from our village. 
You would always find palets at a wedding banquet (so good with a glass of Champagne!) or on a sunday afternoon tea.

They taste like paradise (mon Dieu les petits raisins...), but what I loved the most about them was their box, and the picture on it.

Ahhhh Chambord... 
Much more than the liquor (which is totally unknown in France), it is avant tout the most beautiful castle in the world. Vraiment

I was a guide there when I was a student, and could talk for hours of the double stairs invented by Leonardo da Vinci, and all the secret stories around king François 1er who had it built (and to whom I was in love when I was ten years old. Yes, there was a small age difference, but what is 400 years when you have love and passion?).
Who would dream of Tom Cruise when you have Francis the First ?

So what are you waiting for? Go to your kitchen, get the eggs and butter from the fridge, and let's bake!
If you need music to cheer you up, I suggest listening to Catherine Deneuve singing and baking in the fairy, romantic, musical, French and perfect movie "Peau d'Ane" by Jacques Demy...

And where does Donkeyskin's father live ? In Chambord of course.

And now...


Marinate the raisins in the rhum for at least an hour.

Finish the rhum bottle. (No! Don't! It's a joke! You non-French people always believe everything!)

Preheat the oven at 400°F

Soften the butter, then mix it with the sugar 

Add the eggs

Mix them all so that the batter turns to a golden Catherine Deneuve's hair color

Add the flour and the raisins, with the rhum.

Mix it all and lick the spoon 
(yes, it's not good for your hips, but c'est si bon for your heart...)

Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets

Bake for 10 minutes: the outline of the cookie must have changed color


Et voilà!

Now, after eating half a dozen palets and cooking plently, I'm afraid I can't tell you why this recipe is exactly the same as the Iranian one. (Except that the French version adds alcohol... a leopard can't change its spots...).

Maybe a French princess left Chambord for a handsome Persian prince. 
She brought the recipe with her, and when he tasted it the prince of Persia loved it so much that he said thank you in Farsi. "Merssi". 
And that's why French people say Merci...

It's never bad to dream for a while...

Bon appétit les amis!